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Brotherhood of Smash: Origins

Chapter Text

The scent of pollen wafted through the air, and leaves fluttered in the soft wind. The sun shone down on a small clearing dotted with trees as two small Toads played beneath the shadow of a spire of stone, stretching its rocky head toward the vast blue sky. A cloud passed over the structure, and bright, yellow flowers danced as a quiet breeze swept by. The sound of childish laughter rang through the air as the Toads chased each other in circles, oblivious to everything around them. The clearing, however, was just a thin veil; a deceptive front for the fortress that lay behind it.

Then, one of the Toads stepped too close to the flowers. Normally, they were careful enough to avoid them, but their minds were so distracted with one another that one of them had been blinded to where their feet had been taking them, and, just as the innocent clearing was nothing more than a calm front, the flowers themselves hid a danger to all who dared approach them. The sound of rustling leaves was all the warning they got, before a red, bulb-headed plant sprang forth, pointy teeth lining its gaping maw. The small Toad could only gaze into the open jaws of the Piranha Plant as it lunged for the Toad frozen in fear.

There was a blur of red and blue, and when the Toad snapped out of their shock, they found the Piranha Plant lying on its side, mouth still hanging open as its tongue hung out onto the ground. The Toad turned to catch a glimpse of their savior, and was met with a pair of unmistakable blue overalls; Mario, the famous plumber of the Mushroom Kingdom, had arrived.

Wordlessly, Mario knelt down in front of the Toad and offered a gloved hand to them. The Toad could only gawk as he helped them to their feet at a man they had only heard passing stories about. They were quite familiar with the red-capped plumber from hushed whispers they'd heard from around the fire, but to meet such a larger-than-life figure in the flesh left the poor Toad speechless.

The other Toad, the one who wasn't frozen in awe, quietly pointed a shaking hand towards the looming spire behind them, directing Mario towards the very top of the fortress. Mario glanced up at the top, then back to the Toad. A smile formed behind the mustache hanging under his round nose. He tipped the edge of his cap -his way of saying thanks- and with a wink, he leapt away, leaving the Toads to watch him grow smaller into the distance from the clearing.

Getting onto the spire was easy. Getting onto it unseen was a bit more difficult. Mario found himself diving away and clinging onto walls at awkward times to avoid the watchful gaze of the cubic stone creatures, or Thwomps, that overlooked the outer rim of the fortress. He scaled the stone structure quickly and quietly, taking care not to be pushed off by the few moving bars, called Bomps, that served as the fortress's defense. Slippery slopes jutted out from the walls, threatening to pull Mario back down to the start, but he managed to tentatively edge his way around the pitfalls with a series of carefully timed jumps.

On his way up, Mario noticed a platform going the same way, and didn't hesitate to climb on as it passed. The clanking sound it made as it ascended was dull and throbbing, given off by whatever it was that pulled it up, and as annoying as it could get, it still took him where he needed to go so he did his best to ignore it.

When the platform reached the top, the guards stationed there, made up of the tall and slab-like Whomps, found it completely empty. Of course, in their hasty inspection, they forgot to check the underside of the platform, and the moment they turned their backs to let the platform go on its way, Mario slipped out from underneath. The Whomps were big and clumsy creatures, so it was easy to stay out of their line of sight and make it to the peak of the fortress, where the dreaded Whomp King watched over all that happened around the mountain.

On this fine day, Mario had been tasked with bringing down the Whomp King, someone in charge of a very large crime organization. The plumber was usually too focused on keeping track of the Koopa King's whereabouts to pay attention to any smaller criminal activities in his area, but when he was notified of such a threat so close to his home, he didn't hesitate to offer his services in bringing it down.

There had been a very good reason for why the Whomp King had chosen to carve his fortress out of a mountain; when he was so high up, he had complete control over who could get to the top and meet him face to face. Imagine his surprise when he saw Mario land before him, having heard nothing from the guards posted around the stone spire.

