"Waaaaaaah!" Axe yelled, struggling to keep the ship stable as it shook from the explosion. "The Combo Cannon's been destroyed!"
"It's a wreck!" Mace added with a whimper. "We can't use it!"
"WHAAAAAAAAAT?" Captain Vul screeched, slamming his wings on the console in front of him. "How did—? How did he...? This isn't possible! My Combo Cannon! My precious weapon...!" He covered his face with one of his wings, and Axe and Mace got the sneaking suspicion that he was trying to keep himself from crying.
Once Axe was sure he had the ship under control, he turned to look at the monitors, soon spotting one displaying Kirby and the Blade Knight traitor frantically scrambling away from the top deck and making their way toward the left side of the ship. "Looks like Kirby's heading to the left wing!"
"The left wing?" Sailor Dee repeated, looking up at the monitors curiously. His eyes widened, and he turned to look at Sir Meta Knight in surprise. "You don't think he'd...?"
"NO!" Vul squawked, frantically reaching over to grab the loudspeaker. "All hands on deck! Keep Kirby away from the left wing!" He turned it off, gritting his teeth. "They might've gotten the Combo Cannon, but they're not getting the rest of my ship..."
"Gyaaah!" Blaze held onto the console as the ship shook from an explosion. "What the heck was that?"
Cutter was holding onto the console, too, shuddering. "I-I... I th-think that was Kirby..."
"Sheesh! It can't be Kirby!" Wade shouted. "I knew he was trouble, but how in the name of Popstar could he cause an explosion like that?"
"Y-you'd be surprised," Cutter muttered under his breath.
"All hands on deck! Keep Kirby away from the left wing!" boomed Captain Vul's voice over the loudspeaker.
Blaze and Wade exchanged glances, wincing a little. "Aw man, do we really have to go on deck?" Blaze whined. "Isn't there, like, something else we need to work on here?"
"No," Cutter said, not looking up. His voice was flat. "Heavy Lobster's sufficiently protected from the more dangerous parts of the ship. He will not put himself in immediate danger unless explicitly told to."
"...Right," Wade said, edging away from Cutter a little. "Are you going with us, then?"
"Nope," the Sir Kibble said, sighing a little. "I'm in no condition for that..." Glancing up, but not at the others, he indicated his injured foot by lifting it slightly. "I'd just get in the way. Besides... I have something else I need to do here."
"Well, suit yourself," Blaze said with a shrug. He hopped off of his chair and began to make his way toward the exit.
"Wait a sec!" Wade hopped off of his chair as well, but rushed to a different part of the room. Propped up against the wall was a bag full of junk, which he began to dig through. "If we're gonna be over by the wing, it'll be pretty windy there! I don't wanna fall off this ship, so... Aha!" With a smile, he pulled out what appeared to be a small star, which he tossed to the ground. Immediately it expanded into a Warpstar that was slightly smaller than normal. "Brought this just in case."
"Hah, awesome!" Blaze cheered, rushing over to the Warpstar and hopping onto one arm of it. "Let's ride in style!"
"You got it!" Wade hopped onto the other arm, and steered the Warpstar out of the room and down the hallway.
By this time, the other mechanics had gone, leaving Cutter and the deactivated robot by themselves. The Sir Kibble looked from the door to the robot, and swallowed. "Well, here we go." With that, he carefully climbed off of his chair and limped over to Heavy Lobster.
"Almost there! This way to the left wing!"
Kirby had been reassuring Dagger like that the whole way since they'd gotten away from the Combo Cannon. Dagger had been having some trouble recovering from the attack and concentrating. While he was stumbling after Kirby, he'd only really been following his voice, rather than what he was saying.
One arm was wrapped around his stomach as he ran; the Combo Cannon's claw had hurt it when it grabbed him. But actually, his gut hurt for another reason... he was worried. They'd been on the ship for quite some time now, and there was no sign of Cutter. Where could he be…?
