Chapter 1: ACT 1: Puppetbreakers
Long ago, in a distant land, there were two kings: the White King and the Red King. They ruled over lands at opposite ends of a verdant valley. Both of them coveted this beautiful land, and war raged nearly constantly, at a stalemate neither could break. Eventually, the Red King's royal scientists had a breakthrough - a device which could summon warriors from other worlds. This could have turned the tide of battle - had the White King not also had the same breakthrough. And so each King, with their own army of summoned warriors, continued their battle…
Marth sat upon the fortress throne and thought. Due to the revival process of summoned warriors, war here was not focused on simply defeating the enemy forces - they'd replenish at their liege’s castle and simply march back out. Therefore, the most important thing in this war was keeping territory - the battlefield was littered with fortresses, and warriors attempting to break through to the enemy castle would move unharmed through friendly fortresses and be attacked by those held by the enemy. These fortresses were often defended by lesser warriors, those whose names were lost to history. This world did have native soldiers, but as their deaths would be permanent, these lesser warriors were much more common. Two of them stood at either side of Marth’s throne now - Archanean Knights, clad in heavy armor and wielding lances and great shields. Marth sighed. Due to his leadership skills, he had been selected to defend this recently-taken fortress from enemy attack, but he felt more than a bit unprepared for the job. Still, he'd not come alone - he'd brought along a group of friends and qualified individuals to help him defend this place. Finally, he spoke. “Guards.”
The Knights stood at attention. “Yes, sir!”
“I am going to the dining hall. Gather the others and tell them to come. Have the cooks prepare a feast, as well.”
“As you wish, sir!” the Knights said, before marching off in different directions. Marth stood, his cape flowing behind him, and made his way towards the dining hall himself.
Marth sat at the head of the dining table, his choice of guard seated along the table itself. 3 men, each clad in armor of a different style, and a skeleton. He stood and raised his glass. “I want to thank you all, deeply, for agreeing to help defend this fortress. Though you all come from different worlds and different walks of life, you have gathered here.” He sighed. “In truth, I had an ulterior motive, putting together such a large trained defense force. You see, one thing I can't help but feel has been lost from our old worlds is a sense of… companionship. Many of us are the only warriors from our home worlds, and even if not we are often separated from our old allies. My own wife is a scout, for instance. And so, I was hoping that we could turn this fortress into… a home, of sorts. We should see each other as a kind of family, brothers in arms. Or at least, that is my hope.”
One of the other people at the table spoke up. His name was Gerard, who had messy brown hair and wore green and gold armor. “I concur.” He stood. “Back home, my father and brother were… taken before their time. I was forced to take the throne of Avalon long before I was prepared. It was only through the companionship of my royal guard that I stayed strong enough to rule. That companionship… I will help to reclaim it.”
The skeleton stood as well, placing his hand over his chest and turning his head dramatically in an affected pose. “I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL GLADLY BESTOW UPON YOU ALL THE GIFT OF MY FRIENDSHIP!!! YOU'RE VERY LUCKY TO BE THE FRIEND OF SUCH A COOL GUY.”
“...Right,” Marth responded after a moment. “How about you two?” he said, turning to the others.
The first man to speak was Sir Arthur, a short and stocky bearded man wearing a suit of tin armor. He stood, and began to speak in his almost exaggerated old English accent. “I've never been much for teamwork myself, aside from the occasional 3-on-3 tournament… but it's something I'm interested to try. Consider my lances yours!”
The last man sighed. He wore futuristic green armor, though his helmet was currently off to reveal his strong-jawed face and flattop haircut. He was a marine, one who'd been to hell and back, and whatever his real name was, he'd long since abandoned it in favor of a moniker befitting his reputation - Doomguy. “I'm gonna be honest, this whole thing sounds like bullshit. Give all the speeches about the value of friendship you want, as far as I'm concerned a good gun is worth a thousand friends.” He took a long drink from his wine glass. “I've been called here for a mission, and that's to guard this fortress. You guys can do what you like, but I'm focusing on my damn job.”
Marth paused for a moment, then nodded. “I understand. I won't be forcing you into anything. If you'd rather focus on your job, I won't hinder that.”
At that moment, a knock came at the dining hall door. “Excuse me,” Marth said, and stood before answering the knock.
Outside was a Knight. “Your Majesty. There's someone outside who wishes to speak with you. It seems rather urgent.”
“I see,” Marth said, glancing back at the others. “I'll only be a moment. Please, take this time to become better acquainted with one another.
“Yeah, hell no,” Doomguy scoffed, rising to his feet. “I'm coming with, just to make sure you don't get an invasion party to your face.”
Marth sighed. “Very well.”
Marth sat once again upon his throne, Doomguy standing guard nearby. The doors to the throne room parted, and through them came… a small grey bipedal catlike creature, little more than a foot tall. She rushed to the throne, bowing curtly before speaking. “My name is Espurr. I’d like to introduce myself more thoroughly, but there’s no time. I was traveling with a scouting party through this area when we were attacked by a squad of Impi.”
“Impi?!” Marth exclaimed.
“They overwhelmed us… I guess they didn't notice me because I was so small, so I am the only survivor,” she continued.
“And you seek sanctuary here?” Marth asked. Doomguy’s eyes narrowed.
“No,” Espurr said, shaking her head. “I came to warn you. I think they're headed for this fortress next.”
Marth nodded. “Thank you. Can you stay here until they arrive? If you've faced them once before, you would be a powerful ally in the battle to come.”
She nodded. “Absolutely. There isn't much time, however - Impi are fast, and even in such a large squadron they can't be more than a day behind me.”
Doomguy frowned. “We know about Impis, kid. That Shaka bastard’s been flooding the whole warzone with them since we got here.”
“Doomguy, relax,” Marth said. “Espurr, did you notice anything special about these Impi?”
“They're using the Buffalo formation, of course,” she replied. “I didn’t notice anything else through the chaos. It was only because of my size that I was able to slip through the horns in the chaos.” Her voice began to crack slightly. “Still, seeing them attack the others in my party…”
Marth stood from his throne and walked up to the feline Pokemon, kneeling and placing a hand on her head. “It’s okay,” he said. “We've all had to witness things we'd rather not… even knowing they're not dead for real doesn't help much, does it?”
Espurr wiped her eyes. “No…”
Doomguy scoffed. “Pussies. I'm heading back to the dining hall to talk strategy with the others. Let me know when you're done hugging it all out.” True to his word, he turned and left the throne room, ignoring the daggers Marth stared into his back.
Meanwhile, a few miles away, a regiment of Impi tore their way down the desert road to Marth’s fortress. At the back of the T-shaped Buffalo formation, held by the “Loins” far from where anyone attacking from the front would notice, sitting on a chair on a platform was Bokhohn - a wizened old man clad in green robes, two puppets laying by his side. He chuckled darkly. “Gerard of Avalon… I've been waiting a long time for this, boy.” He paused a moment, brushing his hand over one of the puppets. “At last, revenge on your revolting bloodline.” He glanced about the formation. “It seems a puppet has strayed from my collection... no matter.” He grinned. “At last, revenge for Kzinssie… revenge for all of my allies.”
And the Impi continued to charge across the battlefield.
“Alright, here's our positions.”
Marth stood at the head of the table in his fortress’s war room. Seated around him were his allies: Gerard, Papyrus, Sir Arthur, and Doomguy. At his side, seated atop the table due to her small stature, was the newest arrival, Espurr. On the table was a map of the fortress.
“Doomguy, you stand near this window on the second floor and fire off rockets into the Impi ranks. The moment you get even the slightest wind of one of them getting in here, however, you leave your post and take out the intruder. I'm counting on you to keep the interior of this place clear.”
Doomguy nodded. “Indoor combat is what I do best.”
“Arthur, you know how to handle this many opponents at once, right?”
Arthur nodded. “When my daggers strike true, the greatest of armies stands no chance!”
Marth chuckled. “Just stay close to base, alright? We have more armor for you if you need it.” His face hardened again. “Papyrus, you back him up. Anybody gets in his blind spot, send some bones after ‘em.”
Papyrus posed dramatically. “THEY WON'T STAND A CHANCE AGAINST THE GREAT PAPYRUS!”
“Gerard, you're with me sniffing out the commander.”
Gerard placed his hand on his chest. “Of course, your grace.”
As the others stood up, Espurr spoke up at last. “I can help you coordinate through my telepathy.”
Marth turned to the small Pokemon. “Telepathy?”
She nodded. “I can send and receive messages through my psychic power.” Her voice played in the minds of everyone else in the room. See?
Doomguy growled and raised his shotgun at her. “What the hell kind of a power is-”
“Doomguy!” Marth interjected. “Calm down.” As Doomguy lowered his weapon cautiously, Marth turned to Espurr and sighed. “I think that would be quite useful, yes. Can I trust you to relay messages between my guard?”
Espurr nodded, seemingly unfazed by Doomguy’s reaction. “Yes. It's my primary battlefield role. Also… the other members of my scouting party should be reviving right about now. I can call them in to assist, though they might be a while.”
“Hell no,” Doomguy said. “For all we know, you're about to call in your friends to kill Marth and take this base for yourself.”
“Doomguy! That's ENOUGH!” Marth shouted. “If she wanted to call in assassins, she'd hardly be seeking out my permission. And against an entire Impi unit, any help is worthwhile.”
Doomguy grunted. “Fine. But if you get your ass killed, I'm not taking responsibility.”
Marth simply turned to Espurr, sighing. “Please do call in your allies. And stay here during the battle, okay? There's no reason to put you in harm’s way.”
Espurr nodded, and the others filed out of the room to take their positions for the coming battle.
...And a few moments later, she followed.
The warriors had taken their defensive positions around the battlefield. In addition, a battalion of Archanean Knights, as well as Cavaliers - men on horseback wielding lances - dotted the area around the battlefield, with archers near the windows inside. Altogether, this supporting army numbered approximately 150. All of the fortress’s defenders waited for the enemy to begin their approach.
“I see ‘em!” Doomguy shouted from his window overhead. He launched a rocket towards the horizon, and judging by the screams he managed to take a few of the unseen Impi out.
“Gerard, on me! Arthur, Papyrus, hold your ground!” Marth barked. “Espurr, we're gonna start needing you now!”
“Alright! Get ready!” Marth said as he drew his sword, Gerard following suit.
If there's a commander, he's likely to be in the Loins at the back, Espurr told the others telepathically.
“I know,” Marth replied. “Once they get close enough, Gerard and I will slip through and attempt to cut to them.”
Doomguy launched another rocket, then spoke up. “Christ, there’s a shitload of these guys. I think I can just barely see the commander from here. Dude’s sitting on a chair carried by his soldiers. Some old geezer with a long beard, green robes. Anybody know him?”
Gerard paused for a moment. “That sounds familiar.”
Marth turned to him. “You've met the commander?”
Gerard shook his head. “Not myself, but I've heard stories. That sounds like Bokhohn, one of the Seven Heroes from my home realm.”
“WHY WOULD WE BE FIGHTING A HERO?” Papyrus asked.
“It's a long story, but he's no hero anymore,” Gerard replied sadly. “He and the other Heroes became monsters a long time ago. More importantly, Bokhohn can control people like puppets. We can't waste time here.”
Marth’s eyes narrowed. “Treating people like puppets. He’ll get no mercy from me. Gerard, now.”
Gerard nodded. “Missile Guard!” With his magic incantation, an apparition of a woman with long green hair wrapped around her body appeared, and light green shields appeared over everyone in the vicinity before fading. “Okay. That should protect us from the initial spear toss.”
Sure enough, moments later, the assegai spears of the Impi soared over the horizon, numbering in the several hundreds - giving an idea of how many enemies they'd be facing in the battle to come, as well, given each Impi carried only a single assegai. Many of them clattered against the ground or the fortress walls uselessly, and those that did not collided with the invisible barriers around the defenders to much the same effect.
Marth gripped his sword a bit tighter. On the horizon, and stretching to the right and left as far as the eye could see, was a battalion of around 500 Impi. This was the Buffalo formation - as the battalion approached, the men to the left and right, the “Horns”, would move to flank and encircle their target, halting escape and forcing a battle with the main force, the “Chest”. Behind the Chest was the “Loins”, a portion of the battalion that avoided engaging in battle directly. Their primary purpose was to defend against anyone who would attempt to break the encirclement from outside. In addition, commanders often sat protected in the Loins, unless they wanted to be on the front lines (Bokhohn did not). As if their encirclement tactics and numbers weren't terrifying enough, they had yet another advantage - their speed. From the fortress, the rumbling of 1000 Impi feet was already dimly audible as they sprinted across the desert plains to their destination. They ran 50 miles, and were prepared to fight a battle at the end of it.
As the Impi came closer, the archers began to loose arrows at them, in addition to Doomguy’s continued rocket assaults. This combined assault took out huge portions of the enemy forces at a time - but the surviving soldiers just kept coming. Eventually, they came close enough to begin their encirclement.
“Now!” Marth shouted. He charged through the center, weaving Falchion elegantly through the Impi that stood in his way. Gerard took a moment to cast Light Ball, causing small spheres of light energy to disperse through the enemy forces, before drawing his own sword and following, taking out enemy soldiers himself (albeit much less efficiently than Marth).
“NYEH HEH HEH!” cackled Papyrus as he began to channel his magic. Bones both white and blue of various sizes burst from the ground and began to slide their way throughout the enemy forces, magically burning those they passed through. And when he weakened a foe, Arthur capitalized on it, leaping overhead and tossing lances at those foes Papyrus had weakened. As they pierced the enemy’s flesh, they disappeared in a puff of smoke. Together, the pair was ruthlessly effective - and yet, a few still managed to slip through.
