Alarms were blaring. Red lights were flashing everywhere. But the most terrifying thing to the crew was the readouts they were getting.
"All systems are failing!" Axe Knight cried, tears leaking out of his mask. "Engines number three and five are gone...!"
"We're junked!" Mace sobbed. His head was lying on the console, which his tears were soaking. "There's nothin' left to do but crash!"
"Th-this can't be...!" Captain Vul stammered, holding his head in both his wings. "My ship...! It can't be crashing! This can't be happening!"
"The Halberd is indeed crashing," Sir Meta Knight said. His expression was unreadable. "We have failed."
"No! No, we can't fail!" Vul squawked, rushing over to the console and fighting with the controls. "There has to be something else...!"
"B-but the reactor's been destroyed, and our Wheelie power source escaped!" Axe pointed out, scrubbing some of the tears off of his mask.
"There's no power left...!" Mace whimpered.
Sailor Dee looked at all the hopeless expressions in the room, and spun around to face his superior. "Sir, what do we do...?"
"There's nothing else we can do," Sir Meta Knight said as he reached for a microphone. He switched it on, calling to the crew through the loudspeakers. "Attention to all crew! Evacuate the ship immediately!"
"E... vacuate...?" Captain Vul murmured, eyes widening. "Evacuate... the ship...?" A tremor began to rise up through his body. "Th-the ship... really is going down..." Suddenly he took on a terrified expression, looking frantically around the bridge. "Well, what are all you lunatics just sitting around here for? I'm not staying, I'm evacuating!" And, with that, he charged out of the room, leaving the door to the bridge open behind him.
"...Now..." said Sir Meta Knight, slowly turning to face Axe and Mace, "...It's your turn to evacuate."
"No!" Axe spun around, tears still leaking from his mask. "I want to stay with you, Sir...!"
"Y-yeah!" Mace added, standing up, though tears still dripped from his goggles. "Let's try one more time to get Kirby!"
Before Sir Meta Knight could respond, Trident Knight and Lance Knight charged through the open door, standing and hovering respectively between Axe and Mace. "We're your knights until the bitter end!" Trident said, kneeling as best as a puffball could.
"We will not leave." Even Lance's droning sounded sincere.
Finally, Sailor Dee carefully approached his superior, and hugged him.
Sir Meta Knight was silent for a moment as he stared at his crew. None of them wavered; none of them wanted to escape, instead preferring to risk their lives just to help their leader. "It's dangerous... but it's worth a try," he said, and his eyes glowed warmly beneath his mask. "Thank you, guys."
"CUH-TUUUUUUUR! CUH-TUUUUUR, WHEREYUUUUUUUU?"
Dagger's voice had become hoarse as he and Kirby rode the Wheelie through the Halberd. Dozens of crew members had passed them, but none had taken notice; all of them were set on evacuating the ship.
"Cutter might be leaving another way!" Kirby shouted over the alarms. "Don't give up hope, Dagger!"
"Cuh-tuuur...!" the Blade Knight called, but he held his throat, which was starting to get sore. But worse than that was the sinking feeling he was getting in his gut. They hadn't found Cutter, and the ship was crashing...
Kirby was about to say something, but was immediately cut off by another voice shouting, "Stop right there!"
The Wheelie they were riding obeyed, screeching to a halt. When it looked ahead, it panicked, bucking Kirby and Dagger off of its saddle and speeding off in another direction.
"Hey, wait!" Kirby exclaimed, turning around to run after the Wheelie.
"You can't go any farther...!"
Kirby turned back, and both he and Dagger started to see the Meta Knights standing a short distance away. All four of them had their weapons readied (though Mace was still looking somewhat teary-eyed).
"Buh...?" Dagger blurted out in surprise, hopping up. "Whyyuu... stopus?"
"We are Sir Meta Knight's soldiers!" Trident shouted, pulling his weapon back to prepare to throw it. "And we will remain loyal to him until the end!"
