Chapter 1: A really Rough Day
It was as normal a day as any other at Gar's Bodega, in Lakewood Plaza Turbo. Many heroes lived here, and regular visitors came here as well, discounting the rivals at Boxmore Industries that attacked quite commonly today. It had been one of their more frequent assault days.
K.O., the Level 4 hero, was dragging along another two trash bags, stuffed with various scrap metal bolts and machine leftovers from when they beat up their robotic rivals last time.
"I hope that's the last of their attacks for today," he sighed out. Normally he was energetic and overly optimistic, as many described him. Now he felt like everything was sore and achy. All of the bodega workers were like that at the moment.
After shoving the trash into the recycling bin out back, he re-entered the bodega through the back, where all the products were stored in excess. K.O. saw himself in a mirror as he walked by, making him stop.
"Yeesh… I look really bad…" K.O. murmured, seeing the many bruises and scrapes all over his body. There was a burn mark on his left arm in the shape of a boot as well, it stood out considerably compared to the other injuries. The brushy haired young boy did not want to go guzzling health potions to treat all this. "Oh well… I'll feel much better after I eat," K.O. hummed to himself, continuing on his way with a bright smile, treating the injuries more like a personal battle trophy.
The Level 4 hero paused when he was about to leave as he heard a loud creak, followed by several snapping noises. When he looked up, he saw several of the over sized crates falling toward him.
"Whoa!" K.O. quickly made a pair of power fists around his arms, which formed into blue aura knuckles. He caught the first two boxes, throwing them off to the side. Same for the last two. "Whew… Okay, that's handled," K.O. chuckled in relief, guessing there had just been too much weight on one of the higher shelves that caused it to break. He was glad it was himself that this had happened to. His other co-workers would have destroyed the product stuffed crates without a second thought.
"Little buddy! You okay?!" a familiar voice chimed up. K.O. saw one of his best friends, the alien stockroom worker Radicles, come over shortly after the snapping noises.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Rad. Are you alright?" The young boy responded. K.O. had a small issue of caring more about others than himself, something that was a considerable strength and simultaneous weakness. Rad looked nearly as exhausted and injured as he was.
"Ye-yeah, yeah, sorry about that… I got two of the boxes mixed up and put the concrete blasters on the wrong shelf," Radicles explained. He was terrified that he had nearly crushed his dear friend alive. The Level 5 alien did that to himself often enough, he didn't need to do it to others.
"Maybe you should take a break, Rad. You really overdid it in that last fight," K.O. suggested. His close friend nodded, thinking that would be for the best. Neither wanted an earful from their boss.
"What's going on in here?!" Or it was far too late to escape their boss now. They knew that already by the feeling of the ground shaking. Whenever something happened inside the bodega, Mr. Gar seemed to always be ready to respond to anything.
They saw the muscular man himself step into the storage area whom K.O. idolized and always wanted to do his best to make proud. Mr. Gar could be scary though when he wanted to be. Other heroes would compare him to an army sergeant for that.
"E-everything's fine, Mr. Gar!" Rad tried to say, though their boss looked the two employees of his over.
"You two look horrible. What happened? I thought you all handled the last Boxmore attack already," Mr. Gar inquired. He lost count of how many attacks they had today. He took notice of the minimally damaged crates of products lying around. Eventually he spotted the broken storage rack above them.
"I-I might have…" Radicles was about to answer, but K.O. interrupted.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Gar! I accidentally threw a power fist… It broke the shelf, but I was able to catch everything," K.O. took the blame without hesitation.
"Uhh?" Rad was surprised and confused, not sure why his close friend was trying to take the heat in place of him. It wasn't like they owed him one.
"You know why those products are required to be so high up to begin with? It's because they're some of the cheapest, rarely sell or need restocking," Mr. Gar wanted to ignore it, yet there was an unfortunate detail that made it so he couldn't gloss over the incident. "This is your third mistake in the last two weeks, K.O. We need to talk privately."
K.O. casted his gaze down to the floor. "Yes sir, Mr. Gar," he nodded. He never enjoyed it when he disappointed his idol, it almost felt as bad as disappointing his own mother.
"Wait a second now, K.O. didn't…" Radicles tried to speak up again, but felt his vocal chords lock up when their boss snapped his head at his direction.
"Go take a break, Rad. I'll let you know when you can get back to work," Mr. Gar ordered. Rad complied, beginning to leave the storage room, though he saw his co-worked wink to him while their boss kept his attention on the alien before he closed the door.
"What were you thinking, little buddy?" the Level 5 alien whispered to himself. K.O. never did that sort of thing before. For sure, he was acting weird.
Radicles made his way through the store, going into the break room, where he found the cashier already on one of her usual post-fight breaks.
"Oh hey, Rad. I was starting to think you passed out somewhere," the Level 10 ninja, Enid, greeted him. She got her own injuries treated long before the alien appeared. Now she was just enjoying the peace before the customers would inevitably ruin it.
"Trust me, I'm about to," Rad plopped onto the nearby couch and groaned, both pained and disappointed in himself.
"Where's K.O.?" Enid sat up on her favorite beanbag chair. Usually by now their littlest friend would be relaxing too after the clean up like usual for his post-battle tasks.
"Talking with Mr. Gar. …Hey, why did K.O. have a burn mark from your boots?" Rad asked, having noticed it. Enid could light her legs on fire to throw out projectiles or increase damage from her kicks. Enid became a little nervous hearing that get brought up.
"Oh, uh… Well, me and him were doing a combo, y'know. He turns into a ball and I kick him?" Enid started.
"Yeah, that rebound thing or whatever you called it…" the alien nodded. Their little friend's flexibility knew no bounds. He could easily curl into a ball as a projectile. Both of K.O.'s co-workers had a combo they could do with it.
"Raymond figured out a counter for it, and well, I had to kick K.O. a dozen times to actually take'em down," Enid finished. It was shameful of her, she knew and felt it well. She had gotten lost in the heat of the moment during their fight. The last kick had been harder than the rest, and as result had left that burn mark on K.O.
"Jeez Enid…" Rad sat up in his chair after his body stopped aching as badly. His purple haired friend didn't appreciate that judgmental tone, yet she tried to ignore it.
"What about you? Why're you looking so down?" Enid quirked, he looked more upset than exhausted really.
"I screwed up in the storage room and almost squished the little dude, but he took the blame for me when Mr. Gar came," Radicles exclaimed. It was all too confusing for him. He hadn't even asked the brushy haired boy to take the fall for him. K.O. just had done it so suddenly and Rad didn't know why.
Before they could talk any further, they saw K.O. enter the break room, seeing him punch out, only to then come pick up his backpack from nearby.
"Hey, K.O. What's going on?" Enid stood up and came over to him. K.O. slung his backpack over his shoulder.
"Oh, because I've messed up so much lately, Mr. Gar is sending me home early today," K.O. explained. The news didn't seem to affect his joy at all, despite it shocking his co-workers.
"What?! K.O., why'd you take the fall for me?" Rad reacted, distressed upon hearing this.
"You'd lose money if you got in trouble anymore. I wasn't in nearly as much trouble," K.O. simply replied. He kept track of his friends at work, to try and help them if they needed it. The last thing they needed was a large mess on their hands. He figured sacrificing a day at his favorite place on the planet beat someone else losing money they might need.
"That still isn't right little buddy. I'm gonna go talk to Mr. Gar and tell him the truth," Radicles insisted, not appreciating someone else taking the blame for his fumble, though Enid grabbed his shoulder to stop him.
"I think you're leaving out a detail there, K.O. You wanna go home early?" the ninja guessed. K.O. did love helping everybody he could, but it was apparent to her that the Level 4 hero had wanted to get off work early, and a perfect opportunity had come up that let him do just that.
"Well… I'm not really going home," the brushy haired boy confessed. As always, he wasn't the best at lying, unless he absolutely had to. This time, he simply wasn't trying.
"So… where are you going?" asked Enid.
"School let out and doesn't start back up for a while, and Dendy invited me to a sleepover at her lab. Mommy said she'd take me after work." K.O. explained, having been looking forward to this since his close classmate had announced the idea a month back.
"You know you can just ask to get off early, right?" Rad spoke back, though he knew with Mr. Gar, asking to leave early without a good reason was going to go nowhere.
"I've never been prouder," Enid grinned, as if she had taught K.O. how to act more devious like this. The young boy hugged his close friends.
"I should get going, I'll see you guys Monday! Bye!" K.O. made to leave, looking pleased with himself despite the many injuries he had accrued today.
"It looks like I'm gonna win that bet after all," Rad hummed smugly once the bodega cleaner was gone. Enid rolled her eyes.
"It's a sleepover, not a date, Rad," she retorted. Their bet was on how long it would take before Dendy and K.O. got together. Enid seemed close to losing at this rate. The two went back to enjoying their break, hoping they would have no more attacks from Boxmore today.
K.O. walked from Gar's bodega to the nearby fitness dojo. Most of the regulars to his mother's fitness program were already gone by now. He was about to go inside, but he paused at the door when he saw an all too familiar mouse.
"Is that… Fink?" K.O. tilted his head. Fink, a similarly aged mouse that worked loyally to Professor Venomous, K.O.'s semi-estranged father. Carol was doing simple poses and watching Fink try to copy them to the best of her tiny ability. K.O. stared out of curiosity.
"Alright now just reach to the sky," the high-Levelled single mother said. Fink tried to do so, raising her arms up high, only for a sharp pain to shoot out through the mouse's back, making her collapse to the floor.
Fink roared. "I hate this! I feel like my body's trying to fall apart!" she complained while rolling around slightly on the floor.
"Don't worry. You'll feel way better the more ya stretch," Carol tried to reassure, though was more or less drowned out for the most part. K.O. decided to step inside after snapping out of his gazing at the weird situation going on.
"Hey, mommy," the Level 4 hero greeted his mother.
"Oh, hey Peanut! You're here early," the strong woman gave her son a tight hug. He squeaked, trying to ignore his own pain now from all the various bruises and scrapes, which made him want to fall to the floor as well.
"Mr. Gar let me leave early," K.O. looked over to Fink who now lay flat on her back, staring angrily at the ceiling, like a toddler that realized her tantrum was failing to do anything. "Err, why's she here?" he asked.
"Well, I owed Venomous a favor after he helped me with your last birthday present… He had to go out of the Neutral Zone for work until Monday and asked if we could watch Fink while he's gone," Carol explained. The blonde woman really hated that man, despite his continuous efforts to make it up to their son for all he did, and she loathed the rat's attitude. Sadly, a favor was a favor.
"Why isn't Fink with Boxmore then?" K.O. chirped. Boxmore industries was a giant mostly robotic family that Venomous and Fink may as well be a part of by now.
"They're all busy tonight and don't trust me alone," Fink sat up, trying to ignore the pain in her back. "I told boss I don't need no babysitters, especially not stinkin' heroes!" she ranted. Not even trying to hide how much she hated being separated from her boss. Even if she was K.O.'s age, she sure didn't act like it sometime's.
"Yeah, yeah, but what you DO need, is more exercise. You're basically a ball of tight muscles," Carol claimed. Fink spent most of her down time playing video games when she wasn't helping her boss, though even when she was aiding him, there wasn't usually much physical activity involved.
"Can I help?" K.O. offered. He felt his mother rub his head, messing up his brushy hair a little.
"Nah… this was just the ending stretching," Carol replied, "Do you need help though? You look like you just came back from a war with Boxmore."
"I'm fine, Mommy. I'll be better after dinner!" K.O. reassured. He was really excited for Dendy's sleepover tonight, though he was worried about leaving his mother alone with the henchmouse.
Their conversation was interrupted by Carol's phone ringing. "Oh, hang on, honey, I need to take this," Carol said. Her son nodded, letting his mom step outside. The Level 4 hero decided to approach Fink.
"Are you feeling any better?" K.O. chirped, concerned, offering a hand to her, only for it to get shoved aside.
"No! Everything feels worse now! Your mom put me through those stupid exercises, three times more than the others!" Fink whined, ignoring how Carol's other regulars were on the older side of the age spectrum, discounting one or two, including Enid's mother.
"I can help your back feel better if you want?" he offered. Fink gave a glare. She'd refuse right then and there, but she couldn't exactly ignore the pain.
"Fine," she huffed, her tail twitching to express her irritation.
"Okay," K.O. smiled, "Lay on your stomach!"
Fink wanted to argue, she sighed. Not like she could do much with being exhausted from the very long workout. Once she was lying on her stomach, the young boy began to rub her back.
"I have to do this a lot for Enid, too. Don't worry," K.O. reassured. Enid had a lot of leg cramping problems after fights. Though at first, all he got in response was squeaks and groans of pain. Eventually, it began to make Fink feel better, like her back was releasing all of its tension.
"Ohhh that's way better…" Fink purred, loving this massage now. She had only ever given them to Professor Venomous, but she had never received one until today.
"A good hero can do more than just fight with their hands," K.O. repeated one of the many things his mother had taught him. Though his green haired friend didn't really reply. She was enjoying this massage for all its worth, starting to think this time at Carol's wouldn't be that bad.
"K.O.! Something's come up and…" Carol paused when she saw the content mouse, looking to be near asleep with how comfortable she was becoming. The single mother snapping a few pictures with her phone while she had the chance, finding the scene adorable.
"What's wrong Mommy?" K.O. asked, stopping the massage, which disappointed Fink.
"Punching Judy got hurt and I need to go to the hospital to make sure she doesn't try to leave against doctor's orders," Carol tried to explain it to the best of her ability. Punching Judy was her son's former babysitter, before he got a job and she was stubborn when it came to hospitals. This was not the first time she had to do something like this to help a friend.
"Can I come?" K.O. offered, feeling his mother patting his head. Fink finally getting up out of the floor, feeling much better.
"Sorry, sweetie. I think it'd be better if I just took you to Dendy's now… But do you think you could watch Fink?" Carol asked her son. She knew about the two's past fights and didn't wish to burden him with a responsibility he didn't want, especially when he already had plans. Yet the high level hero didn't want to cause more unneeded trouble at the hospital than their inevitably would be..
"I told you I don't need a babysitter!" Fink repeated, starting to get sick of being treated like a toddler.
"Alright, mommy. I'm sure Dendy'd be happy to have another friend over tonight," K.O. answered with a smile. Except he was oblivious to how much the rat and kappa truly hated each other. He hadn't a clue why either.
"Let's get a move on then!" Carol gave a thumbs up, heading off to get to the car. Fink sighed, resigning herself. She had no say nor shout in this matter.
"Thanks… I guess you're good with your hands," Fink told the Level 4 hero as she passed by him, fighting with herself to end the sentence with a cheap quip at his expense.
"I'm just happy to help," K.O. smiled and followed, though the violently awkward silence set in afterwards. Earning a thanks from the young mouse was a very hard task. He was more than happy with it. K.O. just hoped Dendy wouldn't mind an extra guest arriving unannounced.
Chapter 2: Sleepover Gone Wrong
K.O. was enjoying the car ride. He spent it mostly staring out the window, looking at the scenery as they passed by. Fink was seated beside him in the back seat, looking bored out of her mind. By now, the sun had started setting, revealing the beautiful orange light of dusk.
"Have you been up to much, Fink?" the brushy haired boy decided to ask, wanting to break the ice. He knew it was probably making his mother more worried than she already was about how they'd do by themselves.
"Everything has been so slow lately… Boss never wants to do anything now unless Boxman goes along either," Fink claimed. All it did was force her to kill time by herself. She even won a few gaming tournaments from all the time she had to practice, honestly the Boxmore bots were spending more time with her than Venomous lately. "What about you?"
K.O. still taking in what she had said, wondering if she was feeling lonely, but had not gotten a chance to ask. "Well, Boxmore cranked up their attacks today, and the last fight I was in, me and Enid's combo was used so much it left me with this cool burn mark… oh, and Rad almost squished me after mixing up crates in the storeroom," K.O. showed the boot burn print on his arm that stood out prominently in contrast to all his other bruises and cuts.
"…And why are you happy about any of that?" Fink asked. It was creepy to see K.O. sound so ecstatic when talking about being hurt by any pal of his, let alone both of them.
"I dunno… I guess because they didn't mean it," K.O. shrugged, "I also took the blame for Rad's mistake so I could get off work early to go to Dendy's!" even with how he described his actions, he was still just as enthusiastic.
Carol wanted to say something upon hearing that, but decided to keep to herself. It was her son's decision. Who was she to judge? She told herself this more often as the years passed by, he was really growing up fast.
"I can't tell if you're really dumb or really smart…" Fink commented, unsure if she should be impressed by his trickery, or his obliviousness.
"What else was I supposed to do?" K.O. questioned, wondering how the green haired girl would have reacted to getting injuries like his own. Not like it was the first time and probably was going to be far from the last.
"Get angry! They could've taken you out of the whole hero business for a while if they screwed up bad enough, yet you tell'em it's fine?" Fink argued, unsure why imagining people walking all over K.O. or using him upset her so much, yet it got on her nerves.
"How would getting angry at them do anything? They're my friends. Of course they feel bad if I get hurt because they messed up. The same way I'd feel bad if one of them got hurt if I messed up," K.O. was not understanding this at all, though the thick skull of his being hard to get through was making Fink want to tackle him out of the car to challenge him to a power battle.
"I think what Fink is trying to say, Peanut, is that you really have to start taking care of yourself before others sometimes," Carol tried to calm them down, not wanting to deal with the two fighting inside her car. Even if she appreciated Fink expressing her worries in her own unique way.
"I guess you've got a point…" K.O. mumbled. He did not really like the idea of only taking care of himself though, especially if he knew others needed help.
"Did they even apologize to you?" Fink added with a quirked eyebrow.
"Yeah! …well, Rad did anyway," K.O. honestly answered. He just assumed that Enid simply hadn't been given a chance to apologize. They did split up partially after each fight to handle their separate post battle tasks.
"Sheesh… some friends. I'd strangle someone if they used me as a ball and left me with a burn that big," the young mouse commented. There was a rather strange pause for the aspiring hero as he processed this conversation.
"So… does this mean we're friends after all?" K.O. chirped, breaking the silence. Even Carol found it rather surprising.
"Why're you askin' that?" Fink responded, now getting confused herself.
"Well… it'd be weird if someone who didn't want to be my friend cared so much about me, right?" K.O. expressed his thought process. Fink stared at him in awe, wondering if he was trying to avoid the topic. If that was the case, he was very good at finding ways out of tough discussions.
