Brothers | A Phineas & Ferb Story | Update: Epilog & One-Shot 1

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    [Bild]


    What is this -
    What is this that made us wonder who we are?
    Couldn't face what we had done, and so we covered up the scars.
    And now we
    hope, but our hope is buried underneath at night.
    Can't escape, and the silence holds us captive with this lie.

    [Arrows to Athens - The Silence]


    Vorwort
    Herzlich Willkommen in meinem FF-Topic - vielleicht kann sich ja noch jemand erinnern, dass ich diese Geschichte vor Jahren schon einmal hier veröffentlicht habe. Nun, seitdem hat sich viel getan, was Handlung und Charaktere angeht... aber wie schon damals geht es hier um die Disney-Serie Phineas & Ferb, mehr dazu weiter unten! Neu ist auch, dass die Geschichte diesmal auf Englisch ist [weil ich einfach viel lieber auf Englisch schreibe als auf Deutsch, lol] - der Startpost ist aber der Übersicht halber auf Deutsch.^^


    Warnung
    Es mag für die Serie nicht üblich sein, aber in dieser Geschichte werden Gewalt und Blut vorkommen und es werden auch Charaktere sterben - wie oft das am Ende passiert, ist noch offen, aber diese Dinge werden auf jeden Fall auftauchen.
    Und wie schon gesagt, die Geschichte ist komplett auf Englisch!


    Genre
    Vom Genre her wird sich die Story wohl am ehesten am Phineas & Ferb-Film und der Serie orientieren - also Action/Adventure, so einiges auf der [nicht unbedingt romantischen] Beziehungsebene und was man sonst noch so in der Serie findet. Und wenn es sich ergibt, kann hier auch durchaus gesungen werden!


    Inhalt
    Bis jetzt war der Sommer für Phineas und Ferb ein einziges (größtenteils harmloses) Abenteuer. Doch das ändert sich eines Tages, als eine Erfindung nicht wie geplant funktioniert und sich die beiden Stiefbrüder in einer unbekannten Welt voller Gefahren wiederfinden. Die Bewohner dieses Ortes sind ihnen fremd, doch gleichzeitig haben sie überraschend viele Gemeinsamkeiten mit den Menschen Danvilles. Und nicht nur das, sie halten Phineas und Ferb auch für die Erfüller einer Prophezeiung, die sie nicht nur zu Weltenrettern macht, sondern die Brüder und ihre neuen Freunde ebenso zwingt, sich lang verborgenen Ereignissen ihrer Vergangenheit zu stellen. Während Candace versucht, ihre verschollenen Brüder zu finden, haben diese ganz andere Sorgen: die Prophezeiung besagt, dass einer der Brüder diese Reise nicht überleben wird...


    Idee und Inspiration
    Die Idee zu dieser Geschichte entstand schon vor einigen Jahren, als der Film zur Serie [Across the Second Dimension] gerade angekündigt worden war. Zur namensgebenden zweiten Dimension gab es damals nur wenig Informationen, sodass ich mir einfach meine eigene ausgedacht habe. Nach und nach entwickelte sich dann auch eine richtige Handlung und nun, da die Serie ihr Ende gefunden hat, habe ich mich entschlossen, sie tatsächlich einmal aufzuschreiben.
    Inspiriert wurde ich natürlich von Phineas & Ferb selbst, vor allem aber auch von der Fanfiction The Seer.


    Widmung und Danksagung
    Ich widme diese Story natürlich dem gesamten Team von Phineas & Ferb - sowie dem Rest der Traumaturgen und allen anderen, die mich bei der Entstehung dieser FF unterstützt haben, ohne euch hätte ich mich dazu nicht motivieren können!
    Danke auch an alle, die sich das tatsächlich auf Englisch durchlesen, ihr seid klasse.^^


    Charaktere
    [tabmenu]
    [tab='Übersicht']
    Ich werde die einzelnen Personen nicht im Detail vorstellen, dazu gibt's genug in der Story selbst. Das Tabmenü hier ist bloß dazu gedacht, ganz grob die fünf [canon] Charaktere vorzustellen, aus deren Sicht die einzelnen Kapitel geschrieben sind. Dabei gilt bei der Kapitelübersicht weiter unten:


    Rotes Kapitel: Phineas
    Grünes Kapitel: Ferb
    Oranges Kapitel: Candace
    Braunes Kapitel: Buford
    Blaues Kapitel: Baljeet


    Die Übersicht beinhaltet übrigens nichts als Bilder und spoilerfreie Infos zu Name, Alter und Familie.
    [tab='Phineas']


    Name: Phineas Flynn
    Alter: 12


    Familie:

    [tab='Ferb']


    Name: "Ferb" Fletcher
    Alter: 12


    Familie:

    [tab='Candace']


    Name: Candace Flynn
    Alter: 15


    Familie:

    [tab='Buford und Baljeet']


    Name: Buford van Stomm | Baljeet Tjinder
    Alter: 12


    Familie:

    [/tabmenu]
    Copyright
    Die Rechte für die Serie Phineas & Ferb liegen bei Disney bzw. Dan Povenmire und Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, ebenso die PoV-Charaktere und einige weitere Personen. Die Charaktere der Welt jenseits des Teleporters basieren auf der jeweiligen Person aus Danville, stammen aber, wie auch die Handlung an sich und der Rest der Geschichte, von mir. Ansonsten ist die Quelle beim jeweiligen Kapitel angegeben.


    Kapitelübersicht

    One-Shots

    Anmerkungen
    Einige Anspielungen innerhalb der Geschichte wird man natürlich nur mit entsprechenden Vorkenntnissen zur Serie bemerken/verstehen, das sollte aber das allgemeine Verständnis nicht allzu sehr beeinträchtigen. Für alle Interessierte gibt es am Ende jedes Kapitels eine Auflistung eben dieser Anspielungen.
    Außerdem werden diverse Dinge erwähnt werden [und evtl vorkommen], die man wohl als Cartoon-Logik bezeichnen sollte. Also: es kann durchaus sein, dass [physikalisch] unmögliche Dinge passieren und z.B. riesige Maschinen in wenigen Minuten/Stunden gebaut werden, aber wer die Serie kennt, ist das ja gewohnt. Dementsprechend werde ich das auch nicht näher erläutern.


    Ihr könnt eure Kommentare natürlich auf Deutsch verfassen, wer aber lieber auf Englisch kommentieren will, kann das natürlich auch gerne tun.^^


    Das war's dann auch schon - und nun also: viel Spaß beim Lesen!

  • - 00 -
    Just Another Ordinary Day




    There was not a single cloud in the sky that was still in a shade of golden red at this early hour. The first birds were filling the air with their music, and the morning sun arose and bathed the city of Danville in a warm light. It was a huge town in the very center of the Tri-State Area, a place home to many great minds and well-known citizens, bands like Love Händel and many more.
    And even in this city’s suburbs, if one walked down Maple Drive at this time of day, they would witness another occurrence that, to a stranger, might seem like a disturbance to the idyllic morning - but everyone living near that particular house, 2308 Maple Drive, could confirm that this event belonged to the start of a new summer day like the birds and the cloudless sky.
    And one person in particular.


    »Ferb, I know what we’re going to do today!«
    The girl sat up with a groan. The high-pitched voice of her younger brother cut through the air, and with it came the sudden destruction of the wonderful dream world she had just spent several minutes, or even hours, in. She was used to it by now, of course, having heard these exact words a little less than a hundred and four times already. But still, this commonness did not decrease her frustration in any way. Instead, it was a painful reminder that she still had not achieved her goal: stopping him and her stepbrother from building the biggest, most extreme, and most fantastic inventions the world had ever seen - by showing her mother and thus, busting the boys once and for all.
    »Oh, why do I even bother«, she sighed, apathetically looking at her messy orange hair in the mirror. »No matter how hard I try, no matter how great my plan is… at the end of the day, it’s all gone anyway!«
    Because of some mysterious force, her brothers' inventions always vanished the very moment her mother was about to see them, no matter how impossible it was for giant buildings to disappear. And yet, the girl was not giving up. Someday, somehow, she would bust her brothers. No matter how hard it was.
    She decided to allow herself a few more moments of peace and quiet before her brothers would start with their scheme, so she did her hair and put on her usual clothes: a red tank top and white skirt, fastened by a red belt, as well as red socks under white shoes.
    When she was done, the girl walked over to the door of her room, putting one hand on the door handle. She closed her eyes and sighed once again, mentally preparing herself for what she knew was going to happen.
    »Well, time for just another ordinary day.«




  • - 01 -
    The Simplicity of Modern Art





    Ferb blinked at his brother. He had heard this very sen­tence many times by now, but he was still curious as ever about what idea Phineas had come up with today.
    »Remember when we built those teleporters in the be­ginning of summer?«, the red-haired boy, who was wearing his usual outfit, a t-shirt with orange and white stripes and blue shorts, continued. »You know, the ones that kinda turned Candace into Per­ry.«
    Ferb nodded. That adventure was just one of many, and he remembered them all. From the rollercoaster to space travel, they had done so many things, making the summer truly unforgettable.
    »Well, as you know, we never actually got to build working teleporters, so why don’t we do that today?« Phineas sounded excited already, even though they had not started working on their new project yet.
    The green-haired boy shrugged. There was nothing he had to say against this plan - not that he ever really said much at all. Ferb stood up from his usual spot beneath the tall tree in the backyard to fetch his tools, but stopped when he heard a familiar voice.
    »What’cha doin’?«
    »Oh, hey, Isab-« Phineas quickly cut himself off when he turned around to greet the person that had just arrived.
    »Got you there, huh, dinner bell?« A boy in a black t-shirt with a skull on it grinned as he approached the two brothers.
    Phineas blushed a little. »Well, yeah, I’m so used to Is­abella saying that!«
    »You’re missing her already, don’t ya?«, the other boy, Buford, laughed.
    »Of course I do«, Phineas agreed, and Buford ex­changed an amused glance with Ferb. Even after so many days of summer, his brother was still completely oblivi­ous to Isabella’s feelings for him - unlike everyone else in the neighborhood. Even Ferb had to agree that it was quite hilarious to tease him about that, especially because Phineas did not even notice that either. Just like right now.
    »She’s visiting her family in Mexico for a couple of days«, the redhead continued. »I bet she misses us too!«
    »And one of us in particular«, Ferb remarked, quietly enough for only Buford to hear. The self-proclaimed bul­ly snorted, nudging his friend.
    »Anyway, dinner bell, what are you guys up to?«
    »Remember when we built those teleporters in the be­ginning of summer?«, Phineas repeated, but Buford shook his head.
    »That was before our little thumb wrestling duel, I’d say. Or after that, whatever. Either way, I haven’t been here that often back then. You really gotta fill me in on all that stuff you did without me!« He sounded more frus­trated than he most likely was - Buford tended to exag­gerate.
    »That’s a plan for another day, Buford«, Phineas replied. »Because today, we’re gonna build a teleporter!«
    »And?«, Buford demanded.
    »And… that’s it.«
    »That’s it?«
    »Yeah! Well, it’s just a teleporter.«
    »Are you serious ?«, the bully replied, sounding some­what angry. »All summer, you’ve built really big and amazing things; time machines and rockets and all that great stuff. And now you’re telling me that all you’re gonna do today is build a little teleporter?«
    Phineas shrugged. »Just building tall and extreme things all the time is kinda lame, don’t you think?«
    Again, Buford shook his head. »Nah, dinner bell. You know what’s lame? A small and so not extreme tele­porter!«
    »The simplicity of modern art should not be underesti­mated«, Ferb added calmly, paying no attention to Bu­ford’s tone.
    »Well, I think it’s lame«, the bully repeated. »I’m gonna leave, and I’m gonna come back in some hours. Maybe you’ll be able to convince me of the not-so-lame­ness of this thing then.«
    And with that, Buford turned around and left the back­yard with a slam of its small gate.
    When he was gone, Phineas shrugged, not letting him­self get brought down by his friend.
    »I like the teleporter«, he said, looking back to Ferb. »Now let’s actually build it, huh?«


    It turned out that Buford had actually been right - part­ly, anyway. After all, they finished building the tele­porter in less than an hour. One reason for that was indeed that it was small and not too fancy, but another was that they simply reused their old blueprints of the first tele­porter they had built.
    So here they were, standing in front of the machine that looked exactly like its first version - only that this time, they had built only one, and for a simple reason: with two machines, one could only teleport to the location of the other device. But now, they just had to enter coordinates and the portal would bring them there.
    »Okay, Ferb, where do you want to go?«, Phineas asked, his voice showing how excited he was to finally try the machine out.
    Ferb just blinked. He had no destination in mind, but he knew Phineas would come up with one any second now.
    »Oh, I know! Why don’t we visit our grandparents in London?«, the redhead asked, already figuring out the co­ordinates of the location with the machine's built-in com­puter. Ferb did not have any chance to reply even if he had wanted to, because seconds later, the portal was al­ready opening with a spiral of all kinds of colors, not re­vealing anything of the set destination.
    Phineas was even more excited now. »Shall we?«, he smiled at his brother, who just nodded in agreement.
    Right next to each other, and at the same time, they en­tered the portal.
    A bright flash of light blinded the boys as a crackling noise was heard. They were tossed around as if caught in a heavy storm and, eventually, forcefully pulled into one direction.
    This only took moments too short for the brothers to actually be aware of the incident. They did not feel any consequences but dizziness - and ruggedly crashing onto grassy ground. Luckily, they had gotten away with no in­juries at all, and after shaking off the dizzy feeling, they stood up and looked around.
    They had landed on a glade amid a thick and seem­ingly endless forest with no signs of civilization in sight. The sky was as blue as it had been in Danville when they had finished the teleporter, but the place itself was com­pletely unfamiliar.
    »I have the feeling this isn’t London«, Phineas stated, looking at his brother - who, actually coming from Eng­land, knew that city far better than him.
    Ferb nodded. He had no idea where they had ended up either, so he approached the trees to examine them.
    His breath caught as he realized what tree the leaves he had found belonged to.
    Aren't those...? It can't be. Not here. Unless -
    Footsteps.
    Ones that were approaching the brothers quickly.
    Ferb only had enough time to pull out his pocket knife for possible self-defense when a black canine beast twice the size of a wolf jumped out of the bushes and ran right over to Phineas, who, without any kind of gadget with him, stood no chance against the creature.
    The green-haired boy reacted quickly and dashed over to his brother, his knife equipped and ready to strike. »Ferb!«, he heard Phineas exclaim, but he was complete­ly focused on the beast at this point. It was about to at­tack his brother with its sharp claws, but Ferb reached it just in time. He stabbed it with his knife, thus causing it to screech in pain. Now the greenhead had the beast’s complete attention and was able to direct it away from Phineas.
    Ferb had no intentions of killing this creature - yet he knew he could not be too sure of the other way around. The beast furiously attacked him, but luckily he was able to dodge and avoid its claws most of the time. Not al­ways, though, for it eventually managed to cause him to drop his knife - and now he was completely defenseless as well.
    Completely? Not quite.
    »That was before our little thumb wrestling duel, I’d say.« Buford's voice echoed inside his head - and with it, Ferb remembered the moment after that very duel, the moment he had knocked Buford unconscious by pinching just the right nerve.
    Now this beast just has to have this very nerve as well...
    »Ferb, there are more!« Phineas’ voice interrupted his struggle to locate the nerve of the wolf, and now he heard, and saw, two more of these beasts approaching them at an immense speed. He knew he could not defeat all three of them, but one at the very least… so as the creature launched another clawed attack, he pushed himself forward, grabbed the beast’s throat - and pinched it.
    The wolf fell down with a thud, just as the sharp hiss of a flying arrow cut through the air. After that, another thud as the second creature fell to the ground. Just mo­ments later, the event repeated, with the third and final beast getting pierced by an arrow.
    Ferb believed he heard voices, and from the corner of his eye, he saw someone, a human this time, knocking Phineas unconscious with a hit on the head.
    Ferb opened his mouth to scream his brother’s name, but he too felt a sudden pain on the back of his head.


    And then everything went black.




  • - 02 -
    Implausibilities





    When Phineas regained consciousness at last, every­thing was silent and dark. Of course, his eyes still being closed could be blamed for the latter - and curious as the redhead was, he opened them.
    He was indoors, as he had already assumed from the lack of sounds. The walls of this moderately sized place revealed their unstructured and rough patterns thanks to a handful of torches casting many little shadows wherever a ridge was, for there was no light coming from above or anywhere but the torches at all. The walls were of brown and gray color, too, and Phineas soon realized that he was inside a cave. Man-made or natural, he couldn’t tell. In a semicircle in front of him stood seven chairs - and the boy let out a surprised gasp when he noticed that three of them were not empty.
    The three people would have turned their heads to him at this sound - if they had not already been staring at him the entire time, that is.
    »Look who’s finally woken up«, one of them, a teenage boy at the age of about sixteen, with messy blond hair and a sleeveless black t-shirt, exclaimed excitedly.
    The one on the chair next to him, a dark-skinned boy of the same age, with long braided dark brown hair and a gray short-sleeved jacket over a black shirt, didn’t sound as happy. »Yeah, it’s about time. I was starting to get bored with them just being unconscious like that.«
    'Them'? Of course! Phineas looked around once more, and to his right, he spotted Ferb: tied to a chair, still not awake. It was only then that the redhead noticed how he was just as tied up as his brother.
    »What’s that for?«, he decided to speak up, looking questioningly to the two teens that, he thought, bore a strange resemblance to Jeremy and Coltrane, two of his sister’s friends from back home. Phineas was not too worried though: after all, these people did not seem like they wanted to harm him - and they had saved him and Ferb from those wolf beasts, he remembered.
    »Just so you won’t fall off your chairs«, the fairly amused blond boy replied, but he was quickly interrupted by the third person Phineas had spotted earlier. He had not paid much attention to this boy because he was sitting on the left side of the semicircle, unlike the other two on the opposite side of it.
    Although he was younger than the two teens by four years or so, the remaining boy had the most serious and wary expression of their group. His gray-sleeved arms were crossed in front of the black vest he was wearing, and he had straight black hair at a little less than shoulder length.
    »We have tied you up because we do not trust you«, the boy openly declared. His dark skin and foreign accent immediately reminded Phineas of his friend Baljeet, even though the boy coldly glaring at the brothers now was much taller, more serious, and had a much deeper voice than their Indian friend.
    » You don’t trust them«, the blond boy emphasized.
    »We never really agreed on tying them up, did we?«, his teenage friend added.
    The boy on the left sighed. »And you two are not much of a help here.«
    The blond boy turned to Phineas, grinning. »That’s what he’s telling us every day.«
    This made the redhead smile. By now, he highly doubt­ed the trio actually meant harm, and he was glad that two of them didn’t seem to take the situation very seriously either.
    The one that did, though, raised his voice again.
    »Anyway«, he said, completely ignoring the other’s re­mark and turning to Phineas, »Let us get back to the actu­ally important matters.« There was a warning tone in his voice, and the other boys decided to be quiet for once. »Who are you, what do you want, and how did you ap­pear out of nowhere in the middle of a forest?«
    »Well«, Phineas started, hardly intimidated by his harsh tone. »I’m Phineas, and this is my brother Ferb. We’re from a place called Danville and -«
    »Ha! I told you they’re the ones!«, the blond boy ex­claimed, grinning at his friend next to him.
    »The ones?«, Phineas repeated, confused. »Were you expecting us?«
    »Duh«, the long-haired boy replied. »You’re the broth­ers from the prophecy. Supposed to be saving the world from the darklings.«
    »Saving the world?«, Phineas repeated again, looking at the more serious boy. Surely he’d tell him now that his friend was kidding.
    »I hate to admit it, but he is right«, the boy sighed. »Two brothers from another world, which you are by the looks of it, defeating those canine beasts - the darklings - and their leader… not that you would stand much of a chance against that man.«
    »Come on, Bal, we all saw him -«, the blond boy nod­ded at the still unconscious Ferb, »- defeat a darkling with his bare hands! Don’t say they can’t put up with the rest of them!«
    »Well, I am«, the boy on the left, Bal, countered. »Two boys against a pack of monsters and a dark sorcerer? They stand no chance.«
    Just when the blond boy opened his mouth for a re­sponse, he was cut off by the sound of approaching foot­steps. It was hard to tell, but Phineas estimated about three or four people - most likely four, he realized, matching the number of still empty seats in the room.
    »Looks like our reinforcements have arrived«, the long-haired boy stated with a look at Ferb. »This is going to be interesting.«
    Phineas didn’t have much time to wonder what Ferb in particular had to do with that. Only seconds later, the first person entered the room from behind the tied-up broth­ers. With fast steps, a small and chubby boy hurried to a chair right between Bal and Phineas. He wore a black t-shirt, dark khaki shorts, and had a lot of freckles - all traits that reminded Phineas of another friend he, and es­pecially Baljeet, had: Buford. Like the bully, this boy had dark brown hair, but the curls made him different from the person Phineas knew. Buford also had one upward tooth that was even visible with a closed mouth - the boy now very agitatedly staring at the brothers had an over­bite instead.
    »Are you from the prophecy?«, he asked Phineas, with an honest grin that reminded the redhead of himself.
    »That’s a little straightforward, don’t you think?«, a very calm voice replied. Another boy at Phineas’ age en­tered the room and took his time to get to the seat next to the long-haired boy, a spot almost directly facing Phineas and Ferb. Why the boy was walking so slowly was easy to see: he was slouching, using a cane as assistance, and his very pale blue eyes were closely surrounded by the scars of several long-healed wounds. The short, reddish hair only added to Phineas’ thoughts about which of his friends this boy was resembling: Irving, the glasses-wearing self-proclaimed biggest fan of the brothers and their adventures. And by the looks of it, the boy Phineas was watching now was not half as hyperactive as the one he knew - and blind.
    »Sorry, Ivan«, the chubby one answered him. And, af­ter a pause, »...but are they?«
    »If Jared and Colin told us the truth, yeah.«
    Phineas gasped at the sound of this voice and turned his head.
    »Canda-« Of course, he quickly cut himself off. The person strolling into the room and taking the seat on Bal’s other side wasn’t his sister - just a girl who looked and sounded a whole lot like her. Her orange hair was tied into a ponytail, and like the others, she mostly wore black: her sleeveless shirt, skirt and boots all were of that darkest of colors. Not having glanced at the brothers for even a second yet, she flinched and immediately turned her head when Phineas spoke up. When she saw him, her eyes widened in surprise and even shock, but she quickly shook her head as if trying to get rid of an image inside her mind. Then she looked back in the redhead’s direc­tion, but past him - at the final person entering the room.
    Whatever remark anyone in the room had been about to make regarding the little incident that had just happened, it was quickly forgotten when everyone went silent as the last person appeared, aiming straight for the remaining empty seat: the one directly facing Phineas and Ferb.
    When even Bal’s two companions, Jared and Colin, Phineas assumed, became quiet like that, the redhead knew that the person behind him must be quite intimidat­ing - or even some kind of authority figure. They nodded at this person, and Bal even slightly bowed his head, re­inforcing Phineas’ assumption. But still, the boy was not exactly scared, just very curious.
    But when a boy with dark green hair came into Phineas’ view, he could hardly believe his eyes.
    He was as tall as Ferb, and all the proportions fit: square nose, rectangular head, eyes of different size. But what Phineas called his brother’s very own type of si­lence, the calm and collected one, could hardly be ap­plied to this boy. It was easy to read his expression, cu­riosity most of all, and the smile on his face was more of a smirk. His hair was of a darker shade than Ferb’s, styled upwards, and with a jacket of just about the same color, he was easily the most colorful person in the room if one excluded the brothers. Under the jacket he wore a black t-shirt, and his gray pants started at a normal height - not almost directly under the armpits like Ferb’s. Leaning back on his chair, the boy folded his arms behind his head that was also bearing a scar just above his left eye. Everybody was looking at him, and he in turn was look­ing at Ferb.
    »So«, the boy spoke up. While Ferb hardly ever re­vealed his emotions even in speech, this one did not seem to bother not revealing them. He made it clear that he was in a superior position, yet he also openly showed his curiosity. »You’re the ones from the prophe­cy.«
    »Pretty much, yeah.« Phineas found it hard to actually act inferior towards this boy, especially because he was so similar to his brother - in appearance, at least. Luckily for him, the other one didn’t seem to mind.
    »Well then - I doubt the three guys you’ve had the pleasure of meeting told you much about anything… or did they?«
    Bal considered it fitting to reply and defend himself. »We thought we should wait until everyone is here«, he explained - and was immediately contradicted by the blond boy, Jared.
    »He was the one thinking that, we were useful!«
    The Ferb-like boy raised an eyebrow.
    The girl looking like Candace sighed.
    »Guys, calm down. This is important.« With a glance to the green-haired boy next to her, she continued, »Don’t you think we should, like, introduce ourselves?« That sounded more like a reminder than like an unsure ques­tion. »You’ve heard it, Bal didn’t tell them anything.«
    »Do not blame me, I -« But Bal cut himself off, know­ing that arguing about such a matter was useless.
    »Right«, the green-haired boy agreed, this time sound­ing like he would not tolerate any more interruptions. He had changed his position, now he was simply sitting straight with his hands on his thighs. As he was introduc­ing people, he nodded at the respective person.
    »That’s my sister, Can«, he began, then looked to his right. She still avoided looking directly at Phineas. »I suppose you already know Bal here. And next to him’s Bue…«, the little boy smiled again and waved, »...and over there on my left is his mentor of sorts, Ivan. He’s also our healer.« The blind one bowed his head. Colin and Jared were also introduced - now everyone but the speaking boy himself had been. »You can call me Fern«, he concluded. »I’m the leader of this place.«
    Phineas had assumed just as much. »Of what exactly?«, he asked Fern. That still had not been solved.
    »Ah, right. Did the others already tell you about the darklings?«
    »He fought them«, Colin pointed out, but Fern ignored that remark.
    Phineas just nodded.
    »Well, there you go. We’re a resistance against them and their leader, the Duke.«
    Ivan, too, had something to say. In his calm and collected voice, he explained, »We have not actually been fighting him and his beasts, I might add. They are very hard to defeat, especially the Duke, of course.«
    »Wait a second«, Phineas put in as he saw most of the others nodding at Ivan’s statement. He also remembered Bal’s similar words from earlier. »If they’re that difficult to beat, then why do you think Ferb and I can do that? We’re a little young for that, don’t you think?« The red­head was very well aware of the irony in his last words: normally, when someone asked him that question, he’d proudly answer Yes. Yes, I am. - but now, he wasn’t so sure.
    Jared shrugged. »Ferb did kill that darkling with his bare hands.«
    And even Bal agreed, »And you somehow came from another world and appeared right in the middle of a for­est.«
    »That was an accident!«, Phineas exclaimed, frustrated. »Look, I know we’ve built that teleporter, and I know Ferb and I achieve the impossible every single day by building big and amazing stuff - but this is different! We're creating our inventions for fun, nothing else. This, this is dangerous and deadly and… and serious , guys.«
    Bal just raised an eyebrow at that. »Of course it is all of that, what did you expect? The Duke has killed hundreds of people. This resistance here, we are the last ones left, and we sure are not many.«
    »Cut it, Bal«, Can sharply interrupted him.
    »A little bluntly put, but he’s right«, Fern replied bitter­ly, then looked at Phineas again. »Go on.«
    »Yeah, well«, the redhead was still unsure, even more now after Bal’s harsh words. »Really, this is unlike any­thing we’ve ever done, in a bad way, and… I’d really like to help you, but I don’t know how! We’ve got no fighting experience or anything that could help us here, and you can't make us fight in the first place. Not me, and not Ferb. We aren't going to battle or even kill anyone.« He sighed. »I’m sorry, but -«
    A more than merely familiar voice interrupted him. Coming from somewhere on his right, with a distinctive British accent.
    »We will help you.«