"Hey, Dagger, d'you hear me?"
The Blade Knight snapped out of his musing, looking over at Kirby. "Buh?"
"We gotta go down this way, but be careful... The wind's gonna be really bad, I think," Kirby said, looking over the railing on the deck.
Dagger looked as well. While there wasn't any deck there, the shape of the ship would allow them something to walk on in order to get to the wing. But even here, he could feel the harsh wind. "...Nolike it," he said quietly.
"We'll be all right, just don't lose your footing!" With that, Kirby easily hopped over the railing and began making his way down the side of the ship, Dagger following.
"Whatwe do?" he asked, retracting his tongue somewhat and watching his feet. The wind was getting stronger, and he braced himself against the side of the ship. "Whygo... here?"
"Man, Dagger, d'you listen to me?" Kirby gave him a funny look. "I said we're gonna find some way to mess up this wing! Maybe find a Bomb ability somewhere..."
"'Cuz it'll make it harder for the ship to balance. It'll make the ship start to crash if we do it right."
"BUH?" Dagger exclaimed, nearly slipping. He looked at Kirby in horror, eyes widening a little. "Nuuuu! No wanna... dothat! Cuh'er... onship!"
The puffball winced a little, but tried to give a slight smile. "Hey... What's it he always says?"
Though the Blade Knight's memory wasn't perfect, there was no way he'd forget something like that. "He nowanna... die?"
"Exactly. So if he doesn't wanna die, he's gonna be trying to get offa' this ship as soon as it starts goin' down. If we don't run into him first, he'll prob'ly find a way to escape pretty quick."
Dagger couldn't argue with that, whether it was true or not—he wasn't very good at arguing anything. "...Buh'kay," he said, though he sounded a little uneasy.
Before Kirby could comment on that, the two were nearly knocked off of the ship as a Capsule J2 roared by. "Woah!" Kirby cried, flattening himself up against the side of the ship. "Somehow I don't think they want us here...!"
As if to confirm this, several grunts dropped down behind Kirby and Dagger, striking combat poses. A Waddle Doo was the first to attack, shooting a beam out of his single eye. Dagger just barely managed to dodge, and had to practically throw himself against the side of the ship to keep from falling. "Buh...!"
"Keep going!" Kirby grunted, struggling to move forward and away from his attackers. "We can't stop, or we'll fall...!"
"Iknow..." Dagger scooted after his friend, but kept a close eye on the Halberd crew. "Go 'way!"
"Make us!" squeaked a short Poppy Bro., who started chucking several bombs at the two.
Seeing that, Dagger shouted over the wind, "Kirby, luuk!"
"Huh?" The pink puff turned around, immediately spotting the bombs. With a grin, he opened his mouth wide in an attempt to inhale them... but the combination of the wind and the Poppy's poor aim caused him to miss; the bombs fell beneath the ship. "Ack! It's too hard to inhale, here!"
The Poppy and several other Dreamlanders followed Kirby and Dagger as they slowly made their way toward the left wing. But the closer they got, the more difficult it was to keep their footing, and the more all of them began to focus on moving forward rather than defending or attacking. Even the airborne grunts like the Capsule J2 were struggling to keep up with the ship.
Suddenly, it happened. There was a shriek that was immediately carried away by the wind, and anyone looking toward the back of the ship could see a form plummeting into the Orange Ocean below. The Halberd crew members froze, and Kirby and Dagger exchanged horrified glances. Silently they realized what had just happened, and continued to make their way toward the wing with even more caution. They tried to ignore a second shriek as a GIM joined its crewmate.
But flying along the edge of the ship were two other Dreamlanders, which gripped the Warpstar they were riding for dear life. Though they were having less trouble keeping with the ship than the others, they were no less terrified. "SEE, WADE? I TOLD YOU WE SHOULD HAVE KEPT OUR JOBS AT THE CAPPYMART!"
"SHUT UP AND HELP ME STEER!"