"…Yeah, we're friends, or whatever…" Fink gave in with a huff. She wanted to initially end the conversation there. K.O. however, pulled her into a hug to show his joy at this. "Ey! Get off'a me, you stinkin' hero!" the rat shouted, trying to shove him off.
"Uhhh… kids? We're here," Carol chimed up, looking to the back seat despite how cute she found the twos interactions. They both stopped their one-sided squabbling upon hearing this.
"Oh, sorry, mommy," the Level 4 hero apologized, the two of them getting out onto the sidewalk.
"Thanks for driving us here, mommy. Tell Punching Judy I said hi," K.O. waved, Fink staying silent and looking more embarrassed than anything, though she was happy to get away from Carol.
"You got it, K.O., make sure you keep an eye on her… and Fink, try to make sure he actually gets some rest tonight," Carol requested, still agreeing with the mouse about her sons well being.
"Yeah, sure," Fink rolled her eyes, giving a half-hearted wave beside the young boy. They watched as the car took off and vanished from their view after taking one turn. "At least she can't torture me with more stupid exercises now," the minion looked happy about at least that. K.O. took her hand into his before beginning to lead her along.
"Come on, one of the entrances to the lab is over here," K.O. insisted. Dendy had to install several hidden entrances to make sure she could get in at all times, even if she more so lived in her lab than at home. Fink followed along, not complaining. She just hoped tonight would be entertaining.
Inside the lab full of highly advanced machinery, a kappa wearing goggles and a yellow jumpsuit was going through everything with a clipboard in hand.
"Let's see… All of my unfinished dangerous or unpredictable experiments have been securely shut down or contained, check," the Level 3 genius Dendy said to herself, marking that one off the list, looking over to the nearby table that had various snacks and drinks laid out.
"A wide assortment of food we both like to last us as long as we stay up, presumably all night, check," Dendy continued, looking ecstatic. She worked on this for a month to make sure nothing could get in the way of this sleepover.
"Assortment of video games and movies, check," the young kappa hummed, though she passed by a mirror of her own, stopping in place to look at the little pond that stayed atop her head.
"Forgot to retrieve my hat before I had left home," Dendy murmured. It was a natural part of any kappa's life, as it acted as a sign of growing up. She still felt embarrassed to let it be shown though. "I suppose all that's missing is the guest of honor who should have been here earlier."
She then heard a loud beeping.
"Entrance G being used. Transport tubes in use. Please stand clear," The alert system chimed up as Dendy heard that familiar voice.
"Annnnd check," the young genius checked that off the list, watching K.O. get launched out from one of several tubes off to the side of the wall, seeing him bounce off a pre-prepared mattress before rolling off of it and plopping to the floor.
"Ouughh… H-hey Dendy," the Level 4 hero gave a light wave.
"Greetings K.O. I take it you liked the new transport system I installed?" Dendy asked, seeing him laid on his back, looking a little nauseous. He had not been within the lab in a while, a lot apparently had changed.
"It was fun… wish I got told about it first," K.O. moaned. The genius had only installed the tube transport system because it was faster, and there were several emergencies that happened that she almost lost control of due to not being able to get into the lab fast enough.
"Apologies for that," spoke Dendy, "It slipped my mind during the preparations for the sleepover."
"Entrance G being used. Transport tubes in use. Please stand clear," The computer chimed up once more.
"You closed the entrance behind you, correct?" Dendy questioned, confused. She hated it when just random curious people who wanted to explore entered. She had casual coverage to the entrances to prevent that.
"Why would I do that? I brought another friend," K.O. stated, sitting up after finally getting over the dizziness.
"You did what?" Dendy felt her heart skip a beat. She was suddenly knocked down by the other fellow launched out of the tube, both of them crashing hard into the floor.
"Are you two okay?" K.O. worriedly asked, coming over to his two friends. Fink lay on top of the kappa, entangled slightly. Dendy stared blankly at the ceiling while she processed this.
"I'm dizzy…" Fink groaned out. The Level 4 hero picked the mouse up, resting her on the nearby mattress, before going over to help the Level 3 genius to her feet.
"Are you alright, Dendy?" The brushy haired boy repeated worriedly when he got no response. Dendy grabbed his arm and pulled him aside.
"K.O., what is the meaning of this?" Dendy bluntly demanded the second they were out of earshot of the dizzy mouse, not even trying to hide how upset she was.
"The meaning of what?" K.O. cheeped in partial fear.
"Why is SHE here?" Dendy pointed to the still dizzy Fink. Her usual monotone voice was laced with nothing short of malice. She barely withheld the desire to just chuck the mouse out of her lab.
"Oh, because there was nobody else that could watch her, so I offered to bring her along… She's actually being pretty nice today," K.O. claimed, rubbing his head nervously, starting to pick up on how she felt.
"I spent one whole month making preparations for tonight. Just for the two of us. And you have the audacity to bring a plus one with you, without even consulting me?" Dendy scolded him. The young aspiring hero pulled out his cellphone and handed it to her.
"I-I tried to call you, you just never answered… Mommy had to go make sure Punching Judy didn't leave the hospital while she was hurt and she couldn't take Fink because of that," K.O. explained. The kappa pulled out her own phone, though she could not get it to come on.
"Hm… it appears my phone ran out of battery sooner than I anticipated," Dendy groaned. She realized she was also at fault for being too focused on tonight to even charge her phone. She handed her classmate his phone back. The silence filling the air was tense.
"Are you mad with me Dendy?" K.O. asked.
"Just… I've allocated quite a lot of time into this for just you and me," Dendy sighed, feeling more hurt than angry, guessing that having her plans for trying to advance their friendship to something new being thrown out the window was the worst part.
"I know that Dendy, and I'm sorry… I was trying to help Mom and Fink," K.O. apologized profusely. The kappa looked away, unsure what to do. He didn't mean to make her feel like she wasted her time. It was just him being himself by trying to help everybody. K.O. being K.O., per se.
Dendy did not know what to say. When the silence started to set back in, she felt herself get pulled into a tight hug by K.O. It was the only thing he could think of doing to try and comfort her.
"I suppose I cannot fault you for being yourself," Dendy returned the hug, trying to ignore the light crimson tint starting to appear on her face. When she looked back to Fink while K.O. was distracted by the hug, the mouse wasn't lost in her daze anymore, and she was glaring angrily with her arms crossed. The kappa grinned, not being affected by the murderous glare. Perhaps it could be a fun night after all. "Do you need help treating your injuries?" The genius asked, now starting to realize how badly injured he actually was. That boot imprint was still the strangest of the injuries.
"As long as I don't have to drink any health potions," K.O. nodded in agreement. Dendy nodded back, before she left to go get her first aid kit. He felt relieved, thinking he had gotten the kappa's forgiveness.
After having his injuries treated to the best of Dendy's ability, and having to break the tense atmosphere that kept fueling the air, K.O. finally was able to get the sleepover back on track. They had spent the last few hours watching movies. Now he was watching his two close friends playing a racing game together. Fink was in last, while Dendy was in first.
"I didn't know you were so good at video games, Dendy," K.O. commented. He only played games with the kappa at the plaza arcade. Dendy had been avoiding the lab a lot more up until a month ago at his insistence that she needed to get out more.
"I've had a lot more time to develop my skills, thanks to you," hummed Dendy. She was even giving Fink a run for her money seemingly, the mouse was more zoned in on the video game than them.
Though before they could continue, Dendy was in second place one second, and suddenly the race was seemingly over, leaving K.O. staring, wide eyed.
"Woo!" Fink cheered. Standing proudly from her spot on the floor.
"W-what the? But… how did you?" Dendy stared at the similarly aged rat in disbelief.
"Oh, the person in last place has a very small chance to go through a booster to get a leap… put that with the right power up, and whoosh! Straight to the finish line!" Fink cackled like a villain who was unable to resist divulging a diabolical plan any longer.
"Th-that's cheating! I demand a do-over!" Dendy declared. K.O. couldn't believe what he was hearing, and was doing his best to resist laughing, but seeing Dendy angry over a video game was something he never expected, she looked cute whenever she was frustrated.
"Nah, I don't wanna make you extra salty," Fink stuck out her tongue, just making the kappa angrier. The brushy haired boy stepped in between the two.
"He-hey, relax, we're all having a good time," K.O. insisted, looking at the nearby clock, which read 2am. Dendy huffed, reluctantly listening. Fink didn't even need convincing when she was in a good mood. "Oh! That reminds me, I got a lot of the new set of POW cards this morning," K.O. suddenly remembered, rummaging around in his pockets before pulling out a small set of POW cards. Every hero and villain had their own card. They were like collectibles that doubled as personal stat trackers. Heroes gained normal Levels while villains gained negative Levels.
"You did? I haven't even tried to go for the new set yet," Dendy said, her mood changing fast at hearing this. The classmates were both avid collectors of POW cards, though the kappa was far more thorough with it.
"Oh, you two like POW cards too?" Fink suddenly chimed up, sounding mixed between disappointed and happy at the same time with this revelation.
"Wait… you mean?" K.O. stared in disbelief.
"Yup!" Fink went over to the table reached into the small bag off to the side that Venomous had her pack for her stay with Carol, and she pulled out a medium sized deck of POW cards. "Boss hates them a lot, so I have to hide them at home," Fink said, letting the two see for themselves.
"How did you become involved with POW cards?" Dendy asked, never finding the game loving rat to be interested in them.
"I found one on the ground when I was going home. I just liked it when I held it. Before I knew it, I decided to collect the rare ones," Fink explained. Just a coincidence that happened the two heroes looking through the collection.
"These are all really rare ones… I have to say, I'm quite impressed," Dendy confessed, already trying to form a plan for how to trade for several of these. Even those from the new set were in this fraction of the mouse's collection. The kappa accidentally let one slip out of her hands and onto the floor.
"Oh, I got it," K.O. picked it back up, though when he looked to see which villain or hero was on this POW card, he was stunned. "Fink? Is this your POW card?" he asked, only for it to get snatched from his grip with no reply. The young mouse stuffed it away deep into her pocket.
"What's the matter? Is there a defect on the POW card?" Dendy chirped, curious.
"No, it's just Fink's Level she's-…" K.O. tried to answer, only to be cut off..
"Don't say another word, you stinkin' hero!" Fink commanded, taking all of her cards back from them before one trade offer could be made. The young rat no longer cared for showing off as she stashed them all back into her bag.
Dendy looked to her close friend as their other guest was distracted. K.O. shook his head, unwilling to risk a large fight breaking out in the kappa's lab, nor was he wanting to get hurt right after he got his injuries treated.
"And I'll kill you if you tell anybody!" Fink shouted in addition. They listened to that warning gladly. K.O. was starting to think on what he could do to restore the peace they previously had.
"O-oh! I know! You know that park in Pinevine?" K.O. suddenly chimed up, with the first idea that came to his desperate mind.
"Affirmative. What about it?" the Level 3 genius adjusted her goggles. Fink turned around, her arms crossed, that glare being nothing short of a reminder of her threat.
"It's not too far from here and it's really pretty at night… Why don't we go take a walk?" K.O. suggested. He figured they all needed some fresh air. Dendy blushed, nervous. She always imagined going there with her classmate alone one day. She loved the idea, even if Fink tagging along might ruin the mood.
"Ehh, why not? I mean, not like going to couple's park when it's nearly 3am is creepy at all," Fink commented sarcastically, referring to the area by the name that everyone else in neutral zone referred it as. The only reason it got called couple's park was due to the fact it was the prime place to see stars at night, it made it all the more romantic as result.
"I find the idea to be quite nice. It'd be best for us to get outside a little while, since we all most likely will be asleep for half of tomorrow due to sleep deprivation from staying up late tonight," Dendy voted to go along with K.O.'s idea, though her vocabulary stunted the attempted appeal to the henchwoman.
"Fine, fine, just stop with the science talk," Fink growled, not in the mood for a headache right now.
"Great! Then let's go!" K.O. chimed, not wanting to risk any fights breaking out further since this seemed to be the best chance to save the night. He was used to playing peacekeeper in the bodega, but this was a lot worse than that. He really wished he knew why the two hated each other so much.
He watched as Dendy walked away to the nearby wall with levers around. She hit a few buttons. Her sleepover guests watched as the wall lifted up, and a medium sized machine was pushed out, that seemed to be just a platform with a satellite dish over head.
"Uhhh… Dendy, isn't that the machine that turned me into a kappa once?" K.O. questioned. It was an awkward yet fun week that he remembered. He was stuck as a kappa after a mess up with the test. He recognized the device for it easily, his mom made him swear off genetic experiments after that mess.
"And you're sure she's a good guy?" Fink couldn't help herself with the inquiry. Half of the experiments she heard about the kappa creating sounded like nothing short of a villain's dream.
"It was an accident due to miscalculations on my part! And no, this is a teleporter I comprised after I recycled said creation of mine. It's based off the same transport system I use within my backpack that connects to my POW card storage unit," Dendy countered by explaining the machine's functions. It could save them the time walking, so they'd have more energy and could enjoy the park to its fullest. They'd have to walk back to the lab but that was a small trade.
"That means it's been tested?" K.O. asked. As much as he liked being helpful to his friend, he was in no mood be a test subject again.
"I better not hear a lab rat joke," Fink stepped onto the platform for the teleporter, not hesitating whatsoever.
"I assure you, it has been tested thoroughly," the kappa reassured, once more leaving out the desire to comment on having just tested it on small things, none of which were organic. This was an undisclosed test so to speak.
"Let's do it then!" K.O. eagerly jumped up on the platform. After Dendy finished putting in the last of the settings on the teleporter, she turned to get to the machines entrance, not noticing that her backpack had bumped one of the control levers that sent the many dials spinning randomly via a reset. She climbed up beside the two, reaching over and hitting the on button.
There was a loud whirring noise as the machine powered up. The satellite dish that dangled overhead with an antenna sticking out of it flipped over, aiming at them.
"Is this gonna hurt?" Fink suddenly had the thought cross her mind.
"A little," Dendy confirmed, though she looked eager enough.
"I don't like that look on your face," Fink raised an eyebrow, now finding the kappa even more untrustworthy.
"Wait, what?" K.O. may have a very high pain tolerance, that didn't mean he liked it. The three were suddenly blasted by a bright green light, they all vanished shortly after.
Chapter 3: Painful Awakening
K.O. felt pain all over his body again, as if that medical treatment Dendy had given him had been undone. He tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids fought him heavily to do that. The sunlight burned brightly on his eyes.
"I-it's day?" he noticed as he finally got his body to cooperate with him to sit up. K.O. was only further confused when he saw a makeshift lean-to made out of logs and leaf piles that he was lying on.
"You're finally awake?" a familiar heavier voice chimed up from inside the boy's head.
"T.K.O.? What's going on?" K.O. asked the twin in his head. They could trade places or combine. Either way fighting to control a body was a different problem they had thankfully resolved.
"Don't ask me! You went into that thing of Dendy's then everything just went black! I've been trying to talk to you for a while," T.K.O. responded to his practical twin. Normally when K.O. got knocked out, he'd just wind up in his other half's home in his mindscape. Not this time though.
"S-sorry I didn't mean to worry you," K.O. didn't mean to scare his twin. He knew T.K.O. had a major fear of being alone something he had discovered a while back.
"You didn't worry me…" T.K.O. stopped the conversation there, sounding relieved to just have his good half alive. K.O. was more worried about how badly hurt he had been if even his turbo form couldn't take over his body.
K.O. finally was able to get himself onto his shaky legs. He looked to see an extinguished campfire, but not much else, in a rather wooded area, which felt more like an open field with trees.
He noticed a random hunk of junk out of the corner of his eye, which turned out to be Dendy's special highly advanced backpack. It looked like it had been crushed badly and had its parts looted shortly after.
"Dendy? Fink?" K.O. started to feel his brain catching up with his body now. He began to look around frantically for his two friends, yet there was no sign of them. The last time he saw them was when they all got into that teleporter, and this definitely wasn't the park he wanted the three of them to go to.
K.O. heard the familiar voices in the distance. As much as his body wanted to lay down, he continued on going to where the voices came from.
Not too far from the micro makeshift camp, K.O. arrived at a pleasant small lake. He stopped for a second when his body ached. But he was able to find his two friends standing by the lake.
"…and for the last time, we CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT, move from this location whatsoever until K.O. is stable," Dendy said. She had made herself a new beret out of the lily pads of the water, which was pretty similar to her old one.
"We're in the middle of nowhere and standing around isn't going to get us anywhere! He might not ever wake up without real medicine either! No amount of brains matters if we literally have nothing," Fink argued. She and the kappa had some bruises and scrapes but were otherwise unharmed. "This is all because of your stupid machine glitching! You'd rather let him die than admit your ego's getting in the way?!"
Dendy bit her lip, looking to be on the verge of strangling the similarly aged rat. "Why are you suddenly so clingy to K.O.? You keep announcing how much you hate him, yet you act so inconsistently!" Dendy responded, though guessed the clingy part applied to both of them at the moment, especially given their new situation. They had to rely on each other.
The minion taking a moment to think up her reply. "Boss would be sad if he died! Now we're stuck in the middle of who knows where, with no phone nor tech to haul our tails outta here," Fink solemnly spoke it like it was the worst nightmare imaginable for her, and Dendy shared similar sentiments.
"Just admit it. What is it you want from K.O.?" Dendy appreciated the chance to avoid that redundant fight, even if it was being traded for another.
"Probably the same thing as you," the rat gave a toothy grin. The kappa was about to retort, yet they were interrupted by rustling leaves and twigs.
"Guys?" K.O. finally was able to chime up upon approaching them. He'd waited for argument to calm before he'd intervene. The two girls snapped their heads to him.
"You aren't too good at timing, are you?" T.K.O. spoke in his twin's head, though they both noticed how much worse they looked now. Fink's gloves were damaged and Dendy's goggles were cracked in some parts. They looked like they were still trying to decide if this was some shared dream that they were stuck in.
"Guys? Are you two okay?" K.O. asked, only to get tackled into a tight hug by the two girls, knocking him to the ground. His pain was made far worse by it.
"Wow, I can feel that too from here…" T.K.O. claimed, feeling bad for his good half. K.O. groaned a vocal gesture to make him quiet down.
"Wh-what's going on?" K.O. asked, trying to ignore the pain. As much as he normally loved embraces, this one was nearly knocking him back to unconsciousness.
"I thought you were a goner…" Fink quietly whimpered, only tightening her squeeze on him.