“Espurr, are you there?” said Arthur to the air.
Loud and clear, Sir, Espurr replied.
“A few of them have managed to slip through, I'm afraid. Let Doomguy know.”
As you wish.
Doomguy, are you there?
Doomguy jumped at the voice speaking directly to his mind. “Yeah, I'm here. The hell is it?”
A few Impi have broken through and entered the fortress. Can you take care of them?
Doomguy smirked. “My pleasure. Takin’ potshots out the window was gettin’ boring anyway.” He left his position at the window and swapped his rocket launcher for his double-barreled Super Shotgun.
Additionally, if you don't mind… would you allow me to group up with you? At my size I'll hardly be much of a burden, and I do have powers in my own right.
Doomguy thought it over for a moment as he found the first Impi and took it out with a single blast from his Super Shotgun. “Yeah, what the hell. Do you need me to tell you where I am, or can you figure it out yourself with your creepy mind powers?”
I can track your position myself.
“Good to hear.” Doomguy blasted another Impi. “But if you're planning to stab me in the back, I won't hesitate to blow your tiny brains out, got it?”
Loud and clear, she replied calmly.
“Geraaaard!” called a voice from the Loins.
“That's probably him,” growled Gerard as he sliced down another Impi. Marth nodded and charged in the voice’s direction, his blade continuing to dance through the enemy forces.
“I know you can't wait to cut me down just like you did Kzinssie,” the voice continued, “but I've got a little someone who'd like to meet you first.” With that, the crowd of Impi parted, revealing… a pile of garishly-colored, mostly green, wood.
Gerard’s stance tensed. “What are you planning…?”
Slowly, the pile of wood began to rise, revealing itself as a massive harlequin puppet, at least twice the size of a man. It pulled 4 knives from a gap in its body and began to juggle them.
Marth took a battle stance. “I take it this is our opponent, then.”
The voice cackled. “Oh, yes.”
Arthur had let his guard down for a moment, and an enemy Impi had struck him. His tin armor shattered in a single strike, leaving him clad in only his boxers, white with strawberry print.
“ARTHUR! GET TO THE FORTRESS! I'LL COVER YOU!” shouted Papyrus.
Arthur nodded, and ran off - though the term “ran” would be a bit strong, as Arthur wasn't exactly quick on his feet. True to his word, Papyrus blocked off the enemy Impi with his bone-shaped magic, giving Arthur the needed cover to escape into the fortress.
Of course, inside the fortress wasn't much better - despite Doomguy’s best efforts, the place was practically swarming with Impi. Still, Arthur was prepared for this situation, and he skillfully leapt and lance-tossed his way through the enemy. Unfortunately, he made a fatal mistake - he misjudged the distance of a jump, and landed directly on an Impi’s iklwa . As soon as he made contact with the blade, he bounced off, his skin disintegrating until he hit the ground as little more than a skeleton. And moments later, that same skeleton faded into light.
It was at that very moment that Doomguy rounded the corner to the room where Arthur had died. Though he had only seen the moment Arthur’s skeleton faded into light, he'd seen this enough times to know what had happened, and with a roar he took out the entire room with 3 shotgun blasts. “Kid, you there?” he growled.
I'm here, Doomguy, Espurr replied via telepathy.
“Arthur just bit it. Let Pap know.”
There was a pause. I will.
“WHAT?!” Papyrus cried.
I'm sorry. Try to hold out until my allies arrive.
Papyrus’s eyebrows furrowed (somehow) as he continued to send his bone attacks at the approaching Impi, now guarded on all sides by Archanean Knights. “VERY WELL THEN. IF THIS GOES ON FOR MUCH LONGER, I'LL JUST HAVE TO USE MY SPECIAL ATTACK!”
Meanwhile, Marth and Gerard continued fighting Bokhohn’s harlequin puppet. It attacked primarily by tossing its daggers and pulling them back with some sort of magical force, without breaking its juggle. Despite Marth and Gerard’s repeated attacks, it showed no signs of slowing down, and the two heroes were beginning to show their exhaustion.
“Kekeke… Getting tired there, boys?” the voice of Bokhohn spoke.
Gerard growled, and began to speak a response… before being interrupted by someone else entirely.
“Falcon Kick! ”
Dozens of Impi were tossed aside by an approaching Captain Falcon, who then drove his flaming foot into the side of the harlequin. He backflipped off of it and landed perfectly on his feet, turning to give Marth and Gerard a grin and a two-fingered salute. “You two are with Espurr?”
Marth nodded. “You're her allies, then?”
“One of ‘em. The others might take a while. Can't keep up with me.”
The harlequin recovered from the blow and tossed 3 more knives at each of the warriors facing it, which Captain Falcon flipped out of the way of and the others deflected with their blades.
“Let's catch up later, huh?” Captain Falcon quipped. “Probably better to worry about this guy for now.”
Marth nodded. “Yeah.”
Espurr rounded another corner, keeping to the shadows and out of sight of the Impi - she was fairly confident she could take on a handful of them with her psychic powers, but she wasn't going to risk getting pulled into a prolonged attack. Finally, she found Doomguy, firing a shotgun blast at just the angle to take out 3 Impi at once. “Doomguy!” she called.
Doomguy turned to face the feline. “Finally made it, huh?” He took out a group of 4 approaching Impi with a burst of chaingun fire. “Stick with me. Let's kick some ass, huh?”
Espurr approached, hopping up onto Doomguy’s shoulder. “Weren't you suspicious of me not long ago?”
“Still am,” he responded as he blasted another Impi with his shotgun. “But I'm on an adrenaline high now, baby, so if you try anything I'll shove this so far up your kitty ass you'll be filling your litter with buckshot.”
Espurr blinked. “Fair enough.” She glanced over her shoulder and happened to notice an approaching Impi, which she fired a Psybeam at. Though the psychic energy wasn't enough to kill him, it sent him reeling, stunning him. “Behind you!” she shouted.
Doomguy whirled around, blasting the stunned Impi full of buckshot. “You stun that guy?”
He stared at her a moment before nodding approvingly. “Keep doing that.”
“ALRIGHT, YOU ASKED FOR IT!” Papyrus taunted. “IT'S TIME… FOR MY SPECIAL ATTACK!!! KNIGHTS, MOVE ASIDE!” The Archanean Knights who had been guarding Papyrus nodded and moved back towards the fortress, exposing him. “ALRIGHT… NOW-” Before he could even finish his sentence, a single Impi lunged at him, plunging his iklwa into the skeleton. At once, Papyrus’s body dissolved into dust, his skull plopping unceremoniously to the ground. “WHAT?! THAT'S NOT FAIR! I WAS JUST ABOUT TO USE MY SPECIAL ATTACK!” And with that, the skull, too, dissolved.
“Falcon… Punch! ”
Captain Falcon ignited his fist and drove it into the already-weakened harlequin with a powerful strike. At last, the wooden puppet shuddered and exploded, sending splinters of wood everywhere. Captain Falcon relaxed his stance, but Marth and Gerard kept their swords raised.
“Good... “ spoke the voice. “Very good indeed. Yes, I think you've passed the test.”
“Test?” said Gerard nervously.
Out of the sea of Impi, Bokhohn emerged, an elderly man around 4 feet tall with pale skin, clad in simple green robes. “Why yes, of course. The test to see if you were worthy of becoming my puppets. And you passed with flying colors! Good work.”
“We will NEVER be your puppets!” Marth shouted. “Our lives are not yours to command, old man!”
Bokhohn chuckled. “Oh, aren't they, now? We’ll see about that.”
Captain Falcon dashed towards Bokhohn, already igniting his fist. Bokhohn turned to him, holding his hands up as ethereal strings extended from them to Captain Falcon’s body. “Marionette!”
The Captain stopped dead in his tracks, held in place by Bokhohn’s magic. “Hm… Yes, you'll do quite nicely.”
Still able to exercise some control over his actions, Captain Falcon choked out words. “How… are you…?”
Bokhohn chuckled. “All living creatures are mine to command. And in a few moments…” The light drained from Captain Falcon’s eyes, and he turned to Marth and Gerard in a combat stance. “Ah. There we are.”
Marth rushed towards Bokhohn, enraged. “You BASTAAA-”
Predictably, Bokhohn did much the same to him. “Idiot.” The old man’s gaze turned to Gerard. “And then there was one…” Gerard began to cast a spell. “Nice try, but you've been in my range since you started fighting my harlequin,” Bokhohn sighed, as he used Marionette on Gerard as well.
“Ngh!” Espurr grunted, nearly collapsing on Doomguy’s shoulder.
“Everything alright?” Doomguy asked, blasting a hole into yet another Impi.
“No,” Espurr said. “Something happened to the others. We need to get to the front lines.”
“Fine by me,” Doomguy replied. “I was gettin’ bored with this place anyway.”
Together, the pair blasted their way out of the fortress and through the enemy lines to Bokhohn’s position. Doomguy was a one-man army on his own, and Espurr’s assistance made them unstoppable. They reached the area where Marth, Gerard, and Captain Falcon waited, each now entirely under Bokhohn’s control.
“Why… aren't they fighting the geezer?” Doomguy asked, shotgun still smoking.
“Because they're my puppets now,” Bokhohn replied. “Marionette!” He sent his magical strings to Doomguy, holding him in place. “And speaking of puppets… it seems one of them has returned at last,” he said.
“Yes,” said Espurr as she hopped off of Doomguy’s shoulder, “Master.”
Papyrus slowly opened his eyes. Back in the Revival Room at White Castle Town, a plain white dome with various religious and spiritual icons placed there by those who saw significance in the act of revival in this world. He stomped his foot angrily. “NOT AGAIN! I WAS JUST ABOUT TO USE MY SPECIAL ATTACK, TOO!”
A man near the entrance, wearing a white robe and turban, nodded to Papyrus. “Hello again.”
“HELLO, MINWU,” Papyrus grumbled. “HOW HAS SANS BEEN DOING?”
“Still spending all his time at that tavern,” Minwu replied. “I guess he's moral support.”
“DAGNABBIT, THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”
“I guess you can try and talk to him, again.”
Papyrus’s eyes lit up. “GREAT IDEA! I THINK I'LL DO JUST THAT!” And with that, he dashed off.
Minwu watched him go, sighing.
“...So I told him, don't femur the reaper! Then I killed him.”
Sans chuckled, raising a bottle of ketchup to the young man with the spiked blue flat-top sitting across the table from him. “not bad, red,” he said, taking a sip. “i’ve taught you well.”
Red rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, that WAS a pretty easy one…”
“so? easy skeleton puns are the… backbone of my teachings.”
Red chuckled. “Gets me every time.”
Suddenly, Papyrus burst through the door of the tavern. “SANS!!!”
“oh, hey bro.”
Papyrus darted over to their table. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING LYING AROUND HERE, LAZYBONES???”
“Helping me train,” Red piped up.
“TRAIN??? BAH! WHAT COULD MY LAZY BROTHER POSSIBLY HAVE TO TEACH SOMEONE LIKE YOU?”
“oh, a bit of this and that,” Sans replied. “i’m not really telling him anything he doesn't already know. i guess you could say i’m helping him…” He winked. “ bone up.”
“OH MY GOD!!!”
“Hey, why are you so upset, Papyrus?” Red asked, smirking. “You better not start skull king on us.”
“NOW YOU'RE DOING IT TOO!!!”
Red raised his shot glass of sake and offered it to Sans, who took it and clinked his bottle of ketchup against it. Both downed their respective refreshments.
Sans raised his empty ketchup bottle to the bartender, a portly balding man with a mustache. “hit me again, trucks.”
The bartender began to go back, but Papyrus interjected. “DON'T ‘HIT HIM’ AGAIN! HE NEEDS TO STOP WASTING HIS TIME HERE AND GET ON THE BATTLEFIELD!”
“aw, c’mon, bro, you know i’m not cut out for that sort of thing.”
“EVEN IF YOU ARE WEAK AND HELPLESS, YOU CAN REVIVE AS MANY TIMES AS YOU NEED TO, AND EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS OUT THERE!” Papyrus grabbed his brother by the hood and pulled him out of his chair. “NOW COME ON! WE'RE GOING TO CHECK ON THE FORTRESS I WAS DEFENDING!”
He began to drag Sans out, who relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled. “guess i should probably do something, huh… talk later, red?”
Red nodded, having gone through this song and dance many times before. “See you around.” He turned to the bartender. “Sorry about that, Trucks.”
Trucks shrugged. “Probably for the best. I've never had anyone use up so much ketchup…”
Papyrus continued pulling Sans along the road, now in the back streets of White Castle Town. “...AND THEN ONE OF THEM STABBED ME RIGHT AS I WAS ABOUT TO USE MY SPECIAL ATTACK!”
Sans winced slightly, even knowing about the revivals. “and you've got plenty of hp, too. why should i get out there with my one?”
“BECAUSE YOU CAN JUST COME BACK TO LIFE HERE!”
“yeah, but… that has to hurt, doesn't it?”
The brothers’ conversation was interrupted suddenly by a boy with slick dark red hair and a black, closed coat emerging from an alleyway. “Excuse me, are you summoned warriors?”
Sans stood up. “i hadn't heard about any native skeletons around here, so… yeah.”
The boy smirked. “Good.” He produced two small red capsules from a coat pocket. “Guess I need to knock you out.”
“KNOCK US OUT?!” Papyrus demanded. “WHY?”
Rather than answer, the boy tossed the capsules. “Golbat, Sneasel, let's go.”
From the capsules emerged two creatures. One was a batlike creature with a comically oversized mouth, the other a bipedal feline with huge, sharpened claws.