Meanwhile, Kirby had finally reached the wing, and immediately grabbed onto it, grinning a little uneasily. "Eheheh... We're finally here!"
Dagger wasn't paying too much attention to that, though, as he was still trying to dodge the bombs that the Poppy Bro. was still chucking at him. "Yuu jurk!" he spat.
"NYAAAH!" the clown replied, making a face and chucking another bomb straight at Dagger's head.
The Blade yelled in terror, holding one paw in front of his face in defense. Somehow he wound up catching the thing, and looked at it, wide-eyed... only to realize that it wasn't lit. "Buuuh?"
"Aha! ...Wait, what?" The Poppy stared at Dagger, dumbfounded, then fought to keep from stomping in rage. "Agh! I forgot to light it! Grrr... I'll get you this time!" With that, he began chucking even more bombs at the Blade Knight. And yet, in his rush, he still forgot to light them.
Mostly to prevent himself from getting hit and knocked off-balance, Dagger began catching the bombs in his tongue.
Eyes lighting up, the Blade Knight turned around, chucking the bombs at the joint of the wing with all his might. Most of them hit their target, landing between the wing and the ship.
"Nice thinking!" Kirby cheered. "But these aren't lit...! And how're we gonna get away from the ex..." He trailed off, noticing a Waddle Dee and a Burnin' Leo riding a Warpstar.
Dagger noticed it as well, but for a different reason. He pulled his tongue back, then flung it forward, snatching the Burnin' Leo off of the Warpstar.
"Waaaaaaaaah! Hey, man, what're you doing?" Blaze cried. He glared at Dagger a little, but was too terrified out of his mind to do much else.
Dagger didn't answer, instead grabbing Blaze in one paw and pointing him at the bombs piled against the wing joint. He then grabbed one of the Burnin' Leo's feet, forcefully pulling it down like some kind of trigger. This caused him to spew a stream of fire at the bombs, lighting their fuses.
"Buh-huh!" Dagger cheered, setting the stunned Burnin' Leo down beside him. Immediately afterward he started when a Waddle Dee splatted against the wall next to him. "Buh—?"
"Grab hold, Dag'!" Kirby called as he flew beside the Blade Knight on a Warpstar.
Dagger didn't need to be told twice, and grabbed one wing of the Warpstar as Kirby frantically drove it away from the ship. Everyone else who was still there watched the two fly off, then looked over at the wing, where the bombs were about to go off. Horrified, they all began to scramble up to the top deck, desperate to avoid the explosion.
The cries of the crew members were drowned out by the rumbling of a violent explosion from the left side of the ship. "Aaaaaaagh!" Axe Knight cried, fighting with the steering wheel. "The left wing's been destroyed!" He looked down at some of the displays, reading over them quickly. "Damage to the left wing... approximately 74%!"
Captain Vul squawked in surprise, gripping one of the consoles as the ship rocked violently. "Do something, you morons!"
"We're losing stability!" Mace Knight yelped, fighting a losing battle to not panic.
Sir Meta Knight darted for the controls that Mace was seated by, and began to work at them. "Retract the sails!" he said to the knight, not taking his eyes off of his own work. "Give more lift to the left wing!"
"U-um..." Mace Knight just stood there, frozen, his panic rendering him unable to do his work. Fortunately, Meta Knight was able to balance the ship himself, and slowly the frantic air in the bridge calmed as the ship finally stabilized. Although most of the group was starting to breathe a little easier, there was still a tension that hung over them.
"...Where," asked Vul in a low voice, "is Kirby?"
"Umm..." Axe temporarily switched the ship to autopilot, then turned to scrutinize the monitors. "Lemme see..."
"H-hey!" Mace stammered, still somewhat shaken. "That's my job!"
"Not when you're blankin' out like that!" Axe said, still trying to look over the monitors. "Uhhh... I don't see him."
