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Legends: A Story of Lies [Star vs. The Forces of Evil, Gravity Falls, Big Bad Beetleborgs]

House Rules
After two months I return, with a bridge to the end half of Volume 6.

= - = 60 = - =

|House Rules|

"All right you beasts, listen up and listen good!"

Mums the Mummy paced in front of Fangula, Frankenbeans, and Ghoulum. The latter two sat on the couch, while Gholum loomed behind them in the sitting room of Hillhurst Manor. As Frankenbeans watched Mums stalk back and forth excitedly, Fangula sipped an attractively red beverage from a wine goblet he held in his left hand. Ghoulum, being Ghoulum, just stood there with his fierce expression etched into his stone face.

"Today is the first day those brats will be pulling an all-nighter on our turf!" Mums barked, with a finger raised to the ceiling "This is the sum of all our fears! I mean–look at this dump! It hasn't been in better shape in years, and that's terrible!"

He slammed his hand on a light switch by the archway and flipped it repeatedly, turning the lights on and off. "The lights work!"

He held a hand towards the clean and spotless windows. "The windows have been fixed!"

Marching back over to the couch, he ran his cloth-wrapped fingers along the wooden arm, then held them aloft. "There's no dust or cobwebs!"

Turning again, he pointed at the home entertainment center sitting turned off in front of the monsters. "… Actually, the home entertainment center did nothing wrong."

He then pointed at the back of the sitting room, at the organ. "But then there's THIS clown!"

Flabber's head popped out from one of the pipes of the massive instrument. "I beg your pardon, but clowns are college educated and adhere to a strict moral code to bring laughter, uphold justice, and slay monsters. I am, at the very least, a freelance jester with a General Entertainment Diploma."

Fangula and Frankenbeans looked back at him, the former speaking up after a long sip of his drink. "How are we supposed to terrorize and eat people, if we're stuck playing hosts for a bunch of hors d'oeuvres?"

"No want kids, want pet!" Frankenbeans demanded.

"Now guys…" Flabber squeezed his way out of the pipe organ, emerging no wider than the breadth of the pipe save for his normal sized head. "Don't you think this 'big scary monster' act is already a little…" He looked at himself then at the other monsters. "… Thin?"

The mummy man threw a fit. "It's not an act! We're scary, evil monsters–!"

"Maneaters, even," Fangula added.

"And this is our house! We can't have those kids coming in here and treating it like a Youth Center, or a Karate Dojo, or a Coffee Shop!"

"EW! NO COFFEE!" Frankenbeans yelled.

Flabber hummed. "Hey now, we play our cards right, we could get a Starbucks Franchise going, here."

"Are you even listening to us, you Acid-dosing Elvis-impersonator?!" Mums yelled. "Those kids are gonna muscle us out of our own house at this rate, and you know we can't do a thing about them! We try to spook 'em even a tiny bit, and they'll just transform into their magical armors or fling narwhals at us!"

Flabber sighed. "I'm sorry… but my hands…" The phasm snaked out of the pipe organ and transformed into a long thin balloon, then twisted himself into the impression of a balloon dog.

In a very squeaky helium voice he continued. "… Are tied!"

He popped, making Mums jump right back into Flabber himself, who was back to normal. As Mums turned and jumped back again, Flabber laid it out plain as day. "You're just gonna have to learn to get along with them. Maybe try… not trying to eat them when they come by."

"No eat, want pet!" Frankenbeans said.

Flabber turned his head to speak to him. "I think it's less problematic for you to try to eat them than force one to become your pet there, Frankie."

He turned his head completely around to address Mums. "And I'm sorry Mums, but you're going to have to deal with it. The kids need the house now that all their stuff is here, and well… you guys aren't really going anywhere."

Mums grabbed the sides of his head and groaned. "Ugh! Don't you realize how terrible this is, Flabber?! Having a bunch of teenagers here is gonna be awful! They're going to be all civic and community-minded! They might paint the house! Or host bake sales! Or teach and learn valuable lessons about teamwork and saying no to drugs!"

Fangula shook his head. "I can feel the property values rising. We're going to be… eugh… gentrified."

Flabber's eyes rolled out of his skull, sprouted wings and flew off to reenter their sockets on Mums' other side. "Mumsy, Bubsy, Boo… if you don't like it, just go to another part of the house. It's not like there isn't room."

"It's our house!" Mums roared back.

"YEAH! OUR HOUSE! OUR HOUSE!" Frankenbeans repeated.

"I should be able to go haunt wherever I like!" The mummy continued.

Fangula agreed. "Is it too much to want to live in peace and quiet with no annoying teenagers full of tasty blood constantly bothering us? We're getting nothing for the trouble, not even a nibble."

Being mediator was hard work, but Flabber was a phasm with a job to do. "How about this, guys. When the kids show up, we all gather 'round and hold a powwow to discuss how you can all get along?"

Mums stared at him.

Flabber felt oddly self-conscious. "What?"

"… You didn't do an Indian bit when you said powwow," Mums pointed out. "Just… thought that was weird."

Flabber shrugged his shoulders. "Culturally insensitive visual gags are apparently out; a lot's changed in over 40 years… which I'd have known sooner if you hadn't gotten Wolfy to lock me in the organ."

Mums folded his arms and turned away. "Even the jokes suck now, too."

Frankenbeans groaned. "Miss Wofy!"

"I don't," Fangula muttered.

Mums agreed with Frankenbeans. "If Wolfy were here, those kids wouldn't have lasted a second! They'd all be dogfood!"

It was too easy for Flabber. "Yes, but they'd be haunting the house, too."

Mums grumbled at that. "Well, at least Frankie would get his pet."

Disappearing in a puff, the entertainment center's TV turned on with Flabber appearing on it as a news anchor for "Hillhurst News Network". "Now look, guys and ghouls. As long as this Beetleborg stuff is going to be a thing, this is their Command Center-"

In an insert window above them, the eponymous stock shot of the secret headquarters of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers appeared.

"Their Castle Grayskull…" The insert switched to an image of a He-Man Castle Grayskull playset from the 90s.

"Their… third pop culture reference that escapes me," Flabber gave up as the image changed to a heavily pixilated image of the T-shaped Titans Tower from Teen Titans appeared overlaid with many question marks. "I haven't watched enough new stuff yet–Janna hasn't given me her Hulu password."

Fangula spoke up. "You need to get that from her. I haven't finished True Blood."

"The fact is guys… you gotta drop the evil scary monster act for good and try at least to pretend to be civilized with them. They won't bother you; you won't bother them." With a quick spin, he teleported out of the TV and reappeared beside Mums looking like a pastiche of an Italian mobster. "Capisci?"

Mums cocked his head to one side. "Wait, I thought culturally insensitive visual gags were out."

Flabber was offended. "I was makin' a Mafia reference, not an Italian reference!"

"Are you inferrin' that all Italians are in the Mafia?" Mums demanded.

"… Are you?" Flabber inquired back, before the swirling ethereal sound of a portal opening reached their ears. "Oh goodie, they're here."

Having cut open a portal outside Hillhurst, Dipper emerged through it with a green duffle bag slung over his right shoulder. He stepped away and shielded his eyes from the afternoon sunlight, as Marco followed through the portal after him and looked back. After him, Jackie Lynn Thomas stepped through with her own backpack and skateboard strapped underneath it, right behind him.

Mums could see them from the Organ Room. "Hah, what luck! There ain't a Beetle or a Butterfly among 'em!"

He turned to the monsters. "All right you bums, we actually got a shot here! It's just the nerd and the karate kid with some blonde punk chick. We can take 'em!"

Fangula looked. "Are you sure about that, Mums? The young man in the fetching red isn't exactly a pushover."

"Neither is Frankenbeans. Now do you wanna eat or do you wanna sit there and drink deer blood until you start sparkling?!" Mums asked.

Fangula looked at his goblet and tossed it over his shoulder for Flabber to zap out of existence with a bolt of magic. "Count me in!"

"That's the vengeful spirit! Now then, monsters, to your positions!" Muums shouted and both Fangula and Frankenbeans scrambled to hide. As they moved, he turned to Ghoulum. "You hide too! If they try to escape, we need you to block their way out!"

"NAH!" Ghoulum snarled, before he stomped off and stood over by the organ.

Mums scowled after Ghoulum, then at Flabber–who shrugged his shoulders. "He can be stone cold like that, you know this."

"Eh, whatever!" Mums griped before he turned to find a place to hide. "And you'd better not interfere!"

Flabber waved both his hands dismissively. "Oh, I wouldn't dream of meddling. In fact, I'm going to film this one for posterity."

And in a puff of smoke, stars, planets, and squiggly lines, Flabber vanished. Scowling at the phasm's flippance, Mums turned and quickly found a place to hide.

Back outside, as the portal closed, Jackie looked up at the house. "Whoa... that's really creepy," she said to herself.

"Believe it or not, it gets worse," Dipper said.

Marco wasn't so sure. "Hey, it's just a fixer upper–with a coat of oil and a match, it'll look great."

Dipper let out a small chuckle, while Jackie was amazed that Marco would make such a casual joke about arson. "Ha, amazing."

As they walked towards the steps to the porch, Dipper pulled out Mabel's phone and checked the group chat. Jo was supposed to meet them at Marco's house and join them on the trip out to the house, but she hadn't answered any texts from him or any calls from Roland when he volunteered to find out where she was.

He genuinely worried about her, but another no small part of him was just as annoyed by her attitude.

Mabel said:
Jo, this is Dipper. I want to talk to you today at Hillhurst, so make an effort to show up.

With that message, Dipper left the ball in her court.

Hopping the steps onto the porch, Marco peeked in through the front window, then turned to Jackie. "A bit of a warning, the tenants here can be a bit hostile, but Flabber can keep them in check. Or just intimidate them enough and they'll leave you alone."

Jackie followed him up and went to the door. "Janna told me all about these guys, so I'm not too worried. Besides–I've got you to protect my neck, right?"

Marco flushed slightly at Jackie's praise. "Y-yeah, that's right. I won't let anything bad happen to you–!"

He stepped on a loose floorboard and went right through it, but quickly recovered and yanked his leg out and rushed to the door to open it for her and Dipper. "So yeah, welcome to Hillhurst!"

"Are you okay?" Dipper asked as he and Jackie entered the house.

"I'm not bleeding!" Marco quickly said as he followed them inside.

Looking around, Jackie was a little disappointed. "This doesn't look too grimy at all…" She noticed the entertainment center. "Oh sweet, that PS VR Janna ordered showed up."

Marco lifted his right eyebrow in concern. "Has anybody asked Janna how she's paying for this stuff?"

"Do we even want to know?" Dipper asked in turn.

Marco didn't want to be an accessory to anything. As they all went into the organ room, both he and Dipper noticed how quiet it was. When he looked back, Dipper saw that Ghoulum was absent from his usual haunt by the door–which struck him as odd.

"Huh… it's too quiet," he said aloud to Marco–who looked back at Ghoulum's empty spot.

"Did they leave?" Marco asked.

"Flabber said they can't, but this place is way bigger inside than it looks outside, they could be anywhere," Dipper advised.

As the two looked from Ghoulum's spot to the balcony over the foyer, Jackie sat down on the couch and picked up a Playstation controller. Behind her, Fangula's head peeked up from behind the couch and his eyes darted around quickly before he spotted her and her neck. Taking advantage of her, Dipper, and Marco's distraction, the vampire slowly and quietly rose to full height from behind the couch and loomed over her with his fangs baring and his eyes turning red.

Out the corner of his eye, Marco noticed movement behind him and looked back enough to see Fangula in full view. Without a moment's hesitation, he kicked off his sneaker straight up, grabbed it, and threw it straight into the Count's mouth.

"Mrf?!" Fangula let out a muffled yelp in surprise.

"Now that I have your attention," Marco said as Dipper and Jackie turned to face the Vampire. "I'll give you a couple options. You can either enjoy nice helping of teeth soup prepped on the spot by yours truly, or you can turn around and walk away with your jaw intact."

Mums, with all the timing of a Groundhog on the Fourth of July, shot his hand out from under the couch to grab Jackie by her left ankle, making her let out an uncharacteristic shriek of fright.

Like a hawk, Marco was already swooping down to stomp hard enough to crack the floor under Mums' wrist while sweeping Jackie off her feet and into his arms protectively.

"GAAAAAAAAH!" Mums retreated under the couch and came up behind it, joining Fangula.

Still holding the even more startled Jackie princess style, Marco glowered at the two monsters. "I'm going to tell you only one more time: Hell has nine circles of punishment, but we have room for way more." His eyes darted between the two as Dipper joined his side, looking at Frankenbeans tucked into a corner with a lampshade over his head to look inconspicuous. "You guys done?"

Dipper stared blankly at Frankenbeans, who did not move towards them. Marco drilled his glare into Mums and Fangula, and after a moment of silence more he nodded. "Yeah, you're done."

Fangula, agitated that he'd gotten caught and indignant that had a shoe in his mouth, spat it out. "Aren't you kids these days supposed to be aware of nothing but your obnoxious little phones? Hmph!"

"Yeah, get out of here," Marco snapped back. "Don't you have to take that costume back to the gag shop before it closes?"

Taken aback by the shot across his bow, Fangula looked Marco over, and rated his fit. "Nevermind. I prefer my meat raw, not roasted."

With another offended huff, he turned his nose up and swept out of the organ room and into the foyer. Mums followed him, grumbling at the kids. "This ain't over, you punks. Just wait until I reattach my hand…!"

Frankenbeans did not move from his spot. He liked his disguise; it was very easy to get into and stay in character.

"Come back at us like that and I will reattach it somewhere anatomically incorrect!" Marco snapped after the malicious mummy. "What a couple of wusses, huh?"

Dipper nodded in agreement. "Yeah, bringing you up here was a great idea."

"Spotted and repulsed by its would be prey, Vampire and the Mummy slink off frustrated, and unsated," Flabber, speaking in a manner not unlike Sir David Attenborough in a nature documentary, narrated from beside the organ. The Pipettes, dressed like a camera crew, aimed expensive-looking cameras from three different eras of film, at the scene.

"Frankenbeans' creature, either too frightened to reveal his position, too dumb to realize he has been compromised, or comfortable because he likes pretending to be a lamp, remains motionless in his hiding spot," the Phasm continued. "A terrible day, indeed, for the survival of the pack. It is a good day, however, if you're a human looking to live another day, and successfully court a female."

It was at that moment that Marco realized that he'd been gently cradling Jackie in his arms for the better part of a minute like she was filled with air. Sputtering, a blush forming on his cheeks, he gently let her down. "Uh… Jackie, um… sorry…?"

Jackie, her own face almost as red as Marco's hoodie, looked away from him so he wouldn't see it. "Y-you're okay, dude… you're really okay… and strong… wow."

Marco awkwardly swayed where he stood. "Um… thanks…"

Jackie gave him the side eye, her blush fading, and she quietly psyched herself up. Get it together, Jackie… Janna's not even here to mess with this.

Flabber abruptly appeared between the two. "Hey guys!" He turned to Jackie. "You must be Jackie Lynn Thomas, right? Janna's said a lot about you."

Jackie raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah, like what?"

Flabber turned around and framed Marco's face. "That you'd be the girl who did this to Marco," he said in reference to his still red cheeks.

Grabbing his hood, Marco pulled it over his head and pulled the strings to draw it closed over his entire face save for his nose and turned to pick his discarded shoe up and put it back on.

Jackie giggled. "Stop…!"

Dipper came to his rescue, changing the subject. "Hey, Flabber, did Jo happen to come by?"

"It's just been me, the guys, and the prairie dogs outside," Flabber said–switching from David Attenborough to a countryfied cowboy. "Why, were you expectin' her to be comin' 'round the mountain?"

Dipper nodded. "Yeah, but she's not been answering anyone's calls, or texts."

Jackie turned to him. "Is she okay?"

Dipper sighed as he recalled the other day. "I don't know. She's been amping herself up for coming out here all week until she blew up on the bridge. Then nothing."

From inside his hood, Marco spoke up. "She's got issues."

"No kidding," Jackie said, "Janna said she has beef with like… everybody."

Dipper nodded. "Yeaah, she's got a crush on me… and she's really bad at expressing it."

"Can't say she has bad taste, but isn't the cliche is usually that they bully the one they like, not the ones around them?" Marco asked.

Dipper's heart did a little skip, but he stayed calm. "Like I said, really bad at expressing it."

Jackie had her own view on that. "Seeing how she punched Lars Vanderdud so hard his face took a week-long vacation to the back of his head, maybe that's not the only thing she's bad at expressing?"

Dipper agreed, knowing Jo's idea of fighting. "She's mad at something in her life. I'm really hoping to talk to her while we have the chance to, here. Until then… you guys can come down to the Beetle Battle Base or look around the house. I'm going to be making sense of Misao's notes for operating the Beetle Battle Base."

He reached into his backpack and pulled out a thick notebook filled with bookmarks. "I might be a while, though."

Jackie smiled. "I don't mind exploring the house." She turned to Marco. "Especially with you protecting my neck."

Marco beat down his blush handily this time. "I don't mind being your chaperone at all. I can show you around and how we can avoid the monsters."

Turning to Flabber, Jackie asked. "You'll keep an eye out for us too, right?"

The Phasm was happy to reply. "You don't have to worry about em, brah. I got you."

Jackie laughed. "You sound like my Dad."

As Marco and Jackie headed for the stairs to have a look around, Dipper turned to Flabber. "While I've got your ear, Flabber."

Flabber turned to him. "Yes?"

Dipper really appreciated that Flabber didn't do something weird like hand him his ears. For as weird and zany as the phasm was, he was definitely not insane like Bill. "There's a lot I want to ask you; about Doc Hillhurst, this house, and the monsters in it. You think you can spare some time to explain… well… everything?"

Flabber lit up. "I sure can-a-roonie! But uh… you're gonna have to forgive a Phasm's phorgetfulness thanks to being…" He turned and called out. "SEALED AWAY FOR FORTY YEARS!"

"Oh, shut up!" Mums yelled back from somewhere in the house.

Returning his attention Dipper, Flabber continued. "So, I don't remember exactly everythingbut!"

"But?" Dipper asked.

"But… I can tell you everything I can remember!" Flabber assured him.

Dipper gestured down the tunnel. "Can we walk and talk? I want to get started on my questions right away."

"Sure we can walk and talk!" Flabber reassured him as he began walking and the Phasm walked alongside, changing his pace as he spoke. "We can jog and dialog, sprint and gossip, run and tongue–"

Dipper stopped him right there. "No, I don't know about that last one."

Flabber winced. "I realized right as I said it. I'm still working on my material."

"May I suggest the works of Robin Williams for inspiration?" Dipper suggested.


"Comedian, actor, gamer, he voiced a genie in a really popular movie back in the 90s," Dipper explained. "He reminds me kind a bit of you."

Flabber stroked his chin. "Janna did say something about me having 'Genie energy' but here I was thinking she meant Barbara Eden. Now there's a wish come true, am I right?"

"That show was over before my Dad was born," Dipper pointed out.

"Right… forty years," Flabber remembered.

As the organ closed behind them, in the sitting room, Frankenbeans remained still.

"Being lamp is nice," he said to no one. "Wish me had Jeannie inside."

= - = 60 = -=

Some comedy relief. in the Shakespearean sense.
Last edited:
Small update, after thinking about it, decided to change Gabe's nickname while he's on the clock at the end of the chapter "Calamity." Instead of Wolf he will be referred to as "Goblin" so there's no confusion for later.
A big chapter coming. After this, it's going to get a bit wild. As a heads up, way back in chapter one I had a list of trigger/content warnings. Just so we're reviewing and expanding them...

CW: This story will contain original characters, references to recreational drug use, physical and psychological abuse, murder, and torture.

= - = 61 = -=


Dipper's message to Jo went unread. Everyone's messages, and the group chat in general was completely ignored, as she sat at a table at Zoom Comics, reading a giant robot war manga that was in truth a trashy romance story for teenage girls. She'd been there since the shop opened, and was going through the entire series, and was near the end by after sundown–while ignoring the rest of the world around her.

"That's an unsettlin' sight," Nano Williams said as the matriarch of Roland's family and the comic shop's owner arrived late in the afternoon and joined her son behind the counter.

"She's been here all day," Aaron Williams said to his mother regarding the usually well-accompanied Jo by herself. "Roland's at home getting ready for the dance, and Drew's been grounded."

Nano craned her head away from her son with an eyebrow raised. "Lord have mercy, for what?"

"Cutting class," Aaron said.

"I will have some words with that man," Nano said of Jo's father before she headed towards her. "But first… Nano's got some granny-duty."

Jo flipped a page of her comic and let out a sigh. "… Why don't they just desert? They don't even like the sides they're on…"

"Narrative fiat aside, everyone has their reasons for being loyal to something they shouldn't belong to," Nano said as she sat down at the table with Jo. "But that's a lot of rabbit holes, and they all go deep."

Jo fought a grimace but gave up and hid it behind her manga. "Boy, don't I know it."

"What's wrong, sweetie? You wanna talk to Nano about it?" Nano asked with all the grandmotherly gentleness one wouldn't expect in a woman who was always so larger than life.

Looking up from her book at Nano's bespectacled face, Jo sighed. "You should know the song and dance by now: I join a group, my dumb brain does that thing to make everyone hate me, and now I'm just waiting for the group to not need me anymore."

Nano shook her head, humming in disappointment. "Mm, mm, mm… do you really think they all hate you, child?"

"I'd hate me," Jo replied. "I blew it, and hard. All I was supposed to do, was enjoy a normal crush on the tall, cute guy–but no. I had to look at all the other girls who he hung out with and think 'Hey Jo, you need to establish dominance. These basic bitches are annoying, they're loud, and they're nowhere near as mature, smart, and tough as you are!'"

She rolled her eyes, seething. "If I bare my teeth enough, they'll show their bellies and get out of my way. Because that's the way it goes, that's how it works. It's all about being top dog."

The fire and venom quickly left Jo, weakening into bare embers and skin irritant. "I completely lost track of why I was even doing it so fast… I just wanted to hurt them, and that's when I realized I fucked up."

Nano narrowed her eyes slightly when Jo finished her rant. "Josephine, sweetheart, you're driven to be smarter, work harder, and to always come out on top… but when you come up short you have always been harder on yourself than anyone."

Her elbows on the table, Nano began rubbing her hands together as she looked at her. "And I think that is where you can be wrong, sweetie."

Jo looked down at the table and worried the pages of the manga with her fingertips while Nano continued. "You've always had a hair-trigger temper. I've got you on tape more than once getting into people's faces, and I've even thrown you out of the store on one occasion for throwing 'bows."

"And…?" Jo already knew this.

"That's forgivable," Nano emphasized. "You're not the first hot-tempered, hot-blooded teenage girl who makes terrible decisions when she's mad to ever exist. Nor are you the first one to lose the plot and resort to just hurting people to make yourself feel better."

Jo pulled a grimace, before Nano placed a consoling hand on her shoulder, and smiled. "But between you and the girls I've known to fall into that ditch… there are folks waitin' lined up 'round the block to pull you out of it."

The angry young woman let out a sharp huff through her nose and looked away from her. "Oh yeah, look at everyone crowding around like I'm the last Beetleborgs Omnibus on the shelf. I feel so not alone."

"You're only alone because you think you're beyond all hope," Nano said. "You haven't given them a chance any more than you've given yourself one."

Turning back to her, Jo protested. "I'm saving them the trouble! I'll just be there, in the background with my head down and my mouth shut. Boom, easy, I do what needs to be done and they don't even have to look in my direction."

Nano gave Jo a firm look, tight-lipped, and completely unyielding. "That's not what's gonna happen, and you know it. They're gonna worry about you, talk to you, and more importantly… they're gonna forgive you."

She rubbed Jo's shoulder. "Even if you never want to forgive yourself. You're not a quitter, Josephine McCormick, and giving up on yourself is as good as any quitting."

While still resistant to making eye contact, Jo was cowed enough to look in Nano's direction, sulking all the while.

Nano smiled ever slightly, and she nodded as if to say, "You know I'm right."

"Nothing always goes our way," she spoke, "And everyone takes the wrong way once or twice or even all the time. But the people you know ain't gonna let you beat yourself up. I'm not, Roland won't, your brother sure as heck won't… and neither will any of those friends you're saying hate you. You got too much goin' for yourself for anyone to pass up on–flaws and all."

Closing her eyes, Jo breathed in deep and let out her frustration, anger, and loneliness as a long, dramatic sigh. It tweaked her something fierce to hear such truth, but she couldn't deny it, she did not want to deny it.

"Can I still be a little pissed off at myself?" She asked.

"Never said you couldn't," Nano replied. "But if you're gonna be mad at yourself, then you gotta use that anger rather than just sit and stew in it. When you get goin', girl, you're unstoppable… so while the gettin's good? Go."

Nano was right, but Jo didn't hate it. "I guess that's… yeah, you got a good point."

After a few moments, Jo cracked the smallest smile as she conceded. Nano's own grin grew. "Yeah, that's my girl."

"So, what do I do, then?" Jo asked.

"Well, you can start by apologizing to and forgiving yourself and anyone else you have to–then working to make things right." Nano beamed. "I know you can do it, and I know as a matter of fact that your friends will be there to help you on your way."

Jo brought her hand up to her nose and rubbed just underneath it, breathing in to conceal a sniffle. "Then… I guess I'll start by apologizing for being a mope. And to myself for being really dumb."

Nano sat back in her chair, chuckling. "You're forgiven."

"I'll go talk to them, then," Jo said as she got up. "Thanks, Nano."

Nano called after her as she headed for the door. "You're welcome, sweetie."

Aaron leaned on the counter. "Mom, I just realized. How's Drew going to the dance if he's grounded?"

Nano let out a short chuckle. "He's sneaking out, of course."

Aaron nodded. "… Are we going to cover for him?"

"Of course we are!" Nano declared.

With a smile that became more knowing, Nano watched Jo hop on her bicycle and ride off. "Kids these days need us more than ever."

With that, Aaron conceded. "Fair enough, and Roland would want Drew there to make sure this dance's stunt goes off without a hitch."

Nano nodded. "Yeah, let's make sure to close up early. I want to get down there and see the aftermath myself."


At the Pines residence, Mabel was mindful of the clock as she put the finishing touches on Misao's hair, brushing and styling it as she sat patiently in front of her swathed in a blanket. Across from the two in Shermie's living room, Star and Janna were sitting on a couch, the former rocking from side to side and absently kicking her feet in the air while the latter explained one of Echo Creek Academy's unofficial traditions.

"… Freshman year Spirit Week homecoming dance," she began. "The dance was okay. It was a dance, so like… everyone was just hanging out all awkwardly swaying to the music and trying to not be embarrassing on the dance floor. When all of a sudden, right there on the stage, a mariachi band just showed up, relieved the bored-as-heck DJ, and just hijacked the dance."

"No way," Mabel said as she worked her brush through Misao's hair. "And this was Roland?"

Misao hummed. "I know about Mariachi… they were able to make the party fun?"

"Yeah. Because it wasn't just any Mariachi band. It was a Heavy Metal Mariachi band. They melted face and it made me mad that I wasn't there to see it. The exchange kid living with Marco at the time, Akil, gave it 6 metals out of his 1 to 5 scale of how metal something is."

"That's so metal," Star said.

Janna nodded. "At the Winter Formal that year, an ice cream bar was hired as part of the refreshments for the dance. But midway through the dance, all the trays of ice cream and frozen treats were replaced with snowballs."

Misao gasped. "Roland is a mad genius…"

Janna chuckled. "It was no Metal Mariachi band, but I got to smash a snowball in Brittney's face, so it was worth it."

Mabel was jealous. "Why didn't I think of that? My first winter formal was so lame compared to that!"

Shermie, sipping some oolong tea, begged to differ. "Your Christmas tree outfit was still dang cute though." To the other girls he added, "I got pictures if you wanna take a peek at 'em later."

Proudly, Mabel put a hand on her chest. "It was so cute that I had to leave the dance because it wasn't considered 'formal.'"

Misao snickered. "Let me guess, you had a star decoration on the top of your head?"

Mabel grinned. "I had my hair done up in a beehive 'do to look like the top of the tree, and the star was at the very top. It and the lights I used to tie it all up worked."

Janna and Star were both struggling to imagine it. With as much hair as Mabel had, arranged vertically.

That made Misao pout. "I want lights in my hair…"

Mabel hummed. "I don't think I can source the LEDs fast enough…"

She turned to Star. "You think you could magic us up some lights?"

"My wand's still funky, it still just shoots out glitter, but…" Star had the idea at the exact same time as Mabel.

"We can glitter bomb everything!" They said together, before Mabel continued. "YES! We won't glow, but we'll shine!"

"And sparkle!" Misao declared.

Star was giddy for the plan. "When I get my wand working, I'll definitely give us all a real 'glow' for next time!"

Janna side-eyed Star with a smirk. "Just be careful, we've seen how you light people up."

The girls all shared a laugh, Shermie joining in, before Mabel asked. "So what other pranks has Roland done?"

"Yes, please!" Star and Misao said together.

Happy to oblige, Janna continued. "So, because he was a freshman, Roland couldn't attend prom, and the Juniors and Seniors then were on him like a hawk to make sure he didn't try to pull anything, since they were the ones most annoyed by the pranks the year before. So during Homecoming last year, he got Super Soakers, Water Balloons, and even connected a garden hose and handed them to all the Freshmen and Sophomores."

Mabel stopped. "Oh, the school must've hated him for that."

"Yeah, but Nano helped smooth it over and cure the hurt feelings, and even the Juniors from the year before who were Seniors that year loved it. So, Roland got to pull a prank on Prom last year."

"What did he do?" Misao asked.

Janna steepled her fingers together and smirked. "Prom Pillow Fight. With the Prom King and Queen getting the added honor of being covered in slime so the feathers stuck to them."

Star understood the reference. "Like tar and feathering without the near boiling pitch!"

Janna, Misao, and Mabel were reminded that Star was from a medieval magical kingdom… and she'd probably seen it done not for funsies. Or maybe for funsies…

"Yeah," they all replied.

"All in all… Roland's pranks sound great, and I want to help with his next one," Mabel closed her eyes and hummed. "Kind of a bummer that Brittney doesn't like fun."

Star's lips curved downward in a small frown. "Yeah… or maybe her idea of fun is just… all of this Spirit Week by Wong stuff."

She wasn't going to mention how her control-freak ways reminded her of Ludo.
Janna let out a dismissive huff. "Sometimes fun for people is just power tripping. Which is why me going to the dance is going to drive her crazy."

Star doubly resisted mentioning it. She was a girl on a mission, after all, and an even more poisoned well was a fail condition.

"I am surprised she has not banned him like he did Star," Misao said.

"Hah!" Janna barked. "That's only because Nano would beat her over the head with her Daddy's money if she heard word of it. He's all humble about it, but Roland's got the same pull as her or the Vanderhoffs and he doesn't need to be a millionaire to do it."

Mabel nodded. "Yeah, I can see that. I can also see that he wouldn't want to be a pain in Nano's neck if he went around using her name to get what he wanted."

"She'd become a pain in his neck if he ever did," Shermie joked. "Besides; call me a crazy altacocker, but I got a feeling Roland has a few cards up his tuxedo sleeve in store for Brittney."

Misao had her opinion on that and said to Janna. "You know… with what you just told us about his pranks, Janna, and how self-obsessed that girl is with how everyone sees her? The best way Roland could prank her is to…"

She stopped, and her eyes widened a little. "… Oh."

Mabel stopped brushing her hair as she and Star addressed her with a simultaneous "… Oh?"

Janna, Shermie, and Star watched the realization widen Misao's eyes and spread a wicked smile across her lips. The German exchange student closed her eyes and let a deep, darkly amused chuckle reverberate from her.

"Onto something, there?" Shermie asked.

Misao nodded and answered in a singsong voice. "I~ know~ what he's planning~"


Hillhurst Mansion's size boggled both Marco and Jackie as they walked down its long, straight halls. The house wasn't just bigger on the inside, it was massive, with long hallways and rooms that interconnected with one another in ways that defied logic and physics, like whoever built it was advised by a chaos demon from where nightmares reside.

"This place has honest to God Scooby Doo doors, dude," Jackie said as she opened one door and looked inside it.

On the other side of bedroom with sheet-covered furniture was Marco staring at her from the room's other door.

She pulled back and looked down the hall at Marco, who was standing at another door. He turned to look at her, and they both looked in their respective rooms at each other.

"So that's how it works," Marco said.

He closed the door. "That is too trippy."

When he turned to Jackie, she was gone. "Huh–?"

Jackie abruptly opened the door, and he hopped back from it. At his fright, she grinned. "Yeah, it is trippy."

She stepped out and spread her arms. "This whole house is trippy! I can't believe something this cool is in Echo Creek."

Marco agreed. "Yeah… if it weren't for the monsters, it'd be a pretty neat fun house…"

Jackie dropped her hands to her sides. "But the monsters make it the perfect haunted house. It's almost Halloween, too, imagine how spooky it would be to have a party here."

"Yeah, with real monsters that'll chase you around and try to eat you," Marco added with a bit of sarcasm.

"That's what waivers are for," Jackie said. "There's like this haunted house in San Diego where you go in there and they legit torture you for like eight hours. You have to literally sign your life away to even enter."

Marco recoiled. "Wait, torture?"

"Yeah, they'll break your bones, rip out your teeth and fingernails, and even tattoo you."

Marco went a little pale. "How do you know about something like that–?" He stopped, and both he and Jackie said it together.


The next door down from the one they stood at, the very one Jackie went into, opened to reveal Mums standing outside it. "I call bull on that!"

Marco and Jackie looked inside the room Jackie had just come out of. The door was still closed, and no one was in it. They both looked back at Mums.

This house was so weird.

"On what, the haunted house thing?" Marco asked.

"Yeah!" Mums stomped over to them. "Ain't no way there's anything like that! Or that there are people willin' to put themselves through it!"

"They do," Jackie said. "They don't even have to pay for it, the owner takes food for his dogs as admission fee."

Mums recoiled. "THEY GO THERE FOR FREE?!"

"Uh, they pay with dog food?" Jackie reiterated.

Marco was mind-boggled. "… Huh."

"You are tellin' me," Mums said, "That there's some jerk out there, acceptin' dog food from people so he can scare the living daylights outta 'em AND beat the crap out of him. With no consequences?"

And suddenly Marco didn't like where this conversation was going–and imagined both Dipper and Flabber would like it even less.

Jackie shrugged her shoulders. "… Yeah?"

Mums threw his hands into the air so hard they almost actually came off. "You're making it up! Humans are dumb as bricks, but actually wantin' to be scared that bad?! That's EXTRA stupid!"

Now Marco had no idea where this conversation was going. "Scary movies are a thing? I mean, you've probably been in a few."

"Those are horse crap!" Mums said. "Most of 'em are more hilarious than 'scary.'"

Fangula, stepping into the doorway, spoke up. "I'm personally a fan of the Final Destination series."

"Comedic genius," Mums agreed.

Jackie whispered out the corner of her mouth. "See why Janna is so cool with these guys, now>?"

Marco whispered back.

Mums shook his head. "Are people these days so desensitized and detached that they gotta actually look for crap to scare 'em?! Is that why you brats keep coming out here?!"

Jackie shrugged her shoulders. "I dunno, dude. I'd never go into a messed-up place like that even if they paid me actual money."

"But you step inside this place, where we want to kill you," Fangula pointed out.

Jackie looked at Fangula and back to Mums as she responded. "I mean… it's not like you could. Marco could beat the crap out of you, I'm pretty sure I have a shot at it, too. But… Janna says your cool, so whatever."

Mums seethed at that. "You know, all we gotta do is catch you off guard once, and that's it for you brats. You'll be mincemeat."

Marco got up in Mums gnarled face. "You know, I'm pretty sure I said something about extra real estate in hell–and that I was only going to say it once."

Sighing, Jackie got between them. "Guys, guys… do we need to fight? Like I said, Janna says you're cool, and if you can be okay with her, then why not the rest of us?"

"And what, become your scary monster mascots for your team of goodie-two-shoes?" Fangula asked. "No thank you, I prefer our relationship remain predator and prey–as brief as it will be."

Mums agreed once more. "That's right! There's nothing you can say or do that'll change that, you punks!"

"Peace was never an option," Fangula hissed.

Jackie looked at Marco, then back to them before she finally gestured to her backpack. "Um… I got weed."

Both monsters stopped where they stood, then looked at one another. They turned back to her, and Mums scoffed. "No, you don't."

Marco gawked at Jackie, startled. "No, you don't!"

Jackie slung off her backpack and reached into it. "Yeah, I totally do." To Marco's disbelief, she pulled out a small jar full of green buds. "See? A whole ounce."

Marco went a little pale, because that was a lot of marijuana for Jackie to be carrying in her bag. Even more surprised were Mums and Fangula, the former getting up close and personal to look at it with his sole wide eye.

"Where'd a kid like you get this much?!" He demanded.

"My family runs a dispensary; my parents even let me smoke on the weekends," Jackie replied.

Mums eyed the label with even more scrutiny. "Wait… that's like a store? It's legal now?"

"Yeah," Jackie confirmed.

"Inconceivable," Fangula said, "The only people who smoke the devil's lettuce are deranged evil doers with ill-intent!"

"Like us!" Mums said.

"It got legalized years ago, like… before I was even born," Jackie explained.

Mums slowly nodded. "… Huh."

Fangula, cradling his chin with one hand, tilted his head to the side as he tried to imagine that. "… Huh."

Marco looked back and forth between the monsters, and now felt tentative hope about where this conversation was now headed. "Huh."

With that established, Jackie made her move. "So… if you guys agree to not start crap with us, I'll be your hookup."

Mums and Fangula looked at one another immediately.

"Free of charge."

The eyebrows of both monsters rose.

About half an hour later, Mums, Fangula, and Frankenbeans were all seated on a couch in front of a small coffee table at a sitting area in the middle of the hallway. A misty cloud of strong-smelling smoke hung in the air above them, as Fangula let rip a long, much needed drag of a joint in a long, thin cigarette holder, while Frankenbeans beside him huffed from a heavily packed pipe. Mums was hunched over, toking from an intricate glass bong with Egyptian Hieroglyphics painted painstakingly all around it.

Jackie, off to their right of the couch the monsters sat in a chair, pulled a pipe from her lips and blew a held in cloud of smoke to join the fog building in the sitting area. "Good stuff, right…?"

Fangula burst into coughs as he doubled over, then asked in a higher, strained voice. "S-Strong… what has been going on for f-forty years…?!"

"Progress," Jackie replied. "The best green grown on the west coast, straight from the mountains of Oregon, dude."

"Love Oregon," Frankenbeans, lamp shade still on his head, declared.

Jackie sputtered and broke into snickers. "Hehe… love organ. That's gross–hahahahaha!"

As Fangula burst into wheezing laughter with her, Mums pulled his mouth from his overly elaborate water pipe. "Haaa… this takes me back to the shores of the Nile–watchin' that nerd Scarab get stomped by Prince Rapses' bodyguards. Good times."

Marco, who politely declined Jackie's offer to partake, stayed a bit out of the range of the smoke and tried to acclimate himself to more than just the strong smell wafting from the weed being consumed. His eyes were locked onto Jackie, watching her smoke and laugh with the monsters like they were her best friends.

The conflict that had raged quietly within since she abruptly visited his house had come roaring back.

I… never really knew Jackie at all, did I? He thought.

Seeing all these different sides to her all at once was still a shock, completely smashing the pedestal that he had built for her. In its place was something better, a profound feeling of happiness that he was hanging out with and learning about the real Jackie and not angsting over the idealized version he was afraid to approach.

Even with Star in his life, and this thing that's started between them… it hasn't made Jackie Lynn Thomas any less amazing in his eyes, only more.

He smiled as Jackie's laughter had both infected Mums and Frankie as well, with neither having any idea why they were laughing. Well, I'm glad she's better than I could ever imagine.

Leaning back against the wall, he looked to his left and noticed the door that this inconsequential sitting room was lined up across in the hall. It was different from the other doors, having an actual lock and a name plate at the very top. Paying it more mind, he leaned forward slightly and turned his head to get a better look at what was written on it.

"WOLFY" was written in all caps, with "No Entre" just below it.

He looked over at the Monster Smoke Out. "Hey… who's Wolfy?"

Mums managed to slow down his laughter and looked blearily at the door. "Oh… oh crap… is that Wolfy's room? Huh! How about that."

Fangula looked up as well, and his head tilted back in surprise. "… That's… strange."

Jackie let out a chuckle. "Strange how… hehehe…"

Mums vented smoke through all his wrapped skull's orifices. "Because it's hard to find Wolfy's room in this house. Last time we did was the last time he was here, forty years ago!"

"Wait… you can just lose rooms?" Jackie asked, amazed.

Fangula confirmed it. "You won't believe this, but there's rooms that have been missing longer than that, and not even Flabber knows where they are."

"Useless phasm," Mums muttered. "What even is a phasm?"

Something in the weed made Frankenbeans' brain flicker for a second, as he answered in a refined accent. "I believe it's something you have whilst afflicted with a seizure."

Mums let out a laugh. Then laughed harder when the spark of intellect vanished in another puff of smoke. "I say big words."

Jackie got up. "So, like… Wolfy… is he like… a werewolf?"

She sauntered over to the door, looking at the nameplate and then the knob.

"No," Fangula replied. "Werewolves can turn back into humans from their war forms. He's always in his war form. I'd say he's more a warwolf than a werewolf."

"Sick," Jackie said as she took the doorknob in hand. "I wonder what a warwolf's room looks like."

For the first time since they'd gotten here, Jackie turned a door's knob, and it didn't open. Blinking the surprise from her eyes, she turned it left and right and leaned against the door. "… Huh… it's locked."

She turned to Marco. "We should kick it down. Do a little BnE, Janna will be proud."

Marco looked at the lock and the door again. "I don't know, there might be a good reason for it to be locked."

"Come on~" She leaned close to him. "Don't you wanna see what's inside? It's so suddenly forbidden."

Marco's face colored at Jackie's close proximity. "Uh…"

Suddenly Frankenbeans burst out. "NO! NO BREAK WOLFY DOOR!"

Mums spoke in support of Frankenbeans. "You heard the man-thing, leave the guy's room alone!"

Jackie turned to her. "C'mon! Why's this door locked? Every other one we can open just fine. I mean, I've seen your room, and Fangula's. Dig the coffin, by the way."

"Thank you," Fangula replied. "And I personally don't like Wolfy. He tends to smell like wet dog and has atrocious manners. I say knock yourselves out and be the door-kickers you want to be."

Mums let out a sharp laugh. "Even as strong as you monster kids are, you ain't breakin' that door. Flabber made it super strong at Wolfy's request!"

Marco turned to him. "Flabber buffed this door?"

Mums nodded. "Only people Wolfy even wants near the room can go in! That's probably why we're here now, he was always sweet on Frankie. A real boy and his dog type deal, yannow?"

Facing the door again, Marco eyed it. "… But you guys just said that you haven't seen this door in forty years."

The mummy shrugged his shoulders. "Hey, we all don't wander around this house together like a bunch of mean girls in high school. We don't know when rooms pop up."

Marco cocked his head. "How do you know–?"

"He just watched Heathers today," Fangula explained.

Marco looked at the door again and hummed before he looked at the knob. He reached out and grabbed it. He turned it as he spoke. "Well, I just thought it was odd since you said–"


Marco stopped talking.

Jackie, Mums, Fangula, and Frankenbeans all stared at him in complete silence.

The young man's eyes were locked on the doorknob and his hand still holding it. It had turned completely and opened just a couple inches to nearly clear the doorway.

Jackie's gaze fell on Marco's hand, and the partially open door. "… Dude? Why did the werewolf's door, that can only open for people the werewolf wants there, open for you?"

Looking up from the doorknob to Jackie's wide-eyed face, he slowly shook his head. "… I don't know."

Together they looked at the door. Behind them, all three monster residents present stood up and stared at it with the same stunned disbelief. Once more Marco and Jackie shared a quick look.

"Well… open it," Jackie whispered.

Marco hesitated. "I don't think I should, maybe it's an accident? Did it mistake me for Wolfy or someone Wolfy knows, I…"

The sound of Dipper's voice booming from the ceiling cut him off, and everyone looked at the ceiling. "Marco! Jackie! You guys need to come to the front, right now! We got a problem!"

"When did we install an intercom?" Mums grumbled.

"Dipper?" Marco asked. "What's going on…?"

"Just hurry! This is an emergency! I can't reach the others, I'm coming up from the Battle Base, now!" Dipper replied before the unseen speakers cut off.

The door would have to wait. Pulling it shut, Marco nodded to Jackie, and both took off down the hall, back towards the front of the house. As they watched them go, Mums scratched his head.

"Kid's right. It had to be a fluke or somethin'," Mums said. "Why would it open for him? Wolfy only likes Frankie."

Fangula looked at the door, and then at Frankenbeans, who was reaching out to the door. The vampire watched, first in curiosity, and then in wide-eyed interest as Frankenbeans gripped the doorknob in his massive hand and gave it a turn.

But the door refused to open.


Echo Creek Academy was lighting up the night with the sun long set. Spotlights shone into the clear sky, crossing to trigger occasional holographic effects, such as the words "Echo Creek Spirit Week" and "By Wong", with glamorous images of Brittney herself interspersed between them. Just outside the hazy glow, concealed in the darkness of the night sky, a pair unmanned helicopter drones with two-bladed rotors, a tail with downward-bent horizontal stabilizers at the tail, and canard wings at their very nose prowled.

Down on the ground, the gymnasium–where the dance was to be held–had its door covered by four well-dressed men with all the exact same look: bald, black-suited, wearing sunglasses at night and standing perfectly still like statues. Between them and the street were a crowd of students waiting to get into the gymnasium, separated by a long violet carpet bordered by velvet rope the same color. Another rope blocked the way up the carpet, and was overseen by two more well-dressed, quietly scanning the crowd with slow turns of their heads like machines.

They weren't even visibly breathing.

"Full-body cyborg guards, QAH-50 Hammerhead Unmanned Helicopters, and I saw a truck I'm pretty sure is big enough to carry Unmanned Gears parked nearby," Ferguson O'Durguson said to Roland as he, himself and Alfonzo Doolittle hung out across the street from the school, taking cover behind a catering van parked on the curb.

The rotund teen turned to Roland. "Dude, are you sure you wanna go through with this? Brittney might actually kill you with the firepower she has here."

Roland–wearing a sharp dark green suit with matching hat and carrying a wooden cane with a handle sculpted into the shape of a hawk's head, shook his head at Ferguson's concerns. "Nah, this is just her being paranoid about Star."

"Yeah, I get that, my wife is actually the same way about her," Alfonzo said. "Especially after the last time she was there!"

Ferguson brightened at the mention of Alfonzo's wife. "How's she doing, anyway?"

"Oh great, she crushed a prisoner revolt using my suggestions! We have such synergy!"

Roland stared at Alfonzo, quietly reconsidering his association with a tyrannical despot by holding it up against previous interactions. He shrugged his shoulders and set that aside to focus on the situation up front. "I expect Brittney to have a meltdown though, so the dance is probably going to end early."

"Nice, we should hit up Britta's after, and invite Marco along, too," Ferguson suggested.

Alfonzo laughed. "Nah. He's probably at home with Star, totally not smooching her like he wasn't on the bus."

Roland went still, then looked at Alfonzo. "Him and Star did what now?"

Ferguson turned to face Alfonzo, alarmed. "Dude!"

"What, I said totally not," Alfonzo defended.

Ferguson lifted his hands in a pleading gesture. "Alfonzo, that's not how that works!"

Roland looked at Ferguson. "Even so, you confirmed it anyway, my guy."

Ferguson slumped. "Ah, damn it! Don't tell Marco, he made us swear!"

