Silence swept over the bridge as the Halberd finally took flight over the Orange Ocean. The silence was partially from awe that their plans were finally going into action, and partially from shock at what had just happened moments ago.
"...Looks like Kirby was blown into the ocean," Sailor Dee said quietly.
"Hmm," Mace Knight said after a pause, nodding. "That was a close call."
"Too close." Sir Meta Knight whirled around to look at the monitor that displayed the short length of deck behind the nozzle. The deck itself was fine, of course, but scattered all around it were pieces of metal that once made up the Heavy Lobster. "...Why was Heavy Lobster sent behind the nozzle," he asked flatly.
"Um… He did it!" Mace exclaimed, pointing at Captain Vul.
Vul shot a glare at Mace, which made the knight uncomfortable, though he was glad it was a glare that the captain was shooting at him rather than a bullet. After a moment, the bird turned to Meta Knight. "I'd sent him before Kirby arrived at the nozzle," he said as he crossed his arms. "I really don't think it's that much of a loss, now, is it, sir? After all, Kirby's gone—"
"And he will come back," Meta Knight interrupted, the faintest hints of anger creeping into his voice. Immediately Axe, Mace, and Sailor Dee stood up straight and rigid, looking at their superior with terrified expressions, while Vul remained unmoved. "Captain Vul. Are you aware of how long it took to build Heavy Lobster?"
"Yes, and I hired the team that made him. They built him once, so they can rebuild him."
"Possibly, had you not just killed one of the members of the team, plus another crew member due to your thoughtless action."
The two lower-ranked knights and Sailor Dee both looked between Sir Meta Knight and Captain Vul as their two superiors stared at each other. It seemed like an eternity before Meta Knight turned around and spoke into the microphone, ordering some crew members to retrieve the pieces of Heavy Lobster and repair it. He then turned off the mike, but did not turn around. "It was because of a lack of focus that Heavy Lobster was destroyed and two crew members were killed on our account. That will not happen again."
He spun around, eying them all. "Let's have a test. Set a course for Grape Gardens."
Cutter slowly drifted into consciousness, feeling sore and disoriented. Where was he...? What happened...?
He tried to stand up, but one of his feet was not working, causing him to collapse. Not that he could have walked if it had worked anyway; he was horribly dizzy, and it hurt to put pressure on that foot.
As his vision started to clear, he realized that he was lying on a cot in some sort of medical bay, with a few other Dreamlanders lying on some cots beside his, unconscious. Running his paw over his head, he felt bandages tied over his messy hair.
...Wait, that meant...
Immediately the Kibble blushed, scrambling under the covers. "Wh-where the scrap d-did my armor go...?" he whimpered.
"In the scrap pile," came an unfamiliar, monotone voice.
Turning to his other side, Cutter saw, standing a few feet away, a... something. He blinked a few times, staring at it for a while, but he simply could not figure out just what species it was. It looked vaguely like a Biospark, since it had dark gray armor like one (although the visor was gone) and a red-orange ponytail, but it also had some traits that reminded him of a Sir Kibble, and maybe something else.
"...Wh-what are you?" he asked, wincing when he realized just how rude that question was.
"Cursed, apparently," the thing replied. "You can call me Cadmus, though."
"O-oh... um... So... why is m-my armor in the s-scrap pile?"
"Because you were fortunate enough to get crushed between the two halves of Heavy Lobster's only intact claw," Cadmus replied.
"...F-fortunate? How is that fortunate?!"
"Because if you had not been pinned to the ship by that claw, you would have been blown off of the ship and to your death. You should be also thankful that it mangled your armor instead of you."
"Oh." Cutter thought back for a moment, trying to remember why he had been crushed by Heavy Lobster's claw... and froze. "Oh no," he said in a small voice.
"U-um..." He swallowed, voice taking on a higher pitch. "M-my friend... h-he uh... d-did... D-did anyone see a r-rather tall Blade Knight somewhere? L-long tongue, n-no helmet oh scrap p-please tell me he's somewhere." Swallowing, he turned to look at the other side of the room again, trying to see if he could spot Dagger lying on one of the cots.
"No, not that I know of. Why?"
Cutter turned to look at Cadmus again. "B-because..." He could feel himself start to shake. "B-because... I think he g-got blown off the sh-ship...!"