"S-so even though the ship is crashing... we'll d-do everything we can to stop you!" Mace Knight said, sniffling a little.
Kirby and Dagger exchanged glances, then struck fighting poses. "This'll be a short fight," Kirby said, voice shaking a little. "We don't have time for a long one...!"
"Yah," Dagger agreed. He ducked down, pawing at the ground with one foot, and charged toward the knights, preparing to ram into them.
Quickly the Blade Knight veered to the right as Axe swung his weapon at him, succeeding in knocking off a chunk of his red hair. "Buuuh...!" Dagger whined, shaking his head a little as a few stray hairs flew off. "Yuu jurk!" With that, he swung his tongue at the skull-masked knight, grabbing one of his feet.
"Yuck! What the—?" Axe cried, right before Dagger picked him up and tossed him into Lance, knocking the droid out of his hover. The knight got up, and brushed himself off. "Hah, that didn't hurt one bit!"
Dagger cocked an eyebrow, not seeming very daunted.
"Huh?" Axe turned around, noticing that his weapon was embedded in a now-sparking Lance Knight. "...Oops. Uh, Trident, can you fix that?"
But Trident wasn't paying attention. Instead, he launched his own weapon at Kirby, who swiftly dodged. "Come here, you...!"
"No way!" the puffball called, darting away from the knight. He suddenly skidded to a halt, facing Trident. "Come and get me!"
"With pleasure!" Trident fetched his weapon and leaped into the air, activating his jetpack. He flew at Kirby, who, oddly enough, was now focused on inhaling something a bit off to the left. He ignored that, though, instead preparing to stab Kirby with his trident.
...Until something enormous smacked him in the back of the head, instantly knocking him out.
"...U-um..." Mace Knight stammered, still clinging to his weapon. Kirby had used his inhaling powers to cause the knight—and his weapon—to come flying into his companion.
"Two down, two to go!" Kirby cheered.
Dagger, meanwhile, was trying to figure out what to do with Axe, who had retrieved his weapon and was now swinging it at Dagger. "Yuu bad!" he spat, trying to look somewhat intimidating despite the fact that he was now backing away. He couldn't try to grab Axe with his tongue again, because that weapon would chop his tongue off! He looked around frantically, trying to figure out what he could do...
"...Hey!" he exclaimed, suddenly noticing something peculiar about the knight. "Yuuhave... horns?" He held his paws up on the top of his head and spread them out to illustrate.
"Err..." Axe stopped, giving Dagger a funny look. He then glanced up at his helmet, poking at one of the decorative horns on top. "My helmet has horns..."
"Charge?" Dagger asked, once again "pawing" at the ground with his foot and ducking.
The knight blinked as he thought about that for a moment, then grinned. "Hey, I guess I could! Why didn't I think of that?" He lowered his head, pawing at the ground like Dagger.
The two faced each other, preparing to charge. Axe was the first, and he came running at Dagger in an attempt to gore him, like a bull. But once he got close enough, the Blade Knight stood upright and stepped to the side.
Mace Knight, who had been swinging his weapon around in preparation to hit Kirby, spotted something charging at him, and swung his mace at it automatically. It wasn't until he saw a red-and-white armored puffball fly through the air that he realized just whom he'd hit.
"...AXE! YOU IDIOT!" Mace called, throwing his arms up in exasperation. Suddenly he froze, seeing Kirby and Dagger walking toward him.
"You're outnumbered now!" Kirby taunted. "Are you gonna surrender?"
"N-no!" Mace said, holding onto the chain of his weapon threateningly. "I'm a follower of Sir Meta Knight! I-I won't back down!"
"Too bad." Kirby shrugged, then opened his mouth.
"...W-wait, what are you do—Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghhh! " he shrieked as the puffball inhaled him, weapon and all... and then shrieked again when Kirby spat him out, sending him flying across the ship.
"Yaaay! Wewin!" Dagger cheered, hopping up and down a few times.