Adjusting his hat, Roland smirked from under it and spoke in a much more serious tone and manner. "Your secret is safe with me."

Alfonzo and Ferguson in a similarly stylized nature, both hummed and nodded.

Speaking of bros, Roland checked a silver pocket watch on a chain he pulled from the pocket of his suit jacket. Opening it to reveal the smart interface connected to his phone, he pulled a grimace at no messages or calls from Drew.

It bothered him; Jo icing everyone out because she was in a bad mood was one thing, but Drew being no-contact was worrying–especially since his assurances that nothing would stop him from attending the dance.

"Let's get going," he said aloud as he began crossing the street. "Drew's running late, I hope he's okay."

Ferguson and Alfonzo followed, the latter replying. "He was kinda grody since the monster attack, right? Maybe he went to see a doctor or something?"

"Yeah, I don't think Brittney would even let him go in if he was dressed like a mummy," Alfonzo stated.

"If only it was closer to Halloween," Ferguson lamented. "We could totally have a cool costume dance party!"

Roland let out a small laugh. "Right?"

As they made it across the street and joined the crowd of students, one of the guards turned and stared at him, an orange glow shining from behind his sunglasses. "Wristbands, please."

Roland held up his right arm, showing off his wristband. "My hype men aren't going in, they're just here to make me look good."

The guard looked between his stylish eminence, and the comparatively mundane Ferguson and Alfonzo–who weren't even meeting dress code–and nodded. "Yeah, you're onto something there."

"First rule of looking good, my man," Ferguson said. "Hang out with a fat boy and a weird boy."

Alfonzo folded his arms. "I am only a little overweight, and Ferguson isn't THAT weird, but we make it work."

The bodyguard reconsidered his assessment. "Y'know what? I'd let you two in just for that."

Alfonzo and Ferguson nodded, uttering quick "Hms!" in victory, before the former noticed a car approaching and gawked. "Dudes… look."

Roland and Alfonzo turned to look and joined Ferguson in slack-jawed staring as a hot pink stretch limousine nearly long as a school bus slowly pulled up to the front of the school. The other students waiting turned as well, staring in shock at the very long car and the startling fact that it had no wheels. Just over a foot off the ground, the car hovered in defiance of gravity, moving soundlessly except for the whistling whine of the engines that kept it aloft.

"You know what? I'm starting to think she needs therapy," Ferguson said.

Alfonzo hummed. "Yes, or two years hard labor in the crystal mines."

Ferguson looked at Alfonzo. "I'm also starting to think you need therapy."

Two men stepped out of the front of the hover limo–two more bald and intimidating men in suits who walked to the back. With the driver standing at-ease, his passenger reached over and opened the rear-hinged "suicide door" of the limo, a misty fog rolling out from the bottom of the door and down the carpet.

The first person to step out of the car was not Brittney, however. It was Chantal, wearing a pink dress that hung off one shoulder with a red and white belt and matching white high-heeled boots. She shook her head from side to side, waving her short hair back and forth and took a few steps down the carpet before turning to look at the door.

Wearing a long blue dress, matching heels, and a hat that hung a black veil over part of her face, Megan emerged next and strutted over to join Chantal.

Ferguson whistled at the sight of both girls. "Dang, Roland… going to the dance with Megan lookin' all like a high school Rhianna…"

Roland leaned on his cane with one hand, while he cradled his chin between the index finger and thumb of the other to appraise her. "I normally go to these things stag, but now I don't mind havin' someone to dance with."

Ferguson turned to Roland. His face was serious once more. "But what about Drew? Are you going to subject him to flying solo here?"

"We won't be there with him, yes? Neither will Marco, or anyone who can't get a dance date," Alfonzo warned.

"He understands. Brittney wasn't about to let me go to the dance unless I had a date, so…" Roland said. "Besides, last couple days he's been shockingly popular with girls."

Ferguson and Alfonzo both slammed their thumbs down on the blue X button of the controller in their minds.

"… Not to rag on your bro, but this is Andrew McCormick, right? Like… he's barely ranked above me, man." Ferguson looked at Alfonzo. "Nah, you're completely off the market."

Alfonzo was a little worried. "Who has been talking to him, is it someone with nefarious intentions? Maybe they were paid by the Vanderhoffs?"

At that moment, Drew leaped without warning from the limo, positioned himself in midair, and came down in a three-point landing with his left foot leading and his right trailing. He was stylishly composed, wearing a blue tuxedo in the same color as the Stingerborg armor, the stylish attire offset by a pair of blue and white high-top sneakers. Rising from his kneel, he tilted his head to flick his styled hair, unexpectedly longer and pulled into a low ponytail, and gave Roland, Alfonzo, and Ferguson a surprisingly ominous look.

He then broke into a grin and waved to them. "Hey, guys."

Roland, Ferguson, and Alfonzo were all struck silent by the sharp-dressed man in front of them, Roland needing a moment before he spoke. "… Drew?"

A girl in the back of the crowd called out. "Damn, that dude cleans up good!"

Drew let out a small laugh, before turning to the limo. "One sec."

He extended his hand to the open doorway, and Sabrina's trembling hand reached out to take his. She was wearing a relatively modest yellow dress, with sea green and blue stripes at the hem, and blue slippers. With care he guided her down and offered her his arm, which she took while trying her best not to fidget.

As they stepped away from the limo, the last occupant emerged. Wearing an elegant pink cheongsam bordered with blue and patterned with lavenders, Brittney emerged from the car. Her long hair hung down mostly, except for a pair of braids that were tied around at the back of her head to guide her hair straight down. In her free hand she held a fur-tipped fan, which she used to hide the bottom half of her face as she walked up.

Closing the fan and revealing her perennial glower, she swept it downward as she announced. "Now the party may begin."

With that, the guards at the door opened them and the guards at the front pulled down the velvet rope to allow students to head down the carpet behind Brittney.

Drew was Roland's best friend, knowing him ever since he moved to Echo Creek when they were little. Still… he couldn't help but be a little alarmed. "… What's this?"

Walking with Sabrina closer to Roland, he leaned towards him. "This is the best I'm ever gonna look, so I'm rolling with it."

"Okay, but what did Brittney want for the makeover…"
He stopped and realized that Drew's injuries were gone. "… And I'm betting the medical treatment."

Drew looked at Sabrina, who answered. "Um… that he accompanied me t-to the dance. That's all… she didn't ask him about… any… theoretical pranks…"

Confirming it with a nod, Drew added. "And if she had, I would've left on the spot."

Chantal suddenly leaned in, hugging Sabrina's other arm, making her freeze like a rabbit, and Ferguson to stare at her like deer caught in her high beams. "There is a prank though, right?"

Megan rolled her eyes as she joined Roland's side and pulled him from Alfonzo and Ferguson. "Chantal, back off with that." She then grinned wolfishly at him. "Hey~ big pimpin'~"

Roland flushed as he was led along. "Dang… you're looking amazing." He turned to Alfonzo and Ferguson. "You guys sit tight, aight?"

Ferguson was still gawking at Chantal as she smirked at Megan, while the extremely married Alfonzo sharply saluted Roland and Drew. "Good luck and good night, yes?"

"I've got the luck part down pat!" Roland boasted.

Megan laughed. "Yeah, I've been up since six in the morning getting ready for tonight, you'd better appreciate."

Chantal shrugged her shoulders. "And you're still only the third best-dressed person here."

"Pfft!" Megan dismissed that outright. "Please, I'm number two."

Brittney looked back at them. "No need to debate, you all share the number two spot." She opened the fan to wave it at herself. "But that was obvious from the start."

Right as she made that boast, the air slashed vertically in front of her, and a shimmering portal swirled outward wide enough to block the path of Brittney, her entourage, and the other students. Seeing literal magic materialize in front of her, the rich girl's eyes went wide while the guards all visibly tensed after being so statue-like before.

Stepping out of the portal, the picture of grace in a glittering rose red shoulderless evening dress with a rainbow-trailing shooting star that wrapped around it was Mabel, her literally sparkling hair held in place by a matching red hairband instead of the vibrant pink. Touching down on the carpet in heels that matched her dress, Mabel brought her fingers up and blew a kiss to her classmates as she winked.

At her left, Misao stepped out, wearing a short dark blue dress with large straps that hung off her shoulders and connected to long sheer fingerless gloves that matched her stockings. Like Mabel's, her dress, matching shoes, and the blue carnation in her hair all sparkled. Her hair also shone, now dyed completely black with a blue hue on the other side and best visible when facing her front.

On Mabel's right a girl that no one recognized for a moment stepped through, in a yellow halter-top chiffon dress that likewise sparkled. It clicked that the girl with shoulder length, shiny black hair and no old hat to hide it was Janna when they noticed she was wearing a pair of jarring black knee high combat boots that were at least laced up tight.

"Stylish minds think alike," Mabel said to Brittney. "Because we both decided to be fashionably late to this par-tay~!"

"… Wow," Roland said as he openly gawked at Mabel.

Megan would be offended, if she was not in awe of Janna's glow up. "Yo…"

She wasn't the only one impressed, as Drew averted his eyes from Janna–and she caught it with a more vicious smirk.

Sabrina was looking back and forth between Mabel and Misao, her head almost spinning as she sputtered. "… Th-they're real…"

Brittney looked around as the portal closed behind Mabel, Misao, and Janna. "Where is she?"

Mabel didn't even pretend to play dumb. "Star is not coming, like you asked her."'

She held up the Dimensional Scissors. "These right here mean she can't sneak in."

With that she tossed them to Brittney, who snatched her free hand out and caught them. Staring at the scissors, she opened them and closed them, gently cutting into the fabric of space time as she did. Pulling the scissors out of the hole she made, she closed and put them away.

"Good." She looked at Janna, and the bracelet she wore. "Where'd you get–?"

"Jackie Lynn Thomas, who is not showing up," Janna replied, cutting her off.

Her brow furrowed; Brittney looked Janna over before she turned her nose up. "Well, you put in the effort to look decent. You're in."

Janna's smile was thin and fake. "Yeah, like your permission matters."

Mabel stepped aside, moving Misao and Janna with her. "Let's be nice, guys. We're here to have a nice night, not kick off more drama."

Misao agreed as she followed the two so Brittney could pass. "Ja, this is Fraulein Wong's evening. We're just a part of it."

At the back of the crowd, as everyone started going inside, Ferguson and Alfonzo watched them.

"Started from the bottom, now they way up," Ferguson muttered. "Comic book nerds dancing with cheerleaders; there's hope in this world."

Alfonzo looked at him. "Well, yeah. You almost married the Pixie Empress, you know."

Ferguson nodded and placed his hands on his hips. "There's just too much of me to love, Al."

He then looked at Alfonzo and jokingly began to ask. "On that note–how do you and sugar wings–?"

"Don't ask questions you aren't prepared to handle the answers to," Alfonzo warned, in a dead serious voice, shutting Ferguson up.

"Alfonzo~! Ferguson~!" Both boys turned and walked around the limo, where they saw Star sitting in a front yard across the street from the school in a folding lawn chair along with Shermie, who was in a plastic patio chair. There was a cooler between them, and a can of Pitt Cola in her hand. "Have you ever tried this peach soda? It's actually got a pit in them!"

The two lit up in smiles and quickly crossed the street to join her, Alfonzo reaching her first. "Hey, Star!"

Ferguson was grinning ear to ear again. "Came to watch the fallout?"

Star shook her head. "I'm just here so I'm not too far away from my scissors. Grab a drink, sit down! Let's have our own party right here!"

"I thought you would be hanging out with Marco," Alfonzo said.

"Marco's hanging out with Dipper and Jackie, finally," Star said with mock exasperation. "So, I'm here to have brewskis with the bros."

She stopped herself. "Well, not exactly brewskis, since we're in public and that's apparently a crime here."

Shermie shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, things aren't like they were back when I was a kid. Back then you could brown bag it and nobody would care unless you acted like a putz who couldn't hold his liquor."

Ferguson immediately caught the implication. "Wait, you can drink below twenty-one in Mewni?"

"There really isn't a legal drinking age because, you know, Mewni is a brutal medieval society where there's no fridges to preserve food or water. But most other dimensions I've been to, it's always sixteen," Star explained.

"Can confirm!" Alfonzo piped in. "In the Pixie Kingdom it is also sixteen… but they don't drink alcohol–just do space cocaine!"

Ferguson pouted. "… I want space coke."

As Alfonzo dug through the cooler and pulled out a soda, Star shook her head. "I wouldn't recommend it. Do enough of it and the next thing you know you're doing really lame dances to bad songs that end up all over social media and all you feel after is dirty."

Shermie chuckled. "Speaking from experience, girlchik?"

Star pulled out her Magic Mirror compact and showed it to Shermie, Alfonzo, and Ferguson. "Secondhand embarrassment."

The three stared as a video clip played.

"It's the~! It's the~! It's the Rick Dance~!" The music sang as the dancing on screen played.

All three cringed in disgust. "Eugh!"

Ferguson grabbed his own drink and sat down on the grass to look at the school. "Well, I'd still take that over the cringefest that's going to go down in there–and not only because it looked like there was nothing but cute alien chicks in that vid."

He looked at Star. "Right?"

Star took a sip of her soda. "Actually? No… I hope they all have fun." She gestured with her can to the the dance. "Misao and Mabel and Janna are there, and at the end of the day Brittney put so much effort into this that it'd be a shame if it wasn't fun or interesting. If it can be that, then I won't mess it up, and I definitely won't wish that something bad happens."

Exchanging looks with each other, Ferguson and Alfonzo both nodded, before both held their sodas to her in a toast. Reading the proverbial room, Shermie joined in as Ferguson responded. "Well, that just proves we're at the better party anyway."

Star smiled and clinked her can to the other three. "Thanks."


What had started as Noxic's half-built workshop and a clearing for more facilities was now indistinguishable from the rest of the ruin that was The Scraplands. What had started out as Noxic was barely distinguishable from the scrap as well, the mechanical man wedged into a deep hole in the ground barely wider than he was, his limbs and head the only parts of his body sticking out of it.

Nearby, loud thuds filled the air, as Typhus lay on the ground, being literally beaten into a pulp by Hammer Kong. Everything from his shoulders down was a whitish-green and red salsa spread over the ground, and the enraged combat mecha was still pounding away at it like its existence offended him more than Typhus ever did intact.

"Make me to hammer things! Give me hammers for hands! Put me to work where there's nothing but SCREWS?! And then you have the nerve to keep runnin' into my hammers, and then you have the nerve to not get back up when I pound you into the ground?! AND NOW YOU KEEP GETTING ALL OVER ME WITH YOUR INNARDS?! YOU BASTARDS I'LL NAIL YOU TO THIS PLANET'S CORE!"

Typhus didn't say anything, but not because he was unconscious or in too much pain. A half hour into the beating, he and Noxic both reasoned that anything they said would just make Hammer Kong angrier–or at least angrier than saying nothing at all made him.



Somehow, over his own furious raving, the sound of feet hitting the ground behind him alerted Hammer Kong, and he turned around to face Jara. The sight of the red-garbed Magnavore made him see red, which in turn made her hard to see–not that he wanted to look at her. "YOU COME TO GET NAILED LIKE YOUR FRIENDS HERE, LADY?!"

"Phrasing," Jara flatly answered.

That just, as one could guess, enraged Hammer Kong further. "I'M GONNA POUND THE CRAP OUT OF YOU FOR TURNING MY WORDS INTO AN INNUENDO!"

"Try it," Jara said before she lashed Hammer Kong across his face and chest with her beam whip.

Like the very concept of existence itself, this infuriated the mad robot and he lunged at her. Being nimble, Jara sidestepped the lunge and hopped back from Hammer Kong as he turned and charged after her.


"Provide me a list of things that don't make you angry, you berserker ball peen."


"All brute force, no finesse," Jara said as she seemed to flow like water around his angry surging swings. Dodging two of the attacks, she lashed him twice more then made a "come on" gesture with his free hand.

"RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!" Hammer Kong howled before charging after her as she continued hopping back, leading him away from his battered nails née Magnavores.

Typhus let out a sigh of relief, as Noxic groaned and began wiggling his way to get out of the ground. "Finally… I thought she'd never do somethin'."

It took some effort, but soon Noxic was out of the hole and on all fours–his torso reshaped into a long cylinder that pointed straight up, while his head was bent at a right angle so he could at least look forward as he skittered over towards his pal. "You okay there, big guy?"

"I feel about as good as you look, baby," Typhus said.

Noxic let out a laugh. "Then you must be feelin' great!"

Both Magnavores broke into laughter, glad that they could laugh at anything and not get hit with a hammer for it.

Back on the winding path out of The Scraplands, Hammer Kong was–to make sure it was clear–angry as he swung his limbs/weapons at Jara.


"Now who is the bigot, presuming I am red-blooded like some human?" Jara sassed back.


His sole eye slit lit up and unleashed a shower of beams that Jara drew her cloak around in front of her to deflect in every direction, before she jumped away once more, opening the distance between them. Frustrated that this attack failed, Hammer Kong barreled after her, yelling incoherently as he picked up more and more speed.

Landing in front of a pile of cars and other motor vehicle wrecks, Jara folded her arms and waited for Hammer Kong to pick up speeds rivaling a runaway freight train–before she nodded her head and vanished in a blast of flame. With no target for all of that momentum, the pile of car wrecks would have to do, and it was not up to the task as Hammer Kong plowed into and through the ruins to come out the other side, covered in steam and scorch marks from the friction of all that steel scraping against his armored body.

With Jara not splattered all over hismy, Hammer Kong looked around and realized that she was gone. "HEY! DID YOU JUST LEAD ME HERE TO GET ME AWAY FROM THOSE OTHER TWO NAILS? BECAUSE I MIGHT DECIDE TO GO BEYOND RAGE IF THAT'S THE CASE!"

There was no answer except for the sound of someone biting into a sandwich. Turning around and looking up, Hammer Kong found a young man sitting in the open doorway of an excavator, eating a thick, meat-filled sandwich soaked in red sauce that stained his hands, soaked the bread, and was smeared all over his face. The sauce dribbled onto the black hoodie sweater he wore and the image of a brightly smiling dirty-blonde teenage girl across its chest, and some even dripped from the bill of the black baseball cap with a deer skull in its middle he wore over his curly sandy brown hair.

"WHAT. ARE YOU. LOOKING AT?!" Hammer Kong screamed at the young man.

"Nothing," the young man replied as he took one hand from his sandwich to pull out his phone.

"OH YEAH?! I'M NOTHING TO YOU?!" Hammer Kong roared.

"Nah, I'm nothin' to you," he replied as he hit a button and music began to play.

Hammer Kong stared at the young man as he resumed eating his sandwich like nothing mattered. As the soft guitar intro began to float through the air, Hammer Kong's ire ignited once more, and he looked around to his left and right. "RRRRRARGH! I NEED TO FIND MORE NAILS!"

Completely forgetting the young man, the combat mecha turned and noticed a glow in the distance–the spotlights from Echo Creek Academy shining into the night sky and the holograms advertising Spirit Week by Wong. Growling, he began stomping towards them. As Hammer Kong left, the young man kept eating his sandwich and began to hum to the lyrics.

On a dark desert highway
Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas
Rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance
I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

Jo would've used her super strength to ride her bike a little faster to get to Hillhurst, but being a reasonable girl when she wanted to, she realized that all she'd likely do is destroy her bike and she'd have to walk, or Hulk jump to get there. Hulk jumping, while something she could probably do and be hella fun, wasn't conductive to allowing her to think about what she should say.

Coasting along the relatively secluded road that the driveway of the abandoned Hillhurst Manor led to, she did just that. "A simple sorry should be enough–nothing fancy or dramatic… just admit I was wrong to be like that and work not to do it again. I think Dipper would appreciate that… the others too, obviously."

There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinkin' to myself
"This could be Heaven or this could be Hell"

She shook her head. "No, no… get out of that toxic mindset! They're not the others; Star, Misao, Mabel, Janna… they're part of the team, they're all doing their part. I mean, shoot… Star's a better fighter than all of us combined! She's literally saved our butts more than once."

Reaching the Hillhurst driveway, she slowed down to a stop and sighed. "… And Nano's right, they won't give up on me, and I can't give up on me–not when there's so much more at stake."

Then she lit up a candle
And she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say

Just as she was about to pick up a little more speed to get to the house, Jo abruptly stopped. Parked completely across the narrow driveway, to block sight of it from the road, was a dark green sports car, a McLaren 12c. Staring at the car, and seeing no one inside through the tinted windows, she looked around for any sign of an owner or anyone who could explain why it was there.

"Wait, what…? Whose…?"

A glow in the distance then caught her immediate attention, and she looked towards Hillhurst. Then she grew alarmed when she saw it was a fire, sending a dense smoke streaming upward.

"Welcome to the Hotel California…"

= - = 61 = -=

So. U Can't Touch This by MC Hammer, or Hammer to Fall by Queen? I cannot decide.
"I'd hate me," Jo replied. "I blew it, and hard. All I was supposed to do, was enjoy a normal crush on the tall, cute guy–but no. I had to look at all the other girls who he hung out with and think 'Hey Jo, you need to establish dominance. These basic bitches are annoying, they're loud, and they're nowhere near as mature, smart, and tough as you are!'"

She rolled her eyes, seething. "If I bare my teeth enough, they'll show their bellies and get out of my way. Because that's the way it goes, that's how it works. It's all about being top dog."

The fire and venom quickly left Jo, weakening into bare embers and skin irritant. "I completely lost track of why I was even doing it so fast… I just wanted to hurt them, and that's when I realized I fucked up."

Nano narrowed her eyes slightly when Jo finished her rant. "Josephine, sweetheart, you're driven to be smarter, work harder, and to always come out on top… but when you come up short you have always been harder on yourself than anyone."
Heh, welcome to the over-demanding mindset. Sometimes you can get out of it, sometimes you can't, especially when your surroundings and personality keep you locked in it until it's all you are.
"Yeah. Because it wasn't just any Mariachi band. It was a Heavy Metal Mariachi band. They melted face and it made me mad that I wasn't there to see it. The exchange kid living with Marco at the time, Akil, gave it 6 metals out of his 1 to 5 scale of how metal something is."

"That's so metal," Star said.
So... princess Luna level of metal?
"That's what waivers are for," Jackie said. "There's like this haunted house in San Diego where you go in there and they legit torture you for like eight hours. You have to literally sign your life away to even enter."
That should be so many levels of illegal anyway...

And why do I foresee Star and the others ending up having to improvise a coordinated defense strategy with he rest of the security forces near the party? Given what always ends up happening in such events, her first move should always - assuming she isn't here to trash things - to make herself known to the head of security and establish deconfliction channels to prevent confusion and blue on blue.

Ah, well. She will probably learn this in time.
House Fire
A chapter that I've waited a while to get to, the beginning of the next stage of this story and an unsettling turn of events. After this night, things are going to be different.

= - = 62 = -=

|House Fire|

When Marco and Jackie made it back to the front of Hillhurst manor, they could already see what had Dipper alarmed. In front of the house, at the edge of the vineyard surrounding it, a wall of encroaching flames blazed brightly and aggressively. The fire burned slowly but steadily, consuming the dry and withered vines left unattended for years. Flame leaped from one dry patch of vegetation to the next, growing stronger and brighter as new fuel was added.

"Oh shoot," Jackie said, worried. "What happened?"

"… That's a big fire," Marco said as he went for his phone. "I'm calling the fire department."

Flabber abruptly appeared with a pop and looked out towards the flames, as Dipper exited the tunnel to the Beetle Battle Base, panting heavily for breath. "Wait… haa… hold on…!"

Dipper staggered over to the window and looked out it. "There's someone out there."

Marco looked up from his phone and joined Dipper at the window with Jackie. Peering into the firelit darkness, they saw what Dipper was so concerned about.

Walking well ahead of the fire, but barely faster than it, was a person strolling towards the house–with a walking stick in hand and a red rubber imp mask over his face. He spotted them as they did, and stopped to lean on his walking stick.

Jackie narrowed her eyes, trying to get a clearer look at him against the fire. "… Is that a Magnavore?"

Dipper shook his head. "No, it's just some guy who was setting fire to the edge of the vineyard. I caught him on surveillance."

Marco turned to Flabber. "Hey, can't you put the fire out?"

"I can," Flabber said, "But we don't know who this guy is and what he's doing here. If I start magicking up the place, he could see it and that could cause problems."

"After he started the fire he headed this way," Dipper said with a slightly heavier tone.

Marco didn't like the implication. "Then he stopped when we came up to the window."

And he wasn't moving.

Turning to Jackie, Marco put a hand on her shoulder. "Stay in the house… I'm gonna go see what he wants."

Dipper headed past him. "We are."

He called back to Flabber. "As soon as we got this guy gone, you do what you need to put the fire out."

"Flabber engine one is on standby!" Flabber, dressed as a firefighter, said as he dropped the visor of his helmet over his face.

As Marco headed out the door, Jackie called after him. "Be careful, okay?"

He looked back and smiled. "We'll be okay."

With that, he followed Dipper outside and the two walked up to the masked man waiting up the path. Side by side they approached, Marco trailing at first but then slowly edging ahead of them as they neared the encroaching heat from the burning vineyard. The man, mask and all, remained still even as the wind generated by the fire blew at his back, rustling his very human clothes and making the wolf and imp on the end of the string connected to his walking stick dance.

As they neared him, Marco realized that the walking stick was anything but. It was a bokken… a long one, on top of that. He tensed up, his guard and alertness high when both stopped.

Dipper spoke. "What are you doing here, and why'd you start the fire?"

The masked man did not move for a moment, before he nodded. "Aight, listen up, I'm Goblin."

"… Goblin?" Marco asked.

Goblin gripped his sword tighter. "Goblin deez nutz, cuh."

Marco recoiled. "… I walked right into that one."

"Nah but for real, y'all can call me Goblin, and I'm just gonna cut to the chase, if you cool with that, Pine Tree."

Dipper's eyes widened with fury, as he recognized where this was headed. Marco grew incensed as well, since there were only two idiots in this whole city who were happy to call him that.

Goblin pointed at Dipper. "The way I see it, there's two ways this can go: Either you be a man and let me whup your ass for one minute straight, or I can dog-walk all y'all until I get bored–and that goes for the thick shorty you left back in the house."

And now Marco was furious. "… Excuse you…?!"

Dipper's right hand dropped to his side, his fingers twitching. "And if I'm not in the mood to play along with either?"

Lifting his free hand, Goblin waved his finger admonishingly. "No, no, no my guy… that's the only choice you get in this."

He pointed at Dipper with the handle of his wooden sword. "Either I beat you." He gestured back and forth with it. "Or I beat all y'all."

Dipper bristled. "How much did they pay you…?"

"More than the girls that hustled 'em last time, that's for sure," he said. "In fact, that's why I'm here–and keeping it simple."

Marco, his tone cold and flowing with anger, answered. "You're not laying a finger on him, or her. This is your one warning. Turn around and walk away."

Goblin let out a laugh. "Or what? If you wanna go, let's go then, my boy!"

With that encouragement Marco accelerated towards Goblin, fire burning in his eyes as he reached him, jumped, and spun. Feinting a jumping spinning kick, he instead turned it into a spinning back kick aimed straight for Goblin's stupid mask. Instead of crushing the nose of the mask and whatever face lay underneath, his foot collided hard with the flat side of the dense wooden sword, his strike blocked with a rattling sound of wood against metal.

The force of the blow pushed Goblin back a whole yard from Marco, his feet dragging on the ground, before he stopped.

"Oh word, you MAD mad. Aight, show me somethin' and I won't slap your girl up!" Goblin said as he rushed right back at Marco.

Marco, not in the mood for banter, let out a kiai as he swung his right heel in a wide kick for the left side of Goblin's head. When Goblin ducked under it, Marco came back around and began swinging viciously for his face with quick, violent punches that Goblin evaded by swaying and dipping from side to side while bobbing his head to weave around his fists.

"Marco, don't let him bait you!" Dipper yelled, before there was a loud slap from flesh hitting wood and the rattling of metal as Marco punched the flat side of the sword's upraised handle again.

His left fist grinding against the wood, Marco glared at the expressionless visage of the Imp mask staring back, and used the back of his hand to shove the wooden sword out of the way as his right hand came up in an uppercut aimed at Goblin's jaw.

Goblin weaved his head around and ducked low as the uppercut passed, before he shot his left hand forward and drove the hilt of the wooden sword into Marco's solar plexus. As the air was forced from his lungs, Goblin struck twice more in quick succession, hitting the same place before he came up and slammed his horizontally held forearm across Marco's face as it came down, knocking him away from him in a stagger.

Coughing, Marco stumbled back towards Dipper, stopped abruptly, and then turned to his left in order to avoid the wooden sword coming down on where his head had been an instant before. He turned to face Goblin as the swordsman did not hesitate, swinging upward and diagonally towards his torso, and jumped back from the strike.

"Bro, what is your footwork?!" Goblin said as he kept swinging the sword, and Marco sharply dodged a horizontal strike, a rising diagonal return stroke, and a descending blow. When Marco closed in again, he punched rapidly, but Goblin was faster, spinning the wooden sword like a propeller to block each punch before they could connect with his stomach, throat, and jaw.

Catching his sword, he moved with the spin to catch Marco's leading right foot with the back of the blade, then swung up to catch him behind the knees before lifting him off his feet and into the air, falling backward.

Goblin then brought the sword down on Marco from above, slamming him into the ground as he yelled. "IT'S TRASH!"

Watching the fight from the house. Jackie gasped. "Marco!"

Flabber brought a hand to his mouth in fear. "Ooh…!"

On the ground, Marco coughed heavily, trying to catch his breath, when Goblin kicked him in the side, sending him skipping down the road towards Dipper's feet. Grumbling, Goblin shook his head. "Whack ass VHS Tang Soo Do shit… the fuck you think this is, a karate tournament…?"

He stopped when he found Dipper pointing his Grandfather's Hi-Power pistol at him.

"… Oh…" Goblin said, as he saw that the gun was cocked and ready to fire.

Dipper stared down the sight at him, eyes wide with fury. "Back off, or I fucking kill you."

Goblin's mask made it impossible to tell what his expression was, but the near unnatural stillness of his body was something Dipper picked up on.

"My guy, it ain't about that. I'm just here to beat your ass, ain't nobody gotta die over that," he said.

Dipper was unmoved. "Excuse me if I don't want mine, or my friends' asses kicked."

A sigh escaped the mouth of the mask. "I already told you; that's happening regardless. Pull the trigger then, if you think you ready to kill."

Without hesitation Dipper fired the pistol.

Goblin's stillness had been misleading. Even as he challenged Dipper he'd been inching, creeping while looking not at him but at his trigger finger.

The instant Dipper squeezed the trigger, Goblin completed the movement, and the bullet lashed across the rubber of the mask's right cheek.

Dipper fired again, but Goblin was still moving, going lower so the bullet took off the end of one of the mask's horns. By the time Dipper fired a third round, Goblin was faster still, the bullet passing to the right of his head. His feet digging into the ground as Dipper drew a bead, Goblin kicked off in the other direction, side-hopping to his right, and passing over Marco's prone body.

Goblin could see the shock spreading across Dipper's face in slow motion, the realization hitting him that he'd fired three times and had missed. He swung the sword up and to his left, the wooden blade catching the gun and whipping it out of Dipper's hands.

And before he could bring it down for the return stroke, Dipper's right fist collided with the left side of Goblin's head, sending him stumbling away and interrupting the attack entirely.

Recovering, Goblin violently swept the sword from side to side in front of him, but Dipper was already backing from him, moving in the direction the gun had gone.

"Oh… oh…!" Goblin said as he stopped. "I thought you didn't have that dawg in you–but I fucked up!"

Marco kicked back up onto his feet, turned around, and attacked Goblin, snarling like an animal as he threw himself into a flying kick. Blocking the kick, he didn't expect Marco to use his momentum to go up and over the blade, spinning over him to kick the back of his head. Goblin's reflexes did not let him down, and he turned in time to block that followup kick.

Jumping off the blade before Goblin could swing it, Marco landed on his hands, then sprang off them like a head-standing grasshopper to shoot over him again. This time he twisted mid ascent and swung a chop that clipped the other horn of his mask and took it off.

Marco landed, and with a furious kiai parried Goblin's punishing horizontal stroke up and away from him, then rotated his arms to repeat the movement and move the haphazardly returned opposing stroke. Marco went on the offensive, yelling more kiais with each blow, punches and palm strikes targeting Goblin's head that he blocked with the wooden sword.

Dipper, cognizant of the fire and Marco pushing Goblin back, quickly scanned the vineyard for the Hi-Power. Damn it, where is it…!

Lodged firmly in the zone, Marco continued his assault, his hands moving faster and faster, his focus narrowing to break Gabe's defense.

That sword is everything to him! He thought. Get rid of the sword, get rid of the shield!

His fist slammed into the sword, which stopped moving. Marco yelled and struck it again with a palm thrust. Got it!

And that when Marco realized… that the sword was jammed into the ground, Goblin wasn't even holding it.

Goblin's right fist crashed into Marco's jaw with such force that his entire body flipped upside down where he stood.

"… Wha…?" Marco asked as his world spun.

What was happening?

"That's what you get for tunnel vision, cuh…" Goblin said as Marco hung upside down, before he slammed his left into Marco's stomach with such force that his body went flying and crashed into one of the trellis rows some ten feet away. "Get your goofy ass outta here!"

Dipper had gotten ahold of his gun when he saw Marco crash through the row. Startled, he looked back at Goblin, who was pulling his sword out of the ground.

"Wait… what?" Dipper asked when he saw Marco semi-conscious at best.

He quickly aimed the pistol at him, and Goblin stopped moving.

At the house, Jackie turned to Flabber. "Do you have any weapons in the house?!"

Flabber shook his head. "The only weapon I know about is that one."

Several arrows appeared in the air, pointing at a suit of armor in an alcove adjacent to the stairs. In its right hand it held a long 17th century style Halberd–a polearm weapon with an ax blade on one side, a short hook facing the opposite way, and a spear tip above both. Looking up and down at the weapon, Jackie nodded.

"I can work with that…"

Outside, Goblin continued his standoff with Dipper. "We doin' this again?"

Dipper didn't shoot this time, and Goblin nodded.

"You're thinking real carefully about it now, huh?"

Dipper said nothing, even as he acknowledged that Goblin was right. There was no guarantee that the gun in his hand would do anything in this situation, not against this guy.

Marco needed a second, maybe more, to get back up. Dipper knew he was tougher than that. "You realize that this isn't going to end with this."

"I don't really care," Goblin replied with a shrug of his shoulders, "I'm only here to beat you up and then I'm out. It's nothin' personal. I'd take it up with the motherfuckers who paid me as far as getting it back in blood is concerned."

Oh, they would. "That goes without saying… but grudges don't really care about technicalities."

Once more Goblin shrugged his shoulders. "I mean, it's whatever then. You, your sister, those Beetleborgs, even the magical princess. I'll knock the shit out all y'all and then you can go back to LARPing or whatever."

Everything about this guy pissed Dipper off, but he held himself back–he wanted them to get angry and make mistakes. "Are you sure about that?"

Taking a moment to think about the answer, Goblin nodded. "Yeah, pretty sure. You're all whack as fuck, my boy."

Running footsteps alerted them both, and Dipper looked out the corner of his eye to see Jackie–hefting what looked like a giant battle ax, charging straight towards them. Growing alarmed, Dipper looked down at Marco and then back at Jackie.

"Jackie, stay back!" He called out.

"Nah, if she wants the smoke the fire is right here," Goblin said as he turned and shot straight towards her in return.

Dipper turned to draw a bead on him, but he'd already placed himself between him and Jackie. Seeing Goblin running at her, Jackie tightened her grip on the halberd and ran faster.

A laugh escaped his mask. "Aight then, brave! Show me what you got!"

Right before Jackie reached him, she hefted the halberd and to Goblin's surprise the whole weapon became a solid blur–like a helicopter's rotor–before she swung it in a wide sweeping arc that he had to immediately stop and jump back from.

"Ayo, what the…?" As Goblin tried to figure out how the sleepy blonde skater chick came from with that, Jackie used the momentum of her first swing to bring the halberd up over and down to try to cleave Goblin in two.

Realizing the blade was coming down much faster than it should, Goblin jumped back and watched as Jackie used the weapon as a vaulting pole to launch herself up and above him. Yanking the weapon up after her, she twisted her whole body to bring the weapon around, over her head, and then down again, Goblin this time jumping to his right to avoid the blow.

Jackie swung herself around the weapon and set her feet on the ground, before lifting the halberd, spinning it above her head, and pointing it at Goblin.

Goblin took his wooden sword in both hands. "Aight, I'mma be real, I didn't expect that."

Even as he expected Jackie to attack, Goblin didn't anticipate her speed as she lunged forward while thrusting the halberd ahead of her–the spear tip aimed for his throat. With a quick but short forward swing he parried the halberd aside, but Jackie circled the spear tip up and around the bokken before thrusting again, prompting him to parry the other way.

Jackie's rush of attacks continued, the young woman shouting with each lunge and forcing Goblin to parry and deflect the halberd. Left and right, aiming for his neck and chest, she was relentless as she walked Goblin back, before she overextended a final thrust and managed to get past the sword. When Goblin leaned back, Jackie rotated the shaft of the weapon and pulled it back, catching the wooden sword before she swung the weapon down and pinned it into the dry, cracked dirt.

Once more Jackie ran forward, using the spear to vault and kick Goblin in the face successfully this time. With the grace of a gymnast, she swung herself around the shaft fast, turned herself around and dragged the heel of her left foot across his face.

Goblin staggered back, pulling his sword free from Jackie's halberd, but then a much harder roundhouse kick smashed into the side of his head, sending him spinning off his feet and crashing through several rows of vineyard trellises back towards the fire he started.

Marco slammed his foot on the ground, his body trembling from adrenaline and anger.

Goblin crashed through two trellises out of control. But as he reached the third, he recovered and crashed through it back first, crouched down on the balls of his feet as he skidded to a halt. His white shirt, the cream-colored sweater vest he wore over it, and his brown slacks were covered in dirt and torn in places, and the lower half of his goblin mask was ripped open, revealing his mouth… which was pulled into a wide, open-mouthed smirk.

"Dude, are you all right?" Jackie asked Marco.

Marco wiped away the blood that seeped from his mouth. "I'm still standing."

Dipper joined him, his pistol pointed in Goblin's direction but not raised to shoot. "Let's go back to the house."

Marco glanced at him. "You sure?"

Dipper nodded. "Yeah, this guy's just here to kick the crap out of us… I say we don't oblige him at all."

Jackie and Marco looked at each other, then at Dipper, before they nodded in agreement. All three began to back up, inching back towards Hillhurst and away from Goblin.

Standing upright, Goblin's smirk disappeared. "Hol' up, where are you goin'?"

Dipper aimed the pistol at Goblin. "We're done. If all you're here to do is beat the shit out of me, then we're just not going to fight you!"

Goblin did not expect this course. "Oh word, you're just gonna bow out?"

"Take it as a compliment," Marco said as he and Jackie trailed behind Dipper, putting themselves between him and Goblin, "You're a lot stronger than we thought."

Dipper kept a bead on Goblin. "And this is over the freaking Vanderhoffs; fighting you isn't worth it."

Goblin's scowled. Tilting his head from one side to the other, popping his neck, he spoke. "How many times do I have to say this? There's only two ways this goes and one way this ends. You only get to choose if your homies get messed up with you."

Taking the bokken in his right hand just above the handle he held it down at his side. "Since I've already smacked your boy around and shorty has my respect–I'm giving you one last shot to do the right thing and end this in one minute."

Jackie took two steps forward. "Dude, you want him, you go through us."

Marco joined her. "And I guarantee you won't."

Goblin went still, the tension building in his body as he leaned ever slightly forward. "Bet."

The air shuddering around him, Goblin rushed down Jackie and Marco. Tightening the grip on the halberd, Jackie raised it, took a deep breath and lunged to reach him with her weapon before he could attack with his. Marco was right beside her, going wide to prepare to attack Goblin's left side.

When they merged, however, Goblin's left hand shot to the handle of the bokken. Jackie and Marco's eyes both widened when they saw how he held the sword, then grew wider as he pulled on the handle. The handle of the bokken separated from the rest of the wooden blade–revealing that it was in fact the handle of a katana without a hand guard, locked inside of a dense wooden sheath.

That was the only glimpse of it before the blade vanished from their sight.

In an instant, with the sound of metal shearing through metal and wood effortlessly, the business end of Jackie's halberd was cut to ribbons. In the next instant, as shock filled her eyes at the destruction of her weapon, the sheath of the guardless katana drove into her gut and she was lifted straight up off her feet and above Goblin's head.

As Marco skidded to a stop, he felt the katana's steel bisect the air in front of him, keeping him back and in place long enough for the sheath of the weapon to follow the blade on a different course–slamming into his stomach and forcing all the air from his lungs and a spray of blood from his mouth.

Marco and Jackie both hit the ground at the same time as Goblin came to a stop behind them–holding sword and sheath in both hands like their own separate blades.

Dipper rushed Goblin; hands steady despite his rage as he opened fire with the pistol while approaching him. Goblin faced him, the unsheathed sword in his left hand a blur as he twirled and spun it to deflect the seven quick shots in succession before he was close enough to lunge forward, bring the sheath across himself and swing to knock the gun up and out of Dipper's hand, sending it clattering to the ground beside where Marco lay.

A split second after that, the sheath crashed into Dipper's diaphragm, and down onto his knees he fell, clutching his smashed hand while gagging and gasping for breath.

Resting the sheath on his shoulder, Goblin looked at Marco and Jackie, and then down at Dipper. "Y'know what? I'mma keep it one-hundred… y'all surprised me."

He kicked Dipper in the face, dropping him on his back. As he lay there stunned, Goblin stepped closer, then kicked him violently in the side.

"I thought you'd go down like that, you know?" He kicked him in the stomach when Dipper rolled onto his side and tried to curl up, then kept kicking.

"But y'all… some tough ass… opps…!" He drove his foot into Dipper's arms, his face, and his gut, hitting him over and over until Dipper stopped moving and just lay still, breathing raggedly.

Taking one step back, he looked down at Dipper's right hand as his arm uncurled from guarding his body and gave it some thought.

"Did you really think them dumb motherfuckers were going to just go away after you kicked the shit outta them?"

He lifted the sword and pointed the blade down at Dipper's hand, the very tip aimed to take off his pinky finger if it came down. "They paid me half a milli to fuck you up after that. In the future, if you want your problems to go away, you need to do what you have to do."

As he held his hand still and lifted the blade a little higher to drop it, he finished. "I'mma just take a bit off the end, so you don't forget."

Three more gunshots rang out, the bullets striking the sword and shattering it just above the handle. Goblin turned and looked at the shooter as more clicking followed.

It was Marco, lying on his side, pointing the now empty Hi-Power at Goblin and squeezing the trigger over and over while giving him a look so filled with wrath that it made the swordsman take a step back.

Several more times Marco pulled the trigger, before he fell unconscious and went limp.

Looking at his broken sword, then down at Dipper, Goblin shrugged his shoulders and turned to start walking away–when something in the fire caught his attention.

He froze.

The Red Strikerborg stepped from the roaring fire, her helmet's yellow eyes shining brighter than the fire itself.

Goblin stared at the armored heroine as she just stood there in the blaze, staring back at him. He looked at the flames just swirling around her and how her trembling fingers curled and uncurled.

Slowly, Goblin stepped away from Dipper's prone body, and then began walking away from him, Jackie, and Marco. The Red Strikerborg turned her head slowly, following him until he was more than ten paces away from Dipper.

As soon as Goblin's foot fell on that eleventh step, the ground in front of him fractured from the Red Strikerborg landing in front of him, her right hand drawn back. Immediately Goblin threw his arms up to block–and when the Red Strikerborg's fist crashed into him, he was gone–a projectile rocketing away from her, sailing into the hills that surrounded Hillhurst.

Assured that no one could survive a hit like that without serious injury, the Red Strikerborg rushed over to Dipper and knelt by him. "Dipper…! What the hell happened?!"

Dipper opened one eye, then looked up at her. "… The Vanderhoffs sent him to attack us…"

Jo looked at the state Jackie and Marco were in, then back at Dipper. "I'm going to fucking kill them. After I go and finish off that asshole…!"

Dipper shook his head. "Jo, forget him… you need to call my Grandfather. I don't know how bad Marco and Jackie are, that man was not normal."

Swearing under her breath, Jo restrained her fury. As she went to call Shermie, however, numerous message prompts flashed in her helmet's HUD, all of them flagged urgent. Opening them, she lost her hold on that fury when she saw the alarming message being spammed by Mabel.

Mabel said:

Taking a deep breath, as the fire began to die down thanks to Flabber's magic, Jo looked again at her three fallen friends. She had to get them inside the house first, and make sure they were okay. However, she wasn't going to leave Mabel hanging. Using the helmet's fancy eye tracking, she sent a message.

Jo said:
I'm in my suit and on my way.

= - = 62 = -=

During the second world war, belligerent nations observed a troubling trend. In every theater, in almost every nation, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians were observed surpassing well past human limits of intellect, strength, reflexes, endurance, and survival. With so many points of data collected, researchers during and after the war came to the realization that a very small percentage of the human race were superhuman, and as more data was collected an alarming realization was made of this population.

In the 1950s, these observations led to the establishment of Monster Theory: The human race was transforming into something stronger, faster, and smarter.
Dance Dance Resolution
This has been a long break. Been through a whole lot. Had to write and rewrite a whole scene, struggle with the execution of a scene and the end of a chapter. Alas, friends. We've got everything under control and finished. Volume 6 of Legends is done, and the next three updates in the coming week and a half will wrap that up.

Starting with this one.

Please, please forgive the machine-translated German.

= - = 63 = - =

|Dance Dance Resolution|

The shores of Lake Tahoe at the end of the warm season are a quiet, distant cry from the height of the summer. The shorter days and longer nights take their toll quickly, but before the last warmth leaves the dark and winter sets in, there's still activity to be found at the resorts along the deep, clear lake.

On the southern shore, standing ankle deep in waters so still that the only ripples across its surface were from her steps into it, Heather stared up at the moon hanging above the Sierra Nevada. Despite of being in such an exciting locale, with loud music, laughter, and shouts happening in the large party gathered around several fires and long tables… her expression was one of emptiness as she chewed on the meat pulled from a barbecued rib she held in her right hand.

Lake Tahoe is supposed to be fun, but all she could think about was the dance and the friends she was missing.

She hoped they were having fun.

She hoped Drew was having fun.

"I hoped someone asked him out," she murmured to herself. Hopefully it was Janna–she was dark in a cool way, and a little weird, but she couldn't remember anyone just popping up out of the blue to give him or anyone a gift as nice as that phone–and asking for nothing in return.

A small smile spread across her lips, as she imagined what it must be like at the dance. Sure, it was a Brittney Wong party, but with the likes of Mabel, Star, and Roland it was probably a wild and out of control bash where everyone was having fun. Hopefully one day she'd get to attend a real party with all of them and spend time with the people she liked to be with, instead of those she had to be with.

As if on that note, the shouting and laughter at the barbecue grew, pulling her from her daydreams of places she'd rather be. Her smile faded as she stared at the fire, before she turned away and faced the lake.

Looking at the rib in her hand, she sighed, brought it to her lips and tore off a strip of meat with her teeth, smearing her lips in red.


Like everything Brittney's hands had touched over the last week, Echo Creek Academy's Gymnasium was completely transformed to a lavish degree. The drab, gray walls of the arch-shaped gym were draped with flowing blue, purple, and pink curtains that also covered up the wooden bleachers that had been fully folded to provide more floor space. The flowing curtains and the shimmering lights provided by the disco ball and both laser light and hologram projectors created dreamy, ethereal atmosphere of a garden shrouded in magic and mystery.

