Neutral Zone was undergoing another winter evening as normal. Sheets of snow fell down quickly becoming layers upon layers of piles. It had barely lightened up at all since it first began. The sun was more or less suffocated behind the thick clouds, leaving the many zones like this.
"Come on Fink, Venomous asked us to do this," spoke K.O., a young Level 4 aspiring hero who was getting ready to go out into the snow, putting on a puffy blue coat for the cold weather. His usual red headband legwarmers and matching wristbands were on him as well.
"There's literally NO point! It's just gonna get undone in an hour anyway… what kind of idiot wants to go out into the snow without any shoes on either?! Ever heard of frostbite?" responded Fink, a similarly aged minion with long green hair who was probably the loyalist henchwoman of all, her allegiance sworn to Professor Venomous.
"I've walked through worse without my shoes," K.O. shrugged. He was the son of Venomous, though he had stopped calling him dad a few months back. He came over every other weekend to spend time with his semi-estranged father, despite his mother's continued detest at this idea.
"But he asked us to do this before he got home tonight. We should've done it a lot sooner too," K.O. repeated. They had been asked to just clear the driveway of snow. The mouse growled, knowing he wouldn't quiet down until they did it. She just wanted to stay inside by a virtual fireplace and play games.
"Yeah, and I know boss, he won't care. He's been out with Boxman all day anyway," Fink responded, hating the thought of doing any work that might get immediately undone.
"I guess they're excited for the wedding?" K.O. spoke up. His biological dad marrying someone that the bodega cleaner had considered a rival for a really long time still was an odd concept to the young hero.
"Yeah? What about your mom? Isn't she getting married soon too?" Fink asked, not liking the sounds of going to two weddings so close together. It was just a coincidence, one that could only be described as violently awkward. The soon to be newly-weds all running into each other regularly now, nobody really knew how to feel in that regard.
"Uh huh! Mr. Gar gets more and more nervous by the day though," K.O. responded, still remembering how happy his mother had been when his boss proposed, the bodega team were all happy for them, though it did just hit him that he would soon have four parents technically. The young boy paused to ponder and absorb this.
Fink just raised an eyebrow as she saw him get lost in his thoughts. That cute single fang stuck out from his mouth. The innocent expression always caught her attention. She found it adorable since the first time she saw it, like they were personal quirks, even though she knew the true nature of them.
"Do you think anything'll be different after the weddings?" K.O. chirped to the minion, noticing her slightly dazed look. She shook it off when she finally registered his query.
"You mean do I think Boxman will stop attacking the plaza? Yeah… for like a week," Fink gave a toothy grin. K.O. immediately felt his hopes of peace between the two families wane. Even if they all got along decently, their workplace rivalry was still strong.
"At least that means we can hang out together more, right?" the bodega cleaner said. He treated everybody like dear friends. Trying to get closer with the mouse was high up on that list. So far Fink had stopped going for his eyes in fights, he hoped that was a sign that he had made progress.
"When's your mom coming to get you again?" Fink asked, trying to dodge that subject.
"I dunno… depends on if she can get through the snow," K.O. shrugged. He was meant to leave his dads home this evening, though with how bad the snow was getting, he thought he might have to spend an extra night there.
"Dang it. I was looking forward to helping boss…" Finks voice trailed off as an idea sprung to mind. She noticed K.O. looking at a nearby table that had something familiar to her resting on it.
K.O. picked up a scarf that he had seen resting on the table. It was orange and had an indistinguishable pattern on it. A few strings seemed to have got yanked and as result the scarf had started falling apart gradually. "What's this?" he asked her.
"It's a scarf boss gave me last year…" the young henchwoman got up from her seat with a grin spreading on her face, as an idea formed, trying to ignore that her scarf was long beyond gone in terms of usability. Fink cherished every little thing Professor Venomous gave her, this scarf was definitely one of them. "You wanna get to know me better?"
"Yeah!" K.O. nodded, "The only thing I know about you is that you want to be a researcher and a pro at videos games one day," he explained. He learned so by watching her and Venomous mainly, K.O. always thought it was cute seeing the mouse trying to play junior mad scientist.
Fink grabbed his wrist with one of her pink gloved hands and began to lead him along. "Come on then! Boss has a new machine that I'm sure he'd love having someone test for him," Fink insisted. She was planning on using him as a guinea pig, to make him feel like he had been helpful and to get him to quiet down.
"Really?! Dendy says I'm a great tester," K.O. was happy to hear this. He left the tattered scarf behind on the table where his bags were set, hoping this test would at least be safe. He never knew what it was Professor Venomous and Boxman might be crafting in their labs, and that was not even thinking about the Boxbots tampering with anything.