The Whomp King growled. "You don't belong here, plumber."

Mario pretended to look confused, spending a few moments to check behind him, before he pointed to himself.

"You think you can just walk all over my fortress, over my home, don't you? Well, you're not going to wipe your feet on me! I'll crush you, just to teach you a lesson, and you can't do anything about it!"

The Whomp King came barreling towards Mario, completely dwarfing the plumber in size. His every step caused the ground beneath them tremble, and the guards positioned just below glanced around worryingly, wondering if an earthquake had started. The Whomp King was large enough to crush the plumber in a single step, so Mario kept himself away from the soles of his foe's giant feet.

There was one fatal flaw that the Whomp King had overlooked, however; because of his overwhelming size, his steps were unwieldy and clumsy. Each time his feet hit the floor, it took tremendous effort to bring it back into the air again. When the Whomp King raised a mighty foot to bring crashing down onto the plumber, Mario dived out of the way and knocked over his feet with a solid kick to the legs. With a resounding crack, the Whomp King fell face-first onto the ground, and for a moment he was left dazed on the floor of his own fortress.

As soon as he regained his senses, the Whomp King tried to push himself off the ground, but a small weight pressed against his back kept him pinned to the floor. If he could have looked over his back, he would have found the plumper sitting on his back had somehow changed himself completely into metal. The Whomp King struggled against the plumber's weight, but eventually gave up when his efforts proved to be useless.

Chapter Text

The cruel King K. Rool had been locked away in a place far away from DK Island, never to steal from the Kongs' precious banana horde ever again. The only problem was that the other Kremlings, members of the king's crocodilian army, were harder to stop. Every now and then, one of the Kremlings would show up and cause trouble for the Kongs; stealing their things, taking down a few trees in the area, trying to break into the banana horde, and so on.

Usually, the Kongs drove them off easily since, without the command of their king, the Kremlings were nothing more than a bumbling nuisance. When Donkey Kong awoke in the deadbeat hour of the night to a small thumping noise, he was hardly concerned. Slowly, he made his way out of his humble abode, taking care to avoid the tire hanging in the middle of the room as to not disturb his partner Diddy Kong from his sleep.

The ape quietly crept through the jungle, following the thumping noise. With every step, the noise grew louder, and soon, he began to hear voices whispering among the leaves as they flapped up and down in the cool night wind.

"Careful now. Careful now."

Donkey Kong peeked through the bushes into the clearing in front of the entrance to the cave housing his banana horde. As expected, a group of Kremlings were hanging around the area. Standing beside the boulder stationed at the entrance was a ripped greenish-blue crocodile in a camouflage vest. He had four yellow horns coming down from the top of his head, and from the way he was yelling at everyone else there, he was probably the head of the bunch.

The four other Kremlings, all green crocodiles wearing nothing but a pair of pants, were struggling to carry a large machine of some sort in their arms. The machine itself was a large metal box, with a brass ring surrounding an arrow-headed pole at the end. This was what Donkey Kong was most curious about, but since the Kremlings were toting it around, it probably wasn't anything good.

"Put it down!"

The four Kremlings all let the machine drop to the ground with a resounding crash, shaking the entire jungle. Donkey Kong was knocked off his feet but quickly got back up to see what this was all about.

Now that they were no longer burdened with the heavy machine, one of the Kremlings stopped to take a good look at the machine. "Krusha, what is this big thing going to do again?" the Kremling said, scratching his head.

"I'll tell you what it does!" Krusha, the leader, snapped back. "If that useless pirate was good for anything, this will blast through that door like nothing! We can swipe those bananas from under the noses of them idiot Kongs and be gone before the sun shows its stupid face."

With a screech, Donkey Kong burst through the hedges, beating his chest angrily. There was a moment of silence, but the four Kremling grunts were quick to recover. Snarling and growling, they charged at Donkey Kong in a flurry of slashing claws and gnashing teeth, but he sent them flying with a single back-handed slap.