The refreshment tables with bowls of punch, hors d'oeuvres, and various desserts were decorated with extravagant floral arrangements in Brittney's colors. Hologram projections of butterflies and hummingbirds flitted around the flowers, and among the students, while the dancefloor reacted with their movements, sending beautifully rendered ripples and even upward rising splashes with their steps.

Beside one of the refreshment tables, Drew and Roland stood together as their dates headed off to the restroom. The night had gone well; they had danced to a few songs and the mood was light… but there was no escaping the tension in the air, or how the eyes of other attending students fell onto Roland as they passed on and off the dance floor.

"Everyone's waiting for it," Drew said as he took note of one of the Swim Team and his date glancing in Roland's direction.

Roland nodded. "Mmhm."

He didn't mind the gawkers in the slightest; he was more focused on the one hawk who did not stop watching him all night. Brittney, none too interested in dancing with anyone, alternated between standing over by the DJ and his equipment, casually pacing the perimeter of the dance floor, or standing by the refreshments in the service of keeping tabs on him. She was on stage, grooving to the music while letting her gaze happen to wander over towards the two friends.

"So," Roland asked as he pretended to not notice Brittney's gaze, "What's the deal with Sabrina?"

Drew turned his head to his friend. "She asked me to accompany her to the dance after I got treated. I don't think there's much more to it than that."

Roland tilted his drink towards him. "Well, don't sleep on the opportunity, my guy. Is she having a good time?"

"I guess so. We've danced to a few songs, and it hasn't felt awkward," Drew replied. "I'm just not used to all this attention I've been getting…"

"Oh?" Roland had a pretty good idea of where he was going.

"Sabrina asking me out, Brittney suddenly concerned about my well-being, Heather taking me to lunch in her car, and then there's… everything with Janna. I'm… not sure what's going on, but it feels like suddenly there have been more girls aware of my general existence in the last week and some change than there has been since I've first been interested in girls."

Roland mused on that. "I mean… bro, it hasn't been long since all this mess started, but you're already taking charge of shit, working to better yourself, and you even clapped back at Trip and Van the second they started with you."

As opposed to raising his defenses and allowing Jo or Roland to back him up went unsaid.

"People notice that, and you already ain't a bad looking dude," Roland finished.

He leaned his weight on his cane as he gestured to his current appearance. "I mean damn, son, there probably ain't a girl here who hasn't been eyeing you up."

Drew looked down at himself. "Am I gonna start having to do makeup and stuff? Because all this took like an hour."

Roland laughed and shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. Could always ask Mabel how to stay fresh."

Both looked out onto the dance floor, where Mabel and Misao were dancing with Janna and several other students from Mabel and Roland's homeroom.

Drew shrugged his shoulders. "You know what? I've felt as great as I looked since I got here, I'll ask her for tips."

Still smirking, Roland gave him a teasing look. "Yeah, wait until Heather sees the new you. On that note…" Setting his drink down, he pulled out his phone and took a picture of Drew. "Because she's missing out."

Drew flushed. "Damn it, Roland…"

Roland moved close to Drew and held up his phone for the selfie. Despite himself, Drew smiled for the picture with his best friend as he took it. As Roland pulled back and began typing out a text, he asked, "Oh yeah, how'd lunch go with her?"

"Until Janna popped up to give me my phone and the Magnavores interrupted us, it was nice. We talked about… stuff… read some comics, it wasn't a big deal," he said as casually as he could. In the back of his mind, however, he realized that he'd said a few things to Heather that he wasn't even cool telling his best friend for years about.

"They also fogged up her windows pretty good," Janna said from over his shoulder without warning.

Drew yelped as she seemed to materialize into his peripheral vision from his left side, wearing the smile of a cat living its best life in an aviary. The sophisticated lighting danced wildly off the yellow, gold, and silver glitter in her hair and dress, dazzling Drew as he denied such a thing.

Roland leaned back, smirking. "Oh ho?"

"What? No!" Drew sputtered.

"Yeah, right in front of everyone waiting in line at Britta's Tacos," Janna continued.

"We were just talking!" Drew yelped. "It was hot out! Heather had her AC on!"

As Janna savored his panic, he quickly countered. "You were the one trying to peep in on us like something was going on, anyway!"

Without an ounce of shame, Janna waggled her eyebrows at him. "To reiterate, in front of God and Britta's. You know what I'm all about, why would I not look?"

Roland barked out a laugh, as Drew tried to counterattack "Yeah, why would you not? Jealous maybe?"

Janna rested a hand on her cheek as she responded in a lower tone. "I don't get jealous. There was nothing I did not like to see in that car."

Now Roland's right eyebrow shot up, while Drew's expression betrayed his puzzling over what Janna even meant by that.

She savored the moment.

"Hey y'all," Megan said as she and Sabrina returned from the powder room, "We're back."

Seeing Janna, Sabrina marveled at how the normally dark and morbid girl literally lit up the room before sheepishly joining Drew's side. "H-hi Janna."

Megan joined Roland's side. "Can we get on the floor? The slow songs are about to start soon!"

And now Drew had a new concern. "S-slow songs?"

"You know, the slow jams," Janna said before her eyes lit at the opportunity to do some more prodding. "Where you gotta bring it in nice and close?"

"I know what you're talking about," Drew snapped back as Sabrina's face colored as she began to fidget while stealing quick looks at him. "I didn't know those were allowed…"

Megan spoke up. "Brittney wasn't about to have a dance without slow songs."

Drew looked at Sabrina, whose face was now nearly as pink as her dress, and he flushed as well.

Janna then leaned close to him and all but whispered. "Just remember to keep those hands at waist level until after the dance."

Megan joined Drew and Sabrina in blushing, the red visible on her dark skin. "Girl, stop!" She shouted with a laugh.

Roland laughed into the back of his free hand.

"She is incorrigible…" Drew muttered while he shook his head. When Janna batted her eyelashes at him, he said aloud. "You are!"

Sabrina, still fidgeting, giggled with nervous energy and Drew let out a small laugh himself. For all of Janna's teasing and mixed signals, it was nice that she didn't have a malicious bone in her body towards him or anyone.

Almost anyone, as Janna's smile cooled when Brittney finished her tour of the dance floor and approached the group. With the mood getting ready to change, the hostess of the evening came down from her exclusive perch and deigned to stand among the mortals.

Drew and Roland nodded to Brittney as she reached them. With a self-assured huff, she spoke. "Enjoying the dance so far?"

Not wanting to be rude, Drew put forth his best foot. "It's been fun." He looked at Sabrina. "Sabrina, you're a really good dancer."

"Th-thank you," Sabrina squeaked back.

Roland nodded in concession. "This is quite the party you've thrown. The classiest one this school's ever seen."

Megan hugged his arm. "And it's not even over yet, huh?"

"Mm…" Roland leaned on his cane as Megan leaned into him in turn. "No, it is not."

Both young men knew what Janna was going to say. The moment Brittney approached them, her eyes lit with a malevolence that had been lurking every time her gaze fell on the socialite.

"It really is a great party," she admitted to Brittney, "In fact the only thing that sucks about it is not everyone gets to enjoy it."

Brittney's lips thinned as her typical scowl tightened into an outright glare at Janna, whose sloe-eyed stare met it with all the indifference to the cheerleader's feelings she could muster.

"That's saying a whole lot for someone who went through the trouble to show up," Brittney retorted.

Janna shrugged her shoulders. "I'm here because I'm not wanted, not because I thought this party of yours would be fun or interesting."

Brittney let out a sharp "hmph", before she spoke with disdainful venom. "Spite, that's it? How petty."

"Now who's saying a whole lot?" Janna fired right back. "I'll be up front though: I am being just a tad bit spiteful." She brought her hand to her heart and spoke with a melodramatic tone. "But I learned it from watching you."

Megan, letting go of Roland's arm, quickly stepped up. "Okay, can we chill?"

Janna gave Megan a sidelong look. "I'm just saying."

Brittney was bristling. "You've gotten your kicks, you're free to leave anytime."

Like she was offering Brittney a free swing, Janna shrugged her shoulders and raised her hands, palms upturned. "I'm not going anywhere until the end of the night. If you want me to go now, I'll go–you just need to throw me out."

"I can make that happen," Brittney snarled, "So fast, weirdo."

Sabrina grew anxious, but not in the fun way she'd been enjoying all night at Drew's side. "B-Brittney…"

Drew looked ready to step in, when Roland gave him a hard look and shook his head. Reluctantly he nodded, and both watched as Brittney's fury bubbled like foaming sea to crash against the unbothered face of Janna's iceberg-like cool.

It was then that Misao and Mabel emerged from the dance floor and immediately made their way over to the confrontation. The jovial face Mabel wore as she had stepped towards the refreshments was replaced with more mild concern while Misao was glowering the second Brittney entered her line of sight.

"Hey~!" Mabel greeted, and Brittney decided to use her as a point of reference to avoid having to look at Janna. "I hope everyone's having fun~!"

"Oh, I'm having the time of my life," Janna replied.

Misao flashed Janna a mischievous smirk. "It looks like it!"

And Megan quickly rushed to nip the side-talk in the bud. "Time out. Y'all need to back off, right now; we're not supposed to be about all that tonight!"

Mabel agreed. "Yeah, can we pull it back just a little…?"

Their valiant efforts were in vain, Brittney could not resist the bait. "No, it's gonna be like that."

She turned her full wrath to Misao and Janna. "If you want to talk crap about me and my dance, go ahead. But that doesn't change the fact that you're here, despite whatever you may want to feel about it!"

She gestured out at the party. "You're having your fun, they're having their fun, and no one's running around screaming and on fire because a hyperactive magical girl with no impulse control isn't here to summon dragons or roided out unicorns or whatever crap she's on this week!"

Pointing her fan at Misao, then Janna, she continued. "But no, fuck me for having standards, right?"

"Ja, fuck you," Misao snapped right back at her. "Do you hear yourself talk? Do you even care?! Es ist zum Kotzen, wie selbstgefällig du bist!"

Brittney saw red. "The fuck did you say to me?!"

"HOLD IT!" Mabel finally yelled, and everything stopped. The trading of barbs, the dancing, and even the music.

Everyone was staring at her, surprised at how quickly she'd gone from gamely trying to defuse the situation to taking every spotlight in the house with two words.

Mabel looked around; she was a little bit surprised at all the attention. "Heh, I still got it," she muttered to herself with a small smirk before exaggeratedly clearing her throat. "Everybody needs to hold their horses and get 'em back in the barn before they stampede. There are too many bad vibes right now, so if we're going to talk it out, let's talk it out without resorting to name calling, yelling, or angry German."

Misao looked away, pouting. "Ich weigere mich, mich zu entschuldigen."

Mabel looked at her. "Du kannst besser sein als das."

Misao turned up her nose with a huff.

"Janna, Misao…" Mabel sighed. "Brittney isn't a bad person. She's definitely not the Vanderhoffs, or any of the rich snobs or deranged celebrities I've met. And oh-hohohoh have I met some really awful people."

She walked over behind Sabrina, and placed her hands on her shoulders, making her squeak. "I mean, could Brittney really be a bad person deep down if she's friends with this cinnamon roll?"

Mabel looked down at Sabrina then back to her friends. "Look at her, she's like a tiny deer. She needs to be protected."

"Um… th-thanks?" Sabrina asked.

Mabel then stepped over to Drew, placing her hands on his shoulders next. "And look at Drew, here. He was not looking this great the last time we saw–" She stopped and looked down at him. "Hey, is this okay, I'm not hurting you, am I?"

Drew shook his head. "No, I'm fine… I was able to go to the doctor because of Brittney, and get patched up."

Surprised murmurs spread among the audience at the revelation. Brittney, annoyed that he'd said it aloud, folded her arms and sighed.

"Yeah, I fixed him up," she admitted, "He was still going to the dance, but he was in bad shape… so I took him to Hyuuga Medical Works and got him fully healed, then I got all the other work on him done."

Misao's eyes widened more. "Hyuuga Medical…! That must've cost you over a quarter of a million euro to do all that work in one day!"

"The suit wasn't cheap either," Brittney added, "Neither was the tailor, nor the Taylors."

Mabel looked over Drew's shoulder at his shoes. "Oh wow, those are Chucks?" She looked at his face. "You rock 'em well."

"Ah, thanks," Drew said with slight embarrassment.

And now Misao was just another person confused by Brittney Wong's inconsistency. "… Ah… was?"

Mabel turned to Brittney; her head tilted to one side. "I'm super confused myself; I figured Drew was in because Roland was… but all this? What's the dealio?"

Brittney rolled her eyes to look aside at Drew before turning back to Mabel. "You want to know why I spent over a quarter million euros on Roland's pal?"

Both Mabel and Misao nodded.

"Yeah, I'm pretty curious," Roland spoke up.

"Because despite the state he was in, he stood up to those jackasses Trip and Van. He didn't even flinch when Van squared up to him, when he used to hide from them in the hallway if he wasn't with Roland or his sister."

"That's… it?" Misao asked.

Brittney nodded. "That's it. When I saw that he was still basically the walking dead, today? I took him to get cleaned up, he earned it, because I respect that."

She looked out over the dance at everyone staring back at her. "I'm not like those two idiots; I don't go around judging people because I've got more money than them."

"Doubt," Misao blurted out.

Brittney glared at her. "I don't like people who don't give a shit about themselves."

Mabel opened her mouth to question that but stopped to let her finish.

"I don't expect you to get it, but even with everything I have, I can't hold everyone's hands and pull them along through life while they drag their feet."

Mabel hummed, letting that sink in, before she answered. "That's true; you don't need to take it upon yourself to help everyone."

Brittney nodded, enjoying Mabel being on her side while Janna and Misao were left sorely understanding her. "Exactly."

"But… no one asked you to pick and choose who needs help–and no one definitely asked you to treat people the way you do," Mabel firmly continued.

And just like that the wind drained out of Brittney's sails. "Huh?"

Mabel's tone changed, growing heavier as she walked up to her. "I saw how you were deciding who 'give a shit about themselves', the kid who gets picked on because of his weight with an insulting nickname, or the timid girl with cheap glasses because oh wow–we're living in LA. Both worked up the nerve to walk up to you and ask for a chance to dance… and you dumped all over them both in front of, like, half the school."

Janna shook her head with casual disgust. "Wow, that's totally not like the Vanderhoffs at all."

"You're right!" Misao exclaimed.

Brittney looked like she'd been kicked in the stomach as she looked up at the taller girl much in the same way she did Dipper when he chewed her out that same day. There wasn't fury in Mabel's expression or voice… but a faint sorrow and pity as she shook her head. "You're not wrong for banning Star. I believe you have every right to ban her from the dance, she believes that you have every right to ban her. What she did to hurt you was way over the line. Your generosity to Drew can't be overstated, either."

Mabel looked back at Roland, the entire dance, and everyone watching, before back to Brittney. "But for everything else I've seen you do–and I don't say this lightly–you've been a fucking bitch."

One could hear a pin drop from the ceiling all the way to the floor in the gymnasium, as Brittney gawked in silent shock at Mabel. Slowly, murmurs of agreement brought life back to the dance, as the subject on everyone's minds became what Brittney was going to do in the face of these revelations.

Before she could respond, however, Roland took a deep breath and stepped forward to join Mabel's side. "That's why I'm not pranking your dance."

Brittney drew back from Roland, her face paling and her eyes growing wide. "Wh-what?"

Misao huffed. "Ich hatte recht damit!"

Janna was impressed. "Of course."

A wave of gasps radiated out, as Roland explained himself. "High school is short, it's only four years and only so many dances, parties, and memories we can make before it's over," he said. "Look at everyone here, now think for a second the people who were rejected. Or who didn't want to go because of how you rejected people. What are they doing right now? How are they feeling?"

Brittney's gaze lowered.

"Is that how you want to remember tonight?" He asked. "Because that's all this will ever be to them… the night they stayed at home and did nothing because you decided they weren't good enough to be part of their school."

Roland glanced at Megan. Though surprised at first, she looked at Brittney before she nodded. "Yeah, they're right."

Chantal, who was even relieved that the courage to speak freely was cool, jumped in. "Yeah, B, we almost had this party blown out by a bunch of cool kids just straight up refusing to show. I mean, shoot, Jackie's not here, Peter isn't here… everyone who showed up was basically here for the prank…"

Sabrina took Drew's hand for support, surprising him, as she let her feelings be known. "I… I agree. You went way too far making sure this dance was perfect, Brittney. We upset so many people by just banning them like we did; if… if you could give me a chance, why not any of them?"

Brittney didn't answer them. She was looking at her feet, the weight of everyone's words upon her shoulders like the world with none of her riches and privilege to lighten the load. Her fan dropped from her hand with a clatter as it sank in.

Mabel gave the crowd a quick scan, before she placed a consoling hand on Brittney's shoulder. "You really need to think about how your words and actions hurt people. I was once thoughtless, inconsiderate, and even cruel–and that hurt the people that meant the most to me even when I was selfishly convinced that I knew what was best for everyone."

She gave Brittney a small, but hopeful smile when she peeked up at her; the rich girl's permanent scowl had lost all its potency and now looked more like a sober pout. "But… it was thanks to those same people that I was able to be better. I'm still working on it, and I think enough people believe in you that you can be better."

Looking at Drew, Sabrina squeezed his hand tighter as she smiled.

Roland was impressed. "It's really amazing how much you've grown, Mabel," he said.

Mabel looked back at him. "That really means a lot to hear from you."

Brittney sighed, shaking her head. "What am I going to do?"

Mabel turned back to Brittney. "Hm?"

"You're right," she said with self-recriminating bitterness. "This was supposed to be perfect, this had to be perfect… but it went out of control. I let all the power go to my head and ruined my entire dance."

She paused before she corrected herself. "… I ruined their dance."

Mabel pulled out an imaginary cap and put it on her head. "Well, it's time to put on my thinking cap!" Bringing her hand to her chin, she hummed. "And I think there's still a way to save this dance!"

Misao tilted her head to one side. "Throw Brittney out?"

Janna chimed in. "Turn the gymnasium into a bonfire?"

"Inspired ideas, chums!" Mabel said.

Chantal let out a laugh. "I'm down for the second one."

Janna gave her a very interested side-long look. "I like you; I'm walking you home, tonight."
"But!" Mabel said. "The solution to everyone's problems lies with our dear friend Star Butterfly!"

Brittney, staring at Mabel in confusion for only a moment, grew wide-eyed with realization. "Ah… I think I know where you're going with this…"


Not too far from the school was the Stop & Slurp, a one-story convenience store near the heart of Echo Creek and a popular spot for most of the town's youth. Tonight, it was even more of a hot spot, with loud rock music playing as the students dismissed from the dance by Brittney's decree or in protest of it gathered. Though the bitterness towards the night's events laid beneath, the ad hoc party and the near total lack of adult supervision on the long narrow roof fed a mood of excitement and cheer beneath the waxing moonlight.

Peter, the blonde and bespectacled young man who attended Karate class with Marco, sat on the edge of the store's AC unit with Ashlyn–the bespectacled girl who'd been denied by Brittney the dance for having frizzy hair and unfashionable glasses. On his other side was the young man nicknamed Moobs, who was trying not to be a sputtering mess because a cute girl with reddish brown hair was using his lap as a pillow.

"I'm so glad I didn't go to the dance," the girl with her head on Moobs' lap, Hope Hadley, said with her eyes closed. "This party is way cooler."

Moobs tugged at his collar, not used to living the anime dream. "Uh… y-yeah, getting banned has been pretty great…"

"Your lap is so comfy," Hope said.

Ashlyn looked at Hope, genuinely worried. "Um, Hope? Make sure you drink a lot of water, okay?"

"I'm fine, don't worry!" Hope cheered back.

Peter, a sensible young man, handed Moobs a large metal water bottle and nodded to him. He then asked Hope. "Hey, do you know what happened with Jackie?"

Hope giggled. "Oh yeah, um… she said she was going to hang out with Marco~."

A chorus of "Oooohs!" went up among the other attendees of the rooftop party who heard her, while Peter was surprised and pleased.

"No way, really?" He asked.

"Mmhm! She was like 'I'd so be there, Hope, but Marco invited me out and I couldn't say no!'"

Peter pumped both his fists and called to the sky. "MY MAN!"

Another boy hanging out by a drum with a fire burning in it called out. "Bullshit! I totally saw Starco sucking face on the bus! You can ask Alfonzo and Ferguson, they were there! Star was going in on him, too!"

Ashlyn was shocked. "S-Starco is canon?"

Another girl at the party chimed in. "So early? Well, I guess they do live together."

One of the football team, who was trying to avoid eye contact with their quarterback, protested. "Nah, man, Jarco for life. They've been legit connecting. Did you see how Jackie was sitting next to him at lunch?"

"Yeah," one of his teammates said, "But she was squeezed up between him AND the new guy."

The same girl who was befuddled by the suddenness of Star and Marco getting together spoke up. "Dipper? Oh no, what do you even call that ship?"

Peter pondered a particular problem. "So… Marco's making out with Star, but also going out with Jackie? Hmm… I don't think I can abide by that."

Hope let out a sharp "Psha!" and laughed. "Oh, don't worry about that; it's perfectly fine if Marco's going out with Jackie and Star."

And now the other students were curious.

"Why?" Ashlyn asked… before a flash of light preceded the opening of a portal at the center of the roof.

The music was turned off and everyone stopped what they were doing to look at the portal. Thanks to Star and her magic shenanigans, the portal wasn't strange in the slightest–in fact a few people were excited at the prospect of Star emerging and making this a real shindig… until the fantastically dressed Mabel stepped out of the portal holding onto Star's scissors. She was followed by Roland, and right behind him stepped a vibe killer–Brittney Wong emerging from the portal and keeping her gaze aimed at the roof.

Peter's eyes narrowed at the sight of Brittney, but Mabel and Roland were there, so he kept an open mind. "Hey Mabel, hey Roland… what's up?"

Roland looked around. "Sorry if we interrupted the fiesta, my guy. But uh…"

He gestured to Mabel, who took the floor. "I've come to make an announcement!"

She beamed. "Echo Creek Academy's much hyped and highly controversial Homecoming Dance… SUCKS!"

Mabel's declaration brought a wave of cheers from the party attendees, with Hope nearly socking Moobs in the jaw as she shot up her hands. "WOO! EAT IT, BRITTNEY!"

As the cheers and laughter at Brittney's expense died down, Mabel continued. "It's awful. There's awesome music, great food, no teachers acting as chaperones, slow songs, and there's even going to be an exclusive single drop at the end of the night."

The cheering turned into confused murmurs as Mabel detailed what the dance's awful accommodations.

"But worst of all…" Mabel shook her head. "… The worst part about this dance? Is that none of you are there."

Folding her arms, she nodded resolutely before she smiled big. "And I refuse to stay a minute longer at a lame school dance without the only reason I'd ever want to go!"

Peter's lips curled into a small smile, as he looked at Ashlyn, Moobs, and Hope. Ashlyn and Moobs were both looking just as surprised and hopeful as a good number of the students… but also extremely flattered, if not touched by Mabel's kind words.

"Mabel's the best, she's so nice and tall," Hope purred–unwilling to move her head from Moobs' lap.

Mabel, seeing that she had the crowd, turned to Brittney. "You're up, Princess."

Brittney stepped up to where Mabel stood and took her place as the taller girl stepped away. She looked around at her classmates, seeing mixtures of contempt, curiosity, and hope in the crowd. She squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and bowed deeply, with her hands clasped together.

"I'm sorry," she said, "For taking over the school, making Spirit Week all about me, treating you all like garbage, treating Star like garbage, and being a giant full of myself bitch. I had no right to behave like I did, and I want to make it right. Spirit Week by Wong is over and dead… this is your dance now, and you're all welcome to attend it while the night's still young."

Brittney did not bring her head up, instead keeping it down as she heard the murmurs of suspicion and debate ripple around her. Finally, it was Hope Hadley who removed herself from Moobs lap and called out.

"Let's go to our freaking dance!"

Immediately all the partiers present on the roof broke into cheers and headed towards the portal–Roland stepping aside and gesturing to the entrance like a doorman to direct the cheering, whooping, and hollering mob where to go. As everyone on the roof of the store stampeded through the portal and into the gymnasium, Mabel walked over to Brittney, and rested a hand on her shoulder.

Leaning close, she whispered. "That took a lot."

"You have no idea,"
Brittney whispered back.

"Trust me, I do," she promised.

Brittney stood upright as the last students began to file in–Peter, Ashlyn, Moobs, and the already dancing Hope bringing up the rear.

"Hey, are you gonna tell Jackie and Star that they can come to the dance, now?" Hope asked.

Brittney visibly flinched at the thought of Star showing up but quashed her feelings towards the Princess. This wasn't about her anymore. "Of course; it's their dance, too."

Mabel smiled. "Leave that to me, I'll go round everyone up."

Peter nodded to Roland. "Don't know what went down, but good job, man. The party up here was good, but Convenience Store food for a party's kinda lame, you know?"

Roland agreed as he and Peter shared a fist-bump. "Well, there's more than plenty to go around. Head on in and enjoy yourselves."

Peter smiled back and led Ashlyn through the portal with his hand on the small of her back. The frizzy-haired girl smiled to Roland and Mabel. "Thank you so much!"

"Y-yeah," Moobs said as he came up next, Hope now hugging his arm as she heard the music coming through the other side. "Tonight's already been going really good, you know?"

"Come on~!" Hope whined as she turned and pulled Moobs into the portal. "They're playing my song~!"

Turning to Mabel, Roland grinned. "Damn, how do you do it? I was pretty sure they were going to tell her to swan dive off the roof."

Brittney nodded. "Me too."

Mabel hooked a thumb to herself. "It's all in the charisma, guys! You gotta just grab the crowd and squeeze until they can't breathe!"

They entered through the portal, letting it close behind them. The now much more crowded Gym Floor was livelier than ever, as students both impeccably dressed and showing up in their street clothes partied as one big happy school. Drew and Sabrina were back in the crowd, dancing together, and Janna and Chantal were even closer to one another as they bounced to the energetic beats blasted from the DJ's table.

Misao and Megan were waiting beside the portal as it closed, Megan all but tackling Roland the moment he stepped into view. "Now this is a dance!"

Roland managed to catch himself with his cane and put and arm around her. "It ain't a school dance if the school ain't here."

"Let's go!" Megan said as she ushered him to the dance floor. "It's about to be wylin' out there!"

Misao smiled at Brittney, and over the music called. "Du hast das Richtige getan! I no longer hate you!"

To seal that declaration, she hugged Brittney, who jolted in surprise. After a moment, she sighed and returned the hug, unused to such physical affection.

"I'm not done yet," Brittney said before she looked to Mabel. "I've still got to bring her in."

Mabel pulled out her phone. "I can call her."

Brittney shook her head, and after pulling away from Misao, she turned for the door. "No, I want to do this personally, too."

As Mabel and Misao began to follow her, the former was keen to notice muffled beats that were definitely out of synch with the music–and coming from outside.

"If I know her, then she's right outside, waiting for anything to happen. I can't imagine a girl like her sitting still for five seconds, let alone almost an hour…" Brittney said as she went towards the Gym's front doors, just before she was approached by one of her security detail. "What is it?"

"Miss Wong," the svelte-suited security cyborg said, "We have an ongoing situation."

= - = 63 = - =

It feels SO GOOD to get this bad boy done. Next up, the Hammer Kong to fall.
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Once again, @The Ero-Sennin, I really appreciate your character development chapters and the decisions, moments, that say more about an individual than any kick-ass moment or superpower. One of my thoughts was that these kids are acting too mature for their age, but then it's not so implausible when most if not all of them have been thrown in growth-inducing situations, be it emergencies or simply being rich as fuck while having some conscience and self-awareness. We have discussed this theme of yours on Discord several times, but it still needs to be underlined, while your kick-ass awesome crack fics are favourites of mine, this theme of yours feels more you in a way. Kinda wonder if you'll take a shot one day at standalone stuff around this.

Noblesse oblige.
Hammer Down the Nails
Time for a fight, and the end of sever other conflicts besides. The penultimate chapter of Volume 6 is here.

= - = 64 = - =

|Hammer Down the Nails|

Across the street from the school, Shermie and Ferguson were enjoying their third sodas of the evening, while Star and Alfonzo were fiercely debating his economic development plans for Pixtopia.

"Wh-whu-?! Tax the…?! Why would you tax the peasantry?!" Star demanded of Alfonzo, after hearing of his economic plans for the Pixie Kingdom.

Alfonzo shrugged his shoulders. "Why not?"

Star slapped the back of her right palm into her left hand. "The peasants already do all the labor, and they barely have any money as it is! Do you want a peasant uprising? Because that's how you get a peasant uprising!"

The vehemence of Star's answer surprised Alfonzo. "Well, I can't tax the nobility, they always threaten to revolt when I raise the taxes on them."

Star groaned. "Alfonzo, you're the absolute and tyrannical ruler of Pixtopia. If the noblility revolts, you can just crush them, take their crap, and give it to someone who plays ball. There's only a few of them, you can replace them anytime with anyone! If you get a peasant revolt, you have to crush a lot of guys!"

That was Alfonzo hadn't considered. "… Huh! Smashing a few nobles does sound easier than razing entire cities…"

Star snapped her fingers and pointed at him. "Exactly! Plus, smashing a single house of nobility means that the rest of the kingdom's infrastructure keeps running smoothly. Use that monopoly of force, Alfonzo, crush the rich and redistribute their wealth to someone who can do the job!"

Ferguson raised his hand to his mouth to whisper aside to Shermie. "Uhh… Mr. Pines? I don't think I like where this conversation is headed?"

"Not exactly fond of it myself, kiddo. But I'm thinking they know something we don't. After all, we ain't from around there." Shermie replied.

"Okay, then," Alfonzo said as he gestured to Star with his soda, "What about representative democracy?"

Star held a hand up to about her height. "Pixtopia needs to be this literate for democracy to work."

Alfonzo nodded. "Oh, I can't do that, then," he said before holding his hand at about the height of Star's knees, "Because Pixtopia is about this literate."

"Yeah, that's about right." Star agreed.

Loud clanging footsteps began to fill the air, drawing the attention of Star, Shermie, Ferguson, and Alfonzo along with the dance's security down the street. Marching straight down the middle of the street, his head tilted up towards the flashing holographic marquee, was a seething and grumbling Hammer Kong.

"Oh cool, what's that?!" Ferguson said.

Alfonzo recognized it. "Hey, that's Hammer Hands, from Big Bad Beetleborgs!"

Star and Shermie both looked at Alfonzo with alarm, with the former asking, "Wait, are you sure…?!"

The Combat Mecha followed the streaming beams of light down to their source and saw the gymnasium with lights flashing faintly in the windows. Looking at the hologram emitter, he let out an angry growl before unleashing a burst of lasers from his sole eye, destroying it.

And like that Star got up and began running straight towards Hammer Kong.

"HEY!" Hammer Kong shouted at the dance security as they quickly drew firearms and pointed them at the Combat Mecha. "WHAT IS A SPIRIT WEEK BY WONG AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT, HUH?!"

"Unknown combat cyborg," one of the security personnel said as he stepped closer with a bead drawn on Hammer Kong, "You're trespassing with hostile intent. Leave the area immediately."

Hammer Kong slammed his hammer hands together. "CYBORG?! CYBORG?! DID YOU JUST MISCATEGORIZE ME AS A CAN OF MEAT?!"


Hammer Kong turned from the guards to Star, who stood in the middle of the street, holding her wand at her left side.

"I don't know what your deal is, but you're not going anywhere near that dance," she said resolutely.

Hammer Kong was mildly perturbed by that. "A dance? THERE'S A FREAKING DANCE OVER THERE?!"

He raised his hands above his head. "I HATE DANCING! I WASN'T PROGRAMMED WITH RHYTHM!"

Star got ready and then said as she replied, "Then let me teach you!"

And she was gone, running straight at Hammer Kong as a green glow built around the head of her wand.

Hammer Kong let out a metallic screech. "OH GOOD, YOU WANNA BE A NAIL!"

Rearing back, Hammer Kong let his right arm extend backward before swinging it up and over his head down where Star would be. "KONG CRUSH!"

Instead of flattening Star, the hammer smashed into the street, as Star sidestepped the weapon. Jumping onto Hammer Kong's arm, she ran up the overextended limb before pointing her wand at his face.

"Laser Beam Blast!" Star shouted, and the wand responded with nothing but more of the green goop from before, splattering it all over Hammer Kong's minimalist face. "Shoot…!"

Jumping from his arm, she landed on the back of Hammer Kong's clawed head, then leaped like a swan off him. Inverted in midair, she aimed the wand at Hammer Kong's legs. "Super Narwhal Blast!"

Instead of Narwhals, more sludge struck and accumulated at Hammer Kong's legs.

Star flipped herself and landed in a crouch, cursing under her breath as the Combat Mecha was only stuck in glittery sludge.

Hammer Kong shook his head and tried to move his legs. "WHAT IS THIS GLITTERY, GIRLY GOOP?! I HATE BEING SLAPPED WITH CAULK!"

Alfonzo and Ferguson both began laughing hysterically from their cover behind Shermie's SUV. Hammer Kong did not appreciate that.


"Bro, I don't swing that way!" Ferguson called back.

"WHAT'S WITH YOU MEATBAGS TURNING EVERYTHING INTO INNUENDO?!" Hammer Kong roared as steam began to hiss from his joints.

"In your end-o!" Ferguson chimed back.

"I'M GONNA SMASH THIS PLANET IN TWO!" Hammer Kong yelled, steam ejecting from all his joints and blasting the glitter sludge from his body.

One last dig, Ferguson could not help himself. "Not cool, bro, you gotta get consent, first!"

Star finished her next message on her compact at that moment. "FERGUSON! STOP MAKING IT MAD!"

Hammer Kong wound up to swing at the SUV with his left arm, when Star sprang into action, jumping onto his arm as it swung back and running along it to jump and kick Hammer Kong in the side of his hammer head. To her displeasure, her blow barely off balanced him, but did enough to cause his overextended arm to fall limp to the ground.

Star landed in front of him, wincing from how numb her leg felt after kicking so much metal, but not so numb that she couldn't dive clear of Hammer Kong's right arm coming down from above. As she landed, Hammer Kong winched in his left arm and thrust it towards her, but she nimbly jumped and twirled out of the way.

"Forget it…!" Star aimed and fired the wand again. "Green Glittery Goop Blast!"

This time the spell poured on like a out of a firehose, spraying all over Hammer Kong's chest and face. From behind the mask of goop, Star saw light shine from Hammer Kong's sole eye, and she twisted away from a laser blast that burned through it. Flipping, somersaulting, and twirling left and right, she retreated from Hammer Kong and the blasts he fired at her.

As the lasers stopped, Hammer Kong let out another frustrated yell. "STOP JUMPING AROUND AND GET HIT ALREADY!"

From his mouth slit, a barrage of glowing nails fired out, quickly growing into foot-long spears that embedded in a line up to Star, but she jumped clear of the barrage to her right.

Back behind the car, Alfonzo and Ferguson watched as Star fired another Green Glittery Goop Blast at Hammer Kong, concerned by her limited spell set.

"Hey, why isn't Star using her cool super destructive magic?" Ferguson asked.

"Yeah, that goop spell would be really useful in Pixtopia, but this isn't working." Alfonzo said.

Shermie, around at the front passenger door of the SUV, opened a case of green-colored shotgun shells, and began loading them into a Mossberg 500 shotgun he pulled from a rack in the back seat. When Ferguson and Alfonzo saw the old man calmly loading such a wicked-looking shotgun, they both grew wide-eyed in amazement and excitement.

"If she ain't using her big guns, she's probably worried about hittin' the school," the elder Pines replied as he loaded round after round into the weapon, "Last thing she wants is for that to happen."

He peeked over the hood of his SUV as Star evaded another hammer swing and got around Hammer Kong. Another Green Glittery Goop Blast to his back, finally turned the Combat Mecha around and away from the school.


As he fired more lasers at Star, Shermie got the gist of what she was doing. "You kids stay down and outta sight, this ain't the movies," he said as he pumped the shotgun to chamber the first round.

Star was already working up a sweat as she used her acrobatics skill to make herself as difficult a target as possible for Hammer Kong. The robot's poor range of motion was working in her favor but hitting him back with anything significant was impossible with his durability.

Shoot, shoot! I have to dip down; I can't fight this guy with my wand like this! She thought before she dodged another barrage of nails that punched into a parked compact car–turning it into a fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly pincushion.

Dipping down would work, but that required time to cast and stamina. She'd need someone or something to distract Hammer Kong for her.

"Hey, ya ugly putz!" Shermie shouted to Hammer Kong's left. When the Combat Mecha turned to face him, he aimed the shotgun from behind another car. "Welcome to LA!"

He opened fire, the rounds hitting and exploding against the side of Hammer Kong's head, his left shoulder, the left side of his chest, and down at his left hammer hand. Even as the rounds exploded against him, Hammer Kong just turned his head to look at Shermie.

"IS THIS HOW YOU WELCOME PEOPLE, WITH EXPLOSIVES!" He yelled before Star caught the right side of his head with more of the Green Glittery Goop.

Shermie ducked down behind the car to reload. "Since the LA Riots!"

"GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! I KEEP FINDING NEW LEVELS OF ANGER!" Hammer Kong yelled as he broke into a mad charge towards Star, jumped and swung both hammer hands and his face down to try to flatten her beneath them.

The magical princess, however, escaped the attack–but was left to look at the deep crater it left behind. "Oh my gosh!"


Star raised her wand. "Have you tried counting to ten and calming down?!"

Extending is right arm high above his head, Hammer Kong swung down at Star. "I CAN ONLY COUNT DOWN FROM TEN!"


At the front doors to the gymnasium a furious Brittney pushed them open and heard the clang of Hammer Kong's hammer smash into the ground. She looked up the street to see Star narrowly avoid the blow and hit Hammer Kong with more sludge. Almost right after that, Shermie opened fire from a new position, further up the street from Hammer Kong.

Mabel gasped. "Sherpa!"

Misao looked at the rest of the street, the nails in the road in front of the school, the crater further down it, and Hammer Kong even further beyond that. "… Ah!"

Looking at the destroyed projector and the damage to the street, Brittney turned to her security. "What's going on?! Why haven't you gone after that thing?!"

One of the security personnel nearest to her turned to address her. "Before we could engage, the HVT engaged it on her own and began drawing its attention. A civilian began engaging as well, and they appear to be moving the hostile away from the school, Miss Wong. The hostile appears to be driven purely by rage and completely irrational, attacking him would've only brought its attention back this way."

Brittney looked down the street, and at Star as her agility placed her out of reach of her attacker again.

"Green Glittery Goop Blast!" Star yelled, as she avoided once more hammer swing.

Hammer Kong used that same swing to bring his arm up and block the sludge, before he turned and tried to shoulder barge her. At the last second, Star jumped and kicked off his back, landing behind him.

When his charge stopped, Hammer Kong began to turn again, when he was fired upon by Shermie again. "YOU NEED TO KNOCK IT OFF, MEAT BAG!"

"Take it back to the second rate-hardware store you crawled outta, schmuck!" Shermie defiantly taunted back.

"SECOND RATE?!" Hammer Kong fired a barrage of nails, but Shermie taking cover behind the engine block of a parked pickup truck protected him from the barrage.

"THIRD RATE!" Star yelled as she came down on him with the wand again, blasting him at point blank with another goop blast. "You can't even hammer nails right!"

"THAT'S BECAUSE THEY KEEP MOVING!" Hammer Kong yelled, trying to smash Star flat with both hands and his own face. Star jumped back from the blow at the right moment, but the force of the triple impact sent her flying back.

Misao did not like what she was seeing. "Her magic is still not working."

Mabel agreed. "No, she's still bugged like crazy by something."

Brittney crushed the fan in her hand as she realized what Star was doing.

"Mabel," she barked, and Mabel looked at her.


Brittney held out her hand. "Give me back the scissors, go back inside, and tell the DJ to turn up the music. Don't let anybody leave unless it looks like that thing is coming back this way."

She looked back at her. "Smother them with that charisma of yours."

Misao tilted her head to one side as she stared at Brittney. "And what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to get Star the scissors… and some security I hired are going to earn their bonuses."

Mabel lit up into a big smile. Without another question, she handed the scissors to her. "You can count on us!"

Misao agreed. "Ja, you will be careful as well!"

As they headed inside, Mabel pulled out her phone and began texting out an SOS. She knew Drew and Roland wouldn't be able to slip out of the dance… but there was still her brother, Marco, and Jo she could reach.

Brittney let the door close behind her and walked towards the street, the Dimension Scissors in hand. Looking at Star's position, she saw her slowly get up as she watched Hammer Kong rise from his own crouch to face her.

"I can do this all night!" Star taunted, even though she was pretty sure she couldn't.

Hammer Kong slammed his hands together. "I'VE BEEN DOING THIS FOREVER!"

More explosive rounds struck Hammer Kong, and the angry machine quickly turned his attention back on the old man. "I'LL HAMMER YOU ALL UNTIL THE SUN BURNS OUT!"

Before Star could take advantage of the diversion, she heard Brittney call out. "Hey! Star Butterfly!"

Star, surprised to hear Brittney's voice, looked past Hammer Kong in time to see her cut open a portal, creating a second one beside her.

"Get rid of that stupid thing!" Brittney yelled as she threw the scissors into her portal. "And for the next song I'll dance with you!"

Her eyes widening, and a smile spreading across her face, Star caught the scissors turned as Hammer Kong as the Combat Mecha peppered the truck Shermie hid behind. Springing into a run Star jumped in front of Hammer Kong and slashed open the air with the Dimensional Scissors.

Hammer Kong's laser bolts lanced into the portal, and blasted into him from above, damaging him for the first time since his attack began.

"Wha… whu?" Hammer Kong asked as the Combat Mecha felt that. "What… did… you… do…?"

As the portal closed, Star opened up a smaller portal, and the end of a handle slipped out of it. "Something that I wish I'd done earlier, but I'm gonna get to really doing now…"

Slowly Star pulled a long-shafted war hammer out of the portal, one of the many weapons stored in her room. Giving it a quick test swing, she nodded. "This should do the trick, and hey! We match, now!"

Red light poured from Hammer Kong's face holes, as he slammed his hammers together. "YOU'RE GONNA FIGHT ME WITH THAT PUNY INSULT TO HAMMERS?!"

Star charged Hammer Kong, calling to Shermie as she closed in. "Mr. Pines! Back me up, please!"

"You got it, girlchik!" Shermie yelled as he fired again at Hammer Kong's head, the frag rounds exploding just behind the right side of his face and against his neck.

When the blasts distracted the berserk bot, Star jumped and swung the hammer, smashing it into the same spot Shermie hit. This time, there was a massive clang, and Hammer Kong was sent stumbling to his left.

Landing, Star charged forward. "I'm not done yet!"

She smashed Hammer Kong in the chest, a ringing sound reverberating as the Combat Mecha staggered backward from her. She ran up to him, jumped and swung the war hammer down, striking Hammer Kong atop his head and forcing him to bow down.

"You're not…"

Landing, she turned in place and smashed the hammer into the left side of his head, sending him hobbling back the way he came.

"… Getting anywhere near…"

She pursued him, raising the war hammer above her head and smashing it into Hammer Kong's back, driving him off his footing and sending him crashing down onto the ground face first.


Stepping back, panting, Star spun the hammer in her right hand behind her, twirled it around above her head in her left hand, and then caught it in both to point the head at Hammer Kong. "How's that for puny, you cheap robot?!"

Shermie called over. "Nice shot, kiddo! I'm outta ammo, can you handle it solo while I go reload?!"

Star watched as Hammer Kong began to get back up. "I've got no choice either way, go–!"

Hammer Kong then raised his hammers and smashed them into the ground so hard that the street beneath him exploded. Shermie ducked down, narrowly avoiding flying glass and shrapnel as the car's windows broke, and Star quickly leaped back as she was pelted by pieces of street flying at high speed.

Launched into the air by his own attack on the ground, Hammer Kong reached the top of his flight and fell towards Star. "YOU DAMAGED ME! NOT EVEN MY OWN CREATOR DAMAGED ME!"

Star scrambled, getting far enough away from Hammer Kong again for his impact with the ground to just send her flying rather than turn her into paste. Lifted off her feet and tumbling through the air, Star lost her war hammer and landed hard, rolling along the street before she sprang up to her feet and stopped.


Star shook the cobwebs out of her head. "Why don't you just go hammer Noxic?!"


Star tightened her grip on her hammer. "Uuugh… you are so obnoxious! I wish you would be quiet!"

A faint thud echoed in the distance, before Star saw something descend from on high, falling straight for Hammer Kong. An instant later, the Red Strikerborg crashed down onto Hammer Kong, her punch flattening him into the ground and making an even deeper pit in the street.

Behind her mask, Jo glared coldly down at Hammer Kong as she drew the Input Magnum and pointed it at his head. "How does it feel to be the nail?"

She fired repeated shots into the robot, multiple explosions going off, before with a roar Hammer Kong swung its arm back at her, forcing her to leap off him.

Jo landed on the street, right beside Star, and looked back at the crater Hammer Kong was getting up out of. "Crap… of all the Combat Mecha, why this one?"

Star looked at her. "Strikerborg, what are we up against?"

"Hammer Kong is one of Noxic's most heavily armored monsters in the comic. It took bringing out all three AVs and even Gargantis to finally take him down." Strikerborg revealed. "Just our luck, it's exactly as tough IRL as it is in the comics… my Input Magnum only scorched it!"

Star looked at Jo. "We'll never break him trying to pen."

Jo looked at Star. "Huh?"

"It's gotta be brute force," Star said, "Armor's no good if you can hit what's underneath it until it cracks from inside out."

She looked ahead at Hammer Kong as he slowly stomped out of the crater. "If my magic worked, we'd wear him down faster… but it doesn't."

Jo frowned behind her mask. "It's not working?"

"That green goop! It's been like this for days now, I can't cast any other spell from the wand because the wand's messed up!"

"HEY! RED ROBOT!" Hammer Kong bellowed. "IT'S YOUR TURN TO BE THE NAIL!"

Brittney Wong retorted. "Ugh, shut up."

Heavy caliber gunfire crashed into Hammer Kong, as the security detail Brittney Wong hired to protect the dance unloaded on Hammer Kong with Light Machine Guns, Anti-Material Rifles, and hand cannons.

Star gave a start. "Whoa!"

The Red Strikerborg looked at the security personnel. "What the hell…?!"

Pulling her phone out, Brittney hit a speed dial contact and brought it to her ear. After a single ring, a cheerful woman answered the call.

"Hench Co, because why get upset when you can have people get upset for you?"

"This is Brittney Wong," Brittney replied as she pointed her phone at Hammer Kong and took a picture of him, "Condition Black: Slip the leads."

"At once, Miss Wong, we're releasing the hounds now!" The woman on the other end of the line happily replied.

As Hammer Kong raised his right arm to protect himself from the gunfire, the barrage ended and was replaced by a new sound filling the air that the Combat Mecha had never heard before. Behind Shermie's car, as the elder Pines reached it, he, Alfonzo, and Ferguson heard it as well… the rustling buzz of thousands of cicadas.

The sound was replaced by a thunderous galloping, and then the bellowing moo of an enraged bull seconds before a pair of massive machines passed on either side of Jo and Star.

Hammer Kong lowered the hammer in time to see two strange machines rear up over him. Both resembled a tank turret perched atop a pair of long digitigrade legs that gave them simultaneously a birdlike and reptilian appearance. Each one had lifted a leg off the ground, before unceremoniously driving them into Hammer Kong's chest as powerful kicks that sent the Combat Mecha bouncing back up the street.