  • - 03 -
    We Have All Been There




    »Ferb?«

    Phineas immediately turned to his right. There was his brother, completely awake, and apparently not at all thrown off by any of his surroundings. No, the determi­nation in his voice and eyes, directly facing Fern, made it seem like he hadn’t been unconscious at all, but rather like he had been observing the entire situation from the beginning.
    Ferb only gave the redhead a glance Phineas would have missed if he had blinked: his brother let him know that he had heard him in spite of still remaining focused on Fern. Ferb made no other move or sound, waiting for his look-alike, or anyone else, to reply.
    This person turned out to be Bal.
    »How come you want to help us? Your brother had some pretty good points.«
    Phineas watched his brother, curious about his answer. As much as he wanted to help those people, it was far too dangerous, not to mention that neither his friends nor his family had any clue about their whereabouts. Regarding Ferb’s words, though, he was just as curious as he was surprised - after all, his brother was known to hardly ever make bad choices. So what reasons would he have to join this resistance, knowing well enough how dangerous this was going to be?
    Ferb shook his tied-up hands. To Jared, sitting next to him, the message was clear, and after exchanging a quick look with Fern, he got up and cut through the rope re­straining the green-haired boy. While Jared went on to release Phineas as well - how glad he was to move his hands again! -, Ferb took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and passed it over to Bal, who, both cautious and confused, stretched it out on the ground before him. After all, the sheet was quite big, and this way he could also make sure the others were able to see its contents as well.
    Unfolded, the piece of paper was as long as Ferb’s out­stretched arm and as wide as his legs were long - the greenhead’s map folding skills were unsurpassed, as Phineas had found out many times before. White lines, text, and numbers covered the otherwise blue sheet, thus identifying what it was.
    »That’s the blueprint for our teleporter!«, Phineas real­ized. He was just as bewildered as the other people in the room who had never seen such a paper before, so it was completely holding their attention at this point.
    Colin shrugged and leaned back into his seat again, mak­ing it obvious that he did not care about the blueprint in any way. »So what?«
    »Yeah«, Jared nodded. »How is that a reason for want­ing to help us? You’re not gonna find a thing like that anywhere in this place!«
    »Not even the parts?« The last hope Phineas had had about having an excuse not to engage in deadly fighting was gone in an instant.
    Fern shook his head. »Not that I’d know, no. Although…«
    »Although what?«, Phineas probed him.
    But the resistance’s leader shook his head. »My only guess is that the Duke would be able to create this… thing with his magics - or the parts, anyway. But, as you’ve already said, traveling to him isn’t an option.« His voice had a challenging tone that bugged Phineas. He knows I don’t have a choice. And Ferb does, too.
    »So no matter whether I want to do this deadly stuff or not, we will have to find that guy?«, Phineas sighed, dedi­cating this question to his brother rather than to the re­sistance.
    Ferb nodded, but the redhead was at least a little re­lieved when he read his expression: Sorry. I know you don’t want to do this.
    »That means they’ll help us, right?«, the chubby boy called Bue asked nobody in particular.
    Phineas took a deep breath, knowing well enough that all he had to do was find the positive aspects of the situa­tion. After all, he had made it through so much already! And although flying around the world in a single day or exploring the galaxy were not nearly as intense as what he suspected was going to happen today, the redhead managed to face the circle of people with his hopeful, contagious smile, sounding as optimistic as the situation allowed.
    »Yes. Yes, we will.«
    Bue smiled widely at that, Jared and Colin both grinned as well, and even in Bal’s eyes Phineas believed to spot a little spark of hope. Can looked like Phineas felt: very conflicted about what to think, but trying to make the best out of the situation. Like Candace. And Fern thanked the brothers, sounding like he actually meant it and with no superior ring to it, before turning to the remaining person in the room.
    »Ivan, you should tell them the full prophecy now. They deserve to know.«
    The blind boy nodded, slightly amused when sensing how Bal was merely waiting for being allowed to leave now that things were settled. Phineas noticed that the In­dian boy, or the closest to that in this strange place, was sitting on the edge of his seat already, most likely want­ing to get away from the two brothers as fast as possi­ble. Someone here doesn’t like strangers. And we haven’t even done anything to make him hate us!
    »If you think this doesn’t concern you, you’re wrong«, Ivan remarked, sounding not at all angry with the boy who now forced himself to sit back, unhappy with his situ­ation, but not wanting to get into trouble.
    Still, that did not stop him from wondering, »It is Phineas and Ferb who are supposed to defeat the Duke, not me. So why do I have to stay?«
    »Because you are in the prophecy as well.«
    That did surprise Bal. »I am?« He did not sound too happy about that.
    Can, too, turned to Ivan now. »Maybe you should tell all of us about the prophecy, how about that?«
    »You don’t know about it either?«, Phineas wondered. If Ivan was the only one knowing about it, then why was everyone else believing that he and Ferb would save them? Maybe they’re as clueless as we are… maybe we aren’t even supposed to be a part of this!
    Colin did not seem to mind that, just like he had not been interested in the blueprint. »All Ivan’s told us is the part with two brothers from another world saving us from the Duke, and that’s all I need to know.«
    »But now that we’re all here, I’d like to hear the rest as well!«, Jared declared. »Come on, Ivan, I’m all ears!«
    »Very well«, the blind boy agreed. »But please, don’t interrupt me. Keep all of your reactions and opinions to yourselves until I have finished. There is no need to jump to conclusions.«
    Everyone nodded until Can realized that Ivan was not going to see that. »...go ahead.«
    And thus, Ivan recited the prophecy only he knew.


    »Country ruled by envious eyes,
    Children forced to deadly strife
    Against a foe so wild and dark:
    Creatures given blackened hearts.«


    This already gave Phineas chills. Not that he had not been aware of the contents of this passage, but poetry made it sound all the more terrible. The others seemed to be thinking the same: these words were nothing new, but horrible reality.


    »When hope is lost and peril nigh,
    Two warring brothers will unite
    Two worlds apart since decades past,
    Bringing peace to both at last.«


    So that was the part everyone was talking about. And Phineas, though unwillingly, had to agree: this sounded a whole lot like him and Ferb. Even though he could not see in what way they were ‘warring’. All eyes were on them now, he noticed.


    »As green as grass, as red as blood,
    With intentions bad or good,
    Six children on a journey set –
    Eleven when their pasts have met.«


    The redhead spotted Bal glancing around. ‘Six chil­dren’, that meant the brothers - and most likely him as well. Now he was probably trying to figure out which of the others he would most like to accompany them on this journey.


    »The foe is gone, one brother slain...«


    Phineas froze and held back a scream when it dawned on him what this passage meant. He took no time to ob­serve the others’ reactions - he was too busy trying to concentrate on the remaining lines, yet actually paid little attention to them either. One of us is going to die. That was the only thing on his mind right now.


    »...The other one his fate will claim.
    For only trust can be the key
    For all people to be free.«


    Ivan ended his recitation, and for several seconds, there was silence.
    And Phineas was the one breaking it.
    »You can’t make us do that!«, he exclaimed, incredibly frustrated he had actually agreed to this journey, and panick­ing now that he was allowed to show his reaction. »I… I don’t care if the Duke’s the only one who can help us back home, I’m not gonna die !« It was only a term of good manners that he did not get up and run away, but the boy was close to doing just that.
    Ferb noticed his brother’s distress - Phineas knew that he, too, was shocked by this turn of events and that yet, he was much better at hiding it. When Ferb grabbed his brother’s hand to calm him down, the redhead could not help but think that the unusually tight grasp was meant to comfort Ferb himself as well. There was worry in his eyes, and Phineas could not tell whether Ferb was more afraid of himself or his brother dying.
    Phineas was not so sure about his own feelings either.
    »Phineas.« Ivan’s unchanging calm voice caught the redhead’s attention and, for some reason, made him feel a little more relaxed.
    The boy just blinked at Ivan, but soon enough remem­bered his blindness again. »...huh?«
    »I need to talk to you.« Resting his eyes on Ferb, he continued, »Alone.«
    Fern quickly understood. »Phineas, I know you’re not too… happy about how things are turning out, but your brother’s right. You don’t have much of a choice. So while you go with Ivan, Ferb will stay here with us and discuss all other important matters - such as who is going to join the two of you.«
    Ferb nodded and seemed completely alright with that, and when Phineas got up from his chair and was about to follow Ivan who was already leaving the room, he start­ed feeling uneasy and, especially, alone. But Ferb was al­ready preoccupied with listening to Fern and Can’s tacti­cal discussions, and the redhead couldn’t help but feel another thing: guilt. If Ferb can keep it together, why can't I? He sighed and turned away.
    »It’s hard, I know«, Ivan’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
    »...huh?«
    »Getting used to such a different situation.« The blind boy was walking in front of him, slowly, his cane guiding him through the tunnel network they now appeared to be in. These paths were smaller in diameter than the room they had just left, but otherwise fairly similar, with torch­es lighting the way and several other tunnels leading deeper into, or out of, the entire system. In some of these tunnels, Phineas heard voices, but they were too far away for him to understand the words even as he tried.
    There was a sudden sadness in Ivan's voice. »We have all been there.«
    And then all his thoughts left Phineas’ mind.
    »Ivan, I… I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to fight, actually fight, and I don’t even know where I am! It’s such a long way from home and what if I don’t even get to see my friends again? Or Mom and Dad and Can­dace? They’ll have no clue what happened and I don’t wanna die and…«
    »We have all been there«, the blind boy repeated, still leading the way. »The Duke has made us flee from our homes; for all we know, all of our families and friends not in this resistance are dead, and any of us patrolling the forest are as afraid of losing their lives as you are, not to mention those that will join you on your journey. All of your fears are those that unite our resistance, Phineas. They are completely understandable.«
    That was actually worse than what Phineas had thought. »I’m sorry«, he began. »...for everything that’s happened to you. All of you.«
    Ivan suddenly stopped walking, and the redhead almost bumped into him. »What’s past is past«, he merely said before turning around to face the boy just as tall as him­self. Phineas couldn’t help but examine the scars around Ivan’s eyes now that he was this close to them. They were old, the wounds having healed years ago, but the scars were still there, just like the whiteness in his eyes. »All you must do is learn to live with it.«
    »What happened to your eyes?«, Phineas blurted out, already regretting this rude question.
    But Ivan did not mind. »Everyone asks that one day, don’t worry.
    »It’s not much of a great tale, actually. Sorry if you’ve expected something more dramatic! But yes, I was noth­ing but a simple boy, tending to my village’s horses as well as the herbs I have always been so interested in. We have heard of the Duke’s attacks on other towns, of course, but we were still incredibly optimistic on the mat­ter of him actually coming to our home. One day, howev­er, he did attack us, and the horses I was feeding that day panicked, and I was completely overwhelmed, to say the least.« With a little bit of imagination, Phineas was able to identify horseshoe-like shapes in Ivan’s scars.
    The blind boy smiled slightly. »When the resistance found me - Jared and Colin, actually -, I was still wide awake - and had to boss them around quite a bit to make sure my wounds were tended to properly.« And now, he even let out a short laugh, remembering that moment.
    »See, Phineas, I cannot change what has happened to me, or to anyone here. But I can still do my best not to let it bring me down today - or in the future. I can sense that that’s the way you’re looking at life, too - so don’t let anything bring you down, not even the prophecy.«
    Despite being incredibly moved by Ivan’s words, Phineas found it hard to convince himself of the last part. »But -«
    »There are different ways to look at a prophecy, Phineas. Even though it is me who received these very words the moment I went blind, in an epiphany, you might say… I can’t tell you its outcome even if I wanted to - because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Only that things, or people, aren’t always what they seem to be.«
    That was the first actually uplifting thing Phineas had heard from anyone today. »So it’s possible that Ferb and I will both make it back home?« The thought of that not going to be the case still horrified him.
    »Nothing’s impossible if you believe you can do it - or can’t, in this case.«
    »Fair enough«, the redhead nodded, but he was certain that Ivan was able to sense how comforting his speech had actually been. Phineas couldn’t find the right words to express it, but still: for now, he was at least somewhat relaxed again. He smiled, too, for these last words re­minded him of the many similar bits of advice he had been giving his friends over the summer.
    »Wise words, aren’t they?«, Ivan smiled, indeed aware of their effect on the other boy. »My mother taught me - and she, in turn, learned them from a stranger who, now that I think about it, was very much like you.«
    That caught Phineas’ attention. »What do you mean?«
    »Well«, Ivan replied. »When I was no older than two years old, a visitor came to our village. He only stayed for a day, yet left such a big impact on my mother and other villagers that they often told me about him. He was very kind-hearted and optimistic, and he impressed them all with little gadgets he had built. Most notable, however, is that he told them about coming from a strange place very similar to our country in several ways - by using something he referred to as a ‘teleporter’.«
    The similarities to Phineas were obvious enough for the redhead to notice, and he couldn’t help but wonder, »...what did he look like?«
    »All of this is only what my mother told me«, Ivan re­minded him, but continued anyway. »She always de­scribed him as rather small for his age, with bright red hair and a very unnaturally triangular head -«
    »And his name?«, Phineas interrupted him. If this man was who he thought he was…
    The blind boy thought about that for a moment, notic­ing Phineas’ unusual interest in the topic. After all, he had no idea what Phineas looked like: just like the man he had just described. »Josh, if I recall correctly. The last name was something beginning with F, although… no, I don’t remember what it was, my apologies.«
    »Flynn?« By now, Phineas was hardly able to contain himself.
    »Yes, that… sounds about right, indeed.«
    »Where is he now?« Ivan didn’t know it, but he had just confirmed to Phineas where his father, his actual fa­ther, had disappeared to so many years ago. Not that the redhead had ever really cared, though: after all, his father had vanished when he had been two years old, he didn’t remember him at all, and with Lawrence, Ferb's father, they had found a perfect replacement for whoever this man actually was. Until now, Phineas had not even known his name, but now that he had actual traces of him, the whole prospect of one day meeting his biological father suddenly turned incredibly exciting.
    »This is actually both good news and bad news for you«, Ivan told him. »My mother said that when he van­ished in the evening, the last thing they found were foot­steps - his and those of several darklings. Which doesn’t mean he is dead«, he quickly added. »I doubt the Duke would kill someone this extraordinary… which is good, of course, but I really cannot tell you what has happened to Josh since.«
    Phineas nodded, but also could not help sighing. No matter what happened, everything seemed to lead him into the direction of the Duke. And with every new reve­lation, he found it harder to resist his fate.





  • After reading the introduction for the fan fiction, I decided to give it a try, even though I do not know the series “Phineas & Ferb”. If this leads to an unfitting feedback, I would argue that this is better than no feedback at all.


    Concerning the introduction (the very first contribution), I have not much to criticise. The introduction looks fine, all relevant information are given, and those readers that are in a hurry to know what the story is about will jump to the easily recognizable section “Inhalt”. Maybe you could have moved the information that the story will be in English language to the warning instead of the last sentence of the foreword, but I think that the readers will recognize that fact soon enough.
    Just a small side-note: As I prefer to get to know the characters of a story in the story itself, I have simply ignored the character descriptions in the introduction, so I cannot comment on whether they contain to much, not enough or just about the perfect amount of information.


    Concerning the choice of the language I am not sure if English is a good choice. A number of potential readers will leave the topic without reading much of the story just because they do not read anything that is in another language than German. On the other hand, you seem to prefer writing in English, and as far as I can see, there are really few grammatical errors or misspellings (but I did not check the spelling with a spell checker, so it might be that I missed something).


    With the chapter 0 (“Just Another Ordinary Day”), I am not sure whether I should see it more as a kind of a prologue or as an ordinary first chapter. From its length and from the fact that it is not numbered “chapter 1” I would assume that it should be a prologue, but the contents do not fit this impression: The first half is just a description of a situation - which itself is good, but the following action is unfittingly short.


    With chapter 1 (“The Simplicity of Modern Art”), the story does actually start. However, I had much to guess about the characters in the first half of the chapter, as I do not know the series. Maybe I should leave out this part of the chapter in my feedback and just comment on the second half (after they teleported somewhere else than London). There I did not have any problems following the story, but when looking into the details, there are some minor inconsistencies:

    • You write that they landed in a “thick and seemingly endless forest” and that “the sky was as blue as it had been in Danville”. In my opinion these two sentences contradict each other - as you cannot see the sky at all if you are in a thick forest.
    • A little later you write that all trees were of “this very species”, but you do not tell the reader which species it is. Maybe you might want to describe the leaves that Ferb had found, or you could at least tell us, which kind of trees we have in the forest. An other missing thing when reading the description of the forest is the underwood (Are there bushes below the trees? What is the ground like? Earth? Grass? Many flowers?). These information are not directly necessary for following the story, but they might give a better understanding of the place the two brothers have landed in.
    • When I first read about the attack by the wolfs, I thought “well, that is something I need to include in my comment” - as wolfs usually do not attack humans. They rather flee from us, and only if that is not possible or if they are ill (with canine madness), they will attack. But with the information given in the second chapterm I think that maybe they are just different from the real wolfs.


    After the action started in the previous chapter, the story became really interesting for me within chapter 2 (“Implausibilities”). It is a lot longer than the first chapter, but the contents are very well filled with a number of twists. As with the second half of the first chapter, it was easy to follow for me. Maybe that was because you left fewer holes where I needed to guess what is missing as the new characters are new even to readers who know the original series. Due to the length of the chapter, I do not want to look too deep into possible inconsistencies.


    As I wrote most of the comment yesterday evening (before I saw the third chapter), I will only mention for Chapter 3 (“We Have All Been There”) that it was also was a good read, and although it is even longer than chapter 2, it does not have any longueurs.


    Last but not least, I want to mention a few words about the formatting of the chapters. The text does have a large number of small paragraphs - or a large number of blank lines if you want to look on it the other way round. Unfortunately this does not only lengthen the look of the chapters, but it is also much more difficult to get a first impression of the chapters.
    I know that it does make sense to add a line break when an other person says something, but in my opinion it would be better to only use a single line break (without an empty line) for that and to start a new section (with an empty line in between) only in those places where you really want to start a new section - for example because a person appears or disappears, or because there is some other twist in the story.

  • Ich hätte jetzt noch ein neues Kapitel gepostet, damit der Post hier nicht 'nur' ein Kommentar wird, aber ich hab' ja vorgestern erst eins hier veröffentlicht, also kann ich diesen Post ganz @Feuerdrache widmen. :D


    Erstmal danke für deinen Kommentar, hat mich sehr gefreut! Du hättest den übrigens nicht auf Englisch schreiben müssen, aber warum auch nicht?^^

    Concerning the choice of the language I am not sure if English is a good choice.

    Nun, ehrlich gesagt war nie wirklich geplant, die Story hier zu veröffentlichen, weil ich sie größtenteils für ein paar amerikanische Freunde und halt die P&F-Community geschrieben habe bzw. Englisch im Internet an sich halt mehr gelesen wird. In unserer Traumaturgen-Skype-Gruppe meinten die anderen, dass ich die Geschichte doch auch hier veröffentlichen kann - und weil sich manche geplanten Dinge nicht sehr gut übersetzen lassen und ich die offiziellen Charaktere auf Englisch besser rüberbringen kann [ich habe die deutsche Synchro ewig nicht mehr gesehen], habe ich sie halt auf Englisch gelassen.^^

    With the chapter 0 (“Just Another Ordinary Day”), I am not sure whether I should see it more as a kind of a prologue or as an ordinary first chapter. From its length and from the fact that it is not numbered “chapter 1” I would assume that it should be a prologue, but the contents do not fit this impression: The first half is just a description of a situation - which itself is good, but the following action is unfittingly short.

    Hat auch noch [Intro] im Namen, ist also wirklich nicht als erstes Kapitel anzusehen. Und okay, ich hätte auch noch mehr über Candace schreiben können, die macht aber morgens generell nicht sonderlich viel, und was ihr unmittelbar nach Kapitel 00 passiert, erfahrt ihr dann alle in Nummer 05.^^

    You write that they landed in a “thick and seemingly endless forest” and that “the sky was as blue as it had been in Danville”. In my opinion these two sentences contradict each other - as you cannot see the sky at all if you are in a thick forest.

    Da hast du recht, aber ich schrieb "They had landed on a glade amidst a thick and seemingly endless forest [...]" und glade heißt Lichtung, das hast du wohl überlesen. [Andererseits hab ich keine Ahnung, ob's in solchen Wäldern überhaupt Lichtungen gibt, lol]

    These information are not directly necessary for following the story, but they might give a better understanding of the place the two brothers have landed in.

    Ja, ich geb zu, ich bin bei Beschreibungen schon immer echt schreibfaul gewesen, also werde ich das wohl demnächst nochmal zu verbessern versuchen, danke für die Tipps!

    But with the information given in the second chapterm I think that maybe they are just different from the real wolfs.

    Das wird sich noch früh genug klären, keine Sorge.^^

    Last but not least, I want to mention a few words about the formatting of the chapters.

    Das ist der Website geschuldet, wo die Story sonst noch veröffentlicht wird, weil es dort einfach bescheuert ohne die Zwischenzeilen aussieht. Ich sehe aber ein, dass das hier wohl anders ist, also werde ich die Kapitel ab sofort dementsprechend bearbeiten.^^


    Jedenfalls wirklich nochmal danke für dein Feedback und es freut mich, dass dir die Story soweit gefällt - vielleicht liest man sich hier ja nochmal wieder. :D

  • - 04 -
    The Trail We Blaze




    Not much more than half an hour later, Ferb was look­ing at the first natural light he had seen since the mem­bers of the resistance had knocked him unconscious earli­er. Dimmed by shapes he was not able to identify against the light from behind them, but still: any open space was welcome to him. The greenhead was standing at the very end of one of the tunnels, leading out of the cave system. With him were the other people he had met: Fern, Can, Bal, Jared, and Colin. They were all waiting for Phineas now - and for Bue, who had gone off to fetch him.
    Soon enough, the group heard approaching footsteps, and Bue appeared from the tunnel leading deeper into the resistance, closely followed by Phineas - who stopped and stared at Ferb as soon as he was near enough. But Ferb realized he was not looking at him: rather, his brother’s surprised and even quite amazed eyes were resting on the sheath the greenhead was carrying on his back.
    »Is that a sword ?« Phineas could hardly believe his eyes. Ferb was not able to tell whether his brother ap­proved of it or not, but at first glance, Phineas was as fas­cinated as he always was when he was shown some new device.
    Can, now carrying a staff as well as a backpack, did not sound as if that was unusual at all. »We asked him if he was good with weapons, and that’s what he picked.« She shot a glance at her own brother, who was transporting his sword the same way Ferb did. Fern did approve of the similarity, Ferb had already noticed.
    But Phineas, by now, was even more confused than be­fore. »Since when do you know how to use a sword?«, he asked his brother, who only replied with a shrug.
    »King Arthur.«
    »Fair enough«, his brother grinned, satisfied. They both knew how much Ferb loved that tale.
    »Anyway«, Fern interrupted their dialogue. »We should leave as soon as possible. If we wait any longer, we’ll only be reaching the Duke’s place at sundown, which would force us to spend the night way too close to the dark­ling lair.«
    »And you really do not want that«, Bal, wielding the same bow he had used to save the brothers earlier, agreed.
    Fern nodded. »Best case scenario is we manage to de­feat him before all the darklings become active.«
    »You’re coming with us?«, Phineas then asked him, re­minding Ferb that his brother had no idea about what had been decided when he had talked to Ivan.
    »Him, me, and those two«, Can explained, nodding at Bal - and Bue.
    Now, Phineas looked as surprised as Ferb had felt when that had been announced. Much like him, the red­head had probably expected Jared or Colin to join them - but Bue? The small boy was not even carrying any kind of weapon at all, only a shoulder bag, and he really did not seem like he would be any good in a fight.
    »Someone has to be in charge while our two leaders are gone«, Colin shrugged.
    Jared, next to him, had his usual grin on his face. »And that’s us!«
    »And Ivan.«
    »Way to ruin the moment, Bal.« Colin rolled his eyes.
    The archer ignored him and turned to Phineas instead. »Ivan cannot join us for obvious reasons, but we do need a healer - and as his apprentice, Bue is the only option.«
    Ferb knew that Bal was not at all happy with the deci­sion. In fact, it sounded like he blamed the brothers for anything that was about to happen, but that was not sur­prising: if Bal and Bue’s relationship was as strong as that between Baljeet and Buford, then they would not let anything bad happen to one another.
    Bue, on the other hand, swelled with excitement. »I’ll be useful, you’ll see!«, he exclaimed to Bal.
    The archer nodded absentmindedly, eager to change the topic. »You have all heard Fern. We should go.«
    Fern nodded and took a step toward the exit. »Right. Let’s go, everyone.«
    »Make sure to kill some darklings for us«, Jared shout­ed after them as they left, but Ferb was not sure whether that was a serious or joking remark.
    He took his place next to Phineas on their way out and gave his brother a comforting smile. The redhead had no weapon with him, he noticed - that probably made him feel even more useless than he already was. Even without fighting skills, he could still have used some kind of weapon… the greenhead fiddled in his pockets and quickly found the still a little bloody pocket knife he had used to wound the darkling. This gadget was better than nothing, so he handed it to his brother.
    »You’ve kept that?«, Phineas asked. »I thought you lost it in the battle!« But as his brother shook his head, the redhead grasped the multi-functional machine tightly, and Ferb could tell how comforting it was for him to be able to defend himself at least a little bit.
    He looked at the object for another moment. The other people, especially Bal, all thought he had killed the dark­ling with his bare hands - but that was not the truth at all: he alone knew that the beast was all but dead, only un­conscious, not to mention that he did have had this knife with him for the first several moments. There was no rea­son to tell them, however - if that made them respect him, then this truth could wait.
    The small group had left the cave system by now, after pushing through the tall fern plants that had been dim­ming the light earlier. When he turned around, Ferb saw a huge mountain - the equivalent of Danville Mountain, most likely. Inside that place, the resistance had its hide­out, the entrance hidden behind the fern. There was noth­ing suspicious about some giant plants, he thought.
    Ahead of them was nothing but the forest. Ferb watched his brother closely, trying to figure out whether he would also notice what plants these woods were made of… but Phineas was as oblivious to that as he was to most things. At least he seemed to enjoy the walk: his usual smile had found its way back onto his face. Ferb was left to wonder what things Ivan had told him, but he was not going to ask. Phineas would tell him if it con­cerned him, the greenhead knew. Still, he was glad that his brother was back to his cheerful self again.
    The forest was a wild one, with nothing but some scat­tered trails the resistance seemed to have left over the years to walk on. The birds were singing just like in Danville, but in a much higher number, and ground-based wildlife left the bushes rustling here and there. Ferb noticed Bal flinching a couple of times - the boy was the last in the line they had formed, keeping his bow and one arrow ready in the case of sudden danger. He was highly alert, Ferb realized… and could not help but think that he and Phineas were the last people Bal wanted to protect.
    In front of the brothers was Bue, with his eyes wide open, enjoying the forest and its wildlife around the small group. He was the one worrying least about anything, more frolicking than just walking, his bag constantly slapping against his side. That, too, was not bothering him too much, it seemed.
    Fern, of course, was leading the group, brushing aside all vegetation blocking their path. He simply marched on­ward, without taking the time to observe his surroundings at all. That was Can’s task: she was walking behind him, from time to time pointing out things he was supposed to notice but did not, and occasionally grinning and gener­ally being amused at him when he stumbled over a root or overlooked a twig that would then slap him into the face.
    But other than that, there was little to no talking at all - something that visibly bothered Phineas who mindlessly fiddled around with the retracted pocket knife. Ferb knew that his brother wanted, and needed, to talk about some­thing, anything , so he put a hand on the redhead’s shoul­der to gain his attention. When Phineas looked at him, probably surprised someone actually wanted to talk to him after he, in his own opinion, had not really left much of a great first impression, Ferb just nodded at Bue, hop­ing his brother would get the message. He’d be happy to talk to you, I’m sure.
    That really seemed to brighten Phineas’ mood and he sped up his steps to catch up with Bue.
    »Oh, hey, Phineas!« The chubby boy smiled at him, genuinely happy to have someone to talk to. »Are you re­ally from another world? That’s so cool! What’s it like there?«
    This question also caught the attention of the other travelers, Ferb noticed. They all wanted to know more about this strange place the brothers were from.
    »Well, it’s... sunny«, Phineas started, not really sure how to begin. »Because it’s summer, so everyone’s eat­ing ice cream and going swimming and stuff like that.«
    »What’s ice cream?«, Bue asked him.
    »Frozen water with flavors«, the redhead laughed. »Re­ally delicious! But that’s probably not too interesting when compared to what we’re doing!«
    A little smile appeared on Ferb's face. He knew what was coming now.
    Phineas enjoyed the silence full of suspense for a mo­ment before continuing, »We’re building the biggest, best things ever! Time machines and rockets and all those things to make summer absolutely fantastic.«
    »Let’s just say you’re creating things so beyond belief that we don’t even know what you’re talking about«, Fern pointed out. But that was not meant to sound rude: his interest in the topic even beat the last caution about his surroundings he had left. Still walking, he had looked at Phineas as he said that, making him trip over another root once again. Can had to grab his arm and pull him back into a standing position to prevent him from landing face-first on the ground. She rolled her eyes at him in a more teasing than annoyed manner, and he tried to act as if nothing had happened, facing the path in front of them again, this time without turning his head as he spoke. »The others already told you, we’ve got nothing like that in this world.«
    That did not stop Phineas’ excitement at all - quite the contrary. »Well, we’re gonna show you! Ferb’s got a book full of pictures of everything we’ve built this sum­mer.«
    Ferb nodded. He kept Ferb’s Log with him at all times and would not mind showing it to his new friends.
    »Once we’re taking a break, that is«, Can decided. »So we won’t be losing too much time.«
    That seemed to frustrate Bue a bit, as if he was too im­patient to wait any longer. Phineas noticed that and quickly went on talking.
    »Of course, those things aren’t what makes the summer great«, he explained. »It’s the time we’re spending with family and friends that counts.«
    »Yeah, if you have family«, Bal muttered. If anyone heard that, nobody let it show, and Ferb, too, kept silent, as usual. If… no, when one of us dies, what becomes of the other one?
    »We’ve got a sister, Candace«, Phineas went on, oblivious to Bal's comment. »And she’s great! A little stressed most of the time, but the best big sister ever.«
    Once again, Ferb spotted Can flinching at those words, just like when she had first met Phineas. It reminded him that nobody had ever spoken a single word about his look-alike. Where was he? Or do I even want to know?
    »And Ferb’s the best brother«, the redhead continued, interrupting his thoughts. But Ferb knew that the red­headed boy was sharing his worries. What had happened to this world’s Phineas - and which of the brothers would die?
    ’One brother slain’ - that was not even the line worry­ing Ferb the most. It was what came afterward: ’The other one his fate will claim’ . One would be severely hurt, the other one would die saving him - and yet, some­how, at the end of their journey, they would still be five people more than they were now. But who knew how many people they would meet, and how many of their current group would die in the process? Ferb tried to ban­ish these thoughts from his head, they did not matter now.
    What mattered was that the group had gone silent again as Bue tried to come up with another thing to ask. But this time, Phineas was faster than him.
    »You know what else we’re always doing back home?«, he asked nobody in particular.
    Bue shook his head, absolutely interested.
    »We’re singing!«
    Bal looked at him like he was completely insane. The others, too, were not really convinced.
    »Singing?«, Fern repeated. That had made him lose his focus on the path and the vegetation again, but this time he was able to prevent himself from falling on his own. Ferb saw him glance around, as if making sure that no­body had noticed this little incident. His eyes met Ferb's, who decided to look at him in an » Is something wrong? You look nervous« - kind of way. That made Fern turn away in what seemed to be embarrassment, and once more, he pretended that nothing had happened. Can, however, had followed his gaze and questioningly stared at Ferb, who simply shrugged in reply. She rolled her eyes again - visibly exhausted from dealing with Fern, it seemed.
    Phineas did not notice any of that. He simply nodded at Fern's question from moments ago. For a moment, he even seemed to consider explaining the term 'singing' to him.
    »We know what singing is«, Bal told him, reading his thoughts, sounding as if that was the most obvious thing in the world. Which it probably was. »I just do not know why you would do that - often, it seems.«
    Ferb helped his brother out this time.
    »Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words«, he said casually. He saw Phineas chuckling at that: his brother most likely thought Ferb himself to be the very definition of poetic phrases. Which was true, he did like to express himself with a certain melody, of both mean­ing and syntax, in his words - and, occasionally, in song, if the situation allowed it.
    »Can you sing something now?«, Bue asked Phineas, full of excitement.
    Even Fern agreed. »Anything to give us motivation on this journey is more than welcome, especially while we're still this far from the truly dangerous zone.« More like 'anything that doesn't distract me too much while I'm walking' , Ferb added silently.
    He also silently thanked the resistance’s leader for this: Phineas was now just as excited as Bue, just like he al­ways was when he was about to sing a song. The redhead threw the pocket knife back to Ferb, who smoothly caught it in one hand, within seconds transforming it into some kind of very simplistic string instrument. They had built this device some weeks ago: a small machine that could turn into dozens of different objects with countless applications. To achieve that, they had to make the options as simple as possible to fit it all into the tiny space, so it was not at all like a proper guitar from back home. But this banjo of sorts would have to do as Ferb's musical accompaniment.
    And then, the air was filled with not all too natural mu­sic as Phineas walked past Fern to lead the way, follow­ing the small trail deeper into the forest and closer to their fate.