"Oh." Cadmus blinked. "Probably another casualty, then."
"NO." Cutter held his head in his paws. "No, he didn't d-d-d... He didn't. ...H-he hit the water."
"Which would be the equivalent of hitting cement from—"
"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT." The Sir Kibble grabbed the pillow from his cot and covered his head with it. "J-just... get me another s-set of armor and g-get me out of this m-med ward..."
"You're in no condition for that."
"I don't care."
"Suit yourself." Slowly, Cadmus began to walk away. "You're a bit smaller than a normal Kibble and I don't believe the armory has something exactly your size, so I hope you don't mind wearing something a bit bigger." When he didn't get a response, he looked behind himself to see Cutter still lying there, holding the pillow over his head, and shivering. "...Hm." Without another word, he exited the room.
Dagger remembered falling off of the ship—that was for sure. But... he didn't know how he'd gotten to wherever he was now.
He could feel something soft beneath him... and could hear the pleasant sound of waves. Opening his eyes, he was greeted by the sight of a clear blue sky. But he didn't know how he got there. He'd gone from getting blasted off of a ship, to lying in a peaceful place... He tried to focus, thinking about what that could possibly mean, but thinking was always hard for him.
The reason hit him quickly. Of course! It was so obvious! How could he have not realized it sooner?!
Hopping up, he looked around to confirm his theory that he had been blasted to another planet. When he did so, he was awarded with something nailing him in the head.
"Ow!" he exclaimed, rubbing his head and turning around. He immediately forgot his theory upon seeing what appeared to be a large fledgling bird of some sort that stood only an inch or so shorter than him. Although it had grown up a lot, Dagger still recognized it as one of Dynablade's chicks, whom he and Cutter had helped last fall. He grinned widely. "Bruth'r!"
The Dyna-chick gave a friendly chirp, leaning forward as Dagger wrapped his arms around him in a hug. He then backed up and fluttered his wings in an excited manner, happy to see that his "brother" was all right.
Dagger's grin faded a little, though, and he turned to look back at the sky for a moment. The Halberd was still visible. "...Wut happ'n?"
Chirping again to get Dagger's attention, the bird held out one of his wings, then pointed to himself with one of his pinion feathers. He then flapped his wings about, pantomiming flying. After that, he pointed to the ship that was flying off into the distance, pointed at Dagger, then pulled his wing down, indicating a dropping motion. He gave an exaggeratedly worried look before pantomiming flying again, faster this time, and then pointed at Dagger again, then at the ground.
Dagger stared at the Dyna-chick for a moment before slowly cocking his head to one side.
The bird hung his head, smacking his wing over his face.
After a moment or two, the gears clicked into place, and Dagger perked up. "Oh! Yuusave me?"
The Dyna-chick jumped up, flapping its wings and chirping in triumph. He then nuzzled Dagger with his beak, while the Blade Knight wrapped one arm around him in a hug again.
When the bird stepped back, Dagger gave him a hopeful look. "Save Cuh'er... too?"
The Dyna-chick looked a little surprised at that, and gave a saddened look, ducking his head.
Dagger started at that. "...Not saveCuh'er?"
The bird shook his head.
The Blade Knight stood there in shock, trying to process this. He'd been saved, but Cutter hadn't...? How was that possible? "...See Cuh'er?" he asked, looking around the beach. "Anywhere?!"
Looking up, the Dyna-chick gave a sad chirp.
With a whimper, Dagger turned around, looking back at the ship that was flying away. He couldn't remember exactly what had happened when he'd been blasted off of the ship; those events had happened so fast that they were all a blur. Had Cutter fallen off of the ship, too? What had happened to him...?!
He felt a pain in his gut when he realized he'd been fighting with Cutter just before he'd fallen off the ship... Dagger had said some mean things, but how was he supposed to apologize if he didn't know where his friend was, now? Sadness filled him at that thought, but he shook his head, expression determined. Cutter couldn't be gone! He had to find him! And maybe Kirby too, while he was at it... Since he wasn't on the ship, he wouldn't get in trouble if he talked to the puffball, would he?
"Bruth'r!" he exclaimed, spinning around to face his "sibling" again. "Gottafind... Kirby! And Cuh'er!"