Mace, a little more than annoyed that Axe was trying to take over his job, knocked him out of the way with the handle of his weapon, then hit a button on the console to change the view of the monitors. "Here's why! He's in the cabin!"
"The cabin? Y'mean he's in the ship?" Sailor Dee stood on the tips of his feet, trying to see the monitors and radar better. "But... but where is that?"
"It looks like... the ducts?" Axe said, looking rather baffled.
"What on Popstar's he doing in the ducts?" Vul snarled, shoving both Axe and Mace away.
"Is he lost?" Sailor Dee asked quietly, tilting his head to one side.
"...Wait a minute..." The bird stepped back, eyes widening. Slowly, a rather wicked smirk crossed his beak. "I think I have an idea... Heheheheh..."
Axe and Mace exchanged looks, not sure they wanted to hear what this plan could be.
Dagger hung at the entrance to the ducts, looking around the hallway. "Cuh-tuuuur!" he called, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Cuuuuuuh-tuuuuuur!"
"Hurry up!" came Kirby's echoed voice from inside the ducts. "I told you, Cutter's gonna be fine!"
The Blade Knight whimpered a little, casting one last look around the ship before reluctantly crawling into the duct. "Still nofind him...!"
"They got the ship so it won't crash right now," Kirby said as he walked through the tunnel up ahead. "So he'll probably stay here... Maybe we'll run into him later."
Dagger nodded slowly as he continued to crawl, but didn't feel all that comforted. What if Cutter didn't know the ship was crashing, and he stayed on the ship...? The thought made him shudder. "...Sure wefind... Cuh'er?" he asked, voice taking on a slightly higher pitch.
"Yep! Don't worry about it."
The Blade Knight sighed a little, and just tried to focus on where he was going. In the ducts, it was hard to see, and hard to crawl around, but at least they weren't running into any of the Halberd crew members this way...
Suddenly, the two began to hear muffled voices talking, and froze. They stayed like that for a moment, wondering where the voices were coming from, but soon Kirby relaxed. "They're in a room under here," Kirby whispered. "Stay quiet..." With that, he kept walking.
Dagger nodded silently and followed. He noticed a bit of light up ahead, and soon found that it was a vent. Below, he could see a room where some crew members were resting and talking. He looked around the room as much as he could from where he was in the duct, wondering if Cutter was there, but he didn't see his friend. Sighing a little, he continued crawling.
The two would pass over vents like that every so often, and each time, Dagger would look in, hoping that he would find Cutter there. And, each time, he was disappointed. He was about to give up hope of spotting his friend this way when something caught his eye.
Through the vent he was now over, he could see the glint of some armor.
At first, he thought it might be a Sir Kibble's armor, but he was mistaken. It looked like there was a bunch of armor and weapons for various species in that room... What was that for? "Kirby, luuk!" he called.
"Huh?" Kirby turned around and approached Dagger. He looked through the vent, blinking. "What is it...? Woah!" Immediately he grinned. "That's the armory! Great find, Dagger! Let's take a look!"
Dagger smiled, glad that he was able to help with something. He crawled a little past the vent, then kicked it open, and dropped down. Kirby landed with a squeak beside him as he stood up. "Buh...?"
All around there were piles of armor and weapons, separated into different sections according to species. Dagger soon spotted the section for Blade Knight armor, and wandered over in order to exchange his old pair of shoulder guards for a newer pair.
"Hmm... Wonder if I should get an ability now..." Kirby wondered out loud as he looked around the weapons. "Wha'd'you think, Dagger?"
"Iunno," the Blade Knight replied, glancing around as he put on the new pair of shoulder guards. Something was odd about this room... Why didn't it have any Sir Kibble armor? He frowned a little, but wasn't sure what that could possibly mean... Maybe he would find out later.