“AH, NEW OPPONENTS!” exclaimed Papyrus. “BEWARE, FOR YOU STAND BEFORE THE GREAT-”
“dammit, papyrus, get down!”
“Sneasel, Shadow Claw,” the boy said. In response to this command, the feline rushed at Papyrus, its claw wreathed in dark energy… only to hit thin air as Sans shoved his brother out of the way of the attack, only barely dodging himself.
Sans turned to the boy slowly, his eyes closed. “kid… i’d back off now if i were you.”
The boy smirked. “You might have dodged that hit, but next time you won't be so lucky.”
Suddenly, from somewhere above, a voice rang out. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” The boy looked up, eyes darting around in confusion. The voice continued. “Heaven knows, Earth knows, and Robin knows!”
With that, a man leaped off a nearby rooftop and landed dramatically between the skeleton brothers and the boy’s Pokemon. He wore a black peacoat and a cape, and tied over his head and covering his eyes was a black bandana emblazoned with a red capital R. He was tall and thin. The boy growled. “Who are you?!”
“My name is Robin, defender of the innocent!” Sans visibly relaxed, his eyes opening to leave him with the same calm expression as always, as Robin continued. “And as long as Robin exists, evil will never prosper!”
The boy closed his eyes and chuckled. “Well, that’s good to know. I thought you might be with Rocket.” He opened his eyes again, deadly serious now. “Golbat, Poison Fang.”
The Golbat lunged at Robin, teeth bared, only to crash directly into Robin’s cape as he dodged aside gracefully. “Matador!” he shouted as he drew a previously-unseen rapier and thrust it into the disoriented Golbat, sending it reeling.
Another voice, distorted and robotic but with a distinctly human touch, as though it had been filtered, came from the same direction Sans and Papyrus had come from. “Hey, Robin, leave some for me!” Casually strolling into the alleyway was a man in red armor with blue and gold highlights, his helmet obscuring his face and resembling a motorcycle helmet stretched forward to create a “beaked” appearance.
“Ah, Alkaiser,” Robin said casually. “You on patrol too?”
“Nah, just keeping an eye on the skeletons here. Was a little worried they might get into trouble.”
“HEY! WE CAN HANDLE OURSELVES JUST FINE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! A FEW MORE MOMENTS AND WE WOULD HAVE EASILY FOUGHT OFF THIS EVILDOER!” Papyrus interjected.
“And now it's four on… however many those Pokemon count as,” Alkaiser responded.
“eh, make that three,” said Sans. “it looks like you guys have this covered.”
“BAH! LAZYBONES!” Papyrus turned to the heroes. “I GRACIOUSLY ACCEPT YOUR ASSISTANCE, BOTH OF YOU!”
The boy growled. “Enough of this! Golbat, Wing Attack the one with the fancy armor!”
“Aha! Not so fast, villain!” Robin declared as he dashed to Golbat’s location. “Lightning Pierce!” he shouted as he thrust his rapier’s point into Golbat, pumping a visible electrical current into the creature as he did so. When he pulled his blade out, the bat Pokemon unceremoniously fell to the ground.
The boy cursed under his breath. “Golbat, return. Sneasel, get the guy in black with a Shadow Claw!”
Much to the boy’s surprise, this attack actually connected, sending Robin reeling. It didn't last long, though. “Bright Knuckle!”
“The heck?!” shouted the boy as Alkaiser rushed towards Sneasel. The hero reared back his fist as it glowed with pure fighting spirit, then drove it into the Dark/Ice-type Pokemon’s side. The sheer power of the attack sent it flying, and it crashed into a nearby building before falling to the ground, fainted.
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Robin laughed again. “Ready to surrender, evildoer?”
The boy swore under his breath, then returned the Sneasel to its Pokeball before fleeing the scene, running as fast as he could.
“You got him, Robin?” Alkaiser asked.
“But of course! I will pursue the evildoer,” Robin said, sheathing his rapier and crouching. “Farewell!” He leapt onto a rooftop and dashed away in the same general direction as the boy.
Alkaiser turned to Papyrus. “You good?”
“I SUPPOSE SO,” he replied. “SANS, LET'S GO!”
“SANS?” he said again, turning to where Sans was previously. He was gone now, and in his place was a note:
headed back to the tavern. you have fun out on the field. -sans
“BAH!” Papyrus grumbled. “FINE THEN! I'LL JUST GO ON WITHOUT HIM!”
“You, uh, sure he actually wrote that?” Alkaiser pointed out.
“THAT'S HIS HANDWRITING, I ASSURE YOU,” Papyrus replied. “BUT I HAVE TO GO… MY ALLIES ARE SURELY WAITING FOR ME!”
“Alright, if you say so,” Alkaiser replied as Papyrus dashed off to help his allies again. When he was safely out of sight, Alkaiser transformed in a flash of light to reveal none other than Red. “Guess I'll find out once I get back to the bar.”
Bokhohn chuckled. “Well done, cat. I'd thought you'd escaped, for a moment.”
Espurr smiled up at him. “Of course not. Your psychic powers are far more than I could resist. Your hold over me is complete.”
Bokhohn nodded, grinning. “I should have known better. Come, cat.” He patted the arm of his makeshift throne. “Sit by me. You've earned your place as my favorite puppet.”
As Espurr began to walk to Bokhohn, Doomguy spoke as much as he could through Bokhohn’s hold. “Dammit, I… trusted you…”
Espurr didn't even turn to look at the marine.
Meanwhile, not too far away, a vehicle barely recognizable as an ambulance sped towards the fortress. It had been modified to an extreme, now covered in weapons - a flamethrower, cannon, napalm launcher, and mortar were all visible. It was covered in thick steel plates several inches thick and painted on the side, in crude red paint, were the words “FALCON’S CRY”. Aside from the shape, the only things identifying it as an ambulance now were the flashing red and blue lights atop the vehicle and wailing siren, and even the latter was drowned out by the speakers on the side blaring Misirlou by Dick Dale.
Inside, in the driver’s seat, sat a young man. He didn’t worry much about his real name, and he just went by the Hunter. He wore a green dog-eared cap and an orange vest, and he was humming along with the surf rock blasting from the speakers. Behind him, standing around the gurney in the operation area of the ambulance, were three others. One was a man, Alm, in blue mail and with oddly-colored hair that was green for the most part, but blue at the tips. He had a longsword on his back, and occasionally grabbed its hilt as if to reassure himself it was still there. Another man, Gray, wore a steel blue padded coat and had a katana at his side, with bushy gray hair that covered not only his face but a good portion of his upper body. He stood against the wall of the ambulance, arms folded, looking down. The last, Revolver Ocelot, was a middle-aged man with gray hair tucked behind his ears, a brown longcoat, and a red scarf. He had a revolver, true to his name, which he twirled idly with his finger.
After a moment, Alm growled. “Dammit, Hunter, can you turn that down? I can barely focus with that music going,” he shouted over the din.
The Hunter laughed loudly, then shouted back. “Haven't you ever heard of shock and awe? Those Zulu bastards won't know what hit ‘em when this baby comes barreling after them.”
Ocelot chuckled, then spoke up in a somewhat inauthentic Southern drawl. “He's right, y’know. Seein’ as we're about to be chargin’ into an active battlefield, stealth ain't much of an option, so the next best thing is to overload their senses.”
Alm muttered to himself some more, then finally folded his arms with a huff and went silent.
Gray chuckled quietly, completely inaudible over the noise.
Espurr seated herself next to Bokhohn as he began speaking. “My oh my… these Impi and you were an excellent start, but having all these powerful summoned warriors is a downright gift! At this rate, the Red side will have won this war within the hour.”
“It was my pleasure,” Espurr responded. “I'm sorry for worrying you.”
“Oh, not at all! I'd assumed you'd simply wandered off to provide some… token benefit to these defenders,” Bokhohn said. “I had little doubt I could defeat you if need be.”
“And you were right to think so,” Espurr said. “Still, they trusted me.”
“Ooh… devious, aren't-” Bokhohn began, before being interrupted by a sound from the distance. “What… is that?”
The sound came even closer, or rather sounds - an ambulance siren, combined with the rapid guitar strums of a surf rock legend. Coming over a hill before the fortress that was their destination, the Hunter shouted from the front seat. “Alright, ladies, party time! Get ready to roll once we get in melee range!” With that, he smashed a button on his dashboard labeled “AUX CANNON”.
Outside, the sounds of the siren and music mixed with the ratta-tat-tat of a vulcan cannon, as Impi in the Loins rapidly fell to the gatling gun’s assault. Bokhohn cursed under his breath. “Damn… I think it would be best to flee the battlefield at this juncture.” He paused for a moment, planning silently. “Soldier in green,” he said, turning to Doomguy, now fully under the effects of Marionette.
“You're the most capable of all my new puppets solo. Defend this fortress from that… machine and occupy it. I will send backup shortly.”
“The rest of you… come with me!”
“They're retreating,” Ocelot observed.
“Wait, what?” the Hunter replied, laying off the vulcan for a moment. Sure enough, the Impi were fleeing the battlefield.
“That's either very good or very bad,” said Alm. On cue, the sea of Impi parted to reveal a single man clad in green armor and holding a rocket launcher.
The Hunter leaned his head out the window to address the man. “Hey! You defending this place? You wouldn't happen to have seen a little gray c-”
Foom. Turns out that rocket launcher wasn't just for show. The Hunter pulled his head in just in time as the rocket detonated against the steel plating on the side of the vehicle. “So much for that,” he muttered. “Alright, looks like we're fighting this guy.” He proceeded to press a button on his dashboard labeled S-E, simultaneously launching a mortar and napalm strike against Doomguy. He dashed out of the way of the mortar strike, but had no such luck against the napalm, getting the brunt of it. The dust cleared, revealing him… standing, barely fazed aside from a few flames flickering on his armor.
The interior of the ambulance was silent for a moment, before finally being broken by a maniacal cackle on the Hunter’s part. “FINALLY, a fair fight.” He turned to his allies in the back. “If you aren't a pussy, now’s the time to get out there and lend a hand,” he said, casually launching another simultaneous mortar/napalm strike to much the same effect.
Alm disappeared in an instant, reappearing over Doomguy’s head a moment later and delivering a downward jump slash, which the marine shrugged off before turning around and firing a shotgun at Alm’s face… only to find nothing, as Alm had again teleported, this time behind him. Before he could react, he heard a gunshot and then felt a sharp pain in his arm. He turned to the source of the noise to see Revolver Ocelot, twirling his revolver for the sheer show of it. The man had aimed his shot so as to penetrate a weak spot on his armor… at a distance of several hundred yards.
Doomguy roared with rage and fired a rocket launcher at the gunslinger, who just barely managed to dive out of the way. A resounding boom came from the ambulance as the main cannon fired a rocket at Doomguy, who managed to strafe away from the brunt of it but was still singed by the explosion. Furthermore, he failed to notice the approaching Gray, who took advantage of the opportunity to slash Doomguy in the back, who cried out with pain. “Turned my back… that was stupid!” He turned, nothing but rage in his eyes. “Stupid! Stupid! You’re STUPID! And you're gonna be stupid and DEAD!” He whipped out his chaingun and began firing at Gray, who only barely managed to get some distance while Doomguy switched weapons, and now managed to outrun the stream of bullets. “Dance! DANCE, BONEDADDY!”
Two gunshots. Two perfectly-placed bullets through Doomguy’s armor, enough to distract him from Gray. “Three more,” Ocelot muttered.
The Hunter’s voice crackled through the ambulance speaker. “Initiate Attack Pattern Salmonella.” The others moved in a trained formation. Ocelot holstered his revolver, and Gray dashed away from Doomguy. Alm, meanwhile, began teleporting around Doomguy madly, slicing practically from all directions at once. Then, the ambulance’s main cannon fired, and at that precise moment Alm warped atop the ambulance, panting with exhaustion. Still disoriented, Doomguy failed to move out of the rocket’s way, and was hit dead-on. The dust cleared… and there he was, battered but still standing.
“Shit,” muttered Ocelot, drawing his revolver and pointing it at Doomguy.
Doomguy leveled a shotgun at Ocelot… then his pose relaxed for a moment, followed by him tossing his weapon away and putting both hands in the air. “Wait! I don't want to fight you!”
“It was that damn cat,” Doomguy growled. “I knew she was up to something.”
“Shouldn't blame Espurr,” Ocelot responded. “She was brainwashed, same as you.”
The group plus Doomguy had all piled into the back of the ambulance. Doomguy had explained the situation with Bokhohn and Espurr.
“Still, if Marth hadn't been so damn quick to let her take charge, we might’ve been able to take that geezer out,” Doomguy said. “Make no mistake, I'm hunting her down and making her pay.”
Ocelot shook his head. “I know Espurr. That ain’t her. That Bokhohn fella is the one you oughta be goin’ after.”
Doomguy sighed. “Maybe so, but I'm more pissed at her. I trusted her, dammit.”
“If that's what motivates you, I say go for it,” Gray spoke up.
There was a pause in the room. “...You can speak ?” asked the Hunter.
“When there's something worth saying,” Gray replied.
“Right,” Doomguy continued. “In any case, I take it Falcon’s Cry was the name of this little ragtag band?”
“Yeah,” the Hunter responded. “Douglas - Captain Falcon - picked it out, and we went with it.”
“Well, Falcon’s gone. He's with Bokhohn now,” Doomguy said bluntly. “We need a new name. One that reflects our new mission. I propose Cat Hunters.”
The Hunter scoffed. “Yeah, no. How about Geezer Crusher?”
“That's ridiculous,” Ocelot replied. “We gotta go for something animal-themed. Following off what Doomguy said-”
“Puppetbreakers,” Gray said.