The chick blinked, looking from side to side before giving a questioning chirp.
Dagger put his paw to his chin at that one. Good question... Where would they find those two? He had no idea where Cutter could be, so he tried thinking about where Kirby might be. The puffball had definitely blasted far off of the ship, and he could fly a bit, so it was entirely possible that he was somewhere around here. "Find Kirby," he said with a nod. "Look 'round... here!"
At that, the Dyna-chick nodded, quickly glancing around the beach and turning around to march into the forest. Dagger followed. The forest was still light, so it wasn't too hard to see. From the looks of things, they weren't in Whispy Woods, but rather some smaller forest near Mount Dynablade, somewhere on the edge of Green Greens. That would explain why the Dyna-chick was here, anyway.
"Kirbyyyy!" Dagger called, cupping his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice. "Kirbyyyy! Where yuuuuuuu?"
The Dyna-chick watched the Blade Knight for a moment before mimicking him, holding his wings at either side of his beak and calling, "Tweet-tweeeeeet!"
The two carried on like this for some time, but had little success in finding the puffball they were searching for. Dagger's voice was starting to get a little hoarse from calling, and his posture was slumped a little as he walked. "Kirbyyyy! Kirb—"
Before he could finish the word, an explosion blasted him and the Dyna-chick off their feet and into a clump of weeds. The two heard unpleasant snickering somewhere up in the trees, and looked up to see a familiar duo hanging out on one of the lower branches.
Blast was standing there, holding a second, unlit bomb in one hand and snickering, a wide grin on his face. Jolt hovered at his side, trying his best to look intimidating, but was immediately cowed by the Dyna-chick's hopping up and screeching angrily at him.
"Thought that would get your attention," Blast said, lowering the bomb and tucking it under his arm. "So... what do we have here? Dagger, something looks pretty different here."
Dagger looked down to examine himself, wondering what on Popstar looked so different. He was covered in dirt and sand… "Clothes… dirty?"
"…I meant your company. Where's Cutter, eh? He didn't get in trouble, did he?"
Dagger glared at Blast at that one, but didn't answer.
"Oh, or did he, maybe, get his face blasted off by that birdbrain captain of yours when he found out that loser was friends with Kirby?"
Dagger started. Captain Vul hadn't found out about that, had he…?! "H... he fine!" he said, face turning a bit pale.
"Oh, I'm sure..." The Poppy Bro. snickered again. "Those guy's'll definitely wipe out Cutter, if Kirby doesn't plow 'im over first! Why d'you think I gave you that flier?"
It took Dagger a couple moments, but he remembered when he'd received the flier that advertised Project Halberd. That's right... wasn't it Blast who had given it to him? "Y-yuusaid... yuu friend."
At that, Blast threw back his head in full-out laughter. "Yeah right! I can't believe you actually fell for that!" He stared down at the Blade Knight, his grin looking a little more sinister. "Now Cutter's an enemy to both those Halberd guys and Kirby!"
Now Dagger understood the situation, and he glared at Blast, tongue retracted into his mouth as he grit his teeth.
The Dyna-chick looked from Blast to Dagger, not really understanding any of this other than the fact that Blast was upsetting his "brother." His eyes narrowed at the Poppy Bro., and he chirped angrily.
Seeing this, Jolt looked up at Blast fearfully. "Ummm, Momma?"
"Don't call me that!" Blast snarled, swatting at Plasma Wisp. "What is it?!"
"Z-zorry, Blazt... But... I don't think it'z zuch a good idea to tell them all of that ztuff..."
"Why not?" the Poppy Bro. scoffed. "What's he gonna do?"
Blast nearly lost his footing on the branch as Dagger rammed his full weight into the tree. Jolt looked around for something, and yelped, instinctively clinging to Blast. Before the clown could ask him what was going on, the Dyna-chick swooped at them, knocking them off the branch.
"Owww...!" Jolt whined, wiping at the tears beneath his goggles. "That hurt!"
"You're telling me..." Blast groaned, sitting up and rubbing his back. "Now what's-"
Before he could finish speaking, Dagger picked him up by the collar. "Yuu bad!" he shouted.
"H-hey, threatening a guy when he's down's pretty low, ain't it?" Blast asked with a nervous grin. "I-I can't undo what I did, you know!"
