"Dendy, I mustache you a question."
"Okay," Dendy said, studying the POW Card in her hand. "Ask me the question."
"Wait, no, I was making a- never mind." K.O. let out a sheepish little laugh as he handed her his brand new Mustache Darrell POW Card. "You likey?"
She lifted it to the light, watching the foil shimmer. "I find it curious that Darrells are mostly the same, physically speaking, but every single robot with a different outfit gets their own card."
"I think it's neat!" K.O. thrust his hands in the air. "It's like every Darrell is the first!"
"It certainly makes him collectible," Dendy agreed, then handed the card back. Together, the duo sat on the tile floor of the Bodega, a flimsy cereal box between them to set their precious cards on. Her screen told her it was precisely sixty-eight degrees out, with a chance of precipitation as low as five percent. The weatherman had predicted rain, and the two umbrellas next to them informed her he'd fooled them. K.O. had left his in his mother's car.
"Ugh." Rad draped himself over the counter with a disgusted groan. "Ya'll're obsessed with those things. And that's coming from a hardcore fan."
Dendy quietly gave K.O. her UFO Shannon. "What do you suggest we do, then?"
"I dunno. What do you guys usually do?"
"We trade POW Cards," K.O. chipped in cheerfully.
"We fiddle with Dendy's hackpack!"
"We don't 'fiddle', K.O.," Dendy scolded, though she didn't sound upset. "We conduct experiments and test hypothesis."
The alien rolled onto his stomach to eye them better. "You guys do do other stuff, right? Like, what about stuff you like, little buddy?"
"I like POW Cards," K.O. replied, just as Dendy said: "What do you mean, stuff he likes?"
"It just seems like ya'll do a lot of computer stuff, is all. Logic stuff. Boring stuff."
Dendy stuff, her mind supplied, having been told she was boring more than once before. Dendy didn't quite mind that. Some people like cartoons. Some people like music. Dendy's passions just happen to lie in machines. Science. Facts and statistics.
His tone of voice made her frown, though she couldn't quite tell why.
"Leave 'em be, Rad." Enid reached out to punch his shoulder. "Let them play with POW Cards if they wanna."
"I'm not saying they shouldn't play!" he defended, rubbing the wounded spot with a pout.
K.O., who had been tapping his chin thoughtfully, finally perked up. "We play tag sometimes!"
"Oh. Right," Dendy said. "Tag. That's a fun game we play."
"Tag is fun," Enid agreed. "I'm more of a hide-n-seek type myself, but I'm biased. Teleportation and all that."
The kappa hardly heard. She was staring thoughtfully at the cards strewn about the cereal box that technically belonged on a shelf. The weather didn't seem to matter very much, anymore. Nor the odd number of Darrell cards. She touched one, feeling the familiar and soothing texture.
Dendy did the math three times. The second was because she made a point to double-check her work. The third was because she had a half-hope her computer had malfunctioned somehow, despite the fact that a malfunction would inevitably mean more work for her down the line.
"Sixty percent," she read aloud, perching herself on her bed. "Sixty percent of the time, when K.O. and I are together, we play with POW Cards." Dendy clicked the smaller part of the graph, separating it into unequal portions. "Of the remaining forty percent, thirty of it is spent on continuing various aspects of my research." She breathed sharply out of her nose, dissipating the graph entirely. Dendy reclined back on her bed, staring up at the ceiling she had known all her life. "Which means that only ten percent of the time, we do activities that K.O. enjoys outside of our shared interest."
Math didn't lie. It couldn't. It was numbers. Numbers were cold and distant, and they never, ever lied, unlike caring friends who didn't want to bring to light a grievous error on the behalf of their other friend.
"Have I... been selfish?" she asked herself. "K.O. and I have such limited time together. Homework is in my path, while heroism and working a day shift are in his. POW Cards have become a pivotal bonding implement between us, and I have grown that much more appreciative of them in the past few months. However... have I unknowingly hindered our friendship by sucking up what was left? Have I... been a drag?" The thought alone made her sit up. "I must rectify this immediately."