"I'm so sorry I hurt you," Dendy said. After a moment, K.O. was able to get up with the help of the two young girls.
"I really love hugs as much as you two do, but what happened? I don't remember anything after the slumber party," K.O. asked as he got the embrace to end. He noticing Fink tearing up a little and trying to resist it. Even if Dendy tried to hide her own emotions behind that straight face, she was close to tears as well.
"It would be best if we return to the campsite," Dendy insisted, letting K.O. put one arm around her shoulder to lean on her to help him walk. Fink did the same with his other arm. The Level 4 hero appreciated the special treatment, but it was making him worried at the same time. The bodega cleaner tried to ignore his thoughts for now, wanting to find out what had happened.
The three of them were settled around the small makeshift campsite. K.O. was eating an assortment of berries. He hadn't realized how hungry he had been until the food was offered to him.
"I'm sorry I scared you two like that," K.O. apologized. Whenever he made those close to him worry sadly, he felt bad. And he accidentally did it often. Plus T.K.O. always made people anxious when it was his turn to take control of their body. "How long have I been asleep?" he asked. He felt like he had been asleep a lot longer than a few hours.
"If I've been keeping track of time correctly, it's been just over two days since we arrived in this area. We've been mostly consuming fish that I was able to easily catch from that water source," Dendy stated. K.O. stared in disbelief.
"Two days…?" mouthed K.O.
"Two days," Dendy nodded. They had essentially been acting as his nurses while he was unconscious.
"And it's hard to feed someone fish when they're asleep so, we kinda just squished berries in your mouth," Fink added, not hiding how she was not the biggest fan of fish. They instead gave all the berries they found to him, thankfully Dendy could identify poisonous ones from regular ones.
"Thanks for taking care of me… that means it's Sunday?" K.O. asked. The young girls both nodded. K.O. rummaged through his pockets all over, trying to find his phone, realizing he had probably missed out on his mother's usual check-up phone calls and texts. "Wh-where's my phone? I can call mommy for help if it has any signal," he said, though the expressions on his friends' faces gave him a hopeless feeling.
"We already checked for your phone. Wherever that thing is, it's long gone," Fink grumbled. That was the first idea she and Dendy had. The young boy was starting to miss school a lot now. At least there, the group of three young heroes and minion only had to worry about the occasional bully, mainly the rat herself attempting to do that, and failing due to K.O.'s obliviousness.
"Even if we did locate it, there is a high probability that it is destroyed," Dendy added, casting a glance to the side where her backpack laid. She tried not to look, because it did nothing but make the kappa cringe.
"What happened to your phones? And your backpack, Dendy?" K.O. questioned, though he gained a glare from the irritated rat.
"Your mom took my phone so I'd not be playing video games the entire time I was over… I forgot to ask for it back when we left the dojo," Fink sighed, starting to really hate Carol right now. No amount of apologies would make up for this situation, the young mouse really missed the exercises now though compared to this. The young kappa adjusted her goggles.
"I teleported into one of the top branches of one of the many trees around us, and fell when I attempted to climbed down. My backpack broke my fall, and my phone was left on the charger back at the lab. My teleporter malfunctioned, I presume… the further we go, the more stress it puts on the body, which is what caused your comatose state, because it tripled your damage by my estimate," Dendy rest her head in her hand. She felt ashamed by her own oversights and expected him to be mad at her.
"So… I nearly died?" K.O. chirped, not really giving much of a reaction at that revelation.
"Yeah, you stopped puking, y'know, red stuff, a few hours after we first got setup here," Fink answered for Dendy. The Level 4 hero stared at the ground, the henchwoman giving a toothy grin to the kappa who could only glare in response.
"You're going to be fine, K.O. Your regained consciousness is proof enough of that," Dendy assured, relieved that he had at least gotten past the hardest part of his recovery most likely.
"Nearly dying isn't that bad. Don't go blaming yourself, Dendy," K.O. responded. He understood why one of his two classmates were blaming themselves for her invention failing, though he didn't hold it against her at all.
"Speak for yourself," T.K.O. commented in his other half's head. Dendy felt a little relieved by K.O.'s words. Fink though was baffled that someone could be so calm at the concept of getting that close to death. The young mouse guessed it wasn't the first time for that kid.
Silence was starting to takeover now as both K.O. and T.K.O. took the moment to understand the whole story.
"Being away from everybody for a few days… doesn't sound that bad actually," T.K.O. had to confess. His good half wanted to initially scold him for that, but he paused, remembering all that had happened at the bodega recently.
"…Maybe they'd be happy without me being around a while…" K.O. murmured, not being a fan of the idea of being a burden to his friends. Finks words in the car ride to Dendy's lab ringing out mainly in his head. He was happy for the most part. His injuries were healing thanks to being asleep for two days, yet he still was worried nonetheless of just making the situation worse. "So what do we do? Just… wait for someone to come find us?" K.O. decided to break the silence again.
"Well, we were supposed to be at my sleepover all weekend so… technically, no one will be alarmed by our lack of presence until tomorrow at the earliest," Dendy claimed. Considering the circumstances that got them all together in the first place, only Carol most likely would notice K.O. and Fink's absence before Monday.
"They have no way of finding us! Even if they notice we're all missing, we're still left in the same place!" Fink seethed, trying to hold back her irritation at the kappas attempt of ignoring the small important things in their problems.
"What do you all want to do?" the Level 4 aspiring hero requested, putting it to a vote while trying to play peacekeeper. Nothing unusual to what he had to do with Rad and Enid a fair amount either.
"I think it'd be best to remain idle and just keep surviving here until we are located," Dendy spoke up first. They already had a source of food and water, and a camp that they could improve upon. Nothing was exactly forcing them into hurrying, even if they wound up here by sheer luck. Moving more would only make it harder for anybody to find them.
"Nope! Not happening! I'd rather take my chances out there than risk eating fish for weeks!" Fink declared, already growing sick of this area, even if her and Dendy's combined efforts made it habitable.
"What about you, T.K.O.?" K.O. asked aloud, letting the twin in his head act as the tie breaker.
"I like it here… your call, though," T.K.O. brushed the tie breaking decision back onto his twin. The turbonic doppelganger was more than happy with the peace. Whether or not they were on the move was not important.
"Well… I still hurt all over and can't really walk that well…" K.O. mumbled, never enjoying being put on the spot like this. Dendy and Fink both waited on his decision, even if it sounded like he was leaning toward staying. The young girls had been fighting about this for the last few days. "I think we should stay here… just for tonight, then we can take off first thing tomorrow," K.O. stated his thoughts, rubbing his head nervously at whatever their reaction would be.
"So it's decided we're getting out of here," Fink grinned, glad he agreed.
"As long as you feel you're up to it, K.O., then I'll trust yours and T.K.O.'s judgments," Dendy agreed. K.O. felt relieved, just hoping this would be easy, though he had to ponder now if he really had upset his friends at the plaza. He tried to ignore these thoughts.
"I'll help get some firewood for tonight," K.O. volunteered, forcing himself back to his feet. He didn't want to lay around doing nothing when his two friends had done all the work up to this point. Dendy and Fink returned to their prior tasks.
Enid was relaxing at a small side area of the plaza, which had a few picnic tables with umbrellas set up. She couldn't enjoy her day off though.
"No answer," the Level 10 ninja sighed. Her phone displayed several text messages she had sent to K.O., the first one reading 'Hope you have fun at Dendy's tonight!' the last one reading, 'Is everything okay K.O.?'.
Enid let her phone clatter onto the wooden table and lay her head on her arms, not caring for the beautiful scenery that today's weather brought. The ninja had been trying to talk to K.O. since Saturday. She sent her good luck message Friday, yet there was no response. Both messages and calls failed, it made her worried more.
"That's not good posture, Enid, you should know that," a light posh voice caught the high leveled ninja's ears. She quickly sat straight up, getting a big smile on her face. "Surprise!" Hummed a blonde-haired girl named Elodie, who was wearing her usual red dress with a white trim and a red cap on her head that had a pink feather sticking out of it.
"Elodie?! Hey! I didn't know you were coming today!" Enid tackled Elodie into a hug, nearly picking her up off the ground.
"I-I wanted to surprise you, ow, ow, ow," Elodie spoke, her back aching badly at how tight this hug was. She was an idol amongst the Neutral Zone. Level 4 in power yet a hard worker at P.O.I.N.T. prep academy. She moved up quite a lot in this world thanks to the bodega staff.
"Oh, uh sorry…" the high leveled ninja let her down. After a moment of painful stretching, Elodie took a seat at the table.
"You know you have all my heart, Enid, but you seem a bit more… desperate since we last met up," Elodie couldn't resist commenting. Her half of a broken heart golden necklace danged around her neck. Enid pulled her half of it out that had been hiding under her shirt collar, she kept it there so it wouldn't get lost in any fight with Boxmore. It was habit to never take it off.
"Desperate? No I'm not just… distracted," the purple haired ninja replied, looking back to her phone on the table.
"Are you still having trouble deciding whether or not to tell people about us?" Elodie asked. About two months ago, they had become a couple. It was after Enid's last girlfriend had left the Neutral Zone. There was no hope for a long-distance relationship in the circumstances. Everything that followed happened rather naturally. For Enid, it was a tough time.
"No, Elodie, I've been working on that. Trust me, Mom and Dad are happy, Rad was cool with it, and I was going to tell K.O. before we got interrupted by an attack that…" Enid paused and breathed, the whole revealing her relationship being a slow process mainly to her.
"Ah… so something happened with K.O.?" the Level 4 star picked up on it fast. The ninja gave a nod. "Big sister Enid worried about her baby brother?" Elodie teased. Her girlfriend smirked, unable to deny how she treated the cleaner.
"Long or short story?" Enid gave in. There was no escaping her girlfriend's unexpectedly impressive reading abilities.
"In between," The level 4 idol answered, giving the high leveled ninja a moment to gather herself.
"A few days ago, Boxmore kept attacking over and over again," Enid explained, "Three of those times cut my breaks short."
"Ouch…" reacted Elodie. She knew Enid had a bad tendency to steal other people's souls when her patience was far past its limit. Elodie hoped it had not happened again, it was sad to know people did not change much with or without their souls.
"On their last attack, Raymond apparently figured out a counter for me and K.O.'s combo," Enid explained further, "I was just trying to end the fight, and… I left K.O. with a nasty burn bruise on his arm… from my boot."
"You lost your cool in a fight again?" Elodie sounded disappointed. It had been a rough spot they'd been trying to improve on in their relationship. She wanted to help the ninja avoid things like this, as she had seen how succumbing to anger in a battle did more harm to teammates than the enemies many times.
"No!… M-maybe… Yeah…" Enid mumbled, giving in after her initial denial withered. There was a pause as the story had seemingly ended there.
Elodie rolled her eyes. Her girlfriend was acting more unnerved about this than she sounded like she should be. "What's wrong then? Was he upset with you?"
"No. He seemed fine, just happy to be going to Dendy's sleepover," Enid shrugged, only confusing her significant other further.
"Well what's the problem then? You apologized, didn't you?" Elodie asked straight forwardly, wondering if her girlfriend was leaving out important details.
"Ugh… that slipped my mind, and I wanted to today. I've been trying to check up on him to see if things are going alright, and he's ignoring me now. Same for Dendy. I'm worried I hurt him a lot worse than I thought I did," Enid rested her head on her arms again on the table. K.O. was good at tolerating his injuries, though he ignored them until they got worse in some cases, all because he wanted to help others more. Dendy ignoring her without any reason as well seemed to fuel that fear.
Elodie could only stifle a giggle. She reached over and ran a hand through her girlfriend's hair, making her look up.
"Definitely a worried big sister. Don't get worried over nothing. You'll see him tomorrow for work and then you'll have a perfectly proper chance to apologize then, okay?" the Level 4 hero told Enid running a hand along her cheek, the Level 10 ninja reached up, holding her hand with her own.
"You're right… I really am just worrying too much," Enid gave in to her girlfriend's convincing.
"If you need a distraction, well… I can certainly help you," Elodie assured with a grin, leaning in to exchange a kiss for a short while, breaking away after few moments.
"Think you can distract me for a day…?" Enid sheepishly requested after the kiss.
"I think I can arrange to spend a few days here," Elodie nodded, wanting to make sure Enid was comfortable. She hated seeing her anxious, and that only had increased as of the last few months.
"Don't worry, whatever guilt you're feeling will be resolved tomorrow," the Level 4 idol promised, helping the ninja up to her feet. Elodie found herself having to often be the lead in their relationship, as Enid was scared of messing up and losing her, given their past.
"Thanks Elodie… for everything," Enid hummed, taking Elodie's hand into her own as they left the plaza. The Level 10 cashier had no clue though what the P.O.I.N.T. prep member was planning for this surprise visit.
"Everything'll be fine on Monday, right?"
Chapter 4: Worries And Pain
At a small hospital, known as Golden Fist medical, Carol currently was walking through the familiar halls while looking down at her phone.
'Goodnight, Mommy. I love you.' read the last text message she had gotten from K.O.
"He's fine… he's just having so much fun and probably forgetting to check in…" the young mother sighed to herself. It was unusual for K.O. to not call or text her to check in, but Carol had heard her boyfriend repeat this before. "You need to relax, Carol. He's just growing up. Before you know it, he'll be a teenager. Let him enjoy his youth while he has it." And the high leveled hero believed every word from her significant other's mouth.
Carol took in a breath to calm herself before she stuffed her phone back in her pocket, not wanting to ruin herself with anxiety, nor wanting to constantly annoy her sons or his friends with text messages. Of course K.O. and T.K.O. would be fine on their own.
The fitness dojo owner returned to a hospital room. As she opened the door, she saw a familiar boxing glove wearing girl at the window with one leg sticking out of it. She paused upon seeing her dear friend catch her mid-escape attempt.
"I'm starting to think you're scared of hospitals, Judy," Carol quirked an eyebrow with her hands on her hips, as if daring her to try and make a break for it again. Punching Judy sighed, giving in. She used to be K.O.'s babysitter before he got a job at the bodega. The boxer got back in bed.
"I just hate being cooped up," Punching Judy complained. She couldn't fight her close friend to try and escape. That had been impossible, it made the nurses and doctors' lives easier though to have the mother there. "And what's got you looking so down? Did you and Gar have a fight?" the former babysitter picked up on her dear friends discomfort quite fast.
"No, we've been perfect… There's just a lot going on right now," Carol shrugged, trying to dodge the topic entirely, yet she knew the boxer would never let it go.
"Come on. You can trust me," Punching Judy insisted. Carol shook her head, not to refuse her. It would make her feel a lot better to get what was going on off of her chest.
"Fine…" huffed the mother, "But only if you promise to quit trying to leave against doctor's orders. I can't babysit you after tonight."
"Alright…" Punching Judy nodded at the trade deal, wanting to mainly help her friend above all else. She wound up here merely after losing a battle pretty badly.
"I had to babysit Fink," Carol started, "You know, that little girl that sometimes attacks the plaza? K.O. had a sleepover to go to all weekend at Dendy's, so I had to leave her with them because I had to come here."
"I remember Fink, yea," nodded Judy, listening intently though ignoring the fact this was her own fault technically.
"I haven't heard from K.O. in a couple of days since I dropped him off," sighed Carol. She knew herself that the main issue with her worries would make themselves clear on their own, so she decided to avoid going into too much detail.
"You're scared that something happened?" Punching Judy queried. K.O. avoiding a check in with his mother was more worrisome than anything, it practically was a habit of his own.
"Of course I am, Eugene says I have to relax. K.O. and T.K.O. can take care of themselves, I know it, but… I just can't help it. My babies are gonna be teenagers before I know it," Carol answered. She started treating T.K.O. like a second son shortly after his bond with K.O. got repaired, they had an actual weekly schedule between turns of who had the body when. The love and affection from friends or family alike had really changed T.K.O. a lot in these last few months.
"Has K.O. or T.K.O. been acting weird lately?" Punching Judy asked. That sounded like something Carol was worried about.
"K.O.'s been getting hurt a lot more lately and being really happy about it… not to mention he's getting more clever in a devious way," the young mother continued. Unsure if that was T.K.O. rubbing off on him. Just like how K.O.'s optimism had begun affecting his turbonic self as well.
"Like he's punishing himself?" Punching Judy wondered aloud. Carol didn't think of it like that, but she nodded reluctantly. That did seem to be the case, yet the mother had no clue what it could be for, since he seemed fine in all other regards.
"I'm worried they're just jealous…" Carol mumbled out, though quickly covered her mouth upon realizing that she had let that slip out inadvertently.
"Jealous? What would your sons have anything to be jealous abou…" Punching Judy's voice trailed off. She grabbed her friend's hand looking at a familiar shape around one finger, despite the glove covering it.
Carol looked to her. That familiar smug expression spread on the boxer's face. "Don't say it," Carol glared.
"I told you so," Punching Judy gave a grin. The low leveled hero repeated many times before that Mr. Gar would propose soon, though as it sank in, she began to realize what Carol meant now by her sons getting jealous about losing one of their most beloved individuals' attentions fully. All to a man whom K.O. immensely respected, while T.K.O. loathed.
"Oh… well, don't get worked up, Carol. You know that T.K.O. loves you as much as K.O. does now, even if they don't show it that well," Punching Judy pulled her friend into a comforting hug. The mother always had a lot of doubts about herself when it came to raising the twins, it seemed more like K.O. had to raise T.K.O. than she did. Carol was grateful to have so many caring people in their lives. Doing all of this alone would stress her to death. "You'll know he's fine once you go to work tomorrow and stop by the bodega for your usual thunder-brew-coffee, that's when you'll see one of them cleaning up."
Carol smiled, giving a hug back in return. "Thank you, Judy," she sighed in relief, knowing she had to trust her son's. The plan had been for K.O. to spend the weekend at Dendy's and come back to the bodega Monday like normal.
"No problem… Now you tell me every last detail of the proposal!" Punching Judy begged. Carol began laughing, unable to resist.
"Fine, fine, you win," she gave in ready to try and relax tonight, without having to worry about anyone, other than the thing that was making her happy.
Later in the night, K.O. and his two friends slept in the lean-to. The dim crackling of the campfire's remnants were a minor light source, doubling as a vague heat source for them.
K.O. felt himself stepping into his inner mindscape. He saw the familiar lone house with a swingset and sandbox setup beside it. Rivers ran nearby that looked clear. He smiled, as it didn't hurt to be inside his own mind.