There was a silence in the room. After a moment, the Hunter spoke up. “Shit, that's a good one.” Murmurs of agreement sounded throughout the cramped room. “Let's go with that.”
“Then it's decided,” Doomguy said. “From now until we make those bastards pay, we’re the Puppetbreakers. For now… let's take some time to rest. A couple of my allies fell during the battle, they should be here shortly. We can get them in on our mission, too.”
“Right,” the Hunter said. “Let's rest up. In the fortress, while we're at it. I'll drive us there.” With that, he hopped out of the ambulance and dashed to the driver’s seat, making his way to the fortress.
I thought about naming the Hunter Metal Max but then I decided that was kinda dumb. That's what he's from, by the way - Metal Max, specifically Metal Max Returns but don't be surprised if a couple of other games in the series get referenced.
“Oh yeah? And what are you gonna do about it?”
This situation was a bizarre one even by the standards of this world. Two pairs stood on either side of a street in White Castle Town. On one side, a young hero clad in a green tunic and hat, accompanied by a small but very angry yellow fairy. On the other, a small panda Pokemon around half the other boy’s size, and an armored snail half of that. The fairy responded to the panda’s challenge. “I'm not gonna do anything. But Link here will, won't you, Link?”
The boy clad in green nodded hesitantly, hand reaching to the handle of the sword on his back.
“Pancham, you sure this is a good idea…?” said the snail. “That sword of his looks pretty big. And he doesn't talk. That's creepy.”
“We got this, Shelmet,” Pancham sneered. “He’s probably just too scared to say anything.”
Shelmet snickered. “Yeah, I bet that's why he gets that little fairy to talk for him.”
The fairy scoffed. “My name is Tatl. And I'm speaking for Link because he's mute!” She paused as Link glared at her. “Sh-shut up, I'm a great diplomat! He started it, after all!”
“All I did was run down the street,” Pancham retorted. “It's not my fault he ran into me.”
“You adjusted your course!” Tatl said, exasperated. “You meant to run into Link!”
“Well, I-” Pancham started, before pausing. The sound of someone running combined with… a clattering noise could be heard from a distance, and he turned to see the source.
Rounding the corner was Papyrus, who saw the child with his hand on his sword and the two Pokemon and skidded to a halt. “WHAT'S THIS? A FIGHT?!”
Tatl flew into his face. “None of your business, bonebag!”
Pancham scowled up at the skeleton as well. “Yeah, buzz off!”
“HOW RUDE!” Papyrus said in exaggerated offense. “I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW I'M A MASTER OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION. NOW, WHAT'S THE MATTER AT HAND?”
“That stupid panda tripped Link!” Tatl whined.
“I did not! Your friend’s just too stupid to get out of the way!” Pancham retorted.
“Don't call Link stupid!”
“Why not? He can't even talk, stupid!”
“He's still smarter than you, peabrain!”
Finally, Link contributed to the argument in his own way. “HYAAAAAAAH!”
The area fell dead silent as Link glared at Tatl meaningfully. She sighed. “Fine. Link doesn't want to argue. He’s willing to admit responsibility.”
Pancham cocked an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
In response, Link walked to Pancham, got down on one knee, and offered a hand while smiling.
Pancham sighed. “...Fine.” He returned the handshake.
Shelmet smiled. “Well, I'm glad that's all worked out!”
“HMMM…” Papyrus mused. “DO YOU CHILDREN HAVE ANY PARTICULAR PLANS?”
“Nah,” Pancham said as Link shook his head. “Me and Shelmet are just hanging out here.”
“And Link’s been doing odd jobs in town,” Tatl said.
“WELL THEN!” Papyrus declared. “HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN ME... AS A FORTRESS DEFENSE GARRISON?”
Pancham looked him up and down. “Seeing as you're back here, seems like it's dangerous work. Why’d we want to go there?”
Papyrus chuckled. “I'M SURE THE OTHERS HAVE MORE THAN DEALT WITH THAT ATTACK. I DOUBT WE'LL BE ATTACKED TOO MUCH MORE!”
Link glanced at Tatl, who sighed and then spoke. “Link’s interested. I guess I'll follow him if he goes… not like he'd be able to do anything without me.”
Pancham fidgeted for a moment, then looked to Shelmet. “You wanna go with this guy?”
Shelmet nodded. “Yeah! It sounds like it might be fun.”
Pancham sighed. “Yeah, I guess we're in too.”
“EXCELLENT!” Papyrus said. “LET’S BE OFF, THEN!”
“So, where d’ya figure we should start?” Ocelot said.
The Puppetbreakers, sans Doomguy, who was standing watch outside, were gathered around the very same table Marth and his allies had planned around during the initial Impi attack. The Hunter, Alm, and Ocelot were huddled over a map of the battlefield that now lay before them, while Gray leaned against a wall.
“There's a guy running a fortress just south of here,” the Hunter responded. “Neidhart. He's trustworthy, and he's a master of scouting. Dude’s got eyes and ears everywhere, and we’re on good terms. He'd be able to tell us where Bokhohn and his little army went.”
“Neidhart?” Gray asked. “I know a Neidhart. Crown prince of Rosalia, back home.”
The Hunter cocked an eyebrow. “Black armor?” Gray nodded, and the Hunter chuckled. “Yeah, that would explain a lot.” He paused, noting the questioning stares from around the room. “Don't worry. He's kind of a stuck-up dick, but he hasn't done me any wrong. How about you, Gray?”
Gray paused. “...Nothing worth dwelling on.”
The Hunter shrugged. “If you say so.”
Suddenly, Doomguy’s voice came from outside. “Fellas? I think you're gonna want to see this.”
“Is that a single Impi?” Alm asked.
“It would seem so,” Ocelot replied.
“They don't usually travel alone,” the Hunter observed. “Something’s up.”
“Yeah, no shit,” Doomguy responded, before leveling his rocket launcher at the Impi standing at the gates. “Hey, asshole,” he shouted. “What's the deal? None of your friends wanted to help your attack this time?”
“ Musa adubule ! Don't shoot!” the Impi called back. “I have umlayezo - message from Shaka himself!”
The group glanced at each other. “Alright,” Ocelot called down, “but no funny business.”
“Of course!” the Impi responded.
The group stared at the strange tablet device the Impi had given them. Finally, the Hunter spoke. “So, should we switch it on, or…”
As if in response, the tablet’s screen lit up, revealing none other than the Zulu king, Shaka. “ Imikhonzo , fellow warriors,” he said.
“ Sanibonani nakuwe, Shaka okukhulu, ” Ocelot responded.
Shaka raised an eyebrow. “You speak the Zulu tongue?”
“Diamond Dogs - my organization back home - had operations in South Africa,” Ocelot explained. “Zulu wasn't lingua franca, but someone of my rank pretty much had to learn it.”
“Alright, enough of that,” Doomguy growled. “You two can tongue each others’ assholes later. What the hell do you want after attacking this fortress and kidnapping everyone here?”
Shaka chuckled. “Ah, there's the response I was expecting. Well, you may be unhappy to know that I had no part in that attack.”
“Bullshit,” Doomguy replied. “Everybody knows the Impi act under your orders alone.”
“Normally, yes,” Shaka replied. “But you've seen what that… monster is capable of.”
A silence fell over the room. Eventually, Gray spoke. “Bokhohn was controlling those Impi.”
The Hunter whistled. “That's a lot of people at once.”
“And so we have a common enemy,” Shaka said. “I want my men back, and I want to punish the udoti responsible for taking them from me.”
The Hunter grinned. “The entire might of the Zulu army behind us, huh? Sounds good to me.”
“Not exactly,” Shaka replied. “There are many on this side of the conflict who distrust me already. Turning my men against a supposed ally, regardless of circumstance, will make many enemies. However, I have ordered my men not to attack you until the puppetmaster is dealt with, and I will tell you if my scouts find any news on his movements.”
“What's the catch?” Gray asked.
Shaka chuckled. “No catch, my friend. Except that this alliance ends when the old man does.”
“Fair enough,” the Hunter replied. “At least give us time to get back behind our own lines before you have your guys attack, though, eh?”
Shaka nodded. “It is the least I can do.”
“So you'll keep us posted on any intel you get, then?” Ocelot asked.
“Of course. Unfortunately, we have little as of now,” Shaka replied.
“Fine by me,” Doomguy said. “Papyrus and Arthur are probably gonna show back up any minute.”
“Very well, then,” Shaka said. “I will contact you through this device if the need arises.” With that, the device shut off, and the room was silent.
The back of the Hunter’s ambulance had never been quite so crowded. In addition to the former members of Falcon’s Cry (sans Espurr and Captain Falcon) and Doomguy, Puppetbreakers had now taken on Papyrus, Sir Arthur, and the three children Papyrus had met in town - Link, Pancham, and Shelmet. Pancham and Shelmet at least did just fine sitting on Papyrus’s ample shoulderpads, but the ambulance was cramped in any case.
“I still can't believe it…” Pancham muttered. “Espurr’s our friend. I don't see how she could have done something like this.”
“She's under mind control,” Ocelot responded. “Her actions aren't her own.”
“She's got all kinds of psychic powers, though!” Shelmet blurted out. “There's no way she'd fall under some old guy’s spell!”
“Alternative is, she's doing this herself,” Doomguy said. “I'm guessing that's not an option you want to consider.”
“Well, no…” Shelmet trailed off. A silence fell over the vehicle’s cramped room.
“Are we there yet?!” demanded Tatl, eliciting groans from the others in the vehicle.
“I daresay I've never know fairies to be quite so annoying ,” Arthur said.
Tatl responded by flying into Arthur’s face. “What did you just say about me?!”
Ocelot growled with frustration. “Can you not put that damn thing in your hat or something, Link?!”
Link coughed loudly at Tatl, who groaned and flew under his hat. The loss of tension in the room was almost palpable.
“First priority from the mechanics: get some kind of balcony on top of this thing,” the Hunter called back from the driver’s seat. “This thing was not made to hold so many people, even before I started adding guns to it.”
A few minutes passed in silence, then the Hunter called back again. “I see Neidhart’s fortress! We should be there in just a few.”
“...and see about getting some sort of balcony installed on top, since our group’s practically doubled,” the Hunter said to Nora, the mechanic on duty with long curly hair held in a bandana.
“Works for me,” she replied, her pink-clad bearded assistants already at work repairing the ambulance’s battered exterior. “Y’know, we had somebody else come in with a heavily armored vehicle not too long ago. Rena, she said her name was. Cute lady. You two should talk.”
The Hunter scoffed and waved her off. “Thanks, but no thanks. Ain't got time to run off with some chick from another dimension.”
Nora shrugged. “Your loss. Anyway, you should probably go talk with Neidhart now. Don't wanna keep His Lordship waiting.” Her voice took on a bitter sarcasm for that last bit, and the Hunter decided it was probably best not to press the issue.
Standing off to the side were Pancham and Shelmet, who had drifted away from the rest of the group. “You know anything about this Neidhart guy?” Shelmet asked his friend.
“A little,” responded Pancham. “I hear he still acts like royalty even though that doesn't mean much here.”
“This is definitely a nice place,” Shelmet mused. “He's even got a mechanic on duty, and a pretty cute one at that…”
Pancham whacked Shelmet lightly on the top of his shell. “Cut that out, dude.”
“Alright, fine,” Shelmet whined as the pair, along with the rest of the group, exited from the courtyard into the main hall of the fortress.
“...So, if you’ve heard anything about his movements or actions, it’d be a real help if you'd share that with us,” Ocelot concluded.
Neidhart nodded thoughtfully. He was clad in ornate black armor with the helmet removed, revealing his flowing shoulder-length blond hair. His attendants, knights from his home nation of Rosalia, stood at either side of him. His throne was on a raised platform, and the Puppetbreakers stood before him in his court. “I have not heard any reports of this puppetmaster,” he said in a calm, measured tone, “but if you stay here I will inform you of any news we receive.”
“Nah, thanks anyway,” Ocelot replied. “Right now it would be best to keep on the move.”
“Very well,” Neidhart replied. “Would you at least stay for dinner? You've no doubt got a long journey ahead of you.”
“Sure!” Shelmet blurted out. “I haven't had a real meal since we left the castle town.”
“Shelmet!” Pancham snapped.
Ocelot chuckled at the children’s antics. “Alright, I guess we'll rest our legs here for a spell.”
The group had seated themselves along a banquet table, with Neidhart at the head. Most of the Puppetbreakers sat in their seats as normal, but Pancham and Shelmet were so short they simply stood on the table itself.
Gray turned to Neidhart awkwardly. “So I take it there's no hard feelings about the Aquamarine incident?”
Neidhart laughed and shook his head. “I was certainly angry at the time, but your actions helped to save our world from Saruin. I can hardly fault you for that.”
Gray nodded, saying nothing.
After a few moments, Arthur was the next to speak. “I must say, you have impeccable taste in design! It's almost like I'm back at my castle in Camelot.”
Neidhart chuckled. “Ah, thank you, my good sir. You were royalty as well, then?”
“Alas, no,” Arthur replied. “I was but a humble knight, in service to my princess.”
“That is an honorable thing,” Neidhart replied. “Perhaps moreso than the duties of royals.”
“So you're, like, a king?” Pancham cut in. “That's pretty sweet.”
“I am a warrior like you,” Neidhart replied. “But in my home world, I was a prince. My father was on the edge of death, however, and so I ruled over Rosalia in his stead.” He began to say something else, but noticed one of the pink-clad mechanics entering the room and waved him over. The mechanic appeared and whispered something in his ear. The prince nodded.
“Anything we need to know about?” the Hunter asked.
“They found some sort of communication device in your vehicle and are unsure how to proceed,” Neidhart replied.