But how? She knew, quite well even, that K.O., feeling he had slighted his friends in any way, would set out on a quest of some kind to fix things. But Dendy was not the questing type. Dendy was the type to hack into the security of the place K.O. wanted to quest into... type. If that made any logical sense.
She smacked her fist onto the open palm of her hand. "I need a second opinion."
Dendy found Pavel sitting in his usual chair, reading his usual newspaper. The tiny frog perched in his head-pond croaked as she peered around the entryway, making him look up and spot her. "Oh! Heya, Den."
"I need advice."
Pavel shifted over, patting the free spot he'd made. "Come'on up, kiddo."
She nodded and sat down. Normally, Dendy didn't enjoy being that close to someone else, but she didn't mind it when it was her parents. The same could be said of K.O., but K.O. had the size and intimidation factor of a teddy bear, so she wasn't sure if he counted. "I fear I've made an error in my friendship with K.O."
"Uh-oh," her father said. He reached up to pick the tiny frog up and set it in her lap. Dendy liked to pet it when she was upset. "What happened, Den?"
"I've been selfish," she admitted quietly, shamefully staring at her lap-mate, who croaked supportively. "K.O. and I have focused so much on my research, we haven't done much else, and I don't believe that's fair to him."
Pavel's brow furrowed. "But, honey, you enjoy your research! And I'm sure K.O. does too."
"Perhaps, but K.O.'s passions do not align with mine." She tapped her fingers together. "By focusing on me, I have not been much help with the things he enjoys. And I want to make it up to him. I had hoped... you might have some suggestions?"
"Hmmmm..." He wrapped his arm around her for a side-hug. "Maybe a gift basket? I've found that's a pretty good way to start a conversation."
"A gift basket?"
"Sure, why not? I'll loan you the technos."
Dendy smiled and returned the affection, the tiny frog shifting between them. "Thank you."
"Anytime, Den. Now, why don't you tell yer old man about the new science-y thing yer workin' on?"
The next day at the Plaza was exactly sixty-five degrees, with a fifteen percent chance of precipitation, and while it was technically cooler than the day prior, Dendy thought that the humidity had made it worse. She rather enjoyed a murky, foggy day to keep her skin hydrated, but those were few and far between in a place like this.
"A gift basket," Dendy whispered, bringing up her statistics. "What should I fill it with? POW Cards?" She brought her fingers to her chin. "Would that be fitting, or too blasé?"
She clicked exit, then noticed the familiar purple building of Boxmore across the street, distorted by the blue of her screen. Dendy moved her files over to get a better look, forgoing actually taking her screen down. Smoke chugged out of spires as new machines were constructed for evil uses. The kappa could just barely hear the manufacturing line in use, the creak of gears and slamming of pistons, though she wasn't sure if she had imagined it or not.
"Hmmm," she said, copying Pavel's little hum. She pulled up a new file, testing out a couple of algorithms. "I may need to change my strategy..."
Concept: Spying On Boxmore Industries
Danger Level: Medium-High
Pros: Getting Info For Bodega, Working On Technology, Cementing Friendship with K.O.
Cons: Working For Villain, Working On Technology (Not For Personal Gain), See Danger Level Above
Unknowns: Boxman's Hiring Policy Towards Non-Robots, Kappas In Particular
Knowns: Boxman Hates Friendship, Is Aware Of Friendship With K.O, Is An All-Around Jerk.
Notes: Heroes Make Sacrifices, K.O. Is A Hero, I Am Friends With K.O. By The Law Of Association, I Am Bound By A Hero's Morals.
Addendum: This Is The Stupidest Idea I've Ever Had
"Equal pros and cons," she noted. "The danger level is unfortunate, but I am no shrinking violet when it comes to battling. The real issue is going to be getting hired in the first place."
Dendy's feet had begun to propel her without her permission, wandering over to the large and evil corporation across the road. Thankfully, before she could make such a life-altering decision in such a public and brightly-lit place, a voice called out to her. "Dendy!"
The kappa barely had the time to vanish her files before K.O. had drug her into a hug, grinning ear to ear. "Hiya, Dendy! Whatcha doin'?"