Star looked up at the machines, and just blurted out in amazement and excitement. "… WHAT ARE THOSE?!"

Ferguson knew what they were and yelled at Brittney. "Dude, you seriously brought Gekko UGs as security for your freaking dance?!"

"Of course, I did!" Brittney shouted back.

After a short instant, Ferguson answered. "THIS IS THE COOLEST DANCE I NEVER GOT INVITED TO!"

Shermie whistled. "Wow… didn't think you could get Shol Par commercially."

Noticing the elder Pines and seeing the gun in his hands, Strikerborg called out to him. "Mr. Pines! We've got this under control! I need you to go to Hillhurst, right now!"

Shermie lowered his weapon. "You sure you got this, Red?"

"Between all of us, we got this," Strikerborg said. "Now, go, the clock is ticking!"

His eyes narrowing, Shermie recognized the urgency in her voice. "Roger." He turned and headed back to his vehicle, calling to Alfonzo and Ferguson. "Hey, Laurel and Hardy! We gotta skedaddle!"

"Why us?" Ferguson asked.

"Because this ain't no place for civvies, and I gotta go pick up my grandson and your friend. Let's get moving!" Shermie said as he climbed into his SUV. Looking to each other, Alfonzo and Ferguson shrugged their shoulders and climbed into the vehicle as well.

Brittney looked away from Hammer Kong as one of the Gekkos turned and back-kicked the Combat Mecha, allowing the other to jump and stomp on him with both feet, and called over to Star and Jo. "Hey! Are you going to finish that thing off or not?!"

Star called back. "Uh… just a second! We're working on a strategy~!""

Satisfied that Shermie was on his way out, Strikerborg reached out and placed a hand on Star's shoulder. "Star."

Star paused looked at her. "What?"

Behind her mask, Jo took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, for everything. I shouldn't have treated you or anyone else like I have, and I don't want there to be anymore drama between us."

Star brightened. "… Really?"

"Yeah," Jo replied. "I've got your back from now on… I'm not gonna act like a punk brat anymore."

Star literally brightened this time, the light filling her cheek marks as the green, sickly glow slowly faded from her wand. She could feel it, not just in the wand but in her whole body as the dark clouds that hung over were finally cleared. "All right, then I've got your back, too! And I'm gonna try to be less of a total spazzo."

Jo turned towards Hammer Kong. "Actually? I think right now, you need to be a total spazzo more than ever."

With an apoplectic yell, Hammer Kong swung his right-hand hammer into the legs of the Gekko stomping on him. The UG was sent flying and crashed to the ground as the second unit jumped back and imposed itself between Hammer Kong and the downed unit. Still yelling, Hammer Kong lunged forward onto his hammer hands and hammer feet before pushing himself up to standing.

"I hate this world…! I hate everything in it!" He boomed. "So many nails… so many freaking nails… that don't! KNOW! THEIR! PLACE!"

Taking the Royal Magic Wand in her right hand, and the Dimensional Scissors in the other, Star twirled them as the glow in her cheek marks appeared in her pupils and spread across the whites of her eyes.

"Strikerborg?" When Strikerborg looked over at her she asked aloud, so Hammer Kong heard it. "What do you say to the villains when the heroes show up to save the day?"

Jo grinned and turned back to Hammer Kong. "You say… run."

Hammer Kong let out a roar as he charged a laser. "I'LL RUN YOU DOWN!"

The Combat Mecha opened fire, targeting Star, but only hitting the chest and helmet of The Red Strikerborg, explosions of sparks and smoke erupting off her armor as she ran into the barrage of beams and pulled her right arm for a punch.

When she reached him, Hammer Kong's own flexible right arm was already up and coming down to smash Strikerborg flat. With a yell, Strikerborg aimed her superpowered punch into Hammer Kong's falling blow. When their fists crashed into one another with a near deafening clang, a shockwave rippled outward visible from the air it condensed.

The blast struck Star with enough force to send her flipping backward through the air in surprise. "Whoa-whoa!"

Recovering in mid-air, she slashed the air behind her with the Dimensional Scissors and disappeared into the portal she created. Behind her, the blast struck Brittney and her security detail, nearly knocking the cyborgs off their feet; Brittney herself, however, stood firm as her hair whipped behind her and watched resolutely.

His hammer grinding against her fist, Hammer Kong snarled. "DON'T THINK YOU'RE SO TOUGH BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T BUDGE, YOU'RE JUST A STUBBORN NAIL!"

Appearing out of the exit portal above the two and slightly to Jo's left, Star spun like an axle as she fell. When she reached him, she swung out her wand. "WILL YOU SHUT UP?! RAINBOW FIST PUNCH!"

Instead of green glitter, the colors of the rainbow swirled from Star's wand, coating it and becoming a fist of light that hit Hammer Kong. To the Combat Mecha's shock, blow connected with enough force to lift him off his feet. Lunging forward, Strikerborg plowed a left hook into the lifted Hammer Kong's waist, knocking him backward and up the street.

The Red Strikerborg wasn't going to let him get away, using her super strength to leap after and overtake Hammer Kong in mid-air, swinging her right hand down in a powerful punch.

The super strength and Beetleborg powered blow connected with Hammer Kong's chest, and the robot's horizontal flight was diverted into the vertical into the street. Coming out on the other side, Strikerborg tumbled and jumped back onto her feet to face the plume.

"You're just one angry son of a bitch, huh?!" She asked. "But don't worry, I get it!"

As Hammer Kong lay in the shallow crater his body made, he lifted his dented and scorched head up. "THE ONLY THING YOU'RE GONNA GET, IS SMASHED INTO SCRAP!"

A small portal opened just beneath him. On the other side of that portal, Star aimed her wand at it as the glow in her cheeks and eyes brightened.

"Mega Geyser Windstorm!"

In a flash of blue light, the Wand conjured a torrent of steaming water that shot into the portal, and the plume of smoke and dust that marked where Hammer Kong lay was replaced by a geyser that launched the Combat Mecha into the sky over ten meters.

Above the geyser, Hammer Kong tumbled end over end, screaming, before gravity brought him falling back down. Spotting the glowing yellow eyes of Strikerborg below him, Hammer Kong yelled and swung his left hammer down at her.

His punch met another uppercut from Strikerborg, the two blows meeting canceled all of Hammer Kong's downward momentum, and cracks appeared in the head of his left hammer and beneath her feet.

As the Combat Mecha hung in the air, as if balanced on her fist, she called out. "It feels so good to be angry, doesn't it?!"

A portal opened behind Strikerborg and Star leaped out of it to the Beetleborg's right, aiming the wand at him.

"Super Shooting Star Explosion!"

With her yell, three large spinning yellow stars flew from their wand. The first one smashed into him, knocking him backward from Strikerborg. The second star hit even harder, causing the Combat Mecha to bounce off the ground and into the third spinning star. When that star exploded, Hammer Kong was propelled in a straight trajectory up the street like a missile.

One of the cyborgs, the head of the protection detail, watched this in quiet disbelief. "What… what are we looking at?"

Up the street, towards the intersection the school ended at, another portal opened, and a stream of Crashing Mode fire emerged from it, followed by Strikerborg herself holding down the trigger of the Input Magnum. The bolts exploded all over Hammer Kong's body with growing frequency and intensity as the distance between them closed.

The head of the detail reached up to his sunglasses. "… This is real, isn't it?"

He looked at Brittney, who was still standing in front of them, watching the fight with her arms folded.

Star swiped the air with the scissors and her war hammer slipped through it to it to land on her shoulder. Putting away the scissors, she caught the hammer's shaft in one hand and her wand over it before tossing the wand straight up. The medieval weapon transformed, the head becoming larger and the flat head becoming a rocket exhaust pipe that erupted with a magical exhaust, before the wand came down for Star to catch in her teeth.

Screaming in rage, Hammer Kong landed on his feet and stumbled as he lunged with a right arm swing at Strikerborg. "GO DOWN, YOU NAIL!"

Strikerborg did down ducking under the swing and punching him in the chest with a right of her own to make him step back. "You don't have to feel anything else!"

When he retaliated with a diagonal swing using his left, she weaved the other way and hit that same spot with a left. "You can't be sad, afraid, or inadequate if you're raging at everything!"

"RAGING IS ALL I KNOW!" Hammer Kong spat nails down at Strikerborg, the projectiles cutting small divots into her armor as she turned herself around and performed one of Marco's crescent kicks. Her form was sloppy, ungraceful, but her strength more than made up for it.

The blow connected with the side of Hammer Kong's head turning his whole body in place so he could face Star. Her war hammer's engine spewing flame, bunnies, rainbows, stars, and unicorn ponies, the Princess hurtled at the combat mecha at high speed before she planted her feet and swung into a full circle, gathering momentum so that on her second rotation she caught Hammer Kong right in the cracked and split armor of his chest.

Gripping the rocket hammer with all her might and biting down hard enough she thought her teeth could crack, Star let out a yell and continued her swing–the rocket engine's output growing into a solid, sparkling flame as she lifted Hammer Kong off his feet and began to swing him around and around.

Hammer Kong howled as he began to spin around faster and faster. "NO! I'M BREAKING! STOP!"

"GOOD!" Star yelled as she jumped and twisted her body, the rocket motor carrying her and Hammer Kong straight up. "BECAUSE YOU'RE SUCH AN ANNOYING JERK!"

With one more scream, she swung Hammer Kong straight down at the ground, yelling to Strikerborg as she did.


When Hammer Kong struck the street it shattered, the explosion of dust and dirt rocketing upward and spreading out to obscure all the combatants. Seeing such a display of force and ferocity, Brittney let out a quiet gasp as her eyes grew wider.

Hammer Kong had struck the ground so hard that this time he had bounced–his massive, armored body floating upright as the cloud of dust his impact made was suddenly cleared over the whine of a turbine. In front of the Combat Mecha the Red Strikerborg stood with her right arm raised and the whirling Striker Plasmar crackling with power as it reached maximum RPM–a spinning cone of plasma coated her arm like the flame from an afterburning jet engine.

Behind her mask, Jo let out a joyful little laugh. "Annoying is right, that's all angry people who can do nothing but lash out at everything will ever be."

She pulled one of Star's twirls–building all the momentum she'd need for her punch.

"I won't let my anger turn me into something as pathetic as you."

Like a comet, Strikerborg's punch crashed into Hammer Kong's torso, and the Beetleborg yelled out.


A thunderous crackling, as loud as Jo's yell, followed as her fist connected and Hammer Kong was blasted into the air like a Railgun bolt.

The ground shuddered under Jo's feet, and every window for blocks warped and rattled as the tumbling Combat Mecha, torn in half by the blow hurtled skyward towards the moon overhead.

Star had just hit the ground when the force of Strikerborg's finisher almost knocked her over, the same blast catching Brittney's hair and dress like a strong breeze while once more her security was caught off guard and buffeted by its force.

Inside the gymnasium, the entire building shook slightly, drawing the attention of the dance's attendees, Mabel and Misao looking upward with surprise as the lights briefly flickered and the windows wobbled.

Reaching the apex of his flight, plasma sparking and jets of flame shooting from his broken body, Hammer Kong looked at the empty, moonlit-sky above and let out a final, furious lament.

"I'm still mad."

Hammer Kong exploded, a smaller blast that tore him apart followed by a much larger one that vaporized his remains and lit up the night.

Star, catching her footing, grinned at the explosion a big smile on her face. "That's what I'm talking about!"

Behind her, as she began to do a victory dance, the stunned cyborg security personnel could only continue to stare at the light. The head of the detail lowering his glasses so his prosthetic eyes could take in all of it clearly.

A distance away, Ferguson and Alfonzo looked back when they saw the sky light up.

"What was that…?" Alfonzo asked.

Ferguson, watching the explosion, just shrugged his shoulders. "It's Star, she probably finally stopped holding back." He let out an indignant snort. "After we all leave!"

Shermie checked his driver side mirror to glance at the blast after pulling into Hillhurst's long driveway and let out a laugh. "That's certainly enough boom to be the case!"

On the roof of the school, her arms folded, and her cloak closed around her, Jara watched Hammer Kong's body disappear with the last of his fury and flame.

Uncaring of an angry idiot's end, Brittney's eyes were locked on Star and Strikerborg. Focusing on the former, she nodded slowly as a new appreciation and understanding reached her.

Star Butterfly, the magical princess, the psychopath with no impulse control, the idiot from another world…

"Ah… I get it."

Her right arm still extended skyward, Strikerborg held the position as the Striker Plasmar snapped into their locked position, arcs of red energy crackling from her arm to her body and the ground beneath her. Slowly, she lowered it and looked at Star, who turned her grin onto her.

Behind the mask, Jo let out a small laugh as she had a single thought after seeing Star go all out and tag team a monster with her.

My friends are the coolest.

= - = 64 = - =

Anger purged.
Last edited:
Dancing All Night
And now, we wrap it up. Keeping it a bit shorter than other codas.

= - = 65 = - =

|Dancing All Night|

In the wide open, mahogany-floored living room of the Vanderhoff Residence, Trip lay on a massive black couch that surrounded the home theater system whose screen was projected as a hologram just above the wall in front of him. He was on his back, staring up at his phone. On the right side of the couch, Van was scrolling through his phone, with its screen projected onto the hologram screen to reveal his Instagram feed. Like his brother, he was awaiting a message.

Behind the couch, across the living room, Dudley stood by the door leading to the home's pool deck. The old butler, keen to keep an eye out for "Goblin" infiltrating the yard, looked out over Echo Creek from the hills the home was built on. From here, he could see the fire that burned in the valley where the old Hillhurst Manor was located and the brilliant flashes of explosions from Echo Creek Academy.

Such sights left him tight-lipped, grim almost.

Letting his hand holding his phone drop to his chest, he looked at Van's projected screen and saw no new messages there. "Come on, where is he?"

Van looked over at him. "Dude, chill. He's probably being thorough, or flexing on them, you know how those Minuano wannabes gotta be."

Trip pouted and grumbled. "We totally should've gone with him and watch him get it done."

"Right?" Van agreed.

Dudley wrung his hands behind his back. "And then what, Master Trip?"

Going still for a second, Trip shot upright and turned to Dudley. His right eyebrow was arched as high as Van's left as the brothers stared at their normally taciturn butler–who was more content to simply acknowledge their orders than give lip.

"What do you mean, then what?" Trip asked. "If Pine Tree, his friends, and his whole stupid family don't pack their bags and leave LA after Goblin's done with them, then they're going to leave LA packed in bags."

Dudley visibly cringed. "You are suggesting…"

"I'm through playing around with them," Trip said cutting him off, resolved. "This is the only warning they're getting: that next time we're gonna kill them all and there's nothing they can do about it but run."

Van nodded, feeling his brother's bloodlust.

Dudley turned his head to look back out at the town below and the city of LA beyond it. "And what if after this they are not intimidated, and decide that they must escalate?" He asked. "What if Princess Butterfly comes here in response to whatever 'Goblin' may have done to her friends?"

And just like that, Van' lost the vibe as he was reminded of the magical thermonuclear device that helped stomp them.

Trip didn't care. "Whatever. If they don't figure out how screwed they are after 'Goblin' is done with them, then they're too stupid to live."

Van expressed his concern. "Um… we should think about what to do about Star Butterfly. I don't want her doing that creepy magic stuff."

Trip rolled his eyes. "I'm not scared of any of them, anymore, and neither should you."

He gestured out to his living room. "Look around at what we have! What we can throw at them! We're untouchable, and that there are consequences for even trying!"

He turned to their butler. "We snap our fingers and people like Goblin–or you for that matter, Diethard–shut your mouths and make our problems go away. I don't understand why that's such a difficult concept for you to grasp–what do we even pay you for if you can't?"

Shutting his eyes, Dudley took a long deep breath. "Of course, Master Trip."

That was the only response Trip wanted to hear from him. He turned to his brother. "From now on, we're going all in and throwing as much cash as we can to get rid of all of them. Like I said, if they don't get the hint and get out of our sight? Then it's on them what happens next."

Van, his fears pushed down, nodded as he trusted his brother. "All right…"

On the projected screen, a brand-new Direct Message conversation started. Looking up at it, Van and Trip watched the screen as the latter opened the message to see who was contacting them–someone with the name SSJ5Gogeta.

SSJ5Gogeta: Hello! Is the bounty on Pine Tree still up for grabs?

Trip and Van looked at one another.

"Well, is it?" Van asked.

Trip glanced back at Dudley and let out a laugh. "Yeah, tell him that the reward is half a mil now."

Letting out a small chuckle, Van typed up a response.

V Squared: Actually the bounty went way, WAY up! It's 500k Bro.

The response was immediate.

SSJ5Gogeta: WHAT! O_O

Trip laughed louder. "Tell him he can get a full million if he can put Pine Tree's sister in the hospital, too, however he wants to do it."

Of course, Van complied without hesitation.

V Squared: If you can put his sister in the hospital, you can have one million. Two for one, get it?

GogetaSSJ5: I GET IT LOL ^_^;;;;

Trip grinned from ear to ear as he looked back at Dudley. "Do you see? This is easy for us."

In his best impression of an old man's voice, he mocked his butler's concerns. "'WhAt iF tHey EsCaLaTe?' That's what you sound like, afraid of a bunch of bums."

Van called his brother's attention back to the screen. "Dude, look."

GogetaSSJ5: Okay! I can do it as soon as Monday! I gotta get some stuff together first and then Pine Tree is toast! Do you have his address or anyplace I can get at him?

Van replied all on his own.

V Squared: 4845 Avocado Terrace. He lives with his granddad, his sister, and this fat foreign chick named Misao Darlian. You'll get extra if you can mess her up, too. She's kind of a bitch.

GogetaSSJ5: Oh? Misao Darlian, right? TYVM, I'll keep that in mind ^_____^

Trip nodded to Van. "Good idea, we'll throw in an extra 250k for her."

"Half for the half-pint, right?" Van asked.

Trip threw himself back on the couch, his smile murderous as he rocked back and forth with anticipation. "That's right! Those idiots have no idea the shitstorm that's headed their way."


"Hostile eliminated," the head of Brittney's security detail reported as the blast cleared. "All units stand down."

Brittney walked past them, headed for the school. "If there's nothing else to worry about, go back to your positions."

The head cyborg turned to her. "Miss Wong, there's a little matter about the street, and the damage…"

Brittney shook her head. "Don't worry about it."

Inside her armor, Jo wanted to go slack, but she stayed on her feet. "Phew… what a night…"

And it was far from over, she realized. "… Shit…"

Then she looked around at the absurd amount of damage that the fight had done to the street and a few vehicles. "… Shiiiiiiiit…"

Quickly she scanned around and noticed that Brittney and her security weren't the only ones watching. In the windows, on doorsteps, and even on front lawns of almost every house on the block in front of and adjacent to the school, people were watching–and either cheering or trying to figure out what had just happened. And of course, almost everyone had a phone or camera pointed at the street.

"… Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit…"

Jo turned towards Star, who seemed to be completely ignorant of their audience as she held her wand in both hands. The wand was glowing brightly in a blue light that gave off flickers of green, then red, before it settled on becoming a soft violet.

"What…?" Jo asked.

The air began to swirl around Star's feet, before she held the wand aloft and pointed it at the sky. Lifting her up at the wand as the swirling grew, Star opened her now fully glowing eyes as the updraft lifted her hair up past her shoulders and fanned it out.

"… Super… Dipped Down…!" Star called out before she pointed the wand down at the broken street beneath her feet.


Another shockwave, this one made of purple magic and adorable kittens wearing little maid costumes shot out in all directions–washing over the street and destroyed vehicles. When the blast passed this time, the street and the cars were all repaired, as if they all hadn't been torn apart by the tremendous battle fought between Star, Strikerborg, and Hammer Kong. Even the damage done to the street by the earlier battle with Typhus and his Scabs was gone, leaving the black asphalt looking like new.

Stopping at the doors to the gymnasium, Brittney looked at the repaired street and vehicles. Even the hologram projector that Hammer Kong destroyed in his petulant fury was working again. She nodded her approval.

As the cheering from the spectating neighborhood grew, Jo, who'd been staring at Star the whole time she cast that spell, blinked several times. Did she just have actual butterfly wings there for a second?

When Star began to wobble where she stood, Jo reacted quickly. "Oh crap!"

Strikerborg bolted over to Star and immediately joined her side to support her. "Hey! You okay?"

With Strikerborg's help, Star steadied herself. "Yeah, I'm fine! Dipping down with the wand… isn't as bad as dipping down without it."

She let out a "hoo" and shook her head. "It would've been nice if Glossaryk told me that I could do that instead of ranting about hobo stew."

The two began heading towards the gymnasium, Strikerborg supporting her and gesturing for curious onlookers to stay back as they walked.

"So," she said.

Star looked at her. "Yeah?"

"Your magic is working," Jo pointed out.

Star nodded. "Two amazing things happened that helped me get it together. You and I squashed the beef… and I just got a dance with Brittney."

As they reached the sidewalk up to the gym, a message appeared–not in the group chat, but sent straight to Jo.

Marco said:
Its me Dipper

Jo tensed.

Marco said:
Grandpa just got here and we r on our way to the hospital

Jo sighed in relief, before more messages flooded in.

Marco said:
We r all in rough shape, but he says we're going to live

Marco said:
Marco and Jackie are both awake

Marco said:
Thank you for bailing us out against that guy

Marco said:
Is everyone ok? I saw the group chat is the monster gone?

Jo quickly sent a message back.

Jo said:
Star and me destroyed it. It didn't get anywhere near the dance.

Marco said:

Marco said:
Im sorry

Marco said:
I was a dick

Marco said:
I wanted to talk to you about how we could sort out all the drama

Marco said:
And patch everything up

Marco said:
Because we r all stronger when the only thing we r fighting r the bad guys

Jo looked at Star again, then at Brittney as she brought the Princess to the door. She typed out a reply.

Jo said:
Ur right

Brittney nodded to Star as she and Strikerborg walked up.

"Hey Brittney, sorry for interrupting the dance," Star said.

Sniffing haughtily, she gave a quick glance at the street. "You cleaned it up, so I don't have anything to be mad about."

Taking a deep breath, Brittney let it out and her expression lost almost all its harshness as she looked directly at Star. "I don't hate you," she said quietly. "And… I'm sorry for all the mean names I called you, and for trying to drive you out of the school the first chance I got."

Before Star could forgive her, she quickly added. "I still think you're a crazy spazz and that wand is dangerous…!" She paused and resumed her more subdued tone. "But I get it."

Star was on the verge of gushing with happiness already from Brittney's apology. "You do?"

Jo said:
I dont want to be mad at the girls anymore.

"I mean, duh," Brittney said. "It's so stupid and obvious now: you're a warrior."

Star cocked an eyebrow. "Say what?"

"All that crazy energy you got! Any time you're using magic when you're not showing off, you're trying to blast something or fight or whatever."

Star hummed. "Well… yeah. I mean… I've been beating up monsters since I was like three. My dad's a barbarian, and my mom apparently waged an entire war, so fighting's just something that's in my blood!"

Brittney gave Star an affirming nod. "And I get that, now. That's just who you are, and as long as these stupid monsters keep showing up, at least you'll have something to go off on, right?"

Star, overcome with joy, abruptly hugged Brittney, surprising her like Misao did.

"That's right!" Her chin resting on her shoulder, Star replied. "And I get you, too."

Jo said:
I want to be friends with everyone esp the other girls

Rather than clumsily try to disentangle herself, Brittney just stood frozen in Star's embrace. "… Yeah?"

"I know we started way, way on the wrong foot, and you're totally okay with leaving the bridge burnt, but…" Star pulled back. "… I want to be your friend."

Brittney stared at Star for a moment, long enough in silence to blink once, before she replied. "You're lucky I'm rich–I can afford to rebuild a stupid bridge."

Star's smile was incandescent, even with her helmet Jo had to look away from the girl before she hugged Brittney even tighter with a squeal of excitement. "I'm a Princess, remember? I got money, too. Whole country and monthly tributes from noble houses money."

Jo said:
Becuz ur so right. When we fight 2gether we are freaking awesome.

Hesitantly at first, Brittney returned Star's hug, and got squeezed harder as a consequence. Rolling her eyes, she rested her chin on Star's shoulder, all of her tension absent. "Yeah, Princess money is no joke."

She pulled back and turned towards the door. "But enough about how rich we are; I said I owed you sa dance if you took care of that thing."

Star squeezed Brittney again. "No-takesies-backsies~!" She sang as she opened the door and hauled Brittney in after her, the head cheerleader letting out a squawk as she was pulled in. Watching her go and the doors close, Jo let out a small laugh and turned to walk away from the doors. As she walked past the cyborg security, they stood a little straighter, the head of the detail nodding his head in respect to her.

She liked that.

Jo said:
It's so much better than fighting alone and being angry for no freaking reason. I'm gonna apologize to your sister, Misao, and Janna the first chance I get.

Marco said:
Go do it at the dance.

Jo said:
OK I feel bad though… they're going to be so mad when they find out what happened.

This was serious and everyone needed to know, but at the same time… she and Star just saved the dance and Star was able to be there with their friends. She had already punched whoever the hell that attacked them into the next county, and even with the adrenaline rush gone, she wanted to do even worse to Trip and Van.

There was a good possibility that after telling Mabel, Misao, and Star… they all may end up going to the Vanderhoff residence and putting them in the hospital, too.

Provided Trip and Van were fortunate enough to make it there.

Marco said:
I dont want the Vanderhoffs to ruin their night too

Marco said:
Tell them after the dance and come meet us at the hospital. We can talk about how we are going to deal with this later

Letting out a relieved sigh, Jo acquiesced to his request.

Jo said:
All right, Ill let them know after the dance and we will be over to visit you.

The Vanderhoffs could wait. No, they would wait.

It will be the only mercy they get before what came next.

For now, Jo was going to get out of this armor… and try her hand at going to a school dance for once.


Patched up enough that he was no longer indistinguishable from the ruin that was The Scraplands, Noxic was already at work rebuilding the pummeled wreckage of his workshop, which was still indistinguishable from the ruin that was The Scraplands. After spending the day sitting around and listening to Noxic talk then getting splattered all over a good chunk of the workshop and listening to Hammer Kong, Typhus was more than in a mood to work.

"Hey buddy, what do you think," Noxic asked, "We gonna put that grinder so I can get started on those Scabs?"

Typhus looked at him. "Yannow what? I think we can take our time on all that. Where'd you wantthat smelter to go again?"

Noxic brightened at Typhus' offer. "Oh man, you know exactly what to say when I've had a rough day." He pointed to his left, Typhus following the direction of his hand. "I was thinking we can put it right over there to the left of where I want the grinder to sit. Get a feed of scrap right into the fire, yannow?"

"Yeah, baby, I dig that," Typhus said as he folded his arms and nodded.

Jara landed behind them; the sound of her footsteps eerily light on the scrap metal behind them drawing their attention. With her mask in the way, there was no telling what her mood was, but she was standing as stiffly as she had been for the past few days as she stared at them.

Typhus held up a hand in greeting. "Hey, Jara, thanks for getting that guy outta here."

"Yeah!" Noxic agreed. "He was giving me a pounding headache, and I can't even feel that noise! What's the word?"

"That robot is dead," Jara announced in a neutral tone.

Noxic answered with unenthused surprise, like he'd just heard about Hammer Kong for the first time in years. "Oh yeah? How'd you do him in?"

"I didn't," Jara replied. "The Butterfly and one of the Beetleborgs destroyed him."

Noxic's reaction to that news was even less underwhelmed. "Huh, neat."

It pissed Jara off. "That's it?"

Noxic shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, that's it. I'm actually kinda impressed, yannow?"

"Yeah, Ham-Hands wasn't exactly a pushover, baby," Typhus added.

Behind her mask, Jara's teeth ground. "I believe his name was Hammer Kong."

Noxic did not particularly care. "It's not like that matters, Jara, it's destroyed."

"I'm certain that it does!" Jara snapped back, and both Noxic and Typhus stopped.

Her firsts clenching, Jara glowered at her two comrades, as her temper burned brightly.

"His anger, all because you made him for the wrong job and then forgot about him. Then you treat him like he was an inconvenience and a bother." She shook her head. "No wonder all of your creations despise you."

Noxic placed his hands on his hips. "Yeah, and?"

Jara snapped at him. "Doesn't it even bother you in the slightest?!"

Noxic lifted his hands up and shrugged his shoulders. "No? Ham-Hands was a robot, made to do one thing… and that wasn't to be my friend."

He shook his head, and looked from her to Typhus, and then back. "You can't just build friends. That's not how that works. I could build the greatest freakin' robot in the world and program it to be my best buddy for life… but it wouldn't come close to bein' as real as you or Typhus over here–and it definitely wouldn't be as real as what you have with your mercenary pals."

Jara was struck by his words. "… N-Noxic…"

The machine man walked over to Jara and put an arm over her shoulder pauldrons before gesturing to her and Typhus. "You're my best buds, and the coolest guys I know. Don't ever forget that, okay?"

Heaving a sigh, Jara nodded. "Sorry; I guess I'm still processing…"

"No, no… you do what you gotta do to get through it. We're here for ya!"

Jara was moved by Noxic's reassurance, and she looked to Typhus–who appeared to be in thought.

"Hey, that's all true, and I'm glad you said your shot, baby," he said to Noxic, "But uh… what about Macho Number 5?"

Steam exploded from Noxic's vents as he pulled away from Jara and screamed furiously at Typhus. "WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT MACHO NUMBER 5!"

Typhus recoiled. "I'm just sayin'–!"

"YOU AIN'T SAYIN' CRAP!" Noxic yelled.

Jara began to chuckle, and almost broke into a laugh before she felt a strong, fearsome chill. Noxic and Typhus both stopped their bickering as well as well, a downpitched groan leaving the mechanical man's mouth as he turned around to find Vexor standing at the edge of the workshop site.

"Interesting," Vexor said as he scanned the site and The Scraplands beyond it.

"And here I thought the worst of today had passed," Noxic grumbled.

Typhus stepped up. "Uhh… hey Vexor, you come to check up on us?"

"Yes, I wanted to amend my previous orders in light of the evening's interesting events," he announced.

Typhus grunted. "Huh? What do ya mean, Vex?"

Vexor gestured with an open palm to him. "You suggested summoning a monster to keep tabs on the children and perhaps poke at them. I'm giving you permission to act as such–there is something that I want to know, and I need something with the ability to infiltrate to find that out."

Jara and Noxic both looked at Typhus, who was intrigued. "All right, what do you want to know?"

Vexor closed his clawed open hand into a fist. "I want to know the identities of the Beetleborgs, and why their allies protect that secret."


In the back seat of his million-dollar car, Señor Senior Junior was lying on the bench seat, his knees drawn up and his lips pursed in a disgusted grimace.

In the front seat, Shego looked back at him. "You were real excited a few minutes ago when you said you found someone who knew where the girl was. What's up?"

Looking up from the phone, SSJ nodded. "Oh, I was… I very much was… they've even given me an address."

Shego, driving along, glanced back at him. "What are we waiting for, then?"

Turning off his phone screen, Junior rested his head against the car door, just below the window and sighed. "You know how it is hard to determine feelings through the internet?"

Shego rolled her eyes. "Unlike Dr. D, I only use the internet to keep up with the news and look at cute animal videos, why?"

Junior closed his. "Nevermind. Would you like to make a little more money on that ransom payout?"

Shego smirked.

"I'm listening."

= - = 65 = - =

The night and Volume 6 of Legends: A Story of Lies, is now over. Next time, something that's been a long time coming along with a recap to help people who have just gotten here to know what's going on.
Last Dance
Good day. Got a little bonus scene to fully wrap up Volume 6. Volume 7 progress is moving along smoothly, but with what's to come a quick bit of revelatory dialogue is needed. Enjoy!

= - = 66 = -=

|Last Dance|

With few knowing how close the dance came to total disaster, the Echo Creek Academy homecoming dance went on with more energy, joy, and celebration than ever before. Amidst the laughing and dancing students and Brittney's expensive and visually stunning decorations, rainbows, stars, and cute animals arced and swirled through the air as they were conjured by Star. She lit up the dance floor with her wand, like a living pyrotechnics display, as she partied with her friends.

All the divisions and tensions created by Brittney's obsession with perfection had been forgotten, and Brittney herself had been forgiven. The "Spirit Week By Wong" bracelets that had been her brand separating classmates from their happy memories were strewn everywhere–on the floors, on tables, and even some in now empty punchbowls.

Choosing to keep his as a memento of what they'd overcome tonight, Roland spun it around his fingers while he watched the dancing in a corner next to the gymnasium's folded up bleachers–a spot he'd chosen for a little space from the crowds.

His spot away from the dance wasn't a solitary one. Being in corner and out of mind of everyone else, several other students had gathered beside him, including Drew and Sabrina, who were sitting beside one another on the floor, eating some cake they grabbed from a refreshment table and were piling on with a can of whipped cream.

His date for the dance was still on the floor, dancing in a circle around a shower of yellow, gold, and orange glitter and sparkling lights shooting from Star's wand. Mabel, Misao, Janna, and Chantal were among the girls accompanied Megan–but what was so much more surprising was that Jo was there with them, sparkling in the same lights as the other girls as she laughed and urged their Ring Around the Rosie to go faster with the music.

"Nice," he said quietly, approving of the much welcomed vibe that had taken over.

Brittney, covered in glitter and a few glowing motes of light, walked past and leaned against the wall beside him, to his left. There was a weariness about her that spoke of her long day, and the emotional roller coaster she'd no doubt been on this evening alone. It all looked like everything was catching up with her.

"Almost done for the night?" Roland asked.

Brittney closed her eyes. "Mmh. I'm ready for the dance to be over, and to go home and sleep until Monday."

Roland agreed. "Nobody's gonna be mad at you for ending the party after a few more songs."

There was no better note to end the night on than now.

Brittney looked back out at the dance, then glanced at Drew and Sabrina. Sabrina was spraying some whipped cream in her mouth, while Drew was cheering her on chanting "Chug!"

She looked back towards Roland. "Yeah, I think a few more songs is fine."

He'd noticed where her gaze went. "I'm gonna be real; I respect what you got with your squad."

Brittney raised her right eyebrow. "Hm?"

"They got you, flaws and all, 'cause you got them."

"Of course, I do. Unlike those dumbasses, I know how to make friends."

Roland agreed with a nod. "You're gonna make a few more after tonight."

Both looked towards the dance floor, and at the party around Star. She had changed the glitter color to all those of the rainbow, and the spread of the shower now occupied the whole dance floor. Almost all the other people on it were circling her in different directions like it was pop music mosh pit.

Though she had bowed her head in apology, and the good-natured students of Echo Creek Academy had let bygones be bygones, Brittney felt a remorse Roland could see in her expression when he looked from the dance back towards her.

"I really fucked up," she said.

Roland nodded. "Yeah, you almost did."

"This isn't some big fancy gala like Northwest Fest… it's just a school dance where everybody goes to hang out," she looked down at her feet. "The only reason it's even in the news is because those stupid monsters tried to wreck it."

In consolation, Roland raised a good point. "At least word isn't going around about it because of how you tried to keep people out."

Brittney's eyes widened in horror. "Oh, shit… I don't think I'd survive that."

Letting out a laugh, Roland quipped. "A great perk of going to a third-rate public school: nobody cares except the people who go there."

That managed to turn the corners of Brittney's lips up a little. "Yeah… no one cares but us."

"Yep; some of us care too much, some care way too much, but hardly any of us don't care at all… and those that do only care about themselves," Roland finished. "As bad as this could've gone, at least it happened because you care about the school, and when it came down to it… you care about everyone."

Brittney sighed. "I should be better at showing that."

Roland agreed. "This is a good start."

She narrowed her eyes as she mulled on something, before asking him, "Can I come clean about something? I don't think I've even told 'the squad' this."

"I do have that 'you can tell me anything' quality about me–for whatever reason," Roland replied.

Shooting him a brief look, then rolling her eyes, Brittney turned her attention back towards the dance and looked specifically at Mabel. "Northwest Fest, the last one."

"What about it?" Roland asked.

"I was there."

At first confused by that admission, Roland stopped when he remembered what Dipper and Mabel had told him about what had really happened. "… Oh."

"I know you hang out with both of the twins. Did they tell you what happened there?"

Roland answered cautiously. "… Yeah, they did. I'mma be real, and say first off that I kinda thought it was BS."

Or he would've called it BS… if he didn't meet a wish-granting phasm that turned him into a superhero with speedster powers.

"It wasn't," she revealed. "There was a ghost, he turned us all into wood statues, and… afterward basically all of the out-of-town guests had their memories wiped by Dipper and that weird old hillbilly friend of his."

"… Except you," Roland replied.

"Yeah, as soon as I wasn't wood… I left. I got into my family's car and told my driver to floor it until we hit Portland."

She looked aside. "We got ticketed three times."

Her attention drifted to Star. "… That made sure I'd hate Star Butterfly the second she pulled some magic shit I didn't like."

So, it came from something traumatic, Roland understood that. "Look, even then… you're not wrong for being upset at Star for what she did Heck, even she thinks so."

"Yeah, and Star is from another dimension where fighting monsters and medieval battles is a normal thing for her. Just like how being a tyrant who must control everything was…" Brittney stopped and reflected on what she said, then corrected herself. "… Is normal for me."

As Drew and Sabrina, no longer preoccupied with their desserts listened-in candidly, Brittney shook her head. "If I wasn't so preoccupied with Spirit Week and keeping her out of my social distance then, I might've realized that she just didn't understand our world and could've explained things to her. But, you know… I didn't exactly put much thought into it."

She let out a small huff. "Exactly as much thought as she put into the possibility that our world is different from hers."

Looking in Star's direction again, she couldn't help but let that huff out again as more of a resigned laugh. "We're the same… not thinking at all about what our actions do."

Roland added, "And being able to accept responsibility for it."

Brittney stared at Roland, and her smile turned up a little more. "… Well, it's better than being a dense idiot like Trip and Van."

"Always," Roland quickly agreed.

Turning to Sabrina, Drew gave her a big smile as she giggled, before he leaned closer and whispered something. Her eyes widening, Sabrina's smile matched his and they both begin chortling among themselves. Roland couldn't not notice it and wondered what they were thinking… until Drew began pouring all the whipped cream that he could onto Sabrina's empty dessert paper plate.

"Trust me," he went on, seizing all of Brittney's attention, "You will never, ever be as bad a person as Trip Vanderhoff or his brother. Girl, you are too smart to be that dense."

"Did you know those two just come here so they can be richer than everyone?" Brittney asked.

Roland nodded. "Oh yeah, you don't have to tell me. They always gotta remind my Nano that she rents the space for Zoom."

"I swear, Preston Northwest cucked their so-called father twice because they're just like him."

Roland laughed a bit hard. "Nah, I met their Dad before. Trip fell straight down from that tree and hit every branch on the way."

Letting out a laugh of her own, Brittney relished having something to hock some venom at. "Head-first."

Roland doubled over a bit, playing it up a bit–even though it was genuinely funny. "Aha! Hahahaha~!"

In fact, he was just loud enough to garner the attention of their classmates, and some began to look their way.

Brittney brought her head back to laugh herself–when she immediately noticed the mass of white moving out the corner of her eye.

She turned her head, just slightly, in time to see Andrew McCormick swinging a plate-full of whipped cream for her face.


Once more, a deafening silence returned to the gymnasium, as all eyes fell upon Drew rubbing the plate into Brittney's face, making sure as much whipped cream as possible went everywhere. When he was satisfied with the coverage, he slowly pulled his hand back and left the paper plate to stick to Brittney's face.

Out on the dance floor, Star slowly lowered her wand as she, Mabel, Misao, Janna, Megan, Chantal, all the students formerly dancing, and all the cute magical animals she summoned stared.

After a moment or two, the plate unsealed itself from the mess and slipped to the floor.

Brittney blinked her brown eyes wide open, staring through the mess on her face at Drew, who was licking his fingers clean of some of the whipped cream that got on them in the process of pieing her. She looked just past him at Sabrina, clutching the can of whipped cream and biting hard on her lower lip to keep from bursting into laughter.

She then looked at Roland, who was wearing the positively most smug face she'd ever seen on the man as he leaned on his cane and tilted towards her to utter a single word.

"… Gotcha."

Brittney continued staring at Roland, silent.

Ten seconds passed with her unblinking, wide-eyed gaze locked onto him.

The DJ standing at his booth also stared in silence at the scene–before Jo made her way over to his table, scanned his mixer, and pressed a button seemingly at random.

It was perfect. Without warning, a torrent of whipped cream erupted from over her mouth as she sputtered into loud, raucous, and relieved laughter. Sabrina lost it shortly after, nearly falling forward as she laughed like a hyena rather than a nervous fox.

And that was that, as the entire gymnasium began laughing and cheering.

"My boy!" Roland yelled as he stepped forward towards Drew, both swinging their right hands in to catch one another in a firm, celebratory handshake.

Drew grinned mischievously. "Well, since this is a school dance now, it needed a school dance prank."

"Yeah, but a pie to the face? Classic, but she could've killed you." Roland said after letting his hand go.

Drew brought his hand to his chest in a mock solemn gesture. "Then I died for the craft."

He glanced out to the dance floor and immediately caught Janna's gaze, her expression a mix of mischief, schadenfreude, and pride.

"You're not going to die," Brittney said, pulling his attention to her as she wiped off some of the whipped cream, still laughing. "But you're not escaping unscathed!"

And with speed that caught him by surprise, she smashed a palm-full of whipped cream into Drew's face, while Sabrina–her eyes gleaming–turned the whipped cream can on Roland, laughing as she did.

"Oh no!" He yelped as he was showered with the confection.

As the music came back on again, Mabel beamed down at Misao. "Isn't this nice?"

All sunshine and rainbows, Misao answered. "Ja, this is the best party I've ever been to!"

Janna turned to them both. "And to think the night is still so young. Hey, Star?"

Star sidled up alongside her. "Yes~?"

"I'm thinking after-party," the Queen in Yellow suggested.

Star gasped. "Oh my gosh. We could go to St. O's for the after-party! It'll be insane~!"

Mabel reached into her cleavage and pulled out her phone. "I'm gonna tell Marco that we're coming to grab him, Jackie, and Dipper to take them there."

"Yes!" Star quickly said. "The girls at St. O's have been fiending for Marco to come visit again!"

Janna really liked where this was going, as Mabel quickly swiped out a chat with her thumbs. "We should grab the other boys, too. I'm sure they'd find St. O's an experience."

Star giggled. "Janna, you're so…"

She trailed off when Mabel went still, and her smile vanished. The tall brunette blinked several times as she read the screen, before her expression darkened into something simultaneously horrified, cold, and enraged that worried Misao, startled Star, and even had Janna taking a step back.

"… M-Mabel?" Misao, cautiously, asked.

She did not realize Mabel was capable of such a frightening expression.

Janna had a very bad feeling at that moment. "Are you okay?"

Star stepped closer. "What is it?"

Lowering her phone, Mabel said to all of them in a tone level with fury.

"We need to go, right now."

= - = 66 = -=

See you in a few weeks with the start of Volume 7.
Last edited:
It was going to happen sooner than later. A smarter person would've accepted the beating and the fact they left you off with just that.
It was going to happen sooner than later. A smarter person would've accepted the beating and the fact they left you off with just that.
Thing is, when someone establishes clearly they are going for such an escalation pattern with no desire to accept conventional defeat, the logical outcome in the absence of mutually assured destruction, is to go straight to the endgame, AKA eliminate the opponent either through the State using police incarceration or, if this isn't possible, physical elimination.

Someone is likely to get in the crosshairs of a 20 mm rifle soon - usually, I'd say .50, but in this kind of setting, once you decide to jump the process and go for overkill, you very much go for it with a few additional steps just to be sure.
Good morning, my lovely friends. It's time for more Legends. Let's get to it with the true beginning of Volume 7. If you're new here, get started at Volume 1.

Forgive, again, the MTL German lol.

= - = 67 = -=


With Spirit Week By Wong over, Echo Creek Academy was back to normal. The gaudy decorations were taken down, the blues, purple, and pink preferred by Brittney replaced by the school's proud orange, yellow, and red livery. Also returned was the laid back and cheerful atmosphere of the school, as students laughed and talked about what had ended up being one of the best dances in the school's long history.

Heather was glad to be back in Echo Creek, and back where everything looked and felt familiar. After stuffing her face with more barbecue than she ever wanted to see again at Lake Tahoe, she was even looking forward to the school's vegetarian meatloaf.

Even better, everyone was in such a good mood that the dance must've gone pretty well, too.

Reaching her locker, she noticed one of her classmates, the wide-eyed and vibrant Hope Hadley, at the locker adjacent to hers. She was standing intimately close to the large and in charge Moobs Squitson, who was red-faced and laughing nervously as she spoke in an inaudible whisper. "Uhh… hey Hope."

Hope perked up and looked back at Heather. "Oh, hey, how was Tahoe?"

Moobs looked at her, looking a little embarrassed. "H-hey Heather."

"Uh, hi Moobs," Heather replied. "And it was fine… just family stuff."

"Great!" Hope cheered before she more gently corrected her. "Oh, and um… his name's actually Mark."

Moobs, or rather Mark, nodded. "Yeah."

Heather could not stop herself. "Oh, hi Mark."

Hope hugged his arm. "And he's my boyfriend~!"

Mark's face turned a brighter red as he smiled sheepishly. "Y-yeah…"

Staring at them both, blinking owlishly, Heather nodded. "Awesome. Good for you two."

Though… if her wide eyes didn't make it clear, she was very confused. "When did this happen?"

"Over the weekend," Hope replied, "I went to the roof party at the Stop and Slurp instead of the dance. I ended up hanging out with Mark, and it turns out he is just… the sweetest~!"

She hugged his arm tighter, and Mark looked like he'd died and found out heaven was real. Heather suddenly felt great about her life just standing beside the two.

"You two are just so precious," she said sincerely, her hand on her chest, before bringing up the aforementioned dance. "What happened with the dance and all that?"

Hope gasped. "Oh my gosh, you missed like so much!"

Mark agreed. "Yeah… so much stuff went down…"

Heather made a slight nod. "I'm getting that vibe. Can I have the teal deer?"

Letting go of her boyfriend's arm, and making a little squee when he placed his hands on her shoulders to rub them Hope lifted her hands. "Okay, okayokayokay… Abridged Version: Brittney got over herself, and invited everyone to the dance and it was freaking lit."

Heather's eyes widened again. "Really?"

"Star Butterfly and Brittney squashed the beef, and they're cool now. They even danced together for like three songs."

Now the blonde's mouth dropped open. "No way…"

Gesticulating madly, but not so much that she shrugged off Mark's hands, Hope kept going. "And then Andrew McCormick just walked up and smashed her in the face with a plate full of whipped cream in front of everyone."

Heather was stunned. "Wait… Drew pied Brittney in the face?"

"It was so good!" Hope said. "Everybody was laughing so hard, even Brittney! I almost passed out from not getting enough air–andthemolly."

Heather caught that. "And the what now?"

"Nothing. Yeah. But Drew is like… the most hype dude in school right now," Hope quickly continued.

Smiling at that, Heather looked around. "Is he here yet? Have you seen him?"

"Do you hear cheering classmates? He's not here yet," Hope replied before she broke into a cheeky grin. "Oh yeah, um… he didn't go solo to the dance."

That gave her pause. "He went with someone. A girl someone?"

Mark answered. "Yeah, he went to the dance with Sabrina Backintosh. Heck, he showed up as part of Brittney's entourage."

"He had moves like Dio," Hope added.

And Heather went right back to being stunned. "… Whoa."

She had seen the selfies Roland had sent her, and really liked how Drew seemed to be enjoying his evening, but this was huge–she needed to hear it from the man himself.

