Kim, Ron, Sonata, and Twilight looked out at the harsh pastel wasteland that stretched infinitely ahead of them. It was deserted, strange, and beautiful. The bright land below shone and sparkled; the night sky above was a bright velvety purple spangled with bright stars and shining jewels of the heavens. Planets hung low and full, impossible yet amazing; the horizon was an electric blue haze, and where it met the sky, the sky glowed hot pink. A constant music surrounded them, flowing over them, through them. It was power, it was energy...
It was magic.
"Okay, this is just freaky weird," Ron said. His normal slacker attire had changed into a red jacket with the sleeves ripped off over a black T-shirt with a print of a howling ape on it, tight purple jeans, and black hi-tops. His hair had exploded out into a teased, feathered mess. Kim wore a denim jacket and skirt, day-glo pink leg warmers and armbands, and white sneakers; her hair was a massive, frizzy ponytail held up with a neon green scrunchie. Twilight was dressed all in black leather and spikes, with her hair short and feathered, giving her a punk librarian look. Her glasses had turned hot pink, with angular, asymmetric frames.
Sonata...looked almost exactly the same as always.
"Gorchy," Kim complained, checking her reflection in a piece of metal debris that jutted out of the ground at an odd angle.
Twilight shook her head to clear it and looked down at her tracker. "This isn't a Zodiac Animal World," she said. The face of her tracker had a pulsing equalizer graph on it which pulsed in time with the rhythmic heartbeat of the world.
"Ooh, look there," Sonata said, pointing. High above, a hot pink giant female robot soared through the sky, the round crystal set in her forehead shining brilliantly. Three beings, unidentifiable from the ground, perched atop her back as she flew past.
"This place is so random," Kim said.
"I feel like we just walked into a really old album cover," Ron said. "You know, one of those hair metal things? Like, with metal hawks and steel horses and stuff—"
Just as he said that, a golden metal hawk soared overhead, letting out a piercing cry.
"—see? That. That's exactly what I'm talkin' about!"
Twilight frowned, examining her transformed glasses with a furrowed brow. "What...happened to us?" she asked, reaching up and fingering her feathered bangs.
"It's this place," Sonata said. "It's got some kind of, I dunno, eighties magic or something." She looked around. "You can all feel it, right? The song..." And with that, she began humming.
"Oh god don't," Ron moaned. "I know the words and I don't know how I know the words and it's freaking me out!"
"There's definitely powerful magic here," Twilight said, examining her scanner. "Too powerful. Whatever this place is, it's operating under its own laws." She sighed. "My equipment's completely useless here."
"Great," Kim said. "So...what? I guess we just...pick a direction and start walking?"
A wolf leapt out of nowhere, landing in front of them. It howled into the sky, then charged past them, growling. As they watched it, it looked back over its shoulder at them, its golden eye glowing.
"I say we follow the wolf," Ron said. "Don't ask why."
"Follow a...wolf?" Twilight asked dubiously.
"Makes sense to me," Sonata said as she took off after the wolf. The others joined.
For half an hour they followed the wolf as it led them higher and higher up the shining dunes, until they reached a plateau that overlooked a deep valley. At the heart of the valley, the bleached bones of some massive beast jutted up out of the sands, a melted pair of giant shades lying nearby. The pink robot drifted lazily overhead; the wolf howled up at her, then leapt down into the valley.
"Oh hey it's that robot chick again," Ron said.
The robot coasted closer, descending. A bright blue beam of light shot from her forehead, slamming into the plateau. The group shielded their eyes...
They looked up.
Before them were three strange individuals: a tall humanoid robot with long, flowing orange-red hair, a bulky white robot with a black bubble visor for a face who sat behind a set of glowing hexagonal drums, and a birdman with blue feathers and a glowing guitar.
Kim blinked. "Uhh...okay...who or...or what are you guys?"
The robot with the great hair strummed a chord. "Billy Regan."
The drummer rolled a fill. "Carl Burnett."
The birdman played a short riff. "Frank Enea."