Seeing his men sent crashing into the trees, Krusha scowled at the ape, revealing the set of jagged teeth that lined his mouth. He lunged, and Donkey Kong rushed forward to meet him. As dumb as Kremlings could be, however, Krusha was smart enough to figure out that he was no match for Donkey Kong, so instead he rushed to the machine in front of the door and flicked a switch on the side.

The machine gave a deep growl, shaking the ground around it. Sparks of energy shot up the pole at the end, sailing over the brass ring hung over it and crackling over the smooth metal surface. There was a loud clap, and a bolt of lightning surged forward, tearing through the boulder blocking the entrance to the banana horde and leaving nothing but rubble in its place.

"Ha ha!" Krusha said gleefully. "I am unstoppable!"

Next to him, the machine groaned. An odd sputtering noise began to emit from the machine's vents, and a shower of gears and wires tumbled out onto the dirt as Donkey Kong tore the machine from the ground, practically seething. With a roar, he hurled the machine into the side of the cave, shattering it into a mess of mangled engines and deformed metal plates.

Krusha quickly went from blue to pale when Donkey Kong turned to look at him. He tried to get away, but Donkey Kong quickly caught up. Before he could blink, a giant fist smashed into his skull, and he flew straight into the side of the cave, leaving him dazed on the ground.

Now Donkey Kong stood alone, amidst five stunned Kremlings and a broken machine. He glanced around at all the havoc he had caused, but all he could think about was how he was going to need a new door.

Chapter Text

"Princess, could you please get down here?"

"Not yet. I've almost got it!"

Impa gave a sigh.

"She dropped a spellbook from one of the windows, and now she's trying to get it back," she said, pointing to the tree by the castle wall. "She insists that she's almost got it for the past quarter hour. I'd go and get her myself, but she insists I not interfere." Then, the wiry servant turned to the green-clad man standing next to her and added, "She never said anything about you, though."

Link looked at the thick awning of leaves draped over the tree, then back to Impa. Finally, he raised a hand to his mouth, and yelled, "Hey!"

A young girl's head popped out from behind the green leaves. When she saw Link on the grass, her eyes widened.

"Link?" she squeaked. "When did you get here?"

"Come down!" he replied.

"No! I just need a minute, okay?" she said, shaking her head. "Besides, Impa said I need to learn how to climb, so I have to do this by myself."

"Climbing won't help you if you starve to death up there!" Impa called out.

"I can do this!" Zelda said back.

As the princess and her servant continued their back and forth, Link patted down his green tunic for his hookshot, a tool that could pull him up to where the princess had managed to strand herself. He found what he was looking for after a considerable amount of digging. He fired out a long chain, and the pointed end sunk into the wood before it pulled him into the air.

Zelda had a protest halfway out of her mouth before Link grabbed her and the spellbook a few feet away. When he had both secured in his arms, he jumped out of the tree. They managed to safely reach the ground, and Link handed the princess over to her bodyguard, much to the former's embarrassment.

"Again, I apologize for any trouble," Impa said.

Link waved aside, shaking his head. He turned to leave, but as he passed under an arch, the princess called out to him, "Stop by anytime!"


A soft jingling echoed in the cold night sky. Underneath the moonlight, Link walked beside a merchant wagon, keeping a tight grip on his sword, and a careful eye on the surrounding landscape.

"I can't thank you enough for this," the merchant said.

Link nodded, but his gaze remained on the fields around them. In the cool night breeze, a stray blade of grass flickered against the stars. They carried on in silence. The items in the wagon jingled occasionally, providing the only noise between them.

Then the grass parted, and a skeleton crawled out of the ground, rattling its bones as it moved. It held a short sword in its hand, the blade sharp enough to give a glint in the moonlight, but still dulled from the time it had spent buried underneath the earth.

When Link saw the skeleton emerge into the open field, he motioned for the merchant to continue onward. He approached the skeleton slowly, the tip of his sword leveled between the eye sockets and ready to strike. His eyes briefly darted around to make sure there were no other skeletons prowling around (at least, at the moment).