It was at that moment her morning took a turn, and not a good one, as Trip and Van walked into the outdoor locker area with their usual unwarranted swagger. Spotting her, Trip adjusted his glasses and brushed his fingers through his curled bangs as he walked over to her, Hope, and Mark.

"Oh, hey Heather. Hope your weekend was nice," he greeted.

Rolling her eyes as Hope and Mark both grimaced at the Vanderhoffs, Heather turned to them. "Trip, I just got here."

Van stared at Mark and Hope, the former's hands still on the latter's shoulders. "What's all this?"

"We're dating now," Hope said.

Mark, quailing in the presence of the bigger Vanderhoff, just nodded.

Van laughed. "But he's a fat fuck."

Hope leaned back against Mark as he winced, reassuring him of her affection while the look she gave Van was murderous. "Do you two have any other energy besides 'walking pieces of shit?'"

Heather agreed. "Yeah, come on."

Trip shrugged his shoulders. "Do I look like I give a care about what any of you think about 'my energy?'"

"Yeah!" Van sharply snapped back while feinting towards Mark and Hope.

Heather shook her head. "Go be gross and up your own butts somewhere else. I'm trying to have a nice day."

Trip chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. "You could be having a great day, but uh… if I remember correctly, you decided to pick that fat loser Andrew over me."

Mark looked down at Hope. "Andrew's not fat."

She looked back up at him. "I know, right?"

"We're not dating," Heather firmly reminded Trip. "If I remember correctly, I told you that just before Dipper Pines knocked you into Glendale."

Hope chimed in. "Ooh, I still have a video of that saved to my phone."

Rather than break down into seething, Trip just let out a sharp chuckle. "Oh yeah, Pine Tree, have you seen him around this morning? I heard he had a rough weekend."

Hope, Mark, and Heather all looked at one another, with some confusion.

"I only got home late last night," Heather said.

Trip, still smirking, conceded to her ignorance. "Yeah, I guess you wouldn't know. But from what I heard, he fucked around with the wrong person, and found out what happens when you do."

Heather narrowed her eyes. "… Did you do something?"

Trip raised his hands defensively. "Whoa, hey, who said anything about that?"

"Because it sounds like you did," Heather spat back, "And you are stupid enough to brag about something like that."

Now Trip was offended. "Excuse you? You're hot, but I know you're not that dumb, Heather."

Misao's snarling German cut through the air behind them, as the small foreigner marched towards them. "Wenn du nur klug genug wärst, um zu erkennen, wie dumm du bist!"

Trip turned to her. "Uh, excuse you? I don't speak Nazi–"

As he spoke, Misao brought her hand back and slapped Trip with enough force to knock him backward towards his brother. When he caught himself, his hand on the red mark on his cheek, Misao shrieked at both brothers.

"Das ist noch nicht einmal das Schlimmste, was du verdienst!" She pointed at them both. "Es gibt kein Zurück mehr, ich werde alles zerstören, was du hast! Du wirst nichts haben!"

Heather, stunned at Misao's rage, watched as tears rolled down her face in her tirade. "M-Misao…!"

In English, as other students stopped and stared, Misao finished her ranting. "I WILL EVEN TAKE YOUR NAMES FROM YOU!"

Between them both, Van reacted first. "Yeah, what are you gonna do, half pint?!"

He quickly stopped when Mabel came around the corner and pulled Misao back from the brothers. With a hand over her mouth, Mabel gave both a hard look.

"We know what you did," she said as Misao huffed loudly over her hand and struggled to get at them. "My brother, Marco, and Jackie all ended up in the hospital."

Van recoiled a bit, hearing that Jackie Lynn Thomas somehow got involved. "… What?"

Trip huffed. "What did we do?"

"Yeah, what did you do?" Heather pressed.

Mark whispered. "Oh shit… did he really put a hit out on him?"

Hope shook her head. "No way he's that twisted…"

"He is," Mabel revealed. "He's been paying people to go after my brother since we got here, and finally someone got him good."

As the other students gasped in surprise, Mabel focused her attention back on the Vanderhoffs. "You don't get to walk around and pretend what you did is okay, okay?" She spoke. "You want the smoke? Well you're in luck, you're going to get the smoke."

"And you will choke on it and die!" Misao yelled at them.

Trip laughed in their faces. "Oh yeah? What are you going to do, tell a teacher? Call the cops? Try to beat us up? I don't care what you think you can do. I will literally pay back the worst you try a million dollars more!"

He looked around at his impromptu audience. "I can buy and sell all of you! Your lives are a week's allowance for me! A month's if you think you have money!"

He turned back to Mabel. "So square up, THOTs. If you think you have anything that can change how the world works? Show me, right now."

Heather looked back and forth between the two groups, caught between shock and terror at the fury that Misao openly roared, and Mabel didn't. And the sheer disgust and horror at what Trip had devolved into after only a few weeks from getting punched in the face. Beside her, Hope was now cowering behind Mark, who despite his own consternation was determined to be a wall between the conflict and his new girlfriend.

Mabel stared back at Trip but paid no small mind to Van. She could see it in the bigger Vanderhoff's eyes–that despite his smaller brother's braggadocio, there was a fear of consequences that Trip was outright disregarding.

"No need," she said, "As the legendary hottie Jack Burton says, 'The check is in the mail.'"

Misao snarled. "And nothing you can do will stop it from being cashed."

Mabel covered her mouth. "Girl, I know you're heated, but you're too cute to have your blood pressure this high."

Trip scoffed. "Whatever. When this is over, you're going to do the right thing and get out of my town."

He turned away from them and kept walking, aggressively gesturing for Van to follow him, which the bigger Vanderhoff complied with. As they walked away, Heather shook her head, her expression darkened to match how black her feelings were.

"What the fuck," she whispered.

Slipping her arms under Misao's and closing her hands together under her chest, Mabel hoisted the smaller girl up so her feet were dangling above the ground. She turned to Heather and managed to smile. "Yeah, don't forget, we've handled this kind of gross crazy before."

Hope looked around. "Has anyone noticed that there aren't any teachers around when intense stuff like this happens?"

"It always does!" Mabel said with an exasperated eyeroll.

"Sie werden leiden," Misao growled even as she surrendered to Mabel's strength.

"Wir werden dafür sorgen," Mabel replied to her, before switching to English. "Also, we gotta get you to class! Let's go!"

She began jogging in place as she said to Heather. "It's so nice to see you again, Heather! I hope we can get caught up and talk about all the good stuff that happened during our weekend!"

Heather, however, was still very concerned. "What about your brother, or Marco? Or Jackie Lynn Thomas?"

Mabel beamed. "Oh, they're fine, don't worry. They got patched up nicely."

She headed off, still carrying Misao. "I promise we'll talk more about it, bye now~!"

Heather watched them go and shook her head. "Wow… suddenly it feels like I've been gone for months."

Having missed the fiasco by dint of being in the cafeteria for breakfast, Drew walked up with Jo and Roland in tow. Overhearing Heather's lament, he smiled as he walked up to speak to her. "Yeah, same here."

Right away Heather brightened and turned to him. "Oh, hey Drewwwwwwww…"

She trailed off into a steady tone as she stared at the elder McCormick sibling, looking tall, confident, and absolutely fresh to death thanks to the tips he picked up and took to heart from his makeover for the dance. He wasn't as tightly dressed as he was as the dance, being back in his more comfortable daily attire, but he was wearing the Chuck Taylors Brittney bought him.

"… wwwwww…?" Heather finished, her entire face now a bright shade of pink.

Not missing a beat, Drew greeted her in turn. "It's nice to see you again, Heather."

Behind him, Roland and Jo both had their phones out and took pictures.

"Mine is going to the group chat," Jo said as she swiped her screen with her thumb.

Roland similarly fiddled with his phone. "And mine is going to Nano."

Heather snapped out of it. "Oh, come on!"

Defensively she turned away from them as Hope and Mark both laughed. "I was just surprised. You look great, Drew…"

Drew rubbed the back of his head. "Well, this is just stuff I learned after the makeover Brittney gave me."

Heather turned back to face him. "Yeah, I just heard about that. I want to hear everything."

Roland grinned. "Well, we still have a few minutes before the bell rings."

Drew agreed. "Yeah, from the moment you left, things have been… crazy."

As the Beetleborgs trio and Heather headed towards their lockers to get their belongings, and Hope and Mark joined the other students to head inside the building, none noticed the quarter-sized insect atop Hope's locker watching them go. If they had, they might have called for an exterminator. And if they had gotten a closer look, they'd have called for the school to be nuked from orbit.

The creature was reminiscent of a jumping spider, colored blue and white with large red liquid eyes in its abdomen and six red, spike-covered arms that ended in hooked, bony claws. Above the shoulders of its largest pair of arms, however, was its grotesque head consisting of a massive mouth full of interlocked, yellowed teeth, a pair of large oval nostrils, and two long feathered antennae.

The Synthetic Beast Kombat Knat ignored the three children talking with their black-wearing friend and instead scrambled along over the tops of the lockers at high speed in the direction Mabel and Misao went. Though outwardly expressionless due to his bizarre form, intensity burned in the creature's eyes as he raced for the optimal position to continue its mission.


With a burst of swirling flame, Kombat Knat leaped to life from the pages of the comic produced by Typhus. He landed in a crouch within the closed off mausoleum, before rising to full height and turned to face Vexor, Typhus and Jara. The Mercenary Army General shrank back in horror as her Synthetic Beast Army General counterpart pumped his fists in triumph.

"Welcome to the world, KK!" Typhus greeted.

Tilting up to look at his creator, Kombat Knat sprang up in an excited leap. In a raspy, gurgling, high-pitched voice it greeted him. "Creator! Kombat Knat, reporting!"

"This has to be one of your worst creations," Jara said, her disgust dripping from her tone.

Typhus let out a laugh. "You don't want to meet my worst creations, baby."

Being an inhuman monstrosity himself, Vexor missed the negative aspects of Kombat Knat's aesthetic. "So then, what can this particular creature do?"

Typhus turned to Vexor. "Oh yeah, Kombat Knat's great. I made him for gettin' into things and spying on 'em. Plus, he can fight at any size, baby."

"It's not the size of the monster, but what you do with it!" Kombat Knat said while performing a pelvic thrust. "Heyoooo!"

Jara almost threw up a little. "I hate him, and I want him to die."

Kombat Knat turned to her. "Oh. Hello. I'm Kombat Knat, and I'm the insectoid horror who's not judging you on your appearance."

Jara folded her arms in disdain. "I see he and Noxic would get along."

"Yeah, he's got a great sense of humor, baby." Typhus said aside to her before addressing Vexor as Kombat Knat preened from the praise. "So, you gonna give him his marchin' orders or what?"

Vexor nodded before addressing Kombat Knat. With a wave of his hand, he created a scrying window that showed the faces of Dipper, Mabel, Misao, Star, and Marco. "Pay attention, I need you to stick close to any of these five humanoids and collect information regarding these three."

With another wave of his hand, he conjured images of the three Big Bad Beetleborgs. "Find me the names of the humanoids hidden beneath this armor. It is of the utmost urgency."

Kombat Knat buzzed affirmative. "I can do that for you, what you want me to do when I get the intel ya need?"

Jara was a little surprised that Kombat Knat was so quick to cut to the chase.

"Return at once, of course. All of them are a risk to face in battle–with the most dangerous being these four." Vexor dimmed all the images he conjured except for Star and the Beetleborgs. Avoid a battle at all costs."

"Bzzt! Got it, tail these fleshy weirdos and find out who are secretly robots," Kombat Knat clicked his claws together. "Do you want me to pass along any other useful intel that I might pick up?"

"Of course," Vexor replied, "Anything that may give insight to their capabilities and weaknesses. The more that you can find, the better."

Kombat Knat was happy to oblige. "Leave it to me."

Now Jara felt a bit bad for being so quick to judge. "Typhus, your creations are… disciplined."

"Of course, they are, baby! I raised them up good!" Typhus boasted back. "Don't tell me you forgot how Snake Head played his role with no problem."

Jara grimaced. "Forgive me, I actually had."

With a shrug of his shoulders, Typhus forgave her. "Don't worry 'bout it. You had a lot on your plate."

The Mercenary Army General turned her attention to Vexor. "So… what exactly is your plan and how do finding out who Beetleborgs are factor into it?"

Vexor tilted his head in a nod to Jara. "Valid questions; I shall be brief in detailing my intended goal: Knowing the identities of the Beetleborgs will make my plan for isolating and defeating them possible."

Jara let out a hum. "So that is the strategy, and why so many Scabs are required."

"Correct. The Butterfly and the Beetleborgs are the single largest threat of this group of children, but even then, I expect there to be more resistance once they are out of the way." Vexor sniffed. "I have my sincerest doubts that the defense of this entire world is hinged on just them."

Typhus was a bit taken aback. "You're saying that there might be other guys here who can throw hands with us, Vex?"

"I'm saying that it's a certainty. That little so panic has spread from our most recent shows of force suggests that this is a world used to the unusual and the outlandish. That the Butterfly and her magic goes free without drawing the attention of this place's authorities does the same."

Vexor looked at Typhus. "It also suggests that they are for now observing–watching our clashes and measuring the severity of the situation before intervening in force."

It did concern Jara somewhat that this world's armies and warriors weren't lining up around the proverbial block to face them. Even in the few days since their outright air assaults against the city, the locals didn't seem concerned, let alone in hysteria. "So, what then? We defeat the children and deal with this world's real protectors?"

"Precisely," Vexor said, "And if all goes according to plan… we will have the power of that magic wand, and the tremendous powers that gave these Beetleborg's life to sweep them aside in turn."

He performed a sweeping gesture. "That is our ultimate goal in this battle. For if these forces are enough to give hapless children the strength to fight us off, consider what it would be in our own hands–what we could do to this world… to this entire reality… to all realities…"

Typhus chuckled. "You're starting to sound like the Vexor in the comics."

With flair Vexor tilted his head and shrugged his shoulders. "It is an inspiring rendition. Quite flattering, too."

He swept away and glided across the floor to the sarcophagus, picking up a comic from it. "Actually… that is another objective I have in mind for the culmination of our plot."

"That being?" Jara asked.

"I would like to meet the author of this storied work face to face, so that he may reveal how he's come to know our faces." He turned back to them, holding the comic book open in his fingers. "But that's neither here nor there. Let us focus on the present, and the objective that will make that bridge passable when we reach it."

Jara huffed. "Well, when we do get ahold of that power, I am certainly not wearing any of that ridiculous insectoid armor."

Kombat Knat chimed in. "The arthropodal race thanks you for not attempting."

Typhus turned to Kombat Knat. "You got your marchin' orders, baby! Go out there and scope them kids out!"

Kombat Knat ground his teeth together and clicked. "You can count on me! I'll discover all their secrets!"

Vexor made another gesture, showing a scrying of the town of Echo Creek as seen from above for Kombat Knat. "Commit this map to your memory."

In particular, he focused on Echo Creek Academy, and showed its location relative to the cemetery. "Begin your surveillance here."

"Understood!" Kombat Knat said before bathing himself in a violet light and shrinking himself down to the smallest possible size–that of a US Quarter coin. At that size, it was no problem for the Synthetic Beast to zip off, shooting through a crack in the wall of the sealed off crypt.


Reaching the end of the lockers and the gap between them and the door to inside the school, Kombat Knat stood on the precipice and watched the doors swing open and shut as students made their way alone or in groups. With his size and speed, getting in undetected was all but guaranteed. Either of the two humans that Vexor identified for him would likewise be perfect concealment.

"Both of them have those absurd lengths of that hair mammals need so much…" He mused aloud. "Disappearing into them and riding along to learn all their secrets would be perfect…"

He clicked his claws and ground his teeth. "Yes… perfect… this will be done inside of a… of a… a…"

Kombat Knat trailed off and looked away from the door. He turned his whole body to gaze across the street. Through his huge liquid eyes, his vision was filled with a wondrous luminescence… a light that captured and overrode all other thought.


His teeth ground and his claws clicked. Across the street from the school, and the homes that sat along it. Between two of them there was dense foliage that concealed it, but he could see nothing but its brilliance shining through. It captivated him, like a beacon showing the way.


Kombat Knat turned away from the light and stared at the door. "No! Do not look at the light! The bright… calling… guiding…"

Slowly, the Synthetic Beast turned away and began creeping to the edge of the lockers facing the glow.

Then he punched himself with a claw, spinning himself to face the opposite direction.

"The mission, you need to do your mission! The Creator has entrusted you! The Creator's master has entrusted you! Follow your orders!" Kombat Knat snarled at himself.

Sharp wheezing sounds followed as the insectoid breathed through its many spiracles. "I am a creation of Typhus, his faith in me is unshakeable. My dedication to the task he has served me is unshakeable. I Kombat Knat, will not fail! I will not be blinded by the light!"

For a few moments, Kombat Knat stood there, resolute, unmoving, focused.

And then, mission completely forgotten, Kombat Knat zoomed towards the glow that called to it from the bushes, buzzing loudly as it leaped towards his new glowing God.


In seconds Kombat Knat skipped like a stone from the school grounds and across the street. Passing under the departing buses and narrowly avoiding being flattened by passing cars, the beast vaulted over the vast (to him) sidewalk and grass–the blades three times his height–before entering the dense forest that was a single bush and the source of the glow.

Stopping at the foot of the glow, the light radiating in mesmerizing waves, Kombat Knat just stared in silence. No thoughts, head empty, only the glorious light that shone brighter than any star, supernova, quasar or magnetar.

He could not look away.

He would not look away.

There was only the light… and how he would die for it.

Kombat Knat went unnoticed to the incandescence that bewitched him, for she wasn't so easily swayed by the first shiny thing to come across his path.

"Demeter to Scion, the target has just walked into the building," Shego reported from her hiding spot.

Señor Senior Junior responded through the earpiece she'd spoken into. "Very good. As we have planned and rehearsed, I will move at your call and accordingly to how you wish to approach–quiet, or loud."

Smirking Shego watched Star Butterfly walk towards the lockers, accompanied by Janna. "I'll give you an answer in a bit; for right now, though? I'm leaning towards loud."

= - = 67 = -=

The endgame with the Vanderhoffs is on. The chickens are on their way home to roost.
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The Geek
The time for previews is over. It took less time than I thought, but also being more than I've written in such a short time. Nevertheless, for the next couple of weeks, Legends: A Story of Lies updates with Volume 7 weekly! Let's get right to it, with our very next chapter!

= - = 68 = -=

|The Geek|

"Thank you for dragging me away from those two," a less recalcitrant Misao murmured as Mabel jogged along, still carrying her like she was a stuffed animal. "I think I would have fought them if you hadn't held me back."

Mabel looked down at her. "You definitely got a good slap in! But I put all that work in on the gel so they can tear a face open if you need to, next time use them claws!"

Misao agreed. "Next time someone makes me that angry, I will."

"Speaking of work, do you want something new for your hair this week?"

Humming, Misao shook her head. "No, I'll wear this color for a little longer. It's very nice."

"I agree! Then I want to dye the underside of my hair red to match," Mabel said.

Misao leaned back into Mabel to look up at her. "Ja! You would look so amazing with red, or even pink!"

Mabel had an idea. "What about Barbie Pink?"

"That would be lovely!"

Content as she was to be cuddled by a jogging Mabel, it had to come to an end as the taller girl reached Misao's new homeroom. "Then we're gonna get started the first thing when we get home!"

Then she had an even better idea. "And Star's wand works, now! We can get her help!"

Set down, Misao bounced in excitement. "That would be perfect! I want to do amazing things with her magic!"

"I'll tell her about it in class." She hugged Misao, who eagerly returned the embrace. "See you at lunch~!"

"Ja, bye-bye!" Misao sang back as they pulled from each other.

As Mabel headed off back to her homeroom, waving excitedly back at her the whole way, Misao sighed and waved back at her.

Ich liebe sie. She thought as she turned and headed to her classroom. Ich vermisse dich bereits.

Now that she had her schedule in order, it was time for her to buckle down and get to work on the whole reason she'd come to America to begin with–finishing her final year of High School. Right outside the partially opened classroom door to her AP Calculus class, she sighed and reached to put her hand on the door.

Du schaffst das. Das ist nur ein weiterer Kurs wie jeder andere. She reassured herself internally as she pushed the door open and stepped into class.

"Guten Tag, Bonjour, Hello, Buenos Dias, Konnichiwa~!" Misao greeted, putting her best foot forward and her sunniest smile on her face.

The response she received was more than encouraging, as numerous students waved and greeted her in turn. Among them, seated beside two empty desks at the front of the class, was Brittney Wong–who had taken a moment from looking at her financial portfolio to wave in greeting. Spying the desk next to her, Misao brightened and walked over.

"Is this spot taken?"

Brittney closed the screen of her phone and set it down. "No, go ahead and sit down."

Misao accepted the offer and took the seat. "I didn't know you had AP Calculus."

Brittney rolled her eyes, but not in a dismissive manner. "I take every AP Course this school can offer."

The exchange student was relieved. Oh, dieser kurs wird überhaupt nicht schlimm sein.

With a sage nod, she understood. "Even in a fun school like this, our parents have high expectations of us."

"You have no idea," Brittney replied, "You think I can take over this entire school for nothing? I need to always be top three in the whole school if I want the money to do anything here."

This piqued Misao's interest. "Top three, not number one? Wow… your parents are pretty laid back."

"It's hard to hold onto number one at this school, so they cut me some slack rather than do something Vanderhoff-worthy," Brittney muttered.

At the thought of academic competition, Misao had to know. "So… who's number one?"

"Marco," Brittney said like Misao should know this.

"Quoi?" Misao would've never suspected him. "He seems more of… hmm… a jock."

And Brittney had to stuff a very sharp laugh. "Him?! He declined every sports club because he didn't want to get bruised."

"… You've seen him fight, maybe he didn't want to bruise others?"

Brittney considered the possibility. "No… he was a wuss before Star gave him something to throw hands with."

That brought a giggle spilling from Misao. "So, he's much cooler, now?"

"From a purely objective standpoint, and that's it," Brittney quickly said.

Just as Misao was about to needle Brittney, a hurried Heather entered the class and bolted to her seat.

"Sorry I'm late!" She said before she realized Misao was sitting between her and Brittney. "Oh!"

"Hallo," Misao greeted with a wave. "You take AP Calculus, too?"

"Yeah," Heather said as she put her books in her desk. "If I keep my grades up, I have a scholarship to UCLA with my name on it."

Brittney gestured to Heather. "Meet number three in the whole school."

Misao cupped her cheeks and looked back and forth beaming at her neighbors. "We can be study buddies!"

Heather brought a hand to her lips and giggled. "Wow, this is the most fun the class has been since Jackie was here."

Brittney gave the newly arrived girl a bit of a sharper look. "Let's see how long that lasts."

That was a grim reminder for Misao. This was, after all, the Den of the Geek…

As if on cue, the door opened again, and the classroom's teacher walked in. He was a fair-skinned man of average height with a weedy build, wearing a white button-down shirt with a black tie, and gray pants. He had short cut black hair that matched his dark eyes and the glasses he wore.

When Misao looked, she had a pang of dread as she watched him scan the classroom with an air not unlike Trip and Van… like he was a man assured of his superiority over the people before him and he knew it in his heart.

That dread was confirmed when he spoke, his voice projecting across the room like a young man with grievances against his students. "Well, I see everyone had a nice time at the dance this past weekend. Let's wring all that joy and euphoria out, before you start thinking there's hope for any of you."

Verflixt. Misao thought.

The teacher's gaze fell upon Misao, and he raised an eyebrow at her. "And a new student for my AP Calc. I've been waiting a bit to finally say hello to you, Miss Darlian."

Misao sat straighter, putting her best foot forward despite sitting down with a friendly response. "You have?"

Mr. Geike, the teacher, nodded before looking to the rest of his students. "So, we have ourselves a little celebrity here: You see, Miss Darlian is one of those E-Girls that you hear about."

Misao recoiled a bit. "Er… I am not an 'E-Girl', I play video games and stream it for entertainment. Being an E-Girl implies something I'm not even allowed to do."

Mr. Geike brushed it off as if he hadn't heard her. "You play video games for a living; and I'm sure you make a lot of money showing off your 1337 ski11z."

And now Misao bristled a little. "Ja, I have sponsors, Herr Geike."

Heather spoke up. "She's won tournaments."

Mr. Geike looked impressed. "Tournaments! You really are accomplished for someone your age. Lots of people play video games–little kids, teenagers, burnt out thirty-year-old losers with no girlfriends just finding something to kill the time between shifts at their Paycheck Mill. And some, like you, are fortunate enough to have the backing to be famous for it."

Misao eyed the teacher, feeling a burn in her chest as her ears had to endure his tone.

"I'm sure if every single one of them had a father who was head of a pharmaceutical corporation, and a mother who sold weapons around the world to throw money at whatever they desired–they'd all be winning tournaments, too."

Misao now frowned at the teacher as she asked, "Do you have a problem with who I am?"

"Problem? No, no… I have no problem," he replied with a heavy inference of the contrary.

"I just want you to know right now, who you are does not matter in my classroom. Especially if you think you're famous, or if your parents get up to unethical things in the name of science or business."

Misao's grip on the desk tightened, then relaxed. Another quick glance at her peers showed her Brittney scowling harder than ever at Mr. Geike while Heather just held her head low and she clenched her jaw.

She looked back at him. "Then what does matter in your classroom, Herr Geike?"

He slapped the back of his hand against the chalkboard. "The ability to think logically, think critically, and do the work. We live in a golden age of technology and discovery. Everything from hologram projectors in phones, to hypersonic business jets, to liquid batteries have all come from the scientific brilliance of the world's greatest thinkers. Their work, and humanity's benefit of it, comes from classes like these–not likes and follows on Twitch."

Mr. Geike looked down his nose at Misao, the ghost of a condescending smirk on his lips. "So, do you understand, now?"

Heather studied Misao's face; after seeing her slapping Trip at the lockers, she didn't know what to expect here.

Brittney did the same; after hearing about her slapping Trip at the lockers, she hoped she performed an encore here.

Her lips pursed, Misao nodded. "Ja, thank you, Herr Geike."

As though he'd been expecting a different reaction, the teacher was taken aback for a moment, but undeterred. "Good. Take out your textbook and open to section three, I don't want to spend too long getting you caught up."

"Jawohl," Misao curtly acknowledged.

Mr. Geike stopped glowering at Misao and turned back to the chalkboard as he started lecturing the class.

The forty-five minutes of AP Calculus flew just like that, and by the bell Misao marched out of the class, followed by a besieged-looking Heather and the perennially scowling Brittney.

"He is an interesting man, that teacher," Misao said firmly. "Is he always like this?"

"Always," Brittney replied. "He harassed Jackie Lynn Thomas out of the class the exact same way he talked shit to you."

Heather sighed. "I think that's the closest I've seen anyone get Jackie to explode. Why are people like this?"

Misao nodded. "He is the smallest possible man."

"You have no idea," Brittney assured her.

Heather looked at Misao. "Seriously though, it almost sounded like it was personal with him, mentioning your parents like that. What was with that?"

Closing her eyes, Misao hummed. "My mother runs a business that my father works for. My mother's work has her overseeing some morally questionable things according to the morally self-righteous. While my father's work involves much Ukrainian medical technology, and certain people find that unsettling as well."

Brittney huffed. "Of course they do. Anyone whose stated goal is to put an end to the medical and pharmaceutical industry becomes an enemy to the medical and pharmaceutical industry."

Heather gawked at Misao. "Wait, Darlian… is your father Doctor Edward Darlian?"

"Ja, he is," Misao chirped back.

Heather went pale. "Oh my God, do Trip and Van know?!"

"Probably not," Brittney suggested.

Heather looked ahead, shaking her head slowly. "They really have no idea."

A smile played on Misao's lips. "Ja."

The blonde snapped her gaze back to Misao. "So when you said what you did at the lockers…"

"I meant every word of it," Misao assured Heather, just before Star bounded up to the girls.

"Hi Misao! And Brittney! And Heather, too!" Star greeted, surprising the latter girl. "How was your trip?"

Heather gave a start in surprise. "Um… it was okay, just family stuff. I'm surprised that you even knew…"

"Why wouldn't I know?" Star asked. "You weren't at the dance, and I asked around, wanting to make sure."

She nudged her. "If I knew where you were, I would've come to get you."

Heather blanched at the very idea. "… Oh, you would've hated it if you had."

When the other three girls scrutinized her, Heather explained. "Tahoe at the end of the season is so lame."

Brittney hummed speculatively, before she nodded in agreement. "Yeah, now that you mention it. It's always best to visit it during the peak. Sure, it's crowded but at least you don't have to worry about feral hippies or cannibal meth heads picking off stragglers."

Star gasped. "What's a hippie, and why are they feral?"

Misao, who couldn't correlate the words hippie and feral together due to a mental image of tie-dye, flowers in hair, and lots of marijuana smoke, shrugged her shoulders. "I do not know, but it sounds terrifying."

Brittney remembered she was dealing with out-of-towners. "Look, just take it from someone who knows. There are parts of this city–no, this whole state–that if you knew even half of it, you'd probably want to nu…"

She quickly noticed Star hanging onto her every word. "… uuuot want to stay here."

Heather grimaced, while Misao nodded in praise to Brittney for choosing her words wisely.

Star, however, was quick on the uptake. "Hey! I would not nuke Echo Creek off the face of the Earth, even if I knew how bad it could be here."

She grabbed both Brittney and Heather, pulling them into hugs. "This is my favorite place! And I've been to a dimension that is now a 24/7 party with booze, drugs, and the hottest music in the multiverse."

Brittney's eyebrows jumped up, before she gave Star an intrigued look. "Tell me more."

"And tell me less," Heather said, even as the prospect of a forever party appealed to her. "If my family knew I was even thinking about going to a party dimension, they'd flip out."

Misao giggled brightly; after last week's tension between Star and Brittney, it was just so wonderful to see them getting along so well. And Heather, too! She was such a kind girl.

Bald wird es hier noch schöner sein, Zeit zu verbringen. She thought pleasantly.

"So, Misao," Star said. "What's your next class?"

Misao beamed. "Gym."

Star pouted. "Aw, Mabel and I have gym next period."

And there was the bittersweet reminder that she was a grade above her friends. "I will at least see you during class change, then, and probably be very sweaty."

Star hugged her. "Be sure to make lots of friends there! It'll be super easy for you."

"Ja, ja~" Misao agreed as she hugged her back.

As the two hugged, and Heather and Brittney were about to excuse themselves and walk away to their next classes, the wall to the quartet's right turned an alarming bright red and then red hot–the bright light and heat causing them and other students walking down the hall to back away quickly.

Instead of pooling down and melting however, the white-hot wall burned away in a spreading burst of green and black flames to create a hole in the wall wide enough for Shego to step through–spreading her arms to scatter the flames that clung to her hands and forearms.

Heather drew her breath back in a sharp, frightened gasp as panic swept through the hallway. "What is she doing here…?"

"Oh shit," Brittney sputtered out.

Misao, pale as a sheet, stepped back behind Star, as Shego scanned the hallway before her glowing green eyes fell upon her. Identifying Misao, the supervillainess smirked.

"So, you can't hide anymore," she said, "How fast can you run?"

Star stepped up to Shego, putting herself between Misao and the evil doer. Seeing the blonde with the magic wand, Shego lifted an eyebrow.

As her cheek marks began to glow, to match the bell of her wand, Star replied. "How fast can YOU run?"

= - = 68 = -=

New antagonists for everyone. Place your bets, because Star Butterfly vs. Shego is set to begin!
After having received additional information, I came to the conclusion that Star isn't the scariest person in this scene, and this is both amusing and unsettling.
Good day to you readers, it's time for your weekly Legends update. Misao had a bad run in with a bad teacher, but that is the least of her problems as Shego shows up and squares off against Star Butterfly. Let's not keep anyone waiting, and cut right to the next action-packed chapter!

= - = 69 = - =


High School schedules were annoying. While most days Drew would have a chance to sit in class with Heather, today was the day she just happened to have AP Calculus, so she wasn't in first period where he, Jo, and Dipper normally hung together. Dipper wasn't there, either; Jo was kind of moody about that but not to the antagonistic degree she'd been before the dance. At the very least, she'd be in higher spirits when she could hang out with the other girls at lunch.

Heather will be there, too. Drew thought with no small anticipation at the prospect, as he made his way to his locker between the class changes. I really missed her.

Even with how eventful the weekend was, and all the distractions and interactions he enjoyed, she had never left the back of his mind. It really had felt like months since he'd spoken to her, and he was more than eager to pick up where they had left off that afternoon before his fight with Saberizer.

Maybe she'll be up for sneaking off to Britta's again. He thought with a small smile.

He had just reached his locker, when the school's janitor, a blonde-haired, mustachioed man in a blue boiler suit called over to him. "Uh, hey? Watch your step right there, okay? I just mopped."

Drew stopped and looked at the floor. Indeed, it was freshly mopped. Taking another look, he was even surprised to see wet floor signs set up on both sides of the wet area. He looked at the janitor, confused.

"… Uh… thanks?" He offered.

The janitor stared at him. "Thanks for what?"

"Normally you don't…" He stopped.

The janitor, looking panicked, quickly asked. "Normally I don't what?"

Drew looked at the care and vigilance towards the wet floor, then back towards the janitor. "Nevermind, thanks for the heads up."

"No problem, it's my job, you know?" The janitor said quickly. "Because I'm the school janitor! I've been here for 20 years, and I'll be here for 20 more, yep."

Drew nodded. "Okay, man. Just… uh… keep up the good work?"

"We have already established that this is my job, now uh… don't pay me any mind and go back to whatever you were doing, the next bell is going to ring soon," the janitor said before going back to mopping the floor and calling out kids walking towards the wet floor signs.

Turning back to his locker, Drew shook his head. How does a school getting paid by at least three one-percenters and the literal ruler of a magical kingdom only hire weirdos?

As he opened his locker, he paused. Why is THAT even a question?!

Rather than torment himself with further questions, he just reached for his textbook just as someone called out to him.

"Hey, um, Drew–eep!" He almost jumped when he heard a squeak and the sound of feet slipping on the wet floor. Closing his locker, he found Sabrina Backintosh struggling to keep from falling as her cheerleader uniform's sneakers lost their grip on the freshly mopped floor.

Drew was quick on the draw, using his telekinesis without thinking to arrest Sabrina's falling long enough to catch her by the hand and pull her away from the wet floor and close to him.

Letting out a squeak, Sabrina slipped forward–but Drew caught her with his other hand on her shoulder. For a moment, the green-eyed brunette looked up at him in surprise at his agility, before she took a half-step back from him.

The overly concerned janitor bad at trying to be inconspicuous looked over. "Hey, there are signs!"

"Th-thank you!" She quickly said, hoping to quickly talk past her near spill… and the fact that he was still holding her hand.

Drew nodded and released her from both his hands. "No problem. You made it through Spirit Week without taking a fall, so… it'd be bad to break the streak before second period, huh?"

In her heart of hearts, Sabrina told herself not to tell Drew about the spill she took getting out of bed this morning as she agreed. "Yeah. So, how was your weekend?" She asked, struggling to fight down her normal nervous stutter.

Drew smiled at the mousy cheerleader. "It was all right, I spent all of Sunday at home relaxing."

Because he was still grounded, of course, but having a lock on his door helped make it more bearable. "What about you?"

"Um… about the same. I stayed at home in bed all day because the dance took a lot out of me."

Drew sympathized. "Yeah… I'm usually completely drained after a big event, too."

He's been having more of those; though, hanging out with his group of friends would be nicer without the fate of the universe being in the balance.

Sabrina relaxed, her smile reflecting it. "I-introvert problems, am I right?"

"You're right," he answered with a similar friendliness. "So, what's up?"

With the ice broken, Sabrina felt free to fidget a little. "You know, we have lunch at the same time, right?"

Drew nodded. "Uh huh?"

"I was wondering… if you wanted… to…" Sabrina reached up and messed with her hair before spitting it out. "Sit with me for lunch? You know… maybe hang out for a little bit?"

Drew stared at her in muted surprise much like when she asked him to the dance.

He had a really good time with Sabrina, nothing was ever going to change that, yet Andrew McCormick didn't think there was much more to it than that. He was just someone's companion at a school dance. Sure, he knew there'd be friendly smiles and waves for the rest of the year, but he was also under the assumption that everyone was supposed to go back to their respective social circles afterward.

He had even made peace with it. Though the shyest cheerleader to ever lead cheers, Sabrina was still a cheerleader, and he was a comic book nerd.

"Um… really?" He asked.

Sabrina nodded. "I had a good time at the dance, and I wanted to do that more…?"

"Oh, right."

So he had made that good of an impression. He inwardly cursed himself for having self-doubts about being a pleasant person to hang out with.

Sabrina rocked from side to side, while rubbing her right forearm with her left hand. "… So…?"

Before Drew could answer her, the very source of his self-doubts walked right up to him and Sabrina. Trip, strutting like he owned the school, lifted a curious eyebrow at the sight of Drew and Sabrina within such proximity. He tilted his head to the side more and squinted a little at Drew, as if he was trying to recognize him. Van was of course beside him, looking more confused at Drew's appearance than the fact that he was chatting with a girl out of his league.

"Huh, excuse me," Trip addressed him, "You wouldn't happen to know an Andrew McCormick, would you?"

Drew looked at Sabrina, then back at Trip. "It's me, Trip. I got fixed up after my accident last week so I could go to the dance."

Trip nodded. "Well, I see you got some other work in besides. Did you sell that ratty old comic to afford it, because if so? You didn't get your money's worth."

And there it was.

"And what's up with this?" Van asked as he gestured between Drew and Sabrina. "First Hope Hadley and that fat fuck, and now a cheerleader's talking to you?"

A grin splitting his lips, Trip opened his mouth to say something particularly cutting off the top of his head, when Drew cut him off.

"I'm going to stop you right there, Trip," he said, his eyes empty save for contempt. "You? Your brother? In case I didn't make it clear enough at the game on Friday? Pay attention."

He gestured between the two of them. "Go fuck yourselves–or each other. Whichever helps you feel better about being miserable dumb fucks with no friends and a Dad who doesn't love you."

Trip's mouth dropped open, while Van visibly recoiled from the sheer venom in Drew's casually delivered but caustic rebuke. Beside Drew, Sabrina was similarly shocked by the vitriol he spat at his perennial bullies.

"No one likes you, you've got no personality, and no common sense. If you didn't have all that money, you would be getting your asses kicked every day like you did during the game, by everyone," Drew snarled.

Van was startled further. "How do you know about–?"

"You shut up; I'm not done talking." Drew snapped at Van, and he fell quiet.

"I don't care how much money you've got, if you talk to me again?" He continued, "If you even come near me again? I will beat the crap out of both of you."

He promptly dropped his books on the floor, squared his shoulders, and stepped up to both brothers, making Trip take a step back on reflex.

"Or we can go right now," he offered. "I'll even let you find someone to fight me in your place–since I hear you're too chickenshit to throw hands yourself."

The janitor, tightly gripping his mop, looked back and forth between the quarreling students, his own mouth agape.

Trip's face had gone from pale to the most incredible shade of red as the shock that Andrew McCormick, his favorite punching bag since middle school, was talking all the shit to him like he could back it up.

"I'm going to fucking kill you," Trip said, the ugliness and wickedness that seized him when he paid Goblin to go after Dipper rearing its ugly head.

"You're going to pay someone to kill me," Drew corrected him, completely absent of any care about what he just said. "Right?"

He looked at Van. "Are you gonna take a swing at me? Or are you going to stand there and look fucking stupid like you always do when this dipshit doesn't yap orders?"

Van sputtered; he honestly didn't have words for this. The Andrew McCormick he knew did not talk like this, nor did he do it with such confidence or intensity. He couldn't understand what was happening.

Seeing that no one was going to attack him, Drew stepped back, and placed his foot atop his dropped books. "If neither of you have anything to say, or don't want to fight me? Fuck off."

He finally spared Sabrina a look at that, and he found that the shock that had taken her was also replaced, but in her case by open awe and admiration. He averted his eyes back to his opponents, but the fact that Sabrina was extremely cute with that look of wonder made him feel even better than just saying what he wanted to say to the Vanderhoffs already did.

Trip took another few steps back and pointed at Drew. "Y-you're fucking dead, Andrew. Just you wait. Not now, not tomorrow, but just like Pine Tree, you're fucking getting yours!"

"But it's not now, so you can go," Drew snapped back before he heard a quickly growing commotion down the hallway.

"What now…?" He asked before he saw a flash of green fire just above and behind the stampede of his schoolmates headed for them.

"AYO, RUN!" A student yelled over the panic. "STAR BUTTERFLY'S FIGHTING FREAKING SHEGO!"

"Oh, come on, I just mopped all of that!" The Janitor loudly lamented as the stampede roared by.

Sabrina yelped in terror. "Sh-Shego?!"

Drew blanched. "Oh, that's not good." He turned to guide Sabrina down the hall in the direction of the traffic. "We need to go, right now–!"

Focused as he was on Sabrina's well-being in the sudden stampede, Drew was taken by surprise as Trip hooked the back of his left ankle into Drew's right, and–with the still damp floor beneath him–sent Drew stumbling to the ground. Before Drew could get up, Trip stomped on his back stepping over him.

"Get fucked, Andrew!" He yelled, cackling at him as he and Van fled with the crowd.

Sabrina, pressed off to the side by the crowd, but moving with it, called back. "Drew! Are you okay?!"

Stunned for only an instant, Drew had to give him credit. He didn't even pay anyone to do that.

Before he could get stepped on by any fleeing classmates, he felt a hand grab his arm and pull him to his feet. "There you go!"

Getting up, Drew turned to see the janitor pushing him and himself clear of the fleeing students before they both got knocked over. "Are you okay?"

Drew stared at the janitor. "Yeah, but… when do you care?"

The janitor stared at him. "Huh?"

"Usually you keep count of how many kids slip on your floor, this is… out of character."

The janitor paled a bit and looked towards the sound of combat. "This is why I wanted to be a cafeteria worker; you know?"

Drew was more confused. "Huh?"

The janitor just raised his hand. "Don't worry about it, just evacuate the school with the rest of the…"

He stopped when he looked back and saw Drew had vanished from where he stood. "… Huh."

Drew was no longer in the hallway or even headed outside. He was suddenly in an empty classroom with Roland and Jo, the latter of whom was closing the blinds.

He turned to Roland. "Super speed is freaking rad."

"I'm like Quicksilver up in this. I feel like I gotta listen to like, Time in a Bottle when I pull off some of the silly stuff I do."

Jo finished closing the blinds. "How fast would you have to play it, so it doesn't sound weird when you do?"

Roland stopped, then groaned. "You ruined it. You ruined Days of Future Past for me."

"You're welcome," Jo said before she pulled out her Beetle Bonder.

Drew patted Roland on the shoulder as he got out his own Beetle Bonder. "Don't worry, I have a PowerPoint explaining the science. Now let's go help Star."

Nodding in agreement, Roland joined the McCormick siblings in raising their Beetle Bonders before calling out in unison.



As her classmates backed away from the confrontation between Star and Shego, the latter reacted to Star's clap back with genuine surprise. "How fast can I–?" She stopped and grinned at the blonde. "Oh… you must be that so-called 'magical princess from another dimension' on YouTube. What was it, Quasar Caterpillar?"

Behind Star, Misao turned and looked down the hall back the way she came. "Quickly, this way!"

Without hesitation, she, Brittney, and Heather fled to get away from the looming brawl. Star rolled her shoulders and began hopping from one foot to another, not unlike Marco when he felt especially Bruce Lee-like. "Not quite, but that's okay. I'll make sure you never get it wrong."

With a laugh, Shego leaped forward, aiming to soar past Star and pursue Misao. Rather than allow her to pass, Star swung up her wand and left a trail of spinning golden five-pointed stars that shot straight at her.

"My name is Star!" She called out.

Her eyes widening at the projectiles, Shego used her fiery energy to shoot clear of the attack. Before she could land, a butterfly made of rainbows slammed into her, and she was knocked onto her back and sent tumbling down the hall for a few feet.

"Butterfly!" Star called out as Shego stopped and got back up.

Grinning as the glow in her cheek marks filled her eyes, Star finished her introduction by creating a rainbow over her head. "I'm a magical princess, from another dimension!"

The rainbow promptly caught fire, casting Star in an intimidating silhouette that blocked the way to Misao. "You got it?"

Shego looked quickly between Star and the burning rainbow. "Wait, that magic crap is real?"

"Yeah, you must not really watch my vlog–that's what you get for swiping through Shorts and not actually subscribing."

The flames Shego was notorious for blazed from her hands and surrounded her entire body with that, as she grinned maliciously at Star. "Why the heck would I subscribe to a dead channel?"

Star's shoulders dropped. "Okay, I admit, I've been behind on my updates, but that's not my fau–!"

Shego closed the distance between them and slashed at her with a clawed right hand wreathed in power. Falling upon her lengthy experience of fighting monsters and Royal Guards, Star weaved out of the way to Shego's right. "WhoanevermindIgetcha."

The energy receding from fully around her, Shego focused them to her hands as she reversed into a spinning backhand right that Star went left of–then followed it with a downward curving left that Star ducked under before raising her wand.

"Strawberry Annihilation!" The spell surged out as Star called it, but Shego was quick enough to duck and pull back under the stream of energy before pointing both her hands at Star and firing back with a green energy projectile the Princess twirled into a leap to avoid.

"Laser Beam Blast!" She called out, swinging her wand–and the laser that it emitted–like a sword.

The beam scorched the ceiling and the external-facing wall as Shego sidestepped away from its path. Looking at Star, the green supervillain ducked under a spinning kick Star aimed at her head, then swiped with a left at her face in turn.

Star skillfully used her right arm to block and parry Shego's swing, before using her wand to catch the right hand Shego thrust for her chest before riposting with a spinning kick to Shego's throat that was blocked in turn.

Retreating, Star weaved from one foot to another as Shego followed with fast, energy-laden slashes. Pushed back ten paces, Star hopped away to open the distance between them and fired off a spell from her wand. "Narwhal Blast!"

Shego leaped over the stream of narwhals and spun in an axel with her burning hands extended, coming down on Star like a blazing wheel. Star jumped to her left, then ran up and kicked off the wall to get around Shego and her attack. Landing in a spin, Shego stopped to face her.

"You know, calling out your attacks tends to be unhelpful in a fight, Sailor Stupider!" She said before unleashing another long-ranged stream of green fire.

Spinning her wand, Star swung it in front of her and created a rainbow streak that blocked the attack. "That's only if you know what the attack's going to do!"

Holding her left arm out close to the wall, Shego burned a long line in it as she ran straight towards Star, who aimed her wand at her. "For example! Sunshine Shego Slap!"

Shego expected a beam or a projectile. She did not expect a loincloth-wearing minotaur colored in shades of blue to ram into her from out of nowhere, putting her into and through a wall into a classroom. Pulling back, the Minotaur snapped his fingers into a thumbs up that Star returned before he poofed out of existence.

The door to the classroom Shego got smashed into opened and she stepped out, brushing herself off. "Okay," she said, "I'm gonna give you that one."

Immediately she lashed out with a sweep of her right arm, Star ducking under the flames. When she came down with her left hand in a downward slash, Star performed one of Marco's roundhouse kicks to block the swing with her right leg before spinning and tagging her across her face with her left heel in a spinning back kick.

Shego moved with the blow, performing a full rotation of her own before thrusting her right hand into Star's throat. Star used her left forearm to parry and then grab Shego's own. As Star brought her wand up to point in Shego's face, she parried the wand away by striking it with the back of her right hand.

As Star let go of Shego, the supervillain attempted to kick out the princess's feet, but Star blocked the kick with a quick swing of her own foot. Spinning, Shego swung on Star, but her target danced and weaved back from the blows.