“Oh, don't worry about that thing,” the Hunter responded. “Just leave it.”
The mechanic nodded and returned to the courtyard.
“I've reached the fortress. Seems like our prince decided to guard his little banquet instead of anything that might be important. His mistake.”
Solid Snake crept along the walls of Neidhart’s courtyard beneath a cardboard box, conversing with Robin, the Ylissean tactician, on his Codec.
“Good. Remember: all you need to do is take the... item and leave. Don't hang around, and don't let anyone spot you,” Robin told him.
“I've got it under control. I'm a stealth expert, remember?”
“Of course, but the stakes are higher this time. Neidhart’s supposedly our ally. If he catches wind of what we're doing, it's not something we’ll be able to recover from.”
“Right. I'll be extra-careful, just for you. I'm gonna return to the mission now.”
Robin grumbled. “I hope you know what you're doing.” With that, he closed the connection.
After a few minutes, a mechanic burst through the door from the courtyard once again. “Your Majesty!”
Neidhart stood up. “What is it?!”
The mechanic simply held up the communication tablet - upon the screen of which stood Shaka Zulu. “What is the meaning of this?!” he demanded.
“Shit,” the Hunter muttered under his breath before turning to Neidhart. “Look, I can explain, he--”
Neidhart shook his head. “I apologize, but due to outside circumstances I cannot risk letting someone who associates with the enemy leave. I'll need to detain you here.”
Doomguy shot up from his chair, slamming the table. “Dammit, we don't have time for this! That old man’s doing god knows what with our allies, we can't afford to rot here thanks to your paranoia!”
Seeing things escalate, Shelmet closed his shell and dived off the table, rolling until he was next to one of the table legs.
The Hunter stood as well, much more calmly. “I don't agree with his tone, but Doomguy’s right. If it will help you feel better, we’ll leave immediately.”
Neidhart sighed. “I'm sorry. I trust, in time, you will forgive me for this. Hypnotism!” At his word, the Puppetbreakers saw an illusory vision of sheep filling the room, which caused them to become… very… sleepy…
“Robin, do you read?”
“I'm here, Snake. What is it?”
“Things just got complicated. Neidhart just arrested those guys who were here for the banquet, and the guards are back to their normal rounds.”
“Arrested, you say?”
“Seems like they got dragged off to the fortress dungeon.”
“Hmm… We can use this.”
“You want something to distract the guards? Nothing better than a jail break.”
“Mmm, not a bad idea… but the cell will be guarded.”
“Probably, but not as heavily as the target. Plus, it means we'll have allies down the line if we need them.”
“You're right. I'll free them first, get them to cause a scene as they escape, and steal the Emerald in the confusion.”
“Good plan. Let's hope you can pull it off.”
Pancham wound up and let loose another punch against the bars of the cell. “Hey! Let us outta here already!” he called to the guards outside.
Ocelot sighed, leaning against a wall. “Don't bother. All that's gonna do is piss ‘em off.”
“And what ARE we supposed to do?!” Pancham demanded.
Ocelot shrugged. “Haven't figured it out yet. I'll let you know.”
“I SAY WE WAIT IT OUT!” Papyrus interjected. “SURELY NEIDHART WILL REALIZE THIS IS ALL ONE BIG MISTAKE.”
Gray scoffed from his position seated on the floor. “Not likely. I'd say he already knows exactly what's going on, in fact.”
Pancham looked up at him inquisitively. “What does that mean?”
“Neidhart lies,” Gray replied. “Whatever we’re in here for, it's not because he thinks we're gonna sell him out to Shaka.”
“What is it, then?” Pancham huffed.
“Hell if I know,” Gray said simply. “Maybe he's still got a grudge against me. Maybe he's working with Shaka and this wasn't part of the deal.” He chuckled. “Maybe he's working with Bokhohn and this wasn't part of the deal.”
Pancham sighed and flopped down onto his back, defeated. “I wish Shelmet were here.”
“He's our best chance of getting out of here, kid,” the Hunter replied. “If he's out there, he could break us out.”
Pancham shut his eyes, chewing on his leaf in frustration. “I doubt it. He's cool, but he's not exactly… smart.” He sighed. “He'll be in here with us before long.”
The Hunter shrugged. “Let's hope you're wrong on that one.”
Walk a few feet.
Footsteps from somewhere.
Close the shell.
Walk a few feet.
Footsteps from somewhere.
Close the shell.
Shelmet had gotten into a bit of a rhythm in terms of staying ignored by the guards. He hugged the walls, so when he retreated into his shell he just looked like an oddly-shaped stone at a glance, and he could see out of the shell just fine through the small slits. Still, it was slow going - only compounded by the fact that he had no idea where Pancham and the others were being held. He just hoped his friend wasn't being hurt.
Deciding to rest for a moment and consider his options, Shelmet leaned against a cardboard box up against the wall, hoping to nestle there. Instead, a hand lunged out of the box, grabbing him around his rather large lips and pulling him inside. It was pitch-black in the box, and the hand around his mouth prevented him from making a sound. An unseen voice growled into his ear. “If I let you go and you scream, I’m gonna make you wish you were dead. Got it?”
Shelmet nodded, which given the circumstances was really just more shaking his entire body. Apparently it was understood, as his captor let go of him and allowed him to drop to the ground. The voice spoke again. “Speak quietly. You were at the banquet, weren't you?”
“Y-yeah,” Shelmet stammered out through his fear.
“Guess they didn't catch you. I think we're on the same side. I'm here on… important business, but breaking your friends out will make for a good distraction while I do what I came here to.”
“Um… okay…” Shelmet began.
“Shut up!” the voice snapped. “Don't speak unless I ask you a question. Now, normally I'd leave you here to fend for yourself, but the guards don't seem to realize they missed you. That means they're on low alert. If they find you, they're gonna start looking for me. Stay outside of this box and follow me. And if you get caught, don't expect any help. Alert them to my position, and… well, let's hope I don't have to decide on what to do from there. Clear?”
“Good. Let's get going, then,” the voice said, lifting the box to allow Shelmet to leave. “Call me Snake, by the way.”
Pancham had long since tired himself out trying to break the bars of the cell, and now laid against the wall. He sighed. “Stupid Shelmet… I bet if I was the one who didn't get captured I'd have broken you all out by now.”
Ocelot chuckled from across the room. “I wouldn't be so sure about that,” he said. “The fact that he managed to be the only one not caught to begin with means he might be able to sneak past all the guards and get here. It ain't all about physical strength, kid.”
“Worst-case we could all kill ourselves,” Gray suggested.
The room went silent.
“...Excuse me?” Ocelot said.
“Revival,” Gray said. “We die here, we go back to the castle town. Find some way to get in touch with Shaka again and we’re golden.”
“That's a negative,” the Hunter said plainly. “My ride doesn't revive with me. And if you think I'm leaving here without it, you're badly mistaken.”
“Suit yourself,” Gray responded. “But I won't hesitate to take that step if I have to.”
The discussion ended there, and the room went silent for a while.
Then, a cardboard box rounded the corner towards the cell.
Ocelot was the first to notice. “Hey, is that…?”
Suddenly, the box was tossed aside, and Snake emerged.
Shelmet crept out from behind him, slowly. “Kept ya waiting, huh?”
Pancham rushed to the bars. “Shelmet?! You made it all this way?!”
Shelmet blushed, turning away. “Well, I had a lot of help from this guy, but…”
Ocelot stood, turning to Snake and saluting. “It's an honor to see you again, Boss.”
Snake cocked an eyebrow. “Boss? I think you're thinking of somebody else. Name’s Snake. Solid Snake.”
Ocelot seemed confused for a moment, then shrugged. “Maybe I did. I take it you're here to break us out, then?”
“That's the plan,” Snake responded. “I do have one condition, though.”
Ocelot nodded. “Sure, anything.”
The Hunter snorted from the back of the room. “Calm down, Ocelot. What's the condition?”
“I want you to raise as much hell as you can on the way out,” Snake responded. “I'm here on business of my own, and it's to my benefit if the guards are otherwise occupied.”
Doomguy, who had remained silent since the Puppetbreakers were captured, finally spoke up. “Sounds like a hell of a condition. Which side are you on, buddy?”
“Your side,” Snake responded plainly. “You want me to break you out or not?”
“If it's gonna hurt the asshole prince who got us in here, I don't really care what business you have,” the Hunter said. “Get us out of this shithole.”
“Now, hold on,” Ocelot said. “Before we go chargin’ off, remember we left our weapons in the van. Y'all sure you can handle yourselves unarmed? I know some of y’all don't use weapons to begin with, but I don't want none of you gettin’ killed ‘cause you can't fight unarmed. I know the basics of CQC, so I'm covered.”
“It's not my weapon of choice, but these fists can do some damage if need be,” Doomguy said.
“I'm not… great unarmed,” the Hunter admitted, “but I'm not helpless. I can improvise some weapons if I need to, too. Just try to keep an eye on me, okay? I'm the only one who knows how to drive us out of here.”
“I know some martial arts,” Gray said.
Link simply pulled out an acorn-shaped mask and placed it on his face. In a flash of light, he transformed into a huge humanoid creature with rocks on its back - Goron Link.
“He carries that one with him everywhere,” Tatl explained.
“I guess we're covered, then,” Ocelot said. “You ready to get us out of here?”
“Sure,” he said. “Stand back from the door.” He waited for everyone to stand against the back wall, then placed a brick of C4 onto the cell door and activated it. Then he stood back from the door, Shelmet following, and pressed his detonator. Boom.
Two Rosalian Lancers, one wielding a spear and the other wielding a short sword, stood at either side of the steel door to the fortress dungeon, disinterestedly keeping lookout. One of them, the one holding a spear, yawned, and as if on cue the door to the dungeons swung open, pushed open by none other than Ocelot. The door hit the short sword-wielding guard, knocking him out, and Doomguy quickly exited from the hallway inside and punched the other guard in the gut, sending him reeling in spite of his armor. He pulled the spear out of the guard’s hands and stabbed him in his exposed face with it, killing him and causing him to dissolve into dust, then whipped around and tossed it into the KO’d guard’s face, killing him as well. “There's yer weapon, Hunter,” he said before charging towards the main hall.
The Hunter grabbed the spear without missing a beat, and led the rest of the crew after Doomguy.
When they arrived, Doomguy had already killed everyone in the room with the exception of a single Rosalian Officer, a more defensively beefy troop than the Lancers. He was not far from dealing with that, too, sitting on his knees striking the prone Officer’s exposed head with his bare fists over and over until the poor man finally dissolved. He stood. “The courtyard isn't far. This is the place to buy some time.”
The others nodded and took up battle stances with the exception of Shelmet, who simply stood behind Pancham hoping not to be noticed. A few moments later, more soldiers entered - in addition to more Rosalian Lancers and Officers, a few Mages accompanied them as well. “Deal with the wizards first,” Doomguy said, cracking his knuckles. “Bastards have healing magic.”
Gray was already on the move, rushing to one of the mages and hitting him with a one-two-three punch combo, killing him. A nearby Lancer thrust his spear at Gray, but he deflected it with his forearm and used his free hand to strike the Lancer with his fist, knocking him away.
Pancham and Shelmet, meanwhile, rushed toward the target Doomguy had designated them. They were small enough to simply dodge around the legs of the much bigger Rosalians without notice, and if one did attempt to attack either of them Pancham simply tossed them away with a Circle Throw.
The Lancer Gray had tossed away was caught, but not by an especially friendly face - Ocelot immediately tossed the poor soldier into a group of his allies, knocking them all to the ground where he deftly snapped their necks one by one, killing them all.
The two young Pokemon had at last reached a Rosalian Mage. Pancham struck him with a mighty Sky Uppercut while Shelmet blasted him with a powerful Signal Beam. The two continued the attack similarly, with Pancham fighting up close and Shelmet providing support from afar, until the Mage finally died, dissolving into dust. Pancham affectionately slapped the top of Shelmet’s shell - the closest he could get to a hi-five - and began to move towards another Mage.
Link, in his Goron form, rolled towards a Rosalian Officer at high speed. The Officer stood his ground, holding up a large shield. Link collided with it and bounced back, landing on his back. The Officer was sent reeling from the force, but quickly regained his composure and drew his club, approaching the prone Link.
The Hunter found himself staring down a Lancer and clutched his own lance tight. The Lancer twirled his weapon, clearly as a matter of show - the Hunter had almost no training with this weapon. Still, he kept his expression stony, ready to fight.
Link watched as the Officer thumped his club in his hand and slowly walked towards him. He was clearly dragging this out. His mistake. The Officer swung his club, and Link quickly blocked it with his arm, the rocky skin causing it to thud harmlessly. He then tore off the Officer’s helmet and let loose a massive punch to the head with his other hand, killing the Officer.
The Hunter watched as the Lancer grinned, pulling back his lance arm in preparation for a thrust. Seeing his moment, he tossed the lance into the Lancer’s head, piercing it and killing him. He quickly dashed to where the Lance had landed and picked it up, smirking. He didn't know how to use a lance, but he definitely knew how to use a throwing weapon.
Speaking of lances, Arthur’s unlimited supply of magic ones was serving him well in this battle. They struck the foe’s life essence directly, and as such were not stopped by armor - they were impeded, however, and so around 3 were required to kill his foes. His weak defense was still a risk, but he had little issue deftly dodging the weapons and spells that attempted to strike him and shred his armor. Foe after foe died to his strikes.
Papyrus fared decently well, but he was struggling the most by far - his magic bones kept the Lancers and Officers away from him well enough, but he still had to deal with spells being slung from afar. He did dodge most, but took a few head-on - thankfully, magic did little to monsters from his world.