"Hrm... That cheap Warpstar exploded when we got back, so we don't have a way of getting outta here fast if we wanna blow up the right wing... So I don't think I want a Bomb ability," Kirby said to no-one in particular. He thought about it for a while, then shrugged. "Guess we'll have to take out the right wing some other way. C'mon, Dagger, let's go." With that, the pink puffball hopped back up into the vent.
"...'Kay." Dagger cast one last glance around the room before following.
"My first AI... and it t-tries to kill me. Why'd you d-do that, huh? Maybe I should've made you to r-respect your creators... But I guess that won't matter much, n-now."
Cutter glanced up at the dead eyes of Heavy Lobster, half-expecting it to respond. When the mechanical crustacean didn't acknowledge him, he went back to his work, using a wrench to screw one of the bolts on the robot's claw.
"A-at least you didn't try to fry me with this th-thing," Cutter said, shuddering a little at the thought. "B-but if all goes well... you won't try to fry anyone a-again..." He pulled the wrench away. "Will you?"
Much to the Sir Kibble's horror, there was a mechanical hum as the lobster's eyes suddenly lit up bright red. He screamed, grabbing his crutches and limping away frantically.
Heavy Lobster's eyes dimmed to their normal green shade, and with a few mechanical whirs it stood up. Its optics rotated a little as it gazed around the room before it began to stomp away through a large door, which automatically opened as it approached.
"...O-oh," Cutter said quietly as his stomach sank a little. "Th-that's... that then, isn't it?" Slowly he slid into a seated position, feeling a little sick. "I hope this works..." he muttered, blinking as he thought back to a point earlier on in Heavy Lobster's construction.
"So... n-no abilities, huh?"
"Nah, no abilities."
"...W-well I don't see why not... I mean, wouldn't he be stronger this way?"
"Vul told us we needed to 'ability-proof' him."
"Yeah, I guess to keep the TACs out... Can't they like, shapeshift or something if they get an ability?"
"I thought Scopes disproved that."
"Oh come on, you can't trust that website for everything."
"...W-well, whatever... no abilities, then."
No, no abilities... and now Cutter knew why. It wasn't because of the TACs... it was because of Kirby. He'd had a paw in building a robot designed to fight Kirby... and win.
"Almost there...?" Dagger asked as he finally managed to pull himself back up into the duct.
"Yeah... I think so," Kirby said with a nod. "We should be getting close to the right—" Suddenly he froze. "...Did you hear that?"
"Buh?" Dagger looked around, not sure what Kirby was getting at. He could hardly see anything in these ducts, let alone hear—
Slowly the two exchanged glances. "...What's that?"
Dagger was not bright, but he'd been around Cutter long enough to be able to detect fear pretty easily... and Kirby was scared. Suddenly he felt very sick, and cautiously looked behind himself.
There was a clanking, grinding, mechanical noise coming from the depths of the ship, and it was gradually getting closer. While it had been pitch-black in the ducts before, aside from the occasional light... the end of the tunnel was slowly being filled with a sinister red glow.
"...Dagger..." Kirby whispered, "Keep. Moving."
"You have completely lost your mind, Captain!" Mace Knight wailed, recoiling from the monitors in horror.
The bird just cackled, leaning in close to one of the screens. "It's too late to turn back now!"
Mace was going to protest, but he knew it would be useless. "I just know we're gonna regret this..." he whined, slumping.
"Oh, shut it!" Vul shot a glare at his subordinate. "This is the only chance we have to finish Kirby!" He turned back to look at the screens, maniacal grin returning. "This time we'll succeed! Heavy Lobster, awaaaaaay! Crush him! Crush him!"
Axe Knight, still at the wheel, shuddered, tears starting to leak from his skull mask. "Our ship is falling apart...!" he whimpered.
"Don't worry about it!" came Vul's far-too-jovial voice. "Just press on!"
"Sir Meta Knight!" Sailor Dee squeaked, turning to his superior with wide eyes. "What do we do...?"
But Sir Meta Knight did not respond. The Waddle Dee watched, noticing that the knight's gaze was darting between Captain Vul and the monitors. His eyes were narrowed slightly.