"I'm coming to visit you, of course," Dendy answered, praying she'd hit save at some point. Knowing her, she probably had, but sometimes it slipped her mind. "I simply got curious about the Boxmore company's... building structure?"
K.O. stuck his tongue out. "It's an evil place with evil building structure."
She adjusted her goggles. "Actually, the structure looked quite sound, especially considering you toss robots at it daily."
Enid and Rad were at the counter like usual, talking with their heads bent close together. The former elbowed the latter in the ribs when the doors slid open, causing him to stand up straight. "Hey, Dendy. Can I, like, real talk a sec with you?"
Dendy stopped and blinked up at him. "We're talking now."
"You right, you right," Rad said. "Look, I'm sorry about yesterday. I didn't mean to be a butthead."
"I wasn't aware of you being a butthead," she admitted, mildly surprised.
"I was being kinda passive-aggressive." He rubbed the back of his head. "I shouldn't've called your thing boring. Everybody likes different stuff, y'know? There's a lot of people who think energy bars are boring, but they're my favs."
"Oh," Dendy replied, though she had multiple other answers she could have given, varying from I know, I've studied your daily routine, to energy bars are boring, but she finds none of them satisfactory. "Not to worry, Radicles. Your words did not harm me. If anything, they've given me a new perspective of how others may perceive me."
"Oh." Rad looked at her, stupefied, before slowly breaking into a smile. "You're, uh, welcome, then."
K.O. eventually frees her from the terrible music that plays almost constantly in Gar's Bodega, walking her out with a cheerful farewell. Dendy walked around for a bit, finally taking up a spare bench in the food court- one of the yucky, gross ones in the back, so no one would dare sit near her. She opened her email, and reluctantly started typing.
Lord Boxman of Boxmore Industries;
I am Dendy. Due to a series of unfortunate events (the title of which I do not claim to own), I have recently decided to take the first step into villainy. As you are the most powerful villain in the Bodega area, I wish to turn to you for advice, and perhaps even employment. I am highly skilled in the world of technology, and believe I could be an asset to the evolution of your company. I have attached a resume below.
May the Plaza be burned,
Out loud, Dendy let out a quiet squeak, feeling very conflicted. She hated lying, and she'd just discovered she hated pretending to be for the destruction of her reoccurring weekend hangout spot even more. She squirmed uncomfortably as she read the message over again. The kappa took a deep breath in, then out. "Focus, Dendy. This plan is about far more than a nonsensical loyalty to a series of shopping centers and restaurants."
She clicked send before her nerves could betray her.
"Sooooo... Dandy, was it?"
Of all the outcomes Dendy had expected that particular day, being seated in front of Lord Boxman was not one of them. She didn't think interviews were same-day basis, and yet, after a quick snack and smoothie, she'd come back to find a two-sentence response, requesting for her to come by after hours.
Dendy didn't think normal interviewees had two Raymonds flanking the door behind them, either.
"Dendy," Lord Boxman said her name as if it were the name of a slug. He slammed his hands down on his desk. "Soo, Dendy. You mind telling me how you got access to my private email address?"
"It's on your website, sir."
He stared at her, flabbergasted. "Is it?"
"Oh." The simple statement had torn the air from his lungs, as evidenced by the way he slowly slumped back down in his seat, steepling his fingers. "Well, then. What are these so-called 'unfortunate events' of your's that suddenly made you so interested in villainy, anyway?"
"I examined myself, and realized I was selfish," she said, and it was nice not to have to lie. Not technically, anyway. "I have many emotional flaws, and while they make me an interesting character to delve into, I also realized they gave me more motivation to be evil over being good."
"And why did you decide to take this little phase to Boxmore Industires?"
"I like machines, sir."
"Really?" Lord Boxman narrowed his eyes at her. "Prove it, whelp!"
Dendy didn't move. "How so?"
"I dunno," he admitted, waving it off. "Wow me."
"Okay." She slipped out of her chair and went around to the closest Raymond, who grimaced at her like a stain on his cleat. She ignored it, jamming a cable into the nearest port she could find- the palm of his hand, in this case- before pulling up his schematics. "Tell me, Raymond. Is there any changes you'd like done?"