"You know what, you're starting to remind me of someone!" After missing another swing, Shego's stance changed to more straight-line jabs, thrusts, and short chops that Star's quick hands were able to defend, at the cost of being able to mount a counter-offense. "And it's ticking me off!"

Star beamed as she deflected several more punches and ducked under a kick. "Oh, I bet I know who you're talking about!"

Shego weaved her way under Star's own kick. But when she lashed out with a swipe of her energy infused hands, Star was springing backward in retreat, turning in the air like a ballet dancer with each hop.

"Just like her, except for ballet instead of cheerleading," Shego growled as Star took a final and bigger leap, landing and sliding backward to a halt beside Echo Creek Academy's janitor.

Glancing back in the direction Misao fled, Shego returned her attention to Star. "All right, Minky Moron, I've got to wrap this up, so I'll be quick!"

She charged Star, who glanced at the janitor and flashed him a smile. "Hi Mr. Janitor!"

She performed a very fast pirouette; Star swung her wand as she spun. "Tiara Tornado!"

Like buckshot from a shotgun, numerous golden tiaras and crowns scattered towards Shego, but she made short work of them, slashing them out of the air with the energy burning off her fingers. "Now this is the predictable stuff I was talking about–!"

Focused on knocking down the projectiles, she did not see the janitor use his mop to tip over his bucket until she stepped into and slipped in the puddle spreading across the floor. "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa–!"

Rather than fling another spell, Star used the momentum of her pirouette to jump and crescent kick Shego in the face as she reached her. End over end, Shego flipped before she landed on her back and slid several more feet to a stop.

Star landed and nearly slipped on the wet floor herself, before she recovered and turned to face Shego while the janitor wisely bolted into the nearest classroom.

Still lying on her back, Shego stared at the ceiling in contemplation. "Okay, less ticked, more annoyed!"

Raising her wand as Shego kicked up onto her feet, Star aimed and fired a spell. "Cupcake Blast!"

The barrage of sticky, sweet, but dangerously inedible desserts streaked towards Shego as she turned to face it. Before she could surge her energy to try to block the blast, Kombat Knat suddenly enlarged in front of her, growing to his full size and using his body to block the attack.

Star lowered her wand, got one proper look at Kombat Knat and recoiled in disgust. "Ew! What the heck are you supposed to be?!"

"I am Kombat Knat, child of Typhus, herald of the verdant glow!" Kombat Knat declared.

Shego gawked at Kombat Knat and recoiled. "Oh gross, was that thing on me?!"

Star looked back and forth between the hideous monster and Shego, thinking quickly. Why is a Magnavore protecting her?

She got her answer when Kombat Knat turned to Shego. "Oh radiance! I pledge myself to you forever! Guide me with your incandescence!"

Shego stared at the strange creature, and after a moment of deciding not to question it, pointed at Star. "Your radiance commands you to get rid of the princess over there for me."

Kombat Knat turned back at Star and opened his massive maw to roar in challenge at her.

Star looked simply offended. "Oh, that is some warnicorn crap!"

Two of the smaller arms on Kombat Knat's torso suddenly extended like barbed tentacles, racing towards Star, who was appropriately grossed out by them.

"Oh, absolutely not!" She swung her wand, yellow light streaming from it. "Stardust Daisy Devastation!"

The beam of yellow daisies deflected the tentacle arms, before Shego's energy slashed through the daisies left behind and down on Star. Ducking and sliding to the side, Star evaded that strike and the sweeping followup Shego swung as she turned to her. Shego hopped back, giving Kombat Knat move to charge in and swing at Star with his claws.

Jumping and flipping back, Star aimed her wand, but Shego charged her next, swinging her energy-infused hands in raking motions. Star's talented weaving was still on point, as she used graceful dancing motions and skillful footwork on the slick floor to evade first Shego's slashes and then Kombat Knat's when he would jump in to allow his new mistress to attack from another angle.

"He's ugly, but a 2v1 is a 2v1!" Shego teased as Star leaned back from one of Kombat Knat's claws, allowing her to slash at her side. Star turned around quickly, putting her back to Kombat Knat as Shego's clawed gloves made three thin lines in the side of her teal dress.

Shego then kicked Star in the face, snapping her head up and back to look at Kombat Knat's open maw looming over her.

A barrage of Input Magnum fire in beam mode filled Kombat Knat's mouth before Star could. Then the Green Hunterborg, exiting out of Super Speed, appeared next to Kombat Knat to swing a jumping spin-kick into the side of his head.

As the synthetic beast tried to recover, the Red Strikerborg came right at Kombat Knat, fist swinging to connect with and turn him into a projectile. That didn't happen–Kombat Knat abruptly shrank, and her punch missed.

"Crap, it is Kombat Knat!" Jo shouted before Kombat Knat grew to full size behind her, swinging a claw down that she managed to block.

Shego faced the Green Hunterborg, as he turned and pointed the Input Magnum at her. "First a magical girl, then a creepy monster, and now superheroes? Is this a bit? Where's the camera crew?"

Behind his mask, Roland rolled his eyes. "Tourists man, never watching the news."

He opens fire, but Shego demonstrates her super human agility to leap over his shots and him. "I don't watch news, I make it!"

She slashed his back, expecting to cut through shiny plastic and cloth, only to be surprised when she heats metal and produces sparks, sending Hunterborg staggering forward from the blow. Instead of being taken aback, she goes in for the double-tap, but she feels something grab and slow her down.

"Here's your next headline, then!" Stingerborg said before using his telekinesis to throw Shego through the exterior-facing wall and out into the school's front lawn. "Shego gets her face rocked by the Big Bad Beetleborgs!"


Strikerborg's right fist, and Hunterborg's left foot connected with Kombat Knat, knocking him through the wall next.

"Thanks guys!" Star said as she bounded up to the holes made in the side of the school. "So… what is that thing?"

"Kombat Knat, he first appeared in #144, and while he can't fight much he can shrink down to the size of a quarter if he needs to," Roland said, before he shook his head. "Where the heck are they getting such old books?"

"Re-releases, man," Jo said. "Marvel's churning them out by the boatload because of the movie."

Shego got up and stared at the Beetleborgs and Star. "Okay, from a 2v1 to a 4v2…"

She looked at Kombat Knat. "Hey, creepy bug monster. You shoot lasers or something?"

Kombat Knat turned to her. "Erm… no, my Radiance."

She dropped her shoulders. "All right, meatshield duty, then!"

Kombat Knat quickly saluted her. "AS YOU COMMAND!"

Shego's eyebrows rose. "Wow, I'm over the aesthetics already."

The wickedness she was infamous for quickly returned, as Star aimed her wand with the Beetleborgs aiming their Input Magnums at the two. "Well then, time to run out the clock."


The sound of savage combat filled the neighborhood as Echo Creek Academy's students gathered at evacuation points up and down the street from the school. Over at the school's expensive new sports complex, however, Misao, Brittney, and Heather made their way through the stadium's concession area, now closed and gated off without a game going on.

"Why are we all the way over here behind the school and not with the others?" Heather asked.

Misao looked back at her. "Because they are after me, and I do not want to put anyone else in harm's way."

Heather nodded. "Okay, makes sense. But why are Brittney and I here with you?"

Brittney looked at her next. "Because you're a nice person who cares about others?"

She had a point, Heather admitted. "Well, I think we can stop running at least. I don't think we were followed."

Looking back, the three girls couldn't see it, but they could hear the digital chimes of Star's spells and the bursts of blaster fire.

Heather swallowed, as she recognized those sounds. "Oh shoot, those guys dressed up as the Beetleborgs are here now, aren't they?"

Brittney pulled out her phone, and quickly began swiping. She stopped and her eyes widened a bit. "Yes, all three of them are fighting Shego and some kind of gross monster. Megan is streaming it from the street corner."

Misao and Heather gathered around her to look at her phone, and Heather recoiled in disgust. "Ew, that's Kombat Knat! What's that thing doing here?"

Mabel, standing behind them, shared their collective distaste for the creature. "Yeah, the monsters so far have been ugly, but that guy is CEO of ugly."

Brittney and Heather both jumped back from Mabel, the former pointing at her. "How the fuck did you sneak up on us, you sequoia?!"

Bringing a hand to her chest, Mabel said softly, "I have aspired to be a cat since I was seven, so I learned their myriad ways."

Misao quickly caught Mabel in a tight hug. "I am so glad you are here."

Mabel returned the embrace, consoling the smaller girl by stroking her hair. "There, there, I won't let the bad guys get you."

Now that Mabel was here, and the Beetleborgs were out front, Heather had questions. "Mabel, what's going on? Why is Shego after Misao, and why are you and your brother, Star, and Marco fighting the Magnavores?"

Mabel's expression changed to one of uncertainty, as she weighed upon how to answer that question. When she looked down at Misao, who kept her face buried in Mabel's chest, the smaller girl explained.

"Señor Senior Junior wants to ransom me to my mother."

Brittney tilted her head. "Señor Senior Junior? That Instagram selfie-obsessed, wannabe SoundCloud rapper gym rat, who's probably more spoiled than both Vanderhoffs combined? He is the one who sent Shego after you?"

Misao nodded. Mabel looked up from the top of her head. "Dipper and I met Misao at the airport the day we got here, we rescued her from both of them. That's the real reason she's staying with us."

That shook Heather. "That must be horrible, to have to hide out from them like this."

"We were doing a good job of laying low, too," Mabel lamented. "At least until the last weekend."

Misao went still and she began to bristle.

Heather put what she heard earlier together, and her eyes widened in horror. "… Oh my God."

Brittney looked back and forth between the girls, as Mabel confirmed Heather's worst fears with a nod. "What?"

Heather turned to her. "It was the Vanderhoffs. They somehow got in contact with Shego and Señor Senior Junior, and pointed them right here."

Clapping alerted the four of them, and they turned around to see Señor Senior Junior himself emerge from around a corner at the end of the concession hallway. Still clapping, he walked over to the girls and came to a stop, and his applause ended a moment later.

"Very good," he said, "But do not assign blame to them alone. While they helped me along the way, it wasn't like I didn't have little careless crumbs you left behind that kept me in Los Angeles."

He nodded to Mabel. "Getting into very impressive street fights with monsters and robots goes viral very quickly in the age of Señorita Kim Possible."

Brittney stepped up to Junior, as Mabel placed herself between him and both Misao and Heather. "This is a joke, right?"

Junior looked down at Brittney, surprised. "Erm… oh, you're Señorita Brittney Wong, yes? I've heard a lot about you."

She wasn't in the mood for flattery. "And I've heard a bunch about you. Knock it off, and walk away, Junior. Your dad is still a respected man, and you're making the worst kinds of enemies with this stunt."

Junior recoiled a little, taken aback by the invocation of his father. "I'm sorry, but I cannot. This is a matter of personal honor, not just some fancy."

Brittney lifted an eyebrow, before narrowing her eyes. "Is that so? Then if you want what you came for, you go through me."

Misao and Mabel were both struck. "… Brittney…"

Junior seemed to draw back from the prospect, visibly cringing at first before he sighed. "My father told me to never raise my hand against a woman, that is not how gentlemen conduct themselves. There are some lines that I cannot cross."

Brittney huffed, but before she could spit back a barbed comment about how gentlemanly he was, Junior demonstrated how much he wasn't, by jabbing the business end of a powerful extending stun baton into her stomach and surged over 50,000 volts into her. Going rigid, she trembled violently in place for several seconds before she crumpled where she stood–unconscious.

"However, I am still a villain," he lamented.

"Run!" He heard Mabel shout and looked up to see her draw from under her sweater, the Beretta M1951 Shermie had bequeathed her just a few days ago. Behind her, Misao and Heather were already booking it back towards the school.

Junior was surprised, as he put up his hands. "That is a gun gun."

"And it shoots bullet bullets," Mabel snapped back as she kept it trained on him. "Back up, away from the girl!"

Doing as told, Junior began to step away. "I did not expect that you would be armed… or that you would come to school with it."

"I'm from a little city called Piedmont," Mabel replied, "Which is right next to a city called Oakland. More importantly, we're in flipping Los Angeles. How did you not expect to have a gun pulled on you?"

When she put it like that, she had a point. "Your country's obsession with firearms is a human tragedy."

Mabel shrugged. "Yeah, but what are you gonna do?"

"Well," Junior answered, "Since I am from Europe and have a lot of money, I do the sensible thing and have other kinds of protection."

Heather and Misao just made it to the other end of the tunnel, when there was a loud, metallic crunch in front of them that cracked the ground in four spots. At that same moment, as Mabel looked back, something she couldn't see but hear struck and knocked the gun out of her hands hard.

"Ah, beans!" Mabel yelled before Junior struck fast and jabbed the stun baton hard in her chest. Just like Brittney, she was down and out in a few seconds, collapsing to the concrete floor.

Behind her, Heather and Misao stepped back as the thing that landed in front of them stalked forward. They could not see it clearly, but at this close, with the light bending around it, they could make out sleek, metal, canid shape stalking towards them as they backed up.

Misao looked back and froze when she saw Mabel unconscious and Junior kicking her gun out of reach. Looking at Brittney, then at Heather, she quickly turned to him and shouted.


Junior turned to her, as the light-bending machine ceased its menacing. "You will come quietly, then?"

Misao looked at the frightened Heather, then nodded. "I will."

Junior clapped his hands together and hurried over. "Oh, very good! I feel terrible about having to do this, but please understand–"

Misao was about to step towards him, when he suddenly struck her with the stun baton as well. Caught by complete surprise, she blurted out the shortest cry before she locked up and then collapsed to the ground.

"I do not need you conscious for this part."

He looked at Heather. "Or you."

When he swung the baton for her, however, Heather leaned back quickly from its path. "Hm?"

Junior swung at Heather again, but this time she caught his hand, stopping him from connecting with the weapon. Surprised, he met Heather's wide-eyed stare, filled with fear, as she clutched his hand in a death grip.

In a burst of movement, he rotated his hand towards her thumb, breaking her grip, before he quickly jabbed Heather in the shoulder with the stun baton. He was surprised when Heather grabbed his arm with both hands, gripping it tightly, her eyes wide and her teeth clenched as she was shocked for several seconds more, before she finally fell unconscious and limp.

Junior stepped back, shaken, from the unconscious girl, before he looked over at Misao. Putting away the stun baton, he went over to her and checked the pockets of her dress and the contents of her bag. Removing her phone and its companion accessories, he left them on the ground before he gingerly picked her up.


"Hijo de puta…!" He muttered when he looked up and saw running into the concession area… the school janitor?

The janitor stared at Junior, surprised. "SSJ?"

Hearing his voice, Junior recognized the man immediately, and grew concerned. "… You look terrible with a mustache."

The janitor reached up to it. "See, this is why I wanted to be a cafeteria worker–" The janitor stopped, then assumed a fighting stance. "Wait, hold on! You're not going one step further."

"No, if you are here, the only thing I can do is take as many steps as I can. Please, observe?"

The janitor looked at the unconscious girls still laid out… before right over them the shapes of three large quadrupedal robots built in the shape of wolves, and painted in shades of gray faded into view, their claws poised over the necks of Brittney, Mabel, and Heather.

"Take another step, and…" Junior shook his head. "… I dread to say it. I did not program this contingency in them, Shego did."

With Misao held close, Junior nodded to the closest of the canine robots, which then opened several vents that spewed out a dense white smoke he fled into. As the janitor stepped back the cloud quickly dissipated, and Señor Senior Junior and Misao were both gone.

"Wow," the Janitor said. "He's really stepped up his game."

= - = 69 = - =

This is an unfortunate turn of events.
Just As Planned
As the fierce battle rages, Señor Senior Junior has run off with Misao! Will the team be able to overcome Shego and her monstrous ally Kombat Knat? Or will the villain get away?!

= - = 70 = - =

|Just As Planned|

Over 1500 planes land per day at Los Angeles International Airport. Coming from all over the world, they range from single-engine civil prop planes to massive two and four engine jet airliners carrying hundreds of people. On this bright and sunny Monday morning, one plane went barely noticed as it lined up with the runway and began its final approach.

It was a small, white and gray-painted flying wing with a blended-wing-body and a pair of surprisingly quiet engines in pods also streamlined in the underside of the aircraft. Landing gear–a bicycle undercarriage with outrigger wheels under the middle of the wings–extended and the plane touched down.

Instead of approaching the terminal after it reached the end of the runway, the plane turned and taxied off towards a dark blue hangar where a sedan and two SUVs awaited.

Aboard the plane was a small Japanese woman with shiny black hair cut into a shoulder length bob, dressed in a dark-blue business suit with matching shoes and dark stockings.

Her gray eyes darted to her right. Not to a window but to the wall-hugging screen of the private jet's cabin showing the world outside the aircraft as it rolled to a stop. She stared at the entourage waiting for her, as she spoke aloud.

「私たちのフライト で、 どれ 位 かかりました か ?」

Beside her, a woman similarly dressed, but taller, and with long fiery red hair that ended in yellow streaks, replied.


The smaller woman narrowed her eyes, before she got up from her seat.

「またくだな 十年前には、これをしませんでした。」

The taller, more colorful woman giggled.


Then she spoke again, in English. "And also, ten years ago we didn't have anything this nice."

Giving her a withering look, the woman stepped towards the downward opening door, its wall folding out into a staircase. "True."

The taller woman then asked. "Though, would that stop you, Hyuuga-sama?"

Reaching the bottom of the steps, the woman stopped after touching the pavement and looked back at her taller companion.

"If I had to, I would swim the entire ocean to be here."

With that she headed towards the sedan awaiting them. "Now let's go, and resolve this unpleasant business."


Mabel's eyes shot open as she regained consciousness, and with consciousness came wrath. "WHO JUST TASES PEOPLE LIKE THAT?!"

Brittney, who was likewise conscious, answered succinctly. "Assholes do."

More pressing concerns caught up with Mabel, as she quickly got up and looked around. "Misao! Where…?!"

Heather, being pulled up to her feet by the help of the janitor, answered. "Señor Senior Junior knocked her unconscious, then he tased me… I don't know what happened after that."

The janitor filled in the last part. "He took off with her. I tried to stop him, but he had help…"

Mabel clenched her fists. "Okay then… we gotta go after her!"

The janitor agreed. "They couldn't have gone far."

Turning to him, Mabel nodded in agreement. "Right!"

Brittney, looking back between Mabel and the unusually helpful janitor, finally noticed it and pointed at him.

"Who are you?"

The janitor turned to her. "Um… just your…"

"I think we're way past the need for disguises." Mabel reached up and ripped the mustache off his face. "Yoink!"

The janitor yelped. "Ow! Hey, I have sensitive lips!"

Brittney and Heather both gasped when they got a closer look at the janitor and recognized him.

"Wait!" Heather shouted.

Brittney pointed at him. "… You're…!"

On the roof of Echo Creek Academy at that moment, Typhus and Jara appeared in a burst of flame. Jara, her arms folded, turned and cast a suspicious look towards her friend and comrade. With Noxic hard at work building Scabs, it was just the two of them on their journey out to the school.

"I don't see why we needed to come out here, can we not wait for Kombat Knat to report?" Jara asked.

Typhus turned to face her. "That's the thing, he was supposed to report every hour. And when he did a few minutes ago, all I heard was Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann's Earth Band."

Whatever counted as a face behind Jara's mask scowled. "Because everyone forgets that Bruce Springsteen wrote that song."

"Manfred Mann's Earth Band did it better, baby. Like Kurt Cobain and The Man Who Sold the World–"

"I prefer Midge Ure."

"Or Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt."

"The original was better there, too."

Typhus figured as much; he'd been on enough benders with her. "Anyway, I just wanna make sure that he's okay. This is enemy territory with the Butterfly, Beetles, and that troll around here."

Jara had doubts. "With the discipline he demonstrated when he met, I would be surprised if he gave himself away so carelessly–"

She stopped when they reached the edge of the roof, in time to see Kombat Knat get pummeled by a barrage of Narwhals from Star. From behind Kombat Knat Shego emerged and slashed down on her with her right hand.

The villainess's fatal fingers barely grazed Star as she weaved to Shego's right. Kombat Knat's extending sub-arms nearly speared through her if not for Strikerborg imposing herself between Star and the attack.

Typhus recoiled from the scene in surprise. "What the… Kombat Knat?!"

Shego jumped back from the tentacle deflected towards her, her eyes darting around quick enough to track Hunterborg's as he slowed down to strike her with the Hunting Claw.

Her energy flared, becoming almost solid as she blocked Hunterborg's strike. Turning quickly, she used her other hand to parry the weapon upward and open Hunterborg to a kick to his chest.

The green Beetleborg disappeared, and Shego flaring her energy around her to block his attempt at getting his claw around her neck. Above them, Jara stared in silence at the battle, as they struggled to overpower one another.

"You're not the first speedster I've fought, pal!" The green supervillain surged her power outward, pushing Hunterborg back, before a shower of Input Magnum bolts rained on her impromptu barrier, pushing her backward.

Seeing Stingerborg firing on Shego, Jara's body tensed

Beneath his armor, Drew was confused. Using his telekinesis, he was trying to restrain Shego, but where her power flared, his power couldn't touch. "I can't grab her…"

Pointing her hand at Stingerborg, Shego sent a stream of energy at him, striking his chest and knocking him down. Turning her attention back to Hunterborg, she ducked another swing of his claw, then gracefully parried one more away before hitting him in the chest with a shotgun like energy blast.

Over with Star and Jo, Strikerborg lunged ahead of Star and swung at Kombat Knat–who vanished from sight as he shrank to his smallest possible size. Snarling, Jo looked back.

"Damn it!" She managed to yell before Kombat Knat grew to full size beneath her, jaws closing around her armored body. "ACK!"

Star was livid at the treatment. "HEY!"

Raising her wand like a mace, she swung it down hard in Kombat Knat's direction. "Bacon Kitty Hawaiian Nightmare!"

A swirling magenta torrent of fruit punch and eldritch kittens, pineapples, leis, and bacon slammed into Kombat Knat, forcing him to spit out Strikerborg before he shrank to disappear again.

Landing, Strikerborg rolled along then got up in time to see Hunterborg hit the ground. She looked towards Shego as the villainess came straight at her with energy surging around both hands.

Star targeted Shego. "Laser Beam Blast!"

Kombat Knat–at his smallest size–zipped past Shego and enlarged himself, taking the full brunt of Star's attack. Her determined smirk turning into a grin, Shego ducked under Jo's attempt at punching her as she got close, and slashed away at Strikerborg to her heart's content, hitting the red Beetleborg with a three hit right-left-right chain before blasting her in the face with energy streamed from both hands.

On the roof, Typhus was stumped. "Why the heck is he fighting for her?!"

Jara walked towards the edge of the roof. "Does it matter?"

Typhus turned to her. "It does matter, Kombat Knat is supposed to be discreet and performin' his mission, baby!"

Reaching the edge of the roof, Jara leaned over to pitch herself off it. "Then we have an excuse to get involved."

She went over the edge of the roof and kicked off the very top of the wall to launch herself not at Shego, Kombat Knat, or Star… but at Stingerborg.

The blue Beetleborg had just gotten onto his feet when he saw a blur of red pass his field of vision. Thinking it was Jo for a moment, but realizing that wasn't right, he turned to follow it–only for Jara to throw her shoulder pauldrons and cape into his chest.

The impact knocked the wind out of him through his armor. As its weight threw him back, he saw a flash of pink before Jara struck him dozens of times in an instant, sending him crashing down prone with a yell.

The energy humming so intensely from her blade that its center was a deep red, Jara pursued Stingerborg. When she swung again, Hunterborg blocked her swing with a wild one of his own. Undeterred, she swung at Hunterborg with every intention to cut him down, but he answered her swing with another of his, the Hunter Claw's prongs glowing red where it met her weapon.

Screaming in anger, Jara swung faster, slashing Hunterborg twice before lashing the blade around him in whip mode and yanking him off his feet and out of her path. "Get out of my way!"

Star, seeing Jara's furious entrance, grew exasperated. "Oh, come on! We've got enough happening right now!"

Shego coming straight at Star drew the princess's attention back to her opponent. Shego was on the offensive, approaching her quickly. "Hey, you think that magic wand of yours would work for me?!"

Frowning, Star weaved under a kick, then jumped back from her. "If you hold still, we can really try!"

Shego called to Kombat Knat. "Creepy bug dude, grab that girl so I can grab that wand!"

Kombat Knat charged in. "Yes, my radiance!"

It was then that Typhus leaped down from the roof and landed. "Hey! Kombat Knat!"

Kombat Knat stopped mid-charge and stumbled back, alarmed. "C-creator!"

Typhus pointed at him. "You had one job to do, what the heck are you doing listening to this lady, baby!"

Shego looked from Kombat Knat to Typhus, then over at Jara lashing Drew with her energy whip, and finally dropped her fighting stance. "Okay… time out."

Typhus, Kombat Knat, and Star looked at her with the former monster asking. "What?"

"Is this whole thing a cosplay villainy bit? I mean, the fit is amazing, but please… it's embarrassing when you dress up like a villain from a comic book and try to break into the game."

Typhus turned to Star. "Wait, she don't know?"

Star shrugged her shoulders. "Why would she?"

He turned back to Kombat Knat. "Then why the heck are you working for her, KK?!"

Kombat Knat was staring at Shego, as he carelessly waved a claw at Typhus. "You wouldn't get it."

Typhus pinched the bridge of his nose. "You're gonna give me a headache, baby."

Beside him, to his left, Jo piped up. "Not before I do."

Typhus turned to her, and the Red Strikerborg's fist connected to his jaw, and off he went like a projectile towards Jara.

Seeing Typhus hurtling towards her, Jara crossed her arms and let him collide with her full force. The impact pushed her back far from Stingerborg, her feet carving trenches in the school's lawn and the sidewalk leading to the school's front door.

Shego turned to Jo. "Hey, I called time out."

"Fuck you," Strikerborg replied immediately, and Shego recoiled a bit.

Aiming the Input Magnum at her, she thumbed Crashing Mode into the pad. "This is a fight. Hits or GTFO."

Shego smirked. "Okay, you're cool."

Strikerborg accepted the compliment by laying on the trigger. And Kombat Knat imposed himself in the path of the avalanche of fire. As explosions rocked the Synthetic Beast's body, Shego's attention returned to Star–


But the princess was quicker on the draw and a Rainbow Fist knocked the wind out of her before Star ran up and connected one of Marco's flying kicks into her face, sending her sprawling out onto her back.

Enduring the hits, Kombat Knat saw Shego go down out of one of his liquid eyes. "RADIANCE!"

The rest of his eyes saw Strikerborg coming in to punch him again, and he shrank down again to avoid her. At the last second, however, she stopped and aimed the Input Magnum over her held up left forearm to steady her aim. Behind her mask, Jo targeted the shrunken Kombat Knat.

"Not this time," she said before firing a single beam mode shot that impacted Kombat Knat and carried him off across the street.

She then turned and aimed the Input Magnum at Shego's head. "And one for you."

Firing a bolt, however, she only hit the ground next to Shego's head, snapping her from her momentary daze. The woman kicked up and stared at Strikerborg in surprise.

"You are a ruthless little–!"

Star's spinning kick connected with the back of her head, forcing her to look down at the ground.

"TWO FOR…!" Landing in front of Shego, she somersault kicked her in the face, lifting her off her feet. "… FLINCHING!"

Floating through the air, Shego blinked in surprise as a single thought passed through her head.

Am I getting jumped?

She curled up into a backward tumble and landed on her feet and found Star keeping her wand on her while Strikerborg's attention was pulled to the other two Beetleborgs.

"Hunterborg, Stingerborg! Are you okay?"

Stingerborg slowly got up, helped by Hunterborg. "Not particularly. I can keep Jara on me, though! Beat the crap out of Shego!"

Typhus was helped back onto his feet by Jara "Hey, you need to keep your eye on the prize!"

"I am…" Jara replied, her gaze fixed on Stingerborg.

Typhus gave her a tense look, then nodded. "Do what you gotta do, baby. I'll try to find KK and get out of here."

Shego looked between the different groups fighting and hummed. Okay it can't have taken this long.

As if on cue, she received a call on an earpiece her long cascading hair had been concealing. Directing her attention to it, she raised her hand to brush it through her hair and answered the call.

"Scion here, Demeter. You can disengage at any time, I have the target and have withdrawn."

Shego smirked and murmured under her breath. "I love it when a plan goes perfectly."

Jara ignited the energy blade of her shortsword, as Stingerborg held out his right arm and equipped the Stinger Blade. Seeing him answer her challenge in kind, she seethed.

"Nothing has changed. You are still a child."

Stingerborg tightened his grip on the handle of his blade. "Well, how many more people you love do I have to kill before I'm a man?"

Hunterborg was wise to get out of the way as quick as his stamina would allow, before Jara shot straight for Stingerborg and swing down on him.

Even using his telekinesis to block her swing, the impact of her overhead swing coming down on his raised Stinger Blade was enough to cause a pair of long fissures to open under the Blue Beetleborg's feet.

As the ground broke beneath his own feet, Roland moved through the slowed down world around him, dashing towards Shego as she began to look toward him and gradually sped up.

Are her reflexes just that quick…?! Roland thought as her energy erupted and she accelerated enough to block his claw before he could close it on her arm.

She blasted him in the face and chest, then sprang into a graceful spinning leap away from both Star's laser beam blast and a cascade of crashing mode shots from Strikerborg. She landed in the narrow space between the deluge of energy blasts and jumped and twirled in a zigzag pattern from them while using her energy to block more projectiles.

Typhus coming up on Shego's right flank surprised her though. "Excuse you?"

Fully facing her, Typhus opened the second mouth atop his head, and it unleashed a scattering barrage of energy bolts that struck Shego as she raised her arms to protect her face, enveloping her in smoke and explosions.

"Whatever you're doing to my pal Kombat Knat stops now!" He declared as he pulled his bony white sword from his second mouth.

Shego lowered her arms, her energy field had absorbed the brunt of that attack. "Sorry, I can't help being easy to die for any more than being easy to die against."

Typhus fell on her, swinging one-handed with barbaric force. She ducked under the first diagonal slash, went even lower to avoid a horizontal return stroke. Lunging forward, she slashed across his belly and circled around him to slash down his caped back. Roaring, he turned to lash out in an upward diagonal strike, but Shego twirled in the direction of his swing to weave away from him.

The Hunter Claw finally caught Shego around her slender waist. Accelerating, he turned around and slammed her into Typhus' chest.

Strikerborg entered 0-1-0 into her Input Magnum as Star's cheekmarks flashed.

"Freezing Mode!" The former called.

"Winterstorm Hyperblow!" The latter shouted with her.

The combined blast of freezing winds slammed into Shego and Typhus as Hunterborg dashed back from the two. Quickly the ice built around the two, until they were encased in a large, heavy block of ice.

Behind Star and Jo, on the other side of the school's front lawn, Drew could feel the strain on his body as he traded blows with Jara. Using his telekinesis to read her overwhelming strikes and brace his right arm against the force was quickly wearing him down.

"You have no place; you have no right to stand before me!" Jara yelled as she turned her energy blade into a whip and lashed him several times after he'd blocked and parried her once more. "You should be a boiled, bloated corpse in that armor!"

Stumbling back, Stingerborg was slashed again, and again with scorch marks appearing in his armor and the shockwaves rumbling through him. Jara chased him down and jammed the energy blade into his armored chest, the beams scattering as she tried to run him through until the physical blade itself slammed into his armor.

Despite the force of the blow, Drew's telekinesis kept him standing. He could feel blood trickling from his nose. Watching and feeling Jara raise her sword above her head and reignited the energy blade, he turned himself to the right while sweeping the blade up to parry and lock her blade.

"Don't tell me. Where I belong. Or what I should be," he growled back. "I already know what I am, and it pisses us both off!"

He riposted, knocking her blade back upward with the force of his telekinesis. Shocked that he could even knock her off her footing, Jara was open long enough for Drew to shoot her twice in the chest with the Input Magnum in its stock beam mode, as she was carried back further, the Stinger Blade's turbine wound up, and he lunged forward to put the blade through her heart.

Jara was just a little quicker, and she deflected the weapon up and the Stinger Blade ground against her armored neck and the side of her mask, chipping some of it away before she threw herself away from Stingerborg in a desperate lunge.

The ice containing Typhus suddenly exploded, forcing Strikerborg to shield Star from the ice shards sailing through the air, as the Synthetic Beast Commander let out an enraged yell, most of his body turning red. Freed from the ice, Shego went tumbling away past the Hunterborg.

"GET AWAY FROM HER!" With his roar, Typhus ignored everything else and shot straight for Stingerborg, pulling his sword back to hit him with all his might.

Drew was surprised by the violence and speed Typhus had come at him with, but after doing so much, he held confidence the fight was over.

When Typhus's blade was stopped by the spiked and curved head of a large, heavy battle ax, he felt the tension leave him completely.

The fight was over.

"We've been over this before, big guy."

Towering above Drew and Typhus was Miss Skullnick, her monstrous body now clad in an old but very strong armor made perfectly for Trolls. "I'll just call this strike two if you leave right now."

Shego got up, and shook her head as she felt the warmth return to her extremities. She looked at Miss Skullnick in no small amount of disbelief.

"There are just ugly monsters all over the place," she muttered, before she found Roland, Jo, and Star standing over her with weapons aimed at her.

"Funny that the ugliest monster here is you," Star said.

Shego gave her a level look, before she let out a laugh. "You know what? I really like you kids; you fight dirty, you never go on the 1v1, and you throw some cold, cold one-liners. Problem is, though?"

Her energy immediately flared up, becoming an expanding sphere that Strikerborg, Hunterborg, and Star scattered from. Back up onto her feet, Shego grinned as her eruption left the ground beneath her feet molten.

"You lack vision," she finished.

"RADIANCE!" Kombat Knat yelled as he grew to full size and landed beside her.

Shego hooked a thumb to him. "Like this guy. He gets it."

Hearing Kombat Knat's voice, Typhus pulled his weapon free from Miss Skullnick's and called back to him. "Hey! KK! You get out of here right now! You gotta job to do!"

Kombat Knat called back. "Yes, I do have a job. It is more important than any other…"

He then put an arm around Shego. "And I will carry it out to the fullest."

With that, he shrank down, taking Shego with him.

Strikerborg turned to Hunterborg. "Hunterborg!"

Looking around, Roland tried to scan for the shrunken Kombat Knat with Jo, but both were gone. "No good. He's a lot faster when he's small."

Star, getting up, looked at her right arm, covered with a sizzling burn from wrist to elbow, then down at the numerous cuts and burns across her body caused by Shego's previous attacks.

"… Okay… I can't put off that armor thing anymore."

Hearing that, Jo looked at Star. "What do… oh my God, Star!"

Star looked up at Jo. "I've had worse, don't worry."

Watching his creation abandon the mission, Typhus turned to Stingerborg and Miss Skullnick.

"Yeah, we're outta here," he said, despondent as he walked over to Jara. "This all went bad, baby. Let's go."

Jara, staring at Stingerborg, allows Typhus to take her by the arm. She cannot leave without one last thing.

"I cannot believe Saberizer showed you any respect in defeat. Everything you have, is nothing you've earned or sacrificed for," she hissed. "Everyone else must foot the bill for your fantasy."

As Jara and Typhus vanished, Drew took a deep breath and released his telekinetic hold on himself. He sagged in his armor, its weight and rigidity holding him up despite his exhaustion.

The only reason I'm fighting is so no one else has to pay, he thought, glad that for all of the chaos that no one else appeared to have been harmed.

Miss Skullnick walked over to Star and the other two Beetleborgs. "Star, you gotta stop getting into these fights here at school!"

"I'm trying!" Star said as she cast a spell on her arm to clean and dress her burns. "It's not my fault Shego attacked, and the Magnavores decided to jump in, too!"

She turned to Hunterborg and Strikerborg. "Thanks for helping out, by the way, you too, Stingerborg!"

Stingerborg walked over, Drew shaking the bitter feeling Jara left with him off. "Don't worry about it."

Miss Skullnick had questions. "Oh yeah, why was Shego even here?!"

Hunterborg shook his head. "Don't worry, ma'am. Whatever she came for, I don't think she got it."

"Uhh… guys?" Mabel called over.

Star and the Beetleborgs looked over at Mabel, Brittney, and Heather. Seeing the three girls, when there should be four, Star's face immediately fell, capturing how all of them felt at that moment.

"… Oh no."


With Dudley at the wheel, Trip and Van's personal SUV pulled up to the end of their driveway and in front of the Vanderhoff brothers' luxurious home. Climbing out of the car, Trip took two steps and then just leaned back against the side of the vehicle as Van staggered out after him. Turning to him, Van had a concerned expression, and Trip met his taller brother's look with one of contempt.

"What?" Trip asked.

Van looked left and right, before he finally asked. "… Are we really gonna kill Andrew?"

Trip answered far too quickly. "Yes, we're going to fucking kill him! I don't care anymore!"

He pushed off from the side of the car and headed towards the steps going up to his door. "He doesn't get to talk to me like that. No one does."

Trip nearly shoved Dudley off the steps as he went to the door. "Him, his sister, Roland. Pine Tree, his sister, that fat fuck Nazi chick. Hell, throw in Brittney fucking Wong while we're at it. Everyone who thought they could act wise and fucking talk to me like I'm no one. They can all go to fucking hell!"

Dudley just took a deep breath and let it out.

Trip stopped short of opening the door and shook with rage. "Stop being so wishy-washy. Like there's anything they can do to us, like there's any consequences. They can talk all of the shit they want, but we are the people on top–we're the ones who are in control, not them!"

Van trembled himself, frightened, before he slowly nodded. "Yeah… we're in control…"

Drew's scathing defiance, Misao's vehement warning, and the horrified looks on their schoolmates' faces when Trip so boldly boasted about his power over them weighed on him. However.

Van Vanderhoff could not shake the feeling crawling through him, that something very bad was about to happen.

Opening the door–that it was already unlocked not occurring to him–Trip walked inside.

"As a matter of fact, get ahold of Goblin so we can…" He stopped in his tracks.

Misao Darlian was sitting on his living room couch, her hands and legs bound and a gag over her mouth.

When her gray eyes met his, rage filled them as she began to tremble where she sat, huffing loudly.

Trip looked from Misao to the other person in his living room, sitting in the recliner that would be his father's chair. Señor Senior Junior, holding in his right hand a snifter of million-dollar alcohol from his family's clearly broken into liquor cabinet, looked at both Vanderhoff brothers and their butler.

"Oh, hello!" He cheerfully greeted them. "Pardon me, I just let myself in. That is okay, isn't it?"

Trip was at a loss for words at the sight of Misao and the internationally known supervillain sitting in his living room.

Van, however, was not. "W-what are you doing in our house?"

Junior brought the snifter to his nose and inhaled the aroma of the alcohol before stirring it around with a circular motion of his hand. "We needed a place where we could be undisturbed. It's quite dangerous out there."

The three heard the door close behind them. Trip, Van, and Dudley looked back to see Shego slowly walk the door shut, before locking it. Looking from the door to their new hosts, she smiled as she melted the handle in her grip.

"Yeah," she said while an absolutely enthralled Kombat Knat bounced in place on her left shoulder, "There's all sorts of hooligans and crazies running around."

Trip looked pale with terror, and Van about to cry, as Junior gestured to them with the snifter. Only Dudley held his composure, looking more tired than afraid.

The young supervillain addressed them. "So, you needn't worry. By the end of the evening this will all be over; I will have what I want, in addition to whatever you have, and if you cooperate you will keep your lives when this is over. Does that sound good?"

It was Dudley who spoke up in reply. "Master Senior."

Junior looked at him. "Please, call me Junior…?"

He gestured to the old man emphatically, reaching for a name.

"Dudley, sir."

"Yes, Dudley."

Dudley didn't expect to crack the faintest smile, but he stayed to his point. "Master Darlian… she is affiliated with individuals who are extremely dangerous. I would, for the sake of Master Trip and Master Van's safety, prefer it if she were not here–lest those individuals track her to this location."

Senior Señor Junior nodded in understanding. "Worry not, señor. I have taken some very necessary precautions to ensure we have a lengthy lead. By the time her friends catch up to us, we should be all be on our way."

Shego chuckled. "We'll be long gone."


At Shermie Pines' home, Mabel stared at the screen of Drew's phone as a pin appeared on a map of the hills overlooking Echo Creek. Swiping through the screens, she brought up a physical address and looked up from the phone to the others gathered in the back yard with her.

"We've got her."

Jo punched her fist into her palm. "All right!"

Roland pumped his arm. "They didn't find it!"

Drew, bandaged up a bit but not to the extent he had been before, was a bit skeptical. "How do we know Junior didn't find and dump it somewhere to throw us off?"

Mabel chuckled. "I made sure to put it somewhere he wouldn't look."

Like it was a joke that only she'd been let in on, Jo joined Mabel in chuckling. "Heh, I can't wait to see the look on their faces when they realize it."

Shermie, sitting at the picnic table with them, put an arm around Mabel's shoulders. "Heh, smart as a whip, that's my granddaughter."

He looked at Drew. "You okay there?"

"I'll be fine," Drew assured him as Mabel made a call. "I've already got an appointment at Hyuuga Medical Works lined up for when we're done."

Shermie sighed. "I wish you kiddos weren't getting the tar beat out of you every day, but at least this time I won't just be sitting on the sidelines."

"Don't worry, it's a price I'm willing to pay," Drew reassured Shermie before he looked at his Beetle Bonder. "And as long as there's still work to do, we'll keep fighting, right?"

"Damn right," Roland answered.

"Exactly," Jo added.

Mabel gave him a thumbs up. "Yepperoonie!"

Her call was picked up by Janna. "Hey, Mabel, everything good on your end?"

Mabel gaily answered. "Sure is! I'm sending you the info, now!"

In the heart of the Beetle Battle Base, Janna's fingers glided across the cassette punk keyboard spread out in front of her, entering the location data sent from Mabel's phone to hers. Looking at the map, her eyes widened.

"… No way," she half spoke, half laughed.

Behind her, Dipper walked up with his arms folded. "It's their house, isn't it?"

Janna kept chuckling. "Yep."

"Tonight's just getting better and better," Dipper said with a small smirk of his own. He then called over to Janna's phone. "Are you guys good to move out?"

Mabel was happy to answer. "We're good on our end. Drew and Star are patched up and ready to go!"

Star walked over, accompanied by the formerly disguised janitor–a blonde cow-licked, freckle-faced young man Mabel's age wearing a black shirt and gray cargo pants and green utility belt.

"Uh, hey, Mr. Pines? We've got everything loaded up like you wanted," he said.

Star was pumped up. "Come on, let's go! Misao's not going to rescue herself!"

Shermie reached over and ruffled Star's hair. "Thanks kiddos."

He turned to the others. "You kids ready for this? I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, there might be some blowback from smashing up the Vanderhoff place."

He then adjusted his glasses. "But frankly? These schmendricks have it coming."

"All that and more," Mabel said with an malicious anticipation as the Beetleborgs and Star agreed with nods.

Dipper, overhearing them, likewise agreed. "Yeah, let's get started."

He turned to Janna. "Raise the Beetle Battle Base and get ready to send out the AVs." To the phone he issued the order. "Everybody, we're moving out and going to Trip and Van's house! Let's go get Misao back."

Mabel pumped her fist. "Woo! Let's go, guys! SSJ and Shego have no idea what's headed their way!"

Drew, Jo, and Roland all nodded to one another, and held their Beetle Battlers up to the darkening sky.

"Beetle Blast!"

Outside of Hillhurst Mansion, a white and gray-painted tilt-rotor VTOL sat with its engines off. Hearing Dipper's call, Marco tightened his grip on his phone and looked over to Jackie. "You hear that?"

Jackie nodded. "Yep, we're getting our get-back."

Marco looked over at the young woman waiting standing by the tilt-rotor aircraft's open rear hatch. She wore the same black shirt and gray cargo pants as the fake janitor over at Shermie's house, but she had long straight red hair and green eyes that lit up with anticipation when Marco called to her.

"It's go time, you ready?"

The young woman flicked her hair and nodded. "For a shot at Shego? I am so ready."

-Rules! Only @Medjed @Medjed#GarageWizard and @Medjed#BrainNoise may
ping. You ping? You b&! Don't dox yourself, or others, we will find
you. No links to pr0n or warez, and for the last fucking time
are clicked at your own risk, don't post them unless you're confident
of your security. They're always watching and waiting, Medjed, and
the only X-Factor is if YOU screw up. If you see something, say
something! Your hack is our exploit! #FreeEmilio
-Topic of the D-A-Y: TEAM POSSIBLE IN LA
<Medjed#12is00> OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG. OMG.
<Medjed#MonitorLizard> What?
<Medjed#MonitorLizard> Oh no.
<Medjed#12is00> IT'S H A P P E N I N G!
<Medjed#MonitorLizard> This is very bad. Kou, Otsu, are you two okay?
<Medjed#ITG-Otsu> We're OK, don't worry about us.
<Medjed#ITG-Kou> That stuff is happening in Echo Creek, and that's up
near Glendale. Literally 20 minutes away from where we hang out.
<Medjed#ITG-Otsu> So like two hours with traffic.
<Medjed#MonitorLizard> @GarageWizard, are you following this? This
could get very bad, very quick.
<@Medjed#GarageWizard> Don't worry guys. It's all under control.
<Medjed#MonitorLizard> Shego being anywhere near that much power is a
bad idea.
<Medjed#GarageWizard> Don't worry, the situation is as far as I can
tell, okay. While I'm here, @Medjed. Is the you know what done?
<@Medjed> Oh yeah, it's done.

= - = 70 = - =

A turntable turnabout! The gang is on the case and with powerful allies on their side, they're ready to begin the counterattack! What will become of Misao, and of the Vanderhoffs no less. The stakes continue rising in Volume 7!
A Small Fish in a Big Pond
Brace yourselves for an extra large chapter!

= - = 71 = - =

|A Small Fish in a Big Pond|

His hands and feet bound together, Trip was sat down on the couch next to his brother, directly across from Misao. Satisfied with her work, Shego turned to Dudley and opened and closed her hand like a cat extending and retracting her claws.

"You gonna give me trouble, or are you as checked out as you look?" She asked him.

"I have no intention of resisting you if it means harm comes to Master Trip and Master Van," Dudley replied as he served Junior a cup of coffee.

Junior nodded to Dudley. "Thank you, Dudley."

The hum in response was curt and professional, but even Shego could tell man was having the time of his life.

Powerless in his bonds, Trip tried looked from Dudley, filled with hate at the butler's complete lack of initiative, to Shego. "Look, you want money, right? I can get you that, as much as you want. Five million? Ten million? My Dad's good for it!"

Shego hummed at the offer. "The way I see it, I'm already getting everything you're offering me when we clean you out."

She gestured to Junior. "And that guy? I'm pretty sure his Dad spends more in a month maintaining his fish tank than you paid for this house."

Junior chuckled. "Father does love his clownfish."

Trip squirmed. "Screw you! What did I ever do to you, huh?!"

Junior took a sip of his coffee. "Oh my, this is exquisite… and powerful."

"It's how I cope," Dudley replied.

"I AM TALKING TO YOU!" The smaller Vanderhoff wailed.

Van was not participating in Trip's one-sided screaming match with Junior. He was staring at Misao, who was giving him and his brother the same wide-eyed, hate-filled glare she had when they first walked in. Aside from her breathing and the occasional blink, she was entirely still.

Junior noticed the murderous look in his field of vision and directed his full attention to it. "I mean. I have kidnapped her, and I am holding her hostage with the intent of extorting her family–but she is looking at you with the kind of hate I think would start genocides."

Shego looked at him. "Was that a joke about her being German or Japanese?"

Junior turned to her, aghast. "Neither!"

"That was in poor taste, Master Shego," Dudley delivered in his unflappable monotone.