"Yeah, sure, whatever," Fink didn't care much after getting him to agree. She just hoped hoping this would make the Level 4 hero quiet down for a while and at the same time make her boss happy to have one less thing to test.
When they got into the lab, K.O. could see the many machines, gadgets and tools lining the walls. He always got awestruck by the laboratory, everything seemed to change in it with each couple of weeks. It was nothing like Dendy's, that didn't change how amazing it truly was to him. K.O. was always easily impressed, even if he didn't understand it all.
"Hey, snap outta it, you stink'n hero. I don't know much with this," Fink commented, forcing K.O. to break out of his astonishment. The young rat stood by a rather simple yet strange looking machine.
"What is this?" K.O. asked innocently enough. The device was attached to a table. It had two metallic arm cuffs welded in place. The center held an octagon shaped container with a million different empty vials in it, and the center of that held a ball that looked mostly clear yet tough.
"Gimme a second. I'm trying to find boss's notes," Fink said. Normally Professor Venomous left his notes for his inventions near the creations. This time however, there was barely anything beyond a few sticky notes. Like all the real documents got hidden away, or misplaced. "This is seriously all there is?" the rat couldn't really believe this. She guessed this meant the invention was the newest of Voxman industries creation. Venomous had been talking about some big project with Boxman for months that Fink had tried to learn about, but her eavesdropping resulted in nothing, just bits and pieces, like they were being extra secretive.
"Is it missing parts?" K.O. asked, wondering if it was just unfinished. It reminded him of a few science fair projects he had seen at school a while back. It was too advanced for him to remember all the details.
"It's done… just… not really anything here, notes of its name, settings, and how to use it," Fink guessed there had not been any form of testing done. It made her even more eager to get it tested to make her boss happy. "It's called the… L-C-U, I think? It's a little hard to read but the rest of the writings okay," Fink flipped through the single sheet of paper with many sticky notes all over it. She used her tail to begin turning all the dials and knobs on the machine to set things up, as the notes read.
"It takes samples from two individuals and reads them thoroughly, then it spins them with all the mixtures to combine them," Fink read it exactly as it said, looking over it, the rest of the paper was just telling them what they needed.
"Combine them to do what?" K.O. requested, taking the paper from his green haired friend, seeing the list of items they needed. They were dumbed down with cute little drawn images, presumably for the sake of Boxman's robotic children.
"Dunno. That's what we're here to test," Fink pointed to the cabinet stuffed with beakers. The brushy haired hero hesitated a moment before going to get them.
"Are you sure this'll be okay? The last time I tested something without knowing what it did, I wound up with a second tongue for a week," K.O. exclaimed. Doing experiments for Dendy was one thing. Doing tests for someone like Venomous that he still had trust issues with, despite their continuous apologetic efforts, was another thing.
"Boss isn't like Boxman. He puts a lot of planning into something before he makes it," Fink argued. Once he got the beakers for the list, he took them and loaded four of them into slots of the machine at her orders as she pointed out.
"Don't you know everything your boss does?" K.O. raised an eyebrow, finding it rather suspicious for there to be an invention that she did not know about.
"I've been busy helping with the wedding planning!" Fink replied irritably. She was more impressed that her boss was able to invent anything with the stress that came naturally with setting up a wedding.
"Did I do it right?" K.O. asked, looking at the four beakers. Its diverse colors stick out from the corners of the machine. She looked at the many sticky notes again and nodded.
"Looks like it," the young minion threw the papers aside. Staying at the control console. "Ready to do this?" she asked, trying to hide her eagerness to see what this machine could do.
"I-I think so," K.O. nodded nervously, trying to stay enthusiastic at the concept of helping someone like he always loved to do.
"Okay. Take a seat and put your arm through that cuff thing," Fink pointed a gloved finger at the metallic brace. K.O. could have sworn he saw something like that at the dentist's. He wanted to ask more questions, yet complied, just wanting to be friendly.
K.O. took a seat and slipped his right arm through the cuff. "O-ok, it's in," he confirmed. Fink flipped the on switch, and she watched as the cuff tightened around her young friend's forearm.
"Subject one prepared," the console spoke out. Fink watched intently to see what would happen. The young hero felt more anxious than excited. The mouse began to turn the rest of the machine on. "ERROR! Cannot begin without subject two being prepared," the console suddenly spoke up. K.O. had his eyes closed, expecting pain, opening one cautiously.
"Subject two? What? This thing won't work on one person?" Fink pounded the console in irritation. Though she swore she could hear Jethro scolding her in the back of her mind already about trying to beat things into working.
"Does that mean I have to put my other arm in too?" K.O. asked, looking to the other cuff hesitantly. He could break out of them easily if this was a trap, yet it still made him worried about what the invention did if it took two people to use it.
