|The Activity Club and the Ghost Train|
|Max and the Activity Club investigate supernatural activity in Mayview's backwoods on orders from Mr. Spender's superiors.|
|Preceeded By||Paranatural: Chapter 3|
|Followed By||Paranatural: Chapter 5|
The fourth chapter of Paranatural, entitled The Activity Club and the Ghost Train, began on 4/22/2013, and ended 12/02/2014. It was preceded by Max, Isaac, and the Secret Shortcut and followed by The Activity Club and the Insidious Infiltrator.
Chapter 4 shows presumably Max's third night, fourth day and fourth night in Mayview as Spender and The Activity Club as tasked with giving a warm welcome to an Activity Consortium agent outside of Mayview's barrier, while other mysterious forces try to find their way in.
The chapter opens one rainy night in Mayview as an armored spirit approaches the town. Max is playing board games with his family when he has to deter some teenage shoplifters. After another argument with her grandfather over her combat training, Isabel and Ed talk about the harsh standard Francisco puts on her compared to what Ed has to put up with.
Spender's night is spent visiting the Activity Consortium's dream headquarters to have a meeting with his superior Texas Walker and the organization's Boss Leader. Based on concerns given to them by a rival spirit-tracking organization they want Spender and the Activity Club to welcome Consortium agent Agent Day into town so she can investigate.
The next morning, Johnny and his gang talk about the odd powers they saw Max and Isaac using in the previous chapter and try to get information but they mistakenly go after Jeff instead. The Activity Club sans Isaac group up to start teaching Max how to use his spectral energy effectively but when Max brings up her grandfather she changes the subject to introduce them to her tool's spirit Eightfold. Ed also uses this time to tell Isabel and Max what their mission with Spender will entail.
The armored spirit (whose name is later revealed to be Forge) seen before is now just outside the Mayview barrier and meets up with his contacts inside the barrier along with some vile spirits. The vile spirits provoke Forge into throwing a metal hammer he'd been carrying, which would have been pivotal to getting past the barrier, meaning that he has to take the slower option of forging a door from local metals and utilizing Doorman's powers to sneak him in. Additionally, his shadowy contacts try to warn Forge against fighting the "the sunglasses spectral" (meaning Spender).
Before Max heads out for the Club's mission that night, he tries to comfort P.J.'s worries of being inferior to him since he has special abilities and P.J. doesn't, promising to ask Spender whether or not a ghost can wield a tool. Spender picks him up at his home with Isaac already in tow to go pick up Isabel and Ed. Before they leave the Guerra's dojo Spender confides in private with Francisco about the Consortium's internal investigation through the arriving Agent Day. Francisco reminds Spender not to put his trust so blindly in him but agrees to stop Spender should he veer too far away from the path of justice.
Meanwhile, Johnny and his gang are walking through the city streets and see Spender's car driving by, descending into the forests in an attempt to follow them.
Once on the Ghost Train to bypass the Mayview barrier, the Club splits up to search the train for stowaway spirits; Max and Isabel group up with Spender to search one way and Isaac and Ed search the other half. During their search Spender explains to Max that not only will he not be able to leave Mayview by any normal means thanks to the barrier but that ghosts can technically wield tools but the spirit trapped inside the tool would more likely just feed on the ghost for its energy. Immediately after they run into the same Vile Spirits that pestered Forge earlier, who jump off the train once it actually passes through the barrier. Spender follows one of them out of the train and leaves Isabel and Max to fight the remaining two.
The Vile Spirit leads Spender to Forge's location as the Train passes it by. Spender, believing the spirit to be in league with the Vile Spirits confronts it. At this point the Vile Spirits reveal their power to 'respawn' soon after being defeated, with the two on the train starting a fight with Isabel and Max. The third on the ground is quickly dispatched again and a fight ensues between Spender and Forge.
The Ghost Train has by this point been wounded by Forge and has entered a grudge state, and as Isabel and Max begin their fight against the Vile Spirits the train descends underground. Fighting against gravity as the train tilts vertically the two are eventually able to make the unusual situation work in their favor but Isabel drops her book in the process. One of the Vile Spirits takes advantage of this and kicks the book off the train. As it falls off Isabel is pulled into a heightened state for a final conversation with Eightfold. Eightfold reminds her that when the train tilted she prioritized Max over her book, and displayed the same perception of tools as mere objects that her grandfather has. She also reveals that she pulled Isabel into this state so that she wouldn't make a grave tactical error in going after the book, which she explains will soon be trapped in solid rock once it leaves the range of the Train's powers. As her spirit world fades away she tearfully says goodbye to Isabel, her final words being "I feel the same wa-".