"No time to celebrate!" Kirby exclaimed, charging forward. "The ship's still going down, and I don't think we have a lot of time life!"
"We don't have a lot of time left!" shouted Wade, as he and his friend charged through the ship. Both of them looked worse for wear after what had happened by the left wing, but they were still alive, at least.
"Man, I wish that pink punk hadn't swiped your Warpstar!" Blaze whined, rubbing his forehead as he ran. "We'd be outta here by now...!"
"Speakin' of getting outta here..." Wade slowed down as he saw a short figure limping toward them. "Cutter! What're you doing?"
"Yeah, man," Blaze said, stopping next to his friend. "You're going the wrong way!" He pointed down the hallway, in the direction he'd been running. "That way leads outta the ship! You're going deeper in!"
Cutter stopped limping for a moment, lifting himself up on his crutches a little and looking up at his co-workers. His gaze was steady, but his voice was a little shaky. "...I-I know."
Wade and Blaze looked at each other before slowly turning to look back at the Sir Kibble. "Well... all right." Blaze began to walk past Cutter, shaking him a little on his shoulder guard as he did so. "Been nice knowin' ya."
"Um, yeah, been nice knowing ya," Wade repeated, following his friend. "C'mon, let's get outta here!"
Cutter turned a little to watch the two run off before continuing deeper into the ship. "...I-I hope I haven't missed him," he muttered under his breath.
It wasn't long before he heard footsteps pounding down the hallway up ahead, and he straightened himself up as much as possible, looking forward. There, Captain Vul was charging in the same direction that Blaze and Wade had been going—toward the deck. The massive bird ignored the Sir Kibble, running past him as though he weren't there.
No, you're not getting away...! Cutter shut his eyes before shouting as loud as he could, "V-VUL!"
That got the bird's attention. Vul screeched to a halt and turned around, glaring. "What do you want, you insubordinate runt?"
Cutter turned around, limping toward his former captain. He matched Vul's glare with one of his own, pushing himself up on his crutches as high as he could. "I-I wanted you to pay, you m-murderer!"
Vul simply cocked a bushy eyebrow at that, seeming unimpressed. "Sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Th-the Blade Knight you knocked... o-off of the ship!" Cutter shouted, staring to tremble.
"Oh. Huh." The bird shrugged his wings. "I'd forgotten about that."
That sent a bolt of fury through the Sir Kibble. "Forgotten...? Y-you'd... forgotten?" His voice began to rise in pitch. "Th-that... th-that Blade Knight was... m-my friend! A-and you killed him!"
"I don't care about your friend, and I don't care about you!" Suddenly he lifted his foot and punted Cutter into the wall. "Now get out of my way, you tin can!" With that, he continued toward the deck.
Cutter was not done, and pushed himself up onto his paws, shouting, "S-SO I GOT MY REVENGE ON YOU!"
Vul stopped, and slowly turned around to face his former subordinate. "What...?"
"...And I want you to know it," Cutter said, voice starting to break. He grabbed his crutches again and pushed himself up. "The one... who sabotaged H-Heavy Lobster... was me."
The giant bird jerked back in surprise. "You?" he screeched, suddenly donning a fierce glare. "I'll kill you!" He reached into his coat, retrieving his revolver and pointing it at the Sir Kibble.
Cutter, seeing the weapon, flinched a little... but his fear was gone. Slowly he relaxed, shutting his eyes.
He opened them again, looking up to see a very stunned Captain Vul. The bird's eyes grew wide as he pulled the trigger a few more times, but each time it resulted in the same faint click.
"No...!" Vul frantically dug through his coat pockets, looking for any extra bullets.
Cutter swayed a little. He's... out of bullets...? Then what...? Unsure of what exactly he was trying to do, he reached up, detached his boomerang-blade from his helmet, and tried to aim it at Vul.
The former captain yelped, and took off running in the direction he'd been going before.