Dagger considered this for a moment before setting him down. "...Yuu still bad."
Blast made a face. "That's what you get for making me lose my job!" He then switched back to his trademark grin, taking a few steps back. "Now, like I always do, it's time to go out with a bang!" With that, he reached for the bomb he'd been carrying, only to find that it wasn't there. "What the...? Where'd that bomb go?"
"Um, Blazt...!" Jolt whimpered, pointing up.
The clown followed Jolt's pointed glove, noting that the Dyna-chick was flying above them, carrying the now-lit bomb in his talons. Dagger had already dashed away, so his "sibling" didn't hesitate to drop the explosive onto the Poppy Bro.'s head. With a brilliant flash, the bomb went off, and the Dyna-chick had to dart out of the way as Blast and Jolt were sent flying to who-knows-where.
Dagger had been knocked off of his feet by the blast, but was otherwise unharmed. "...Yuu sure... that 'kay?" he asked, giving the Dyna-chick an unsure look.
The bird just rolled his eyes before giving his "brother" a look that seemed to say, "Well, they were mean to you."
"...Yah." Dagger rubbed his head. After a moment, though, he hunched over, thinking about what Blast had told him. Was Cutter really an enemy to Kirby now...? That couldn't be right... Kirby was their friend. They had helped him before, back when they went to rescue the Power Stars, and when they stopped Dynablade from stealing the crops.
Though he knew Blast was right about the captain's not liking Kirby... Cutter had told him that before. What if they found out that he and Cutter had helped Kirby before, though? He didn't want that crazy bird to hurt Cutter!
First thing was first—he had to find Kirby. Kirby wouldn't tell anyone about his friendship with Cutter, and if he warned Kirby beforehand that Cutter was still probably on the Halberd, then maybe Cutter would be safe! Hopefully...
But there was still one big problem. Dagger lifted his head, giving the Dyna-chick a worried look. "Buh… Where Kirby?"
"THERE HE IS!"
At the bridge of the Halberd, the five members of the crew that were present stared at one screen that showed a Warpstar rapidly approaching. Riding on that Warpstar was a very unwelcome pink visitor, wearing a deceptively cheerful smile on his face.
"I don't believe this!" Captain Vul screeched, pounding his fist on the console in rage. "He came back!"
"K-Kirby's flying after us!" Axe Knight sputtered, still bewildered that their opponent had survived both Heavy Lobster's attack and being blasted off the ship.
Sir Meta Knight did not seem surprised in the slightest. He simply stared at the screen intently, eyes narrowing slightly. "Stop him."
Mace Knight glanced at Captain Vul, who was glaring at him, one wing resting on the holster of his gun. "Ummm..." Knowing very well what that meant, Mace began to rapidly type a few commands into the console. "Okay, main cannons are online." He glanced back at Vul nervously. "...Shall we fire?"
Vul grinned, knocking Mace out of the way and grabbing the controls for the Combo Cannon. "Fire away! FIIIIIRE!" he squawked, cackling as he fired several shots at Kirby.
Sailor Dee winced as he watched the screen, feeling a little guilty when he realized he was hoping that Kirby would be all right.
"Kiiiirrrrbyyy! Where yuuuuuu?!" Dagger called as he and his "brother" resumed searching through the forest. They hadn't been searching for long, but the Blade Knight felt they were never going to find their friend.
The Dyna-chick hadn't given up hope yet, though. He was determined to help his brother! Looking around, he tried to see if he could spot the pink puffball he remembered seeing as a hatchling, but paused, hearing something. He looked up, then suddenly began chirping and flapping his wings wildly.
Dagger, hearing the commotion, turned around, giving his "sibling" a funny look. Why was he looking up like that? Did he think Kirby was going to fall out of the sky?
At that very moment, something rather soft rammed into Dagger, although it didn't feel very soft at the moment, given how fast it was going when it hit him. "Ooof—!" Dagger grunted as he was slammed into the ground.
"Sorry... Seems like cannon balls and Warpstars don't get along very well," the thing said with a slight giggle. "You okay?"
"Yah..." Dagger mumbled, pushing himself up. "I k—" He froze, eyes wide as saucers as he stared at the pink figure that was dusting himself off in front of him. "K... Kirby?"