"Together, we're B.E.R.," they said in unison. The giant robot projected a hologram of the band in profile, with "B.E.R." above their faces.
"Oh, okay, so you're like some weird alien...robot...rock band," Ron said. "Cool, I guess?"
"Oh we're not aliens," Carl said. "We're human. We just take these forms in this world because of the power of the music."
"Uh-huh," Kim said skeptically. "And...what is this place, exactly?"
"This place?" Frank echoed. "This is the land where the night shines forever."
"We created it with the power of our most righteous music," Billy added.
"That's...completely impossible," Twilight said flatly. "You can't create an entire world with just...music!"
"Maybe you can't," Carl said, playing a fill.
Kim shook her head. "Okay, so...what are we doing here? This isn't even remotely where we were trying to go."
"The music brought you here," Billy said.
"Uhh...wha?" Kim asked. She shook her head. "You know what? Nevermind. We've gotta get going, our world's in danger—"
Billy held up his hand. "You don't need to say anything," he said. "When I look at you, I see the story in your eyes."
"Hey, is that a come-on?" Ron asked in a challenging tone. "That sounded like a come-on."
"Chill, dude," Billy said. "Dig it, you're here for a reason. And the reason is, you need the power of music." He looked directly at Sonata. "You have the power of music, but it's wrong, twisted. We can tell you've used music for evil."
Sonata ducked her head. "Y-yeah," she said. "But I'm trying to change..."
"We can dig it," Frank said. "That's why we're gonna help you. We're gonna give you the power of music. Use it wisely. Take it with you wherever you go. Share it with people who need it."
And then they began to play. It was a different song than the ambient beat which drove the world around them. It was filled with energy and power, something pure and uplifting. The world around them reacted to the new song; the planets hanging in the sky all began glowing and twinkling, spinning sparkles glistening on their surfaces.
Feel the wave of the energy...
Pink, pale blue, and silver sparkles of light surrounded Sonata as she rose into the air, spinning slowly in place, her face tilted up to the pastel night sky. Beams from B.E.R.'s glowing instruments lanced through her with loud, piercing chimes as she closed her eyes, her entire body seeming to invert its color palette, becoming translucent, filling with a starry void...
The red gem at her throat flared brilliantly and turned an impossibly bright pale pink, gleaming brilliantly from within.
Slowly, the light show faded and Sonata dropped to the ground, returning to normal except for the brightly glowing pink jewel on her choker. She opened her eyes, and they shone with a pastel rainbow for a moment before returning to normal. She blinked rapidly, then clasped her hands to her jewel, closed her eyes, and started to sing, the band joining in.
With a piercing cry, the golden hawk flew down, landing on Kim's shoulder. The wolf leapt back onto the plateau, snarling and howling as it landed in front of Ron. With the thunder of steel hooves, a metallic horse galloped up to Twilight, snorting steam. Each animal began to glow, transforming into small, gleaming pendants which appeared around the teens' necks.
A glowing wormhole formed in the air, made up of lines in a grid, stretching into empty space. A hot pink arrow formed in the air, pointing into the vortex.
Twilight, jaw scraping the ground, looked from the wormhole to her scanner and back. "That's...that's the next world," she said numbly. "It goes right to it. But how?"
"The music has power," Billy said. "Power to make your dreams reality. Power to take your heart places the world says are out of reach."
"Trust the music," Carl said. "Always trust the music. It's there, inside your soul. When things are at their darkest, listen to the music in your soul. As long as you never give up hope, the night will always shine."
The four teens looked at each other, then back at B.E.R. The band leapt into the air, landing on the back of their giant hot pink robot, who soared off into the shining night.
"Well..." Kim began. She frowned, then shook her head. "Nope. I got nothin'." She looked down at her new hawk talisman. "But I guess...something good just happened?"
"Dude, we totally just got key items," Ron said, grasping his wolf talisman. "Trust me, something like this? It's gonna be super important later."
"Yeah, pretty much," Sonata said. "Well, what're we standing around here for? Another world awaits!" With that, she charged into the new portal. The others looked at each other, shrugged, and followed her in...