"No. You're too short to reach the other one… Fine. I guess I'll tag in," Fink finally decided, hopping over the console and approaching him, taking the seat beside him. Her long time boss would only be prouder at her for testing this herself as well.
"You're the same size as me though…" K.O. mumbled, only to then realize what she had said a moment afterwards. "W-wait! I don't want you to hurt yourself!" K.O. tried to stop his game loving associate.
"I'll be fine," Fink scoffed at his expressed fears, seeing the cuff latch onto her left arm. She didn't show it, but she was grateful that he at least cared. Then again, he treated everybody the same. Their alignment to good or evil didn't matter to him. It was a major strength and weakness, something everybody knew about him.
"Subject two prepared. Subject one prepared. Bringing up health displays," the console droned after registering them, both being locked in place as monitors popped up for the two. K.O.'s fear only increased. His heart rate matched that.
"Okay, maybe you were right," Fink gulped, trying to stay relaxed. They saw the beakers beginning to release their contents into the machine, filling up the various vials it held.
Something suddenly stabbed K.O.'s trapped arm. "O-ow! Hey!" he whined. It felt like something was being threaded into the new opening in his flesh, a thin wire being guided throughout his body. He did not like it whatsoever, it was creepy.
"Yeow! What in the name of Cob is this thing doing?!" Fink yelped, feeling the same happening now. It wasn't painful after the initial cut, it still made her feel equally as uncomfortable though.
"Genetic sequence samples harvested, turbonic gene samples harvested from Subject one and Subject two. Preparations complete," the console continued. The young hero and villain felt a lot better when whatever it was that had been snaking all through their body finally got removed. The cuffs on their arms released them.
Fink could see a band aid covering the nick on her forearm that the machine gave her, same for K.O. They watched the last of the empty vials of the machine get filled. All the colors looked rather beautiful, circling that clear ball in the center of it all.
"I-is it over?" the Level 4 hero murmured. He didn't wish for any more weirdness like that to happen. Even Dendy's experiments weren't that invasive most of the time.
"How am I supposed to know, blockhead?!" the minion retorted, not hesitating to take her anger out on him. Though their micro argument got interrupted when they heard a whir. The machine began spinning rapidly and every vial began to get injected into the clear ball.
"Specimen is complete. Shutting down," the console finished, and the machine slowed to a halt. The center opened to reveal the sphere, no longer clear, but a rainbow of colors.
"Whoa…" K.O. awed. After a moment, he reached in and grabbed the ball, taking it out. He found it beautiful. Fink was just as mesmerized. Eventually those rainbows of colors faded, settling on a light blue liquid. "What is it?" K.O. asked her. She took it from him and looked it over with a raised eyebrow, wondering if this was her boss's invention or something dumb Boxman made. Honestly it looked like an over sized fake glorb toy meant for a child to use as a makeshift nightlight.
"How am I supposed to know? All I got is a bunch of sticky notes on how to just work the hunk of junk," Fink responded, not sure what the L.C.U. was supposed to do. She handed him back the clear ball full of light blue liquid.
"Should we put it back?" K.O. asked. As nice as it felt to just hold it, he didn't know if they should touch it without Venomous seeing the results since it had never been tested before according to the henchwoman.
"Nah, it's probably just a health ball. You can keep it," Fink shrugged, assuming it was some special healing item. "And thanks for helping test it, I guess, hero…" she rolled of her eyes. K.O. loved hearing that. He pulled her into a tight hug. The young mouse felt heat rushing to her face.
"It was a little creepy, but I'm just happy to help!" the Level 4 hero spoke. The clear ball was held between them as they embraced. They heard noises upstairs.
"Peanut? Hey! I'm here to pick ya up! Sorry I'm late," the familiar voice of Carol, K.O.'s mother, called out from upstairs, after she had finally gotten through the snow to this lair. Her son not answering his phone made her come inside on her own. The young hero realizing he had left it in his bag upstairs.
"Oh! I'm coming, mommy!" K.O. called back, breaking apart with Fink as he hurried off. "Bye Fink! I'll see you later!" K.O. told the mouse, knowing she'd probably get sent to attack him long before the next visit to his father's house.
"Yeah, yeah, take care," Fink gave a wave. Watching him vanish up the steps, holding the ball like a cherished memento. The mouse turned back to the machine they had tested.
"Whatever you are, you sure are creepy," Fink said to it. She got to cleaning everything up, to save her boss the trouble. Something felt wrong to her though. She couldn't put her finger on what. The only thing she could actually do was ignore it.
K.O. rode along in the passenger seat of his mother's car, looking at the beautiful snowfall as they drove through the snow covered roads. The tires had safety flamethrowers set to max to help along the icy roads.