    »Look out new world, here we come,
    Brave, intrepid and then some.
    Pioneers of maximum
    Audacity whose resumes
    Show that we are just the team
    To live where others merely dream,
    Building up a head of steam
    On the trail we blaze! «


    Phineas tirelessly sang as he shoved branches aside and jumped over roots, climbed on trunks that had fallen over ages ago, never losing sight of the trail in front of them - and being much more agile and focused than Fern had been. Although the others did not leave the trail at all, they all enjoyed the change of attitude in the group - Phineas’ singing and Ferb’s music even managed to make Bal seem a little less grumpy.


    »Changing legend into fact,
    We shall ride into history.
    Turning myth into truth,
    We shall surely gaze
    On the sweet unfolding
    Of an antique mystery –
    All will be revealed
    On the trail we blaze! «


    Ferb was actually quite surprised Phineas sang this op­timistically about the events to come. But that was in his brother’s nature: at least for the length of a song, he was able to forget all the problems and dangers ahead of them - and as Phineas repeated these lines, it seemed to have the same effect on most of the others as well. Although being out of tune, Bue sang along, and Ferb could hear Fern and Can humming the song’s melody - even after Phineas had stopped singing and Ferb was no longer playing his instrument.


    And for a little while, just this once, everything seemed completely alright.





  • Nachdem die Handlung in den ersten drei Kapiteln durchaus größere Schritte gemacht hat, haben wir es bei „The Trail We Blaze“ mit einem Kapitel zu tun, bei der - vom groben Verlauf der Handlung aus gesehen - nicht viel passiert: Phineas und Ferb machen sich gemeinsam mit einigen Kameraden aus der fremden Welt auf dem Weg zu ihrem Gegner.
    Dennoch finde ich, dass sich das vorliegende Kapitel gut in die Geschichte einfügt. Nicht jedes Kapitel muss die Handlung voran treiben, und durch die Gespräche zwischen den auftretenden Personen kann man diese genauer kennen lernen als dies möglich gewesen wäre, wenn du den Weg zu dem Gegner deutlich abgekürzt hättest. Wie auch schon die voraus gegangenen Kapitel lässt es sich gut lesen - sofern man mit der englischen Sprache etwas anfangen kann, natürlich.


    Übrigens ist mir beim Durchlesen noch eine Stelle aufgefallen, bei der ich noch eine Kleinigkeit anmerken möchte:


    Not much more than half an hour later, Ferb was looking at the first natural light he had seen since first arriving in this unfamiliar world.

    Ich weiß nicht, ob du dich vielleicht mit „since first arriving in this unfamiliar world“ nur auf die Erlebnisse in der Höhle (alsoab Kapitel 2) beziehen willst. Allerdings sind Phineas und Ferb schon am Ende von Kapitel 1 in der fremden Welt angekommen und haben auf einer Lichtung mit Wölfen gekämpft. Falls mich mein Zeitgefühl im ersten Kapitel nicht komplett im Stich gelassen hat, müssten die beiden auch tatsächlich am Tag dort angekommen sein (oder zumindest am Tag die Reise begonnen haben, und von einer plötzlich eintretenden Nacht kann ich im ersten Kapitel nichts erkennen. Also kann das streng genommen nicht das erste natürliche Licht sein, welches sie in dieser Welt sehen. Oder habe ich da (wie bei der Sache mit der Lichtung im ersten Kapitel) etwas übersehen?

  • Hallo, @Feuerdrache  ^^
    Danke mal wieder für den Kommentar! :D  
    Und ja, stimmt, da ist mir wohl ein kleiner Logikfehler unterlaufen, danke für den Hinweis! Ich werde das mal schnell ausbessern.
    Freut mich jedenfalls, dass dir auch dieses eher ruhige Kapitel gefällt.^^


    [Ich hoffe mal, so ein kurzer Post ist in Ordnung, ich möchte nur nicht bis zum nächsten Kapitel mit dem Kommentar warten. :D]

  • - 05 -
    Two Kinds of Nerd




    »Linda, look!«
    The red-haired woman was doing the dishes, cleaning up the remains of breakfast.
    »What is it, Lawrence?«, she asked, showing no signs of not liking her current activity. She sounded as cheerful as always - well, nearly always, Candace knew. One of the few ways to actually anger her mother was trying to let her know about Phineas and Ferb’s daily adventures. Linda never saw any of their inventions and thus never actually believed Candace in the first place, which, in turn, frustrated the girl as well.
    The teenager had just arrived downstairs, sitting down at the table to eat the dairy free sandwich her mother had prepared for her.
    Candace wasn’t too interested in the Daily Danville , the city’s official newspaper, so she only half listened to Lawrence, her stepfather, enthusiastically showing his wife the front page of today’s issue.
    »They have finally opened the new exhibition at the Danville Museum!«, he exclaimed with his remarkable British accent. » Horse in a Bookcase - the true story be­hind the renowned TV phenomenon.«
    »Ugh, are there really people that would visit that?«, Candace wondered, not the least bit interested.
    »Candace, that is your father’s favorite show!«, Linda reminded her, only to be interrupted by Lawrence him­self.
    »Ah, well, Linda, not my favorite ! That’s still Pinhead Pierre . But still, this is an opportunity I don’t want to miss. And look, there are coupons in the newspaper: one person gets their ticket for free!«
    »Don’t look at me«, Candace immediately announced. »I’ve got better things to do than staring at a donkey in a bookcase for hours.«
    »It’s a horse «, Lawrence corrected her, still sounding thrilled. He would explain the whole show to her if she asked, she was all too well aware.
    »And anyway, Candace«, Linda pointed out. »Knowing you, those ‘better things’ involve you phoning me every ten minutes about things that, as soon as I’m home, have suddenly vanished from existence.«
    The girl took another bite off her sandwich. »It’s true «, she insisted. »And it’s not my fault their inventions are al­ways gone before you get to see them!«
    »Well, it’s not my fault either«, her mother argued, turning to the brown-haired man eagerly reading the full article in the newspaper. »Lawrence, when does that place open again?«
    »At the same time as all other museums, of course. Nine in the morning - which is in half an hour!«, the man added surprisedly as he looked at his watch. »We really should get going if we don’t want to get trapped in a queue.«
    As if , Candace added, but kept that thought to herself. More arguing was the last thing she needed this early in the morning.
    Linda nodded, staring almost regretfully at the remain­ing dishes. As much as she liked housework, she always put family first. Even if that meant leaving the tedious chores to her daughter.
    »Candace, would you please do the dishes while we’re away?«, the woman asked as she dried her hands with a towel, but her tone made it clear that declining was not an option. »And while you’re at it, vacuum a bit as well, okay?«
    »Yeah, yeah«, the girl sighed. »Anything else that’ll stop me from calling you about the boys?«
    »Now that you’re asking… you could clean Perry’s lit­ter box.«
    »Where is that little fellow, anyway?«, Lawrence won­dered, but nobody replied. Linda was already getting her purse, and Candace was bitterly eating the rest of her breakfast.


    When she finished her sandwich, her parents had al­ready driven off to the museum. Candace glared at the stack of dishes still piled up from breakfast, then shook her head. She would only be doing the housework if her brothers were attempting nothing, as she called it, ‘bust-worthy’. That was more important than the dishes and the vacuum cleaner: chores could wait, inventions could not.
    Not having heard any loud noises from outside, Can­dace was filled with a tiny amount of hope. Maybe her brothers would leave her alone today. Then again, small things had a bigger chance of disappearing all of a sud­den… but the only way to find out was by going outside. So the girl headed straight into the living room with its tall glass door leading into the backyard.
    As it turned out, Phineas and Ferb had decided to in­vent something yet again - a tall, round machine with a hole in its center, bearing a striking resemblance to the device that had once swapped Candace’s body with that of the family’s pet platypus.
    »Not again «, she groaned, heading outside to further investigate today’s invention. Indeed, it was almost an exact replica of the, albeit accidentally, mind-swapping machine from the beginning of summer. Had they run out of ideas? No, not Phineas. There had to be something new and bust-worthy about this thing somewhere. Where are those two, anyway?
    »Phineas? Ferb?«, Candace called out, but there was no reply. »I swear, if this is some kind of invisibility ma­chine…«
    If it was, they would give her at least some sort of sign at some point, she knew. Her brothers and their friends might be an annoying bunch of kids, but even Candace had to admit that they weren’t getting on her nerves on purpose. So she sat down and waited.
    Then, she paced up and down the backyard - but still, no sign of her brothers.
    »Guys, this isn’t funny«, Candace exclaimed, with a hint of worry in her voice. She looked at the machine again, in the hope of somehow finding out what it was good for. The teenager remembered that Phineas’ inten­tion with the original device had been some kind of tele­porter, but this thing didn’t seem to have any kind of set destination. In fact, the little monitor on its side was com­pletely black, and the little openings on its inside indicat­ing the spots the portal would probably have formed from appeared slightly charred.
    Wait.
    Candace took a closer look. She understood nothing about technology at all, but even she was able to sense how that was not something her brothers had wanted to happen. It reminded her of the experiment in Physics class that had gone wrong when she and her best friend Stacy had been distracted by Billy Clarke, one of her classmates back then. Which worried her even more: something like that would never happen to Phineas and especially Ferb, who always double-checked every inch of the machine to make sure it was functioning properly.
    Candace took out her phone. She needed reassurance. What was this thing? Was it really broken? And if so, what had happened to her brothers? If it’s something bad, how am I going to explain this to Mom and Dad?
    But a look at her contact list proved to be useless.
    Stacy? She was a whole lot smarter than Candace, sure, but even she had no clue about anything related to tech­nology.
    Jeremy? He’d be willing to help, at least. But Candace had to admit that he, no matter what a great boyfriend he was, was not going to actually be helpful either.
    She browsed through more contacts: Jenny, Coltrane, even Ferb’s cousin Eliza. Yet, for one reason or another, they were not the kind of person she needed.
    What she needed was a nerd.


    »I can’t believe I’m doing this«, Candace sighed. She was standing in front of a beige building with just one floor. Its entrance was decorated with two plants in vases the shape of elephants, adding to the house’s oriental at­mosphere. Next to the door, there was an actual bell acti­vated by pulling a cord, which was what Candace now did. She had never been to this place before, only walked past it occasionally.
    The door was almost immediately opened by an Indian woman with her black hair tied into a bun and a green-and-yellow dress, fitting her culture, above khaki pants.
    »Candace Flynn?«, the woman asked. They had met only once or twice this summer, and Candace assumed she only recognized her because of the similarities to her mom - people often said they looked alike, after all.
    »Uh, yeah«, the teenager replied, feeling a bit awk­ward. She only hoped this woman would not try to have a long-winded conversation with her like Isabella’s mother always did. »Hello, Mrs. Tjinder… is Baljeet home?«
    »Yes, he is«, the boy’s mother nodded. »He should be in his room, studying -«
    »Alright, thanks«, Candace said as she hurried past the woman. After all, she had no time to lose: for once, the last thing she needed was her parents seeing Phineas and Ferb’s invention, especially before she had found her broth­ers.
    Mildly offended, Mrs. Tjinder pointed out, »His room is in the other direction.«
    »Thanks again«, the girl acknowledged, heading into the other side of the building. She went straight to the only door she spotted there; the hallway had transitioned into the living room without any doors in between.
    That door, however, was locked.
    »Baljeet?«, she called out.
    »Explain quantum theory«, an audibly annoyed voice responded.
    »What?«, Candace replied. Was that some kind of se­cret code? Nothing she had expected, for sure.
    »You heard me. Answer or leave, I am busy. «
    Studying , Candace remembered, sighing. During sum­mer vacation.
    »Baljeet, open the stupid door«, she demanded.
    »The door does not possess consciousness, Candace.«
    I really can’t believe I’m doing this.
    »Look, Baljeet, I need your help, okay? It’s kinda ur­gent.«
    »I am not going to do your homework, if that is what you are trying to say.«
    »No, I - ugh. It’s about my brothers. They’re gone.«
    »Gone where?«
    »I don’t know! That’s why I’m here, you’re the only one smart enough to help me figure it out.«
    That seemed to have convinced Baljeet, because with an audible click, he unlocked the door. »Do not touch anything«, he warned her as she entered his room, and she soon enough saw why: everything was neatly ar­ranged, from enormous bookshelves to a desk full of pa­perwork and some advanced math book that made Can­dace’s head hurt just by looking at it. The Indian boy was sitting at that table, wearing his usual light blue t-shirt and dark blue overalls.
    Other than the chair he was sitting on, the only place to take a seat was his bed, but Baljeet let out a warning noise when she tried to sit down there. Candace rolled her eyes and remained standing as she explained to him every detail about what she had found in the backyard. She had even taken pictures of it, which the boy looked at with great interest. But when the girl described the charred areas to him, Baljeet widened his eyes.
    »...um, Candace?«
    »What’s wrong?«, she asked him. Baljeet did not sound like he had any great news.
    »Your brothers… I do believe they are… dead !«, he exclaimed, completely terrified. »Oh, this is terrible! I cannot believe it -«
    »Whoa, whoa, chill!«, Candace raised her hands. »You’re just overreacting. It… surely cannot be that bad?«
    »Of course it is!«, the boy argued. »If this is a tele­porter, and it malfunctioned like this the exact moment they stepped through it, then they were brutally torn apart by the fabrics of space and time!« Baljeet’s voice got higher the more he talked; he was completely panicking by now.
    And Candace had absolutely no idea what to do: he just had to be overreacting about her brothers’ situation, and she barely knew Baljeet, so she probably couldn’t calm him down even if she wanted to.
    She could at least try, however.
    »And what if it malfunctioned after they already ar­rived where they wanted to go?«, she pointed out.
    Baljeet stopped pacing the room, something he had done while vividly imagining the possibilities of Phineas and Ferb’s fate, and seemed to consider this option for a moment.
    »Well«, he began, in a much less high-pitched voice than before. That was a good sign, Candace hoped. »In that case, they would be fine, but the gateway back to your house would be destroyed.«
    »That’s not that bad, is it?«, the girl presumed. »They’ll just build something to get back here in less than an hour, as always.«
    But Baljeet crushed her hope immediately.
    »Not if they have teleported themselves into a remote area like, say, a desert - or the moon, for example.«
    »Fine, but there’s got to be something we can do!« She was not just going to sit there and wait for them to return if that was the case, maybe they needed her help. »We need to find out where they are, at least. You can do that, right?« You’re a nerd, after all.
    »Candace, they could be anywhere!«, the Indian boy reminded her. »What do you want to do, scan the entire planet?«
    »Sure, why not?«
    »That is not - how did you get in here?« Baljeet turned towards his bed where the sound had come from. Sitting there, and destroying the perfect even appearance of the sheets, was Buford, as if this place belonged to him. On top of that, he was eating some kind of filled pastry which Baljeet immediately recognized as something his own mother had made. »And where did you get that?«
    Buford shrugged as if there was nothing unusual about anything happening right now. »Well, first off, I got here through the door, obviously! Aaand your mom told me to bring this stuff to you two, but as it turns out, whatever this is tastes, like, really amazing, so I decided to eat it all by myself.« With that, he put another one of these Indian snacks into his mouth.
    Baljeet seemed to try really hard not to get mad at his friend, simply letting out a very exasperated sigh. »Why is this not surprising me?«, he wondered, immediately getting back to the important matters. »Anyway, Buford, would you mind explaining to us how we are supposed to scan the entire planet without the help of Phineas and Ferb?«
    »What’s that supposed to mean?«, Buford replied, audi­bly offended. But Candace wasn’t so sure what part of Baljeet’s words he meant by that. »It’s not like we can’t do great stuff without them!«
    »Scanning the planet is not one of those things, Buford«, the Indian boy sighed.
    »Oh yeah? Unlike you little nerd, I actually can do that! I’ve got all it takes back home.« There was a chal­lenging tone in the bully’s voice now, superior even.
    »That is ridiculous«, Baljeet scoffed, but was interrupt­ed by Candace before he was able to argue with Buford even more.
    »If it helps me find my brothers, I’ll take that chance«, she announced, causing Buford to grin.
    The bully stuffed the final piece of food he was carry­ing into his mouth and swallowed it in one bite.
    »What are you waiting for? Let’s go!«


    »I cannot believe this is happening«, Baljeet whispered in both amazement and disbelief. He was sitting on a chair in Buford’s room, watching the bully typing an in­credibly long code in a programming language neither Baljeet nor Candace had ever seen or heard of, at an even more unbelievable speed. Eventually, he hit Enter, confi­dently leaning back and crossing his arms behind his head while the program was processing the commands it had been given.
    »You’re not the only smart guy in here, nerd«, Buford grinned.
    Candace was as baffled as Baljeet. From what she had known about the bully, he was by far not the most intelli­gent person, hardly ever caring about anything Baljeet or anyone else told him. All she ever thought him to be was, well. A kid - who did nothing but sleep, eat, and occas­ionally bully other people. But this?
    »Don’t you dare tell anyone else about this«, Buford warned them. »It’s bad enough that you two know. I’m still capable of giving wedgies!«
    »How did you learn all this?«, Baljeet asked him, still staring at the lines of code on the screen of Buford’s computer that were slightly blurred out by a little window informing the reader about the code being processed. »That is such a complex code!«
    »Long story«, the bully shrugged. Candace had expect­ed him to boast about his skills even more, but the boy seemed to avoid the question completely. »Ah, there we go.«
    Candace turned to the screen again. It was now done loading and showed a satellite image of Earth - yet again blurred out by a small window.
    »'No results found' - what does that mean?«, she asked, both skeptical and confused.
    »Looks like I’m really not the dumbest one here«, Bu­ford commented. »It’s right there: no results found. Wherever they are, they’re not anywhere on the planet.«
    Baljeet gulped, reminding Candace of his theory. Bru­tally torn apart by the fabrics of space and time…
    »Your little program could have gotten something wrong though, right?«, she suggested in an attempt to banish the picture from her head.
    »Wrong«, Buford shook his head, once again sounding offended. »That code is inerrant!«
    Baljeet raised an eyebrow in a » Since when do you know what inerrant means? «- manner, but nobody paid any attention to him.
    »Then what do we do?«, Candace asked, hoping that would prevent Baljeet, and herself, from thinking about the not so positive option once again.
    »You’re going back to the machine«, Buford instructed. »You know, don’t let your mom see it. We’ll need to fix that thing and go after your brothers. So we -«, he shot a glare at Baljeet, »We are gonna get help from the only person on the planet that can help us with that.«
    »And who is that?«, the Indian boy asked skeptically.
    Buford smiled at him; genuinely, without his usual teasing grin.
    »My dad.«