Sailor Dee swallowed, backing away and turning to face the screens once more.
It had only been a suggestion. He hadn't expected such a negative reaction.
"KIRBY!" Dagger screamed as he scrambled through the narrow tunnel. The clanking and grinding had turned into an all-out mechanical roar.
"What are you, an idiot? We can't use that!"
"Just a little farther, Dagger!" Kirby called, darting up ahead. There was a vent above him, and he tried to pry it open, but to no avail. "Help me!"
Dagger fought with all his might to crawl through the ducts even faster, and finally made it up to Kirby. "I gotit...!" He slid underneath the vent, rolled onto his back, and kicked it open.
"That's an ability!"
Frantically the two climbed up through the vent, and found themselves in an open area. "We're free!" Kirby cheered, hopping onto the floor... only to gasp. What he'd thought to be a normal room in Halberd had no exits, other than the vent from which he'd entered. "No...!"
Dagger looked around the room, nearly panicking when he saw that they were trapped. Suddenly he spun around when the floor began to shake, and something began to claw its way through the sheer metal of the ship's innards.
"Yeah, a dangerous one! You didn't know that?"
With a horrible screech, one very banged-up Heavy Lobster emerged from the floor, immediately cornering Kirby and Dagger in the cramped room.
"You're… you're joking... A-aren't you?"
"I knew I should've gotten an ability...!" Kirby said, flinching as the mechanical lobster opened its claws wide. But the claws began to screech and grind and shudder, as though they were trying to force something out...
"Nope... Even though it's just a cosmetic change… if something got that ability..."
"Wh-what it—" Dagger started, only to yelp and step back as a dried clump shot out of Heavy Lobster's claws, followed by a spurt of red paint.
"...we'd be doomed."
"WHAT? WHAT? WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?" Captain Vul screeched, pounding on the consoles in sheer rage.
Axe wiped the tears from his mask, attempting a slight joke. "Maybe you busted Heavy Lobster from drivin' it through the ship…" Suddenly he yelped and ducked when the bird fired a shot at him.
Everyone turned to Sir Meta Knight, who had stepped forward. His eyes were wide beneath his mask as he stared at the screen. "It can't be...!"
"...HAHA! YES!" Kirby cheered, opening his mouth wide to inhale something.
"Buh?" Dagger exclaimed, watching his friend in confusion. What was he so happy about...?
Kirby sucked up the clump of dried paint, and in a flash, he donned a baseball cap, a bucket, and a paintbrush. "Try this, Heavy Lobster!" With that, he dunked the paintbrush into the bucket and quickly swiped it out.
By the magic of Paint Kirby's ability, the paint from the brush seemed to know exactly where to strike, hitting Heavy Lobster right in the face. The massive robot whirred and reeled back, for its optics were now coated in paint.
Kirby had already lost his ability, but he didn't need it now. "Dagger, lead it that way!" he called, pointing to one end of the room.
Dagger had no idea what Kirby had planned, but nodded anyway. "Um... 'kay!" he said, unable to hide the fearful squeak in his voice. He darted over in the direction Kirby had instructed, and began making faces at Heavy Lobster. "Hey, yuu!" he called. "Yuu jurk!"
Heavy Lobster spun around, and darted over toward Dagger, clawing at the air blindly.
The Blade Knight yelped, darting away as the robot slammed into the wall with a loud bang! He flinched, preparing for it to turn around and attack him again... but instead, Heavy Lobster began plowing through the wall, attacking it with its claws.
Kirby laughed triumphantly. "It can't see where we are, so it's just attacking whatever makes the most noise!" he cheered. "Now c'mon, let's get outta here!" With that, he leaped back into the ducts, Dagger following.
Moments after they fled into the ducts, a violent explosion rang out from the tunnel Heavy Lobster had plowed through the side of the ship.
The robot had been destroyed… and so had the right wing.