The skeleton lunged forward, eager to taint its blade with blood. Link raised his wooden shield moments before the strike reached him, and the short sword scraped against the bark. As the skeleton tried to lift its sword back into the air, Link attacked in return. His sword tore through the skeleton's chest with ease. The light vanished from the skeleton's eyes, leaving only a blank void in its place before the skeleton disappeared into a cloud of dust.

Bringing the sword close to him again, Link's eyes went back to the merchant wagon farther down the road. Amidst the swaying tall grass, he could make out two skeletons in the dark, approaching the wagon with their own blades drawn. Their focus on the wagon made it easier to remove their skulls from their bodies.

A hero protected their people. As menial as tasks like defending merchant wagons from waves of undead bandits could be, it still gave him a sense of pride to be doing them.


The bleached white walls of Temple of Time had taken on a slightly pink hue when Link pushed through the looming wooden doors. The setting sun tainted the blue sky with streaks of orange and red, and the same colors spilled through the large stained glass windows mounted on the stone walls of the cathedral onto the cold marble that made up the interior.

His boots squelched as he stepped over the floor, quietly making his way to the pedestal at the center. The Master Sword hanging from his belt slipped into the pedestal. A resigned exhale passed through his lips as he felt energy flow from his body back into the sword. A flash of light engulfed him, and when it lifted he had de-aged from an adult into a young boy.

"You've gotten sloppy."

A man in an orange and red robe stepped out of the shadows, giving Link an impatient look. He had chalk white hair, and his face was worn with age. In his gnarled hands, he held a mop.

Link groaned as the old man handed him the mop. "I'm done with that!" he said.

"If you are done, why is the floor still wet?" The old man frowned, before he said, "You rushed your work so you could use the sword."

"You won't let me use the sword if I don't! You promised you'd teach me how to be a hero, but you keep giving me more stuff to do to keep me busy."

The old man scoffed in reply. "It's your own fault for leaving your work unfinished."

Link huffed, but didn't voice any further complaint as he began to mop the floor. For a minute, no one spoke.

Finally, the old man said, "You are the next in line to wield the Master Sword. As such, it is my duty to teach you how to wield it and train you to be a hero. This life, however, has taken many things from me, leaving painful regret in their place. Maybe you should reconsider if this is truly what you want to do."

Without a moment of hesitation, Link replied, "I've heard many tales of this sword, and the people who wielded it. All I've ever wanted was to have my own part in those same tales."

"Then finish your chores. We'll talk about your training after."

Chapter Text

A monstrous grumble shook the forest floor. Leaves trembled, and the flow of wind over the grass parted for the new force that came crashing down on the peaceful woods. Birds scattered in panic. A tree fell to the dirt below with a resounding crack.

Plowing through the forest, a line of bright yellow vehicles tore through the dense growth, the Koopas sitting at the helms uncaring where the towering trees they brought down ended up, so long as they fell in the first place. And at the head of it all stood Wendy Koopa, one of Bowser's many children.

The crashing and roaring slowly awoke the dinosaur-like creatures from their sleep beneath the shrubs on the forest floor. The Yoshis looked around at first, completely unaware of what was going on. Having the trees fall down around them did a good job to scatter them deeper into the woods.

Above it all, Wendy cackled. The forest fell to the dirt below, and troops of the turtle-like Koopas rushed in after the line of machinery to drag the trees away. Wood crackled and popped. Nothing could stand in their way.

Then, the ground split. It was just a small crack, at first. A tiny crevice in the earth between two shrubs. As the bulldozers closed in, the cracks grew larger and began to make noise against the roaring engines. In a shower of rocks and dirt, the forest floor opened up its jaws, and one of the bulldozers sunk beneath the grass.

