Buddy stood, knowing Damon was near. He walked around in growing concentric circles, finding it difficult to know if he was walking around a common center point or just aimlessly wandering in the blinding light. He heard shuffling nearby and moved toward the location of the sound.
“Damon!” Buddy yelled.
“Gruffle garn,” the deep voice said.
“What?” Buddy asked.
“Hey,” Talmadge’s voice rang in Buddy’s ear, “it’s the Cherufe. They’ve found you.”
“Oh,” Buddy replied, “can’t see a damned thing in this place.”
“Okay,” Buddy said slowly. “So, since you boys, or whatever, are here, can you help me out? Any chance you can see?”
“They say yes, Buddy.”
“Perfect,” Buddy clapped his hands. “So, can you have them look for Damon? I thought I had a lead on where he would be, but I’m struggling in here.”
“No problem,” Talmadge answered. “They say he’s just a few feet away from your current location. They’re offering to give you a lift.”
“I’m hot enough in here already. I’m not sure a piggy-back ride on a pile of magma is really how I want to spend my time. Any chance you could have them, you know, like, smother Damon or something? We really need to put this fire out.”
“And you think that dousing Damon will put the whole thing out?” Talmadge asked in incredulity.
“It’s a start, isn’t it? Maybe it will at least dim the lights a little so I can see what’s going on around here.”
“Okay,” Talmadge responded. “They say they’re going to do whatever they can.”
“Let’s hope it’s enough.”
A loud sizzling noise was heard nearby as the flames dimmed in brightness. Buddy was still unable to make out his surroundings, but he felt the pain in his retinas decrease. He ran toward the continuing sound of sizzling.
As he neared, he could make out the outlines of four boulders, the only things seeming to have somehow survived the blazing heat. The rocks were situated around a central point, so Buddy pushed his way to the center of them and found a fifth similarly-sized stone toppled over and glowing a bright reddish-orange.
“What’s going on here?” Buddy asked out loud.
“The Cherufe have extinguished Damon,” Talmadge answered. “The one known as Mapu is lying on top of him, absorbing all of the heat energy being expelled. Pacha is currently doing the same with Jeff.”
“Wait, you’re saying these rocks are the Cherufe?” Buddy asked, looking up at the one behind him and making out a face hidden within the glowing granite. He thought he saw the rock smile at him.
“What were you expecting? Lizard people?”
“Okay, so they’ve taken down Damon, for now. What do we do about the fire?”
“Alexa seems to think she can put it out.”
“Do it already,” Buddy said urgently.
The winds picked up around Buddy and he felt the cool air refreshing his skin. He sighed in relief as the light of the fire died down around him, revealing a flat and shiny landscape. Suddenly, Alexa was at his side with a big smile plastered across her face.
“Hey big boy,” she said, “miss me?”
“Of course I missed you,” Buddy responded.
“Like the new look,” she grinned.
Buddy looked down and remembered his clothes being vaporized in the fire. He sheepishly looked at her and asked, “Any chance you could nab me a change of clothes?”
“Sure thing,” she said, disappearing and reappearing with a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt in her hands. “Although, I have to say, I prefer this costume.”
“Uniform,” Buddy corrected as he dressed himself.
“Okay, so, did we win?” Alexa asked.
“Damon and Jeff are restrained for the moment, so it seems to me that Ryan could use the Mind Wiper and we can call it all a day, right?”
“I’ll go tell him,” Alexa frowned before disappearing.
“So,” Buddy said, looking at the rock monsters in front of him, “you guys from around here?”
“Hey Buddy,” Alexa said, returning in a cloud of dust. “Ryan says it’s not working.”
“What’s not working?” Buddy asked.
“The Mind Wiper. He says it can’t get a lock on either Damon or Jeff, like they’re almost not even here.”
“Well, that’s impossible, isn’t it?” Buddy asked, looking at the rock Talmadge had said was named Mapu.
“He says that the only person he can lock onto in this mess is you.”
“There’s one other thing,” Alexa continued. “He said that when he tried to lock onto you, he got some really weird readings, almost as if there was more than one person’s worth of memories in your mind.”
“That’s weird, isn’t it?” Buddy asked.
“He said he thinks Damon and Jeff are actually in your mind; that they left their physical bodies behind so they could hide inside you.”
“That’s insane,” Buddy laughed.
“You’re the guy who’s had the memories of a genocidal maniac stuck inside your head for the last six months and you’re calling this weird? Even after all we’ve been through just today?”
“Wait!” Buddy exclaimed. “If he can see me on that device, and he can see that Jeff and Damon are in there, couldn’t he, you know, remove them from my mind? Wouldn’t that get rid of them for good?”
“Maybe, but I’m still not sure that–”
“Nevermind,” Buddy said agitatedly. He crouched down and looked at Alexa. “I’ll tell him myself,” he said as he shot up into the air.
Buddy landed ten feet away from Ryan, who yelled in surprise at the sudden, unannounced arrival of the leader of The Defenders. “Buddy!”
“Okay, so, Alexa and I came up with a plan.”
Alexa appeared at Buddy’s side. “I had nothing to do with it.”
“Okay, fine, I came up with a plan. You can see me on the device, right, and Damon and Jeff inside me?”
“Yeah,” Ryan said, looking questioningly at Buddy.
“Great, so, delete them.”
“Delete them, remove them, erase them, wipe them, whatever you want to call it, remove their memories from my brain.”
“You know, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’m not sure–”
“I’ve already told him that, he doesn’t seem to care,” Alexa cut Ryan off.
“I don’t care what it means; get them out of my head. Damon’s already been in there for far too long and the idea of Jeff being in there a moment longer absolutely disgusts me. Get them out. Now!”
“I’m sorry, Buddy, but I really don’t think I can be respons-“ the device in Ryan’s hands suddenly lit up brightly.
“See, look, you barely had to try,” Buddy smiled.
“I didn’t do anything, Buddy. This thing’s running on auto-pilot.”
A flash of light escaped the orb and Buddy fell to the ground.
Go to Chapter Thirty