Shego looked at Dudley. "You know what? I've only known those two for ten minutes and I can dig why you just seem to feel nothing."

Dudley glanced at her. "Why do you?"

The butler's question in kind cut deeper than Shego liked.

As Junior winced and reverse-hissed through his teeth, Trip yelled.

"What the hell is even so special about this dumb fat pig, huh?!" He demanded as he nodded towards Misao.

Shego stopped slipping into unwanted self-introspection and leveled a flat glare at him. Junior wasn't anymore appreciative, and he'd tased the girl.

"You do not know who this girl is?" Junior asked.

Trip shook his head. "Clearly, she's not important enough for me to care! She hangs out with losers, so she's a loser, too."

Junior gestured with an upraised palm towards Misao. "That is Momiji Hyuuga's daughter."

The color drained from Van's face, and Dudley went very still.

Trip stared in silence at Junior, then looked at Misao, and then back at him. He let out a laugh. "Momiji Hyuuga doesn't have a daughter."

Junior nodded. "She does, and this is her."

Van began mumbling. "Trip… Hyuuga Heavy Industries has almost as much money as the Mendō family, or Makel Pratham… they donate weapons to Ukraine and Shanghai…"

Trip said it louder, like increasing his volume would make it the truth. "You're lying! She doesn't have a daughter, and if she did it would not be this fat fuck!"

Misao was still staring at the brothers, and the hatred in her eyes was as intense as ever, but now her eyebrows were raised. There was a glee there in her expression–like she was still angry but now she was enjoying it.

"Obviously the leading manufacturer of Superweapons would not be very forthcoming about her family, because well…" Junior gestured to himself, inferring the situation at hand.

Shego had been rather annoyed by the body shaming going on and decided to twist the knife. "Oh yeah, wait until she finds out that you guys constantly harassing her friends helped us track her down."

Trip laughed again. "This is all a joke! A big ol' prank to get back at me."

He turned to Misao, still laughing. "Stop playing around, this is your payback, isn't it?!"

He stopped laughing as anger filled his voice. "It isn't funny! Tell them that you're nobody! Just some fat chested bimbo from Europe!"

Misao let out a menacing, muffled laugh from deep in her chest, as she shook her head.

Shego leaned on the back of Misao's couch. "I guess the only saving grace is that her friends have no clue where she is or even where to start looking."

A rock bounced off the patio door. As the Vanderhoffs spent a lot of money on the house, their windows wouldn't be so easily broken.

Junior looked towards the window, just as his phone beeped and he looked at it. "What? The Fenrir have detected intruders?"

Misao brightened and began laughing harder as Shego looked past Trip and Van and out the window. It was almost completely black, with all the lights in their backyard out and the interior lighting on full.

Staring into the pitch darkness, Shego saw a pair of glowing eyes and two heart-shapes beneath them staring back.

Realization dawned on her. "SSJ… they found us."

Junior nearly dropped his coffee. "What? How?!"

Shego went for the door. "We'll review that later. Release the hounds!"

Opening the door and pulling it closed behind her, Shego found Star waiting on the other side of the Vanderhoff home''s pool. Already, power began to swirl around her hands.

"Well, hello there, Princess," Shego said, "Looking for round two?"

Star, smiling, replied. "Come on, you want it more than me."

Shego walked up to the edge of the pool as her power coursed up her arms and down her body. "You know what? I do have a sort of professional pride when it comes to this sort of thing."

She glanced around. "So how about it: Let's cut loose and see what all of us can really do."

With that, she dipped her left foot into the water, as her power finally reached it. A great cloud of steam erupted, spreading across the pool buffeting Star as it enveloped her.

Instead of Shego lunging at Star through the cloud, the sound of metallic footsteps galloping towards her, and a revving chainsaw brought the Princess's attention to her right. A single shining red light illuminated the steam before an orange-hot glowing chainsaw blade cut through it and towards her.

"Whoa…!" Star yelped as she backflipped away from the sweeping blade, then cartwheeled from the same blade coming down vertically. As she exited the cloud of mist, a large mechanical quadruped with a box-shaped head sporting a single mono-eye camera at its front lunged out after her and tackled her to the ground.

Staring up at the machine as it raised its left claw, Star brought up her wand and used it to block its attempt at caving in her skull. "Robot wolves?! That is so cool!"

"Like 'em?" Shego asked. "LQ-84s aren't exactly cheap, you know."

The machine's long and flexible tail lifted the rapidly spinning chainsaw–held with three smaller wires at the tail's end–up above Star to plunge it into her chest.

Star made sure the bell of her wand was pointed at the machine. "Mega Geyser Windstorm!"

A high-pressure jet of water from her wand struck the Fenrir in the neck and chest, throwing it off her. As the Fenrir went up, Shego came down, cutting through the geyser with her glowing hands, and causing another steam explosion.

Star curled up and rolled back onto her feet and began dodging madly to avoid Shego's violent slashes and the trails of glowing energy they left in their wake. The moment she opened distance between them, Star aimed the wand at her.

"Laser Be–!"

A glowing trio of knives shot through the mist towards her, and Star ducked under the attack from another of the robot beasts. The Fenrir she blasted into the air came down and bounced off the pool deck, before scrambling up and throwing its own knives.

As Star dodged the superheated blades, Shego gracefully flipped over her head, twirled and kicked her in the face, sending her stumbling backward.

"Ugh…!" She turned her clumsy footwork into a backpedal from more slashes Shego swung for her face and center mass.

"Can't do too much without that vocal component, huh?!" The villainess asked as Star weaved under her and tried to get behind her, only to be left wide open to another of the Fenrir pouncing towards her to slash with its claws.

Rather than cast a spell, Star spun-kicked the whole machine in the head, knocking it away from her. As she finished the kick, she targeted the robot. "Laser Beam Blast!"

The beam connected with the Fenrir, damaging it. She spun and ducked when Shego took advantage and came for her neck, her burning hands slicing off one of the horns of her headband. When Star tried to sweep Shego, the taller woman skipped over the attempt and punished her with another kick to her face.

Star staggered back, bringing her free hand to her nose, and then up to her headband at the missing horn. Her eyes widening when she felt the damage, she glared at Shego.

"Hey! My ex-boyfriend got me this!"

Shego stopped and gawked at her. "Wow, and you kept it?"

She went in fast and began jabbing at Star. The Princess bobbed her head left and right to narrowly evade the deadly blows. "It's complicated!"

One slash cut Star's cheek, before she parried two more punches with her wand, she pointed her wand at Shego's chest. "Butterfly Blast!"

A multicolored beam struck Shego, and she backed up with smoke and butterflies wafting from her damaged top.

The two Fenrir jumped in next, one throwing knives that Star knocked away with her wand. As the other pounced on her, she leap-frogged over it and let it screech to a stop behind her.

Before it could turn and attack her, there was a clang like something heavy striking metal, and the Fenrir lumbered to its left, before it was hit again, and again. Thunder echoed in the distance as three more times the monster was struck.

Shego's eyes widened as she watched the machine hobble, a set of massive holes blown into its side and neck, before it collapsed, silent. "… What the heck?"

Looking in the direction that the fire came from, she looked further up the hills that overlooked Echo Creek, and spotted a white SUV parked on the winding road. Standing with his back braced against the side of his car and holding the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle taken from his living room, was Shermie.

"Hahaha, looks like we old timers still got it!" The elder Pines shouted to his gun and his spotter–Waddles, who was sitting on the hood of the SUV wearing a vest and an army helmet.

"Long range backup?" Shego asked.

"Narwhal Blast!" Star yelled.

Shego leaped gracefully to avoid a barrage of commotion causing cetaceans. When she came down, she looked up to not see Star, but Marco Diaz with fire in his eyes and wrath in his fists coming towards her.

"Oh, so now you're jumping in–?!" She swung at Marco, who went up and over the slash to bring his heel down in a flying wheel kick that had Shego staring at the ground as pain throbbed through her.

"Ohhhohoho no you did NOT!" Shego growled before she came up fighting, performing an uppercut Marco weaved under and opened up on her with quick jabs that connected to Shego's chest and face.

"And what if I did?!" Marco asked as he kept up the barrage of blows that Shego expertly began to parry now that surprise was not on his side.

"Then I feel…" Shego swung her right foot in a low kick to block Marco's own attempt while she blocked his quick punches with her right hand high and her left low. "… Sorry for you!"

Switching the position of her hands, blocking Marco's attempt to break her block. She knocked his guard wide open and kicked him in the side below his left arm and then snap kicked him in quick succession in the side of the head, connecting with his raised left forearm.

"You stupid dogs get to work!" Shego yelled, and Marco recovered from the force of Shego's kicks to jump aside from another of the mechanical beasts lunging at him.

She was about to turn her attention back to Star–now avoiding the chainsaw swings of yet another of the Fenrir machines, when a spear entered her field of view, and she leaned back to avoid a thrust aimed for the side of her head.

Shego swung to cut the silver spearhead from its shaft, but Jackie Lynn Thomas moved it clear before thrusting it for the villainess' center mass. Shego swayed left and right, avoiding the spear tip, but her attempts to grab it were foiled by Jackie's skillful maneuvering of the weapon, keeping it out of her reach and always on the attack.

"What the heck are they feeding you kids?!" Shego asked while on the defensive. "I remembered when there was only one of you uppity teenagers thinking they could throw hands!"

Jackie kept up the offensive, aiming for Shego's vitals and narrowly missing her. "Nobody told you what happens in Echo Creek, huh?"

She quickly wreathed her body in energy, repelling the spear when Jackie lunged for her heart. When Jackie was parried, she riposted, aiming to slash through the weapon, but Shego was blasted in the back with a magic ray made of cupcakes and went flying past her.

Star, on the other side of the beam, quickly jumped away from the Fenrir she'd gotten clear enough from to attack.

"Thanks Star!" Jackie called to the Princess.

"You're welcome, Jackie~!" Star said before she aimed her wand at her opponent. "Tiara Tornado!"

Seeing yet another Fenrir fade into view, its tail whipping about, Jackie quickly spun her spear and deflected two of the knives thrown at her while a third slashed across her shoulder, thinly cutting and cauterizing the wound in the same instant. "Ah!"

The Fenrir itself lunged, but Jackie slammed the spear down and swung herself up into a handstand atop of it to avoid the pounce. Pulling the weapon up, she swung herself around and bashed the Fenrir over its head with the shaft of the spear.

Between ducks and jumps to avoid his Fenrir's chainsaw, Marco was impressed by Jackie's moves. "She's so cool…!"

The blades of the chainsaw came in fast–and Marco leaned back as the grinding, red hot teeth of the blade passed so close they almost grazed his chin. He was worried in that instant that the heat from the weapon would burn his face.

Shego's heel came down on his face the instant the blade past, and Marco was bounced off the wooden deck and into a fast three-hit combo that lifted him higher off his feet before Shego used a weaker concussive energy blast to launch him into the Vanderhoff's patio window.

"You're not that good," Shego informed him, before Star cast another Laser Beam Blast. She leaped into a handspring over it, then threw herself into a spinning triple axel that became a rolling kick she dropped on Star's head in the same way Marco did her.

The kick jarred Star hard enough to make her drop the wand, which went skipping across the pool deck. Seeing the wand flung away, Shego open palm struck Star with no powers flowing through her right hand, then backhanded her the other direction. Grabbing her left hand, she pulled her around and then punched her hard in the stomach before letting her go, turning in place, and kicking her in the face to send her crashing into the furniture by the pool's fire pit.

Jackie saw Star go into the furniture, but before she could intervene, she found herself face to face with the now unoccupied Fenrir, three of them surrounding her.

Then there were two as more Anti-Tank Rifle fire crashed into the Fenrir directly in front of her, and she jumped back from the flanking lunges of the other two. When she looked again, Shego was walking over towards the wand.

"Well, that was easy," she said as she bent down to pick up the wand, "Now, let's see if I can be a magical girl."

A hiking boot-clad foot slipped under the wand and scooped it up to hit Shego in the face with it, before that same boot came back around hit the surprised supervillain in the same spot. Staggering backward, surprised, Shego stopped when she realized she didn't even notice this one coming.

"How many more of you…" She stopped and opened her eyes wide when she saw who had struck her.

"A magical girl, Shego, really?"

Standing in front of her was Kimberly Ann Possible, flicking her long red hair as she flashed her an amused smile.

"No judgment of what you're into, but I don't think you can rock the look."

Jackie, keeping away from the Fenrir, sighed in relief when she saw Kim. "Here we go…"

Shego glanced around for the wand, and found it by the edge of the pool, well out of reach. She turned back to Kim. "I've already kicked one Princess off her throne today, Kimmie, and I'm happy to make it two."

Kim just kept smiling. "We'll see."

With that, Shego attacked, and Kim moved. Energy blazing from her hands, Shego swung at Kim with haymakers, jabs, and crosses–and Kim just seemed to flow around them. Her hands came up, parrying the faster blows she couldn't evade like Shego was in slow motion.

Even her attempts at catching Kim's feet with low kicks were stopped with dance like in-steps by the redhead as she circled Shego then walked back from her, staying on the defensive.

"You've had a long day, haven't you?" Kim asked as she deflected Shego's right hooking slash with her own right forearm, then kicked her across the face.

Shego turned with the kick and staggered away from Kim. It was then that she noticed that she was breathing heavily and even her energy was losing its potency. "What the…?"

She shook her head and narrowly avoided a diving kick from Kim. When the agile redhead turned on her to attack, Shego was on the defensive, ducking under several kicks before she parried the last and then exchanged several deflected and blocked jabs with Kim.

As she began to retreat under the assault, the realization dawned on her. "… Crap…!"

Fighting the Beetleborgs and Typhus as part of Junior's plan took a toll on her. They expected to have a much longer head-start without any way to track them down, so she could rest up for the next round… but here they were. Sure ,the other kids were easy pickings, but this was Kim. Who was a tough fight even when Shego was fresh.

Not that she'd ever admit that.

Star coming to their literal doorstep, the hoodie kid and the spear girl throwing down on her without any hesitation despite not being on her level, the long-range fire support, and now Kim just waltzing up like a special guest star. These concerns finally caused the most worrisome thought to occur to Shego.

Wait a second… did they plan this?!

Blocking Kim, Shego gasped when her arm was caught, and she was flung in a perfectly executed hip throw off the edge of the pool deck and into the rest of the Vanderhoffs' backyard. Getting up, huffing, Shego assumed her fighting stance again.

"Hang on a second, clue me in," she said, "When did you get here?"

Kim was feeling coy. "Not as long as you, but plenty of time to get rested up for tonight."

"Why are you always a step ahead of SSJ?" Shego asked as the indignation of that confirmation let her powers flare brighter.

Kim perked up, and she looked back to see the two remaining Fenrir suddenly back off from the very pressed Jackie and come charging towards her. To her left and right, Kim spotted two more materialize out of thin air, and close in on her.

"You know what? Nevermind," Shego instructed her. "You're right about one thing: I'm tired… of all of you!"


Trip and Van watched as the battle between Star and Shego kicked off. How despite being face to face with the deadly weapons of multiple Unmanned Gears, Star, Marco Diaz, and Jackie Lynn Thomas of all people were fighting them and Shego. It looked more like a schoolyard brawl than a battle to the possible death–except when it looked like one of those machines, and then another, were smashed by someone shooting from far away.

Dudley, watching as Marco got up and shook his head after being down for a few moments, turned his attention towards Junior, who was likewise watching the brawl. "It would appear that Master Kim Possible has arrived to aid Master Misao's friends."

"I was concerned for this," Junior said. "I should've known seeing him meant that the game was already up."

"Hey," Van said not to Junior, but to Misao.

Misao acknowledged Van by focusing her contemptuous gaze on him.

He shrank when he felt its full force but continued. "You… weren't serious about what you said this morning, were you? When this is done, you're not gonna like… kill us, or something?"

She stared at him, and then slowly shook her head.

That brought some relief to him. "I… I've been thinking about all this, and this is too much–trying to k-kill you and your friends. After you jumped us, we were mad and wanted to hurt you, so we called that Goblin guy, and when we heard that he beat Pine… Dipper up we thought you guys would get the message and leave, but you didn't. This has escalated so much that I'm afraid somebody might really die soon…"

Trip looked at Van, trying to figure out where he was going with this, Junior and Dudley both were similarly quiet as they observed.

"So… I'm sorry. Trip, and I, we'll leave you alone. You can do whatever you want to get back at us, and we'll be done. Just don't kill him or me."

Misao stared, wide-eyed at him, otherwise unresponsive. Trip glared at his brother, looking betrayed.

After several moments, she looked at Junior and tilted her chin up, indicating the duct tape over her mouth. Understanding her intent, Junior walked over and with great care not to hurt her or get bitten, gently peeled away the gag. With her mouth free, Misao looked at Van.

"Killing either of you is not enough," she said calmly. "I want you to live and suffer for as long as you possibly can."

Van flinched, as Misao continued. "I want every waking moment you have, to be one of regret and despair."

She slowly shook her head as she had done before. "You hurt my friends. People that I've only known for a very short time but have come to cherish for being so kind and warm to me. They did not care that I am rich, or that I am the daughter of Momiji Hyuuga. They saw me and my value as a person and stood up for the people you tormented for fun, I love and admire them for that."

Misao leaned forward, as she spoke for emphasis. "They may, in time, forgive you… they are good people, but I will never. I swear to you–on my own life–that your lives will be a neverending hell and I will dedicate my wealth and power to ensure it. If you live to be a hundred, two hundred, a thousand years… every second needs to be a reminder that you live because death is too good for you and your suffering is perfect for me."

The pit of ice in Van's stomach almost made him want to throw up, as he averted his eyes from Misao's to look at his brother. Trip looked almost delirious, like he was trying to wake up from this nightmare he was having but could not find his way out.

Dudley closed his eyes and lowered his head somberly, while Junior stepped forward. "Misao, if I may?"

She didn't spare him a glance. "No you may not."

Junior defied her. "I have nothing to say of those two. Rather, I would like to discuss the something with you?"

This pulled her gaze from the Vanderhoffs to him, and the same ice Van felt in his gut formed in Junior's veins.

"What is so important?"

Junior looked at the brothers, and then reached into his pocket before pulling out a small black box, like one could carry jewelry inside.

"Well, there is something I need to give to you," he confessed.

Misao's expression went from contemptuous to confused and curious. "Was?"

Dudley lifted his head, confused as well. Both Vanderhoffs stared, gobsmacked at Junior.

"This was all… very complicated. It should have been resolved weeks ago, but your dear friends interfered, and it turned into a disaster."

Misao stared at the box and then looked up at him. "I do not understand."

"There are things that cannot be attained with money, not even vast amounts." Junior explained. "That is why I dedicated myself to being a supervillain, to take what criminals and even billionaires cannot grasp."

He brought a hand to his chest. "And that is why I am here."

Taking the box in both hands, he opened it to reveal a simple silvery necklace, with three beautifully cut diamond-shaped crystals attached to its middle. The center crystal was three times the size of its companions, and the light striking them sent small streams of multi-colored beams scattering in every direction.

Misao's eyes widened as she stared at the necklace. "… What is this?"

"This is something that belongs to you," Junior answered, "And I would like to return it."

She looked from the necklace back to him. "I have never seen it before."

Junior grew somewhat concerned. "Are you sure?"

He held the case closer to her. "Because I was told that you would want it."

Misao looked from Junior to the jewelry, wondering what he could possibly mean, before she felt a chill run through her.

Then, suddenly, she could hear her pulse rushing through her ears as the world began to fall away; first the Vanderhoffs and Dudley, then the room she was sitting in, and finally Señor Senior Junior.

Her eyes locked onto the crystals, and slowly dilated as the sound of her own pulse slowed down, until it hung at a beat per second.

Watching Misao seemingly slip into a trance as she stared at the necklace, Dudley grew very worried. Van looked at Trip, then back at Misao as Junior removed the necklace from the case and moved behind her to carefully connect the ends of the chain around her neck.

"H-hey!" Van said. "Why is she zoning out like that? Is… is it a good idea to give that to her?"

Junior looked at him and shook. "Oh, no, not at all. But like I said…"

He clicked the necklace closed.

"There are some things that you cannot get with money."

Misao didn't react. She didn't even blink. Still entranced, she stared through the Vanderhoffs and out into infinity.

"Is she okay?" Van asked.

Junior tilted his head in confusion. "I… do not know? I was only told to give it to her…"

He noticed something moving through her hair. "What's this?"

Reaching down, Junior began to part her dark-dyed locks, trying to find out what could be moving around in there–when whatever it was abruptly moved up and bit his hand.

"HIJO DE PUTA!" He screamed out as he yanked his hand free and found a familiar pink rodent–a naked mole rat to be precise–clamped onto his hand with its jaws.

The rodent looked up at Junior with brown beady eyes as he recognized it. "You!"

Thunderous footsteps from the hallway leading to the Vanderhoff home's kitchen were followed by Mabel and the the blonde fake janitor entering the living room, running up and simultaneously flying kicking Junior in the chest, sending him across the living room and into the wall used to project their television on.

"Booyah!" Ron Stoppable cheered as he and Mabel landed from their kick.

Mabel turned to him, raising her hands. "Who's bad?!"

Ron gave her a double high-five. "We're bad!"

Mabel turned to the others. "Misao! We're here to save you!"

Van sagged in relief. "Oh, thank God, we're saved!"

"Please, get us out of here!" Trip yelled at Ron. "We were taken hostage, too, they broke into our house and tied us up–"

Mabel looked at them both. "Go fuck yourselves."

Both brothers fell silent.

Mabel directed her attention to Dudley. "You're good, though."

Dudley snapped his fingers into a thumb's up to Mabel in reply.

Trip looked pleadingly at Ron, who quickly held up his hands. "Look guys, whatever beef you've got? We're just here for Shego and SSJ. As Kim would say, we are so not involved in the drama."

Rufus scampered over to Ron and crawled his way up to his shoulder. "You get her binds Rufus?"

"Mmhm!" The naked mole rat replied while saluting.

Despite Mabel's harsh words, Van called out. "Hey, Junior did something to her!"

Mabel looked from Van to Junior and back to Misao, her tone icy with fury. "What did he do?"

"I don't know, he put some necklace on her, and she just zoned out!" Van quickly said.

Rushing over to Misao, with Ron and Rufus right behind her, Mabel looked at the necklace and then at the other girl's blank expression. "Hey, Misao! Snap out of it!"

Ron looked at the necklace. "Careful, it might be some kind of mind-control device."

Mabel turned to face Junior, incensed. "What did you do to her?!"

A far more pressing problem sprang up behind them, prompting both Trip and Van to scream in terror and Dudley to recoil with fright. Mabel, Ron, and Rufus turned to find Kombat Knat looming over them. After looking up at his gnarled teeth, their gazes fell to his shining red liquid eyes.

"In the name of my Radiance, you will not escape."

"Oh wow, that's really Kombat Knat!" Ron screamed.

With a sweep of his arm, Mabel and Ron were flung rag-dolling over the couch Misao sat on and across the room.

Van and Trip were too busy screaming loudly in terror at the ugliest thing they've ever seen. The object of their terror turned to face them and raised his claws menacingly.

"SILENCE. My Radiance needs the girl alive, but you are suitable snacks. The more you scream the hungrier I'll get!"

Mabel, snapping out of her daze, looked up to see Kombat Knat shove aside the couch Misao was on to stand over her and Ron. "You interlopers will pay–AAAAAHHHHH!"

Rufus, the little MVP, had scrambled onto his foot, and bit down with incisors rated to cut through steel like it was nothing.

Together, Mabel and Ron sprang into action, each pulling out their respective grappling hook guns and firing them, hitting Kombat Knat in his largest eyes at point blank range. Kombat Knat screamed louder as he stumbled back from them.

Mabel turned her head to look at Ron, then at his and her respective grapple guns. "Your first thought was grappling hook, too?!"

Ron shrugged. "I guess we're on the same vibe?"

Mabel quickly looked for Misao, but instead found Señor Senior Junior swinging another stun baton towards her face.

Shooting her right arm up, she let the whole baton crash into and snap in two on her forearm. Seeing this, and Mabel's glowering face beyond it, Junior grew alarmed. "Um…!"

Mabel's fist plowed into Junior's mouth and the young man was thrown into Trip and Van hard enough to make the whole couch they were seated on fall backward.

Ron stared at Mabel, stunned. "Um…!"

Mabel shook her left hand. "That stings so much…"

Flinging Rufus off his foot, Kombat Knat launched two of his extending arms at Mabel. Ron tackled her back down and under them as they impaled the wall. Getting up, she realized that he was between them and Misao.

"We're not leaving without her!"

"Then you're not leaving alive." Kombat Knat quickly vanished from sight, shrinking down and speeding up to them. Growing to full size and shoving them back from the space he occupied, he swung down to slash through Mabel with his claws, but she jumped clear of his clumsy strike.

Ron turned around and bolted for Misao. "I'll get her!"

Before he could reach her, Junior tackled Ron, and the two of them went to the floor brawling.

As Mabel hopped back and around Kombat Knat, never turning from him, she pulled the M1951 from her skirt pocket. Aimed at Kombat Knat's eyes, she fired wildly, the bullets impacting and punching into the Synthetic Beast's hide. Shrieking, he retaliated by launching his extending arms at her, missing but shattering the patio windows.

Mabel saw an opportunity, changing direction and going out the window while still shooting and taunting the monster to lure him outside. "Come and get me then, bug boy!"

Kicking off as he shrank down, Kombat Knat became a missile in pursuit of his prey. Reaching the falling shards of glass, many of them larger than him, he began to leap from one to the other, rapidly changing direction and picking up speed before he sprang off a final large piece and shot past the fleeing girl.

Growing to full size with the pool to his left Kombat Knat screeched as Mabel turned to face him and skidded to a halt.

Unfortunately for the monster, all he fell into was Shermie's sights. An instant after he grew to full size, the old man had drawn a bead.

"Have a taste of how we do it in Jersey, eight eyes!"

He squeezed the trigger, using the weapons massive kick to speed up the pull on the weapons bolt to chamber another round and fire again. Then again. Then two more times after that within a space of time that even the best target shooters would scream obscenities about the possibility of achieving.

The five armor-piercing rounds smashed into Kombat Knat, the sheer force of the combined impacts knocking him away from Mabel. Wounded, he staggered towards the pool and fell into the water with a splash.

Mabel waved in Shermie's direction. "Thanks Sherpa!"

Hearing the cacophony of Ron and Junior fighting inside the house, she looked around for some backup to take her back into it. "Marco?! Jackie?!"

She found them both helping Star up. "Are you guys okay?!"

Jackie turned to the two. "Yeah… Shego's really strong, and those crazy wolf robots are bad, too. Your Grandpa's helping but… yeah…"

Marco turned to Star. "What about you?"

Star shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs out. "I… really need to work on that armor thing…"

"Where's Kim?" Mabel asked.

Marco turned and pointed off the patio. "… Fighting Shego and the…"

Off the pool deck, between the patio and the wall surrounding the Vanderhoffs' property, a dance was taking place. Four LQ-84 Fenrir Unmanned Gears were swinging their chainsaw blades, lashing out with their claws, and even throwing themselves bodily at Kim Possible, whose mixture of gymnastics, acrobatics, and plain old cheerleading kept the margins between their attacks and her body wide.

One of the chainsaw blades came in low, and Kim leaped off the ground over it and the Fenrir swinging. Snatching one of the few remaining knives located in the three-blade knife holster on the Fenrir's rear legs as she passed over it, she weaved under its chainsaw's attempt at carving into her and slashed the cable holding it with the knife.

The second Fenrir fighting her threw itself at her, spiraling towards her with claws outstretched, but Kim dove and tumbled under the charging machine. As she came up, she threw the knife back and sliced through its tail, also disarming it of the ability to use its main weapons.

As the still running chainsaw of the unit fell to the grassy ground, Kim jumped hard onto it. When it bounced, she maneuvered her feet, and spun it like a helicopter rotor under her. Catching it by its side mounted motor with one foot, she kicked it into a third Fenrir, the hot blade grinding through and destroying it as Kim landed.

The last intact Fenrir galloped at Kim, while the other two were getting up, she was more concerned with Shego–who coordinated her attack with the fourth Fenrir. Shego looked a little miffed, while Kim was still wearing a competitive and defiant smile.

"Yeah," Shego said as she boxed with Kim like the title belt was on the line, energy covering her fists like gloves. "You think you're really slick, huh?!"

Kim kept her guard up, staying light on her feet, so light that when Shego tried to kick them from under her, she sidestepped and switched positions with her. The next two punches Shego threw at her, Kim slapped aside, before she drove the heel of her right palm into Shego's left cheek.

"I'm more…" Kim did not let up, palming Shego left and right with both hands before she drove one last strike into her chin, throwing her back. "Smooth than slick!"

She back flipped when the fourth Fenrir leaped into a forward midair tumble, becoming a giant wheel of death with its saw blade. Back flipping several times, Kim then jumped up back onto the pool deck, avoiding the other two remaining Fenrir.

Turning to Mabel, she smiled. "Hey, where's Ron?"

She pointed back in the house. "Fighting Señor Senior Junior."

Indeed, the two young men were still rolling around on the hardwood floor, trying to get on top so they could pin the other, but both were being really squirrelly about staying on the bottom.

"And the creepy bug monster?"

Mabel pointed into the pool. "Sherpa shot him."

Indeed, Kombat Knat was sinking to the bottom of it.

Kim thumbed back towards the edge of the pool deck. "And Shego and her robot dog show are down there. Awesome. We should wrap this up."

Mabel pulled the front of her sweater and reached down into it, before pulling out Marco's phone and unmuting a conference call. "Hey guys, it's time to finish the job!"

Getting while rubbing her jaw, Shego shouted. "Oh, we're far from finished!"

The sound of rotors at high speed caught Shego's attention, and she looked up and back to see the Red Striker AV rise above the wall, its fuselage pointing towards her while its ducted fans oriented straight up to keep it hovering.

Inside the cockpit, beneath the Strikerborg's helmet, Jo smiled as the AV's computer targeted Shego and the remaining Fenrir.

"I think you're done!" She said as she pressed down the trigger.

Shego was moving as soon as she saw the first flash, and a cascade of energy bolts fell upon her and the Fenrir. The Unmanned Gears stood no chance under the sustained assault, the energy bolts tearing them apart as Strikerborg focused her fire on them. As they went down one my one, Strikerborg pulled back on the sticks and the laser barrage crawled upward towards Shego, who was headed for the far wall and cover.

She didn't make it, for through that far wall the Stinger AV smashed through and its prow slammed into Shego's stomach as Stingerborg brought the vehicle to a stop before he could run her over. Shego was thrown backward onto the ground, coughing loudly as she tried to recover her breath.

Inside the house, Junior pinned Ron onto his back, and raised his fist. "How did you get here so quickly?! How did you find us?!"

Ron, gripping Junior by the collar and holding his raised fist back by the wrist, struggled to get free. "If I told you, you'd be really embarrassed!"

"I do not care, I must know!" he shot back. "This is my reputation as a professional on the line!"

The Green Hunterborg's hand grabbing Junior by the back of his shirt and pulling him back stopped him. Held off the ground, and realizing it was one of the armored warriors holding him, Junior looked at him in distress and immediately drew his hands close to his body nervously.

"You should be more concerned about your career as a professional, my guy," Hunterborg said.

Ron sighed in relief to see the Hunterborg there. "Oh man, thanks. I don't like getting punched."

An instant later Junior was thrown to the pool deck at Mabel's feet as the Red Striker AV landed, and both Strikerborg and Stingerborg dismounted from their respective vehicles. Sitting up, Junior looked up at Mabel, then stared at Hunterborg, Ron (with Rufus on his shoulder) Marco, Star, Jackie, and Kim.

He closed his eyes and bowed his head? "I am not so foolish that I do not know when I'm beaten."

Kim hummed in surprise. "Oh?"

"Wow, throwing the towel just like that?" Ron asked.

Junior looked up at him. "Yes, I do not have powers and there are more of you than me. I know my odds, and they are nil."

At that moment, Shego grasped her second wind, and leaped into an uppercut that lifted Stingerborg off his feet and onto his back in surprise. Kicking off the horns of his AV, she leaped back at Strikerborg, surging all of her power to her feet so she could flying roundhouse kick Strikerborg away from her as well.

"But I do have powers, and I don't care how many you are!" She declared. "My odds are looking amazing!"

And like her words had revived him from a watery grave, Kombat Knat exploded from the water directly behind Mabel, coming up and dropping towards her with his maw wide open–and every intention to clamp his teeth down upon her head as she turned and look back up at the monster in surprise.

Her head and shoulders were almost completely in Kombat Knat's jaws, when they slammed shut.

= - = 71 = - =

Next time, the penultimate chapter of Volume 7!
The Ruler of Everything
In the gallows or the ghetto, in the town or the meadow. In the billows, even over the sun, every end of a time is another begun.

= - = 72 = - =

|The Ruler of Everything|

"Aw man, aw man…!"

Noxic was in distress, seeing not only Jara but Typhus too looking absolutely devastated as they dragged themselves into his nearly complete workshop. The facility, built around a large beehive like structure at its center, was surrounded by several large clouds of metallic wasps, and the actual structures of the facility were being constructed by teams of several Scabs.

"What the heck happened to you guys?! Did the job Vexor gave you go bad?!"

Jara, holding her hand over the broken section of her mask, shook her head. "I do not want to talk about it. Fix my mask."

Noxic recoiled from them. "YOUR MASK BROKE?!"

Typhus nodded. "Yeah, that blue Beetle brat…"

Jara turned to let her mask glower at him.

He quickly changed the subject. "But even worse, Kombat Knat betrayed me."

And now Noxic was just confused. "Typhus, your creations are like your kids, ain't they? Don't they love you?"

Typhus growled. "I thought he did… but then he met a girl who got him all messed up."

Noxic threw his hands up. "Of course. It would be a woman that'll get a guy thinking crazy!"

He stopped. "No offense, Jara."

"Some taken."

He continued. "But still! Can't you just turn him off, or yank his chain, or anything?!"

Typhus looked down. "After Kamaza, I made sure to never make another monster that just blindly follows orders. Something that obedient and unthinking only causes trouble, baby."

His powerful hands tightened into fists. "I just didn't expect Kombat Knat to just drop everything and run off after that human. He went after her like a moth to a lamp."

Jara spoke up. "That energy that woman radiated."

Typhus mulled over it. "You think that's it? She really was a bug zapper, huh?"

Noxic scratched his metal head, pondering. "Geez, that's unlucky. The one time you need a creepy bug monster, and he gets led off by a bright light."

He pounded his fist into his palm. "Hey, why don't we try to get him back?"

After a few moments of pondering going out there again and thinking about how defiant Kombat Knat was to him… Typhus raised his head. "Yannow what? At the end of the day, there are lots of things worth dying for, and a whole lot of them are better than being under Vexor's thumb."

A long silence fell as the three Magnavore commanders let Typhus' realization sink in.

With that to consider, Noxic withdrew his suggestion. "Yeah, you're right."

Even Jara, as she removed her mask with her back to them and held it out for Noxic to take, agreed. "May Kombat Knat find his destiny, free of Vexor…"

Typhus nodded in agreement. "Yeah, bathed in radiance, baby."


Misao heard the click of the necklace and blinked in surprise. She was no longer in the Vanderhoffs' living room. She was suddenly adrift in an endless, star-filled void, far away from any celestial body but surrounded by them in every direction and a haunting ethereal light not-unlike the Aurora Borealis of the northern reaches of the world.

"Wo bin ich?" She asked aloud, her voice echoing only in her head. "Was ist das?"

Despite the infinite expanse, she cannot help but feel she is not alone in this emptiness. Realizing her hands and feet were free, she flailed around, and turned in place.

"Ist hier jemand?!"

She stopped, and gasped.

Looking over her was an impossibly sized figure, a giant that took up most of the void in front of her. It was solid black, blocking out the stars behind it, and outlined in the aurora. As she adjusted to comprehend its scale, Misao's eyes widened when she realized that it was humanoid and shaped like a woman. The long-haired feminine figure's only other feature besides its size, were two piercing eyes that glowed a vibrant green as they stared down at her.

Looking to her right, Misao gasped and found a second figure, this time that of a man. He too looked down at her, his eyes a piercing blue. However, the light that outlined him was whiter and only the edges swirled with color. As she began to turn, she realized she was surrounded by more of the figures.

A wolf outlined in red, as its white eyes seemed to cast contempt upon her.

A man with a blue outline, sharing the green eyes of the first figure, his wild hair barely tamed in a ponytail.

A younger-shaped figure, with a light-yellow outline, and softer green eyes.

Another younger figure with straight cut long hair, their outline a gentle pink but eyes glowing yellow.

A final violet outlined female figure, with eyes that were a lighter shade of blue than the others, almost icy.

Misao turned in place, looking at them all, as tears began to fill her eyes and flow down her cheeks. "I'm sorry… I'm… I'm so sorry…"

She stopped and looked up at the first figure. "I… I don't… I… no… I can't do it again."

Curling forward, Misao began to sob. "I can't do it anymore. Please… let me give up."


Misao stopped her whimpering when she heard her own voice. She looked back, and she was staring at herself, bathed head to toe in a silvery light, and her hair a radiant alabaster. Her glowing copy outstretched her hand to her, palm outstretched for her to take it.

Immediately, Misao rebuked her. "No?! NO?! After everything you want to keep going and subject us–subject them to… we're just going to do this again?!"

Her twin nodded. "Yes. Because we love them."

Misao began to cry again.

"Who does this to the people they love…?"

And just as quickly as she spoke, she was rebuked.

"We have no choice!"

Those words gave Misao pause.

Her twin in silver and white continued. "We can't stop. We can't give up. We can't go back…"

Misao knew what she was going to say, even as she didn't know why she knew.

"… We can only go forward."

She looked at her own outstretched hand, beckoning her. Raising her head, looking up and around at the silent monolithic figures in the darkness, and then over her shoulder at the first one. She felt her burst of uncertainty and fear melt away and a resolve surge to take its place.

Why she felt these emotions, why she was so afraid before and so determined now… she didn't know… but she understood that taking the hand outstretched to her would give her the clarity she desired, and the direction to place this burning in her chest.

As the last of her tears dried, Misao reached out and took her twin's hand. The other Misao smiled,and nodded to her.

"Say it."

Words that Misao'd never heard before burst to the front of her thoughts, words that if she spoke, she knew she could never take back.

She didn't care.

"Tetractys Grammaton."

The last thing anyone had seen was Kombat Knat's jaws close like a bear trap on Mabel's head.

Then in the next instant, the monster was stumbling forward like a drunk stuck deep in a bottle.

Mabel was gone.

Not lifeless in his jaws, not headless on the ground. She had simply vanished.

After regaining his footing, a very confused Kombat Knat opened his jaws, but nothing came spilling out. "Ah?"

Marco turned to Hunterborg, relieved. "Super Speed is awesome."

Hunterborg was looking around, and then turned to Marco, Jackie, and Star. "… That wasn't me…"

Ron pointed past him. "Uhh… guys?"

Everyone looked in the direction direction he pointed and found Mabel alive and on the other end of the pool. She was alive and intact, and looking up at Misao.

"… Wow…"

The smaller girl stood, wearing from neck to toe a body fitting suit glowing as if it were made of white light with fitted crome plates on her arms, legs, and hips that sparkled and gleamed from the light the suit generated. From her back a pair of large, segmented, and telescoping protrusions extended upward, a full head taller than her, before curving downward to stop at just above her feet. A hazy light radiated from these wing-like protrusions–and on closer inspection, the source appeared to be transparent feathers made of glass.

Misao stared back down at Mabel, relieved that she was okay, then turned towards Kombat Knat.

"Oh my gosh," Star whispered. "That's so cool."

Marco was understandably concerned. "Yeah, but what is it, and why is she wearing it?"

Star stepped forward, to reach out and touch it. "I wanna touch–"

Jackie and Marco grabbed her, with the former calling out. "Careful!"

Ron turned to look at Junior. "Hey! What did you put on her?!"

Junior, still staring at Misao, just shook his head. "… I do not know, but I am glad I did."

Kim, much more cautiously, moved towards Misao. "Hey, um… whatever that is, I think you need to take it off."

Hunterborg, concerned, was already in communication with Dipper. "Hey, we got a problem."

Over at the Beetle Battle Base, Dipper and Janna looked up at the whited-out screens that had been showing them the battle and recording various sensor data.

"… Yeah," Dipper said, "I think you do."

Evading both the Strikerborg and Stingerborg, Shego landed back on the pool deck and stopped when she saw Misao and her light show of an armor. "What the heck is this?"

She looked towards Kombat Knat. "Hey! Don't just stand there looking gruesome, we need to go!"

The light that had been in front of her, was now behind her, and Shego turned to see Misao standing on the railing that separated the pool deck and the backyard. She was staring directly at her, the black and blue dye that colored her hair draining away slowly, leaving it white at the roots.

Down in the backyard, Stingerborg and Strikerborg both gave a start at how abruptly Misao appeared.

"Misao…?" Jo asked behind her armor.

Drew felt weird as he looked at her, like all his senses were jumbled up and being twisted in strange ways when his telekinesis came in contact with her. "… What's going on?"

Shego, after a moment of surprise, smirked and lunged forward to swing an energy laden blow at Misao. In an instant she was within arm's reach, but right as her hand reached Misao, the girl was suddenly just beyond it, even the trail of her energy not coming close.

The villainess gawped in surprise, but undeterred moved forward and swung at Misao again, this time with a left. Misao was again out of her reach.

Now she was confused. She hadn't seen the girl move to defend herself or evade. "How are you…?"

She quickly lashed out again, this time with a kick, but again it fell short of Misao.

It was when she drew her leg back, that Shego noticed two things that made her blood run cold.

First. Misao had not moved from the spot she had first appeared in.

Second. Shego had not moved from the spot she'd attacked Misao from.

Quickly, Shego looked Misao over, trying to figure out what was going on–and right away her eyes locked onto the dye evaporating from her hair, leaving white in its wake. It was several inches longer, but still moving at the same slow rate she had first noticed.

Shego blanched. "… Wait…"

With ferocity she attacked, and once more her attacks failed to reach Misao. Again, Misao did not move, and neither did Shego.

Kim tilted her head to the side as she watched Shego fight in place, swinging at Misao like she'd developed a very acute case of near-sightedness. "… Shego…?"

Marco and Jackie were similarly stumped by the villain's sudden passion for shadow boxing.

"Now I am even more confused," Marco admitted.

Panting heavily as she stopped, Shego focused her attention on Misao's hair. More of it was white than it should've been in the few moments she attacked her, but it was still changing at the same rate.

What was happening became starkly clear to Shego.

With a knowing look, Misao nodded. "Give up."

Shego put her hands up. "I surrender."

Kombat Knat, seeing his radiance in danger, ground his teeth together. The hateful light coming from the girl, trying to pull him from his radiance, it would not stand. He would not allow it.

Her glow would not be outshone by another, he would die bathed in her light.


Misao turned her attention to Kombat Knat as he yelled his war cry and lunged towards her. Her scowl deepened into a glower, as she looked at his widely-opened maw and what those teeth had threatened just a moment ago.

The wings of the armor began to glow brighter, as Kombat Knat neared.

And in the next instant, a halo of light appeared above the town of Echo Creek, briefly lighting the night sky.


At the Beetle Battle Base, a power surge raced through the underground facility, but its sturdy magical construction weathered the surge, and everything returned to normal–even Dipper and Janna's view of the battlefield.

Dipper quickly contacted whoever he could. "Hey! You guys all right over there?"

Stingerborg answered first. "Yeah, we're okay, but… Kombat Knat is gone."

"Wait, gone? Did he shrink?"

"No," Stingerborg answered, "He's just not here."

Strikerborg scanned the area. "He didn't shrink down, he just vanished."

Lowering her guard after Kombat Knat blinked out of existence, Kim looked around. "What happened to the creepy bug monster?"

"You got me, but if he's gone, he's gone," Marco said before calling to Misao. "Uhh… Misao? Are you okay?"

"And what happened to your hair?!" Star asked.

Misao brought up a few strands and examined them. Her hair, from root to tip, was completely white.

"Yeah, dude, what… was that? What is that?" Jackie asked as the two of them carefully approached her.

Star stayed behind, silent, and wide-eyed.

Mabel walked past Shego, who still had her hands up, and walked over to Misao. "Are you okay…?"

Turning to her, Misao beamed, and the armor just dissolved away, leaving her in her clothes she'd been wearing prior. Then she leaped into Mabel's arms joyfully.

"Mein liebe!"

Mabel sagged in relief and cuddled Misao close. "Oh good, I was worried for a second. Suddenly you had armor, and Shego was shadowboxing you, then that monster just disappeared and I'm like whaaaaaaaa?"

Burying her face in her chest, Misao just shook her head. "It's… okay. It's so very okay… I am exhausted… and I will explain after I've slept for the next two hundred years."

She hugged Mabel tighter, and the taller girl began to stroke her now white hair.

"Okay… just stay here where it's safe."

"I don't think I've ever felt safer."

Mabel giggled and nuzzled the top of her head.

Star, like a blur, ran up to and hugged them both. "Challenge accepted!"

Without hesitation, Mabel and Misao welcomed her into their embrace, with Misao agreeing. "Ja, thank you so much, Star. You fought so bravely."

Jackie joined the hug, followed by Marco, and Misao sniffled. "You did all this for me… it's almost too much."

Strikerborg, made it onto the deck with Stingerborg and walked over to the group with Hunterborg–but didn't make the hug awkward with their heavy armor.

"Of course, we did it for you," Strikerborg said. "You're our friend."

Stingerborg agreed. "The first time we fought the Magnavores, we did it to protect you. I'll never forget that, and neither should you."

Hunterborg lightly punched Stingerborg's shoulder as he chimed in. "Exactly, not only are we protecting Echo Creek and the world, but we're also looking out for each other, too."

Shego, still not resisting, just patiently allowed Kim to cuff her hands together with a pair of heavy, hand-encasing shackles that sent a disruptive surge of energy through her and nullified her powers. She wasn't even paying attention to Kim, just staring at the two hugging friends.

"So…?" Kim asked.

"So what?" Shego asked.

"Why suddenly so agreeable?"

Shego finally paid her a glance, and smirked. "If you have to ask, I'll never tell."

Kim rolled her eyes. "Figures."

Junior called to his victorious adversaries. "I must know. How did you track me so fast? I was certain I would have a long lead on you."

Mabel giggled, Misao joining her. Looking over at the two, then to Star, Jackie began chuckling. Star, bringing a hand to her mouth likewise started snickering. Kim's smirk broadened like she knew what was going on, too.

Marco looked back and forth between the giggling girls. "What… what did you do?"

Strikerborg broke into a caustic laugh.

Stingerborg was as lost as Marco. "Uhh…?"

"What's so funny?" Ron asked.

Behind the Hunterborg mask, Roland's eyes rolled. "… You didn't…"

"We had a tracking device on her!" Mabel revealed.

Junior stared at Mabel, blinking. "I checked her for devices, I removed all of them!"

"And you were thorough," Misao commended. "You missed a secret compartment, however."

With that, Mabel reached into the cleavage created by Misao's shirt, and pulled out her cell phone. "Victoria's Secret compartment."

Junior's mouth fell agape, as he stared at Mabel's phone, then at Misao's chest, then abruptly at Mabel's face.

"I never would've looked there."

The girls all burst into loud peals of laughter. Marco, his face red, averted his eyes from Misao and Mabel while Star gently petted him atop his head in consolation. Ron rolled his eyes, as the girls all enjoyed their inside joke.

Jackie smirked at Misao. "I'm surprised one of us didn't hide in there to jump out and surprise them."

Misao laughed even harder. "I bet I could hide a whole AV, ja?"

"Oh my gosh!" Mabel cried out, all but in tears.