  • - 06 -
    Rubicon





    »Alright, boys. Lunch break!«
    The group came to a halt. They had been walking for hours through the seemingly endless forest that still sur­rounded them. The only difference to the beginning of their journey, Phineas noticed, was the sound of a rolling river not too far from them. The river running through Danville was quite wide, and the boy assumed that the one he was hearing now must be its equivalent from this… parallel world. Everyone, and everything, seemed to exist in both places, however that was even possible.
    I’ll have to ask Baljeet about that when we get back , Phineas decided, pushing aside all if s. For now, he was enjoying the moment. The song from earlier had really lifted his mood, and he was not going to let himself get bothered by the path ahead. And there was no better way to do that than with a good lunch.
    The meal, however, only consisted of fruits and vegeta­bles looking like the resistance had grown them. Which actually was the case, Phineas reminded himself. How else were they supposed to get food when they were the only people left? Of course, they could go into the woods for hunting, but Bal had decided not to waste any of his arrows. He was absolutely certain he would need them for 'something else', as he had put it. Which could only mean the darklings, Phineas was all too well aware.
    Can had taken several apples, tomatoes, and other not too big or heavy foods from her backpack and handed them around. Phineas did not feel all too hungry and did not want to appear greedy either, so he only picked a small apple while everyone was making themselves comfortable - af­ter all, even the leaders of the resistance were exhausted from walking for several hours without taking a break.
    »Not really what you are used to, huh?« That remark came from Bal, who had either not eaten anything or al­ready finished his meal, considering he was not holding any kind of food and Can was putting her backpack away again.
    »We’ve all eaten better stuff«, Fern reminded him. »And he’s not even complaining, so there’s no need to act like that.« That was the first time someone actually defended Phineas since he had come here. Earlier, the others had all shown little sympathy for him, even after learning about the prophecy. Sure, they hardly knew Phineas, but he was fairly sure they even liked Ferb more than him - because he had agreed on helping them, be­cause he was able to fight, and probably also because he looked like Fern. Why can’t this world’s version of me be here? That would make this so much easier. All he need­ed was a chance, Phineas knew. A chance to show all of them that there was no reason to act like Ferb was better than him.
    This opportunity revealed itself sooner than expected.
    »I will go ahead and check the river for a way to cross it«, Bal told his two leaders. »If you do not mind.«
    »That’s a good idea«, Can nodded. »Thanks, Bal.«
    »Of course«, the boy replied, sounding slightly ner­vous.
    Not nervous , Phineas realized, flustered . What was go­ing on between them?
    There was only one way to find out - about this, and about so much more.
    »I’m coming with you«, Phineas suddenly offered be­fore remembering to ask for actual permission. »If that’s okay, of course.«
    Everyone looked at him in surprise. Even Ferb raised an eyebrow.
    »What for?«, Fern asked the redhead.
    Because I want to be useful . But he was not going to tell him that.
    »If something bad happens to one of us, the other one can get help«, Phineas eventually said, hoping he sound­ed at least somewhat believable.
    »But you wanted to show us your inventions!«, Bue frowned.
    »I can do that.«
    Ferb had taken out the book in which he documented all of their inventions, Ferb’s Log . His eyes met those of his brother, and Phineas immediately knew what he was thinking. I don’t know what your plan is, but go ahead. I’ll take care of this.
    »Thanks«, Phineas mouthed, smiling. He could always rely on Ferb, he knew.
    Bue still seemed a bit upset, but that was soon forgot­ten when Ferb opened his book full of photographs of ev­erything the boys had done over the summer.
    »Are you coming or not?« Bal was getting impatient, so Phineas quickly turned back to him and nodded. The taller boy gave him an acknowledging nod as well, head­ing into the direction of the river that was becoming louder with every step they took.
    As soon as he was certain the others could not hear them anymore, Bal beat Phineas on the matter of starting the conversation. »Do not think I am not aware of what you are trying to achieve here«, he told the other boy without turning his head to face him.
    »What’s that supposed to mean?« Phineas should have known this would happen. Bal really made it obvious he was not too fond of him.
    Bal shrugged. »People like you always do that. They are too inexperienced when it comes to serious situations, yet still want to join the more experienced in an attempt to be helpful. And trust me, they are not.«
    Phineas sighed. The other boy was right, he knew. »Then what am I supposed to do?«, he asked. »All of you think Ferb is so much better than me because he’s got fighting skills and everything. I’m just the weak and use­less one to you, right? How am I supposed to change that when you don’t let me?« He had not planned to tell Bal all of that, but he had always been bad at concealing his frustration in the rare moments he actually was upset.
    The archer had stopped walking by now, listening to the redhead’s words. »And what if we do get into trouble now?«, he wondered. »I would rather keep you out of danger unless it absolutely cannot be avoided.« Bal was looking at Phineas now, who could tell from the sound of his words that he was being absolutely honest. »I do not hate you, Phineas. I am merely attempting to get as few people hurt, or killed, as possible.«
    Phineas let that sink in. Had he been overreacting? In this world, people as young as himself had to fear the constant threat of the darklings, and he still perfectly re­membered his first encounter with those beasts. It was only understandable that the others worried about him in particular. And Bue , he realized, watching Bal. I bet Bal has said the same things to him.
    The archer seemed to have thought the same. »Bue also tries to join us on patrols or hunts whenever he can«, he explained. »Luckily, Ivan usually keeps him busy enough.«
    The two boys had reached the river by now. It was more than a hundred feet wide, just like the river crossing Danville - but in either direction, there was no visible way to get to the other side.
    »Great«, Bal muttered. »How are we supposed to cross it? There is no bridge in sight.«
    »There has to be«, Phineas argued. »If the darklings can cross the river without getting wet, we can too, right?«
    Bal nodded, sounding surprised that Phineas had come with such an idea. »Sounds logical. Geographically speaking, it would make the most sense for a bridge to be located near the center of the country…« He closed his eyes for a moment, most likely trying to picture a map, then started walking upstream.
    Phineas followed him, coming up with another ques­tion: »Have you ever been to the other side of the river?«
    Bal shook his head. »Most of us come from places lo­cated on this side of it. After the Duke took over, we nev­er dared to cross the river again, considering that was, well, his side.«
    And now their group wanted to go exactly there.
    Phineas remembered that nobody had ever actually talked about the Duke at all. He had never asked them about it either, the moment just had never really felt right for that. Now, however, he was alone with Bal, and walk­ing in silence. Which, in his opinion, was boring, espe­cially with such a big chance to ask questions. Bal was not the type to lie, Phineas knew.
    »And when did he take over?«, he therefore asked his companion. »I mean… what even happened?«
    Bal did not even seem to be surprised about that ques­tion. He had probably expected that one of the brothers would ask about that matter at some point.
    »Do you know what kings are?«
    Of course Phineas knew. There were still some coun­tries ruled by a king, but the boy quickly came to the con­clusion that Bal had meant the truly medieval kind. He also knew about those; King Arthur was one of Ferb’s fa­vorite tales.
    The redhead nodded at the question, so Bal began to explain what had happened.
    »This country was ruled by a king once. His ancestors had been on the throne for centuries, but none of them were as wise, as just, as merry as him. He always put the people first, and there was hardly anyone who disliked him.
    »Ten years ago, however, the castle was attacked by a man calling himself the Duke. He appeared out of nowhere, the tales say. Then, he killed the king and left as quickly as he had come, and for several years, nobody heard of him again.«
    That was odd. Phineas had expected him to take over right after that - but it was not that simple.
    »The widowed queen attempted to rule on her own be­cause she did not have a son, but some years later, a king from another country moved here in order to claim the throne.« Bal’s voice became even more bitter. »When that happened, my family came to this place as well. My parents wanted to make a fortune by selling all sorts of things to the people here, so we moved to a rather un­spectacular village where the people, in their opinion, were ‘so stupid they would buy everything’. And it was true, the business went great for them, but I would be ex­aggerating if I told you the children from this village could stand me, the boy who was so much smarter and wealthier than them.« He paused for a moment. »In the five years I lived there, I had exactly one friend.«
    Phineas knew the person he was speaking about. Who else could it be but Bue?
    Bal nodded, knowing how obvious the answer was. »He was kind and lovable, as you know, but his gullibili­ty made him an easy target for some of the other kids. But Bue really liked me, so we spent a lot of time togeth­er.
    »When we were not much older than nine, rumors spread about a man raiding villages with an army of giant black wolves. And they seemed to be true, for word was out soon that the king that had claimed the throne earlier had fled from this country again. In an attempt of avoid­ing being assassinated as well, I suppose. Of course, the people in our village were afraid of being the Duke's next target.«
    Bal was staring at the other side of the river now. It was easy to see how he was still able to vividly remember the time he was talking about. The boy was not saying anything for a moment, so Phineas probed him.
    »So what did they do?«
    Bal flinched. He had most likely been so lost in memo­ries that he had completely forgotten about Phineas. »Well«, he eventually responded, still with bitterness in his voice. »My parents were able to convince the folk that the Duke was most likely not going to attack the village, and kill everyone, if they left him and his darklings some sort of… human sacrifice.«
    Phineas gasped, but Bal continued talking.
    »They had never approved of me befriending one of the ‘lowly’ village kids, so my parents decided that using Bue for that would teach me a lesson as well as solve the problem with the Duke.« He balled his fists, picturing that very day. »Of course, I could not let that happen. I could not lose my only friend… even if that meant at­tacking the darklings myself.«
    »You…« Phineas could not believe it. He easily put two and two together. »But that means -«
    Bal nodded, sighing. »I shot one of the darklings, and while everyone was distracted, I saved Bue and ran away. But one darkling chased us, attempted to kill Bue… so I ended up stepping between them to save him once more.« He ran a hand down his back as he spoke, causing Phineas to gulp. He did not want to imagine how badly Bal had gotten injured that day.
    »When I woke up again, I was inside a cave, and a blind boy named Ivan told me what had happened - and where I was.« For the first time in minutes, Bal looked at Phineas again, his eyes still full of bitterness about old memories. »It was Fern who had found and saved us from the darkling that day«, he explained. »No king or prince or knight. And that only reinforced what I had always believed: that royalty is not good for anything.« He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. »Fern invited us to join the resistance - and we did. After all, what were we supposed to do, now that everyone we knew had been killed by the darklings? To this day, I protect Bue with my life, as well as I will risk it for the people who saved us. And for you two, now that you are supposed to re­store peace to this country.«
    Phineas did something unusual: he remained silent for quite a while. He had expected lots of things, but not this. Bal was, to some extent, responsible for the death of an entire village… his shock must have been visible, be­cause Bal soon added something else.
    »You are not the only one having experienced a lot in twelve years, you know. Just… please, do not tell anyone about this, alright? Other than you, only Bue and Ivan know about all of this, and I would like to keep it that way.«
    The red-haired boy nodded, still processing everything he had just heard. Bal’s story had made him realize even more how different their worlds and lives were, and that everyone was really considering Ferb to be better than Phineas, at least when it came to fighting skills. One was quite screwed without being able to defend themselves against the darklings.
    Only now did both boys notice they had found their destination: a bridge in a distance of about three hundred feet. They had not seen it earlier because of being dis­tracted by Bal’s story, and now they quickly walked over to it to check if it was safe to cross.
    As it turned out, the bridge was made of wood and looked like it had not been used for years. Several planks were missing or broken, leaving holes, with the rushing river beneath. But other than that, it looked stable enough to carry a person.
    »It is the only way to cross the river anyway«, Bal de­cided.
    Such a shame we can’t build a boat , Phineas thought. »It’ll have to do«, he nodded, and Bal already turned back into the direction they had come from.
    »We should get back to the others, they are probably already getting worried.«


    There were not. When Phineas and Bal had returned to the group, Fern, Can, and Bue were all sitting around Ferb and his book, completely fascinated by the things he was showing them. Currently, it was the page about their trip around the world, Phineas discovered.
    »It seems you are having fun«, Bal noted, but not di­recting it to anybody in particular.
    Bue looked up, with a huge grin on his face. »Oh, hey! You missed so much! He showed us a time travel thingie and a tournament with knights and -«
    »Have you found a way to cross the river?«, Can inter­rupted him, causing Bue to pout while crossing his arms.
    Phineas nodded. »It’s not too far from here.«
    Fern stood up again while Ferb put away his book. »Well, then we better get moving. We’ve got no time to lose.«
    Can grabbed her backpack and Bal immediately led the group back to the bridge - with Bue beside him, telling him about the things Ferb had shown them without seem­ing to take a breath as he spoke.
    Phineas was walking close to his brother, who was oddly good-humored. Apparently, unlike the redhead, Ferb really had been having fun. »Far less rough than Bu­ford, but just as exhausting«, the green-haired boy re­marked before noticing Phineas was not wearing his usu­al smile. He shot a glance at his brother; Is everything al­right?
    »Yeah, don’t worry«, Phineas told him, trying to hide how much he was still thinking about what Bal had been through. He was not allowed to tell Ferb, he knew, but he was not even sure whether he would have been able to talk about these things in the first place. »He just… told me some stuff about this place, that’s all.«
    Ferb did not ask him for more information, something Phineas was always thankful for. His brother could sense when someone really not wanted to talk about things. And so, they were walking the rest of the way in silence, until the group finally arrived at the bridge.
    »The only one we found«, Bal explained upon seeing surprised and skeptical expressions on his friends' faces.
    »It will have to do«, Fern supposed, repeating what Phineas had said earlier. »Phineas, you go first. You are the lightest.«
    At first, the boy thought Fern was doing that because he didn’t like him, but especially after Bal’s talk, he knew that was ridiculous. Fern was right, after all: he was the lightest one.
    So Phineas walked towards the bridge and grabbed the railing on one side of the construction that was about fif­teen feet wide in total. He was well aware that he should not be putting too much trust in the railing, but he needed to hold onto something. Phineas carefully took a step for­ward and slowly put more weight on that foot, eventually deciding that the next plank was going to support him if he just did it slowly. With this technique, the boy pro­ceeded, the holes in the bridge always reminding him of the consequences of a false step. In fact, Phineas was so focused on his path that he only noticed the bridge’s end when he suddenly spotted grass below himself.
    The redhead sighed with relief, turning around to tell the others. Fern and Ferb were already on the bridge by now - understandable, considering its length. It would have taken far too much time if everyone had been walk­ing over the bridge alone. Phineas watched them, notic­ing how they were just as careful as he had been. But they, too, were able to reach the other side without diffi­culty.
    Can was next, and when she had already crossed half of the bridge, Bue followed her. Bal, as usual, was watching his best friend, ready to help him in case of trouble.
    But there was nothing he could do when Bue slipped on a wet plank and the sudden extra weight broke the wood in front of him. Combined with a hole that had al­ready been there, the empty space was now big enough for Bue to fall through, and he landed directly in the river.
    »Bal!«, he screamed, completely helplessly drifting in the stream that was rapidly carrying him away. The archer intended to follow him, but was stopped by Can, who had reached the other side by now.
    »You can’t even swim, you fool!«, she yelled, and luckily, Bal listened to her - but now he was forced to watch the scene without being able to do anything.
    Now that he knew about the boy’s past, Phineas could only imagine what this must feel like to Bal - there had to be something they could do! Phineas, for one, was able to swim, so he attempted the same: going after Bue to pull him back out.
    Ferb, however, was faster than him: he tossed his sword to the ground, ran past his brother, jumped into the river, and caught up with Bue with a few long strokes. Again, Phineas was only mad at him for a split second. Ferb was stronger than him, and if the redhead had followed Bue, that would probably have caused even more of a problem.
    Still, not everything was going great for Ferb either: he had reached Bue, but pulling him out of the river while fighting against the current was a whole other thing. At least he was strong enough to stop the stream from carry­ing them further away for now, but everyone knew that he could not be doing that for much longer.
    Think, Phineas, think! If anyone could save them now, it was Phineas. What he needed was some kind of… in­vention.
    His eyes scanned his surroundings, almost immediately spotting a tall branch further downstream. It was too high for Ferb to grab, unless…
    The redhead spotted the sword Ferb had dropped. With this weapon, he could chop down the branch - but Phineas was well aware that he was not strong enough for that. His eyes met Fern’s, who was carrying his own sword, after all.
    »The branch!«, Phineas exclaimed, pointing at it. Fern followed his gaze and immediately understood. He un­sheathed his sword, and for one brief moment, Phineas found himself gasping.
    The weapon was made out of flawlessly polished steel, and its handle was just as silver. The sword’s pommel was in the shape of an eagle’s head, with a dark green gem resembling the bird’s eye.
    Everyone else was busy with the current situation, and Fern had already arrived at the branch, separating it from the tree with one smooth cut. But Phineas could not help but wonder, Did he find that sword somewhere… or is that really his own?
    Just like Can, Phineas decided to help Fern with hold­ing the branch - he alone would not be able to pull Ferb and Bue out with it. Even Bal had reached this side of the river by now, and he was the first to put his hands on the piece of wood. Phineas and the siblings did the same, slowly pushing the branch towards Ferb… who really did not seem to have much strength left. He gladly put one arm around it, too exhausted to do anything else. Once that was done, the four people on the shore pulled the branch away from the river with all their strength. Not an actual invention, but it would have to do. This is not how the prophecy kills one of us.
    But they made little progress, and Phineas saw why: with some of them pulling while the others were trying to take a breath, this was never going to work. »We have to do it together!«
    Fern nodded. »You heard him, guys. One, two… three!«
    All four of them used their entire energy at the sound of this number - and fell backward onto the shore when Ferb had reached it and let go of the branch. Bal, again, was the first to be there, and sighed with relief when Bue was nothing but exhausted.
    »I’m fine«, the chubby boy exclaimed with a weak smile, and to Phineas, Bal’s thoughts were obvious. I thought I would lose you again.
    Ferb, meanwhile, was lying on the ground, just as soaked as Bue. He had been using much more of his en­ergy, and was far more exhausted than the other boy. Seeing him like that worried Phineas, so he checked on his brother to make sure he was alright.
    »Ferb, are you okay?«, he asked, nudging him slightly.
    After a second of no reaction, and a second of even more worry, Ferb got on his feet, still quite wobbly, and gave his brother a thumbs-up. Phineas grinned and hugged him, incredibly glad he was fine - and, of course, to stop him from falling down.
    »Here«, Fern said, putting his own jacket around Ferb. »For now, you need it more than I do.«
    »Thanks«, Phineas replied for his brother, knowing that he still was not in the condition to say anything, and Ferb shot him a thankful glance.
    »They’re both fine«, Can summed up, sounding just as relieved as everyone else… before her eyes went to Bue’s bag he was still carrying. The boy followed her gaze and frowned.
    »All my healing tools are wet now«, he realized. »They’ll need to dry before I can use them again!«
    »That will happen in no time«, Fern reassured him. The leader of the resistance still insisted on moving on, most likely believing they had lost enough time already.
    Can agreed on carrying Ferb’s sword for as long as he was still regaining his strength, and when they started walking again, Phineas was supporting his brother, just like Bal made sure his best friend was alright.
    Two of us are too exhausted to walk, our healing tools are useless, and we’re entering the Duke’s territory with countless dangerous darklings.
    What could possibly go wrong?





  • - 07 -
    I've Got A Dream




    »The sun is shining down on me,

    Dancing in the sunshine…«


    Baljeet covered his ears. He was sitting in the right backseat of the Van Stomm family’s car - Buford’s moth­er, Biffany, had agreed on driving them to… well, wher­ever the bully’s father lived. As it turned out, she really enjoyed listening to the radio while driving, which was nothing Baljeet would have normally minded. Biffany Van Stomm, however, had turned the volume up so high that even the most uplifting song became nearly unbear­able.
    The Indian boy had attempted to ask her about lower­ing the volume, but his good manners and need for secu­rity prevented him from yelling at her or putting a hand on her shoulder. She was already driving on the very edge of the speed limit - what if trying to get her atten­tion was so unexpected for her that she caused an acci­dent? Baljeet thought of wildly drawing attention to him­self in the rear view mirror; however, Biffany was so dis­tracted by the song, he doubted she would notice any­thing.
    All he could do was somehow endure this nearly deaf­ening music. Baljeet was certain that even from a scien­tific point of view, it was very close to being dangerous for his ears.
    Or he could ask Buford for help.
    The bully was sitting on the left backseat, staring out­side, and seemingly not caring at all about the music. Baljeet could still not believe what he had seen minutes ago: how was it possible that Buford, out of all people, was this skilled at programming? Something was fishy about that - and it was not Buford’s goldfish.
    »Buford?«, Baljeet asked in his usual volume, and, as expected, the bully did not react at all. The Indian boy sighed and took the risk of poking him - which led to Bu­ford instinctively swinging a fist at his nerd. Luckily, Baljeet managed to dodge this move, putting his hands on his ears again in the hope of his friend understanding what that meant.
    »Mom!«, Buford exclaimed, in a voice not much louder than usual.
    To Baljeet’s surprise, Biffany heard her son, and replied without lowering the music’s volume, »Yes, hon­ey, what is it?«
    Baljeet flinched. Buford’s mother had a naturally loud voice that made him do that every time she spoke, and she did not even have to raise her voice to be understood in the car. Then, Biffany spotted Baljeet with his covered ears, looked from him to the radio and back again, and grinned like she just had an epiphany. When she finally turned down the volume, Baljeet sighed so loudly and in­tensely that it must have sounded like he had just discov­ered heaven - or, at least, the corner of it where all his scientific heroes had ended up. He uncovered his ears… and quickly put his hands back on them.
    Baljeet had not believed there was anything louder than the car radio, but he was mistaken.
    »Get out of my way!«, Biffany yelled , followed by sev­eral words Baljeet would never dare to say and the honk­ing of her car. She drove past some other cars, definitely being over the speed limit, and around narrow curves be­fore coming to a halt so abruptly that the Indian boy al­most vomited.
    »We’re there!«, Biffany exclaimed in a comparatively low volume, seemingly unbothered by everything that had just happened. »Make sure to greet the guys from me!«
    »Sure thing, Mom!«, Buford replied, getting out of the car. Baljeet followed him, watching him wave to Biffany before she put her foot on the speed pedal and drove away to unnaturally loud music.
    »You okay, nerd?« Buford seemed to have seen the still a little sick look on his friend’s face.
    Baljeet nodded, not wanting to be made fun of. »Your mother has an… interesting driving style.«
    »Far more exciting than dinner bell’s rollercoaster, I know«, the bully grinned before following the sidewalk leading away from the road.
    Baljeet sighed - he would never truly understand this boy. He hurried after Buford, whose steps were naturally bigger than Baljeet’s, and gulped when he saw where his friend was taking him.
    They were walking towards two not very welcom­ing-looking buildings: Danville’s central police station on the left, and on the right… the city’s prison.
    Please go left, please go left, please go left… , he re­peated in his head, anxiously watching Buford.
    He turned right.
    Baljeet stopped walking and just stared at the brick building in front of him. Nobody had ever mentioned anything about Buford’s father at all, and now he realized why. And in retrospect, this explained so much: Buford’s attitude regarding violence, his unnaturally huge knowl­edge about prisons… His father must have been here for years , Baljeet realized, and could only wonder, What in the name of science did he do?
    »What?«, Buford growled. He had noticed his friend’s genuinely shocked expression.
    »Buford…«, Baljeet stammered, »I did not know -«
    » Of course you didn’t!«, the bully almost yelled at him. »Nobody was ever supposed to know!«
    »What… what did he do?«
    »He’s not a killer if you’re thinking that!« Buford was definitely yelling now. »You’re thinking that, I know you are!«
    That had indeed been Baljeet’s first thought. But seeing Buford like this, he felt bad for making that assumption.
    »I promise I will not tell anybody«, the Indian boy at­tempted to tell his best friend. »Please, Buford, calm down, I did not want to -«
    »Shut up«, Buford interrupted him - but at least he was not yelling anymore. At this point, he was just… sad. The bully was terrible at concealing his emotions, and com­bined with their usual incredibly high intensity, it was no surprise that a lot of people avoided him or, in the case of teachers, called him ‘problematic’.
    But even though Baljeet knew him better than anyone else, he had no idea how to comfort the bully. So he did what Buford told him and kept quiet. Which was usually the most useful solution anyway: Baljeet remembered that Buford was most likely going to fill the resulting si­lence with rambling.
    Which was exactly what he did.
    »He’s not a bad guy, alright? He’s the best dad ever, but does anyone care about that? No! All they care about is that he hacked into all of Earth’s satellites to scan the whole planet for some harmless experiment - so what? No big deal! But some idiots blackmailed him, and now he’s stuck in there forever, because nobody’s listening to him or Mom or me !« By now, Buford was sobbing, and Baljeet did not resist when his friend hugged him. »But you believe me, don’t you?«
    »Of course«, Baljeet replied, completely taken aback by this story. Buford had never been this intimate, and there was nothing he could have said to cheer him up. Luckily, Buford did that for him.
    »Good«, the bully nodded, shoving Baljeet away and grinning as he did that. He acted like this short moment had never happened and headed straight for the prison.
    Baljeet followed him, not even bewildered. He had stopped questioning Buford’s sudden mood changes long ago.
    When Baljeet and Buford entered the prison’s entrance hall, they were the only people there - other than an apa­thetic receptionist being completely preoccupied with her smartphone. Buford walked up to her, demonstratively putting his hands down on the table with a thud.
    »Buford Van Stomm«, he declared. »I’m here to see my dad.«
    The receptionist did not even look up. »Mh-hm.« Bal­jeet supposed she was already familiar with Buford visit­ing his father. »I’ll let him know to be in the visiting room.« The woman was still staring at her phone, making no attempt of doing anything else.
    »Come on, nerd«, Buford announced, turning back to Baljeet. »There’s nothing more to see here.«
    Then, the bully walked into the left hallway, even though…
    »Buford, this sign says the visiting room is in the other direction!«
    »I know«, the boy shrugged.
    »Then why -«
    »Buford hungry.« Common room , Baljeet read on the sign pointing left. Mensa . And that settled it. All one could do when Buford wanted to eat something was giv­ing up with a sigh.
    But when they reached that very place, Baljeet found himself gulping again. The room was looking like one would expect a common room to be like, with some ta­bles, chairs, and couches, pictures of things that most likely would not be causing aggression hanging on the wall, and a couple of other objects for the prisoners to spend their time with. He also noticed several surveillance cam­eras and security staff even more apathetic than the re­ceptionist. And, of course, the snack bar.
    But none of these things were the reason for the boy’s sudden fear. The room was full of brawny men, some of which were more than twice as tall as Baljeet. Several of them had tattoos and/or piercings or were covered in scars - and while the Indian boy was still standing at the entrance, Buford confidently walked up to one of the groups.
    »Guys, look who’s here!«, one of the men shouted.
    »Isn’t that Bernie’s kid?«
    »Yeah, what’re you doing here, Bufe? Aren’t you, like, only visiting once a month?«
    Once again, Baljeet could not believe what he was see­ing. They all acted as if they were Buford’s friends, and the bully himself really seemed to get along great with them. Well , thatalso explains a lot of things .
    »It’s an emergency«, Buford explained after greeting the group, causing some of the men to laugh.
    »But of course, the first thing he does is getting some snacks - hey, who’s that?«
    And suddenly, all eyes were on Baljeet.
    »That’s Baljeet, my nerd«, Buford boasted, as if that was some kind of special achievement.
    »Your dad’s going to appreciate that«, an especially tat­tooed man put in. »He'll be glad to have better company than us.«
    »Hey, look, I think he’s scared of us«, a bald and broad-shouldered man with a hook for one hand spoke up, walking towards Bal­jeet. The boy knew he was right and shot a quick glance to the guards when the bald man approached him. He, too, was several heads taller than Baljeet, and with every step, he got more and more intimidating. »Are you scared, kid? Do you think we’re bad guys trying to kill you?«
    You look like that, at least , Baljeet thought, not daring to speak up. He just knew it was definitely visible how terrified he was.
    »Well, kid, let me tell you something«, the bald man stated, so close to Baljeet by now that the boy was able to smell his not so odorant breath. Baljeet tried to look past the tall man, but everyone he saw was nothing but curi­ous and amused - including Buford. He gulped again, awaiting the man’s words.
    But they were not quite what he had expected.
    »I had a dream, once.«
    And when Buford pulled out his trusty concertina, Bal­jeet found himself in the middle of a song.


    »I'm malicious, mean and scary
    My sneer could curdle dairy
    And violence-wise, my hands are not the cleanest
    But despite my evil look
    And my temper and my hook
    I've always yearned to be a concert pianist«


    The man sat down at the piano that more or less coinci­dentally stood in the room, and Baljeet had to admit that he was quite good at playing it.


    »Can't you see me on the stage performin' Mozart,
    Ticklin' the ivories 'til they gleam?
    Yep, I'd rather be called deadly
    For my killer show tune medley.
    Thank you, 'cause way down deep inside I've got a
    dream.«


    »He's got a dream, he's got a dream« , the other prison­ers were singing along.


    »See, I ain't as cruel and vicious as I seem.
    Though I do like breaking femurs,
    You can count me with the dreamers.
    Like everybody else, I've got a dream.«


    The man with the many tattoos took over now, intro­ducing some of the other people in the room.


    »Tor would like to quit and be a florist,
    Gunther does interior design,
    Ulf is into mime, Attila's cupcakes are sublime,
    Bruiser knits, Killer sews, Fang does little puppet
    shows,
    And Vladimir collects ceramic unicorns.«


    »What about you?«, he asked, turning to Baljeet.
    »I am sorry, me?« What was the man talking about?
    »What's your dream?«
    Baljeet realized what the man was hinting at.
    »No, no, I apologize. I… I will not sing!« With Phineas and Ferb, or even Buford, that was no big deal, but alone, in front of these still quite intimidating men?
    But these men did not seem to be happy with his reply, raising their fists - and Baljeet realized he had no other choice.


    »I have dreams like you, yes, really,
    But they are more scholarly.
    An A+ in every class is what I need.
    All my friends say I am smart,
    My intellect sets me apart,
    And in no time, I will be Doctor Baljeet.«


    The men cheered, and the boy was more than relieved they seemed to be pleased with his spontaneous singing. His eyes turned to Buford, who was standing on a table by now. Of course, his friend also wanted to take a verse.


    »I've got a dream, I've got a dream.
    An endless supply of some good ice cream
    To eat with my awesome dad
    Outside this idiotic shack.
    To get him out of here, yeah, that’s my dream!«


    Once again, the men cheered, and Baljeet watched ev­eryone but himself continue singing. He still felt awk­ward in this room, surrounded by all these men who must be in prison for a reason, after all. Yet they all seemed to have a lot of fun, and he doubted anyone would be pay­ing any attention to him in the first place - but Baljeet was mistaken about the last part, because now, some of the men picked him up with ease, wanting him to be a part of the song again.