Cutter stared as Vul rushed away, and began to sway a little more before collapsing, his armor making a noisy clatter as he did so. "N-now what'm I s-supposed to do...?" he cried, holding his head in his paws. He heard footsteps pounding down the hallway once more, and glanced up.
Suddenly he froze, the blood draining from his face.
Even though his vision was blurred by tears, he could make out a very familiar form—one that he couldn't possibly mistake for anyone else. He rubbed his eyes, wondering if he was seeing things. Was this real…? There was only one way to find out…
The Blade Knight immediately screeched to a halt, and slowly turned around. And, without warning, he charged forward and pounced at Cutter, sending both of them sailing into a wall.
"What the—?" Kirby exclaimed, spinning around. He looked just in time to see a pair of crutches spinning in the air for a moment before clattering to the ground. Beyond them, Dagger was hugging a silver-armored Sir Kibble. Kirby was confused for a moment, then smiled. "Wha'd I tell you, Dagger?"
"YUU 'KAY!" Dagger sobbed, hugging Cutter tightly. Despite his tears, he had a huge smile on his face. "YUU 'LIVE!"
Cutter hugged back, smiling through his tears as well. "I th-thought you were... th-that you'd...!"
"Umm... I don't wanna interrupt this," Kirby said, looking uneasily back down the hallway, "but we've really gotta hurry!"
"R-right!" Cutter said with a gulp. "I-I don't want to d-die..."
Dagger thought he heard Cutter whisper something else after that, but it was hard to tell. In any case, he agreed with his friend, and set him on his head. "Let'sgo!"
"Th-this way leads t-to the deck." Cutter pointed down the hallway, opposite of where he'd been going earlier. Dagger was about to head that way, when Kirby stopped him.
"No! Not yet! There's still one more thing left to do!"
"Buuuh?" Dagger exclaimed. "But... shipcrash!"
"I know," Kirby said, voice full of worry. "But if we don't take care of this now... this's gonna happen all over again."
Cutter and Dagger exchanged confused glances, but the former slowly understood. "...Oh."
Kirby stood in front of a door, gazing steadily at it. Neither Cutter nor Dagger had seen him this nervous... Cutter was nervous too, though; he recognized the door. "Th-this... this leads to the b-bridge."
"Yeah," Kirby said, placing one paw against the door. "Meta Knight's waitin' for me here." He turned around to face his helpers. "C'mon."
Dagger, however, did not budge. "...Can't," he said, hanging his head. Cutter fought to keep from falling off. "Nowanna... fighthim."
"I-I'm with Dagger," Cutter said with a wince. "A-and it's not just 'cuz of my broken foot. ...S-sorry Kirby."
Kirby frowned, but nodded. "...Okay. Wait for me, then, and get ready to run when I come out!" With that, he opened the door and stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.
"...He be... 'kay?" Dagger asked, glancing up at Cutter.
The two remained silent for a moment, and started when they heard the sound of clashing swords. Cutter tried to face away from the door and keep his focus off of the battle on the other side of it. "I'm sorry, Dag'," he said quietly.
"I sh-should've been paying more attention t-to you..." He swallowed. "I felt s-so horrible when I realized th-that I'd been fighting w-with you, and th-that was the last thing we did before..."
"I too!" Dagger exclaimed, drooping a little. "Feltbad..."
They flinched upon hearing a cry that sounded like Kirby's.
"...H-how did you s-survive?"
"Bruth'r... catchme!" Dagger tried to smile a little. "Yuu?"
"H-Heavy Lobster's c-claw... p-pinned me to the sh—"
An angry yell from Sir Meta Knight immediately sent a bolt of terror through them. It took a little while for either of them to move, let alone speak.
"...W-will he be okay?" Cutter asked, voice taking on a higher pitch.
Before Dagger could try to answer that, the door burst open, and Sword Kirby charged out of the room. "NOW WE CAN LEAVE!" he yelled, not even stopping to wait for his friends.