Arthur fought hard and well - yet he was not immune to carelessness. He lost track of a single starbeam spell, and that was enough - it struck him, shattering his armor and reducing him to his strawberry-print boxers. He cursed under his breath and continued to fight, knowing all too well his next mistake could be his last.
Papyrus was struck by another spell, and he decided his trump card was ready. “ALRIGHT, NOW YOU'VE DONE IT!” he declared. “PREPARE YOURSELVES FOR MY… SPECIAL ATTACK!”
At that moment, Neidhart burst into the room. He was clad in his full suit of Black Armor now, including a helmet which covered everything except his eyes, and he held his double-pointed Black Lance as well. “And what is the meaning of this?!”
Doomguy whistled. “Alright, folks, time to get the hell outta here!” He drove his fist through a nearby Mage’s skull, then dashed for the exit to the courtyard. Most of the other Puppetbreakers followed suit.
Gray, however, did not. Instead, he turned to Neidhart, addressing the prince directly. “You and me,” he said. “Let's see if you can still put up a fight.”
The Hunter swiftly opened the ambulance’s door and flicked a series of switches to start the engine. He took a glance behind him. “Alright, our weapons are still here!” he announced. “Everybody pack in and let's get the hell out of here.” He then noticed a sheet of paper on his dashboard, and picked it up to examine it.
It's on the house. -N
He smirked. “Actually,” he called back, “climb on top too.”
This is my longest chapter yet! There was a bit more I was planning to do, but I think I'll put it in my next chapter instead. As an aside, over the time it took to write this I played through both Hotline Miami games - which obviously influenced the second half of this chapter. I don't currently have any major plans to include HLM characters, but I'd certainly like to put in the Son or the Fans at some point...
“This place sucks. I fucking hate these people.”
Tony lifted his bloody tiger mask partway to down another full can of beer, and the 4 other youths wearing animal masks nodded in agreement. They'd found a nice little corner of this seedy Red Castle Town tavern, where they rested between “expeditions” onto the battlefield.
“Yeah,” agreed the chubby Mark through his bear mask. “I wish that skeleton was here.”
“What, that loser?” scoffed Alex, her swan mask with a “1” painted on hiding her incredulous expression. “Jesus, you've got some shit taste.”
“Fuck you,” came Mark’s witty response.
“I'm not sure why we’re wasting time here anyway,” Corey said, lifting her zebra mask partially to sip from her can of beer.
“It might get a little boring without these breaks, honestly,” suggested Ash, his swan mask matching that of his twin sister aside from bearing a “2”. “Cooling down like this makes the killing a little more fun, y’know?”
“Whatever. I'm about ready to get back out there,” huffed Tony.
“Hang on, I just thought of something,” said Mark. “What if we just… blitzed the White Castle? Went for the king ourselves?”
“That's not a bad idea…” mused Corey. “We could sort of keep to the shadows, go for abandoned villages and fortresses before we attack the castle itself.”
“It's not like we've got a lot to lose,” added Ash. “Worst-case, we get our asses killed and then revive right back here.”
“Well, what the hell are we waiting for?” demanded Tony. “Let’s go!”
“This is a toll road, dumbasses!”
The red-haired man sneered down at the masked youths. He wore studded leather armor - more for decoration than anything, as it left many important parts of his body exposed - and held a spiked club, which he thumped against his hand menacingly. Behind him stood a small squadron of others dressed and equipped similarly, as well as a handful of machine gun-wielding men wearing cybernetic armor - Bias Grapplers.
Corey examined the squadron before her and her allies, as well as the area around them. Desert. Mostly open. A few rocks for cover. Perfect. Finally, she spoke. “On whose authority?”
The man laughed. “None other than the great Ken-Oh!”
“The hell’s a Ken-Oh?” Tony responded.
The man closed his eyes and chuckled. “I suppose you've not heard his name yet. I will excuse your disrespect,” he said. “Ken-Oh is the king of the fist - the strongest man alive. He is the rightful ruler of this world, and--” His speech was interrupted as he was sliced in half through the waist. He dissolved into dust.
Corey twirled her katana in a flourish. “Yeah, I had about enough of him.”
On cue, the other youths sprung into action. Tony simply struck his foes with his bare fists, killing them instantly with single strikes before turning and selecting another target. Mark pulled two SMGs from holsters on his back and fired wildly into the crowd. Alex took a moment to rev up her chainsaw while Ash covered her by firing a pistol at anyone who attempted to come near, and once her weapon was ready Alex sawed through her foes quickly and almost effortlessly.
Before long, all the club-wielding troops were dead, and most of the Grapplers as well. The three who survived, however, had taken cover behind a few of the boulders in the area - leaving the mask wearers exposed.
“Any ideas?” Mark asked nervously, his bear mask hiding just how hard he was sweating.
“I got one,” grinned Tony before rushing the nearest rock. A Grappler peeked out from behind it and took aim… too slow. An uppercut from Tony sent him to the floor in spite of his armor, and a few concentrated punches to the helmet practically shook his skull apart. He dissolved into dust. Seeing an opportunity, one of the other Grapplers peeked out from behind cover - only to receive a bullet through the skull courtesy of Ash. The final gunman saw his opportunity and took aim at Corey, letting loose a volley of machine gun fire. Corey charged towards the gunner, effortlessly rolling under the gunfire and tackling the unfortunate Grappler to the ground, holding her katana to his neck.
“Talk,” Corey commanded, her zebra mask betraying no emotion.
The Grappler scoffed. “Do your worst. You know death has no value here.”
Corey glanced at Alex, who revved her chainsaw. “You'll wish we'd let you die,” the swan-masked girl said, her voice dripping with malice.
The Grappler sighed. “Fine. What do you want to know?”
“Ken-Oh,” said Corey. “Where is he?”
“Why do you want to know?” the gunman asked.
“Because killing you assholes was fun,” Tony interjected, “and there's probably more of you where he is.”
“More or less,” Corey echoed.
“Christ,” the Grappler muttered. “Not my problem if you kids have a death wish. Head a couple miles east of here. You'll know it when you see it.”
“Thanks,” Corey said. She sheathed her katana and stood up, turning to Alex. “All yours.”
The swan approached the prone Grappler, her chainsaw rumbling.
A Sableye burst through the door to Ken-Oh’s throne room. “L-Lord Ken-Oh!”
The man on the throne - a huge, muscular man with an ornate horned helmet - frowned at the Ghost-type. “You'd better have a good reason to come here unannounced.”
The Sableye took a moment to catch its breath. “It's… a whole toll road patrol! Gone!”
The man had no visible reaction. “And? I knew they would be trampled by an opposing squad eventually.”
The Sableye shook its head. “No, they… there were only five of them!”
The man paused for a moment, considering. “I see. And what of it?”
“They're… they're coming here!”
The man slowly rose from his throne, looming over the cowering Pokemon. Then, he threw off his helmet in one motion, sending it crashing to the floor. Beneath it, the bronzed skin and short-cut white hair of the Conqueror of the Century’s End were revealed at last. Raoh grinned broadly. “Tell the guards to prepare for a fight. Let's see what these five can do.”
“You SURE there aren't any guards?” Ash repeated.
Corey kept her eyes in her binoculars. “I've been watching for, like, 20 minutes. If they've got guards, they're inside.”
“So what are we waiting for?” Tony demanded. “Let's get in there and fuck ‘em up.”
Corey sighed and put her binoculars away. “I guess I don't see any reason not to. The windows aren't big enough to give any useful information. You guys ready?”
“I was fucking born ready,” Tony smirked.
Slam! Mark kicked in the fortress door, sending the Valmese soldier behind it sprawling to the floor. As soon as he was clear of the door, he began firing his machine guns wildly into the foyer. Around a dozen troops from a variety of origins were killed by stray bullets from the bear-masked intruder. He then casually stomped the Valmese soldier’s skull, crushing it and killing him. “Well, that was easy enough,” he remarked, replacing his guns’ clips. He silently thanked whatever forces summoned him for granting infinite ammo.
“A little TOO easy,” Corey remarked, idly slicing in half a club-wielding thug who attempted to ambush her from behind. “Keep your guards up.”
As if on cue, at that moment a Sableye leapt down from the ceiling and grabbed onto Ash’s back, holding tight with its claws. “Ah, shit , what the fuck is that?!” the swan-masked boy snapped, flailing and grabbing at his back in a vain attempt to stop the sudden attacker.
“Hold on, bro, I've got it!” called Alex, revving her chainsaw.
“Jesus Christ, woman!” Tony cried, slapping the weapon out of her hand at the base. “You wanna kill him?! Let me handle this.” The tiger-masked boy leapt towards Ash, trying to grab the Sableye with both hands… only to have his hands pass through it as though there were nothing there at all. The creature turned and promptly leapt onto Tony’s face, causing him to claw at it ineffectively. “ Fuck! ” he screamed. “Get it off me!”
The Sableye raised its claw, preparing to strike Tony… but with the sound of a gunshot, it instead dissolved into dust. Ash holstered his pistol and sighed. “Thank God that worked.”
Tony growled. “You're lucky bullets worked on that thing. The hell were you thinking?!”
“That you were dead already,” Ash said simply. “If bullets didn't work, I'd shoot you in the face. Dead. If I did nothing, that thing would have gouged your face out. Dead.” He shrugged. “Not a lot to lose in that scenario.”
“Well, those things throw a wrench in our plans,” Corey sighed. “We only know Ash’s pistol works, and Tony’s fists don't. God knows what our other weapons will do to it.”
“Probably a safe bet I can kill it,” Mark said. “Bullet’s a bullet.”
“I guess so,” Corey said. “If one gets too close I guess I'll find out if my katana works… still not a fan of this uncertainty.”
“Me either,” Alex said. “Hopefully we won't run into too many more, but let's be careful. Tony, you especially.”
“Alright, big guy,” Tony said, nudging Mark. “Guess I'm sticking with you, huh?”
“Guess so, asshole,” Mark said. “Try to avoid my bullets.”
“Sssir!” the Lizalfos called out, entering Raoh’s throne room. “The intrudersss have already dessstroyed mossst of our troopsss on the firssst floor!”
Raoh did not move or emote. “That was a skeleton crew,” he said. “Until they make it here, I will not move.”
“But, Ken-Oh, your majesssty!” the Lizalfos pleaded. “You could end thisss now, without a sssecond thought!”
Raoh remained still. “I will not compromise my honor. Should they make it here, I will deal with them as the warriors they are. Should they not, so be it.”
The Lizalfos groaned, but decided not to pursue the matter further. “Fine,” he sighed. “I will mobilize the rest of the guard.”
Neidhart raised an eyebrow. “Single combat?”
Gray nodded. “That's right.”
Neidhart twirled his Black Lance idly. “Give me one reason I should agree to that, rather than have my men tear you to shreds.”
“I thought you were a man of honor.”
Neidhart grunted. “...I see.” He took a combat stance. “Are you sure you're willing to fight me unarmed?”
“...A weapon would be nice.”
Neidhart nodded to a nearby Officer, who reluctantly held his sword out handle-first to Gray. He took it and gave it a few practice swings before nodding.
“Very well then,” Neidhart said. “Let us begin!”
Alm glanced out over the balcony of the ambulance. “...The hell is that ?”
The other Puppetbreakers turned to look. Just on the horizon, a large number of combatants seemed to be clashing.
“Looks like a battle,” Shelmet observed.
“No, really?” Pancham responded sarcastically.
“That's odd,” Doomguy said. “There aren't any fortresses for miles.”
“Probably nothing more than an ambush,” Arthur said, still clad in his boxers.
“Or it could be Bokhohn’s troops,” Ocelot replied. “Not like we have any other leads.” He paused. “...Also, can you get some damn pants on? There's children in here.”
Arthur shook his head. “My armor is in pieces, back with Neidhart. Unless we stumble upon another suit, I'll be in this state until I am revived.”
“Wonderful,” Ocelot muttered, glancing at the knight’s crotch.
“You guys wanna check that battle out or not?” the Hunter called up.
“I DARESAY IT IS OUR DUTY TO ASSIST OUR ALLIES WHO MAY BE IN NEED!” Papyrus declared.
Alm shrugged. “Sure, I wouldn't mind some action.”
“Rena, you sure about this?” Goomy said uneasily.
“If we stop now or take a detour we’ll lose Broiler,” Rena replied. “We’ve just about got him now.” She had relatively short-cut blonde hair and a bandage on her cheek, and wore a skimpy black outfit with a red cloak. Her white police bike, modified with armor plating and a gatling gun, was idling on a hill just above a clash between two squadrons of Impi, with Goomy sitting in a basket on the front.
“What if they decide to attack us, though?” Goomy said.
Rena smiled at the Dragon-type. “I've gotten us out of worse. C’mon, you know I wouldn't let anything happen to you.”
Goomy gulped and nodded. “Y-yeah. Maybe they'll be too caught up in their own battle to notice us?”
“That's the spirit!” Rena smiled. “Alright, let's get moving.” She released her kickstand and started her bike up, descending the hill towards the battle.
“Seems like we're on the right track,” Ocelot said, observing the two Impi squadrons clashing from the ambulance parked upon another hill.
“Which one’s Bokhohn’s?” Tatl asked, seemingly conveying Link’s thoughts accurately for once.
“Does it matter?” Doomguy responded. “Shaka’s on our side for now, but we still don't want his men too close to the castle town.”
“So, what, we kill them all?” inquired Tatl.
“I'm sure Shaka will be willing to forgive us, given the circumstances,” Doomguy answered. “Once we figure out which side’s mind-controlled, we’ll focus on them.”
“So how do we want to do this?” the Hunter said.