    »He's got a dream, he's got a dream,
    They've got a dream, we've got a dream,
    So our differences ain't really that extreme.
    We're one big team.
    Call us brutal, sick, sadistic,
    And grotesquely optimistic,
    'Cause way down deep inside, we've got a dream.«


    After this, they put him back down, but still repeated the verse »I’ve got a dream« . Baljeet sighed. Had Buford completely forgotten about their mission? He was still busy with the song, and the Indian boy realized he would have to go on alone for now. So he followed the sign leading to the visiting room, walking past a guard who was watching the musical number with his still unmoved stare - but just like everyone else, he paid no attention to the small boy hurrying away.
    Walking through the hallway without a sign of Buford following him, Baljeet became more and more frustrated. For all he knew, Phineas and Ferb were either dead be­cause of the space-time continuum’s reaction to the mal­functioning teleporter, or trapped in a world beyond this planet - and all Buford could think of was singing and eating! The bully really got on his nerves sometimes. And what kind of prison was this anyway? He had ex­pected it to be a lot more... well, strict. But the staff was probably used to such events by now and adjusted ac­cordingly – after all, Danville was widely known for its spontaneous musical numbers. How good for the prisoners.
    Eventually, Baljeet arrived in a room that was com­pletely empty save for several tables and chairs for the prisoners and their visitors to sit on. There were also more guards than in the common room, supervising the conversations, most likely. The boy looked around, but the only people vaguely looking like they could be Bu­ford’s father were either already talking to somebody or too intimidating for Baljeet to approach.
    Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind himself and turned his head, only to find Buford walking over to him with a half-eaten sandwich in his hands.
    »Really, Buford?« First you are making us lose time by spontaneously causing a musical number, and then you have the nerve to buy food. Impressive.
    »I told you I was hungry«, the bully argued, stuffing the remaining half of the sandwich into his mouth and swallowing the entire thing. »Now, why are you still standing here? Come on!« He headed straight to a table occupied by a small, glasses-wearing man with dark brown hair, a mustache, and the remains of a shaved beard. The man wore a black-and-blue sweater vest and a light blue shirt and was most likely a visitor, considering how he really did not fit into this place.
    But Buford confidently approached him with a wide grin on his face. »Dad!«
    Even after everything that had happened today, this was still the turn of events Baljeet had definitely expect­ed the least. How could this be Buford’s father?
    The man had stood up from his seat to be hugged by his son. »Buford! What a surprise to see you - hey, champ, careful, you don’t want me to choke, do you?«
    »Sorry, Dad«, Buford laughed, loosening his grip on his father.
    The man chuckled, which made his mustache wobble in a funny way. »It’s no big deal, champ. In fact, it’s great to see how you are getting stronger every time! Something you got from your mother.«
    That made Baljeet realize something. It was only logi­cal that this man, whose only similarities to Buford were hair color and being, in this case, at least a little chubby, was his father. After all, the bully had gotten most of his traits - voice, nose, body shape, and almost everything else - from Biffany, who basically looked like a female adult version of her son.
    Then, the man’s eyes rested on Baljeet. »Is that boy with you?«
    »Oh, yeah!«, Buford nodded. »Dad, that’s my nerd, Baljeet.«
    »Greetings… Mr. Van Stomm?«, the Indian boy spoke up, offering a hand. At least he was much less intimidat­ed by Buford’s father than by just about everyone else in this building.
    »Greetings to you as well, Baljeet. And my name is Bernard, but feel free to call me Bernie!« The man gladly shook his hand - much less forcefully than Buford, the boy noticed with relief.
    »We are here because we need your help, Mr. … Bernie«, Baljeet explained as they sat down before Bu­ford could start talking about something unimportant. »You see…«
    And then he told him everything that had happened.
    »Buford, you used my code?« Bernard was surprised and even slightly shocked and upset about that. »I told you not to do that, you know what can happen if some­one finds out.«
    So the planet-scanning code from earlier had actually been that of Buford’s father, and not the bully's own cre­ation. Baljeet felt relieved about that: he had been unable to stand the thought of Buford actually being this kind of intelligent. For whatever reason, his friend had merely learned the code his father had written. The reason Bernard was here, Baljeet remembered.
    »It was an emergency!«, Buford defended himself.
    And for once, Baljeet agreed with him: »We really need to find our friends, Bernard. Please, you have to help us!«
    »Of course I will«, the man nodded. »What were their names again?«
    Is that important? , Baljeet wondered, but told him any­way.
    Buford’s father scratched his chin thoughtfully. »Phineas… that’s Linda’s son, no?«
    »Yes«, Baljeet confirmed, and then verbally wondered how that could possibly matter to the situation.
    »Don’t question my dad«, Buford warned him, but Bernard shook his head.
    »He has every right to ask that, Buford. You see«, he said to both of them, »The very machine you described had already been there once before.«
    »Yeah, in the beginning of summer«, Buford agreed. »They told me about that earlier today.«
    That was new to Baljeet. »You were with Phineas and Ferb today already?«
    »Well, duh. But I thought teleporters are lame, so I left and went to your house instead.«
    »Either way«, Bernard interrupted them. »I actually mean the one from ten years ago.«
    »Dinner bell’s mom is into building things too? Wait until Candace hears about that!«, Buford grinned, but his father shook his head again.
    »Not her - Josh. Her first husband.« Baljeet and Buford exchanged surprised looks. »He and I built things in that backyard many times - including this teleporter he never came out of again. One of the reasons I delved deeper into programming«, he added, sighing. »I never had the courage to go after him, so without Josh, I expanded my knowledge of hacking and wrote a program able to scan Earth for a specific person... when it did not find the person I was looking for, I knew she had gone after him… but before I was able to do anything, well... several people mistook my research for evil.«
    »Where did that teleporter lead?«, Baljeet asked, not wanting Buford to think about his father’s last com­ment too much.
    Bernard shrugged as if his answer was nothing spec­tacular. »A parallel dimension.«
    »Huh?«, Buford asked, not able to picture that at all - as usual, Baljeet was all too well aware. How often had he been trying to describe things to him?
    Luckily, his father was able to help out this time. »A world identical to ours, but in a different time frame. So, everything is like it is here, but most likely in a different setting - not to mention that you, me, and everyone else also exists in that world with the exact same DNA, but we could be completely different people there, with other names and everything!«
    Baljeet smiled. Bernard was talking so excitedly about science that it was not at all far-fetched to imagine hour-long discussions about quantum physics and the meaning of life from a scientific point of view…
    »But there are fixed points in time?«, the boy asked out of curiosity.
    »Yes«, Bernard nodded, and it was easy to see how he was just as happy about finding an intellectually equal conversation partner. »Everything ensuring that every in­dividual and object existing in our world exists there as well.«
    Buford seemed to be grasping that concept too. »So that world’s Me is also the kid of that world’s You and that world’s Biff?«
    »Of course«, Bernard agreed, then changed the topic. »Josh traveling into a whole other dimension must have caused a small rift in the space-time continuum, consider­ing the law of energy conservation and said energy being unevenly distributed among the two dimensions. One person’s travel was not enough to actually affect any of the two worlds, however - well, unless someone opened another portal, wherever its destination, in the exact same spot. I suppose this rift was too much to process for your teleporter’s programming, which is why it crashed, but it is basically ninety-nine percent certain that your friends are now in the same place as Josh.« He lowered his voice so the guards would not be able to hear him. »Buford, the code for entering this dimension should still be in one of my folders on the laptop. Use it to follow your friends and bring them back - and Josh as well, if he is still out there.«
    »Will do, Dad«, Buford smiled. »See you in half a month?«
    »As always«, his father nodded. »I’ll be here.«


    »Aaand there we go!«, Buford exclaimed. That seemed to be his catchphrase whenever one of his codes was functioning properly: the portal in front of them was looking stable, at least.
    »And I really can’t come with you?«, Candace asked. »They’re my brothers, you know.«
    »Just like your mom’s the one that’ll stop us from ever getting back here if she makes this thing disappear«, Bu­ford argued. Again, Baljeet had to admit that he had a good point.
    »Fine«, Candace sighed. »I’ll do my best - but make it quick, alright?«
    »Yeah, yeah«, Buford nodded, suddenly grabbed Bal­jeet, and, along with himself, pulled him directly into the portal.





  • - 08 -
    Blood and Water




    »Buford, get off me!«
    The Indian boy’s voice was the first thing Buford heard after stepping through his friends’, in his opinion, still pretty boring teleporter. It had only become remotely in­teresting with his dad’s code modifications - everything immediately turned a whole lot better if Bernie had something to do with it.
    Right now, the bully was making himself comfortable on Baljeet, the boy he had ended up landing on. He al­ways enjoyed teasing his nerd, although he would never dare to seriously hurt him mentally or physically. With a grin on his face, Buford stood up, not without releasing the gaseous remains of everything he had eaten today - right into Baljeet’s face.
    The nerd grimaced, yet again letting out an annoyed »Buford!«, causing the bully to chuckle.
    »What?«, he asked, acting oblivious.
    But Baljeet, now getting on his feet again as well, de­cided not to further discuss this topic and looked around instead.
    »I do not think we are in Danville anymore«, he spoke up.
    »Well, duh, that was the plan«, Buford reminded him. »Get into this dimension, find Candace’s brothers, get back to Danville. Simple as that.« Although he had to ad­mit that he had no idea how to accomplish this, especially since he couldn’t see anything but trees.
    »Buford, there is nothing here!«, Baljeet exclaimed. »This cannot possibly be an alternate version of Danville, it is just a forest.«
    But the bully just shrugged. »If my dad says this is where they are, I believe him.« And you should too , he added silently. My dad doesn’t make mistakes.
    »Could he not have been more specific? Where are we even supposed to go now?«
    Buford got tired of his friend asking this many ques­tions again. He always did that. And he would continue to do so, unless…
    »Buford, wait!« The bully had simply headed off into a random direction. Looking back, Buford saw that Baljeet had not moved at all.
    »You wanted me to go, didn’t you? And this direction smells like my uncle’s house, that’s a good sign.«
    Baljeet raised an eyebrow as his friend crossed his arms. »The one smelling like ant pheromones or the one smelling like daffodils?«
    »Those are my grandmas«, Buford sighed. The nerd knew so much about completely unimportant stuff - mathematics and chemistry and all of that -, but he couldn’t even remember little things about the Van Stomm family! »Get over here and smell it yourself.«
    Hesitantly, Baljeet followed him, widening his eyes.
    »What?«, the bully wondered. »Got something against rotten eggs?« There was nothing wrong with being a little unhygienic, right? Okay, for Baljeet, it was. Definitely.
    »This… this is not…«, the Indian boy realized. Notic­ing Buford’s equally confused and annoyed look, he forced himself to walk forward, freezing shortly afterward.
    »Dude, that’s so gross!«, Buford exclaimed as he caught up with the nerd, staring at what had shocked Bal­jeet this much. He, too, was more speechless than any­thing else, as he spotted the corpses of two giant wolves, smoothly killed by arrows, and already victims of the hunger of other animals.
    »...maybe we should walk in the opposite direction«, Baljeet suggested, wanting to get away from this place as soon as possible.
    But Buford shook his head, surprised the nerd had not come to the conclusion he was currently figuring out. »I’ve got an idea.«
    »Well, that is certainly the strangest thing in this world so far.«
    »Very funny«, the bully replied, considering giving his friend a wedgie or something similar. But for once, they had better things to do. »But seriously! Those dogs are dead -«
    »Obviously.«
    »- and they’ve been killed by people. And dinner bell is usually where people are, so let’s follow them!«
    »And how do we -«
    Buford sighed. Did he suddenly have to do everything himself? That’s what you get from only watching space movies, nerd. Completely useless in real life – unlike fantasy. Medieval stuff. Where you learn about surviving in the wilderness. And float around with little woodland pix-
    Dragons. Majestic, manly dragons.
    »Well, there’s pawprints, so I’m sure the one dog that ran away will lead us right to dinner bell.«
    Baljeet was still skeptical. »What kind of argumenta­tion even is that? You make no sense, Buford.«
    »And you’ve got a better idea?«
    »No, but -«
    That settled it for Buford. He confidently walked deep­er into the forest, following the beast’s steps, and grinned when he heard Baljeet following him. The nerd needed him here.
    And, admittedly, this journey would’ve only been half as great without Baljeet.


    And so, the boys walked through the woods, never los­ing sight of the pawprints leading the way. Eventually, Buford got hungry, like he so often did, and grabbed an oval, yellow fruit from a nearby tree.
    »Buford, no!«, Baljeet suddenly exclaimed, snatching it away from the bully.
    »Hey!«, he growled, attempting to get it back, but Bal­jeet did his best to keep the fruit away from his friend.
    »Do you not know what this is?«
    Buford blinked. He didn’t.
    »This is a maracanut.«, Baljeet explained with the su­perior tone he always had when describing scientific things. The one that instantly caused Buford to stop lis­tening. »The very foul-tasting fruit, and no, not a nut, Bu­ford, of the maracanut tree which also produces a very sticky sap. It is native to only one place on the entire planet, the Tri-State Area - are you even listening?«
    »Did you say something?«, the bully asked, biting into the fruit he had retrieved again by now - and immediately spit it out again. Baljeet simply rolled his eyes as Buford cursed the indeed not at all well-tasting fruit and threw it away from himself. As it landed, it made a splashing noise. Curious, the boys followed the sound and found themselves near a wide river. Their arguing had probably stopped them from having heard it earlier. Only a few feet away from them, there was a rather unstable-looking bridge, with lots of broken planks and holes in it.
    »Bingo!«, Buford grinned, discovering more pawprints in the narrow sandy area on the shore. And not only that, but human footprints as well. Don’t underestimate a Van Stomm, he thought.
    Baljeet actually looked quite impressed - but of course, his nerd ego prevented him from ever admitting that. He now approached the bridge in order to examine it, care­fully placing a foot on a plank to test its stability.
    »We now need to be very careful«, the nerd declared, still busy on the first plank.
    But Buford rolled his eyes. Impatient as he was, he thought it would take years for Baljeet to get to the other side like this. If they wanted to find the others, they defi­nitely needed to speed up.
    »Hang on«, Buford said - and before Baljeet could wonder what was going on, the bully had already picked him up with one arm and was now running across the bridge as fast as he could, leaping over holes, but without paying any actual attention to the construction. The sud­den force caused many planks to break, even Buford no­ticed, but he always managed to avoid getting stuck or falling down into the river - very narrowly, as Baljeet’s constant screams showed.
    When they had finally reached the other side of the riv­er, Buford let his friend down again, much to Baljeet’s relief. Looking back now, there was hardly anything of the bridge left.
    »Look at what you did, Buford! You could have killed us!«, the nerd now exclaimed furiously.
    »Yeah, but I didn’t, so calm yourself«, Buford shrugged, relaxed about the entire situation. In his opin­ion, this had actually been fun. Baljeet was just overre­acting, as always.
    Unbeknownst to them, their friends, actually having been here, had walked further downstream in their at­tempt to save Bue, and also entered this side’s forest sev­eral feet away from the bridge.
    Without any traces of them left, Buford shrugged again, simply leading Baljeet deeper into the forest right behind the bridge.
    After several minutes of walking, the quite peaceful sounds of nature were interrupted by growls.
    »That wasn’t me!«, Buford announced, knowing that Baljeet was suspecting him and his stomach.
    As if supporting this statement, a sudden scream came from the same direction. And Buford couldn’t believe his ears.
    »Dinner bell!«, he exclaimed, running off to find out what was going on. His friend was in trouble, and no matter what was threatening him, Buford would do ev­erything to save him.
    »Buford, wait!«, the bully heard Baljeet behind him, but didn’t pause. If he did, it might as well be too late for Phineas, and he couldn’t risk that! Not when he could punch whatever was attacking him into the face.
    Buford soon smelled something unlike anything that reminded him of any of his relatives: blood. Not only that, but he also heard horrible noises making him imag­ine terrifying things he could not possibly let happen to Phineas, so the bully took even bigger steps, balling his fists and getting ready to face the enemy ahead of him.
    But when he arrived at the scene, whatever had been here was gone. All that was left was the smell of blood - and its source.
    Covered in, and surrounded by, blood was a boy, bare­ly alive. Enormous claws had attacked him and left three long, deep wounds across his face, with more torn-up skin covering its entire left side. The claws had also hor­ribly injured the boy’s left eye, and what the doglike ene­my had done to his left arm, completely separated from his body, wasn’t all too pretty either.
    And what made it all worse was that the boy bore an unmistakable resemblance to Phineas.
    After allowing his mouth to release the remaining left­overs of his meals into the nearby bushes, Buford showed the arriving Indian boy what he had found - Baljeet faint­ed immediately, but that was quickly taken care of by more or less gently slapping him across the face.
    »It… it is not Phineas«, Baljeet managed to say, avoid­ing to look directly at that boy. »Only his… counterpart from this dimension.«
    »Our dinner bell or theirs, what does it matter?«, Bu­ford growled. »I’m not letting them get away with this!«
    »Buford, you cannot go after these monsters«, Baljeet pointed out, actual worry in his voice. But the nerd seemed to realize that this warning was not very effective, so he added: »At least not before we found the others.«
    »Fine«, Buford admitted, realizing his friend had a good point for once. In retrospect, Baljeet always had better ideas than him, now that he thought about it. »But I’m not gonna leave him here like that!«
    »But he -«
    »Is about to die, I can see that, thanks. I don’t know about you, but Van Stomms don’t leave anyone behind.« Why couldn’t Baljeet stop protesting for once and actual­ly be useful?
    »Alright«, Baljeet agreed hesitantly. »How can I help?«
    »Get some water«, Buford instructed. In truth, he didn’t know anything about medical stuff, but water seemed like a good solution at this point. Especially the bottle of dis­tilled water Baljeet now produced - for once, his nerdi­ness was good for something!
    The bully then spotted a sheath on the injured boy’s belt in which he found a small dagger; unused, by the looks of it. He didn’t even try to defend himself! But the weapon was exactly what he needed now: Buford could easily cut through the boy’s black t-shirt to have a better look at the wound near his shoulder where his arm had been.
    All that Buford was able to tell was that it was pretty bloody, and even he knew that the boy shouldn’t lose too much of that. But other than that, he was clueless, and even Baljeet worriedly shrugged when the bully looked at him. He was very aware that he was most likely doing it all wrong, but after using some of Baljeet’s water to clean the wound and wash away blood, Buford used the boy’s t-shirt to bandage the injury in an attempt to stop more blood from spilling out.
    Afterward, he did the same with the boy’s face, this time using his own t-shirt to cover the enormous wound, but of course leaving some space near the nose and mouth so the boy was able to breathe. The bully even decided that what was left of the boy’s heavily injured eye would only be causing him pain later on, so he used the dagger again… gaining a horrified look from Baljeet.
    The entire time, the boy had been unconscious without making a single sound, but especially without his t-shirt, Buford could tell he was breathing. Baljeet, visibly glad they had almost completely covered the boy’s face, at­tempted to give him some of his water, but Buford stopped him.
    »You better keep that - what if we need it later? Per­sonally, I don’t want to run out of water. And it’s not like he won’t survive without it for a while«, the bully said as he looked at the unconscious boy, sounding as positive and determined as possible. More for himself than for Baljeet. »I think we did a pretty good job.«
    »I would not have known any other way to help him«, Baljeet agreed, still not fully able to process everything that had just happened. »You… were really quite good, Buford.«
    The bully shrugged, but he was just as tense as his friend. This had been the least he had expected to find on the teleporter’s other side.
    »Well, I’d say we get moving«, Buford declared. Even he didn’t want to run into more of those wolves by now. »Give me a hand, will you?«
    Baljeet nodded, helping his friend get the injured boy onto his back. Buford noticed that he was even lighter than dinner bell, and he was sure that that was not just because of his missing arm. Spotting the pawprints of the wolves that had attacked this boy, he followed their trail, and Baljeet kept every remark to himself.
    Even the nerd had realized by now that, for whatever reason, dinner bell and Ferb were going into the same di­rection as the creatures, and none of the two friends liked that.


    »I have been thinking«, Baljeet spoke up after a while.
    »As always«, Buford commented without any interest in his voice. Really, when had Baljeet not been thinking about something? »Don’t bother telling me.«
    »It is about something your father had mentioned earli­er«, the nerd added, and immediately had Buford’s com­plete attention. »He said something about the conserva­tion of energy, and Phineas’ father having caused a dis­turbance by traveling into this world.«
    »So what?« The bully was well aware that he wouldn’t be understanding any of his friend’s words any minute now.
    »If the sudden disappearance of a person from one of the worlds causes an imbalance, then the death of some­one would as well«, Baljeet continued, but Buford shook his head.
    »Lots of people are dying and I haven’t noticed any­thing odd«, he figured.
    »That is what I mean«, the Indian boy nodded. »The only way for this not causing a major imbalance between the dimensions is the simultaneous death of both identi­ties.«
    »So?«, Buford asked impatiently. He didn’t get any­thing of that and Baljeet knew it.
    »That means that no matter what happens, if the Buford from this world dies, so will you.«
    Now that was something the bully understood. »But that’s just a theory, right?« The thought of dying any sec­ond now without being able to do anything against it made him uncomfortable.
    »Yes«, Baljeet confirmed. »And even if it was indeed true, I could not say whether it applies with both of you being in the same dimension - let us just be glad we saved this boy, just in case.«
    We could’ve killed dinner bell , Buford realized, shoot­ing a glance at the boy on his back. Now let’s hope he’ll make it.
    When the bully suddenly heard a rustling noise near them, he turned in that direction, ready to defend Baljeet and the injured boy. »Who’s there?«, he asked, his in­stincts telling him that it had not been a mere forest ani­mal.
    And then he had an arrow pointing at him.
    Some feet away from them stood a boy a bit taller than Buford, with a distrustful look on his face, mustering the small group.
    »I should be asking the same of you.«
    With his accent and appearance, he reminded the bully of his nerd, in a strange way, but Buford decided that he definitely preferred Baljeet - who now spoke to the stranger, probably in an attempt to stop Buford from say­ing anything ‘impolite’.
    »Please, do not shoot us! We are unarmed and carry an injured person in need of medical assistance.«
    Buford rolled his eyes. He had been doing a good job with the boy, he thought. Not to mention that Baljeet was forgetting something essential. »And we’re looking for our friends. Red triangle, green rectangle. Seen them?«
    The stranger glared at them for another moment, then nodded.
    »Follow me.« And then, he lowered his bow and walked away.
    »I don’t like him«, Buford commented, but Baljeet ges­tured him to be quiet, already following the other per­son. What’s he got? , the bully wondered. A doctor? Din­ner bell?
    Or maybe just food. Yeah, that’d be nice too.
    »I found somebody«, the boy in front of them suddenly declared as he came to a halt.
    »Yeah, who?«, Buford asked - but then realized the stranger had been talking about him.
    »Buford?« The bully looked past the stranger and spot­ted a group of five people that were all looking at him and Baljeet. One of them was unmistakably dinner bell, then there was Ferb, wearing a green jacket, another Ferb appearing way more badass than the one he knew, and same for the Candace he saw. And then there was a small, chubby boy he couldn’t really identify.
    »Hello, Phineas«, Baljeet replied nervously. All those other people seemed to make him uncomfortable. »I hope we are not interrupting anything.«
    »Not really«, the badass Ferb shrugged, curiously ob­serving them, then looking at Phineas. »It seems you know these two?«
    Dinner bell nodded. »Yeah, they’re friends - but what are you guys doing here?«
    »Candace got worried, so we went after you«, Buford explained as if that was the most natural thing in the world. »Oh, and we saved this guy from some dogs«, he said, nodding at the boy he was still carrying. »He proba­bly still needs a doctor though, even my nerd wasn’t much of a help here.«
    The two people that looked like Candace and Ferb ex­changed glances, then nodded.
    »Alright. Bal, make sure nobody’s sneaking up on us. Bue, take care of this person. We’re taking a break.«
    »Wait a minute«, Buford realized, completely aston­ished. »Bal and Bue? Are you trying to tell me that that’s me - and that ‘Jeet is tall and badass in this world?« This dimension’s Baljeet had already disap­peared into the forest again. »I knew my dad said they’d be different from us, but that
    »Calm down, Buford«, Baljeet spoke up, but it was easy to see how the fact that this intimidating boy was him in this dimension fascinated him. »We have got more important things to take care of.«
    »Fine«, the bully sighed, reluctantly setting the injured and bandaged boy down so that this weak excuse of him­self could help him. The others were getting closer as well, wanting to see what was going on. »Oh, and dinner bell, I doubt you wanna see that.«
    »Why not?«, the redhead asked, sounding unusually frustrated. »It’s not like I can’t take a little blood!«
    »I believe he is right, Phineas«, Baljeet pointed out, but the boy still shook his head.
    »I can handle it, really«, he insisted.
    He’s almost more stubborn than me, Buford thought, then shrugged. If dinner bell wanted to see this barely alive version of himself, then it wasn’t Buford’s problem if he couldn’t take it after all.
    »Don’t say we didn’t warn you«, the bully commented.
    After a nod from the Ferb from this world, Bue knelt down next to the boy whose face was completely covered by Buford’s t-shirt. The chubby boy carefully unraveled it, revealing the t-shirt to be more and more bloodstained the closer he got to the person’s skin.
    Buford watched Phineas closely during the process, wanting to see his reaction. When it seemed to dawn on him who the person under this t-shirt was, the redheaded boy widened his eyes in shock, unable to take them off the injured boy or move at all, and even Ferb covered his mouth. The greenhead’s look-alike seemed unmoved, but it was easy to see how he was trying very hard not to re­veal any of his true feelings. Bue gulped, and when the Can­dace of this world let out a scream with tears in her eyes, Buford began to realize that maybe, just maybe, they should have warned her as well.