"This place really is getting a lot brighter," K.O. murmured. He made his way up to the small home. He didn't see T.K.O. outside. He knocked on the door, and there was no response.
"Guess he might also be asleep," the Level 4 hero opened the door and stepped inside on his own without hesitation, letting it close behind him. K.O. could see the mess. It looked like T.K.O. had been destroying training dummies once again.
"Those two days must've really freaked him out," K.O. felt guilty about T.K.O. being left alone like that. The turbonic boys greatest fear probably drove him to mutilating everything he loved to practice on out of a desperate desire to distract himself. They really had gotten more attached to one another than they ever expected.
The bodega cleaner was able to find his twin lying in bed, sprawled out and snoring loudly, with the covers on the floor beside him. Just T.K.O. in his usual wild-looking self.
"T.K.O.… Hey, wake up," K.O. shook his twin, trying to get him to wake up, only to get his hands smacked away.
"Go to bed," T.K.O. grumbled and rolled over. They were both meant to be sleeping in the mindscape so both their body and brain could get true rest.
"Please get up! I need you really badly right now," the Level 4 boy begged. His gothic twin reluctantly sighed, sitting up and shaking some of his messy hair out of his eyes.
"What? Are we under attack or something?" T.K.O. questioned, looking ready to punch his twin awake if this was a pointless check-up. Ever since everybody started treating T.K.O. like his own person, K.O. had sort of gotten an overprotective sibling complex. Vice versa for T.K.O.
"N-no. I need you to take your turn in control early," the Level 4 cleaner said it straightforwardly. T.K.O.'s eyes narrowed. It wasn't his turn to take over the body fully for another day. They made their schedules for each week in advance, let alone was it suspicious when his twin insisted for him to take over.
"No way! It's not my turn, and I'm not gonna deal with Fink or Dendy or both fighting, if that's what you're trying to avoid," T.K.O. tried to go back to bed, only to get stopped by his twin grabbing him.
"Please! You said you really liked where we are! Just do it!" K.O. pleaded. His twin pausing briefly, the messy haired turbo child reached up putting his hand on his brother's hand, feeling him trembling like a small earthquake.
"What's going on, K.O.?" T.K.O. requested an explanation, letting his brother take a seat beside him on the bed.
"I-I can't take it anymore…" K.O. sniffled, holding himself, "I've been trying t-to, but it keeps getting worse…"
"What keeps getting worse?" T.K.O. reached over and rubbed his brother's back. Being comforting was not his specialty though. It was normally the other way round. He received no response at first, the sharp toothed boy shook his head. "K.O., talk to me."
K.O. looked him in the eye. "Th-the pain… It's been getting worse since I woke up. I can't take it anymore," he whimpered. Tears started welling in his eyes. All the injuries that got amplified by the teleporter had become unbearable now that he was awake, the healing process was too slow for him to handle it.
"Why didn't you say anything sooner?" T.K.O. asked. His twin's pain tolerance was superhumanly high, but that usually didn't stop K.O. from telling people when he was in pain.
"I thought it would pass. I thought… Maybe I deserved it…" K.O. mumbled out. Fink's words kept ringing out in his head.
T.K.O. stood up. "Do you think it matters what we do deserve though?" He posed a big question that always weighed in on his own mind, that he always wondered about. Though the goth doubted it would make his brother feel much better.
"What?" K.O. requested clarity, confused. The warm damp liquid started to run down his cheeks. All his resistance to the pain was breaking down at once.
"The point of a hero is to give others what they deserve, even if they don't think they deserve it. Not to care about what we think we deserve, right?" T.K.O. responded with something he remembered Mr. Gar saying once or thrice, though usually the turbo hero drowned out the bodega owners advice to focus on working.
"Truth is, I haven't known what a hero is for a long time…" K.O. confessed. After the incident with Chip Damage, he lost much of what he believed in. All he could safely believe in, is that there was no such thing as someone being fully evil or good. Whichever side they aligned with more was irrelevant to everybody, individually speaking.
"You know what a hero is. It's just us, and that's all that matters," T.K.O. explained. He was not good at comforting words. It was the only thing he could think of. He didn't consider himself much of a hero, yet K.O. and their many friends still treated him like one. "I'll take control as long as I can, or until we can get you to a doctor," the turbonic boy agreed, though before he walked out that door to make his way to the control area of the brain, he saw the young hero looking to the floor, still crying somewhat. The talk only prying out more of his emotions.
T.K.O. sighed, stepping up to his twin before pulling him into a hug without warning. K.O. took a moment before returning the embrace, burying his face into his brothers chest. All the pain needed to be released at once.
"There there…" T.K.O. spoke, still feeling uncomfortable as he rubbed a hand on his twin's head, trying to act comforting. He knew for sure that without their mother or friends, it would fall to the twins to take care of each other, despite Fink and Dendy doing their best for them. This was a whole new situation for all of them, the stress becoming paramount fast already it seemed.
Radicles pulled up his van into the Lakewood plaza turbo parking lot, parking in his usual favorite place. As he got out of his car, he got a few waves from plaza regulars that he happily returned.
"Sheesh… I've had better weekends," Rad sighed out. He couldn't relax on his days off. That guilt for getting his friend into trouble was still there. He planned on making it up to K.O. today, having tried to express his gratitude and apologies over the phone only to get no answer at all.
When the stock boy approached Gar's bodega, he saw the cashier just arriving as well. "Enid? You're only just getting in? Wow, usually you're here earlier than me," Rad couldn't help but comment. Enid liked to take a morning nap in the break room before work really picked up, resulting in her being punctually unpunctual usually.
"I was a lot closer. I spent last night at Elodie's hotel," Enid responded, feeling like she was on top of the world currently.
"You go up another tier?" Rad smirked as they paused at the entrance to the bodega, seeing her turn to him.
"9 as of last night," the purple haired cashier gave a toothy grin.
"Way to go Enid! You guys'll be at tier 15 before you know it," Radicles clapped for her, and then brought an arm around his friend as they stepped inside.
"I'm still dreading 12…" Enid appreciated the big oaf's support in her relationships. Without it, she wouldn't ever have had the courage to consider dating Elodie after Red Action left.
The bodega workers were barely through the door before they heard the roar of their boss.
"Roll call time!" Mr. Gar shouted, startling them both. "Rad!" the alien didn't hesitate to dive through one of the many shelves to reach where the muscular strong hero was calling for them from
"Here!" Radicles stood straight like a soldier.
Enid appeared in a puff of smoke beside her co-worker. They both noticed Mr. Gar looked more upset than calm, which was odd given how he tended to be more like a drill sergeant first thing in the mornings.
"Check," Enid gave a thumbs up.
"K.O.!" Mr. Gar shouted louder for the cleaner than he did for the two of them. They expected to hear that energetic voice that they were so used to every day, but there was only the reply of a chirping cricket in much need of squashing.
"K.O.! Report in for roll call, now!" Mr. Gar roared, scaring the other two employees. When there was still no reply, he held his head, sighing out his frustration.
"M-maybe he's just late?" Enid suggested, more so lying to herself than their boss.
"The li'l dude never misses roll call…" Radicles couldn't believe that, now terrified that K.O. was going to wind up in even deeper trouble when he arrived. They saw their boss of many years turn to them, with an all too familiar serious expression on his face.
"Have either of you two seen K.O. since Friday?" the bodega owner requested, dropping the drill sergeant act of his. Gar was normally a lot more relaxed when he was trying to be casual, he seemed far more tense this time though.
"No. Last time I talked to him was in the break room when he was punching out," Enid answered, now starting to feel her nervousness coming back. She looked to her alien friend, hoping to hear different from him.
"Same here… not from a lack of trying though, I tried to talk to him, but he's been ducking my calls," Rad stated.
"No response for me either," Enid nodded, "He was going to Dendy's sleepover."
They both looked to their boss hoping he had an explanation for them. "Look. If you two hear anything from K.O., just… let me know immediately, okay?" the former P.O.I.N.T. member requested. His employees' expressions did nothing to cheer him up. They were not lying to cover for the tiniest bodega employee, he could see that much, though could not decide whether or not to be relieved or disappointed by that revelation.
"What's going on, Gar?" asked the cashier.
"If something's wrong with the little dude, we can help!" Rad added insistently.
Mr. Gar shook his head. "Carol came by earlier. She hasn't heard from K.O., or T.K.O., or Fink since the night she dropped them off at Dendy's lab." He explained, Carol having come by to check up on her sons only to be greeted by no one other than Mr. Gar. It didn't take long for the muscular hero to realized what the problem was, he was able to convince his soon to be wife to just focus on working for now and that he would look for K.O..
"Fink?! She was with them?!" Enid gawked, surprised by this. Fink was a magnet for trouble, half of which she herself caused.
"What do you want us to do?" the Level 5 alien asked, hoping they could get orders on what to do to make sure their friends were okay.
"Work like it's a normal day. We don't want to go panicking over what could be nothing… but… I'd appreciate it if you two would go investigate Dendy's lab after work," Mr. Gar stated. He already talked with Dendy's parents, but they were quite estranged with the genius kappa. Dendy practically lived her own life in that lab, that distance only grew with each year.
"You got it," Enid nodded.
"Alright if you're sure…" Rad mused. The two bodega employees headed off, letting their boss remain alone.
"Was I too hard on him…?" Mr. Gar questioned himself, having given K.O. a more severe chewing out when he sent him home early. He headed to his office, trying to suppress his worry.
"Rad… tell me we're not thinking the same thing right now," Enid asked him.
"Can't say it until after we check out the lab. Just take it easy on yourself. I know you're probably blaming yourself. It feels more like my fault since he took the blame for me," Radicles advised. He didn't wish to bring her into a stress induced breakdown over nothing, they both had the same train of thought currently.
"Alright… Thanks Rad," Enid nodded, appreciating his partially comforting words. Even if she could tell he was just trying to make her feel better. She just hoped they could handle the Boxmore attacks today. The two split up to get back to their posts.
When the early morning sun rose, Dendy's eyes opened to the feeling of the hard ground as their only bed.
"K.O.?" the Level 3 genius realized he was absent. Fink was still under the lean-to, partially curled up into a ball, snoring away. She could sleep anywhere, Dendy suspected.
"Yeah?" T.K.O.'s voice caught Dendy's attention. She saw him seated at the extinguished campfire. He was wide awake, sitting there bored and waiting for them to waken up.
"T-T.K.O.? I didn't realize it was your turn to take over," the genius shook Fink, trying to get her to wake up as well. Dendy never knew whether to be cautious whenever K.O. and his twin switched out. It was always a little jarring whenever it happened.
"It wasn't, but K.O. asked me to early," the turbonic boy sighed, not going into detail. T.K.O. felt the pain that his twin was talking about. He was amazed that he had tolerated it as long as he did. "You ready to get going?" T.K.O. asked. K.O. was asleep in their mindscape, he didn't know how long that would be though.
"Yes," Dendy nodded, "I made the preparations last night. We can leave immediately."
"We're finally leaving?" Fink sat up, looking tired and annoyed. She was surprised to see T.K.O. for a moment, but she shrugged it off.
"Yes, we're leaving," answered Dendy.
"Finally!" whooped Fink. She kicked the fire pit into pieces, leaving no kindling behind while getting a grin out of their turbo friend.
"Yep, grab your things and let's go," T.K.O. declared, already taking a few steps ahead, only to be stopped by Dendy's webby hand latching onto his shoulder.
"I believe we need to decide upon a direction first instead of blindly walking and hoping for the best," the genius insisted. Fink tried to rub the sleepiness out of her eyes. It wasn't like they had much to carry along but the few parts that the kappa harvested from her mostly destroyed backpack.
T.K.O. gave a bemused glare. "Do you even know where we are?"
"W-well, no," stammered Dendy nervously.
"Then let's go, we're just wasting time," he continued walking ahead, leaving Dendy standing there uncertain.
"I get you hate not being able to plan on things. But, the only real option is to go blind here," Fink mused. She knew what it felt like to be shut down entirely in a conversation in such an aggressive manor. The young rat hurried off to catch up to T.K.O.
"You can't plan for everything," the kappa huffed, following shortly behind the rat. The three headed through the open plains of a forest, leaving the closest thing they had to a campsite behind.
They spent a few hours walking silently in their small group. T.K.O. at several points did wind up falling behind a little. The pain was slowing him down. He refused to acknowledge it to his and K.O.'s close friends though.
There were animals, but there weren't any further signs of civilization. In the last few hours they had been going in one direction in a zone untouched by any race. It made Dendy worried about the possibility of being in a danger zone with a population of several monsters.
"So… how long until you and K.O. switch again?" Fink chirped up, trying to break the silence as they were finally able to convince the turbonic twin to stop and rest instead of pushing stubbornly past their limit.
"No clue. He's sleeping right now, cause…" T.K.O. paused, looking over to see that Dendy was out of ear shot. She was checking around, hoping to find signs of civilization that they could follow, so far she was finding not a single sign of that. "That teleporter really messed us up. Even I'm having a hard time tolerating the pain. We really need to find a doctor," T.K.O. explained to Fink. No matter how often the two switched places for relief from the pain, their body was in a terrible state. It was going to collapse eventually.
"I had a feeling K.O. was hiding something…" Fink held her head. She doubted they could even find a doctor out here. Dendy was smart, but without tools, she couldn't play doctor for this occasion. The scraps of her backpack wouldn't work either by themselves. "It's all because of those stupid morons he calls friends taking advantage of him," the minion grumbled.
"Excuse me," T.K.O. snapped towards her and approached her. Fink suddenly found herself back first against a tree before she knew it, with T.K.O. very close to her. "Those morons, as you call 'em, are our friends. I think we've hurt them enough to make it fair. They've earned a li'l slack," he put a hand on the tree, leaning over the mouse to terrify her into getting the message. "I appreciate that you care for him, but I need you to care about Dendy too. 'Cause right now, we're all in a bad place."
"…okay," she gulped, nodding frantically.
Dendy had returned by now after her general search. She was staring at the scene she had walked upon. From her view, it looked like a very awkward flirting attempt. The kappa did not know what to think.
"Ahhem," Dendy coughed, getting their attentions and making them break up. Fink huffed her relief, seeing a print left in the bark from T.K.O.'s grip.
"Did I interrupt something?" the kappa requested with a raised eyebrow.
"Nope… ready to get going?" asked T.K.O. He didn't want Dendy to know how badly her machine had hurt the twins to prevent her feelings from worsening.
"Certainly," Dendy nodded, still with that unamused expression on her normally straight face.
"Y-yeah," Fink nervously smiled. The three continued in the same direction, though at this point, the many trees were lessening, revealing plains of just nothingness.
Ten miles passed. Or perhaps fifteen, the group didn't know nor have a desire to keep track even if Dendy probably could with ease. They were in a field of grass at least as high as them. The wind was so strong that the grass was being forced to bend in half. They could at least see through it, at the expense of the grass blades hitting their faces.
"I wish we'd gone in another direction now!" Fink said between her sneezing fits. Grass kept being thrown in her face that made her allergies go rampant.
"Seconded," Dendy agreed, feeling another bunch of grass in her face that she brushed off.
T.K.O. looked the most annoyed. His usually wild hair was practically wrapped around his head. He slowed down though as he saw a glimpse of brown behind the grass. "I think I see something."
"You do?" the kappa was both relieved and surprised. After another minute of forcing their way through the grass, they found a dirt path that looked like a makeshift road.
"Oh, thank Cob! Now we can just wait here for a car…" Fink fell to the ground in relief. Her legs were killing her. T.K.O. wanted to continue walking to ignore the overwhelming pain, they had been barely taking breaks during this long walking, only doing so when they absolutely had to mainly.
"I don't think we need to," Dendy commented.
"Why?" the Level 4 hero stepped over beside her, seeing her point ahead. There was something in the distance. It almost looked like a small town.
"I never thought I'd be happy to be around people again," T.K.O. hummed, thinking now they could get help. He hated showing any weakness like this. He could barely hide his pain anymore. He tried to hold out for K.O. while he could. He suddenly started to collapse without even realizing it initially.
"Whoa!" Fink quickly scurried to her feet and went to catch him.
"Did you overexert yourself again?" The level 3 genius asked, worried as they both helped ease him to the ground. His breathing was getting heavier.
"N-no. I just… can't take it much longer," the anger prone child coughed, though before T.K.O. could do anything, he heard his twin's voice pipe up in his skull.
"Hey, I'm awake T.K.O.! You can tag out now!" K.O. chirped. The pain in the mindscape got him up, even if it was duller when he was not in control, he imagined it must be bad for his brother.
"I-I can go a little longer…" T.K.O. coughed, not even aware he was bleeding now from his arm. Fink and Dendy quickly noticed it was coming one of his injuries.
"No way! You should've woken me up a while ago! I owe you one, but you're switching now," K.O. demanded. His turbonic half coughed, shaking his head.
"I said I can handle it, shut up!" T.K.O. shouted, startling his two friends and silencing his twin effectively for a few moments.
"Grab his arms, I'll take his legs," Dendy ordered to Fink.
"Gotcha!" Nodded the mouse. The two worked together to pick up the turbonic hero. They immediately followed the trail, running toward the small town.
"Sorry… I guess I should've stayed in control," K.O. said to his twin, picking up fast on what his twin had done to try and spare the young hero from more pain. "Thanks again, T.K.O. I'll figure out a way to pay you back once we're home. Just… hope that this town can help us."
T.K.O. just replied with irritated grumbling.
Chapter 5: Rogue Zone
The town the group of young travelers found themselves in was odd. It was small, but everything that had a free surface available had a small wind turbine plastered onto it. The violent winds seemed to be complimentary in this area.
"I feel like I'm in some sort of third-rate amusement park," Fink commented. She and Dendy carried their turbonic friend, who had blacked out from the pain shortly after they had entered the town.
"Ah… there are some people," the kappa said, relieved that this wasn't a ghost town from the lack of seeing anybody. The Level 3 hero rested T.K.O. down as she went to them. "Pardon me, but could you tell us where a hospital is?" Dendy requested from the random man and woman. They both seemed to freeze upon hearing her talk to them, like they were both debating between replying or running.
"W-we don't have a real hospital. The biggest building in town is the closest thing to a doctors we got," the young man pointed it out for the genius. It was like having a small office building in a rural village, it really stood out prominently.
"Thank you," Dendy said, leaving on that note. "Come on, this way," the kappa grabbed their unconscious friend. Fink nodded, helping pick T.K.O. up again before they continued on their way.