“We charge right on in,” Ocelot proposed. “Folks with ranged attacks stay on the balcony and rain down hell. Rest of you, get feet on the ground and try to figure out which side we should be targeting.”
“Works for me,” the Hunter agreed, shifting the ambulance into gear.
“Why did you imprison us?” Gray asked as he parried Neidhart’s lance strike and followed up with a thrust.
The prince stumbled backwards from the strike on his armor and raised his lance in a defensive stance. “I thought I explained my charges quite well.”
“You aren't the type to jump to conclusions,” Gray said, jumping backwards and holding his sword up in a fencing stance. “You would have heard our defense. What's up?”
“This is a different world,” Neidhart said, leaping towards Gray for a jump attack. “I can't afford to take risks.”
“You’re right,” Gray said, sidestepping the attack and slicing at Neidhart’s side. “This is a different world.” He bounced off of Neidhart’s block, and raised his own blade in a defensive stance. “Things are pretty black and white. Red and white, rather.” He parried the incoming lance strike effortlessly and thrust in counterattack, hitting a gap in his foe’s armor. “Shaka’s red. We’d need a good reason to work with him.”
Neidhart grunted, the attack piercing his flesh. “I don't have time to indulge your paranoia,” he snarled.
“Neither did we.”
The Hunter’s ambulance drifted to a stop, hitting several Impi in the process. The doors on the back swung open, and Alm, Link, Pancham, and Shelmet poured out. Atop the vehicle, Ocelot and Doomguy fired off their revolvers and chaingun respectively, while Papyrus prepared a bone-related attack and Arthur tossed down holy torches over the edge, which ignited the ground and killed any Impi that attempted to approach the vehicle.
Alm teleported into the air for a devastating drop strike on a nearby Impi, then turned to his allies. “Marth is with these guys,” he shouted. “I saw him.”
The Hunter turned the ambulance and began slowly driving in the direction of that squadron, firing off the vehicle’s vulcan as he went. The people atop the vehicle continued to ward off attackers to the sides and back, while the ground troops charged ahead.
Rena drove swiftly through the Impi, firing her gatling gun to clear a path. She'd seen the ambulance, of course - but the events of this battle were not her concern. Goomy, however, was another story.
“Rena, wait! We have to turn back!”
“I saw some of my old friends back there!”
Rena turned to look at Goomy, incredulous. “Here?”
“Yeah! Pancham and Shelmet!”
“Two of ‘em, huh…?” Rena paused, then sighed. “Alright, fine. I'll turn back for them.”
The Hunter glanced at his side mirror and noticed a girl on a motorcycle trailing him. He switched on the van speaker. “Identify yourself.”
She put up one hand to indicate her intentions. “I'm Rena! I'm on your side, I'm pretty sure. My traveling companion recognized some of your allies.”
Goomy popped up and waved one of his antennae from the bike’s basket. “Hey!”
The Hunter nodded. “Right. Guess you're with the teddy bear and the helmet?”
“They're up ahead, with the other ground troops.”
“Got it,” said Rena, speeding off in that direction.
“Thank you!” called back Goomy.
Gray’s sword clashed with Neidhart’s spear, and the two held their crossed weapons for a moment. Gray smirked. “I think I've bought enough time.” He leapt back and began preparing a spell. “Whiteout!”
With his words, the room became filled with an intense snowstorm, making it nearly impossible to see anything. When it passed, Gray was gone, the sword he'd been given laying on the ground.
Neidhart growled. “Search the grounds!” he barked. “Find him and bring him here immediately!”
The ground troops turned to look at the incoming bike… and the small purple creature in the basket.
Tatl was the first to speak up. “Who are these supposed to be?”
Pancham smirked. “Hey, Goomy! Surprised you made it all the way out here without running back to town.”
“I can handle myself!” Goomy said defensively.
“Yeah,” Shelmet snickered, “I guess the girl on the motorcycle is just for decoration, huh?”
“I guess you guys know each other,” Alm observed, slicing an approaching Impi in two.
“Yeah, this wimp was another friend of ours from back home,” Pancham replied. He then used Circle Throw to toss an attacking Impi back towards the ambulance, where it was shredded in midair by the vehicle’s vulcan.
Goomy winced at the Impi’s violent death. “S-so, uh… what are you guys doing?”
“We're beating some sense into the man commanding this army,” Alm said.
“He's under some kinda mind control,” Pancham explained. “So’s Espurr. Don't think she's here, but we're trying to track her down too.”
“ Espurr?! ” Goomy gasped. He turned to Rena. “Espurr’s another friend. Can we help them?”
Rena bit her lip, thinking, then sighed. “We’ll help them here, but then we're going after Broiler - with or without them.”
Goomy’s eyes lit up. “Thank you!”
Shelmet snickered, nudging Pancham. “We got a hot chick on a motorcycle now!”
Rena looked down at the snail and scoffed. “You ain't ‘got’ nothing. Find somebody your own size, kiddo.”
Marth observed the battle solemnly from a distance. He sat upon a carried platform, much like Bokhohn at the initial assault of the fortress Marth had defended so long ago.
An Impi approached, originally from one of the Horns. “ Nkosi Marth! These new warriors… they're cutting through our forces like they're nothing! And only ours!”
Marth nodded grimly. “I would assume they're from the fortress,” he said, drawing Falchion. “I suppose it's time I joined this battle as well.”
Alm sliced an Impi apart, then looked up to ascertain any approaching enemies. What he saw was none other than the person he came here to find in the first place. He nodded to Marth, taking a combat stance. “It's an honor to finally meet you. Even if the circumstances are… not ideal.”
Marth sighed, raising his own blade. “There is no honor in this.”
In an instant, Alm was behind Marth. The blue-haired warrior did not react in time and took the hit, wincing as he spun around and sliced at the other warrior. Alm blocked the strike. “You know you're under mind control, right?”
Marth’s blade bounced off the block, and he went for a thrust instead. “Of course.”
Alm took the strike on his hip and grunted. “Yeah, Doomguy explained how that works.” He warped above Marth and performed a descending strike, which the other warrior rolled away from. “You just feel a consuming duty to follow Bokhohn’s orders, right?”
Marth performed an overhead chop. “That's correct.”
Alm sidestepped Marth’s attack. “Yeah, with Doomguy’s bloodlust he didn't mind having his gun redirected all that much. You, though… gotta say I feel sorry.”
“You've no need. I--” Marth’s words were interrupted by a small, almond-shaped body smashing into his side, sending him off-balance with a grunt.
“Nice toss, Pancham!” Shelmet said as he landed on his feet.
“No problem,” Pancham sneered, dusting off his hands. “Alm, now’s your chance!”
Alm nodded and sliced upward through Marth’s chest, who gasped and fell backwards. Alm spun around for a followup strike, which Marth desperately blocked. “W-wait!” the Hero-King gasped. “I think… I think I'm out of his control.”
Alm leapt back, but did not sheath his sword. “You sure?”
Marth nodded. “I think so. Let me just…” He turned to the Impi troop assigned to him. “Men! Return to Bokhohn. I will deal with these attackers,” he shouted. The army muttered to themselves, then did as he said, leaving. Marth turned to Alm and began to speak, then fell to the ground, unconscious.
Duke Nukem took a long drag off his cigarette, then flicked it away. “How come you stick around here?”
Sans shrugged from across the bar. “eh, don't really have the powers a lot of you guys do.”
Duke looked the skeleton up and down, eyebrow raised. “You're a skeleton. Have a hard time believing a skeleton walking around and cracking jokes isn't gonna have any other powers.”
“well, sorry to disappoint. guess you're out on the front lines, then?”
Duke nodded. “Damn right. You hear about this Ken-Oh guy? Sounds like a real piece of shit.”
“actually, i haven't.”
“I haven't seen him myself - nobody has - but he's got plenty of bastards doing his work for him. Won't stop saying who they're doing it for, either.”
“sounds to me like he's in it for the reputation.” He took a swig of ketchup. “...and you're helping him along there, aren’tcha?”
“Bullshit,” Duke replied, taking another puff off his cigarette. “He's a coward who can't fight his own battles. I bet he's sitting on his damn golden throne right now, feeling like a real successful motherfucker.”
Mark kicked down the door to Ken-Oh’s throne room, SMGs at the ready. He and the other Fans piled into the room, all either menacing with their weapons or pointing them at Raoh, who was lounging on a golden throne and staring at the door disinterestedly.
“You must be Ken-Oh,” Corey said.
“Yes,” Raoh replied. “I am the Conqueror of the Century’s End, Ken-Oh. But you may call me Raoh.” He stood. “I'm impressed you made it here.”
“Wasn't too hard,” Tony taunted. “Your guards fucking suck. They never stood a chance.”
“Indeed! Your skill is most impressive,” Raoh said. “Which is why I'm offering you a position as one of my generals.”
“Yeah,” said Ash, leveling his pistol at Raoh’s head. “Gonna have to pass on that one.” Bang.
The door to the tavern swung open, and both Duke and Sans turned to look. Red staggered through, clutching his chest as his blood poured through his fingers. “I…” he gasped. “I couldn't…” He collapsed, and shortly thereafter dissolved into dust - along with the blood behind him.
Duke stood, pulling out his golden pistol and grabbing his half-empty beer bottle off the table. “Looks like I'm the man of the hour.” He stormed out of the tavern.
Sans turned to the bartender, a tall, lanky man with a slumped posture. “don't worry, lime. i’ll make sure he pays his tab.”
Lime nodded. “Th-Thank you, sir.”
The skeleton finished his bottle of ketchup. “and with that, i’ll be taking my leave as well. there are better places to run and hide, eh?”
The Puppetbreakers had stopped for the night, setting up camp near the parked ambulance and motorbike. They were gathered around a small campfire, explaining their stories to each other.
“...so that's our story, I guess,” concluded the Hunter. “Now we’re tracking down and defeating Bokhohn while freeing his unfortunate victims from his influence.”
“So how about you guys?” Pancham asked.
Rena nodded. “We're on the trail of somebody too. Ted Broiler. He's from my home world - real evil bastard. He used to invade settlements, burn half the villagers alive and capture the rest as slaves. He hasn't changed a bit, but it seems like he's working for somebody now - Ken-Oh, he’s called. I'm after him ‘cause I've seen what he does. As for the kid…”
Goomy spoke up. “Guys, he has Deerling.”
Gray leaned against the outside wall of the fortress and took several deep breaths. He'd managed to escape Neidhart, but he knew they'd be searching for him soon. Still, stopping to catch his breath couldn't hurt.
A voice came from beside him. “You smoke?”
Gray turned, and saw none other than Snake - the man who had freed him and his allies. He had a box of cigarettes pointed towards the swordsman. He glanced at them. “...No.”
Snake shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He pulled out a cigarette for himself and lit it. After a moment, he spoke. “Saw you fighting Neidhart in there. You’re pretty good.”
“How come you decided to stay behind?”
Gray shrugged. “Not one to stick with the same group for too long. I figured I'd stay behind, let them think I died, then find somebody else.”
“They have your sword.”
“I didn't say it was a well thought-out plan.”
Snake chuckled at that. “Tell you what - I'll help you clear the hot zone, then we can see about getting you your sword back.”
Gray cocked an eyebrow. “Why?”
“I contacted my… commander, as it were. Says we could use somebody who can win a straight fight like you.”
“When were you planning to let me in on that part?”
“Soon as you asked.”
“Yeah,” Gray said. “Once I get my sword back, I’m yours.”
Ash’s bullet disintegrated inches from Raoh’s face. “Nice try,” the man said, “but you'll need to do better than that.”
“Yeah,” Tony said, cracking his knuckles. “I've got your ‘better than that’ right here.”
“I wouldn't recommend attacking me at close range,” Raoh warned. “I hate to give away my secret so soon, but my toki aura will burn you alive if you approach.”
“Nice bluff, old man,” Tony growled, beginning to walk towards Raoh, before being grabbed around the neck by Mark.
“Tony, don't! You saw what happened to that bullet!”
“Dammit, let me go, asshole!” Tony yelled, kicking and clawing at Mark’s arm to little effect. “I can take this guy!”
“Here's my offer,” Raoh began. “You fight for the sake of it, correct? For the joy of hurting other people?”
Tony relaxed slightly. “Yeah,” he said. “I'm just in this for the action, sure.”
Raoh nodded. “Then, should you become my generals, I will guide your killer instinct. Tell you where to use your… considerable skills most effectively, to end this conflict.”
“Right,” Corey said skeptically. “And why should we trust your orders to be on the right track?”
Raoh paused in thought. “In truth, I have no answer. I could tell you of my tactical achievements in my home realm, but I'm sure there are others here with similar tactical minds. That having been said, you don't seem to be very good at directing yourselves.”
“The hell does that mean?” Alex said.
“Whatever goal you had when you set out from the castle town, you abandoned it in favor of coming here and facing me,” Raoh replied. “You don't seem to be much good at sticking to your plans.”
The room went silent for a moment. Finally, Mark spoke up. “So what are the perks?”
“ Deerling?! ” Pancham and Shelmet cried in unison.
“Yeah,” Goomy said sadly. “We were traveling together for a while before Broiler came along. Rena managed to save me, but…”
“Guessing Deerling’s another one of your friends?” Ocelot said.
“Yeah,” Pancham said before turning to Rena. “Do you know what this Ted Broiler guy’s doing to her?”
“I'm guessing that's a question you don't wanna know the answer to,” Doomguy said grimly.
“Nothing like that ,” Rena replied. “My guess is he's just… making her do work for him. Menial labor, that sort of thing.”
“Oh,” remarked Shelmet. “Not too bad, then.”
“He’s also got flamethrowers on his wrists,” Rena continued. “And he knows how to hold himself back from killing with them.”