  • - 09 -
    Scores to Settle





    »What did you do?«, Can nearly yelled. Her voice was shaking, she was trying to hold back tears, and she was failing at that. She glared at Baljeet and Buford as if ev­erything was their fault.
    »We saved his life«, Buford protested at an equal vol­ume.
    »Then why didn’t you do it faster?« There was frustra­tion in her voice.
    Fern had heard enough. »Can, calm down -«
    »I’m not calming down!« It really sounded like the ex­act opposite. »You don’t even know what you’re talking about. He’s my brother, I -«
    »...what?«, Fern replied, his surprise clearly visible. »Your brother? But…«
    »Don’t tell me you didn’t know that«, Buford scoffed. »Of course they’re related, dinner bell’s got a sister too.«
    »Well, I didn’t«, the green-haired boy said sharply, glaring at his sister. He wanted to know what was going on. What she was hiding from him.
    And Phineas couldn’t blame him for that - of course, he had been sure about Can having another brother the whole time, but he, too, was quite overwhelmed by the current events, to say the least.
    Fern, his voice full of the hurt of feeling betrayed and lied to, continued: »She never told me about having a brother.« He was still looking at Can, but acted like she wasn’t even there.
    Her response was a mere whisper: »I thought he was dead.« And with that, she couldn’t take it anymore, ran past the boys, and off into the forest.
    Fern’s eyes followed his sister; he was still breathing quite heavily from his sudden aggression. But he had nothing to say now, and there was silence.
    Phineas turned to the unconscious boy again. He knew that Baljeet and Buford had already cleaned up most of the mess, not to mention Bue’s attempts on stopping him from losing blood and properly bandaging the wound, but he still felt sick looking at the scene. He had been pre­pared for most revelations about his alternate self, but this? Definitely the last thing Phineas had expected to happen.
    »The wounds are deep, but he’ll survive«, Bue an­nounced, filling the silence. »I mean, as long as I can check on him and he gets to rest, of course.« The boy sounded tense, he probably had never dealt with such an extreme injury before - especially with most of his uten­sils, such as herbs, still wet or even completely useless because of that. But he was clearly doing his best.
    Fern shook his head, still trying to calm down. He had put a hand onto the scar on his forehead, probably as a gesture supporting how overwhelmed he still was. »We’ve lost too much time already. If we won’t have dealt with the Duke until sundown, we’ll be at his mercy, and I don’t like the sound of that.«
    »I dunno, man«, Buford argued. »I’ve got no idea what’s going on here, but I’m pretty sure that there’s no way we can protect that guy in a serious fight or some­thing.«
    Baljeet agreed. »It is shortly past noon, we can surely remain here for another hour or two.«
    Fern sighed. To Phineas, it seemed like he just was not in the mood to argue. »Fine. I’ve got things to think about anyway.« He tried to put his hands into the pockets of his jacket, but they grasped at nothing, reminding him that Ferb was still wearing it. Ferb quickly took it off, he was dry again by now anyway, and handed it back - to the boy hastily putting it back on and wandering off without another word.
    »Is he always like that?«, Buford wondered, but Bue shook his head.
    »I’d be upset in such a situation too.«
    »They’ll be back to normal in no time«, Phineas agreed. At least he hoped so - he didn’t like seeing his friends upset.
    »I really didn’t think he’d be that different from Ferb«, Buford spoke up. »My dad said they’d be, sure, but that guy’s like Ferb’s complete opposite.«
    That caught Phineas’ attention. »Your dad knows this place?« Thinking about it, the bully had never spoken about him before. Maybe this world wasn’t all that un­known after all?
    »Not exactly«, Baljeet interrupted his best friend who was already opening his mouth. »He merely created the incredibly complex code that modified your teleporter in a way that would certainly bring us here. And because of an earlier incident, he was able to tell us about the char­acter of this alternate dimension.«
    »Alternate dimension?«, Phineas repeated. »Well, that would explain the doppelgangers!«
    »And the maracanut trees«, Ferb added, gaining a sur­prised look from his brother. Those trees were characteristic of the Tri-State Area – had he really not noticed them at all?
    »Oh, spare me that«, Buford replied, which made Baljeet roll his eyes. »Anyway, dinner bell, why don’t you tell us what happened to you guys since this morning? I’m starting to believe that your teleporter wasn’t that lame after all.«
    That made Phineas chuckle, and he raised a hand to count on its fingers. »Let’s see… we’ve been attacked by wolves, got kidnapped by strangers, became part of a prophecy, and now we’re on our way to save the world while also trying to get back home.«
    »The latter should not be much of a problem«, Baljeet supposed. »The gateway to our dimension is still open, we can - «
    »It’s not«, Buford shook his head. »I told Candace to turn it off. Before some bad guy finds it or something.«
    Baljeet widened his eyes. »You did what? Buford, how are we supposed to go back without it?«
    »I think it was the right choice«, Bue defended his look-alike. »The Duke could have found it, and then your dimension would’ve been in trouble just as much as ours.«
    »Told you!«, Buford grinned, then looked at the chub­by boy. »What kind of bad guy is he?«
    »A really bad one«, Bue explained, sounding fright­ened. »He is controlling those wolf monsters, and he killed a whole lot of people, and -«
    »...and he kidnapped my brother.« That voice belonged to Can. She had shown up again without having made much of a sound. She looked like she had been crying quite a lot, and her voice was still trembling. The girl had gone off into the direction Bal had disappeared to earlier, and Phineas wondered whether the two of them had met. He was quite positive they were great company for one another in such a situation, now that he knew Bal’s story. Not to mention that boy’s respect towards Can, of course.
    Right now, the girl knelt down next to her unconscious brother, who was already bandaged and taken care of again.
    »He’ll be fine«, Bue spoke up, and Can just nodded at that.
    »Thank you for saving him. All three of you. I owe you something.«
    »Anyone would have helped him«, Bue replied.
    Buford, on the other hand, was looking at his now blood-stained t-shirt. »Something to wear would be nice.«
    That comment caused Baljeet to glare at his friend warningly.
    »Just saying«, Buford shrugged. »And I’ll stay shirtless if I have to. Like a man
    That amused Phineas just as much as Bue and even Can, who managed to crack a smile.
    »Thanks, guys«, she said, then looked at Bue again. »...when is he going to wake up?«
    »I don’t know«, the boy admitted, visibly frustrated. »But we were able to convince Fern to stay here for an­other hour or so, to give him some rest.«
    »Good.« She looked around. »Where did he go, any­way?«
    »Somewhere to think about stuff, he said«, Phineas re­sponded.
    »That’s all right with me«, Can said, sighing. »Maybe he’ll realize that he overreacted. I just… I never thought I’d ever see Finn again… after the Duke had taken him away when he was just a baby... right after killing my father.«
    »That is horrible«, Baljeet whispered, making Phineas think about what Candace would have done in that situa­tion. There was no way she’d have told anyone about it either, he knew.
    »Yeah, but he only got those wounds today«, Buford put in. »What’s he been doing the rest of his life, then?«
    Can gulped, and Phineas, too, was speechless for a mo­ment. Buford had a good point. And whatever it was, he was certain it was nothing good.
    »We’ll find out soon enough«, Can decided, under­standably not wanting to further think about this topic. »For now, let’s just wait until we’re all ready to move on.«
    And so they did. Minutes passed, occasionally filled with small talk, and telling Baljeet and Buford how Ferb and Bue had ended up this wet.


    After just about an entire hour, it was Bal who showed up. He left no comment about the un­conscious boy, Finn, whose state had not changed much in this hour, thereby supporting Phineas’ assumption that Can had already told him about it earlier.
    »When are we going to get moving again? I thought we agreed on defeating the Duke before sundown«, the archer wondered.
    Phineas nodded. »We’ll move on as soon as Fern is back.« Merely sitting around had always been boring to him.
    He gained a surprised look from Bal. »Is he not with you?«
    That, in turn, confused Can. »Not in the past hour. You must have run into him at some point, Bal.«
    The archer shook his head, and Baljeet was the next person to speak up.
    »If he is not with anyone of us, he must have wandered off alone.«
    »He wouldn’t«, Can countered, then said nothing more. It dawned on her, on Phineas, and on most of the others, that yes. Yes, he would. »Alright, fine«, she sighed. »I’ll go look for him.«
    »And I will come with you«, Bal proposed. »I… am good at finding trails.«
    »I’m not leaving such a big group defenseless, Bal«, she countered, ignoring his unnecessary remark.
    But Phineas didn’t like the sound of her looking for Fern alone either. »We all go«, he spoke up. »There’s no point in splitting up, we might lose each other.« In his opinion, the woods around them were looking the same everywhere.
    Can frowned, then nodded. After all, she did not want to leave her other brother alone either.
    And so they went. As a tracker, Bal was leading the group, with Can following him. Safely in the middle was the still shirtless Buford, carrying Finn, and the others were closely behind him. Ferb was the one bringing up the rear, as the only one besides Can and Bal who was actually carrying a weapon.
    »I still don’t get why he would leave us alone like that«, Bue wondered, breaking the silence.
    Can shrugged, but her voice made it clear that she was fed up with her brother. »You know him. Always acting like he’s got everything under control, but he knows he needs us, and especially me, for making the best deci­sions. But with his ego, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s thinking that our Chosen Ones here are stealing his spotlight.«
    Phineas glanced back at his own brother. Like me and Ferb , he thought. But like me, I’m sure he knows deep in­side that he’s wrong.
    »So he is trying to defeat the Duke all by himself?«, Bue asked, audibly shocked. »But that’s -«
    »Impossible«, Can nodded. »However, I know what he’s trying to prove. He’s got a score to settle with the Duke.«
    So do you. But she was right, Fern could be quite a stubborn person. If he really had some past experience with the Duke…
    Phineas opened his mouth to ask, but was interrupted by Buford. »Guys, I think he’s moving.«
    Nobody had to ask him who he meant by that. As he said that, everyone just abruptly came to a halt, turning to him - and more importantly, the boy on his back.
    Buford was right, Finn was moving - not much, but through his nostrils, he was sniffing.
    »Is he -«, Baljeet began, but Bue shook his head.
    »I doubt he’s actually waking up, but there must be something in the air that’s catching his attention.«
    »Well, it wasn’t me, I swear«, Buford defended him­self. But that was not necessary - because only seconds afterward, it hit them. A foul, dirty smell; not as disgust­ing as blood, but still reeking.
    »Darklings«, Bal announced, immediately trying to find out more. »The wind is carrying their smell to us, so we are in no danger.«
    »Unless they’re coming in our direction«, Can remind­ed him, and the archer nodded.
    »It is easy to track them now, I will attempt to get more information. If that is alright with you«, he added, asking Can for permission.
    »Okay«, she agreed. »We’ll be following you, in case you need help.«
    Bal had no problem with that, so he left into the direc­tion of the smell’s source. After giving him a small head start, the rest of the group got into motion again, and as the smell got worse, Finn started twitching. Phineas pitied him - if he had such a good nose that he had been smelling the darklings before anyone else, this must be horrible for him.
    They caught up with Bal, who had paused and was now watching the darklings from behind some bushes. There were two of the beasts, and they were walking on a path crossing the kids’ current route somewhat orthogonally. Phineas and the others joined Bal in his hiding place, and the redhead was glad the wolves had not noticed them yet. The archer readied his bow in order to shoot the darkling, and Can grabbed her staff to attack the other one after Bal’s shot.
    And then things escalated.
    Finn made a growling sound. The darklings turned their heads, spotted the group, and because of their sud­den movement, Bal’s arrow missed them narrowly. Ferb and Can took out their weapons, ready to defend their friends. Phineas noticed that the darklings’ smell was too weak to be the source of the terrible scent that was still in the air - but that mystery solved itself when four more darklings appeared from the bushes all around them. The group had been so focused on the two wolves directly in front of them that they seemed to have missed the other ones.
    Instinctively, the friends formed a circle, with the weak and weaponless ones in the center. Buford wanted to join Ferb, Can, and Bal on the outside, but Baljeet reminded him that he was still carrying Finn, so the bully reluctant­ly stayed in the middle.
    »Three against six«, Bal mumbled as he was getting an overview of the situation.
    »Four«, a familiar voice interrupted them, dashing through the space between two of the darklings with a shining sword in both hands and join­ing the three armed people.
    Fern.
    »Where have you been?«, Can asked him, not at all hid­ing her frustration. »This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t run away.«
    »I was trying to save all of you«, her brother replied, eyeing the darklings closest to him, ready for any attack. »I was just taking a walk a bit away from our camp when I noticed this pack of beasts that was about to find you. You’re lucky the wind’s been blowing away from you, that way I was able to distract them.«
    »You could have told us. We were getting worried.«
    »And lead them directly to you? No, thanks. I had to get them away from you quickly - and it would have worked if you hadn’t come looking for me.«
    »Oh, so it’s my fault now? That’s so typical -«
    »Guys«, Phineas interrupted them. He didn’t want to argue with them, but his one word had been enough of a reminder that they had other things to worry about at this point.
    Things that were looking not too great for their group.
    On Buford’s back, Finn growled again, which made Bal notice something.
    »Keep him quiet«, he instructed without turning his back on the darklings. »He is making them aggressive.«
    Phineas could see that he was right: the beasts were coming closer, and Fern and the others already lashed out at them in order to keep them away. Once again, Phineas wondered for a brief moment where Fern got his glamorous weapon from, but this was not the time to ask him.
    At this short dis­tance, Bal’s bow became pretty much useless, and he completely relied on the armed kids now.
    Phineas was clutching his pocket knife, knowing that there were some applications that could help him. But with such a small device, he didn't stand a chance against a single darkling, and again, he realized how trying to help would only result in a bigger problem.
    So Phineas could do nothing but watch his brother, who was keeping an eye on two darklings, dodging their clawed attacks and waiting for a good moment to strike back. He was still weakened by the river incident, but nevertheless doing everything in his power to protect his companions.
    The boys in the middle crowded closer together in an attempt to give their friends more space, but that also allowed the darklings to approach them even further.
    »Ferb!«, Phineas exclaimed as he saw how one of the darklings close to his brother attacked him and got hit by his sword in defense, only to allow the second darkling to strike from a different angle. Ferb dropped his sword and got knocked off his feet, but Phineas wasn’t able to see any blood. His brother must have managed to avoid the beast’s sharp claws, at least. But now he was unable to hold the darklings back - and one of them immediately got through to Phineas and his other weaponless friends, while the other one decided to attack Ferb again.
    Then a shrill barking noise cut through the air.
    Before they could have used their claws, before they could have seriously hurt anybody, the darklings froze all at once, turning their heads towards that noise for a mo­ment… just to hurry away with lowered tails. Whatever had caused the sound had definitely scared them.
    Fern and Can aimed their weapons at the suddenly rustling bushes in the direction of where the sound had come from, ready to protect their friends from whatever monster was going to reveal itself. Meanwhile, Phineas helped Ferb on his feet again, glad to see that he had no injuries save for some scratches.
    Out of the bushes came a dog. A dog not taller than the average house cat, with short fur and large ears. A chi­huahua.
    »Isn’t that…«, Buford wondered in disbelief.
    The dog’s barking cut him off, but Phineas shared his friend’s thoughts. It looked exactly like Pinky, the pet chihuahua of their friend Isabella. Then again, even if Is­abella had somehow followed them here, which was un­likely in the first place, there was no way she would have brought her dog. Which could only mean…
    »There you are! Good dog.« A girl with long, black hair appeared from the bushes. She was wearing a gray t-shirt and a ragged khaki skirt. A bow of the same col­or was in her hair, and she managed to look absolutely stunning even with her rather messy appearance. Isabel­la… almost.
    The girl picked the chihuahua up and looked at the group in a way that was rather… amused. »You should be careful, there are darklings out here.«
    Fern rolled his eyes and took a step forward, deciding to be the one to speak for the group. »We didn’t need your help to defeat them.«
    »I didn’t do anything«, she shrugged. »But without Brain, you’d be dead.«
    Brain - that must be the name of her dog.
    »I doubt it.« Phineas heard Can’s exasperated sigh at this response of her brother, and he felt the same. Fern was being incredibly stubborn again, even though he just had to know that the girl was right.
    »Oh, don’t give me that«, the stranger replied. »Nine kids in the middle of the Duke’s territory. I’m counting an unconscious one, one with a useless bow, four others without any weapons at all, and only three people to defend all of them. Whatever you’re doing here, you’re not going to make it like that.«
    Fern tightened his grasp on his sword, but actually tried to remain calm. »We’re from the resistance. And we are going to defeat the Duke.«
    The girl scoffed. »You? Please. You cannot even de­fend your group from a bunch of darklings. He’ll get rid of you before you even get to meet him.« She looked di­rectly at Finn. »And whoever got the idea of bringing him along, well done.«
    »What is that supposed to mean?«, Can asked sharply, ready to defend him from anything the other girl was go­ing to say.
    The stranger rolled her eyes. »You don’t know any­thing, do you? That guy has been working for the Duke for ages now.«
    »He was attacked by the darklings«, Baljeet put in, but that only strengthened her belief.
    »I don’t care what happened to him«, she replied. »I’m telling you, it was a trap. I wouldn’t put it past the Duke, really.«
    »Yeah, and how was he supposed to know that we’d find him? He doesn’t even know we’re on our way to his place«, Buford grinned triumphantly.
    Bal agreed. »The only way for him to be aware of us is a darkling telling him about it somehow, and aside from the ones moments ago, we have only encountered three others when we first met Phineas and Ferb«, he said, nod­ding at them. »And those three are dead.«
    Just then, Baljeet gulped. »Buford and I only found two corpses«, he spoke up.
    And suddenly, all eyes but those of Baljeet, Buford, and the stranger were on Ferb. Phineas, too, was looking at his brother, remembering Jared’s words from hours ago. »Ferb did kill that darkling with his bare hands.«
    But Ferb shook his head, for once actually showing his emotions. Guilt. »Merely unconscious«, he said, and the remorse in his voice hurt Phineas, who was not used to hearing his brother like this. He realized that their ele­ment of surprise was completely gone, and any kind of trap was Ferb’s fault now. I wouldn’t have managed to kill it either. And I doubt he wanted to.
    »Well, then that’s settled«, Fern declared with frustra­tion and a hint of anger. »Next time anyone here sees a darkling, they’re killing it. Understood?«
    »Yeah, but not accepted.« That reply came from the mysterious girl.
    »I wasn’t talking to you
    »Listen«, she said, her tone not allowing any kind of objection. »I’ve been living out here by myself for years, and trust me, I’ve seen some things that would give all of you nightmares. I’ve seen with my own eyes how the Duke creates the darklings, and you’re not going to kill more of them. And do you want to know why?«
    »Go on«, Fern responded, hardly impressed by her speech. Phineas was, though, and it looked like the others were as well, bracing themselves for her answer.»For the same reason your friend here is able to talk to them«, she continued, giving a quick nod to Finn. »They’re people.«





  • - 10 -
    Alive




    Nobody said a word as they stared at the girl in com­plete disbelief.
    »That’s ridiculous«, Fern eventually spoke up, but his voice revealed that he, too, was taken aback.
    »We almost never found corpses in the attacked vil­lages«, Can reminded him. »And… why would the Duke need actual prisoners?«
    Thinking about it, the stranger’s revelation made perfect sense, Ferb had to admit. Not to mention that now he was even more glad he had not killed the darkling, an innocent person, earlier, even though that had foiled their entire plan. They would find another way to reach the Duke, he was certain of that.
    But Fern was still not convinced. »Even if she is right, which I doubt - what do you want to do? You can stop killing them, but we can’t expect the same from their side. We need to fight them, guys.«
    Baljeet cleared his throat, and all eyes were on him. Ferb was especially interested in his words; the Indian boy was known for his scientific views on things. »I am with the majority«, he declared. »We need to stop killing the darklings unless absolutely necessary, as killing them does not only reduce the population of this world, but that of ours as well.«
    Buford nodded at that - and if he agreed with Baljeet, that had to mean something. »The nerd’s right. He told me all about that earlier. The thing is: both dimen­sions have a certain amount of energy, and to stop some­one’s death from making that physics stuff go crazy, it’s always both versions of that person that die. Somehow.« He shrugged. »At least that’s what the nerd said.«
    »Is my dad still there in your world?«, Bue asked his counterpart.
    »You bet!«, Buford grinned, and that settled it for Bue.
    »Then we’re not gonna kill anyone!«, the boy declared. »Especially not my dad.«
    And Ferb believed to see how Buford suddenly started to like his not-as-intimidating counterpart.
    »Looks like your group’s turning against you«, the mysterious girl said to Fern, seeming to enjoy that.
    »Just leave us already.« Fern was visibly fed up with her.
    »Wait«, Phineas put in. »Can’t she come with us?« Was that his friendship with Isabella talking?
    »No, thanks«, the girl declined, much to the redhead’s surprise. But Ferb had already quite expected that. »I’ve got nothing to do with the resistance. And the Duke’s no threat to me; I’m not gonna get myself in serious trouble just because you don’t have a good enough plan.«
    Well, they couldn’t force her.
    Fern just nodded. »You’ve heard her, guys. Let’s move.« And, to the girl, in a dry tone, »It was a pleasure.«
    She replied equally dryly, »Likewise.« Just as Fern had turned around to leave, she added: »Nice sword, by the way.«
    Fern froze for one short moment, then quickly sheathed his weapon. Without another word, he led the group away from the girl. But when Ferb turned his head to give her one last glance, she was gone.
    As they walked, the stranger was still on Ferb’s mind, and he supposed it was the same for most of the others. Who was she? What did she have against the resistance? It was more than the fact that they killed the darklings, surely. But he also thought about those beasts, and that was when it hit him. The fourth line of Ivan’s prophe­cy. ‘Creatures given blackened hearts’ . Had Ivan known about this all along? And if so, what else did he know about the prophecy’s outcome? Did he know which of the brothers would die? If Baljeet is right, my death would cause Fern’s as well.
    Ferb saw how Phineas started talking to Baljeet and Buford, so he took bigger steps in order to understand what they were saying.
    »Baljeet, you said something about an ‘earlier incident’ that gave Buford’s dad more information about this world. What was that about?«, Phineas was asking them at the moment.
    Buford and Baljeet exchanged a quick glance before the latter gave Phineas an answer. »Well… ten years ago, there was a teleporter similar to yours in your backyard. Mr. Van Stomm had been responsible for the program­ming -«, Buford was looking quite proud as Baljeet said that, »- and… your father went through the portal and never came back.«
    »We’re here to look for him, by the way«, Buford added.
    Wait, Phineas’ father was here? His actual biological father?
    »So it is true!«, the redhead exclaimed. »Some guy from this world already told me. The Duke’s got him.«
    Was that what Ivan had been telling his brother earlier? That only supported Ferb’s belief that the blind boy seemed to know a lot of things he was not telling every­body.
    »As a darkling?«, Baljeet asked, that possibility horri­fying him.
    Phineas shook his head. »I don’t think so. He’s too… special for that.«
    Ferb slowed down again, he had heard enough. He could not believe his brother had been hiding such an im­portant thing from him, and more importantly… it was always about Phineas. Ferb had gotten used to his brother always being the one in the spotlight; it was true that he did not actually want to be the center of attention. But still, he hardly ever received any kind of recognition compared to Phineas, and in his opinion, that really was not too much to ask for. Of course, he was happy for his brother, now that he knew his actual father was out here somewhere.
    But Ferb still could not help thinking that it should have been his missing parent for once.
    The terrain ascended and trees became scarce, reveal­ing a huge hill in front of the group. But what made Bu­ford’s jaw drop and Ferb whistle in admiration was the castle situated on top of it. It was enormous, but not too pretentious. The building, made of gray stone with a hint of rust, looked truly medieval, with several towers and all the other things Ferb remembered from his books. However, he did not spot a flag or any other kind of movement on the walls.
    »Firestone Castle«, Can announced. »That’s where we’re going.«
    »But how?«, Bal wondered. »There are almost no places to hide here, the Duke will certainly see us com­ing.«
    »It’s not like he doesn’t know that we’re coming al­ready«, Fern commented, and Ferb sighed in silence. He knew that, to some extent, it was his fault that the Duke was aware of their arrival, but how had he been supposed to kill a wolf with his bare hands, anyway?
    »There should be some kind of road for carriages and other vehicles to reach the castle«, Baljeet considered.
    »That’s like handing ourselves to that guy on a silver platter«, Buford argued, and Ferb nodded at that. That would be extremely foolish, especially considering there was no such thing as a carriage to hide in and whatnot. They would be the only living things on that road, and that was more than just a problem. It was certain death.
    »I know about some secret tunnels inside the hill«, Fern proposed. »They’ll lead us straight to the castle, and the Duke won’t know what’s hit him.«
    Ferb was not the only one to raise an eyebrow at that: Baljeet and Bal did the same and their faces looked al­most identical doing so.
    »Yeah, how’d you know?«, the generally skeptical Bu­ford questioned him.
    »I’ve been here before«, Fern shrugged and led them to the entrance of what really seemed to be a tunnel. »It’s been a few years, but Can and I’ve used these tunnels from time to time.«
    »Well, that’s enough of a reason to me!«, Phineas stat­ed, going after Fern. »And it’s definitely better than the obvious way.«
    Ferb still found it a bit suspicious, but his brother was right about the latter part. Maybe these tunnels were se­cret enough for the Duke not to know about them.


    They were not.
    The small but bright flashlight in the pocket knife Ferb had given to Phineas was their only light source, and af­ter some turns, the tunnel led into a wide intersection, with more than five other corridors parting from it. While Fern attempted to determine the right way to the castle, growls came from just about every direction, and it was then that they all knew they had a pretty big problem.
    Soon, the area was full of darklings, more than the six from earlier, and Ferb and the others that could drew their weapons.
    »Looks like the Duke’s been using this place as a dark­ling lair«, Can commented.
    »How was I supposed to know? It wasn’t like that back then, you know that as well as I do«, Fern replied, then concentrated on the rest of his group again. »Alright, ev­eryone. If you really think that girl was right, only kill these beasts if necessary. But they won’t be that merciful to you, so be careful.«
    And then they attacked.
    Once again, the group formed a circle, but that soon proved useless against such a number of enemies.
    »We need to retreat«, Bal spoke up, trying to stab a darkling with an arrow, considering he had no other way to defend himself.
    Upon realizing there weren’t any darklings coming from the entrance, Fern agreed. »You’ve heard him. Phineas, you and the others get back out as fast as possi­ble. Can, Ferb, and I will make sure you don’t get harmed.«
    Ferb walked backwards as he did what Fern had in­structed, and every time he injured a darkling with his sword, he thought about the person behind this beast. However, soon enough, there were more darklings coming at them than he could keep off, but he didn’t dare to turn back and check on the progress of his brother. From the corner of his eye, Ferb saw that Can and Fern were struggling with similar problems; they would soon stand not even the slightest chance against the wolves anymore. The green stone on his look-alike's sword shimmered in the flashlight's light, and only now did Ferb actually notice the blade's fancy design. How had Fern come into the possession of this weapon? That really was no ordinary sword.
    While thinking about the weapon, Ferb was still highly alert, yet he fell for the same trick as before. Trying to fight off a darkling, another one at­tacked his arm, and he dropped his sword. The first dark­ling leaped at him, causing him to fall backwards. The beast pinned him to the ground, not giving him a chance to pinch it, and showed its sharp teeth. Fern and Can were too busy to help him, yet he could hear someone shouting his name… but there was nothing anyone could do to save him. The darkling would just kill him with a bite in the neck, swiftly and almost completely painless. Not as heroic as he had always dreamed his life would end, but if it distracted the darklings long enough for his friends to escape, it was enough for him.
    The darkling lowered its head now, and just for one short moment, their eyes met.
    For one short moment, time seemed to stand still.
    The darkling’s eyes were a dark blue with a hint of gray, like the sea on a stormy night. They turned from ag­gressive into completely perplexed, but with a softness and peacefulness that even made Ferb forget about his surroundings for a moment. He knew these eyes. He knew this person.
    And this person knew him.
    The moment passed as quickly as it had come when the dark­ling let go of him. He was in no state to move, taken aback by his realization. And then, the darkling howled. From one moment to the next, all other wolves in the room froze and looked at it, just like what the chihuahua had done to them earlier.
    »Quick, everyone, let’s get out of here!«, Ferb heard his counterpart from this world say, but he still stared at the darkling he was so familiar with.
    Can blocked his view. »Ferb, are you alright? What are you waiting for?« Still, he did not move, nor did he man­age to say anything. There was no way this was possible, and yet… he was absolutely convinced that it was. He heard Can sighing in frustration, and then he felt a pain on the back of his head and everything went black.