"What is up with this place? It's like they're trying to decide if they should break out the pitchforks and torches for us," the minion questioned. Anybody they passed by gave them cautiously afraid looks. It made no sense to her.
"It's not a matter of race, if that's what you're presuming," Dendy replied, having dealt with racism against kappas before with the help of K.O. The young hero was more focused on keeping an eye out for parts she could possibly combine with what she had to make a new advanced backpack.
"Why're you so sure about that?" Fink squeaked, seeing the large building as they approached. It sure didn't look like a hospital on the outside.
"Because they'd ignore us just for being different. They're scared because we're new and something most likely transpired with the last visitors this town had," Dendy explained. With towns this small, everyone knew one another, trusting strangers was already hard. If one was bad, they would presume all were bad after the fact.
"You really know how to put a nice shine on things," the similarly aged mouse sighed, unsure if she should be more or less paranoid now as they lugged their unconscious friend inside.
Inside K.O.'s mindscape, he saw a pained T.K.O. laid on the floor of their brain's control room.
"Are you okay?" the Level 4 hero asked his twin, trying to help him up.
"No," T.K.O. coughed, "That was horrible. I'm surprised you were able to hold out as long as you did…"
K.O. gave him a hug. He still felt terrible for having forced him more or less into taking his place for him. "Thanks for saving me from the pain."
"Yeah, yeah, don't mention it. I just… can't stand seeing you cry," T.K.O. admitted. Seeing his twin crying was one of the worst things in existence to him. Someone this optimistic being broken at all should never happen to K.O. as far as he cared.
"You're sweeter than you act… I'll take over. You go get some rest, okay?" K.O. insisted, acting like their mother. His twin nodded, tagging out of the control room, more so out of lack of choice than anything. He was past his limits, far too exhausted to fight right now as well.
When K.O. took control over their body again, he snapped awake in a second, groaning as he felt the familiar pain in his body. Thankfully it had lessened, though he had no clue how long he had been asleep.
"Where am I?" he looked around. He lay on a medical bed, that looked to have been unprofessionally made from parts of other beds and wheels from whatever would work. Bandages were covering a lot of his body.
"You're awake," a light yet gruff voice alerted K.O. to look to the right. There was older man in a medical coat with black hair that had a buzzcut to it, he had dog tags dangling around his left wrist tightly on their chain. "I'm Dr. Randolph. You're in Wind Valley's only clinic… or hospital, whichever you care to call it," he spoke, while he was crushing up herbs at the nearby small table in a bowl.
"Where are my friends?" K.O. requested, looking at his doctor, assuming he was a stranger, yet he swore he recognized him from somewhere.
"I kicked them out when they started getting annoying. They're probably bumming around somewhere in the lobby," Randolph stated. He disliked kids. Having two of them fighting over who got their friend hurt was even worse.
"Sorry… they don't get along," the level 4 hero replied, still hoping one day he could get the kappa and rat to get along better. He was unaware about what they were truly fighting over. "Do you have a phone I could use? We sort of got lost and need to call someone to get us."
"Your town has phones?" Randolph raised an eyebrow, sounding shocked, "Guess it's a miracle you're alive at all if you wandered into here without any monsters attacking you."
"I-I'm from the Neutral Zone. We… don't know where we are at all. We've been stuck camping in some random forest," the bodega cleaner continued to explain. The doctor stopped crushing the herbs, handing the small bowl of grinded up plants to the child to help his injuries along.
"You're a long ways away from Neutral Zone, kid… This is the Rogue Zone. We don't have phones, cell towers, radios, or even mail. People can only talk with each other directly, and that's the least of this zones problems," Randolph looked sympathetic, but ultimately unmoved by the lost child's plight. "If you wanna survive, you have to remember the rules of the world. One of them being that sometimes, it is easier to stay where you are instead of pushing your luck."
The doctor stood up, about to leave the room. His words suddenly reignited K.O.'s memory. "The fighting doctor!" K.O.'s eagerness returned. The man froze with his hand practically crunching the door handle. "You're the fightin' doctor, right? 'The rules of the world are the only rules I care for'!" He quoted the man with a bad impression of his voice. He recognized the doctor as a Level 2 hero from some of his earliest POW card collection, back when he was very young.
"How do you know anything about that…? It was long before your time, Cob, it was probably before you were even the glint in the eye of whatever drunken sailor helped conceive you," Randolph turned to him, looking torn between impressed and annoyed.
"I got your card! It was part of my first POW card pack my mommy gave me when I was really young!" spoke K.O., the doctor's passive aggressive insult going unregistered, mainly because he didn't understand it whatsoever. "I read all about you and your friends! Traveling the world, helping people in and out of war zones, always protecting them so they could get away when-"
"Shut up and take your medicine," the older doctor cut him off with the order, casting a stern glare to him that could even give Mr. Gar a run for his money. K.O. piped down and deflated instantly, although he had so much that he wanted to ask. He knew nothing about this Rogue Zone they were in, yet to meet a hero he once saw as an example of bravery was a once in a lifetime deal.
"Can you tell my friends I'm awake…?" asked the young boy. The Level 2 doctor said nothing and just left the room. K.O. let out a sigh, his joy waning. He guessed this was still better than the incident with Chip Damage. He was really starting to hate how every hero he met seemed to no longer be who he thought they were.
Fink and Dendy were seated in an empty waiting area. The young kappa was working away on a new backpack, having found a room in this fake hospital full of broken medical machinery. She took parts from them, and she had fixed a few as well.
"Why are you always fiddling with something?" the minion asked, the silence boring her. Both worried for K.O.'s well being.
"Because, I enjoy 'fiddling' as you put it," Dendy flatly replied as a few sparks shot off her new backpack. She just continued working with the tools she had at hand, which she had stolen from a janitor's closet.
"Why can't you just make a phone or something then?" Fink questioned. That seemed like a simple feat for her frenemy to do. They had asked about borrowing a phone from one of the nurses, they were told that they had no real means of long-range communication.
"Indeed, sadly there aren't any phone towers to transmit any calls through. We'd only be wasting parts. I could attempt to make a satellite phone, but I don't have the parts or tools for that either," Dendy explained. She contemplated this since they first got stuck in this situation. "You seem to know a fair bit when it comes to the Rogue Zone. Care to enlighten me?"
"Wait until I can tell both you and K.O.," replied Fink, "I don't want to go repeating it."
A nurse poked her head into the waiting room. "Your friend's awake. You may see him now."
"Right on cue," Fink smirked. She and Dendy both got up to go to K.O.'s room, relieved to hear that he was awake. They had been afraid that at worst, their friend would have needed surgery.
Dendy paused when she heard the voice of the doctor who had kicked them out of K.O.'s room. She stayed near the wall, peeking through an open hallway, where she could see him with several other doctors and nurses gathered around him.
"I wonder what they're talking about…" Dendy muttered, unable to hear them. The genius hit a few buttons on the side of her backpack. She hated having to operate it in such an old-fashioned manner. A cable extending out with a small speaker on the end that slithered up the hall floor.
"There we go," she smirked when an earpiece popped out of her backpack and got held to the side of her head. She stayed quiet to eavesdrop.
"They're asking for more technos than anyone in this town even has combined now," one nurse stated.
"If we don't pay, they'll cut the power. But we don't have anything we can spare to trade anymore either," another doctor added.
"How many patients are on ventilators?" Randolph held his head.
"Eight, all of them are being used," another nurse solemnly spoke, "We can't manually pump air for half of them either. They need the constant pressure of a vent."
"And we've already given all the spare medicine we had... Here I thought those bandits left by now," Randolph growled. After a moment, he waved his hand, motioning them all to get back to work. "I'll handle it, just focus on your jobs," Randolph commanded, making the medical team scatter as he stomped off. Dendy retracting her listening device and acted casual. He wouldn't notice her as he walked by.
"…I suppose there's a lot more danger than just the physical variety in this Rogue Zone," the kappa mumbled, unsure what to really think. From what she heard, it sounded like the most brutal extortion scheme by a power company. She continued her way to K.O.'s room.
K.O. was happy to see his friends enter the room. He looked like his old self, aside from the bandages. "Hey! You two okay?" the Level 4 hero asked his friends.
"A lot better now that you're alright," Fink exclaimed. T.K.O.'s threat was still prominently in her mind.
"Affirmative," Dendy closed the door behind herself, "I've been able to recreate a beta hackpack with parts I've found from primarily broken machinery," she looked content that she was not defenseless now.
"That's great, Dendy!" exclaimed K.O., "Sorry you guys had to carry me like that."
"I just feel bad you had to put up with that jerk of a doctor," the rat grinned. He wanted to tell them about his heroic history, but he sighed. What would it matter anyway?
"Fink has pertinent information about the zone we're marooned in," Dendy stated, wishing to hear this right away so she could possibly form a plan for them to get home.
The green haired girl nodded as the two looked to her. She tried to gather what she could recall since it had been a long time. "I only know what I know because boss had to come to the zone a few times, back when he was more… crazy," Fink stated, not even trying to hide how she read all the books she could find on the Rogue Zone. Venomous wouldn't allow his loyal minion to come along because of its danger.
"Thank Boxman for helping him," K.O. said. Boxman seemed to be the reason his biological father was a much saner villain than before anyway.
"The Rogue Zone is the definition of a lost cause to the other zones. It used to be a Level 3 danger zone," Fink sounded both happy and concerned. Danger zones were places that either were war torn by people or dominated by monsters on a scale of one to five in Levels the higher the Level the more dangerous it could be. "It's a place most consider an escape from the world. It's like an isolated island. Villains come here to quit. Heroes come to live real lives without having to fight all the time. All the in between freaks come for millions of different reasons. In other words, it's the definition of chaotic."
"And… we're in a random part of it with no clue where to go?" K.O. chirped, seeing the minion nod, casting a glare at the kappa who seemed distracted.
"Yep, of course. Also, some villains see it as a chance to get a personal playground to themselves, so they grab small towns by whatever they have and destroy them until the people get chased out to other places," Fink couldn't explain more. It was a hundred pages worth of history. She couldn't recall every little detail without the exact books she had read.
"I'm sure we'll be fine. We just gotta find the right direction," K.O. smiled reassuringly. He saw no other real options. Dendy sat, distracted. "Dendy? What's wrong?" K.O. asked her, since normally learning about anything she didn't know much about would enthrall her. The kappa snapped back to reality to see his worried look.
"Apologies. I… overheard some of the doctors and nurses discussing something when we were coming to your room."
"What were they talking about?" Fink asked, though if it involved that doctor who kicked them out of the room earlier, then the minion didn't care.
"I don't think I should say," Dendy knew if she told them, then K.O. would want to volunteer to help them with whatever problem they had.
"Dendy, come on. We have to be open and honest with each other, especially out here," the Level 4 cleaner insisted. His words made the kappa sigh in frustration. Fink had her arms crossed and waited.
"You are correct, K.O.," breathed Dendy, "You see, from what I gather, whatever controls the power from the many windmills in this town is evidently strangling its residents for money or valuables worth trading."
"That's sort of how companies work, don't they," Fink scoffed, "Take advantage of people and not carin' bout how they feel."
"I believe this isn't a company's doing, more so bandits. They're going to kill the patients on life support here if the hospital does not pay them. Judging by their words, this has been going on quite some time," the Level 3 hero exclaimed. She felt rotten to her core from imagining people being that low, though knew there were all types of awful beings in the world.
"We gotta do something then," K.O. insisted, trying to stand up out of bed, only to get stopped by the kappa.
"No, K.O., listen to me. We can't throw ourselves into every situation we come across. We need to get home," Dendy hated to say it. They would exhaust themselves if they tried to be heroes in the Rogue Zone. They wouldn't get anywhere, even if she knew it went against her dear friends nature. This chaotic zone was like this for a reason, it wasn't from a lack of other zones trying to interfere either, it was simply impossible with the environment that the Rogue Zone held.
"I hate to agree with her, but she's right. We need to handle getting home first. Heck, we might even need the help of bad guys if we're gonna get through this place," Fink threw in her two cents. Agreeing with the kappa was something she thought she would never do. The heroes and minion would have to bend their moral compasses for this zone, stick together or risk who knows what happening.
"Alright…" the young hero reluctantly nodded. His two friends hated to be cruel but beating one group of bandits wasn't going to clean up the rogue zone.
"I'll go try to find us something to eat," Fink stood up, volunteering to find lunch for them. The two did not give much reply, simply letting the young mouse go.
K.O. stared down at the bed, feeling saddened with himself. He gripped the blankets. Just imagining leaving and ignoring people they could save from death drove him mad. The young boy felt his hand get held by Dendy.
"I'm sorry K.O.," mused Dendy. K.O. looked to her, unsure what to say.
"It's not your fault. I know we can't be careless in a place like this. There aren't any real hospitals, or doctors, or anything. Just people getting by with what they have, if Fink is right," he was begrudgingly acceptant of this fact. The Rogue Zone felt like a time travel to the past. This place was that deprived of any modern technology to utilize.
"There is that… but I'm sorry for hurting you. I didn't realize how bad the strain on your nervous system truly was until T.K.O. fainted," Dendy stated. Her optimism for the recovery had been misplaced.
"It was just your machine that acted up, Dendy, that's all. Besides, I could never be mad at you," K.O. reassured. His words made her give a confused look in response.
"Why could you never be mad with me?" the Level 3 genius asked, "Half the time, my experiments either cause immense trouble, or get in the way."
"Because you're one of my best friends. I know you do a lot to be careful. Always staying up for days on end, working to make sure it's safe. No one could be mad at that passion, you always fix them in the end after all!" K.O. exclaimed. He took care of Dendy a lot after those many days that she spent awake on some inventions, making sure she would be alright and not suffer from exhaustion too badly.
Dendy stared at him for a moment, but eventually hugged the bodega cleaner tightly, surprising him. K.O. smiled, and after a moment, wrapped his arms around her in trade.
"When you weren't waking up, I was having mental breakdowns... I can't possibly think about life without you. I'd be nothing more than another simple genius, locked away in their lab all the time after school, if not for your help."
K.O. gently stroked her back with his hand, trying to comfort her. "Don't get upset, Dendy. I'm here, and I don't plan on leaving anytime soon. You helped me be a better hero in a lot of ways, even if I have trouble understanding your big words. My life wouldn't be the same without you either."
Dendy felt the warmth of her heart. The two stayed in their embrace without another word, K.O. just wanted to make sure she was happy and relaxed, they had a lot to take in currently.
Rad drove the van along one of the many roads of Neutral Zone. He and Enid had hit the road the second they were able to clock out. Enid stared out the passenger side window, watching the scenery pass as they rode by.
"You know how to get into this lab right?" Radicles asked, dodging a few cars as they passed by, not in the mood to slow down because someone else couldn't read the speed limit signs.
"It's just hidden panels. Nothing we have to get around," Enid replied, grateful that Dendy didn't feel the need to set up levels of dangerous security measures, and finding hidden entrances was a specialty of the ninjas. All they needed to do was go to where they knew one of the many openings to the lab were located.
"Alright… you holding up okay?" Rad tried to continue the conversation, mainly focused on the road. He could tell the Level 10 ninja was upset with herself.
"No, I'm not… K.O.'s missing and it might be my fault," Enid replied not even denying how much she was beating herself up. The young alien guessed it was more so because she spent a night fooling around with Elodie, instead of making sure their friend was okay when he refused to answer their calls and messages.
"Our fault, Enid. He got in trouble cause of me… and he's not missing! He's just not in contact. We'll find him once we find Dendy and Fink," Rad tried to reassure if they couldn't find their close friend, then surely the kappa and mouse would have a clue. Although, as he knew, Dendy had been equally radio-silent.
After another moment of driving, they came to a stop by a sidewalk. The two stepped out. Nothing looked odd, though it appeared to be a normal street as any other.
Enid approached the wall, running her hand along it until she caught a groove. "There," she pushed it in the side, revealing a flip panel that unveiled an opening.
"Wow! Great work, Enid!" Rad clapped, impressed. They still didn't know why Dendy exactly installed the lab accesses in various parts of the Neutral Zone. They assumed it was so she could escape whenever she desired if any bad situation emerged.
"Yeah, yeah, just get in," the bodega cashier shoved the buff alien into the entrance, hearing him let out a scream. Enid jumped in behind him a second after.
After a lot of twists and wooshes, the two got thrown out from the scary slide, crashing into the floor. Rad groaned when he landed. Enid fell on top of him.
"My… back!" Rad gasped.
Enid coughed. She sat up, looking around the lab. It looked messy, almost like a bunch of kids had been there and barely cleaning up after themselves. That was a good sign to her.
"H-hey, Enid, isn't that K.O.'s bag?" the alien got out of the floor, his back in pain. They saw the familiar bag resting on the table. Another bag was beside it, presumably Fink's.
"Yeah, it is…" she nodded, going over and beginning to look through the small bag. There was not much in it beyond POW cards, a few pictures of K.O., the pictures including his mother and his friends.
"I didn't realize he carried this kind of stuff with him?" the high-leveled ninja murmured, oblivious to exactly how sentimental the aspiring hero could be. She could tell the POW cards were new. They still had that gold shine to them that came from opening any new pack.
"Dendy? K.O.? Fink?" Rad called out, though to no response. They heard the computer system chime up, announcing others were entering the launch tubes.
The two heroes saw a pair of kappas get launched out. Rad fired psychic beams, catching them before they could hurt themselves. It took them a minute to realize they were safe.
"Mr. And Mrs. Laik? What're you two doing here?" Enid recognized the two older kappas easily. They were Dendy's parents, Pavel and Pepelina. The stockroom worker lowered them to the floor.
"Sorry. We were searching for Dendy. We haven't heard from her in a few days…" Pavel stated. The long married kappas looked exhausted. They seemingly had days of sleep deprivation.
"We've looked at all her favorite places to go, the museum, the parts shop, the plaza, that new karaoke club downtown, but we haven't found her at all," Pepelina continued for her husband, the bodega employees had to stifle a laugh at hearing Dendy was interested in karaoke. "That's why we came here. We were hoping she would be just busy working on something."
"I'm sorry… K.O. hasn't been seen since he came over for a sleepover with another friend of his either, that's why we're here," Enid answered, sounding apologetic that they had no information on their daughter's whereabouts. She knew it must be making the older couple miserable to not know how their daughter was doing for days on end.
"Let us help you look then. Please," Peval insisted. They were terrified about their daughter now being safe despite her intellect. It made them worried.