Ted Broiler sighed and leaned back on his steel throne. An eight-foot titan of a man, his face was a horrible, disfigured mess, with gigantic pink lips and scarred, practically patchwork skin from countless skin grafts. He also had a bright-red mohawk, exposing yet more scars and skin grafts on his scalp. Further, he had an absurd outfit - a blue latex suit with pink gloves and boots, as well as flamethrowers on his wrist attached to a tank on his back. His throne was upon a wheeled cart flanked on all sides by heavily-armed Bias Grapplers and a single Abrams tank, and pulled by a small, exhausted Deerling.
Ted looked down at said deer and began to speak contemptuously. “Pull faster, bitch! I ain't got all day!”
Deerling didn't even turn to look at him. “Please, I… I can't go much longer…”
Ted scoffed and pointed one of his arms just above her, letting out a puff of flame from his flamethrower so that it just barely singed her fur. She yelped and began to pull the cart slightly faster. He sneered. “See? I know you had it in you, gagagah!”
“So, if I'm understanding correctly,” Corey said, “we follow your orders and we get a vehicle, plus free access to any troops under your command?”
“As long as no other general is commanding them, yes,” Raoh replied. “But there is another condition.”
“Of course,” Tony said sarcastically. “What would that be?”
Raoh sighed. “This world has disrespected the boundary between life and death. The weak die at the hands of the strong - this is the natural order.” He paused. “Yet, here, the weak are permitted to continue living. My code will tolerate no such thing. Should you die, your rights as general of my army are stripped away.”
Tony smirked beneath his mask. “So don't die. Easy enough.”
Raoh grinned. “Precisely! So, is this arrangement acceptable?”
Corey nodded. “Not like there's anything to lose. And the perks are nice. You happen to have a van?”
It wasn't hard for Duke to find Red’s killer. Following the trail of broken barrels, fallen arrows, and bombed walls, he ended up near a fountain all too close to the castle. There was gathered several dozen troops - mostly Grapplers and Valmese soldiers - gathered around a huge, imposing bald man on a horse. He was saying something blandly inspiring - Duke wasn't all too concerned with what - to his gathered troops.
Duke looked at the numbers he was up against and traded his golden pistol for a shotgun. “Hey, assholes,” he called, taking a swig of his beer. “Which one of you ordered an ass-whooping?”
“Yeah, that looks like Broiler, alright,” Rena said, looking down on the convoy from above as it moved through a canyon. “I'd recognize that stupid jumpsuit anywhere.” She stepped back from the ledge and turned to the others, gathered outside the vehicles. “He had a good two or three hundred men with him, and a tank on top of that. Do we wanna jump ‘em, or ambush ‘em as they come out?”
Marth stood. “Allow me to offer an alternative,” he said. “We've got plenty of men - and women - here. We can attack them from all sides. Some of us can stand atop the cannon and attack from above, and the others can flank from both sides of the canyon. Their defenses will be stretched thin and they'll have no escape route.”
Nearly everyone else stood in stunned silence. Ocelot, however, just chuckled. “Guess we're the only ones used to groups this large.”
A voice came from behind the group. “Hey.”
The group turned at once to the voice, many raising their weapons. Standing there was Gray, with Snake behind him. Gray raised his hands. “Don't worry. I'm just here for my sword back.”
The Hunter was the first to lower his weapon. “I thought you died.”
Gray shook his head. “Nope. I'm traveling with Snake now. Sorry.”
Ocelot kept his revolvers forward. “So, what, you're just takin’ your sword and runnin’?”
“That's the plan,” Gray replied.
Rena raised her hand. “Sorry, who are these guys?”
Ted Broiler’s convoy moved slowly through the canyon. They could have easily moved faster, were they not slowing to the pace of the exhausted Deerling.
Ted groaned from atop his throne. “Come on, faster! I just fed you, bitch!”
Deerling opened her mouth to respond, but nothing but a weak gasp came out. At that moment, a metallic clinking could be heard from the top of the canyon. Ted craned his neck back to see the source, seeing a marble-green discus the size of a pizza bouncing back and forth between the walls of the canyon as it descended. A bit further. Yeah, those were blades around the side.
Schlit-schlit-schlit-schlit! Four Grapplers decapitated. Four Grapplers turned to dust. The discus finally fell to the ground and disappeared in a puff of magic. With that signal, the other attackers moved in from behind rock formations on either end of Ted’s convoy. On one end, the Hunter’s ambulance approached, shelling a good dozen of the Grapplers. Riding on top were Marth, Alm, Pancham, and Shelmet. On the other end were Papyrus, Doomguy, and Link, transformed into a Zora with the power of one of his masks. Doomguy immediately began firing rockets, his relatively fast launcher taking out his foes 2 or 3 at a time. Papyrus’s bone attacks slid across the ground, softening the Grapplers just enough for Link to finish them off with his Zora boomerangs.
Ted Broiler stood, smirking. “You fuckers made the wrong choice, crossing me!” He knelt down on one knee and angled his arms to be simultaneously out to the side and forward, like the weapons on the wings of an airplane.
Suddenly, from above, a revving motor sounded. Ted looked up, along with several of his men, to see a motorcycle falling, having ramped off one of the cliffs to the side. Suddenly, a figure leapt from the back of the vehicle and descended on Ted, slashing the larger man’s side. Gray slid to a stop, sheathing his Demonbrand katana at the same time as blood burst from the gash he'd left.
The motorcycle finally landed and bounced to a stop as its rider, Rena, pulled out her ice-thrower and leveled it at Ted. “You're finished, Broiler.”
Goomy also attempted to look threatening, puffing himself up and waving his antennae. “Y-yeah! You better watch out!”
Ted smirked. “Hoh? You may be pulling some fancy moves, but I've got the superior numbers. And besides, do you really think you can take down one of the Four Emperors of the Bias Grapplers?” He pulled a massive boomerang the size of a grown man from his back. “ Mohican Slugger! ”
As Ted tossed the boomerang, Rena threw the bike into gear and approached Broiler, the gatling gun on her bike running hot. Just before she would have collided with the Mohican Slugger, she tilted hard to the side, holding Goomy in the bike’s basket with one hand. The boomerang passed overhead, just barely missing her! As she pulled back up, she took aim with her ice-thrower, blowing freezing cold air onto the titan of an adversary.
Ted grinned broadly, seemingly unfazed even as the cold air crystallized on his body. He pointed his arms at Rena. “ Ted Fire! ” He started up his flamethrowers.
As Rena skid to a stop, Gray leapt over to her, already chanting a spell. “Flame Wall,” he almost whispered, and several flames rose up from the ground, encircling him and Rena to form a barrier. Broiler’s own flames merely met the flame wall and were absorbed into it. In a few moments, when Broiler stopped to let his flamethrowers cool off, the barrier fizzled out.
Rena smirked. “Gonna have to try harder than that, big guy.”
Marth’s blade danced through the approaching Grapplers as though they were stalks of wheat. He wasn't here to cut through their forces - the Puppetbreakers on the other side of the canyon, as well as Arthur and Ocelot attacking from above, could handle that - but instead to simply hold the flank and defend the ambulance. The shell that whistled overhead and impacted several feet away, killing at least a dozen Grapplers on impact, provided his reason why. The others assigned to this job were no slouches, either - Alm could simply warp to his targets and vanquish them with a single strike, and while Pancham and Shelmet were relatively weak individually, together their ability to defeat much larger foes was a sight to behold.
Of course, this was all just stalling as far as they were concerned. Their cue came a few moments later. Seemingly out of nowhere, a series of explosions occurred on the surface of the Abrams tank, whose shots had until now been shot out of the air by the ambulance’s automated Ambush System. These explosions were perfectly-placed on the tank’s weak points, and within seconds the entire tank burst into flames with a deafening bang ! The Grapplers were shocked and confused by this, but the Puppetbreakers continued to fight unphased, turning the tide of the battle in their favor.
Right on cue, Snake emerged from the mass of confused Grapplers, a pistol in his right hand and an unconscious Deerling slung over his left shoulder. “Good thing the C4 wasn't a dud,” he quipped.
When the tank exploded, Doomguy signaled to the other two on his side of the canyon. “Let's cut through to Broiler, ladies!” He put away his rocket launcher and swapped it for a chainsaw, grinning maniacally as he revved it.
Papyrus grinned. “AND THEN I'LL SHOW HIM MY SPECIAL ATTACK!”
Link just nodded, tossing his Zora boomerangs to begin clearing a path.
Rena made yet another pass past Ted. Her simultaneous ice-thrower and vulcan attacks, combined with Gray’s sword strikes and Goomy’s Dragon Pulses, were clearly wearing the titan of a man down significantly.
Gray slashed across Ted’s stomach, causing the man to cough blood onto the ground. “You assholes ain't bad,” he muttered. “In fact, I'd go so far as to say you beat me fair and square.” His opponents lowered their weapons, and his grin broadened. “Too bad I fight dirty. Refi-i-ill Dri-i-i-ink!”
A nearby Grappler tossed an IV stand up to Ted, and he grabbed the needle and thrust it into his arm. The liquid in the bag drained, and Ted sighed as many of his wounds seemed to heal and disappear within moments. After the liquid drained, he removed the needle, snapped the stand over his knee, and tossed the pieces aside.
Gray scoffed. “Typical.”
Ocelot peered down at the situation from above, still taking potshots at the Grapplers below with his revolver, killing them one at a time. On the opposite side of the canyon, Arthur tossed down discuses and torches. Though they were in a decidedly support role, they were still helping thin the enemy ranks.
He watched from above as Ted Broiler grabbed Rena’s bike and practically dumped out both her and Goomy before tossing it away. “Shit.”
Broiler loomed over the trio of Rena, Gray, and Goomy, and grinned maniacally. “Now I've got you, gagagaaaaah! Ted Fire!”
This time, Gray didn't have time to get up a flame wall. The flamethrowers on Ted’s wrist engulfed the three. Rena and Gray writhed, while Goomy just hunkered down and attempted to brace himself against the elemental assault.
Snake glanced back at Broiler and witnessed his attack. He grimaced. “Damn! Guess they couldn't handle him alone.”
Pancham smirked. “I bet Goomy’s got this. It's just fire, after all.”
Marth raised an eyebrow. “‘Just’ fire?”
Goomy whined, enduring the assault. Even with his Dragon typing, he knew he couldn't survive much longer against this sort of flame. And he couldn't see any options to get out of this situation, either - he wasn't the fastest Pokémon in the world, and he didn't have any Water moves to put out the flames currently searing him. His moves weren't terrible - his Dragon Pulse had saved his skin more times than he could count - but he didn't see anything that could take out Ted after the Refill Drink. Just as he was about to give up and succumb to the flames, however, something within him shifted. He stood as tall as he could - given his size and body type - and locked eyes with Ted Broiler. And then, he used a move he didn't even know he had.
“HA! MY SPECIAL ATTACK IS NEARLY READY!” Papyrus taunted. He struck a dramatic pose - and an enemy Grappler saw his opportunity, peppering the skeleton with bullets and ending his life instantly.
Doomguy winced. “Damn, again?” He then turned back to the Grappler he was presently disemboweling, swinging his chainsaw to another one as his previous target turned to dust.
Link struck several Grapplers with his boomerangs, stunning them. Before he finished them off, however, he glanced at the sky… and was paralyzed by what he saw there.
“Link, what are you doing?!” Tatl demanded. “You need to…” Her eyes followed Link’s to the sky. “...Oh.”
“Alright, I'm getting out of here,” the Hunter growled, shifting the ambulance into a higher gear. “Not sticking around while this shit is happening.”
Above the canyon, a massive meteor descended from the sky, unnaturally fast. Indeed, it would likely be seconds until it touched down, and the Hunter wanted to get as far away as possible.
“No way!” Pancham cried. “We're not leaving without Goomy!”
“Alright,” Snake responded dryly, “you wanna go back and get him, then?”
Pancham looked down. “...No.”
Marth looked down at the young Pokémon sympathetically. “I'm sorry. Losing friends on the battlefield is… never easy, even for me. No child should be subjected to this.”
Ted Broiler cackled as he burned the trio in front of him, reveling in their pain. He enjoyed seeing how his victims faced death. The swordsman simply knelt, choosing to face death with dignity. The girl from Mado batted at the flames, as though she could put them out. But most interesting was the slime creature - it chose to glare at him. Amusing, he supposed, but soon its life would be snuffed out like so many others.
That's when the Draco Meteor hit.
It didn't seem like much at first, just something pushing on him from above. He assumed it was some attack from one of the would-be heroes above. But when he looked up, he saw nothing except the surface of the meteor descending onto him. And specifically him. He disengaged his flamethrowers in shock. As it pressed onto him, it grew smaller and smaller - and denser and denser. “It hurts! It hurts, gagagaaaahhhhh!” he screamed as the meteor slowly crushed him.
It took a moment for Gray to realize the flames had stopped. He'd accepted his fate, and was ready to reappear at the castle town, so it took even longer to realize he was still in the canyon. He looked up to see Ted Broiler, beaten and bruised, laying on the ground. He stood, drawing Demonsbane.
Ted’s eyes were filled with panic. “R-refill drink! Now!” he called. Then he realized the Grapplers had already fled the canyon at the sight of the Draco Meteor.
“Sorry,” Gray said, as he sliced Ted’s chest through. Finally, the Emperor dissolved into dust as Gray sheathed his blade.
I'm back! Sorry for the delay, I got hit with writer's block about halfway through this chapter and sorta put it on the backburner. Then I got a comment saying they were looking forward to the next chapter, and I churned out the next half in an hour. Funny how that works, eh?