He flushed a bit. "Changes? Why, whatever do you mean?"
"I can change your colors, the shape of your hair, sound of your voice..." she listed them off, scrolling down. "Whatever pleases you."
Raymond looked to Lord Boxman for approval, but the villain simply shrugged, disinterested. He sheepishly tapped his claws together. "Well... As much as I enjoy my grassy theme... I do have to admit the gentle colors of roses are... tempting."
Dendy nodded. "Would you prefer highlights, or full-body color?"
She typed the command in and hit the little button. A flash of light pink overtook the 'bot, leaving his spikes, fingers, and connectors the same color as his most beloved flower. Raymond let out a gasp of awe and looked himself over, while the Raymond opposite of him frowned jealously. "I look even more stunning than before! Why, I didn't even realize that was possible!"
Dendy turned slightly, then went back to looking straight ahead when she noticed Lord Boxman had come closer. Meeting his eye felt weird. And wrong. She didn't know if it was because he was a stranger, or because he wasn't exactly friendly. Maybe it was both. "I suppose you've got the minimal qualifications," he grunted into the awkward silence. "One last thing. Aren't you a friend of K.O.?"
This is it, Dendy, she thought. Just go with the pre-thought out excuse. The kappa took in another controlled breath and pivoted on her heels, making her eyes turn into sideways Is. That always seemed to intimidate people, for whatever reason. "A villainous character is only made that much more interesting by their odd connections, Lord Boxman, sir."
Lord Boxman put his hands on his hips, examining her for any final criticisms. Dendy waited. Finally, he let out a long sigh. "You start tomorrow."
"You will not regret this, sir," she said, shaking his hand, though she had already resolved to put 'Will Regret This Greatly' on the file.
Name: Lord Boxman
Nickname or Full Name: No Data
(If Nickname) Full Name: No Data
Danger Level: Medium
Unknowns: Age, Backstory, Replacement Hobbies Once Plaza is Destroyed
Knowns: Hatred of Plaza (Specifically Gar's Bodega), Willing to Hire Kappas and Other Non-Robots, Owns Boxmore
Notes: Probably Hired Dendy (Self) to Get Back at K.O.
Overall Opinion: Butthead
Nickname, Or Full Name: No Data
(If Nickname) Full Name: No Data
Danger Level: Low-Medium
Unknowns: Age, How Much of Plaza Hatred Is His Own, How Many Sports He Plays, Opinion of Dendy (Self)
Knowns: Loyal to Father Figure (Lord Boxman), Likes Sports, Likes Roses, Melodramatic
Notes: Possible Ally In Exchange For Coloring
Overall Opinion: Uses Too Many Sports Euphemisms to be Scary
"Aren't you that child who beat me up?" Ernesto asked, rubbing at the back of his metallic dome. "...After giving me constructive criticism?"
"Indeed," Dendy replied, not looking up from her typing. She could feel the eyes of all the Boxmore robots on her as she quietly did her work in the lounge chair she'd been provided. She did not think herself in any immediate danger; just under scrutiny. "I hope you found my words to be useful overall."
She suddenly had a single eyeball in her face, courtesy of Darrell, who had shoved his head through her hologram. "This is the twerp who wrecked you, Ernie? I was expecting someone... taller."
"I'm of average size for my species," she countered.
Shannon came up on her other side, eyes narrowed, face inches from her goggles. "Daddy's never hired people before. He has clients, but never any employees. How'd you pull it off, brat?"
"My name is Dendy," Dendy said. "I merely showed off my qualifications."
"She's right," Raymond added, surprising her. He struck a pose. "Just look what the little monster did to me! I look better than ever!"
Shannon's eyes lit up. "Can you do that to me? Only with purple?"
"Ooh, ooh, and me!" Darrell cried, waving his arms. "I wanna look like a rainbow!"
Dendy edged back slightly, a little intimidated by their overwhelming nature (she was used to it from K.O., but K.O. was one boy), but it was a bit late in the experiment to chicken out now. Not to mention she needed their trust. A solid metal panel bumped her boot, making her look down, and there was Jethro.