Junior, grimacing, just shook his head. "Mierda…"

Shego, however, was surprisingly forgiving of Junior's screw up. "Hey, it's okay. You're not that guy, SSJ."

Junior looked over at her. "Oh?"

"You never would've looked there, and I'd have taken your hand off if you reached in. Learn from your mistakes and do better. Maybe have an EMP device set up to fry any electronics…"

"Or a faraday cage?" Junior suggested.

Shego brightened. "Yeah, perfect. A little pricey, but they pay for themselves quick."


Everyone stopped and looked back to see Trip–finally untied by Dudley–stumble out onto his patio. He looked around at the damage done to his property, and at those responsible.

"WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!" He held his hands towards his damaged fire pit, then towards the pool deck, then to his chewed-up lawn riddled with wrecked Unmanned Gears and Beetleborg AVs.


Marco answered quickly. "And?"

Trip focused all of his hatred on Marco. "Oh no… don't you fucking start."

In Dipper's stead, Marco would clap back with all his might. "No need to worry, we're done."

He began to hyperventilate. "You… you…"

Staring at the group who invaded his home, shaking, tears began to well in his eyes before he erupted.


He pointed back and forth between them. "You… whatever you want… you just do whatever the FUCK you want, and you act like there are no consequences for you! You're fucking POOR! You're fucking LOSERS!"

Ron recognized him. "Hey, that's the kid Dipper punched in that video."

Marco gave Ron a sidelong look. "Would you believe that he is still angry over that?"

"It's why we're even here," Stingerborg lamented.


Kim turned to the others. "What is wrong with him?"

Strikerborg answered. "He's well along in a mental breakdown."

Star piped in. "It really is like Jeremy Birnbaum…"


Mabel walked over to him.


He stopped for a moment, breathing heavily, sweat and tears pouring down his face, before he shrieked at Mabel.


Taking him by the shoulder, she punched Trip in the stomach, and the boy collapsed to the ground, squealing and bawling like a horse with a broken leg.

She stared down at him as he curled up into a sobbing ball and shook her head. "It's about time you stopped trippin'."

With that she turned to walk back over but stopped when she saw Van standing in the doorway, hesitantly.

Extending her hand, Mabel gestured to him. "Do you want any?"

Van just shook his head no.

Mabel smiled, and walked back over to the group. "I thought so."

"This is the guy who bullied me since I met him," Stingerborg said quietly as Trip sobbed and whimpered.

Ron looked at the Blue armored hero. "What does someone have to do to have a kid turn out like this?"

Jackie answered him. "Everything wrong."

Marco nodded in agreement.

Star sighed. "I don't think he's ever been hugged."

Stingerborg cut deeper than his blade ever could. "Look at that guy, and tell me with a straight face there was ever anyone who wanted to?"

As Misao embraced Mabel again, the taller girl did give Trip a quick look back, then just shook her head no.

The sound of cars pulling into the Vanderhoffs' driveway caught everyone's attention. A dark SUV followed by a sedan, and another dark SUV pulled in and parked in plain view of the pool. From the two SUVs emerged a half-dozen men in black not unlike Brittney's guard detail for the dance–armed with submachine guns and wearing dark sunglasses at night. Two more such men exited the front of the sedan, but from the back emerged two women.

As the men with guns spread out and began to secure the premises, the two women walked through the hole in the wall the Blue Stinger AV made and past the wrecked Fenrir to make their way up onto the deck. Coming to a stop in front of the group of teenagers and the captured villains, the smaller woman–barely taller than Misao–stepped forward.

On closer inspection, everyone realized she was identical to Misao in almost every way, apart from being slenderly built as Star or Kim and having short black hair and dark eyes. Looking back and forth between the group, she nodded in greeting.

"So… you are the people who have been protecting Misao," she said.

Trip looked up at the woman, while Van blanched and took several steps back. The kids all looked at one another and back to her as she continued.

"Before anything else, please…"

The woman bowed deeply to them.

"From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything that you've done. Without asking and without reward, you placed yourself at great risk to take care of her, and I do not think enough gratitude exists for that."

She stood upright and introduced herself. "My name is Momiji Hyuuga, and I am her mother."

"Hello, Mama," Misao greeted.

Momiji cast a small smile at her. To the woman who accompanied Momiji, Misao smiled a little bigger.

"And hello, Miss Reiko."

The tall redheaded woman smiled back. "It's been a while."

Mabel replied. "Being here for Misao was a reward by itself!"

Star agreed. "Yeah, she's one of my besties~!"

A portal opened up on the edge of the pool, and through it Janna and Dipper appeared, the latter holding the Dimensional Scissors. Momiji and Reiko turned to the two, surprised at the arrival of the pair and the means they traveled.

Shego eyed the scissors with interest. "Now that's fancy."

Dipper shot a look in Shego's direction. "Isn't it, though?"

Momiji greeted them. "Hello, Dipper, Janna. That's almost everyone… where's your Grandfather?"

Hauling the Schwanzstucker over his shoulder with one hand, with Waddles trotting alongside him, Shermie arrived onto the pool deck and walked over to the group gathered by the fire pit. "Right here. Good to see you again, Maple! It's been what, 15 years? You look great."

Momiji's eyebrows rose. "And you look… alive, no offense. A man your age being in such… shape."

Marco gawked for a moment at Shermie just lugging around an anti-tank rifle like it was nothing, then spoke up. "Uhh… kind of an understatement."

Jackie whispered to Mabel. "… Is it okay if I think your grandfather looks kinda cool?"

Mabel remained cheerful. "I don't wanna answer that."

Star kept her questions to herself, while Misao and Kim both coughed in unison.

Luckily Waddles trotted up to Mabel's feet to change the subject. "Oh, look, it's my little man!"

Snorting in greeting, Waddles gracelessly stood up on his hindlegs to be picked up. Before Mabel could, Misao immediately scooped him up and hugged him close.

Momiji stared at Waddles, surprised. "… Ah… a pig?"

"His name is Waddles," Mabel said as she patted his side. "And he's an angel."

Staring at her daughter cuddling him, a look of envy appeared on the woman's face, before she quickly regained her composure and cleared her throat.

"Right, let's get to the matter at hand…" She looked back and forth among the group. "Given everything I've learned to this point, I would like to extend mine and Hyuuga Heavy Industries' assistance in dealing with the Magnavores."

Dipper nodded. "That would be helpful."

Hunterborg then spoke up. "Okay, but how much help are we talking here?"

Shermie looked at the old rifle over his shoulder. "Given that one of these guys was shrugging off AP rounds from ol' Schwanztucker here? I think whatever I have in storage might not cut it."

"You're in luck, we have a considerable arsenal at our disposal. Even with our previous commitments, we can set something aside as needed," Momiji assured them.

Stingerborg asked. "How overt are you going to be? We'd like to keep the Magnavores focused on us and not attacking anyone else."

"We can do discreet," Momiji answered, "I'll even introduce you to a special liaison for our company who's based in Reseda."

As the Beetleborgs agreed, Dipper asked. "We're starting to get more visible. There isn't something you can do about that, too, is there?"

Janna agreed. "Yeah, you're a near-trillion dollar corporation with hands in a lot of places. How about flexing some of that muscle for the good of mankind?"

Momiji nodded. "We'll do what we can, but you guys will need to show your faces less in front of a lot of cameras so we can hash out a narrative that keeps you at the back of people's minds."

Kim spoke. "If you like, I can say something to the press about all of this."

Turning to Kim, Momiji lit up. "Yes, Miss Possible?"

Ron leaned over. "And Ron, Ron Stoppable, Miss Hyuuga."

"A pleasure."

As everyone's attention turned to Kim, she explained. "The Magnavores are just cosplay villains… and you guys are cosplay heroes taking care of them."

"Oh yeah!" Star said, before she turned to Shego. "You said that cosplay villains are pretty cringe, right?"

"Extremely," Shego replied.

Junior had to agree. "It is awkward whenever a supervillain or superhero appears dressed up as someone fictional."

Shego continued. "It's especially weird when they expect you to play along–like this is a LARP or something."

Strikerborg shivered. "Eugh, just hearing you describe it like that makes me cringe."

Turning to Mabel, Shermie asked. "I'm not too caught up on this new lingo, how bad is this 'cringe', girlchik?"

Mabel sighed explosively. "It is the worst, Sherpa. When you're cringe, you're causing people to have secondhand embarrassment for you. You never want to be cringe, you want to be based."

"And that's no problem for you," Misao added. "You are very based, Sherpa."

"Not too sure what that one is either, but if you gals think it's swell, then I am happy to be the basest guy around. It's like hip, right?"

"No," Misao said, cringing a little.

Mabel gave her Sherpa a hard look. "We'll sort it out after we finish establishing the new status quo."

"Avoiding the subject of based vs. cringe," Kim said.

"Which in of itself is kind of cringe," Strikerborg chirped.

Kim gave Strikerborg a sharp look not-unlike Mabel's to Shermie. "Most people will just write off the cosplay fights as a bunch of nerds slap-fighting, and not actually a struggle for the fate of existence."

Shego did a double take. "Hold-up–"

Curtly Momiji nodded to a guard. "Gag her."

One of the bodyguards immediately slapped a wad of very sticky tape over Shego's lips. Indignantly and impotently, she bristled.

Junior wisely stayed quiet.

Stingerborg really liked the sound of this arrangement. "That's actually perfect. We don't want anyone to come anywhere near this. So, thank you, Kim, Miss Hyuuga."

"It's no big," Kim replied. "Actually, when I first heard about you guys and the Magnavores, I really thought it was just a nerd fight."

"You're were barely even trending anywhere until that throwdown with Typhus," Ron said.

Dipper's gaze lingered on Shego and Junior, before he moved on. "That takes care of that. Now, about our other problem."

As he said this, he looked over at Trip and Van. They, with Dudley, were surrounded by several of Momiji's men. Looking back at the young man, she nodded. "Quite."

Trip stared at Momiji as she walked towards them, slowly shaking his head. Consecutive waves of the complete and total fear that he'd suppressed with bravado and the assurance of his wealth and supremacy in Echo Creek crashed over him with every step the woman took.

His eyes quickly darted to Dudley and his brother. The old butler stood straight, without a care in the world, while his brother wasn't even looking at Momiji or anyone, just down at his feet with an expression that resembled almost a kind of relief–or acceptance of what was about to happen.

Turning his attention back to Momiji, he quickly spoke. "Please, it was… it was all a joke… a prank, right? We–"

"No," Momiji said sharply, cutting him off. "My daughter cloned your brother's phone. I've read every message you and your brother sent back and forth to the people you were hiring to torment 'Pine Tree', his sister, and 'the fat foreign chick.'"

Trip blanched and shrank away from her.

"Though we have a distant and complicated relationship, Misao is still my daughter, and I love and cherish her deeply," Momiji informed the brothers. "In fact, the main reason we have such an arrangement, is because my greatest fear is that my business and reputation will cause people who wish me harm to harm her."

Despite being a full head shorter than Van, she seemed to loom over both brothers in presence. "It has happened before, and the people who attempted did not live to regret it."

Van visibly flinched, while Trip whimpered and shut his eyes tightly in terror.

"Sadly, for you, you will."

Trip's eyes opened. "… What?"

Momiji nodded slowly.

"Here's what's going to happen: Your father, Thaddeus Vanderhoff II is going to wake up in his hotel and find that his credit cards have been canceled, his bank accounts emptied and closed, his business shut down and sold, and all of his personal property sold off."

Trip collapsed onto his backside. "… What?"

Mabel whispered to Dipper. "… Thaddeus?"

Dipper whispered back. "I think that's worse than mine…"

"Everything he owns–and by extension everything you own–is now property of several shell companies owned by Hyuuga Heavy Industries that will soon vanish into the aether themselves when their purpose is complete. The property that Zoom Comics currently occupies, for example, has already been paid off and signed over to Nano Williams. The trust funds with your respective names for them, have been similarly signed off on and the money dumped into numerous charities all in yours and your father's names."

She opened her hand to them. "That is not all. As I speak, efforts are being completed to remove you from pertinent legal documents relative to the state of California and the United States of America. You are penniless, landless, and by the sunrise you will be nameless."

Van, still looking down, murmured. "… Even our names…"

Trip's glasses slipped from his nose, as the totality of what he'd been told sank in. "… Why?"

Momiji looked down her nose at him.

"Because no one is above facing the consequences for their actions."

She nodded to the men standing guard. "Bag them and take them up north. I can't bear the sight of them."

Trip shrieked in panic. "NO, WAIT–!"

Whatever plea he tried to offer ended with a black bag brought down over his head. Viciously he began to struggle, kicking and lunging to get out of the hands of the guards that hauled him up to his feet.

As if oblivious to his brother's struggles, Van just gave Dipper, Mabel, and Misao a long and resigned look.

All three met it, but not even Mabel returned any sympathy in her gaze.

Accepting that, Van Vanderhoff closed his eyes and quietly let the bag fall over his head. He did not fight back, as he turned and walked with the guards leading him away.

Marco had words for what he'd just seen. "That's more intense than I'd expected that to go."

Janna nudged him. "Welcome to the billionaires club, Marco."

Star agreed. "Yeah, that's about right for what to expect at this level of power and influence."

In a stage whisper she added. "You rarely see it used for good."

With that in mind, Marco replied. "That's horrifying."

Dipper turned to him. "Right?!"

No one could see it Drew grinning ear to ear as he watched Trip and Van get stuffed into the back of one of the SUVs.

He had half a mind to ask Momiji if they could swing by and pick up his father, too.

As if Jo could hear his thoughts, she turned to look at his brother and directly contacted him so no one else could hear. "He deserves so much worse than to simply disappear."

Pausing, Drew quietly agreed.

Behind his helmet, all thoughts towards the Vanderhoffs had vanished from Roland's head altogether. More than having to pay a cent of rent to them, they now owned the entire building. He quickly contacted Jo and Drew.

"This is amazing! Nano's been saving up money to buy the building for years! Now she can put it towards expanding the store!"

Jo gasped at the implication. "Oh my gosh, Zoom's gonna be bigger and better than ever!"

With a curt nod towards the fate of the brothers, Shermie walked over and ruffled up Mabel and Dipper's respective hair. "Honestly, it's better than what I woulda done to them. Nobody messes with my grandkids."

A scary gleam filled Shermie's glasses, obscuring his eyes. "Nobody."

Jackie, still looking at the massive gun, nodded. "Yeah, I'm actually surprised you didn't make their heads explode with that thing when you had the shot."

The gleam was still there as Shermie whispered back. "What makes you think I wasn't tempted?"

Ron turned to Kim. "Uh KP, is letting them do this okay? I think this is way outside of our general moral compass."

Rocking her head from side to side, Kim shrugged her shoulders. "The way I see it; they so weren't going to stop until somebody died. If this is how they wanna deal with it, then… okay?"

"Kim, that's not very lawful good."

Kim wagged her hand. "Neutral good… lawful neutral…?"

Misao turned her attention to Ron. "If someone messed with your friend like that, what would you do?"

Ron opened his mouth to answer, and the words almost spilled out. "I would have a lengthy discussion about trying to hurt someone I cared about. I'm more of a lover, than a fighter–or whatever THAT was."

The ominous presence permeating Shermie vanished as he chuckled. "I just hope you never have to worry about something happening to you and your paramour here."

Immediately both held up their hands. "Whoa, we are not together!"

Kim gestured to Ron. "We're best friends…"

Ron finished. "… But we've never been like that, no. As a matter of fact, she's not here, but I have a girlfriend. And KP's got her own boyfriend."

The other kids stared in surprise at Kim and Ron.

They both stared back.

"What?" Kim asked.

Jackie looked stricken. "… My ship…"

Mabel pouted at Ron, sniffling. "You're not single…?"

Hunterborg hung his head. "Damn, that's what they meant by never meet your heroes."

Dipper gingerly put it forward to the human members of Team Possible. "Honestly? We all kinda thought that you were… um…"

Kim recoiled. "Are any of you?"

Marco and Star raised their hands. "Yeah, us."

The only person in the group to look surprised was Dipper.

Ron gestured to them. "See? That makes sense."

Kim could not accept that. "What? When?!"

She looked between Marco and Jackie. "What about Jarco?!"

Star gasped in excitement. "Ohmygoshshewatchesmyvlog."

Junior piped up. "It's very good. Please update it more?"

Jackie was similarly starstruck. "Oh my gosh, Kim Possible ships me with Marco."

She turned and looked at Marco and Star. "… OT3?"

Marco paled. "Stop playing!"

"Who said anything about playing?" Janna suggested.

Pointing at her, Marco quickly answered. "By way of you implying anything as real, I know it to be a lie!"

Janna chuckled mischievously; Jackie shot a muted glare at her.

Star, however, looked rather thoughtful.

Dipper looked at the house. "So what happens now?"

Momiji looked back at the Vanderhoffs' home. "I've already got people on standby to remove the personal effects and repossess all vehicles. Otherwise, the house is free to whomever wants it, HHI will foot the expenses of maintaining it."

Thinking of Hillhurst, Dipper agreed. "We've already got one fixer-upper to deal with, but… we'll definitely take it. We can use it as a safehouse–someplace to disappear off to if any of our homes or Hillhurst becomes too hot."

Momiji brightened. "Speaking of, would you like something done about that place, too?"

"No thanks," Stingerborg said. "The current residents are already tired of us."

Jackie chimed in. "Oh no, they're cool, now."

"They are?" Drew asked, as Marco rolled his eyes.

"Believe it or not, Jackie cut a deal with them," he said. "They promised they won't try to kill us as long as she remains their 'connection.'"

A chorus of "Ohhs" resounded, and Marco blanched.

"Wait, does everybody know about the weed?" He asked the others.

Hunterborg nodded. "Yeah, bruh, her family owns the only dispensary in Echo Creek. My parents buy from them all the time."

"Yeah," Strikerborg said.

"You didn't know?" Stingerborg asked him in turn.

"… Not until Saturday," Marco admitted.

Misao chimed in. "I have yet to partake, but Sherman Farm is her distributor, so I know it's good."

Momiji let out a gentle laugh. "Well, hopefully now you'll be able to do so without worrying too much about anyone running off with you."

That Misao agreed. "Oh, Mama, I have wanted to stream so much. My set up is already reassembled, but it is collecting dust at the house."

Walking up to her, Momiji embraced her daughter. "Well, I won't keep you from your new home any longer. There is still much to be done here, and I need to get this back to HHI."

As she pulled back, she held the necklace Señor Senior Junior placed on her.

Looking at the necklace, Mabel spoke up. "That thing that Señor Senior Junior put on her, what is it?"

Ron was curious as well. "… And why did it have a super cool armor in it?"

Kim grew curious. "Is it something like Project Centurion? Why did he put it on her?"

Momiji looked at the necklace, and then at the group. "To answer what it is, this is a weapon called Type-0. My company is developing it for dealing with things like the Magnavores… and worse. As for why he put it on her…?"

Momiji turned to Junior, who looked away. Shego went stiff and stared at Junior wide-eyed.

"I did not know what it would do," he admitted, "I put it on her to find out what exactly what the weapon was… I did not realize it could do that."

Shego began yelling a few choice things that everyone present was happy to not understand.

For Kim, it was music to her ears and a perfect note to end the night on. "Ms. Hyuuga is onto something, we should get out of here before the police show up."

Dipper tossed the Dimensional Scissors to Marco. "Misao, Mabel, and I will head home with Grandpa, then."

Stingerborg turned and headed over to his AV. "We'll take the AVs back to the Beetle Battle Base and meet up with you guys tomorrow."

"Sounds good, see you then," Dipper replied.

Shermie tugged on his bowtie and let it snap back into place. "I'd be honored to give Team Possible a ride in the Sherman-mobile if you kids need a lift."

Ron happily accepted. "I'm fine with that. No offense but traveling through magical dimensional portals doesn't sit well with me."

"Oh no, it's okay," Marco said, "It takes a little getting used to… but it's way better than Star's spell to return home."

Star flinched, remembering that spell. "Yeah… I'm still sorry about that."

Kim could not resist the allure of the magic portal. "I dunno, I kinda want to try the magical portal."

Ron ushered her on. "C'mon, KP, get in the car."

Soon the AVs were on their way out, heading down the hill. Star, Marco, Janna, and Jackie bade their farewells before heading through the portal. As Shego and Junior were carted off into the second black SUV, the Pines and Misao climbed into Shermie's car and on their way back home.

Watching Shermie's white SUV pull out of sight, Reiko looked down at Momiji. "So… now that she's used it, do you suppose she's awakened?"

"I could tell the moment we spoke to one another."

Momiji shut her eyes and let a smile grace her lips. "I don't think this has happened before, where she's been with people like this… I hope this is a good sign."

= - = 72 = - =

You understand mechanical hands are the ruler of everything. The ruler of everything.

I'm the ruler of everything in the end...
Questions and Answers New
We've made it to the end of the run. Thanks all who have for reading this story of mine and leave a like and comment.

= - = 73 = - =

|Questions and Answers|

By sunrise, a construction crew had descended upon the former Vanderhoff residence–much to the curiosity of the young man with a walking stick who stepped up to the gate being replaced. Staring quietly at the construction workers installing the new solid steel gate replacing the old fancy wrought iron gate that had been cut to pieces, the man responsible for the damage walked past the contractors and the parked Vanderhoff SUV.

Gabe glanced into the hole in the the wall leading into the backyard on his trek, then hustled up to the smashed down door also in the process of being replaced. The carpenters fashioning a new doorway paid him no mind as he walked into the house and found it devoid of almost all furniture and equipment as renovators worked on transforming the home.

"The hell happened here…?" Gabe asked as he entered the living room and found Reiko speaking with the foreman in charge of the renovation.

"… We're not gutting the entire house, just make sure that everything that hasn't been marked for repossession is outside in the driveway by noon–that's when the first movers are coming."

"What about the truck?" The foreman said of the SUV.

Reiko noticed Gabe but kept talking to the foreman. "I've already contacted the dealership and a repo crew is on their way to pick it up, they should be here any moment, now."

The foreman noticed Gabe. "Hey, are you one of the temps we contracted?"

Gabe shook his head. "Nah, I'm a… I had prior business with the folks that live here."

Reiko's eyes lit with recognition and she dismissed the foreman. "You can get back to it. I'll speak with the gentleman."

She walked over to him as the foreman headed out into the backyard through the still broken windows. "You said you had business with the former owners?"

Gabe's eyebrows rose. "Oh word, they skipped town?"

Eyeing him up and down, Reiko nodded. "That's right. Don't expect them to be in contact with you in the future; they moved far, far away."

His free hand came up to his chin and he rubbed it.

"Hmm… you wouldn't know what happened to 'em, would you?"

Reiko nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact. When you had visited Mr. Pines and his friends Saturday, that whole group decided to put a permanent end to the conflict that you took part in."

Gabe was given pause.

"African American male, late teens, possibly even early twenties. Has a walking stick that in fact is a modified shirasaya, right?"

And Gabe's eyebrows rose even higher. Humming again, he glanced at his walking stick then back at the woman.

She raised her finger. "Going forward: most of the affected parties have decided to let your participation in the transgressions pass. You were a hired blade, so it's as personal as you want it to be."

"I notice you said most."

"Stay away from Marco Diaz, Jackie Lynn Thomas, and Star Butterfly." Reiko gestured to him. "In general, stay away from Echo Creek–unless you want to make yourself useful, of course."

That was good enough. "Nah, I'm good. Only reason I pulled up in this whole thing was to see who got that dog in 'em–and make some cash on the side doing it. Just a hired blade, right?"

Reiko nodded. "Is there anything else, or will you be leaving?"

"I'm movin', peace," Gabe said as he turned to head back out the door the way he came.

Watching him go, Reiko pulled out her phone and began sending a message to Misao.

"They will want to know that he's already on his feet again…"

As he stepped out of the house and to the garage, he noticed two men walking up to the SUV and speaking to a man in a black suit and sunglasses Gabe realized he hadn't noticed when he came in. Both men, African Americans like himself, were trying to look natural in the confrontation.

The slightly younger and shorter, but better built of the men–wearing a dark blue shirt over a white long sleeve, black jeans with tan boots, and having a painfully average haircut–addressed the guard. "Hey, we're from Premium Deluxe Motorsport? To pick up the Lincoln Navigator y'all are returning?"

The guard looked back and forth between the two men, as the one who spoke handed the folded-up papers. "Shit, we got the papers right here."

Looking at the documents, the guard nodded and pulled out the car's keyfob. "All yours, gentlemen. Drive safe."

Taking the keys, the young man unlocked the doors as the guard turned and walked up and away past Gabe to return to the house.

The taller and slightly thinner of the two, wearing a green shirt over a black sweater with the sleeves rolled up to proudly display numerous tattoos referencing affiliation to the Crips. "Man, they been putting down five grand a week on this bitch. Now they gettin' all they shit repoed."

The other young man climbed into the driver seat. "You remember them dumbasses when they came through. Their Dad didn't even look at the contract, he just signed that shit, and they were gone. They were not good with money."

His passenger seemed annoyed by that. "I ain't even see that commission, either."

"What commission? We're repo, not sales."

"Ya boy was the one who told 'em to grab the Navigator, they wanted the biggest ride in the shop."

The driver was exasperated as he started the engine. "Man, fuck you, a blind man coulda sold this shit to them fools."

"And he would've gotten a commission," his passenger emphasized before he looked out the window at the cleaning up and out of the home.

"Still, what you think happened?"

"In this town? Probably fucked around with the wrong motherfuckers and found out," the driver said as he put the SUV in drive and drove out of the open gate.

Gabe huffed in amusement as he headed for the same gate. He had places to be, and to the chagrin of that woman and his former adversaries… those places would be in Echo Creek for a while.

"Y'all don't know shit about the wrong motherfuckers…"


Thanks to Star using her magic to repair the school after Shego's rampage and the monster fight, school was back in session at Echo Creek Academy without interruption. Quietly lamenting this, Heather drove into the student parking lot, where found a puzzling sight. Brittney stepping out of her G-Wagen, accompanied by Dudley–who looked at least fifteen years younger and absolutely pleased to hold open the door for her and Sabrina as they climbed out.

Parking her car a few spots from the G-Wagen, Heather climbed out and walked over to the two girls and the butler. "Hey Brittney, hey Sabrina… and Dudley?"

Dudley shut the door and greeted Heather with a tip of his hat and a grandfatherly sparkle in his eye. "Good morning, Master Heather."

Brittney cut straight to the point. "Oh, those idiots cut him loose last night and my father hired him just this morning."

She turned to Dudley. "Thank you, Dudley, I'll call you if I need anything."

"Of course, Master Brittney. You and Master Sabrina have a good day of school."

Sabrina timidly waved to him. "Thank you…"

Heather had a new concern. "Why did the Vanderhoffs cut him loose?"

The nastiest smile appeared on Brittney's face. "You don't know?"

"… What should I know?"

Brittney looked positively ecstatic that she was going to be the first to tell her. Though, as a matter of course, it was still hard to differentiate from her usual expression.

"The Vanderhoffs went bust last night. All their money, all their assets, everything that they used in place of a personality. Gone."

Heather's mouth dropped open, and she stood there frozen for a good second. "Holy shit, really?"

Brittney nodded. "Trip and Van got pulled out of school and sent up to some group home in Oregon." With joy in her heart, she added. "They're never coming back."

There was no way this could be true. "Bullshit. What happened? How'd they go broke?"

Brittney, with a knowing look. "You already know. They were involved with Señor Senior Junior and Shego kidnapping Misao–and Misao's parents were not cool with that."

Letting out a long breath she didn't realize she was holding, Heather was shaken. "Wow… they really cooked them."

"Well done inside, extra crispy outside," Sabrina said.

With that in mind, Heather visibly relaxed. "Awesome! That's a few less things me, Drew, or Dipper have to worry about."

But then a new realization came to her. "Oh no, what about Zoom…? I gotta talk to Roland."

"That comic book shop? It's probably fine, I heard that everything they had was redistributed around town. So, the shop might even be Nano's, now."

"I hope so," Heather said, "I'm gonna go find Roland and bug him about it just in case. See you in Calc."

Before Heather could take off, Sabrina called after her. "H-hey, um… Heather?"

Heather stopped and turned back. "What's up?"

Sabrina took a deep breath and allowed Brittney's harsh glare of encouragement to boost her resolve. "Are… you and Drew… a thing?"

Taken by surprise, Heather quickly shook her head. "Um… we're not? We hang out, but we're not dating."

Sabrina shrank a bit, the next question being harder to ask. "… Are you… interested?"

In that instant, Heather saw where this was going. "Um… if you want to ask Drew out? Go for it, like… absolutely go for it! You two would be so cute together."

Brittney lifted an eyebrow as she cast a suspicious look at the blonde.

Sabrina looked almost incandescent. "Really?"

"I'm rooting for you," Heather said without an ounce of hesitation.

Taking Heather's hands in her own, Sabrina shook them gratefully and rapidly. "Ohhh! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!"

Heather giggled. "It's nothing… Drew's a good friend, and I like that girls are starting to see his good sides."

"They certainly are," Brittney said, well aware of the girls besides Sabrina entering Andrew McCormick's orbit as of recent."

Pulling away, Heather waved farewell and headed off to the cafeteria. As soon as she left, Brittney turned to Sabrina.

"So, when are you going to make a move?"

Sabrina turned to her, beaming. "As soon as I recover from this nervous breakdown!"

With that, Sabrina gently laid on the ground, and curled up into a ball as all of her anxieties suppressed came flooded out–along with a bunch of new anxieties that came with this her aspirations. Sighing, Brittney stood over her so she could recover from her anxiety attack in the presence of a safe person.


Unfortunately for Sabrina and her nervous aspirations, Drew was cutting class today–because he had to see it for himself. Stepping through the portal created by Star's scissors, he entered the sitting room of Hillhurst Mansion with Jackie, Marco, and Dipper. After hearing it he couldn't believe it.

And after seeing it he still couldn't believe it.

"Okay, okay… we've watched a bunch of them so I gotta know," Mums asked through the haze of that good zaza. "Friday the 13th… or Halloween?"

Fangula blew out a long stream of smoke, adding to the haze as he pondered that question with a long hum. "Hmmm… Friday the 13th. Jason is motivated by both a bond with his mother, and a hatred for promiscuous and negligent teenagers. I find myself relating deeply with that."

Mums nodded. "Hates teens and loves his Mom. Yeah, that's something I can get behind. Michael Myers is just all over the place."

Frankenbeans, completely gone, added. "Nightmare on Elm Street bad."

"Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious' monster," Fangula said before shooting Mums a dark look. "And don't you ever compare me to that creep again. I do not want to do that to children, I just want to drink blood!"

Drew was doing his damnedest not to laugh and breathe in the intensely powerful smoke hanging in the air. "Oh my God, this is real."

The monsters all stopped and turned to look at them.

"Oh, hey, it's the blue one!" Mums held up a pipe. "Wanna blaze? None of us touched it, we just packed the bowl."

Andrew McCormick took a moment to really appreciate the absurdity of being offered the chance to smoke up with a three-millennium old mummy, a vampire, and a Frankenstein knockoff.

"I don't really do cannabis, but thank you?"

Mums shrugged his shoulders. "All right. More for us."

"Hey, save it for me when we're done," Jackie said.

Fangula looked over. "Why not start now?"

Dipper, partly amused by the same absurdity Drew appreciated–and already feeling a contact high–let out a laugh. "We're going down to work on setting up some anti-personnel defenses for the base. So, we don't get people like that idiot from before running up on the house."

"Or the feds," Janna added.

Mums almost looked touched. "You brats are already making this arrangement better by the day. Set up something with some lasers, or poison gas. So Fangy here can have whatever's left."

"Nothing too noxious, please," Fangula chimed in.

Dipper laughed again. "I'll see what we can do?"

Drew coughed a bit. "Can we go? The colors are getting sharper."

Janna patted him on the small of his back as she walked past him to the organ. "You'll learn to like it."

The false wall the Organ sat against opened, revealing Flabber on the other side, happy to see his human guests. "Hey, kiddos! Welcome back!"

He zipped over to Drew. "And look at you, Drew! You're–as the kids like to say–"

Quickly Flabber transformed into a leaking faucet. "Dripped out."

Drew laughed. "Heheh… you should've seen me on Saturday. I had a nice suit and everything."

Flabber pouted. "You at least got pictures?"

Drew held up his phone for emphasis. "Sure did."

Poofing back into his normal shape, Flabber clapped his hands excitedly–then zoomed over to appear next to Dipper in the shape of a blue-skinned, big-nosed office lady with a pompadour in the front and a hair bun in the back. "What's on the agenda today, Dipper?"

Dipper did not look directly at Flabber so he would not have to burn the image from his mind later. "Setting up anti-personnel defenses, doing the usual scans for Magnavore activity, and scanning a lot of comic books into the computer."

Flabber adjusted a pair of sharp office lady glasses. "If you like, I can help! What do you need to scan the comics for?"

"The monsters we've fought so far have been pretty much exactly as depicted in the comics, just with different personalities. We can use that to our advantage by creating a database of the monsters and their strengths and weaknesses… so whenever a monster gets summoned…"

Flabber popped back to normal, excited. "You'll be ready to take them down!"

Drew patted his backpack he brought with him. "And I have basically my whole collection of comics that I could bring."

"Flab Out! I would really like to sit down and read some, too, while we're at it. I just love the Beetleborgs. Both the comic and the real ones. Y'see, they're pretty great."

Drew laughed. "Thanks, Flabber."

Marco and Jackie exchanged looks, before he asked. "Hey, Dipper? When we're done would you like to explore the house with me and Jackie?"

Dipper looked back at him and Jackie. "What's up?"

"There's a door we found Saturday that I want to try to find again; Wolfy's."

"Wolfy?" Drew repeated.

Flabber nearly fell over, and turned to look at Marco. "Hold your horse there, Marco Polo. Did you say Wolfy's room? You found it?!"

Marco nodded. "I'm pretty sure I almost got it to open, too."

Flabber gasped with such dramatic flair that there was even a musical sting. "You opened it?!"

"No, that Goblin dude interrupted," Jackie said, Marco nodding with her.

Drew folded his arms, curious. "Is this room a big deal?"

"Is it a big deal? I can't even find Wolfy's room, and this is my house!" Flabber explained.

Marco continued from that point. "That's the thing. The Universal Pictures Cinematic Monsterverse explained that only certain people can even find Wolfy's door, let alone open it."

Janna turned to Flabber. "Is that true?"

Flabber quickly nodded. "Sure is, and I can't open it, either."

Dipper and Drew both did double takes, asking in unison. "Why did it open for you?"

Janna hummed. "Hey Flabber, got some insight?"

Flabber cringed. "I wish I did; most of what I remember about the old days was way after the guys were already living here, and the Doc didn't want to tell me why–just that they had to, and I had to watch over them."

He hung his head in contrition. "Sorry, guys."

"Don't worry about it," Marco assured him.

It was too much for Dipper to resist. "Yeah. This just means we get to solve a mystery. After we're done scanning the comics, we'll check it out."

Drew couldn't help his interest either. "Yeah, I'm in, too."

As they reached the Beetle Battle Base proper, Marco asked. "Hey, what's Wolfy like?"

Flabber seemed almost honored to speak of the hitherto absent monster. "Oh gee, guys, Wolfy is entirely different from any of the monsters you've met here!"

"What, is he actually not a man-eating monster?" Jackie asked.

"That and more!" Flabber replied. "In fact, I'd say he's the most human monster you'll ever meet."

The kids all looked at one another, curious. None more curious than Marco.


Mr. Geike made his way down the hall, his presence causing a wide berth to spread. The Calculus Teacher's dark eyes scanned the students, and he took no small satisfaction at some of the disgruntled or dreading looks some gave him–or how the members of the football team didn't even bother to make eye contact. Despite the chaos yesterday, school was back in session, and he was here to make an impression.

One burned into the brains of each of these carefree, entitled brats.

"Mr. Geike!" Principal Skeeves called to him from behind, much to the displeasure that Geike suppressed. "I'm glad I caught you before you went in. Can I have a quick word with you?"

Rolling his eyes, Mr. Geike turned to the rotund man. "Can I help you, Mr. Skeeves?"

"Yes, I wanted to ask you about your class with Miss Darlian. How has that been?"

Mr. Geike noticed a hint of anxiety in the Principal's tone when he mentioned her. "Class was… not particularly difficult. We had a small disagreement at the start, but she shaped up very quickly. There may just be hope for her."

Principal Skeeves nodded. "Excellent, just… in the future… try to be less…"

Mr. Geike narrowed his eyes. "Less what?"

"Less…" Principal Skeeves sought the lightest, most diplomatic term he could. "… Difficult. I understand you have a very particular teaching method, but could you avoid driving her from your class?"

Of course. "Principal Skeeves. I have Miss Wong in my class, and she quickly got with the program without throwing a fit. If how strict I am with Miss Darlian is going to be a problem for you, just concede like you have with Miss Wong–problem solved."

He raised a finger, his expression darkening. "I am not afraid of any of those kids, and I have no reason to be. If Miss Darlian takes exception to me, then her throwing a tantrum about it says more about her."

Principal Skeeves cleared his throat. "It's not a matter of her complaining about you. At this point, no one has said anything about–"

"If no one has said anything, then there's no issue. Look, Skeevy, I don't tell you how to do your job–for all the terrible things it has brought to this school. So, unless you want me to start loudly complaining about how you take money from parents to skirt every rule in the state of California regarding public schools? You're not going to get on me about my coping mechanisms."

That did the trick, and whatever concerns Principal Skeeves had about Mr. Geike's professionalism melted away in the heat of self-preservation and paranoia. Sweating from that very furnace, Skeeves physically backed away from Mr. Geike.

"You make a very good point. I will… ahem… pretend this conversation never happened… andkeepmymouthshutifthisexplodesinyourface."

Mr. Geike openly rolled his eyes this time. "Good."

Turning away from the Principal, he walked on to his classroom. It amused him a little, that Principal Skeeves claimed she had not complained, and yet there he was talking exactly like she had, and was trying to be diplomatic.

Misao Darlian was a billionaire but in the end, she was just another spoiled brat throwing her money around to get what she wanted. No different than the Vanderhoff boys and Brittney Wong.

Students like them, students who thought they were entitled to the world because of money, or looks, or who their parents were, or anything but their effort and hard work? And got everyone to worship them like they were Gods of popularity? He hated those kids the most.

With a spiteful spring in his step, he made a direct line to his class, and pushed open the door to step inside. He had an almost full classroom–and his students looked as unhappy as they could ever be, with a day off from school robbed of them by the menace in Skullnick's class.

The less he thought about her the better.

"Don't look at me like that," he said, "Blame your precious magical princess for fixing the school up instead of leaving it to Miss Wong's people."

He looked at Brittney with that and noticed that Misao's seat was empty. "Speaking of Princesses, I see our newest one is absent. Where is she?"

Heather raised her hand. "Um… I saw her in the library last."

The teacher hummed in surprise. Only one day and she'd given up?

"Hm. That's anticlimactic, I expected her to last the whole week, at least." He shrugged his shoulders as the bell rang. "Oh well, open your books, we're getting started."

As he turned to start writing, however, the door opened and Misao walked in. In addition to her other books, she carried under her arm a book picked up from the library.

"Oh! I am so sorry, Herr Geike! I thought I had more time!" She said quickly as she hurried to her desk.

He turned back and glowered at her. "I have a zero-tolerance policy towards tardiness."

Misao set her books down. "Oh, I know, and again I am very sorry. It is just that I had to get a book, because I wanted to show you something."

Mr. Geike folded his arms, unamused. "Is it a real excuse for why you're not in before the bell?"

"It is very good–ja? You see, I thought a lot about what you said yesterday."

And now the teacher lifted an eyebrow. What was this girl getting at?

"What did I say that you thought about?"
Misao flashed him a big smile. "About what matters in your classroom! How logical and critical thinking and hard work are what this golden age of technology needs and should be what matters there and in this class!"

Heather looked past Misao at Brittney, who met her confused look with a shrug as she watched Misao's impromptu presentation.

"And I thought about how you mentioned hypersonic jets, those are very miraculous, yes."

Mr. Geike gestured to her. "Your point?"

"I mean, the ability to create an air-breathing aircraft that can travel at 8 times the speed of sound and mitigate fuselage heat damage, atmospheric damage, and sonic boom effects? That requires very much hard work, study of physics, engineering, and–most importantly–mathematical formulas!"

Picking up the book, Misao walked over to the teacher's desk and set it down. When he looked at it, his eyebrows rose. It was a scientific journal, for the year of 2007.

He scrutinized the book, then looked up at Misao.

"That's obvious. It's probably the only good thing Hyuuga Heavy Industries has done in the last decade–making high speed, efficient, and safe hypersonic flight a reality by publishing its findings to the public and distributing for anyone who wanted to develop from it."

He gestured to her. "I still don't see your point."

Misao, still smiling, opened the book. "Please, Herr Geike, I wanted you to take a look at the second author on that published paper."

The students all began murmuring quietly as Mr. Geike looked down at the book. A look of surprised disbelief appeared on his face as he picked up the book and turned a page–then he went completely wide-eyed as he turned several pages and stared at different parts of each successive page.

His head snapped up to stare at Misao. "… Bullshit."

Gasps rose from the class, Heather covering her mouth as Brittney just leaned onto her desk and smirked in malicious amusement.

Misao tilted her head, smiling innocently. "What do you mean?"

"This is…" He shook his head. "You photoshopped this book."

"Oh no, this is straight from the library."

Heather stood up. "Misao? What is it?"

Misao gestured to the man's shirt pocket. "You can check the review in Nature if you don't believe it."

Mr. Geike looked back down at the book. Then pulled out his phone and spoke into it.

"Siri, who are the published Authors on the paper 'Achieving Economic Hypersonic Flight' published in Nature in October 2007?"

There was a brief pause before the phone answered in a woman's computerized voice.

"Achieving Economic Hypersonic Flight, published in 2007, was a paper authored and penned by an international team funded by Hyuuga Heavy Industries. The paper is notable for its youngest author, Misao Darlian, who was nine years old at the time of publication."

The broad majority of the class's attention focused on its newest student, as a swirl of murmuring spread.

Brittney rolled her eyes briefly, before keeping them on Misao to see what she did next.

Misao kept smiling as she took the book and held it up for the class to see, showing a picture of herself as a younger girl standing for a group photograph with an entire team of researchers.

"The ability to think logically, think critically, and do the work. We live in a golden age of technology and discovery." She said, repeating Mr. Geike's speech. "Everything from hologram projectors in phones, to hypersonic business jets, to liquid batteries have all come from the scientific brilliance of the world's greatest thinkers. Their work, and humanity's benefit of it, comes from classes like these."

She set the book down, her smile disappearing and replaced with a much colder sneer as her friendly gaze darkened.

"George Bernard Shaw said in his 1905 play Man and Superman: 'those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.'"

She pointed at his face, wrath burning in her eyes. "Herr Geek, you're not even qualified to do that."

Mr. Geike stared at Misao, his face pale, but slowly turning red as the girl glared back in defiance, her gaze commanding he take those same words he used to demean her and eat them in front of the entire classroom.

The atmosphere he created, the presence he projected, the power he held… it had all shattered in an instant. Leaving him subject to the stunned and ridiculing looks of the students he despised.

Placing his trembling hands on the book, he closed it, and then pushed it back to her. "Take this book back to the library and stay there–if you're so smart."

Misao's smile returned. "Would you care to join me? I noticed a few inaccuracies in your problems during the last class, and we can go back over them to make sure you understand the material, if you like."

No one had ever seen the teacher get so mad that his face started to turn purple. Fists clenched, teeth bared, Mr. Geike took in an angry deep breath and walked to the door. "When I get back here, I do not want to see you in this classroom, Miss Darlian."

As soon as he left, slamming the door behind him, the classroom began talking excitedly among themselves.

"Whoa, The Geek ragequit."

"Serves him right, the douche."

"Justice for Jackie!"

"The Vanderhoffs are gone, and now the Geek got turned into the Wuss."

As Misao sat down Heather turned to Misao. "Wait, did you really publish that paper?"

"Ja!" Misao confirmed. "One of my favorite things is aerospace. I had such a passion for it that I studied maths by the bookload when I was very little, and that eventually turned into me contributing to that paper."

Brittney rested her elbow on the desk and her cheek on her upheld palm as she looked at her. "You just got done destroying the Vanderhoffs, and you're already picking a fight with a teacher?"

Misao answered bluntly. "I really like calculus, and I really would have liked going to this class with Jackie."

Letting out a huff, Brittney shrugged her shoulders. She could respect that. "You know what? I'm going to take a page out of your book and see if I can get him removed from the school. We don't have to tolerate the Vanderhoffs–we don't need to tolerate teachers who only became teachers to bully kids."

Misao did a double take. "That is his damage?!"

Brittney nodded as Heather confirmed it. "He said it himself. That the only reason he became a teacher was so he could 'bully kids like the ones who bullied him.'"

Making a foul face, the exchange student shook her head. "No, absolutely not, that is completely deranged."

"You don't need to have a lot of money to go on a power trip," Brittney replied as she leaned back in her seat, "You just have to have any power at all."

Heather let out a small laugh. "There are too many people on power trips, who think they can get away with everything. It'd be nice if they could all just disappear like the Vanderhoffs forever."

As Misao and Brittney agreed with Heather, Misao noticed the edges of her vision blur. In the next moment, the blurriness swept across the whole of her vision and for the briefest instant everything became brighter and sharper… before fading back to normal.

"… Huh?" Misao looked around. "What?"

Both Brittney and Heather stared at her in confusion.

"What?" The former asked.

Misao looked around for another moment, as just as quickly as she noticed it, it slipped from her memory. "Did you… what were we talking about, just now?"

Heather tilted her head. "We were talking about how it'd be nice if jerks like the Vanderhoffs disappeared."

Brittney nodded. "Yeah."

That… didn't seem right, there was something more, but she couldn't remember it all of a sudden. Whatever she had just seen, it wasn't the strangest thing she'd experienced since she got here.

Whatever it was, she thought, It is probably not even worth remembering.

The door opened and a Latina teacher in her early 30s, wearing khaki shorts and a red polo shirt walked in. Right away the class devoted their full attention to her as she went to the board.

"Hello, class, sorry for being late," she greeted. "I guess my mind just blanked for a minute there."

"Hello, Ms. Espinoza," the students all answered.

The woman smiled and turned to the chalkboard. "Okay, open up your books to Section 3, we're going to pick up where we left off yesterday." She looked back. "Didn't think you'd be back so soon, huh?"

Misao smiled. "We can thank Star for that, ja?"

Brittney shrugged her shoulders. "It's nice that she's actually cleaning up the messes now. Saves my parents some money."

Ms. Espinoza's calculus class laughed, as the students picked up where they left off yesterday like nothing had happened.

= - = 73 = - =

And with this, we end Volume 7 of Legends, the feud with the Vanderhoff Brothers, and begin looking forward towards new conflicts, new mysteries, and a story that will spread out beyond the peaceful streets of Echo Creek and through the annals of history.

There will be a few another omake scene in the near future, but look forward to Volume 8 appearing here starting in early 2024 if not by Christmas. In the meantime, more Senpai: A Story of Good Friends is coming soon.
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As it was discussed on the Discord, there are two possibilities to consider when you witness a scene like the one with the publication. Either the author did not think about the full implications of what he wrote and you roll your eyes at some TV series writing by ignorant scriptwriters or the author did think about these and you are terrified.

I am terrified of Misao because I have a slight understanding of what this little show-off scene means, and this more than anything else shown previously with her or any other character, puts her right at the top of the pecking order in my threat list. High enough that the only reasonable answer is to be nice without overdoing it. Nice and honest with such a being is the likeliest route to endured healthy survival.
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