"Did you have fun at Professor Venomous's honey?" Carol asked, keeping her eyes on the road. She always had to query about this with her son, more so out of her own personal worry for her son's well being. She didn't trust his biological father one bit.
"Yeah! I baked cupcakes with Shannon and Fink! I got to help Boxman pick out their wedding cake too," K.O. declared, looking happy to be around the ever growing Boxmore family, even if they all considered each other rivals too.
"You're becoming a regular wedding planner," Carol jokingly laughed, rubbing his head and messing up his brushy hair a little. She took notice of the ball in his hands. "What's that you got there, peanut?" she asked. It looked strange to her, like some kind of new toy meant for stress relief.
"Oh, I dunno what it is! It glows and feels warm though," K.O. held it up in his hands for his mother to see in a proud manner. That warmth it emanated was minor. He could feel it in his palms and fingers.
"Venomous didn't give you that, did he?" Carol cautiously asked, looking ready to chuck it as far out of the car window as possible the second she heard 'yes'.
"Nope! Fink and me made it, but we don't know what it is," K.O. showed that same innocent smile. His mother felt relieved to hear that, since Fink tended to be a lot more trustable by herself, as confusing as it might sound.
"Alright, K.O. make sure you don't lose it though," Carol said, recalling how she had to watch over Fink often as well, since the young mouse wanted to spend time with her, just like how her son spent time with Venomous.
"Don't worry mommy, I won't!" K.O. reassured. He never had a problem with losing things. He would treat it as well as he treated his own POW card collection.
The Level 4 hero returned to watching the falling snowflakes, keeping the tough ball of light blue liquid inside his puffy coat, not noticing the throbbing pulse that it gave off with the light.
Later in the day, when night had fallen, Fink fell asleep on the couch, peacefully snoring away. Cleaning up the lab had exhausted her.
"Fink!" she was snapped awake by the familiar call of her boss, quickly scampering on all fours back down to the lab where she had heard his voice.
"H-hi, boss! I didn't know you were home!" Fink panted, not knowing she slept through his return home. The purple skinned scientist looked over everything in the lab.
"Sorry. I wanted to let you sleep, but then I noticed something," Professor Venomous went over to the LCU that Fink and K.O. had tested, without his knowledge. The mouse wanted to initially announce what they had done, but her boss looked unhappy. "Have you used this machine?" he glared down at his loyal minion like a snake startling its prey, freezing her in place.
"W-whaddya mean, b-boss?" Fink requested clarity, now losing all her usual nerve. Her boss's emotions ran high lately from the stress that came with the wedding preparations, and trying to make amends with his son made that stress paramount.
"There's supposed to be a ball within this device, and it shouldn't have been able to be removed without it being used," Professor Venomous elaborated, his arms crossed. The tiny mouse felt her fear escalating further. She didn't wish to take the blame for it, especially now that she knew he was mad about it. Fink decided to gamble.
"Y-you tested it before bed last night, boss! R-remember? You wouldn't let me help because you said it was a secret…" Fink answered with her best fake sadness from the obvious secrecy that came from her boss's strange invention.
Professor Venomous raised an eyebrow as he looked over the machine. It wasn't like there was a tracker to it that noted whoever used it. The fiancé villain shook his head, running a hand across his eyes like they were sore.
"I really need to get some sleep. I'm becoming paranoid…" Professor Venomous exhaled, believing the lie, much to Finks immense relief.
"Can you tell me what it is, boss?" the young rat immediately requested. Her boss rubbed her hand, making her purr, enjoying his hand in her hair comforting her.
"It's a surprise, Fink. Not just for you or just for Boxy, but for all of us… I've been working on it since he first proposed," Professor Venomous smiled fondly. It wasn't unusual for him to look proud with an invention, but Fink never saw him get utterly filled with pride like this. She wondered what he meant by it being a surprise for every one of them. "By the way, did Carol come and get K.O.?" the villain asked.
"Yeah. It was a while ago," his loyal minion nodded, following him back upstairs. Though when they got back upstairs, she noticed her scarf was missing. She tried not to pay it much attention.
"Alright. You should go to bed. The snow's gonna leave a lot behind by tomorrow, we'll actually get to play some," Venomous told her. Fink nodded, giving her boss a quick hug as high as she could reach before she left to return to her room.
"Cob, I hope that machine isn't dangerous…" Fink muttered to herself out of worry. She was disappointed in herself for not being able to tell her boss about how she and K.O. had tested it and he had left with the apparent results, at her approval no-less. She still wasn't going to be put at complete fault for it though.
"I'll find a way to pin the blame on K.O. later… After the wedding."