    When he opened his eyes again, he was lying on the ground, and everyone was staring at him - worried or frustrated, or sometimes both. He was outside once more, by the looks of it, and tried to remember what had hap­pened.
    And then he did. Her eyes. How she had looked at him. How she had saved them all.
    »Where is she?« Ferb was wide awake again. He need­ed to find her, and he saw that Phineas and the others were surprised by the urgency in his voice. The greenhead sat up. Maybe she had followed them outside?
    But she was not there.
    »Please. Where is she?«, he repeat­ed.
    »I just had to save your life«, Can reminded him, an­noyed. »What were you thinking? There were darklings all around you, and you were lying there as if there was no danger at all!«
    Fern nodded. »I don’t like the way you were staring at that darkling. Whoever you think you saw there, that’s nonsense. I can’t let you endanger our mission, Ferb. Forget about it.«
    »Oh, give him a break, would you?«
    Ferb blinked. He had not expected to see Isabella’s look-alike again this soon. And neither had the others, it seemed. But there she was; she must have been sneaking up on them. She had brought her dog as well, and now, the girl walked over to Ferb.
    »Ferb, is it?« He nodded. Her next question was sim­ple, and there was no mocking tone in her voice at all. »Who did you see?«
    At least she would believe him. He was not so sure about the others, not even Phineas or the other people from his world. But Ferb knew he was right; she had been there. Even though he had no idea how that was possible. He took a breath, only to continue with utter confidence.
    »My mother.«
    The group fell silent. They all seemed to realize that this was not a topic to joke about, and especially his friends from Danville had every reason to be shocked: nobody had ever mentioned this woman at all, neither Lawrence nor Ferb himself. And even if they had asked, the boy wouldn't have told them a thing. He had some secrets, sure, but his mother was an entirely different topic. Often thought about, but never spoken of. For good reason...
    »That’s impossible«, Fern declared at last.
    Both girls shot him a warning glance.
    He rolled his eyes. »Even if it’s true that the darklings are people...«, he continued, »...it’s still not possible.«
    »And why not?«, Isabella’s look-alike asked.
    »Because my mother died ages ago. Ferb’s can’t be alive - unless Baljeet is wrong with his double death hy­pothesis.«
    »There are always exceptions to the rule«, the Indian boy spoke up, but his voice gave his sudden doubts about Ferb away.
    The mysterious girl frowned. »Tell me again what hap­pened.« She was talking to nobody in particular, so Fern took care of that.
    »We were using the hill’s tunnels to reach the castle, but then the darklings trapped us in there. They outnum­bered us, and one of them was about to kill Ferb when it suddenly let go of him and howled, which made the other darklings freeze. Ferb wasn’t moving, so Can took care of getting him out, and the darklings didn’t follow us back out­side.«
    »Ferb is right«, the girl immediately stated with confi­dence. »She recognized him and saved your lives… but it must really take an immense emotional bond for that to happen, I never thought they could do that. I mean, I’ve been able to recognize some of them, but the other way around… never mind.« She realized she had said too much, and Ferb understood. Like everyone else, she must have lost someone to the Duke. He remembered her re­mark from earlier: »I’ve seen with my own eyes how the Duke creates the darklings.« That thought terrified him so much that he quickly let go of it.
    »And yet, you are not coming with us.« That was Bal. More of a statement than a question.
    »What?«
    »You have lost somebody to the Duke, you just said so yourself. We all did - but what makes you not want to save them, now that you have the chance?« A good point, Ferb had to admit.
    She hesitated. »It’s not like I don’t want to save them. Just not with you
    »What’s wrong with us?«, Bue asked, slightly upset about that.
    The girl glared at Fern as she spoke. »The resistance is full of cowards I don’t want anything to do with«, she de­clared. »Your people could have saved my friends when we were trying to escape, but they ran away as soon as they saw a single darkling. Don’t make me go into detail, it wasn’t pretty.«
    The resistance’s leader broke the silence that had re­sulted. »The way I see it, you’re more of a coward than any of us.« His voice was strangely bitter, as if she had made him remember something he had been pushing aside for a while.
    And to Ferb’s surprise, Phineas agreed with him. »He’s right. I mean, we’re not particularly strong, or numerous; we’re just a bunch of kids. But kids that already made the impossible real so many times, even those of you that weren’t there when we built things in our backyard. We’ve made it this far, and we are going to win this bat­tle. The darklings just gave us something even more worth fighting for than just freedom, and no matter what happens, we’re not going to give up. The only coward I see when I look at you all is a girl who has the opportuni­ty to be a part of something amazing, yet doesn’t believe in us. But I believe we can do it, and I know you guys are with me on that.« He looked at the girl that had been watching him the entire time. »And you should believe in us too.«
    She sighed. »You’re really convinced you can do it, aren’t you.«
    Phineas nodded, and Ferb joined in, as well as some of the others.
    »...fine. We’ll come with you. If that makes you hap­py.«
    »Welcome to the group, then.« Fern did not look abso­lutely satisfied with this turn of events, but he had to get used to it now. »What’s your name, anyway?«
    »Call me Is-«
    »-hmael?«, Ferb suggested, only to gain bewildered looks from her and the rest of his group. Only Phineas seemed to have gotten the joke and grinned.
    »Izzy«, she corrected him. »Just call me Izzy.« She nodded at her dog. »And that’s Brain.«
    They introduced themselves to her as well, but she did not seem to care much about that. She probably just wanted to get this entire journey over with.
    When they were done with that, Fern asked a question. »Alright, everyone. What now?« Of course, they could investigate the tunnels again. Brain would keep the dark­lings away, and they would be able to actually reach the castle. Personally, Ferb wanted nothing more than to search for the darkling that was his mother, his actual mother… it had been so many years, but to this day, he had always missed her. After all, he had actual memories of her...
    A third option revealed itself when somebody groaned in pain. The somebody on Buford’s back.
    Bue reacted immediately. »He’s waking up!«, he ex­claimed. »Guys, put him down.«
    Baljeet and Ferb helped Buford do exactly that, but then Bue shooed them a couple of steps away. After all, he did not want the boy to freak out upon seeing so many people he did not know.
    Ferb was still able to see what was happening: Finn was waking up indeed. Slowly, he opened his one re­maining eye, and as soon as he saw unfamiliar faces, he widened it, trying to use his arms to escape the strangers by moving backwards. It was only then that he noticed that he only had one arm left, and upon realizing that, Finn started shaking. »Please don’t hurt me«, his entire body seemed to say, and he was absolutely terrified.
    »Hey!«, Bue greeted him, keeping his voice relatively low in order not to scare Finn even more.
    The boy flinched, but did nothing else.
    »We don’t mean you any harm«, Bue continued. »Your name is Finn, right?«
    Finn nodded slowly, and Bue kept his well-meaning smile.
    »How do you feel?«
    Now, Finn stared at him perplexedly, as if he had not understood the question, and that seemed to make him even more afraid. Was he scared of talking, or of not be­ing able to give a reply? Or both?
    »Let me try«, Can proposed, her voice dry but confi­dent. He was her own brother, after all. And Bue let her. »Finn«, she said to her brother, »You were injured by darklings.« He flinched again as she said that, and they took that as confirmation. »Why did that happen?«
    »I-I…«, he finally replied, his voice shaking. He sound­ed just like Phineas, but so much more… hopeless. »I… I a-angered the M-master, I…« But that was all Finn said. He stopped after that, lowering his head, as if waiting for somebody to punish him.
    Can gulped, and it was easy for Ferb to imag­ine how this must be like for her. He was actually quite certain it was not that different from the emotions he now felt. Pity. Anger towards the Duke. »Your Master«, she repeated, and Finn nodded with his head still low. »Tell me more about him.« She was scared of the answer, and so was Ferb.
    »Do you think that is a good idea?«, Bal asked her.
    »I just… I need to know what happened«, Can nodded, then awaited Finn’s reply.
    »I-I serve him«, the boy stammered, still afraid. More of the Duke than of them, Ferb knew. »I always d-did. He saved my l-life and… and fed me and trained me and I did what he said because if not then he’d p-punish me and not give me food and hurt me and he wanted me to obey so I did and then I did not and then he did this and… and…«
    »Why didn’t you defend yourself?«, Buford interrupted him. »You’ve got a dagger, don’t you?«
    Finn’s words were a mere whisper now. »I-I deserved it… I disobeyed, I needed p-punishment.«
    »Nobody deserves something like this«, Can argued. »Especially not you. Whatever he told you is nonsense, alright? He did not save you, he took you from your fami­ly when you were little. And all the things he did to you… they aren’t justified just because you did some­thing he did not want you to. He wronged you, Finn. I know it’s hard, and I know that you still need to process everything, but we don’t have much time. The Duke has done horrible things to many people, and even though he might have told you otherwise, I know that deep inside, you know it’s true. We’re here to put an end to his reign, and you are welcome to join us.« Can’s emotions had overwhelmed her, and it was the big sister in her talking. But Ferb knew she was right, and the others did as well. But what about Finn?
    There was a short silence as the boy thought about her words. »They told me«, he eventually said. »That… that he’s b-bad…«
    »Who?«, Can asked, but it was Izzy who answered her.
    »The darklings, of course. After all, he can talk to them.«
    Finn nodded, and to Ferb, it seemed like he began to realize that he really had nothing to fear from their group. They must be a welcome change in his life that had been ruled over by his tyrannic master. »T-they remember things«, he assured them. »B-but they are scared of the M-master, like m-me, because he p-punishes them if they don’t fight…«
    That made Ferb widen his eyes. If the Duke had found out about what a certain darkling had done earlier… »I need to find one of them«, he declared.
    Fern shook his head. »Oh no. You’re not going back in there. Not now. And especially not with him.« There was more than strictness in his voice: the last sentence included a tinge of panic. Was he that worried about Finn leading them into a trap?
    »It is too dangerous«, Bal agreed. Neither he nor anyone else seemed to have noticed Fern's sudden emotion. »And if you were mistaken -«
    »I’ll come with you«, Izzy interrupted him. »Even if they don’t believe you, I do. And with Brain, you’ve got nothing to fear in there.« Fern sighed at that, Ferb noticed.
    »I’m with you too.« That was Buford. He had always been loyal to Ferb. »I know you’d do the same for me, dude. I’m not leaving you hanging.«
    And so, Ferb turned to Finn again. He was glad there were people actually believing in him and wanting to help him in such a dangerous situation, but he wondered why Phineas had not spoken up. Did he want to give Ferb the spotlight for once? Was he aware of the threats lurk­ing in the tunnels and his own helplessness regarding that? Or did he have other plans altogether? Whatever it was, it was his brother’s choice. Just like it was Finn’s choice now. »Can you help us?«
    The boy nodded, albeit hesitantly. »I… I can find a specific d-darkling, yes.«
    »And do you want to?« With the little free will he must have had his entire life, it was best to introduce him to that concept now.
    »We’ll make sure you stay out of trouble!«, Buford added. »I mean, what are friends for?«
    »What… what are… f-friends?«, Finn asked. He still seemed to be reluctant when it came to asking questions. The Duke had most likely not approved of those.
    »Someone who’s there for you, no matter what hap­pens«, Buford explained, and he looked at Baljeet as he said that. »Someone who doesn’t really mean it when they get mad at you.«
    »Someone who won’t punish you for anything«, Can put in.
    »And you… you are my... f-friends?«
    Ferb nodded, and so did Buford and Can, and almost everyone else. Even Fern gave in, and when Izzy noticed that she was the only one but Bal not doing so, she managed to crack a smile and nodded as well. It was hard for her, Ferb knew, and he shot her a thankful glance. She looked away as soon as she saw that.
    »...okay«, Finn said, and Ferb believed to hear a hint of his own brother’s usual tone in the boy’s voice. Happi­ness. Hope. »I’ll do it.«
    Ferb genuinely smiled at him now. He was eternally grateful for Finn’s reply - he was so close to finding his long-lost mother now… she was near, and their new companion would help him find her.
    And Finn smiled back.





  • Hallo Sheyffer,


    ich muss zugeben, ich kenne die Serie Phineas und Ferb nur vom Namen her und mich hat auch der Zeichenstil nie besonders angesprochen. Und trotzdem habe ich versucht, hier mal reinzulesen, weil du die Geschichte ja mit sehr viel Begeisterung schreibst und das noch dazu Englisch! Da ich also keinerlei Wissen über die Serie habe, kann ich auch nicht beurteilen, wie gut die Charaktere umgesetzt sind (nachdem du das für Freunde schreibst, dürfte es aber schon gut passen) oder welche Anspielungen versteckt sind. Einige benennst du ja auch, bei anderen habe ich zumindest das Gefühl, dass da mehr dahinter sein könnte.


    Aber ich komme am besten mal zum Inhalt, denn den hast du ziemlich gut vermittelt, sodass ich selbst als Nichtkenner mit der Welt und den Charakteren vertraut gemacht werde, was auf jeden Fall schon mal ein gutes Zeichen ist. Dass du so viele neue Charaktere bereits zu Beginn vorgestellt hast, war wohl etwas suboptimal, da man sich an diese und ihre Namen erst gewöhnen musste. Gemeinsam mit den anderen Charakteren ergibt das natürlich einen bunten Haufen, auf den du mit der Zeit aber ausreichend eingegangen bist. Insofern war die Charakterentwicklung und auch die -vorstellung gut, mit anfänglichen Schwierigkeiten beim Cast.
    Es hat auf jeden Fall geholfen zu wissen, dass es sich dabei um eine Art Doppelgänger eines jeden einzelnen handelt und diese in ihr Gegenteil gesteckt wurden. Was mich schon einmal zu dem Punkt bringt, dass keiner von ihnen mit solch abstrusen Dingen wie einem Weltenwechsel geschockt ist, sondern dass das wohl zum Normalzustand der Serie gehört und das finde ich doch ziemlich bemerkenswert. Zumindest sind sie, trotz der ankriechenden Schatten, abgehärtet und können auch in fast aussichtslosen Situationen noch einen Lichtblick entdecken. Auch hier spielst du mit den Eindrücken und Informationen und ich mag es, wie sich der Plot langsam aufbaut und die Geheimnisse entwirren. Und das macht ja eigentlich auch eine gute Geschichte aus.


    Insofern, dafür, dass ich die Serie nicht kenne, hast du jetzt auf jeden Fall einmal mein Interesse gefangen und ich bin gespannt, wie es weitergehen wird. In diesem Sinn, wir lesen uns!

  • - 11 -
    Arthur





    When they eventually set out, Buford looked at his best friend, Baljeet.
    »You sure you don’t want to come?«, he asked. He was actually quite upset about that - the bully enjoyed his friend’s company more than he liked to admit.
    »I… do not want to be in the way«, the nerd replied, and Buford felt anger coming up from inside himself. He knew Baljeet had other reasons: it was incredibly like­ly he didn’t actually believe Ferb, something Buford couldn’t understand. Ferb had always been a very reliable person, and if he said he had seen his mother, it was true. The bully had thought that especially after what Baljeet had learned about the Van Stomm family, he would be more trusting in such matters… but apparently not.
    »Fine!«, Buford then exclaimed in frustration, but de­cided to leave it at that. This wasn’t about him and Bal­jeet, this was about Ferb and his mother. And Finn.
    So Buford turned to the boy who was currently at­tempting to stand up with Can’s help. He was still quite wobbly on his feet, understandably, and he had to get used to missing one arm and eye. »Need a ride?«, Buford offered. »I’ve been carrying you around all day, I’ll do it some more.«
    But Finn declined. »I… I can walk.« He tried to, failed to keep his balance, and would have fallen to the ground if Can had not grabbed him quickly enough. »I can«, he insisted, in a voice so determined that it reminded Buford of Phineas.
    And said dinner bell supported him now. »He can do it«, the redhead nodded with a motivational smile. »Just take your time and help him a bit, I’m absolutely sure he’ll figure it out!«
    »Carry him if you’re losing too much time«, Fern added, and that wasn't just an order, but a request. Someone here cared a lot more about Finn than they let on about.
    Still, Buford only shrugged at that. He’d help his new friend if he really couldn’t walk another step, but other­wise there was no reason to if Finn wanted to do it by himself. Although, frankly, he had enjoyed carrying that boy around.
    Now that they were leaving, Buford already started missing the extra weight on his back. He was the last one in line, directly behind Finn in case the boy needed help. Brain, the chihuahua, was running among their group, not really seeming to care about anything. He was a dog, af­ter all. His owner Izzy was walking right next to Finn, helping him keep his balance and supporting him if he needed it. Looked like she was becoming social after all. Or was she only helping Finn to make up for not having helped her friends when they got turned into darklings? An honorable cause, in that case. Or maybe she's just crushing on him. Like she does in our world.
    Finn was actually doing quite well in spite of tilting a bit to the right, where he had more weight to carry than on his injured side. He was not asking for any help at all, and apologized every time Izzy had to assist him. She always reminded him that saying sorry wasn’t necessary, and then he apologized for exactly that.
    And so it continued until it got on Buford’s nerves. So he attempted to distract everyone by, well. Talking.
    »Am I the only one finding it pretty suspicious that Fern knows about these tunnels?«, he wondered just as soon as they entered that very place. He assumed that Finn would only start looking for Ferb’s mom when they had reached the crossroads from earlier.
    »I wouldn’t think about that too much, honestly«, Izzy shrugged, but her voice clearly revealed how she wasn’t too fond of the resistance’s leader. »I don’t get him ei­ther. He’s probably just trying to get you to like him, re­ally. It doesn’t look like he’s being a great leader to me.«
    «Leaders are never appreciated or needed until you don't have them«, Ferb commented from the front. Carry­ing the pocket knife that was also a flashlight, he was leading the way in the search for his mother, and he had not said much of a word since leaving the rest of the group. Even less than usual, that is. What had existed un­til this sentence was a silence unnatural to Ferb: not wise and knowing, but tense. And Buford couldn’t blame him in this situation, really. Had his mother been turned into a monster by a mad sorcerer… he’d so be punching the heck out of him.
    »That’s all well and good«, Izzy replied. »But if you ask me, Fern’s lacking a whole lot of leadership quali­ties.«
    »Like what?«, Buford asked. He had always enjoyed gossiping.
    »Like all the stuff his sister’s got. She knows what she’s doing, he doesn’t.«
    »And yet he is the leader.« The subliminal message was clear. Ferb actually supported his look-alike’s role and seemed to be bothered about them talking badly about him.
    »Yeah, we get it, you’re on his side because he’s basi­cally you«, Buford countered. »But you’ve got to admit that he isn’t all that great.«
    »That’s not what I meant«, Ferb replied unusually sharply, leaving even Buford stunned. But the greenhead was not able to explain himself - because their group had reached the crossing by now. And Finn, who had kept out of the conversation until now, spoke up.
    »...is it my turn?«
    »Looks like it«, Buford nodded, but he was definitely not done with the discussion yet. He’d continue as soon as this thing here was solved. »Go on, impress me.«
    Finn flinched at that - had it reminded him of the Duke? That’s not what Buford had wanted to happen… oh well, better keep silent before making it worse.
    »What do you need to find her?«, Izzy asked Finn, dis­tracting the boy from his memories.
    Finn thought about that for a moment. »A name.«
    And Ferb did not hesitate at all. »Melody«, he said with the voice of someone that had not spoken this very name for a long, long time. »Melody Fletcher.«
    That had a nice ring to it, Buford thought. If his mother was as great as Ferb made her seem, he’d definitely enjoy her company. Then again, she was a dog at this point, so they probably wouldn’t be having much actual interaction. He couldn’t talk to animals, after all.
    Finn could, though, for whatever bizarre reason, and he was making use of that now. What came out of his mouth were completely inhuman growls, and whatever he was saying with that, he seemed happy doing so. From what Buford could tell, Finn was not stuttering at all, or afraid of anyone’s reactions. Maybe he’s a werewolf, the bully thought. If I were one, I’d be talking to dogs all day, too.
    The group went completely silent as everyone was waiting for something to happen. Finn’s growls echoed through the tunnels, causing Izzy to wonder whether the Duke would notice that.
    But Buford just shrugged. »Even if, he already knows about us anyway.«
    Finn shook his head at that, and Izzy had to support him once again since that had made him lose his balance. »The M-master doesn’t understand them«, he explained. »And they don’t g-get him… he needs me to communi­cate with the darklings.«
    Well, that sure made things easier. »Fern’s gonna love that news«, Buford grinned - but nobody was paying any attention to him. Instead, everyone was watching Izzy’s dog Brain, who was perking up his large ears be­fore running off into one of the dark tunnels.
    Buford was about to ask whether someone should go after him, but Izzy beat him to it. »He heard a darkling.«
    Finn nodded. »...it’s her.«
    The bully looked at Ferb. He was completely tense now, mentally preparing himself for meeting that beast. His mother.
    Brain came back several moments later, constantly turning back while waiting for the creature behind him to catch up. And then, the darkling emerged from the shad­ows.
    It looked like any other darkling Buford had seen be­fore: tall, dark… and strangely, for once, not at all terri­fying. There was a warmth in its eyes that the other beasts had lacked; the knowledge that someone it had known as a human was there. It was limping, too - the Duke must have punished this darkling indeed. And now, it - no, she - had come to a halt, eyeing the group with a hint of suspicion, but then, her eyes rested on Ferb. For a moment similar to the one not too long ago, they were staring at each other, but this time, without the distur­bance of a battle around them. The darkling let out a sin­gle, short growl, wistfulness in the sound.
    Buford didn’t want to break this kind of magical si­lence, so he just shot a glance at Finn - who was already working out the translation. He seemed confused, as if he had understood something, but without knowing what it meant.
    »What…«, Izzy began, whispering.
    And Finn, equally in awe, replied with one single word; the translation of what he had heard.
    »Arthur.«
    »I think she’s mistaking him for someone else«, Buford commented at that, but Izzy shook her head as she nod­ded at Ferb.
    He was breaking out in tears.
    Neither Buford nor Izzy knew what to say or do, and so they merely watched Ferb as he stormed over to the dark­ling and hugged her, burying his face in her fur. It was an odd sight, knowing that this beast was actually his human mother, and yet, it was incredibly beautiful. Even Buford noticed a tear or two appearing on his face, but he quickly wiped them away.
    It looked like Finn was having trouble deciding whether or not he should translate the most recent growls, and it was then that Buford realized how new this must be for him: actual affection between people, some­thing the Duke had always kept from him. »...I love you«, the boy eventually whispered, but with an uncertainty that revealed that he really did not know what that meant - other than being something incredibly positive.
    And Buford genuinely smiled at the scene playing out in front of them. »Dude, I think Ferb already knows.«


    They watched the interaction between Ferb and his mother for some more moments, before the boy eventual­ly let go of her. »We should return to the others«, he de­cided, having regained his voice. Ferb still sounded over­whelmed, but he had every reason to.
    When they walked back through the tunnel they had come from, it was Izzy leading the way now. Buford was still walking behind everyone else as he watched the inter­action between those in front of him: this time, it was Ferb’s mother, Melody, helping Finn keep his balance. They were both letting out growls almost the entire time, and even Brain joined in. Finn seemed much more confi­dent by now, leaving Buford to wonder what he was talk­ing about with the two canines. Meanwhile, Ferb was walking on his mother’s other side, observing her injured right front leg and making sure she was well. Buford was getting bored again, but he didn’t want to interrupt the conversation between Finn and the dogs, so he more or less carefully made his way through all the way to Izzy.
    »So, what’s up?«
    She seemed surprised about someone wanting to talk to her. »Nothing.«
    Yeah, okay. They really were just walking. He nodded at Ferb’s flashlight-knife Izzy was carrying to lead the way. »Well, what do you think of that? Pretty sweet tech­nology, huh?«
    »I guess so. But it’s not gonna defeat the Duke’s mag­ic, is it?«
    Buford shrugged. »Dinner bell’s gonna find a way for that to happen, you’ll see! He’s done lots of great stuff.«
    »Well, consider me impressed if he actually manages to save us all.«
    The bully snorted. »In our dimension, he wouldn’t need to do that to impress you.«
    Izzy raised an eyebrow. »What’s that supposed to mean?«
    »Well, the You from our world’s seriously crushing on him. Has been doing that all summer long. And he doesn’t have a clue. Everyone knows, buuut we’re not gonna tell him, that’s ruining the fun.«
    »I guess he’s a nice guy. But he’s not my type, really.«
    »And who is?«, Buford grinned.
    »That’s none of - look, we’re almost there.«
    Buford wanted to continue their conversation, but Izzy was right. They had reached the tunnel’s exit and would meet the others pretty soon. The girl turned the flashlight off, thrust it into the bully’s hand, and sped up. Mo­ments afterward, he could hear her announcing their re­turn to the rest of the group. All he did was following her, completely baffled, and he shrugged when Ferb shot him a questioning glance. Why was everyone always as­suming things were his fault? Admittedly, they usually were, but still. He found it pretty unfair.
    »So… that really is his mother?«, Baljeet still sounded skeptical as the darkling came into view. She seemed wary around the strangers, but much less than when she had met the others.
    Ferb nodded, and Bue spotted her injury immediately.
    »I’ll take care of that«, he offered, and Ferb looked quite unsure. Wrongly, Buford thought.
    So he supported his look-alike. »Come on. He won’t harm her, you know that.«
    Still reluctant, Ferb nodded at last. Finn told the dark­ling in her tongue what was going on, and unlike her son, Melody did not refuse as Bue approached and touched her to take a look at her leg. When he put pressure on a certain spot, she winced and snarled, causing Ferb to shoot her and Bue a worried glance and even attempt to stop him. So Buford decided to hold his friend back be­fore things escalated. »Relax, man. She’ll be fine, okay?«
    »It’s nothing«, Phineas agreed, then looked at his friends from Danville in a bit of confusion. »...do you think I should, I don’t know… introduce myself? I mean, I’m his brother, I should probably…«
    But Buford shook his head. »She’s not gonna under­stand you unless Finn translates it. And I don’t think you want to bother him with complicated family stuff right now.«
    The redhead seemed to accept that reply and turned to Finn. »Can you tell her we’re friends, at least?«
    Finn responded with a growl, to which Melody replied, and they took that as a yes.
    »Anyway«, Fern declared. »We’ve lost some time, but if we head off now, we can still be done with this by sun­down.«
    Bue shook his head. »I've almost finished«, he stated as he bandaged Melody’s leg. »It’s not broken, but giving her a little rest would help a lot.«
    »Finn is exhausted as well«, Izzy added, and beat the boy to it when he wanted to say something. »Maybe ex­haustion has never been a valid reason for the Duke to stop you from doing things, but it’s definitely a good one here. And it’s not like we’re in much of a hurry.«
    That visibly frustrated Fern. »Of course we are. And I’d like some rest too, but I’m not getting it either. We’ve got a world to save, and as your leader, I’m the decision maker here. And if I say we’re leaving now, we are. Is that clear?«
    Baljeet cleared his throat just as Buford wanted to start an argument with Ferb’s annoying look-alike. »Perhaps they are right. It seems to be strategically favorable for us to leave, instead of having finished this, at sundown, aside from the factor of exhaustion that should not be ig­nored either.« Having gained everyone’s attention by this surprising suggestion, he continued: »If we depart at sun­down, we will reach the castle during the night, and should be able to defeat the Duke in his sleep, provided he does sleep at night.«
    Finn nodded at that, and Bal approved as well. »That could work. With our canine companions, the darklings should be no threat to us, and the Duke will not expect us to strike in the middle of the night.« He looked at Fern, his respected leader. »I agree to his plan, it might give us an advantage.«
    »I’m with the smartasses«, Buford joined in. As much as he wanted to storm the castle, he knew that a more subtle approach was a better idea.
    Everyone was waiting for Fern’s reply now. He sighed and still seemed reluctant, but eventually agreed. »Al­right. If delaying the rest of our journey helps you re­cover and gives us an advantage in battle, I’d say that we should give it a try. While we’re at it, it’s best for all of us to get some rest before the big finale. We’ll be leaving at sundown, so make sure you’re ready by then.«
    Minutes later, everyone had done as Fern had instruct­ed. Melody and Finn were fast asleep, but would be im­mediately ready if needed. The members of the resistance were gathering together, simply resting or talking about things Buford didn’t really care about. Izzy and Brain were doing who knew what, yet the bully was sure they would be back in time. If only for whomever she was crushing on… he grinned before spotting what Ferb was doing: sitting near his sleeping mother, he was writing into a small, black, and altogether unspectacular book that immediately caught Buford’s attention nevertheless. As quietly as he could, he sneaked up on Ferb from be­hind and snatched the book away from his friend.
    Ferb stared at him, his eyes open wide in ac­tual horror. That surprised Buford, and now he wasn’t so sure if he wanted to know what that book was about any­more. Maybe it was something personal? »What’s in there?«, he asked his friend, and then Ferb had suddenly gotten up and was trying to reclaim his book.
    »What’s going on?«, Phineas interrupted them. With Buford being distracted for a moment, Ferb was able to get the book back, holding it tightly with both hands.
    »He’s making a big deal out of some lame book«, Bu­ford shrugged, but was pretty happy nevertheless. Even if it had lasted for only a few seconds, he always enjoyed a good fight.
    »Did I hear ‘book’?«, Baljeet chimed in, and now ev­eryone was gathering around Ferb.
    »What’s it about?«, Phineas asked his brother, who shook his head in reply.
    »Told you«, Buford shrugged. »I bet he’s keeping a di­ary or something.« Trying to imitate Ferb’s voice, and horribly failing at that, he continued: »Dear Diary, today I met another me who’s trying to be a great leader but really sucks at that. But I’m supporting him anyway because he’s me.«
    »Shut up«, Ferb retorted, much to everyone’s surprise.
    »Whoa, hit a nerve there, huh.« Ferb’s behavior made that book even more mysterious - and interesting. »Come on, man. We’re friends! You’re only making us more cu­rious.« Knowing that wouldn’t convince him, Buford still had an ace up his figurative sleeve, for literally speaking, he was still shirtless and would continue to be that for a while. »Arthur.«
    Ferb stared at him warningly, but it was too late. »Arthur?«, Phineas asked his brother. »Is that your…«
    Ferb nodded.
    »You never told me!« Dinner bell actually sounded quite upset. At least this was going the way Buford want­ed - he had not intended to play anyone off against one another, but he wanted to know what was in this book. And if a Van Stomm wanted something, they’d get it. No matter how.
    »I’d say he’s been keeping enough secrets from us. I mean really, do we know anything about him? His whole life’s a mystery.«
    »I do not think we should force him to say anything«, Baljeet said. »He has every right to remain silent.«
    »That’s what he’s been doing his entire life«, Buford countered, crossing his arms.
    A silence resulted from that, eventually broken by Ferb himself. »He’s right.«
    »Damn right I am - wait, seriously?« He had not ex­pected Ferb to agree after his harsh (but true!) words.
    Ferb nodded. »I... do suppose it is time to shed some light on my past. People like you deserve to know.« Even people like Buford who had just said some pretty hurtful stuff? Seemed like Ferb really was quick to forgive.
    »Well, I’m all ears«, Buford grinned, letting himself slump down. The others followed his example, and Ferb started telling them.
    »It is a diary«, he began, turning his head to where his mother was sleeping. »To her.«
    »You are writing her instead of a fictional entity?«, Baljeet asked, and Ferb confirmed that.
    »Ever since she left.«
    »We’ve known each other for almost eight years«, Phineas realized. »You must have been doing that for ages!«
    »She vanished without a trace shortly before I turned four«, Ferb explained. »I used to tell her all about what I had done and experienced every day, and when she was gone…«
    »...you continued by keeping this journal«, Baljeet con­cluded.
    »And stopped talking to people because she was the only one to ever truly understand you«, Buford added as a joke, but Ferb actually nodded.
    »There was a time I hardly talked to anyone at all, but I have since warmed up quite a lot… thanks to you.« He gratefully smiled at Phineas, who returned the expres­sion.
    »You’re the best brother anyone could ever hope to have, and that’s never going to change.«
    »There is one thing I don’t get«, Buford spoke up.
    »Quantum physics?«, Baljeet suggested, and the bully shoved him in reply, causing his friend to lose his bal­ance and land on the ground.
    »Other than that. I mean, about his name. How do you get ‘Ferb’ from ‘Arthur’?«
    Ferb shrugged. »You don’t.« Thankfully, he explained it before Buford had to ask him another question. »Arthur is the name my mother gave me, after the king of the same name.«
    »Which explains why you love that story so much«, Phineas laughed.
    »So then what?«, Buford prodded his green-haired friend.
    »My father thought it to be a name of bad connotation, considering the tragedy and misery attached to it. So it became my middle name instead.«
    »And he named you Ferb«, Buford concluded.
    »Not exactly. He named me Ferdinand.«
    That made Buford laugh. »Ja, dürfen s’ denn des
    Ferb sighed. »That’s exactly why I’m going by Ferb.«
    »What did you just tell him?«, Phineas asked. As ex­pected, nobody but the Europeans of the group got the joke.
    Buford grinned. »Let’s just say that emperor was a pretty… odd guy.«
    And Ferb nodded. »You know my father’s humor. Naming me after a royal with several anecdotes to his name is better than after a noble and honorable king.«
    Phineas thought about that for a moment. »Ferdinand Arthur Fletcher«, he savored. »Still sounds like a great king to me.«
    »It suits you«, Baljeet added.
    »Sounds pretty snobby, actually«, Buford shrugged, and Ferb frowned. »Just kidding, man. They’re right. Also, uh… sorry about what I said earlier. And making fun of you and stuff. It probably -«, Baljeet cleared his throat, »- okay, definitely wasn’t a nice thing to say. If it helps, my dad’s stuck in prison for things he didn’t do, so I guess we’re not all that different on the matter.«
    »You are forgiven«, Ferb said, intentionally sounding as royal as possible, causing Phineas to snicker. But he did not respond to the part about Buford’s dad the bully had accidentally mentioned. »For now, I’m… just glad my mother is safe.«
    »Meeting her again after so many years...«, Baljeet re­minded them all.
    »I started building things in the hopes of finding her somehow«, Ferb explained. »She had created a lot of gad­gets and machines, I believed taking after her passions would bring me closer to her.«
    »And it was worth it«, Phineas replied. »Even without finding her… think of all the fantastic things we built!«
    »She really brought people together«, Baljeet agreed, giving Phineas an idea.
    »Do you think she knows my dad?«, he wondered. »Both of them being inventors, and stranded in this alter­nate dimension…«
    Buford nodded. »You know, dinner bell, after all I’ve learned today… if they had a relationship as close as that of you two -«
    »- none of us would be surprised«, Baljeet added, and for once, the nerd actually agreed to something the bully had said.