One by one, the construction machinery around her began to crumble. Bits of the earth splattered against the sides of the yellow paint as the ground sucked them up, and as a panicked clamor rose from the Koopa Troopas, Yoshis began to emerge from behind the twisted metal and smoke, pressed against the ground and shaped in the likeness of a tank. More of these "Mole Tanks" popped out of the ground, and the Koopas gradually organized their ranks.

A brawl started to form in between the pieces of broken machinery. Some punches were exchanged, some eggs were thrown, but the Koopas found themselves struggling to match their opposition. Wendy watched everything unfold, and found herself worrying.

As luck would have it, more Yoshis tumbled out of the forest. A great cloud of dust wafted into the air, clinging on to their every step. There were countless Yoshis of all different colors among the stampede that had formed; the individuals blended in with each other like a shuffling, shimmering rainbow. When the Koopas caught sight of the endless torrent of dinosaurs slipping through the trees in the forest, they fled.

Reluctantly, Wendy followed her Koopa troop away from the island. She took one last glance at the Yoshis closing in, and as she ran, she muttered, "Daddy's not going to be happy with this."

A great cheer rose from the dinosaurs as they watched the intruders flee from the devastated forest. Sure, a few trees had been knocked down-it would take years for the vegetation to repair the damage done-but in the end, much of their home had been left untouched. They were simple creatures and didn't have much in the way of extravagant celebration, aside from the excited chattering that rose into the air. A few jumped cheerfully with each other.

Amidst the celebration, one of the Yoshis, a green one, glanced around warily. He was the leader of this particular group, a bit more cautious than the rest. He had also gone on adventures with a certain red-capped plumber before, and he was worried that there might be more Koopas hiding around.

Slowly, Yoshi snuck through the crowd of other Yoshis, making his way to a particularly high rock. He fluttered his way up to the top and looked around. The vast blue sky stretched out above him as he scanned through the open landscape. He didn't find a trace of the Koopas lying around, save for the broken and battered machinery left over from their attack on his forest. What he did find was a spaceship, almost a speck against the cloudless sky, drifting through a light breeze passing by.

Chapter Text

The city burned. The fire spread over the buildings, flickering and crackling towards the sky like the bristling fur on the back of a cat. There was wailing and crying. So many houses burned bright in the afternoon sky.

Another explosion. Another building reduced to rubble.

Tiny Waddle Dees rushed around with their tiny spears, like ants frantically running to get the most out of a fallen apple, desperately trying to keep back the pair of fire-breathing lions at the epicenter.

Behind the line of Waddle Dees, a Waddle Doo, the captain of the Waddle Dees, had been given the task of keeping everything under control. With bits of a wall tumbling to his right and pointy sticks flying to his left, he was stretched to his end trying to keep track of the important things amidst the chaos. There were so many things to pay attention to, from bits of walls that needed to be moved to where to move the Waddle Dees. He would take his eyes off one of the Fire Lions to look for the other one, and by the time he found it, the first Fire Lion would be off trashing some other part of town. When a Waddle Dee tapped him on the shoulder, he finally snapped.

"What do you want?"

Shaking a little, the Waddle Dee said, "Sir, what are we supposed to do?"

"Wait."

"Wait?" The Waddle Dee gave him a look.

"We got nothing," the Waddle Doo replied. "All we can do is wait until-"

Something passed by them. Both the Waddle Dee and Waddle Doo had to brace themselves against the breeze so they wouldn't fall over. There was a yellow blur and a trail of stars left in the wake. A light jingling sound lingered a moment after. Dust billowed in the gust of wind.

"Until what?" the Waddle Dee asked.

"That."

The Waddle Dee's eyes followed the trail of stars, and his eyes widened. He muttered something about heading back to the castle and took off.

Yelling as loudly as he could, the Waddle Doo said, "Waddle Dees! Fall back!"

A few of the Waddle Dees deep in the ruined remains exchanged confused glances. Some of them looked frustrated, not too pleased about being drawn out of the action. Nevertheless, the Waddle Dees trickled out from the clearing, like rats fleeing back into their holes to escape the clutches of the cat. There were complaints, there were sighs of relief, but eventually there was no one left in the burning city except for the Fire Lions.