"Huh?" Kirby looked up, then smiled cheerfully. "Yup, that's me! Wait, wha—Dagger?!" he exclaimed, staring at the Blade Knight in amazement. "Wow, it really is you!"
Before the pink puff had the chance to say anything else, Dagger lunged forward, tackle-hugging him. "KIRBYYY!" he half-sobbed, so relieved to see his friend again. "Yuu here!"
"It's good to see you too, Dagger...!" Kirby said, choking a little as Dagger squeezed him. Eventually he managed to slip out of Dagger's arms and take a breath. "Whew, you're strong." He gave a half-smile, but that was soon replaced with a concerned look when he saw tears at the corners of Dagger's eyes. "Hey, you okay?"
"I k-kay..." Dagger whimpered, wiping at his eyes with his sleeves. "Cuh'er not! He on... Halb'rd!"
"Cutter's on the Halberd?!" Kirby exclaimed. "Y'mean those guys captured him?!" His wide eyes soon narrowed a little. "Don't worry, Dagger, we'll get 'im back!"
"Nuu!" the Blade Knight shouted, waving his gloved paws about. "Nuu, Cuh'ernot... capture'd..." He hesitated, glancing away and kicking his foot a little. His "brother" walked over to his side, giving a questioning chirp.
"He's not?" Kirby gave his friend a confused look. "If he's not captured, then what's he doing on the Halberd?" Before Dagger could answer, the puffball brightened, clapping his stubby paws together. "Oh! I got it! He's trying to stop 'em!"
Wincing, Dagger shook his head. "...Nuu."
"Wha...? Well sheesh, what's he doin' there?"
Dagger felt immensely guilty as he recalled what others had said. Kirby had been trying to stop Sir Meta Knight, so would he be mad if he found out...? But he couldn't really hide this from his friend... Sighing, he looked down at the ground, too ashamed to look his friend in the eye. "...Cuh'er... wurkfor... Sir Meta Knight."
"Wuh?" Kirby exclaimed, eyes wide. "Are you serious?"
"Yah... I too."
"Y-you both are...?" The pink puff rubbed his head, frowning. This was a lot to take in. "Well, what're you doing that for? Don't ya know that Meta Knight's bad? He wants to take over Dreamland!"
"Buh..." Gulping, Dagger looked up at Kirby nervously. "Sir Meta Knight... reelee bad?"
"Yes, really!" Kirby pointed in the direction of the Halberd, through the trees. "He's gonna attack Dreamland with that big ship! Does that sound good to you? Why d'you wanna work for a guy like that?"
Kirby shook his head. "There's no time for excuses. We gotta get on the Halberd and stop those guys before they hurt someone! We'll look for Cutter while we're there, too."
"Buh... but how... geton ship?"
"Hm..." Kirby put his paw to his mouth in thought, then glanced over at the Dyna-chick, who had been standing next to Dagger quietly during their exchange. Seeing that, he grinned. "I think I have an idea!"
A Sir Kibble clad in silver armor stood next to a strange puffball in front of the doors to the medical bay. The former had a bandage wrapped around one foot and was holding a pair of crutches. He was also slumping a little, appearing to be in a sort of dull shock.
"S-so... It was Captain Vul th-that sent Heavy Lobster... behind the nozzle... to go after Kirby?" Cutter asked quietly.
"Yes. And he wants you to join the rest of the Heavy Lobster team in repairing it, if that's within your ability at the moment." Cadmus eyed him carefully. "You're absolutely certain you want to do this? You're free to stay here at you wish." The words were said without a hint of concern in the medic's voice.
"I'm... certain," Cutter said, though his hesitation contradicted his words.
"...Very well. Good luck, then." With that, Cadmus re-entered the room behind him.
Cutter, now alone, carefully limped a distance down the hall with the assistance of his crutches, and leaned against the wall. I can't believe all this has happened... he thought. Because I joined this operation... and because I helped make that robot... Dagger... He shut his eyes. Is... is this really all my fault...? He shuddered at that thought, and tried to put it out of his mind.
...I... I have to do something about this. I don't know what, but I have to! He wiped at the tears that were stinging at his eyes. Sorry, Captain Vul, he thought bitterly, but I'm not gonna let you hurt anyone with that robot again! You'll pay for what you did to Dagger!