"Would you... like a highlight too?" she asked.
"I am Jethro," Jethro said.
Her eyes darted to the other robots, but they were staring at her, so Dendy told herself to just do with it. "Which color would your prefer?"
"I am Jethro."
"You're right, buddy." Darrell picked the 'bot up like he was a baby. "You would look good with gray."
Dendy pretended to give it thought. She put her hand to her chin and let out a long and monotone 'hmmmmmm', as if carefully weighing the pros and cons, when really a simple look told her there was plenty of the latter and none to the former.
Finally, she said, with as much tact as Dendy possessed; "I do not follow, Lord Boxman, sir. How will this lead to the destruction of the Plaza?"
"Are you serious?" he scoffed, tossing his hands in the air. "I think having robotic piranha monsters invade their plumbing to destroy the Bodega's credibility is a very good plan, thank you very much!"
"I understand how that might be true in theory, but it does not work in reality."
Lord Boxman narrowed his eyes at her. "And how would you know, newbie?"
Dendy simply pointed at the prototype, swimming happily in its pool. It was easily the size of a bus. "I don't believe it will fit."
"How dare you-" he spluttered, amongst other things. Dendy narrowed her eyes into slits and waited for him to get his words under control. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Raymond and Shannon exchange a worried look. She didn't know what they would be worried about. Perhaps their father's mental state, if nothing else. "I ought to have you turned to molecules!"
"We all need constructive criticism, sir," she replied steadily. "It helps us grow."
"You know what? Fine!" Lord Boxman chucked whatever was in his hand to the floor- it sounded metallic, so Dendy assumed it to be a tool- and grabbed her shoulders. "You want the truth, you little mongrel?"
"If it pleases you, sir."
He sighed and let go. The villain's voice was so low she had to strain her ears to hear him. "I've got... evil block."
"Evil block?" Dendy echoed.
"Evil block!" Lord Boxman shouted, looking pained at the mere thought. "It happens to the best of 'em, I suppose. One day, you've got schemes out the ears. The next? Nothing. Zip. Nadda." His chicken claw came up to rub the bridge of his nose. "Then you start designing robots too big for spaces too small and gross to be properly invaded."
Dendy looked back at the Boxmore 'bots, though she didn't know what she expected them to do. They shuffled awkwardly. Raymond sent her a shrug. The kappa stiffened her resolve and touched his arm, grateful for the layer of fabric between their skin. "Sometimes, when I have creative block, I find forcing myself to work through a problem to be beneficial," she told him gently. "Perhaps, if we figure out a way to make the piranhas smaller, but just as dangerous, you will get your evil juices flowing again- so to speak."
He sniffed. "You really think so?"
"I certainly hope so, sir. I'd hate for my first suggestion to be a failure."
Lord Boxman straightened fully, tucking his arms behind his back. "Well! I must admit, I only hired you to get back at K.O., so I'm a bit surprised that you've already proven to be a help."
"Daddy!" Shannon yelped. "Don't just tell her your evil plans- not the ones that relate to her, anyway!"
"Not to worry." Dendy pulled up the file she had on Boxman, thankful she'd thought to edit out her overall opinion the night before. "I figured as much."
"Huh. Neat. WAIT A MINUTE!" He tapped furiously at the screen. "Why is my danger level medium?"
"Typo." She quickly deleted it and typed in 'high', despite not feeling the least bit intimidated. "Is this better, sir?"
"Much." He nodded in a satisfied manner. "This may have been a better plot than I first thought. With your common sense and notes, the chance I'll get to destroy Lakewood Plaza soon is so much higher, even with my evil block!"
"I'm glad you think so, sir," Dendy said sincerely.
Day 1 Notes:
-There is a lot of ineffectively used space in Boxmore Industries
-Robots are easily coerced with colors (Addendum: make profiles for others soon)
-Lord Boxman is suffering from a case of 'evil block', which is probably the reason Dendy (self) was hired.
-Robotic piranhas don't belong anywhere near bathrooms
-Lord Boxman continues to be a butthead