"'course! You don't need to ask," Rad smirked. The group of four split up to investigate the laboratory thoroughly. They hoped they would get a lucky break with finding the missing children.
Chapter 6: Power
Authors Note: Hey all, I just am making this to ask a question, I wanted to know if you would like me to focus on Unexpected Parenthood more than this story or not? I'm curious to hear thoughts, hope you enjoy the chapter either way.
Late night had come for Wind Valley. K.O. was getting his vest back on. He took most of the day to heal in the hospital, though Randolph barely checked up on them. His disdain toward his history was prevalent to him.
"You sure you want to do this?" T.K.O. asked in his twin's mind.
"I am sure… They helped us, so it's the least we can do for them," K.O. looked over to Dendy and Fink, who slept away. Their time traversing the Rogue Zone today took its toll on them.
K.O. snuck out of his room. He had to help this town. Lives were being threatened with the power supply issue. They hadn't any money for medical bills, or whatever this office turned hospital took for payment. Abandoning them would be a mistake.
Wind Valley was vastly different at night. There was barely a single light. The stars in the sky reminded K.O. of whenever he viewed leaves in a river. Nobody was out when darkness fell. He was the only person around.
"It was a lot less scary in the woods," the Level 4 hero had to confess aloud to himself, under the risk that a wolf might attack. He was glad that they didn't stay in the forest and hope someone would come find them. Given where they were, it would have been impossible. K.O. sighed to himself. He was making his mother worry, and he felt bad for it. It made him all the more determined to get home sooner.
He began to make his way south. An overworked nurse had given him directions to the Power Plant. This part of Wind Valley was even less lively. He could feel the chilling wind still blowing fiercely. It seemed to only get worse depending on the time of day.
K.O. saw the power plant at last. He didn't know what to think at first. It looked normal for something that didn't run on glorb power. He felt nervous as he heard the sounds of laughter coming from the people inside. He hid behind a stack of crates and a few barrels to peek inside. What he saw wasn't that unusual to him thus far.
K.O. assumed those were the bandits who had taken over this power plant. They were laughing, talking over food at a fire. It disgusted the bodega cleaner to see how much pleasure they had, despite knowing they were damaging a key point to this small town and were about to kill people in the process.
"Please tell me you're not actually going to try and talk to them," T.K.O. grumbled, hoping they would skip past that. Talking it out with other villain never worked in his point of view.
"Sorry, T.K.O. I've gotta try," K.O. said to his twin. He had to at least try talking. It was in his nature. The Level 4 hero came out from hiding, approaching the group that was enjoying their fun. K.O. could at least tell the various aged men and women had known each other for a long time. They just came and overwhelmed Wind Valley with their numbers.
"Hello?" K.O. chimed up. his voice brought all attention on him. A young boy strolling in from nowhere at random would do do that. "A-are you the bandits that took over the town's power supply?" K.O. straight forwardly asked, trying to be optimistic, though his nervousness shined through.
Three seconds of silence later, they all began laughing at him like they had heard the best joke for the first time in a long while.
"Get lost, kid," one woman brushed him off as nothing more than a lost child.
"This isn't a place for young'uns," another man commented.
"Told you it was a waste of time," T.K.O. sighed within K.O.'s head, always disappointed whenever his brother wouldn't just open up with violence in a situation where talking was worthless. K.O. just tightened his fists, resisting that desire to force them all out.
"I can't. You're killing people. A lot of bad guys wouldn't even stoop that low," the Level 4 hero spoke up, "Having to choose between handing over everything to save lives, or giving up and letting them die isn't a choice anyone should have to make, so please, let the town have control of this place again and leave."
All cold eyes went on him. It was like he was the very living embodiment of annoying right at that moment. The silence was tense. One of the thugs was sneaking up behind the oblivious K.O., holding a metal pipe, which he raised overhead, about to bring it down on the kid's skull.
K.O. heard a thwack from metal to flesh. He looked over his shoulder, he saw Randolph blocking the metal pipe with one arm, with seemingly no reaction to the attack that landed on his forearm.
"Randolph?!" K.O. gasped, "What are you doing here?"
"You don't think I keep an eye on all of my patients?" Randolph told the young boy, grabbing the assailant by the shirt and socking him hard in the face, it was blunt enough to knock him out.
"You came to help me?" K.O. asked, looking starstruck. The fighting doctor sighed, picking up the metal pipe. The many bandits got up now and pulled out their own weapons, angered and ready to take them both down.
"Truth be told, I was going to come out here to try and do this too," the doctor answered, "If you can't fight, get out of my way, if you can fight, then I appreciate the help."
"A chance to fight side-by-side with an old hero?" K.O. smiled, "I'd be crazy if I missed out on this!"
The older doctor grinned from ear to ear, like he was reliving his ancient memories. "Let's go then."
"Dendy? Hey, Dendy!" Finks voice rung out, as she shook the kappa awake.
The genius groaned. "Yes, Fink, what is it?" she asked, sliding her goggles back over her eyes.
The rat motioned to the side to the empty makeshift hospital bed. "It's K.O.! He's gone!"
Dendy tried to resist face palming as she got up. The kappa knew that she was being optimistic at the thought of K.O. resisting his desire to help others.
"I might have an idea about his whereabouts, come on," Dendy insisted, putting on her downgraded backpack and lily pad beret, the two hurried out of the room.
When they entered the hallway, they could tell that something was wrong. The medical staff looked panicked, and they were running around like they were handling several tasks at once. They noticed that the lights were flickering occasionally as well.
"What's going on?" Fink quirked an eyebrow.
"It appears the rogues involved with taking their power source hostage has shut it down, and the hospital's backup generator is nearing complete emptiness," Dendy explained what she could gather. It made them worried about what happened with K.O. since it made them more worried about him being able to handle the situation on his own.
"Okay. That's pretty bad…" Venomous's loyal minion shivered.
"If K.O. truly is doing what I believe he is doing, then I have an idea we can do to buy him time. Sadly, it involves a lot of manual labor on your part," Dendy proudly exclaimed, grabbing Fink by the hand and beginning to lead her away, dragging the henchwoman behind her.
"It involves what?!" Fink gulped.
"Don't act like that you get to be a hero and save many lives," Dendy spoke as they headed down towards the basement of this makeshift hospital. The mouse squeaked, not liking where this was going, especially given the kappa came off as a secret mad scientist whenever it came to her ideas.
"You owe me so much for whatever this is!" Fink exclaimed as the lights flickered once more. She tried to stay calm. Hospitals gave her enough anxiety. Being dragged to the basement of one was not helping matters for her. As for K.O., Fink wouldn't forgive him if he went and hurt himself after they just got him medical attention.
The fight at the power plant was a lot rougher than they expected. There were so much more of these thugs hiding in other rooms. They all came out when they heard the commotion.
"Sorry!" K.O. bashed one through a few crates with a power fist. He was trying his best not to hurt their enemies, yet they refused to stop attacking until they were out cold.
"Apologize after the battle!" Randolph called from afar, getting whacked across the chest by a pair of brass knuckles. He smashed his attackers right leg out from under him with the pipe and hit him in the face to knock him out.
"This is why you open a fight by actually fighting, not talking," T.K.O. told his twin while K.O. ducked under a swung bat. He created a pair of aura knuckles around his arms and uppercut the thug that tried to knock his head off, sending them crashing off to the side.
The Level 4 hero began to rapidly throw power fists, swinging his arms as fast as rotor blades, blasting apart a small wave of enemies and scattered them apart like ants hit by a flood.
"Why don't you idiots get lost already! The power's already been cut! You're just wasting time here," one of the thugs called out. Randolph kicked him in the back and knocked him toward K.O., who hit him in the chest to knock him down flat.
"Why can't you just give up then? You're just being evil for no reason now!" K.O. grabbed the knocked down ruffian by his legs and spun him around, throwing him like a weapon at another three members of this gang. The young boy ran off, hoping he could find the way to cut the power back on to the hospital.
"What? You're ditching me?! What kind of hero is that much of a wuss?!" Randolph called out, getting hit in the side by a knife. He seemed to take the attack without much reaction. The doctor elbowed his assailant in the jaw. He was left alone with another wave of the leftover thugs.
K.O. mostly ran from room to room, trying to find where the power plant had everything controlled from, the young boy had to stop and keep fighting though it was like the criminals were waiting around every corner with their surprise attacks.
K.O. was suddenly grabbed and thrown hard onto the ground. A boot pressed against his chest. His upper body radiated in agony. The kid had to resist wailing from the returning pain.
"Got'cha, you little rat," the older man laughed, enjoying crushing his ribcage. K.O. gritted his teeth, grabbing the leg pinning him down, and shoving it upwards with one strong thrust, sending them reeling on their back.
K.O. had to resist the strong overwhelming desire to just throw the man out the nearest window, though he realized that he was in the control room.
"You listen here…" K.O. threw a power fist at the doorway, caving the door and frame inward, making sure they stayed shut so none of the other thugs could surprise him. "You're going to tell me how to fix the power to the hospital or I'll make sure you regret ever taking a step into the Rogue Zone! Got it?!" the Level 4 hero demanded, having an aura knuckle ready in case the man refused.
"T-those levers and dials, just flip them up and then hit the big button," the man whimpered in terror.
"I like it when you get angry," T.K.O. chuckled in his twin's head, enjoying the show. It was nice not to get drawn out from hopeless rage instead. Being able to willingly swap places felt better to the turbonic child.
K.O. left the man there in fear. Despite how much he wanted to crack his head against the ground, he wanted to be sure the thug stayed awake in case there was any other information he needed.
The young bodega cleaner spent the next five minutes changing the settings and making sure that the bandit didn't try to enact a second assault. When he hit the last lever, a whir echoed out.
"Great," K.O. let out a relieved sigh, "Now everyone in the hospital should be fine."
"Y'know, it'll take ten minutes for the power to go back on in a place that had it cut off… right?" the thug that had been more or less held hostage chimed up. The Level 4 hero exhaled in irritation. He was no electrician, yet that didn't change anything.
"Hope we were fast enough then…" T.K.O. told his twin from the mindscape. K.O. forced the man up on his feet.
"You guys leave Wind Valley. And take your friends with you once me and Randolph are done with them," K.O. commanded. The man gave a shaky nod. For him to see someone who literally bent a door was enough of a warning to him to know that they stood no chance. K.O. just left him there on that note and went to return to the power plant entrance.
The moment K.O. stepped into the entrance, he found Randolph seated on a turned over barrel, battered, bloodied and bruised, his medical coat torn to pieces. All the bandits were unconscious.
"Did you get the power back on?" the older medical expert asked, already put together what the aspiring hero had been doing when he hurried off like he did.
"I did, but it'll take ten minutes to start working fully. Uh… do you need to get to the hospital?" K.O. questioned. The man simply gave a grin, laughing a little as he shook his head.
"Do you want to know why I always stayed behind in those battlefields, raids, assaults and monster attacks to fight and buy time whenever my team had to flee?" the retired hero offered.
"Well… yeah!" he nodded hesitantly, eager to know.
"I can't feel pain. You see, I killed the pain receptors in my body when I was a medical student, I was my own final exam subject for school. I can take a lot more of a beating than most because of that," Randolph stated. It was used as a good tool to him, but he understood why most would see it as a curse that they wouldn't deserve or want, knowing he did it willingly was scary.
"Then why'd you quit being a hero and come to the Rogue Zone…?" K.O. asked. That man, with his inability to feel pain, helped so many and had the courage to do so. It didn't make sense to him that someone with such a promising future would give it all up.
"Because I wanted to die. I was happy, but during my travels, I barely got half a mile in before I found someone else really badly hurt and my medical instincts took over…" the old doctor sighed, looking down to the ground, recalling how foolish his younger self had been. "They took me here to Wind Valley and I saw how sick everyone was. A lot of bugs travel on the wind. I couldn't just leave the place because of it. Eventually, I turned the old office building into a hospital, and I became the chief medical executive for it."
K.O. nodded slowly. "Thanks for not giving up on life even when you tried to," he spoke. He figured the doctor barely received words of gratitude anymore. The old man laughed at this.
"Thanks for the thanks… Wait," the earlier words finally registered with the doctor, "Did you say it'd take ten minutes for the power to get restored?"
"Yep," the young boy nodded.
"Dang it!" the doctor shot up from the barrel he was sitting on, "The patients on life support won't last more than six minutes without any power!"
K.O. gasped, his eyes widened in terror. "Oh, no…!" he stuttered, aware that was not even counting the time that had been wasted fighting.
"Come on, let's hurry back," Randolph insisted, planning on just getting the townsfolk to come drag out the unconscious bandits long before they could wake up.
K.O. followed the injured doctor, the two running off full speed ahead to try and get back to the hospital before it would be too late.
When they did arrive back to the hospital, they could see that the lights were all working perfectly. It confused them for a moment. The medical staff weren't panicking either. They all looked calm and collected, until they saw Randolph's injuries, but the old hero told them all to leave him alone for a minute.
"Maybe the bandit was wrong about how long it'd take for power to get restored?" K.O. suggested. He was happy though. It meant nobody was at risk of dying after all.
"That or the generators had more power in them than we thought they did…" the fighting doctor mumbled, making his way for the staircase, the Level 4 hero following behind to make sure Randolph's injuries didn't incapacitate him. No pain didn't mean no reaction from his body.
The two paused by the bottom of the stairs to the basement. The generators were all off. Instead, cables were hooked up to a holographic over sized hamster wheel being generated by Dendy and her backpack, with Fink running in the center of it.
"I think I have a whole new respect for the next generation," Randolph spoke the only words that could get past his vocal chords. For the last half hour now, Fink had been powering the entire hospital by running on all fours. She would do it for her boss whenever the power went out at base. But here, she found it immensely degrading.
"K.O.? Thank goodness you're unharmed," Dendy stepped away from the wheel, embracing her classmate. K.O gladly returned the hug.
"We dealt with the problem at the power plant. Sorry for making you worry. What happened here?" K.O. asked. The kappa waved a hand proudly over to the wheel.
"When we woke up, we realized you were missing. We wanted to come help, but the power started flickering so I came up with this idea," Dendy elaborated, unable to deny how impressed she was by the stamina that Fink had, given all the downtime she spent playing videos games.
"The power's back on. You can stop running now, Fink," K.O. said. It had been more than long enough for the ten-minute power restoration to return fully.
"Haah… haah…" Fink instantly collapsed on all fours in the wheel, panting. Dendy made the holographic hamster wheel disappear, causing the young minion to fall to the floor with a squeak.
"I gotta go make sure that the thugs in the power plant get removed. You three take it easy. I'll see you in the morning," Randolph began to leave, looking relieved at that. The Level 4 hero went over and helped Fink sit up.
"You two did great," K.O. told her and Dendy.
"Oy…" Fink groaned, thanking him for his pity. The young kappa though saw a familiar POW card – Fink's card – on the ground where she had been laying, it had slipped out during all the running.
"Hey, Fink… Your POW card…" Dendy murmured. Fink gasped, trying to grab it, though she was too exhausted to really do anything. She simply fell over again.
"G-give it back!" Fink whined. It was too late though. The kappa looked to her dear friend, and he nodded insisting it was real.
"You're Level 5?" Dendy was more shocked by this revelation. Villains were supposed to have negative levels, yet here Fink had a positive number. The rat didn't reply, crossing her arms and looking away while pouting. K.O. helped her up and let her lean on him.
"Come on, let's get upstairs and relax now that we can," K.O. insisted, aware how upset Fink was with this truth coming out. She wasn't even able to get her usual full on rage drawn out. Dendy gave the card back to her, yet by now, the mouse didn't care. She weakly held it in her pink gloved hands. The three made their way back upstairs, K.O. tried to stay positive.
"At least we saved the town."
Chapter 7: Runaways
Enid was miserable. Nothing short of emotionally tortured. Miserable being the best word she could use to describe herself tonight. Quietly she sat on the passenger seat of Rad's van as they drove along. They had dropped off Dendy's parents at their home an hour ago, after spending all day searching around town in vain for the trio of missing children. The sun had gone down now. The kappa family tried to remain optimistic, nonetheless.
"So… can I say it now?" Enid asked.
"Yeah, you can…" Rad sighed, "K.O. Fink and Dendy are all missing, and it looks like they left on their own," the Level 5 stockroom worker didn't know what else to describe it. they dreaded they had to tell Carol and Mr. Gar this news as well.
"They ran away, Rad," the Level 10 ninja declared upon hearing him hesitating. People vanishing into thin air without a trace or signs of struggle tended to mean they left on their own. Enid felt she had a major hand in driving K.O. away, which only made her heart hurt more. She didn't mean to hurt him.
"Don't worry, Enid. It's just as much my fault," Radicles tried to reassure the winja, to little success sadly.
"Let's just go see Carol. I'll talk to Elodie later and see if she can help in anyway," Enid suggested. Someone in a position of power at P.O.I.N.T. Prep Academy would be able to make finding the runaways a lot easier.
"Maybe it wasn't K.O.'s idea!" Rad suggested, "I mean, you know how sneaky Fink is. Maybe she started it."
"Rad, you know as well as I do that there's no way Dendy would go along with anything if Fink was leading the idea. K.O. did it himself," Enid countered. Dendy was very protective when it came to the bodega cleaner. If they all left together, then it meant they all agreed to just leave.
"Sorry for trying to be optimistic," Rad mumbled, recalling how he almost ran away with Shannon once a long time back. He felt just as bad as Enid did right now. Their little friend had done so much for them. If the stockroom worker really had a hand in driving him away, he regretted it.
They arrived at Carol's home after another moment. "Let me do the talking," the purple haired teenager told him. The alien nodded, more than glad to let her break the bad news. The two bodega workers stepped out from the van.
"Looks like Mr. Gar isn't home," Rad pointed out the lack of the muscular man's car in the driveway. They knew he had moved in with Carol and K.O. to this new home a while after the fitness dojo owner and bodega owner began dating each other.
"He's probably busy. We did sorta ditch him with most of the bodega today," Enid reminded him. They only went to Dendy's lab because Mr. Gar insisted that they could leave early during a break if they chose to, and that he would appreciate them checking it out for him. She had texted him their findings already when they left the lab with the kappa's parents, the lack of a reply from their boss did make her worried admittedly.
They stepped up to the front door. The young ninja witch raised her hand, about to ring the doorbell, but felt herself pause. She took in a breath, trying to calm down. Her eyes cast over to Radicles. That reassuring face of his told her she wasn't alone for this. After mustering up the strength, the cashier rang the doorbell.