Despite her efforts Max is soon likewise kicked off the Train. Isabel attempts to save him but one of the Vile Spirits respawns around her arm, providing enough distraction for Max to fly further back along the Train. He is saved by a strange, massive, insect-like creature who deposits him on top of one of the train's cars. The Train then dives back towards the surface and while the Train is midair Max is pulled into a heightened state of his own. He encounters the serpentine spirit inside his bat again for a short time but angers it, causing it to roar and blow him far away from the train. He floats down to the ground safely but falls unconscious. Inside the Train Isabel eventually conquers the Vile Spirits by forcing to respawn inside each other, causing them to revive on a permanent loop and promptly kicking them off the train.
While unconscious Max has his first encounter with Boss Leader after she invaded his dreams (he was "in the area, metaphysically speaking"). She explains the basics of the Consortium to him and offers to destroy his bat's spirit after she catches it trying to attack her. She explains to him that it's "beefed up on fear and rage" and isn't in its normal form; his bat's spirit is a grudge and may be too bestial to reason with or control. Max refuses her offer, reasoning he can throw the bat away if it gets too dangerous and it may eventually be tamed. Happy with his answer, Boss Leader welcomes him into the Consortium and explains that she wants Max to keep an eye on Spender for her as a form of peer review. He refuses to make a promise since he has no reason to work for her but leaves by assuring her he simply dozed off on the way to meet Day. When Max wakes he finds himself magnetically tied to train tracks thanks to his bat's powers and directly in the path of the rampaging Ghost Train.
During all of this, Spender has been using his full powers against Forge but finds many of them fail to pierce his enemy's thick armor. Forge takes the time to call out Spender on allowing his students to enter peril without him without even being sure he'd win the fight, but Spender retorts that Forge's mangling of the train doesn't add with his moralizing and that he ultimately just wants feel good about his present actions. Nonetheless Forge gets the upper hand on Spender and leaves a foot-shaped burn mark on his chest as he gloats, explaining why he came to Mayview: an "angel of life" that he thinks will be a worthy master and whom he hopes to find a "great power" for. Spender laughs these claims off and calls him "misinformed", but only barely escapes defeat by revealing to Forge that he serves as medium to a powerful and dangerous spirit. Accepting this, Forge leaves him and tells him to go help his students. Enraged by his casual attitude in victory, Spender uses his shadow-based abilities again to bisect Forge and steal the locket he'd been carrying. Forge is almost completely destroyed but escapes when Max's scream rings through the forest. Spender performs a spirit fusion and rushes to Max.
As Isabel, Spender, and the Train all rush towards Max he is ultimately saved by the appearance of Agent Day, who fires a spectral arrow at the train that instantly makes it fall in love with Max instead. Everyone converges on Max and Day, but shortly after Spender arrives a hole opens in his chest that a shadow spirit escapes from. The Ghost Train's high beams make short work of it but not before Isabel and Max get a good look at it. With everyone safe and sound they board the Train back into town. While on route, their path happens to cross the wandering Johnny and friends who look up to find the Activity Club flying through the air (the Train being invisible to them). The weakened Forge finds them and possesses Johnny to sneak past the barrier.
Upon arriving back to the Consortium camp in charge of the Ghost Train, its caretaker Mina Zarei quickly notices the burn mark on Spender's chest and the damages made to the Train. After pulling Day's arrow off its smokestack the Train resumes its former rampage but is stopped by one of the assisting agents. Nobody is injured but in stopping the Train it was forced into a tool, meaning that no means of entering or leaving Mayview exist until the Train is fully healed. Few return to their beds feeling comfortable: Max can't bear to tell P.J. he can't safely wield a tool, Isabel was chewed out by her grandfather for losing Eightfold and has to dress a bite wound, and Spender stays up to do research.
In the forests, two cloaked figures get information from the surviving Vile Spirit who tells them Forge was defeated by Spender. They happily retreat back to Mayview as the Vile Spirit comes face-to-face with its fused brethren.
- The chapter's cover features the following:
- The titular Ghost Train, specifically foreshadowing Max nearly being run over towards the chapter's end.
- Forge's claw ripping into the cover.
- A video game "Player 2 Start" screen. As this belongs directly to Ed's game, it is likely alluding to the role Isabel's home plays in this chapter. It could also be a reference to the video game-inspired spirits that feature as the primary antagonists.
- A suit of a Consortium agent (specifically Boss Leader), foreshadowing their major appearances in this chapter.
- Several hearts, specifically alluding to Agent Day's "cupid's arrow" powers. The hearts on the right are pixellated like the mouths of the Vile Spirits.
- At the time of its completion, The Activity Club and the Ghost Train was the longest chapter of Paranatural, clocking in at 153 pages; almost triple the length of the previous chapter and over double the length of the previous longest chapter. It was eventually surpassed by the following chapter.
- Towards the end of this chapter, Paranatural shifted its update schedule from Monday/Friday to Tuesday/Friday to allow its creator more time to finish pages. Most notable about this is that the announcement was written .