    @Rusalka
    Freut mich, dass es dir gefällt!^^ Joah, so viele Leute auf einmal ist oft ziemlich suboptimal, aber bei meiner derzeitigen Story gehe ich das jetzt auch etwas langsamer an.
    Und ja, dieser (fast) unbrechbare Optimismus ist eigentlich mit das Wichtigste an der Serie, vor allem Phineas hält das immer sehr lange durch - was mich tbh ab und zu nervt und deshalb mag ich ihn auch nicht wirklich, aber damit kann man in so einer Story auch viel anfangen, du darfst auf die Kapitel rund um den Höhepunkt gespannt sein ;)  
    Bezüglich Anspielungen ist die Story tatsächlich voll davon, sei es durch Running Gags oder einfach Erwähnungen von Leuten/Ereignissen^^
    Aber wie gesagt, freut mich, dass es dir so gut gefällt (Spannungsaufbau und so), das motiviert mich bezüglich meiner jetzigen und zur Veröffentlichung vorgesehenen Story doch sehr :)


    ~

  • Na Sheyffer,


    ich find's ja gut, dass du mit den Charakteren auch mal mitleidest (in Bezug auf den grenzenlosen Optimismus); das zeigt, dass da auch jeder seine Macken hat, die man während des Schreibens aber trotzdem nicht zwingend mögen muss. Die Insider werden mir zwar nach wie vor entgehen, aber das soll mal nicht so schlimm sein. Alles Wichtige führst du ja zur Gänze auf.


    In diesem Kapitel hast du ja einige sehr interessante Informationen versteckt. Zum einen findet die Gruppe Ferbs Mutter, die aber in ein Monster verwandelt wurde. Die Frage ist hier natürlich einmal, welchen Hintergrund das hat und warum sie noch dazu in dieser Paralleldimension gelandet ist. Sie scheint sich ja ihrem Aussehen und allgemein ihrem Sohn bewusst zu sein, sonst hätte sie sicherlich angegriffen. Schwierige Sache.
    Auf der anderen Seite erklärt nun Ferb unter anderem seinen Werdegang und seine Herkunft, ebenso warum er eigentlich so ruhig ist. Du sprichst im Anhang zwar davon, dass sein richtiger Name eigentlich ein anderer ist, aber so etwas fällt dann wohl schlicht und ergreifend unter Kreativität des Autoren. Vielleicht ist es auch einfach ein Zweitname, der nur nie geklärt wurde. Im Sinne der Geschichte finde ich diese Erklärung aber gelungen und stimmig, da alles in sich greift und sich auch gegenseitig stützt. Auf Basis dieses Wissens kannst du danach noch weiter aufbauen und diese Informationen weiter verwenden; wer weiß, was sich noch zusammenbraut und ob das eventuell auch auf seinen Zwilling der anderen Dimension zutrifft.
    Das Kapitel war gut geschrieben und du hast auch viel Abwechslung reingebracht. Ruhige Momente wechselten sich mit spannenden oder angespannten Situationen ab und dadurch hat sich ein gutes Ganzes ergeben.


    In diesem Sinne, wir lesen uns!

  • - 12 -
    Like Father, Like Son




    When dusk eventually set in, three more hours had passed. Three more hours that Phineas and his friends had spent collecting their strength for the events to come. Baljeet and Buford had had a lively discussion on the matter of how to defeat the Duke, with brute force or in­telligence. Ferb had continued writing into his small book, and Phineas had not wanted to disturb him, so the redhead had been left frustrated that he was not able to invent anything in this world. He was already looking forward to returning home, but now that they were this close to their destination, he was not able to ignore his quite likely fate of death anymore. Not to mention the fact that if Ferb was the one about to die instead, his mother would most likely be witnessing that very mo­ment.
    Troubled by thoughts like this, Phineas was incredibly glad that it was finally time for departing. Of course, it would bring them all closer to the threat ahead, but there was no point in delaying their departure - and any kind of occupation was a welcome distraction from worried thoughts.
    As Phineas had already expected, Fern was completely assuming control. He was visibly tense, for once not say­ing much, not even some kind of motivational speech - just a simple »Alright, let’s go« once everyone was ready. And nobody else was saying anything either; because they just wanted to get this all over with, because they didn’t want to break the silence, or because they general­ly weren’t very talkative. Ferb was one of those people, staying close to his mother as they got moving. And even though he knew he shouldn’t be, Phineas was just the slightest bit jealous again, now that Ferb had some­one more important to him than his brother. So Phineas didn’t say anything either.
    The silence lasted until the group had walked through the dark tunnels beneath the castle for quite a while and Buford noticed Baljeet’s unusually strained expression.
    »Something wrong, nerd?«
    Baljeet, much like almost everyone else, flinched as his friend’s loud voice echoed through the tunnels. »I am cogitating on the whereabouts of the darklings«, he in­formed everyone, considering Buford had completely drawn the attention to him. »We have not seen any of them, even though they are supposed to be especially ac­tive at this time of day.«
    »Good point«, Bal agreed. Phineas had already noticed during Ferb and Buford’s absence that Baljeet and his look-alike seemed to be getting along quite well, sharing interests and having had a long conversation about an en­tire span of different topics. »We should at least have heard one by now.«
    »It might be a trap«, Fern put in, coming to a halt for now. With a tone that was a little too harsh in Phineas’ opinion, he turned to Finn. »Do you know where they are?«
    »...not here«, the boy declined, his voice quiet. Fern must have scared him with his strict voice, and Can gave the green-haired boy an ungentle jab. The boy stared at her, not seeming to know what he did wrong, but then he tried again, forcefully sounding nicer.
    »Then where are they?«
    »Won't... attack«, Finn stammered, and Phineas pitied him. Fern had made him remember his unpleasant life, and none of them had any experience on how to console him. Thankfully, Izzy took over, and Finn was visibly re­lieved he was not the center of attention anymore.
    »He's right«, she nodded. »The Duke can't talk to the darklings, so they aren't as afraid of him as they used to be. And like I already said, they've always been on our side. The only one we still have to deal with is the Duke himself.«
    »Well, that is a relief«, Bal commented, and Phineas believed he heard sarcasm in his voice.
    Buford crossed his arms. «That guy's pretty dumb if he allows his only translator to change sides.«
    »Unless it is a trap«, Baljeet reminded him, and Bal nodded approvingly. They really shared a lot of opinions.
    »Finn wouldn't betray us like that«, Can countered, and Fern stopped them before things escalated.
    »What side he's on doesn't matter now. I'm leading this group, we're not going to run into a trap.«
    »Unless you're not on our side«, Buford argued. »You know an awful lot about these tunnels, man. How do you explain that, huh?«
    Fern frowned. »I already told you, I've been here be­fore, okay? I used to live in this area.«
    »There's a village on the other side of the hill«, Can nodded.
    Buford made a skeptical sound, but Phineas had enough of that. They were friends, they shouldn't be ar­guing! Especially not about things like that. »Guys! We're not here to fight. I mean... not against each other! We're a team, and we should act like one. I don't care who's leading the way as long as we get to our destination. If Fern knows which way to go, then let's follow him, alright? Finn can take over once we're in the castle. That way, everyone gets what they want.«
    His friends looked at one another, and he saw some of them nodding in approval. And Ferb was glancing amus­edly at his brother, in a »Who's the king now?« - way. Phineas blushed; he was only doing his job.
    »Thank you, Phineas. Now let's move on.« Fern was visibly bothered by the fact that Phineas was way better at solving conflicts than he was, and he quickly turned away and started walking again, so everyone had to fol­low him without time for talking.
    Once again, there was silence. This time, nobody broke it. Phineas knew that they were all incredibly nervous and irritable, even though technically, their plan was to kill the Duke in his sleep without any complications at all. But they knew that a lot of things could go wrong, and then everything would be different.
    Eventually, after some steeper ascension, they reached a dead end, and Buford scoffed. »Great job, o mighty leader.«
    Fern shot him an angry glare, then activated some kind of hidden mechanism behind an edge in the rocky forma­tion. At once, the wall swung open, and the flashlight cast its light into a corridor, far longer than the light was reaching on both the left and right side. Directly in front of them was a wall, which meant that this tunnel entrance must have been hidden in a wall as well.
    »Now how'd you know that?«, Buford asked in an at­tempted whisper that was still louder than average.
    Fern ignored him. »Your turn, Finn.« He still sounded frustrated, and now even Phineas was convinced that he was hiding something. Had he been a thief before, steal­ing things from the very castle itself? How else would he be knowing about the hidden passage?
    But Phineas didn't say anything. They most definitely had more important things to take care of. And right now, that meant following Finn, who was heading into the left direction. Can and Melody were by his side: the boy was exhausted af­ter this already long walk, and he wouldn't manage to go the remaining distance without someone supporting him. Finn still insisted on not getting carried by Buford; he wanted to prove that he could still do things on his own.
    There was an eerie silence now that they were only rooms away from the Duke, only disturbed by the sound of their steps. Fern looked like there was something on his mind, something he desperately wanted to tell every­one but couldn't for some reason. But Finn was still mak­ing his way through the dark hallways - until he stopped in front of an enormous door. Fern and Can exchanged glances, as if they knew something about this place. As if this was the completely wrong place to go. Melody seemed nervous too, and Fern looked very reluctant when he gave his approval for opening the door.
    Buford pushed it open, and it seemed to be heavy even for him. He let everyone through and closed it behind them.
    Fern let the flashlight wander across the room. It was huge; the light did not reach the other end. Slowly, he moved the light around, and there was nothing to see but an empty hall. Eventually, the light found a chair, a throne even. It wasn't empty, but occupied by a man in a dark robe, with a triangular head and a pointy nose, and long brown hair that was tied together.
    With eyes that could kill, and a wide, wicked grin, he was staring directly at them.
    Fern dropped the flashlight, and it turned off. And for one moment, it was completely dark. They were all far too shocked and scared to move or speak, and not a sin­gle sound was heard - save for the man's cackling laugh­ter echoing from the walls.
    Phineas was unable to do anything. He couldn't even see his own hand, and this man could be everywhere now. He could kill them all before they even knew he was there.
    Thankfully, this terrifying moment was quickly over. The man muttered something, and suddenly, several torches all across the room lit up. Phineas shut his eyes in the sudden brightness, but quickly adjusted himself. Now he could see the entirety of the wide and high room, deco­rated with numerous pillars, but otherwise empty - not including the man and his enormous throne.
    Albeit useless, everyone drew their weapon, Melody and Brain growled, Bal stood protectively in front of Bue, same for Buford and Baljeet - and Finn fell to his knees, lowering his head so deeply that his face almost touched the ground. His remaining eye was closed, his body shaking - partly from his fear, and partly from straining his one remaining arm. And the man spoke.
    »Well done, my boy. It pleases me to see that you have carried out my orders as instructed.« He had a high, raspy voice, but the calmness in it made him all the more terri­fying.
    Phineas gulped. They had all felt the trap on their way, and still, they had marched right into it. And Finn had known all along, without saying a word - while Izzy, who had explicitly told them of the very high probability of Finn going to betray them, had been ignored completely. But that’s what they got for that: an actual conversation with the Duke himself.
    »Let him go!«, Can yelled at the man on the throne, completely ignoring every danger. She had enough of him, and especially of seeing her own brother treated like this.
    The man did not lose his spiteful smile as he turned his head to her. And worse, he also kept his calm tone. »And why would I do that? You and I both know that he is rather… valuable.«
    »Nobody deserves to be treated this way«, Can replied; her angry and upset voice was the complete opposite of the Duke’s. »He should be with his family, where he be­longs.«
    The Duke cackled again. »Dead like his father, or gone like his mother? Or with his sister who never bothered looking for him - even though the entire time, he had al­ways been right here in these tunnels?«
    Can froze at this last comment, and Phineas could com­pletely relate. Realizing that all this time, Finn had been so close to her…
    Now that Can was still processing the Duke’s words, the man spoke to Fern. »Anyway… I must say, I am quite impressed that you actually made it. Didn’t expect you to come back here anytime soon.« Bal raised an eyebrow at that, and some others, including Phineas, agreed. Back here? Have they met before, in this very castle?
    »We have come to vanquish you, Doonkleberg. Fol­lowing a prophecy, your demise has arrived at last.« Was that the man’s actual name? So they did know each other.
    The man leaned forward. »Tell me about that prophecy of yours.«
    Fern didn’t see why not, so he complied. »It tells of two brothers from another world defeating you, and the time for that has come.«
    The Duke seemed unmoved by these words. Even slightly amused. »And where is it from?«
    »A wise and reliable member of the resistance.«
    Now, the man actually started laughing. »Oh, I see what they did there! Kid, you’ve been fooled. I mean, come on: the Great Evil destroyed when all hope is lost? And even better, by mysterious and vaguely described strangers? They made it up.«
    »He wouldn’t«, Fern replied behind clenched teeth, and the Duke shrugged.
    »I’m sure he would. We both know that you’ve done everything in your power to avoid all kinds of responsi­bility your entire life. If he knows, too, then a prophecy stating someone but you would defeat me in the end is everything you ever wanted to hear.«
    »What is he talking about?«, Bal asked his leader. Phineas knew how much he looked up to Fern, how much he trusted him… a secret was to be uncovered, and the redhead and Bal both sensed that it was something big.
    The Duke seemed to notice Bal’s relationship to Fern as well. »Did you never even tell them your name?« He sounded shocked - although it was plain to see how he had already expected it, and that he was just messing with them.
    »Nobody is forced to tell anyone their full name in the resistance«, Fern replied, determined not to reveal any­thing.
    »Balavan Tinley.« Bal’s voice was cold. Fern was keeping something from him, from all of them - and if it was this serious, it was breaking Bal’s trust.
    »Oh snap«, Buford mumbled, and all eyes were on Fern. He was still hesitating, but even Can prompted him now.
    »Just tell them already, Fern.«
    The boy eventually gave in, trying to sound confident, but actually failing at that for once. »Fernando Alexander Fleming.«
    Was that supposed to mean something? That name did not tell Phineas anything, and he saw that his friends from his own dimension were equally clueless. Unlike Bal.
    His eyes widened in horror, and to make it worse, the Duke used his powers to telekinetically turn something around: a huge canvas from behind his throne that had faced the wall until now. And looking at its now revealed front side, Phineas realized what was so special about Fern’s name.
    Because on this canvas was a portrait - of a younger Fern who was holding the same sword he still owned, but without being able to actually lift it at that age, and a man bearing a striking resemblance to Lawrence, Ferb’s father. Looking at the viewer. And dressed in royal clothes.
    Bal stared at Fern in complete disbelief. »He…«
    Phineas remembered what Bal had told him: the king that had fled the country in fear of the Duke. The king that had abandoned an entire country. The king that had made Bal lose all respect for royalty.
    »...is my father, yeah.« Fern actually sounded ashamed, but that didn’t change Bal’s thoughts.
    »I cannot believe you kept that from me!«, he yelled, his voice sounding higher than usual as he did that, just like Baljeet when he was frustrated. »You are the prince . The one that was supposed to defend the country. And what did you do? Run away, just like your father. How can I trust you now, knowing that you are one of them? You and your father, you could have prevented this from hap­pening. All of it.«
    »Oh, but so could you, Balavan.« The Duke really seemed to enjoy the argument he had ignited. And now, its feeble spark was about to turn into a mighty blaze. »Remember this?« The man revealed the necklace he was wearing: a simple cord, with a silver-blue-ish gemstone attached to it. The stone seemed to be glowing faintly, and Phineas realized this must be the source of his pow­ers.
    Bal looked at it from the distance. He was still over­whelmed by the current events, and yet again couldn’t believe his eyes. His words were forced. »...that stone be­longs to my parents.« They were merchants, Phineas re­membered. Or had been, anyway.
    »It did, once«, the Duke corrected him. »Somebody stole it from them, remember?«
    »...no«, Bal whispered. He had realized something, re­membered something, and the Duke made sure that ev­eryone else knew about it as well.
    »Yes. I was the man you saw talking to them that one night. You caught me stealing this very stone when I left, and detested your parents so much that you didn’t say a word. If only you had spoken up about it… I would never have gotten away with this stone, the source of my pow­ers. Blame your weak excuse for a leader all you want - but let’s face the facts: added to your heartwarming act of abandoning an entire village, including your family, for one unimportant boy, you are completely to blame for all the misfortune I was able to cause with this wonderful lit­tle stone.« He mocked Bal by repeating the boy’s own words. »You could have prevented this from happening. All of it.«
    The sum of all this was simply too much for Bal to handle. Before things escalated and he broke down in tears, or worse, he dashed out of the room. Bue, unsure about what to do, looked around, then decided to follow his best friend. And nobody stopped him.
    »And then there were eight«, the Duke commented. »And… Your Highness«, he said to Fern, very aware of how much that hit him, »I highly appreciate your return and the company you have brought. But understand, I am only in need of one of you.« And the man looked directly at Phineas.
    Don’t show any kind of weakness, Phineas reminded himself. »What do you want from me?«
    »The same thing I wanted from your father«, the Duke shrugged. »A gateway to your dimension.«
    »I’m not going to help you with that«, Phineas de­clined immediately, his thoughts centering on his long-lost father. He didn't give in. So I won't either.
    »Thought so. Luckily, I can be very convincing.« And with that, the Duke put one hand on his necklace and pointed the other one at Phineas. Suddenly, the boy felt pain spreading across his body. As if a million scorching suns were bursting inside of him. He fell to his knees, screaming as the pain became almost unbearable. Ferb was trying to get to him, but the others held him back, and just when Phineas thought he’d be dead any second now, the pain was gone. Weakened by this experience, and shaking still, he fell to the ground, only faintly hear­ing the Duke’s words - »I’ll give you some time to recon­sider« - before passing out.


    ---


    Ferb helplessly watched the scene playing out in front of him. He wanted to help his brother, more than any­thing else, but his friends were holding him back. Even if all he could do was share Phineas’ pain or feel it instead of him, he had to do something. But then, Phineas was already on the ground. Trembling... unconscious.
    And the Duke really seemed to take pleasure in the shocked expressions of the group. »Finn«, he command­ed, and the boy rapidly stood up, still with balance prob­lems. »Take him away.«
    Finn bowed his head once more, then growled. Melody snarled back angrily, and Ferb looked at her with worry in his eyes. Was Finn trying to give her orders? The boy continued with insistence, and albeit hesitantly, she eventually com­plied. The darkling walked over to Phineas, gently pick­ing him up. She gazed at Ferb, and the determination in her eyes was still there. She’d do everything in her power to protect Phineas, Ferb understood, and that helped him get over attempting to save his brother right now… at least somewhat. He shot a glare to his friends, stopping them from doing anything imprudent. With Phineas on Melody’s back, she and Finn left the room, and the Duke was still wearing his grin.
    »And then there were six. Don’t worry, I’m not plan­ning to reveal any other shocking backstories anytime soon… but I’m not done with you yet.«
    »What do you even want?«, Buford put in, unable to keep his mouth shut any longer. »The dogs, the magic, some vague relations to practically everyone, and your weird obsession with people with triangular heads… what’s your point, man?«
    From what he could tell, Ferb shared Baljeet’s thoughts: Just great, Buford. As if we didn’t have enough problems already. But the Duke was not enraged at all. Instead, he seemed… happy. Happy that he could tell ev­eryone about his evil scheme. And admittedly, Ferb was also quite interested in how it all fit together.
    »Well, kid, you see«, the man began. »It all started in a country not too far away from this one. I’m not going into detail here, but the precis is: everyone I knew was achieving something great in life - royalty, popularity, all those things I lacked. So I did the most logical thing… I came here and killed the king in order to spread chaos. Then I withdrew as soon as I realized that taking over wouldn’t be all that easy - while taking his son with me, an actual human I could bend to my will… quite a tempt­ing thought, no?« The man enjoyed the shocked, and in Can’s case, angry expressions of his enemies. »In the same night, I met a stranger from another dimension, he said. That guy’s imagination sounded quite useful at the time, so made him join me and then turned against him and kept him prisoner for the time being. And how’d you know - just two years later, I found a woman he actually knew from his world, and she apparently was a pretty good tinkerer. I imprisoned her as well and forced the two of them to devise powerful gadgets for me to use.«
    Phineas’ father… and my mother. They really had known each other.
    »Point is, another king came, and with him a merchant family I got this little gem from.« He held up his neck­lace again. »I don’t know if it really is any kind of magi­cal, but with the modifications my new friends made… I can do just about anything with it. My favorite op­tion is turning people into what everyone calls darklings - they cost less than soldiers, obey more easily, and the only downside is their unintelligible language. But I’ve got Finn to take care of that, so never mind.
    »And, well, I’m sure you know most of the rest. How I took over this entire place, scared the coward of a king back to where he had come from… and once that was done, I started waiting for your little friend. His father had become quite useless for me for one reason or anoth­er, and the woman wasn’t good for anything other than darkling-ness without him. To get to their home dimen­sion, and take over it, of course, I needed someone with an equally inventive mind, something I was certain to find in the son he had talked about.
    »So, yes, all this time, I could have destroyed the resistance, I mean, I did know of it. But I let it be - because ultimately, I needed you to bring Josh’s son here. Of course, there was a chance of him not showing up at all, but you know what they say. Like father, like son.« The Duke looked at Fern as he said that, and the boy did his best to appear unmoved. The revelation about his family tree had surprised Ferb as well, but he considered it too early to judge him yet. As for the Duke, Ferb did not know what to think of him ei­ther. He seemed like a megalomaniac, a madman even, but with an unsettling patience. Which made him all the more dangerous.
    And suddenly, Ferb was absolutely positive that there was only one way to defeat the Duke with all his magic, knowledge, and power. A seemingly utterly foolish thought - but there was no other possibility.
    He took a step forward.
    »Doonkleberg«, he announced, determined to sound absolutely convinced of his own abilities. »I challenge you to a duel.«
    For a moment, nobody said anything. Until Buford did.
    »Are you crazy, man? That’s, like, such a bad idea.«
    But he had caught the Duke’s attention, and the man leaned forward curiously. »I am sure he is familiar with the rules.«
    Ferb nodded. He knew the traditional rules of dueling, he had read about it in several medieval books - includ­ing the tale of King Arthur. »One-on-one, with no restric­tions regarding weapons or techniques, as long as they are compatible with the code of honor.«
    »Fine, I’ll make an exception for you on the last part«, the Duke replied, but overall agreed with what Ferb had said. Then, he brought up another question. »At what price?«
    Ferb had already expected that question, and his an­swer was simple. A high price, but a just one. »If the re­sistance wins, you will release all prisoners, turn the darklings back into humans, and leave the country with­out ever returning.«
    The Duke grinned. »And if I win?«
    Ferb took a deep breath. He was well aware of what was at stake, but he had to give the Duke a convincing reason to accept. There was no turning back. He could save Phineas, his mother, and both dimensions… he had no other choice. »Then my dimension and I will be at your command.«
    Behind him, Baljeet gasped audibly, and Ferb couldn’t blame him. To everyone else, his proposal must be sounding completely foolish - maybe it was, but it was the only thing he could do.
    And the Duke… well, he sounded pleased. »We have a deal.«
    »Tomorrow, at noon«, Ferb declared, forcing himself to sound confident. In truth, he was still incredibly nervous, but the Duke would only take pleasure in seeing him like that. And the boy knew that a good first impression could already determine a lot. He did not want the Duke to be­lieve that he was afraid and intimidated. »Until then, you will allow us to remain in the castle without being threat­ened by your side. A truce, per se.« That was nothing far-fetched; a cease-fire before the arranged date of the duel was only fair.
    »You have my word«, the Duke nodded.
    »Will you keep it?«
    »If you keep yours.«
    Ferb nodded. »High noon«, he repeated. He detested the Duke, but respected him nevertheless, so he bowed his head, turned around, and left the room with his head lifted high.
    But without being able to look any of his friends into the eyes.