After a moment, Carol answered. She was an anxious, unkempt mess, her composure becoming gradually lost as the day passed without any word of her son.
"H-hey, Enid, Rad. Do you have any news for me?" Carol hesitantly questioned.
"I'm sorry, Carol. We found nothing. We looked at all of Dendy's and K.O.'s favorite places to go," Enid felt her vocal chords freeze up when seeing how upset Carol looked. She couldn't bring herself to finish.
"We think they're perfectly fine... But it looks like they've just run away," Radicles finished for Enid. Carol sniffled, nodding, as if she had already accepted that it was true long before they came to her. The bodega workers felt it was right to tell her in person.
"I told K.O. he could come to me for any problem he had no matter how big it was... I-I guess I failed him. He left his cellphone in the back of my car," the high-leveled hero sobbed, feeling like she had let down K.O. if he found running away to be a better answer to whatever problems he had than actually going to anyone else for help. She was unaware though that K.O.'s phone had simply fallen out during his squabbling with Fink. It seemed more purposeful. Carol had only stumbled across it when cleaning her car and thought nothing of it initially.
"No, no, it's not your fault. It's ours. We should've seen his problems long before you," Enid gave the fitness dojo owner a hug. They all missed out on whatever the apparent problems were. Only Fink and Dendy knew where that brush haired kid was now.
"Hey, Enid, there's a car coming," Rad hated to interrupt. He could not identify the vehicle given the darkness. It pulled into the driveway. All three of them stared at the familiar purple skinned black haired man stepping out from the car.
"Professor Venomous? What're you doing here?" Enid stepped toward him, ready to kick him through a window the first excuse she got.
"I came to pick up Fink," Professor Venomous answered, not taking them seriously, "She's been ignoring my calls, so I assume she's upset about something."
"You didn't tell him…?!" Rad whispered. Carol had completely forgotten in her mental breakdown. All of Voxmore had been out of town on a business trip. She had only been meant to watch Fink until Monday.
"I-I haven't had my head on straight in the last two days…" Carol nervously replied. She tried to keep calm and regain herself. She stepped up to Venomous. "We need to talk. It's about Fink and K.O."
After a long, awkward talk to Prof. Venomous about what had gone on the last few days, and a few more near breakdowns from Carol, they finally finished the explanation, Venomous sat there in silence.
"I'm sorry, Venomous. I didn't have any idea about… any of this…" Carol spoke. She had left Fink with Dendy and K.O. She didn't know if the young mouse intended to run away as well or if it was just coincidence and extended offer by the other two kids whom she agreed to go with.
"If you have a list of places that Fink likes to go to, we can check them out, but we had no luck doing that for any of K.O. or Dendy's favorite places," Enid offered. The ninja was not going to be able to sleep peacefully until they found their friend. She was more than up to continuing to search.
"Does Fink even do anything outside of Voxmore or school?" Rad quirked. They didn't know Fink well at all, though as far as they could tell, she was either clingy to her boss or just extremely introverted.
"Aside from play videos games and help me, not really," the evil scientist stood up beginning to head for the door. He felt regretful for leaving Fink behind now. "Thanks for informing me, Carol."
"W-wait you're just leaving?" Enid questioned, "It'd be better if we work together."
"No. I have enough problems with Boxman's kids to deal with, but they'll be enough to find them. I'll let you know when I do," Prof. Venomous proclaimed, sounding so confident that it actually assured them all they let him leave. They hoped it would be good enough.
"Come on Enid, I'll take you home," Rad offered, not wanting the Level 10 ninja to be left alone while in her miserable state.
"I… think I'll stay with Carol for tonight so we can figure out what to do, okay?" Enid replied to Rad.
"Thank you. I appreciate it," Carol gave a weak hearted laugh. She still found it hard to believe the ninja almost was over her in Levels. The bodega workers really had grown up fast and it made the dojo owner feel worse for missing whatever had been bothering her son.
"Alright Enid. Call me if you need me," the Level 5 alien went off to get in his van. The stockroom worker felt miserable and he had a bad feeling about it.
"There has to be something I can do…" Rad banged his fists on the steering wheel. The young alien growled. He felt like he really was to blame for getting K.O. in trouble with Mr. Gar. Getting chewed out by someone you idolized was devastating, especially to a child.
Radicles put his van in reverse, pulling the car out of the driveway and driving away. Today began and ended terribly. He just hoped wherever the trio of kids were that they were doing alright.
K.O. was seated in the hospital's cafeteria with Fink and Dendy. They were all gladly enjoying breakfast. Ever since the young henchwoman's Level came to fruition though, a hint of awkwardness arose. They spent last night mostly recovering from the exhausting day they had been through.
"So, Fink… pardon the intrusion, but I cannot help but inquire as to why you are a higher level than us?" Dendy spoke up. She had been trying all evening to ask this.
The young mouse sighed, putting down her spoon, looking annoyed. K.O. was worried that a fight was going to break out again between the two.
"Fine. I'll tell you," the green haired girl growled. They knew now anyway, and she thought it would be best to tell them since they were all stuck together and would no doubt keep bringing it up until they got an answer.
"You don't mind?" K.O. quirked.
"I do mind, but… ugh," Fink shook her head. Of course she minded, but it was far worse to have them constantly questioning her. "I wasn't always a minion. When I was littler, I was a sidekick, and a great one at that," Fink began explaining. Sidekicks were more or less a support role for heroes. There was not much difference between being a sidekick and a minion. They both accomplished the same thing.
"A sidekick? To who?" K.O tilted his head. A lot of heroes had sidekicks at one point or another in their lives. Whether it was when training them to be heroes or getting help while available, it was always a good thing to have strength in numbers.
"My Mom…" Fink's heart skipped a beat, "Her hero name was Morning Glory."
"You're kidding…" K.O. reacted, awestruck. He knew the hero by name quite well, they knew she had a child but there was little to no information about that child. Knowing it was Fink made things all the more shocking.
"Morning Glory? The hero who was murdered? I remember researching it after I got their memorial themed card," Dendy exclaimed. Morning Glory was a Level 20 hero before she died, known for her ways of saving lives and a famous finisher that created nothing short of a beautiful garden in place of where the attack landed.
"I'll tell you right now. They made it out to be a lot better in the media than it actually was," Fink stated. It took a long time for her to get over the mess. The last image still deeply embedded into her brain. Flower petals raining everywhere, blood staining the ceiling, and a face of acceptance despite the pain.
"You witnessed your mother's murder?" Dendy was surprised that Fink was mentally stable. Any young child witnessing that would turn into a psychopath.
"Do you know who did it? They said they never found the killer…" K.O. hated to be rude, the old wound was already reopened, so he decided to try and get his own curiosity answered as well. The kappa would do it for him otherwise, and he could at least be more polite about it.
"There was an old tool that mom… I mean, Morning Glory, had that a lot of bad guys wanted. One day, he appeared. Shadowy Figure," the henchwoman shivered. She felt like a total failure as a sidekick in that moment of her life.
K.O. felt himself lock up at that name, Shadowy Figure, so she mentioned. He was glad T.K.O. was still asleep. He did not like that glorified demon who possessed his biological father for a lot of his life.
"He barely finished killing her before he suddenly started screaming and holding his head. Then he collapsed and fell over. That's the last thing I remember before I passed out," Fink tried her best not to sound upset, but it was clear at face value that it was a challenging thing to do.
"How'd you wind up with the one who killed your mother?" Dendy requested. Back then Shadowy Figure and Professor Venomous were a Jekyll and Hyde relationship. Venomous had no idea he was even possessed for the longest time.
"I didn't want to at first. When I woke up, Boss had me in his car and was taking me home. He didn't know what happened. All he could tell was that he stumbled into a very bad place and found a little girl unconscious with a dead hero. I didn't know what Shadowy Figure was for a while. They acted so differently," Fink declared. It was not her proudest moment, she had no regrets. She could not bring herself to go into further detail though. She remembered when she did find out they were the same person though. She was held in the air by Shadowy Figure, gripping her collar tightly, and was threatened to never speak of it to anyone or Venomous would be killed in a similar fashion to her mother. It still gave her shivers. She had just Venomous now as a parent, who mattered a great deal to her, and she kept her loyalty to him.
"Fink, I'm so sorry…" K.O. could only say. Shadowy Figure had gotten blasted apart by T.K.O., hard enough to separate him from their biological father. They didn't know whether that glorified monster was dead or alive. It was an anxious note in the back of everybody's minds.
"Oh, shut up. I don't need no cruddy heroes' sympathy, now let's get going. We're not going to get back to Neutral Zone by just sitting around," Fink irritably stated. She was not the best at handling her emotions. It was amazing she had gotten this far without a breakdown, she wanted to get going immediately to take her mind off of her memories of the past.
"Of course," Dendy agreed, not wanting to stress the mouse any further. K.O. nodded, standing up. The trio made to leave the hospital. The Level 4 cleaner was healed up a fair degree and the town of Wind Valley was safe from the thug problem, so now they could go on their way.
When they got outside, the group of three saw Randolph sitting on the nearby bench. Everybody else they saw looked brighter and happier now. It was weird to see the former hero looking actually happy for a change instead of serious or irritated.
"There you are, I've been waiting for you," Randolph gave a wave, having a duffel bag sat beside him.
"Hey, Randolph! You're looking… bad, but better," K.O. smiled innocently. The doctor had his own fair share of bandaging. Not being able to feel pain at least made it easier to tolerate.
"What do you want? We're trying to get going," Fink demanded, not in the mood for a party, or whatever it might be that the town could do to show their gratitude towards the trios heroic efforts. The three of them had to resume their road to get home.
"Apologies for my companions' rudeness," Dendy bowed. The older doctor chuckled and handed them the duffel bag. The kappa saw a bundle of various types of canned food inside.
"That's a thank you present from the hospital. I wish I could do more to help you, but the Rogue Zone's too unpredictable. I don't know how much has changed in what places or where in the last few years," Randolph explained. Giving supplies to the kids was the best thing they could really do for them.
"Thanks, Randolph, we appreciate it! Just point us in the way of Neutral Zone and we'll walk straight back," K.O. smiled. The fightin' doctors expression drooped.
"Going straight to Neutral Zone might be possible, but it's a death sentence... No towns are left in the center of the Rogue Zone, so it's basically a monster nest," Randolph pointed to the road they had followed into town. "You kids are a lot tougher than I thought, I'll give you that… but if you want to get back safely, follow the road and keep heading in that direction. The next town over had a great explorer. I remember him coming through here a few times, but no one's seen'em in months. If anyone can help you, it's that guy."
"I hope that they simply eased up on the exploration then…" Dendy mumbled. Judging from what information she had, people disappearing in the Rogue Zone sounded like death.
"Thanks for the food… your hospital might not be the best, but its food was great," Fink grinned, though was annoyed knowing that they had to ration it.
"We better get going! Before we go, can I uh… get your autograph?" K.O. held out a notepad he had found lying around in his hospital room, presumably left by another patient prior to him. Randolph paused momentarily. The fightin' doctor was retired as far as he cared, but this boy was the definition of purity. He earned more than just that.
"Alright, fine," Randolph agreed, taking the pen out from the notepad and writing down his signature, adding a lot of detail to the R of his name like it was normal. He handed the notepad back.
"Thank you so much!" The level 4 hero cheered happily. With that done, the doctor stayed idle, watching as the three young ones left. They were quite a weird group to him. The older man shook his head.
"Maybe being a hero had more value to it than I ever thought," Randolph told himself, looking to the bright clear sky as the wind of the valley blew intensely, spinning the many micro windmills the town had around it. The older hero stepped away, returning to the office turned hospital to get back to work.
"So, we came all this way… and we have the walk in the same direction we just came from?" Fink questioned aloud as the three walked out of the town of Wind Valley, back to the familiar dirt road they had stumbled upon to get there.
"It appears so," Dendy nodded. She hated this sick sense of irony, given how far they walked to get here from their makeshift campsite in the woods from the other day.
"I'm just glad you two are getting along today," K.O. hummed. There were no other options to fight over anyway, though the rat and kappa gave each other nasty glares before turning their gazes away from each other and huffing. "Come on! The sooner we start walking the better!" The bodega cleaner went on ahead with a confident smile on his face.
"At least he's reassuring, even if he is dumb," Fink gave a half toothy grin, beginning to follow along. Dendy adjusted her downgraded backpack on her back as she followed as well. The three returned to their presumably long walking time.
"Our luck can only improve from hence forth... right?"
Chapter 8: Fear And Sorrow
Authors Note: Hey all, sorry for the delay! Hope you all had a merry christmas, and hope you have a happy new years too!
The group of three had been walking back from square one. They seemed content that they had saved that last town. It had taken them a full day to get back to where they started. The sleeping last night was a bit rough as well. They had to sleep in shifts, mostly to stay on the lookout from monsters.
"You two as sore as I am?" Fink questioned. She was still sore from having to run on a giant hamster wheel to power the hospital yesterday, her muscles really aching.
"Yeah, but I'm used to it," K.O. smiled warmly as they kept walking. He would tolerate sleeping on the hard ground of the open plains they stood in. They had already made their way through the forest earlier.
"I'm used to sleeping at my workbench. Sleeping on the ground has improved my back's condition dramatically," Dendy claimed. It made carrying her heavily downgraded hackpack a lot more bearable.
"I just hope this next towns a lot more in control," K.O. confessed, "I wonder if we'll get to meet any other heroes."
"Or villains," Fink reminded him. Bad guys inhabiting the Rouge Zone had an equal stake in it, though their battles for control were far less aggressive unlike the Neutral Zone. The young mouse assumed that was because the heroes and villains who landed here were more or less wishing to retire. They had to be worried about villains who hadn't arrived to retire.
"Either way, it's best if we keep a low profile," Dendy repeated that to them in the albeit weak hope that K.O. might listen to them.
The bodega cleaner wanted to respond, but he suddenly paused in place when a strange feeling overtook them. It was like they were being watched, yet K.O. saw no one. The feeling was nonetheless intense.
"K.O.? Something wrong?" Fink stopped walking after they realized he had paused in place. Dendy looked toward him. Both were getting concerned when he did not answer.
The minion's ears twitched as she heard an odd noise. It sounded like glass rubbing against glass. It gave her a quick headache. She covered her ears, recoiling at the noise.
"Hey! What's happening?!" Dendy questioned in fear. The next minute felt like an eternity, the ringing noise finally came to an end, much to the mouse's relief.
"I-I don't know… sorry. Guess I was imagining things," K.O. mused.
"It felt like someone was blowing glass whistles in my ears," Fink described it to the best of her ability, uncertain what it was, but it caused immense pain to her nerves.
"Glass whistles?" Dendy quirked an eyebrow. It didn't sound like they had caught a bug from the makeshift hospital they were in. At least it didn't sound like a medical condition she could identify at all. Upon hearing that it wasn't just himself that had a strange moment there, K.O. decided to speak up.
"I felt like I had a million eyes looking at me… It felt like the opposite of when T.K.O. forcibly took control when we first met," K.O. attempted to describe it. Being forced out of his body and stuck in a cold cage in his own mind was a terrifying event for him, with no one there but himself. To imagine having a crowd giving him death stares felt just as terrifying.
"It's best if we keep moving. This area might not be safe. Plus, it appears that it might rain soon," the Level 3 genius insisted upon noticing the cloudy skies. Their group's combined knowledge knew much about monsters, but new types with equally cunning tricks were always being created, both naturally and unnaturally. Dendy thought this was a big enough sign for them to keep moving.
"I'm with Dendy on this, let's go," Fink picked up the pace. K.O. felt nervous, however his highly intelligent friend came to him and took his hand into her own.
"Don't worry, K.O. We're here for each other," Dendy gave a reassuring smile and squeezed his hand. The Level 4 hero gladly tightened his grip on her hand, feeling comforted thanks to her. The two began to hurry along to catch up to Fink, all wanting to get to the next town before sundown.
Thankfully, the strange sounds or feelings never returned for the group during the course of the next few hours of their travels, though they were starting to see small signs that someone had been there at one point.
"Jeez… I've never seen a car that old before," K.O. claimed. They stopped at the sight at four normally sturdy armored cars huddled together, rusted beyond belief, like they had not moved in fifty years. The short grass swaying around the dysfunctional vehicles contrasted it.
"It's just an old hunk of scrap and junk, just be glad because that means we should be near the next town," Fink shrugged. Unless they could hot wire one of the cars to try and steal it to get home sooner, she was disinterested. A vehicle in the Rogue Zone sounded like an all-around bad idea. If the monsters didn't destroy it by some miracle, it wouldn't be long before someone tried to steal it just for the convenience of easy travel.
"I fear there might be more to this than just old age," Dendy commented as she went over to the car and examined it with the help of her downgraded hackpack. She missed her many digital screens, she had to make do with the singular one. "Hmm… I was correct."
"Correct about what, Dendy?" K.O. asked.
"Yeah, it'd be nice if you didn't leave us out of the loop like usual," Fink added. Information was important to survival here, every small detail worth noting, even if it might just be the Rogue Zone's natural effect.
"This is a…" Dendy paused, catching herself before the advanced technospeak took over again, "This vehicle is new, the model is no older than four years old… but the amount of corrosion and rust is something that only is achievable through natural means. Give or take by thirty years' time." This cast a fearful atmosphere over the others, it didn't make sense nor was possible. There was a tense silence for a while, until something caught the young mouse's attention.
"…I think I see the town," Fink looked past the vehicle. A few homes made an outskirt in the distance.
"Oh, great! Maybe we won't get rained on after all!" K.O. smiled, hopping over the vehicle as he and Fink eagerly headed towards it. Dendy cast one last nervous glance to the vehicle. It was a bad sign to her, though she did not want to risk being around whatever had caused this. Dendy hurried along to catch up with her friend and enemy.
Their hopes to find this apparent explorer was shredded, after they arrived into the town. The few homes they passed hadn't been resided in for a while. Then they got to the actual town itself.
"Wow… this is actually pretty bad," K.O. had to confess, despite his optimism. This town looked really bad off, every car they passed by had the same corrosion and rust all over it: the buildings looked like they were being torn down by mother nature herself as well.
"It looks like it was abandoned a long time ago… but the doc said that great explorer hadn't been around for months," Fink stated, going off of that meant this town was at least inhabited at one point recently, before whatever had happened to dwindle the population to nil.