"He 'kay!" Dagger shouted to Cutter as he took off running.
Cutter, however, couldn't help but glance back at the open door behind them.
"Lord Meta Knight! Please take care!"
"We'll go on ahead...!"
At first, he'd thought they had just given up and abandoned him. That's what it seemed like, anyway... But he wasn't going to give up! He would stay right by his side, no matter what!
But now... now he understood why they'd left.
To see Sir Meta Knight exhibit signs of anger was enough to strike a bolt of fear through anyone's heart.
To see him in an unbridled rage was terrifying.
Sailor Dee remained curled up in a corner, too scared to even look at his superior. He'd stayed so calm throughout Kirby's attack, even after the reactor had been destroyed... but after that fight...
The Waddle Dee risked pulling one of his paws away from his face, and glanced around the room. Though it was now dark in the bridge, he immediately caught sight of two halves of a mask lying on the floor.
He'd never seen his superior without that mask… and he never wanted to. A dark form darted across the bridge, and he covered his face again.
"S-sir...?" he squeaked, shivering.
Meta Knight did not acknowledge the question. "Where is it?" he snarled, and Sailor Dee heard him tear open something metal with his sword.
"S-sir, we have to leave...!"
There was a faint clicking sound, followed by silence. Sailor Dee rubbed the tears from his face and looked up to see his superior standing with his back to him. "Kirby has humiliated me..." In one swift motion, he threw back his cape, which seemed to explode into a pair of demonic wings.
"...for the last time!"
"SIR!" Sailor Dee cried, but Sir Meta Knight was gone.
"Wheelieeeee...!" Dagger called as followed Kirby, looking around.
"Here, Wheelie-Wheelie-Wheeelieeee!" Kirby shouted frantically as he rushed toward the deck.
"K-Kirby... Can Wh-Wheelies fly?"
"No, but if we hitch a ride on one, it might be able to drive off the deck fast enough for us to reach land!"
Somehow the three heard a honking noise over the sound of the ship's falling apart, and turned to see a Wheelie darting toward them. Kirby hopped on once it got close enough, and Dagger hopped on behind him. The sentient motorcycle sank a little beneath its passengers' combined weight, but kept going. "Buh..." Dagger reached back, feeling his hair blowing in the wind behind them. It reached out farther than the Wheelie's exhaust pipes, which worried him for some reason, though he couldn't place why.
"Where oth'r… Wheelies?" Dagger asked, looking down at the wheel worriedly.
"I don't think it'd know even if it could answer you," Kirby said. "They're fine though, I'm sure!"
"I-I hope this one'll be f-fine... d-driving off the deck!" Cutter stammered, subconsciously holding onto Dagger's head a little tighter.
The group remained silent after that as the Wheelie drove on. The sound of sirens and grinding metal was all around them, setting a tense atmosphere. But somehow, one small sound seemed to make it worse. That sound grew louder and louder before any of them were able to identify it as something—or someone—flying through the air.
Sir Meta Knight flew after them, holding out the sword Galaxia, its sinister prongs gleaming red in the light of the sunset. His mask shone in a similar manner. Two demonic wings carried him through the air, beating frantically. And his eyes, which so rarely gave away his emotions, were narrowed into slits.
"YOU'LL NEVER ESCAPE!"
None of them spoke. The Wheelie rushed around twisted pieces of metal, leaped over gaps in the deck, and fought for its very life to stay out of the reach of Sir Meta Knight's sword.
Yet he was getting closer. With every wing-beat he came closer and closer to being able to touch the back of Dagger's hair with the tip of Galaxia. With a few more flaps of his wings and a swipe of his sword, he was able to cut some of it away.
There was a faint screech that was heard over the wind. None of them knew what it was, or if they'd really even heard it... But whatever it was, it made Sir Meta Knight stop, and spin around, flying back into the doomed ship.
Kirby, Cutter, and Dagger all exchanged glances before looking up ahead. The deck was ending.