Dendy brushed aside some broken glass from one of the many shattered windows with her boots, finding it rather strange that every window was destroyed, almost as if it was deliberately done the same way the vehicle windows were shattered.
"Hello? Is anyone there!?" K.O. called out, his voice echoing. His echo was not answered. His optimism deflated swiftly with the blowing wind.
"Everything just looks really old and busted, I'm not seeing anything that looks like a monster has been here… bandits might've just scared everyone out of town," Fink stated, though going off of the lack of corpses was probably the least reliable.
"That conclusion is fairly reasonable. It means we have to rely on ourselves once more to try and find a way home," Dendy pointed out. It had taken them nearly two days to get here, there was no going all the way back to Wind Valley. They would make no progress if they went back and forth.
"We can camp inside one of the buildings, so I think we…" K.O.'s voice trailed off when the kappa listened. Fink seemed to be able to listen. The Level 3 genius thought she had seen something out of the corner of her goggle covered eyes, yet there was nothing there when she looked.
"Dendy? Hey! You okay?" The bodega cleaner asked, snapping their friend out of her daze.
"Hm? Y-yes, just suffering from fatigue, apologies. What was the task you requested I do?" Dendy fixed her goggles, hoping that seeing things was unrelated to what happened to the other two just recently.
Fink gave her a confused look but shrugged it off. "Right… I'll try to gather some wood so we can cook our food. Dendy, you find a safe building, and K.O., you go scavenging," Fink spoke. The spaced-out kappa nodded, the trio splitting up to do their assigned tasks.
The small family of Voxmore robots were all gathered up at the industries. They had been eager to get sent to attack the plaza as they regularly did once they got back home from their business trip. Now they all looked concerned.
"Venomous and Daddy have been in their private meeting a long time now…" Darrell stated.
"And here I was hoping to enjoy some peace after we got home," Shannon sighed, wishing she could just take it easy. Business trips were exhausting enough as is, traveling was even more tiring.
"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about… though I wonder where Fink is," Raymond commented. He noted a lack of the henchmouse.
"I am Jethro," a blue trash can on treads—errr, a Jethro model robot commented, just brushing it off and assuming she was in trouble with Venomous or Boxman, or maybe both. Earnesto was mostly waiting in anxiety while Mikayla the robotic family pet napped the time away.
The doors opened and they saw Professor Venomous and Boxman stepping out, going around to the front of the robot children to get their attentions while they stood in front of a large monitor behind them.
"Okay, children, so… we have an important job for you. A very important one," the round villain Boxman began. His boyfriend hit a button that turned the screen behind them on, revealing a single bright red dot flashing on a map, though none of them recognized the location on the map.
"As I'm sure you're aware, when we left for our business trip, we left Fink in the care of Carol, because we could not bring her along. What you're seeing on screen is the tracking device on Fink's glorb collar," Venomous continued. The robotic siblings all began to look between one another in concern, keeping quiet while waiting for their parents to continue. "While we were gone, Fink went to a sleepover with K.O., which was being hosted by Dendy, and… the bodega staff have looked everywhere already, and it seems that they've all ran away from home."
"What?! Fink ran away from home?! With K.O. and Dendy of all people?!" Shannon gawked. She practically saw Fink as a sister. Of course, she would be hurt by the news. Especially by the lack of any signs of this happening prior.
"Well the 'with K.O.' part isn't shocking…" Raymond mumbled. He recalled when Fink came to him once or twice for advice in the romantic area, which didn't end to well. The mouse wound up threatening him to tell no one of the advice session before storming out.
"Why would she run away?" Darrell asked, "Why would any of them run away?! They all were really happy I thought!"
"That's really not good," Earnesto gulped, while Mikayla let out a meow of displeasure as well.
"I am Jethro," Jethro could not believe this either. As soon as they all calmed down after absorbing the information, Boxman motioned for them to focus.
"Kids, that's the least of our problem. It's where the collar is that concerns us the most," their creator stated as the map zoomed out further, revealing the red dot on the map to be stationary, as it showed a very large zone that had not really much detail to its map.
"Finks collar is in the Rogue Zone. Deep within the Rogue Zone. The job for you all is to find the three and convince them to come back without violence," Professor Venomous continued for them. It was clear to them that he was deeply upset about this.
"I know you have a lot of questions and we'll answer them, but… you need to get there as soon as possible. They're in great danger, so we can't waste another minute," Boxman exclaimed, the many robot children looked amongst each other knowing what that meant. They were going to be blasted via box crate to the Rogue Zone.
"Alright, daddy. We'll do it," Shannon agreed without hesitation.
"We can't leave Fink out there," Darrell nodded. They all knew how dangerous the Rogue Zone was. They had been shown plenty of tapes in their playroom about reasons why to stay away from it.
"Should we recruit the bodega losers to help us?" Raymond offered, aware it would be a bad taste in everyone else's mouths to do it, but help was help.
"They've been covering the city quite well. We don't know if Fink, Dendy and K.O. are even together or not. We just know they all took off at the same time," Boxman described, not sure what to think on that one. The family appreciated the help from Gar's Bodega, though they couldn't completely rely on heroes. What kind of villains would they be in that case?
"Go get ready. You're leaving soon and you'll be able to keep in contact with us via wireless communication," Venomous commanded them all, and just like that, the many robot siblings hurried off to get prepared for the nightmarish trip to the Rogue Zone. The professor taking in a deep breath, exhaling. It was clear this had stressed him beyond belief, mostly because he had a lot of self doubt and blame for this running away from home incident. Boxman held his boyfriends hand reassuringly, trying to comfort him.
"I'll make sure to make up for whatever we did to upset you Fink... I promise..."
Chapter 9: The Monsters In The Mirror?
The afternoon had fallen upon the Rogue Zone. K.O. had been going from building to building, looking for supplies, like it was a survival game.
"This is creepy… it's like everything got paused and then thrown into the future," he mumbled in one of the buildings overtaken by nature, unsure how else to describe it. He couldn't find a single thing that wasn't broken glass, rusted cars and weeds. He decided to make his way back to the others.
In one of the other buildings, Dendy had been using her smarts and their surroundings to set up a makeshift campsite. She had found a building that had the least openings in it. There were still a few busted windows to deal with, the kappa covered the openings up with any tarps or boards she could find, to try and keep harsh weather from entering to disturb them whenever they tried to sleep.
"Got the wood!" Fink announced, stepping inside, her arms full of broken wood. She saw the small fire pit in the center of the room, which Dendy made more or less out of stone bricks gathered from around the buildings.
"Excellent work… I assume you also have seen no signs of life?" Dendy asked, having been keeping an eye out herself to no success aside from the birds.
"Nope. No bodies, no sign of violence, not even the usual bandit camp trash," Fink dropped the wood on the ground. It would be hard to gather any supplies without tools, though with the amount of overgrowth here, it was incredibly easy.
"Perhaps the phenomena we've experienced are a natural occurrence in this town…" Dendy theorized aloud, though that did not explain the immense rusting of vehicles, purposefully shattered windows or overgrowth, especially since the town had been inhabited a couple of months ago. It made no sense to the kappa, and it drove her mad.
"We? What happened to you?" Fink picked up on that specific phrasing, becoming worried for their genius ally. She was the closest thing they had to a doctor with them. If anything happened to her, they were going to be in trouble.
"I thought I saw something, but… I presume it to be my imagination, and, while I appreciate your concern, Fink, I'd prefer if we focused on the reality at hand, that we are in an abandoned empty town and need to make plans for the morning," Dendy answered in a rather quick speaking manner. Clearly, she was trying to brush it off as a figment of her imagination.
"Uh…" Fink made to reply until she and the kappa heard K.O.
"Hey, guys," he stepped inside, empty-handed and looking disappointed.
"Found nothing?" the mouse girl asked, hoping they had gotten luckier than them.
"Yep, found nothing. It's all gone… The personal stuff is missing too," he said, looking just as lost as his two friends were on this. No personal possessions were left behind. This all just added to how creepy this place seemed to be.
"Well, no need to worry about it. Let's just enjoy our dinner and plan out our route tomorrow," Dendy went to pull a few items out from her hackpack to start the fire with, setting them aside so she could begin placing the wood in the makeshift bonfire pit.
"Yeah! I'm starved," K.O. agreed, eagerly coming over to them. Fink followed right behind him, the two taking their seats on the ground, glad to be able to rest their legs for the first time all day.
After a few minutes, the group had a few of the cans of food cooking over their campfire, the trio sitting quietly around the crackling flames. Watching as their dinner heated up, albeit slowly.
"So this great explorer's gone… What should we do now?" Fink asked, since their hopes of getting a straightforward map out of the Rogue Zone were crushed.
"We have to just move forward more towards a direction opposite of which we came from. As much as I loathe the idea of relying on luck, we don't have any choice," Dendy answered. It was the only real choice they had. They couldn't go all the way back to Wind Valley. What made it all the creepier was that they didn't even know this town's name. The place seemed like it had been placed in the future to be forgotten, any signs left were too corroded to even remotely read.
"Yeah… I really wish we could've helped with whatever happened here. Maybe we could have stopped it?" K.O. hesitantly said, feeling bad that people might have gotten hurt by whatever leveled this place. The lack of monsters gave them reassurance, yet not much. So many people in this one zone that needed help. It shook him to the core knowing he could not do anything.
"Let's not worry about the endless list of possible what if scenarios," insisted Dendy, "It won't change the fact that whatever happened, already happened."
K.O. solemnly nodded, taking his can of food and starting to eat now, since his stomach had been empty for so long.
"We'll figure it out. I mean, we've made it this far," Fink gave a toothy smile. Dendy just continued eating away without a word, at least grateful for the lack of fighting between the group today.
"First thing in the morning, we'll get moving." K.O. nodded, hoping that the rainfall tonight would not last until the morning. They were all hoping the same thing though that their families were doing alright. The three children all looked forward to getting home the more they thought about it, having that determination of theirs renewed.
When the group finished eating, they all did their best to get comfortable, despite the hard floor. By now, the rain had started, the heaviest they had seen in a long time. They were unsure if it was normal weather for the Rogue Zone, nonetheless it made things harder to sleep through.
The most that K.O., Fink and Dendy could do was just try to close their eyes and hope to simply fall asleep and wake up to a better morning with nothing short of a forced optimism in their step. It was looking to be a rough journey for them now.
For the most part, the group slept peacefully. The rainstorm only got worse though. The tarps were barely holding out. It wasn't any easier for them to sleep as soon as the thunder began to crash either.
Something was moving in the darkness. Dendy felt it - something was wrong. She looked up from the part of the floor she slept on. Her eyes locked with a large, strong figure. Their arms were raised over head, about to bring them down on the kappa. With a yelp, Dendy quickly threw herself to the side as the large figure crashed its fists into the concrete floor of the building. A large crater formed under it.
"Wuh-?" K.O. was stirred awake by the noise. Fink was still in a deep sleep, as if she was used to the loud noises because of the Voxmore Factory. Dendy quickly put her goggles back on after getting them off the ground to see what attacked her.
"A monster…" they gasped, shocked at the sight of a large, muscular humanoid rhinoceros, its horn large and golden, thick metal sheeting covering its body, and golden bands wrapped around its forearms and shoulder. It let out a loud roar, throwing a punch and hitting Dendy, sending her flying across the room.
"Dendy!" K.O. ran over and caught his Level 3 friend before she hit the ground, holding her bridal style. He looked at the monster. This was a new one to him.
"Thank you, K.O." The kappa claimed in slight sheepishness. He set her down and nodded. He readied for battle. The rhino monster scraped its large foot against the ground before starting to charge for them.
"Take this!" He threw several power fists, each one hitting the monster and slowing it down, if only slightly. When it got close and tried to attack him, the bodega cleaner created power fists around his hands and caught the attack.
"Ohhh cob!" the Level 4 hero grunted, feeling almost crushed under the sheer pressure of the attack, trying to hold out as his feet got dug into the ground. Dendy made large drill extend from her hackpack, and lunged it straight into the monster's chest, sparks flying from the impact against its metal sheeting. The monster yelled as it dropped its guard.
"Yeah!" K.O. delivered a strong uppercut to the monster's jaw. It stumbled back a fair distance. The two young heroes stayed on guard, anticipating its next action. The sound of boots clacking against the floor caught their attention.
"Hey! Fighting kids is no fair," a heavy southern voice chimed up. The two heroes saw someone standing there, with messy green hair and strange golden gauntlets on both arms that had claw like hands. Two weird green tanks were attached to the back and a gas mask covered his lower face.
"Who's that?" Dendy queried, confused as the rest. They sure didn't recognize the person. Perhaps a villain lived in town beforehand, they sure had the appearance of a bad guy that's for sure.
The rhino monster charged at the strange man. He took the tackle full charge. The gas mask wearing man grabbed the rhino by the head and began to hold onto it. A green liquid seeped out from his palms, running down the creature's face. The rhinoceros monster cried out as its face seemed to begin ageing and rotting. The green goo got on the metal sheeting of the monster, and made it rust in mere seconds as well.
After a moment of this struggle the monster slammed the stranger into a wall before beginning to charge away in the opposite direction, howling in agony. The child heroes saw it crash through one of the walls, running out into the rain where it vanished into seemingly thin air.
"What just happened…?" Dendy stared in awe, seeming to be too stunned to really move.
"Are you okay?" K.O. rushed over to help the man, getting him back on his feet.
"I should be asking you that," the man replied, brushing the dust off of himself.
"What's going on…?" yawned Fink. The sound of a part of the building being destroyed was enough to finally get her awake when all other sounds failed. Though when she looked to the three her eyes went wide as she hopped up, rushing over. "Am I dreaming?! Is that actually the real Captain Rot?!" Fink gasped, looking almost like K.O. with that mystical whimsy in her eyes, to meet someone she so idolized.
"Captain Rot?" Dendy parroted, her and K.O. were confused by this. The stranger looked surprised to be hearing that name be mentioned at all.
"Someone that actually knows me huh…? Haven't heard that name in a long time," Captain Rot chuckled, looking… flattered? It was hard for K.O. to tell under that gas mask.
"Captain Rot is an old villain!" Fink spoke to her friends, more than happy to explain who he was, "He was able to make things age super quick with that special chemical of his!"
"So… he's the one who did this to the town?" K.O. guessed. Dendy had a hard time believing this one man could wreck an entire town by aging objects on a whim. But then again they just had seen what he did to that rhino monster's face. It was more than enough evidence for her to see it as true.
"Indeed… though I haven't been a villain in a long time," Captain Rot decreed. He was a Level 9 villain at one point in his life. Fink knew them from her P.O.W. cards. For every feat the former villain achieved that she read about, she was impressed.
"Can you tell us what's going on here? We have a lot of questions…" K.O. politely asked. The former villain nodded, seeming friendly enough. He did supposedly come here to retire.
"Of course. I'll do my best to explain everything I can," the villain answered, more than willing to listen to the minion and heroes about what happened to make the children wind them up in this town. They were more than glad to have someone be friendly with them.
"So, you kids wound up here because of a teleporter messing up? I've heard stuff like that, but wow! Your luck has to be really awful to wind up in the Rogue Zone," Captain Rot cackled after listening to the story from the group of three. K.O. and Dendy didn't feel comfortable talking to a retired villain. At worst, he could be unpredictable.
"Yeah… We came to this town to try and find some great explorer for help to guide us back to Neutral Zone," K.O. explained. By now, Fink had gotten the villain's autograph and was more than happy about it.
"We traveled from Wind Valley to arrive here, only to discover this overabundance of damage and overgrowth. We couldn't locate a single person," Dendy continued, annoyed that her much needed sleep was interrupted.
"Yes, I know who you speak of. Everyone who lived in this town was sent away though to other neighboring villages. I stayed behind to do what you've seen," Captain Rot explained, seeming more than happy about his handiwork, "The cars, the overgrowth, everything you see in this town is my doing... except for the monsters."
"So, what happened here then?" Fink asked. The heroes imagined it had to do with the monster that just attacked them and vanished into thin air after the rain passed.
"That great explorer you mentioned came back from charting a monster infested region. He had a strange artifact with him. No one knew what it did at first," Captain Rot began to explain looking disappointed in himself. He reached over with one of his claw gloved hands and began to draw a sketch in the ground with his fingers. "We found out pretty fast when people started vanishing. Not leaving. Just disappearing without a trace. Behind locked doors, in public places, no matter where or what they just would vanish."
Captain Rot had finished drawing a strange looking mirror artifact, letting the three youths look over it.
"I was just a simple builder. I helped assemble homes. That artifact though, what it did was summon monsters through another world in reflections. The monsters were pulling people through mirrors and eating them. The townsfolk came to me and begged me to help," the villain's gaze fell to the floor.
"Eating people?" K.O. was afraid. It became clear swiftly that the monster they just fought had been trying to eat Dendy in her sleep. They were lucky that it tried attacking first... Most likely in an attempt to tenderize them before consumption.
"Yes, and I used my special ageing brew to rot all the cars, and anything large in size that was even remotely shiny, so they had no reflection left. The town also busted out all of the windows. We thought we handled everything perfectly and returned to life like normal afterwards," Captain Rot raised a hand up before it dropped. His disappointment showed that he had a sense of remorse about him, unlike most bad guys. "Then it rained... There was nothing we could do. I tried to fight them off, but half the town got eaten by monsters that very day. When the rain dried out, everyone left, and I stayed behind to make sure the monsters did not cause any more trouble."
K.O. shivered. Of course, there was nothing he and his friends could do here if otherworldly beings were involved.
"Can you help us get to the next town then? We have no idea where to go," Fink pleaded with him. If it was as dangerous as they made it out to be during the rain, then they could not afford to stay here.
"Sure, I don't see why not… it's nice to not be alone for a change," Captain Rot smiled, looking happy, even if he didn't live up to his villain name too well. It was clear days when it rained were the days they dreaded the most.
"We'll need to be on guard until the morning," Dendy stated. "Even when the rain goes away, the puddles left can reflect enough to allow monsters to come through. We must keep on guard henceforth."
"The Rogue Zone really is dangerous…" K.O. felt disheartened. If this was one of the tamer situations in the Rogue Zone, he dreaded to know the grimmer situations outside of this town.
"I'll help you all tomorrow when the rain stops, but… these monsters make up new tricks all the time, so be careful," warned the villain, "Whatever goes on here, is nothing compared to some other towns out there."
Dendy and K.O. all looked to each other in worry. Fink decided to speak up though.
"Don't worry about us. We're a lot stronger than we look!"