With no one else on the scene, the Fire Lions shook the earth with their roaring. They claimed the top of a mountain of rubble to stand on, and flames spilled forth from between their jagged teeth. More buildings caught on fire, their straw roofs easily taking to the heat.

One of them took a sniff as they surveyed their surroundings to make sure they were truly alone. When he caught a whiff of an unfamiliar scent, he snorted a puff of smoke. The other Fire Lion paused mid-roar and turned his head to the direction his companion was facing. Immediately the two Fire Lions raised their hackles, baring their teeth, rippling the charred fur and the muscles beneath them. Sure enough, they spotted a tiny pink speck in the distance, getting closer to them at an incredibly fast rate.

Both Fire Lions opened their jaws and let loose a stream of red-hot fire, crackling and ululating like countless tentacles barbed with hooks that seared flesh instead of tearing at it. The fire swept through the air, draining the space between them of gas and leaving the atmosphere empty and charred, and it blotted out the pink speck in a heartbeat. The Fire Lions closed their jaws, and an arrogant growl slipped through the teeth of one of them.

Red quickly gave way to a blurry orange, and that soon disappeared into the endless void between an open mouth. The fire disappeared in less than a second, and who else would burst through the curtain than Kirby; round, pink, and a determined frown between his rosy cheeks.

A bright light engulfed Kirby. A crown of flames over a ring of gold adorned his head when the veil cleared, finished with a single green gemstone.

The Fire Lions tried to sear Kirby again. He responded with his own pillar of flame, and their fire was quickly extinguished. The fire didn't hurt them, but there was so much force put behind it that the Fire Lions were forced together as Kirby circled around them on his star-shaped ride, the Warp Star, with flames streaming out of his mouth. Gradually the Fire Lions were pushed closer to the clearing at the center of the burning rubble, roaring at the tiny pink thing that seemed to be completely immune to their attacks.

They needed to change tactics.

One of the Fire Lions leaped up and swiped at him. Kirby avoided the attack with a burst of speed, only to barrel into the second Lion as it pounced on him. A pained yelp escaped him as the Fire Lion threw him off the Warp Star and into a nearby wall.

Dry crackling. A cloud of dust. A hole in the mountain of stone, lined with cracks.

The Fire Lions never let their gaze stray from the hole, even as the puff of dust began to settle.

A tower fell down somewhere in the city.

The rock Kirby had disappeared into started to tremble. From behind it, tiny red wisps stretched out and curled around it. The Fire Lions had the chance to exchange confused looks before the piece of rubble shot forward, smashing into one of the Fire Lions at incredible speed.

The moment the Fire Lion was hit with the hurtling stone, it burst apart into a fiery explosion. A heatwave passed over the crumbling town, and small flaming threads splattered onto the rock. One minute, there were two Fire Lions in the square. The next, one remained.

The piston of fire simmered to a thin line before it vanished into smoke. Fire Kirby, which was what his transformation was called closed his mouth, and the last whispers of the searing fire spat forth from his mouth slipped out as a trickle of grey-ish white. However, he was far from done.

In another burst of speed, he threw himself forward engulfed in scorching heat, a ball of fire burning the stone around him.

The Fire Lion swatted him aside with a paw, claws extended. Kirby shot straight into the ground. The impact raised a shower of dust into the air. The fire around him simmered down, and the crackling slowed before coming to a complete stop. But Kirby still remained unfazed.

A subdued hissing was the only warning that came before his next attack. The Lion leaped back as Kirby lunged for it, once again tearing across the square as a fireball; for a creature hot enough to burn a building with a single breath, even it could sense that the fireball would burn its flesh if it ever made contact. The fireball only lasted for a few moments before Kirby tumbled out of it. Of course, Kirby changed the Fire Lion again the moment he came to a full stop.

Bit by bit, he forced the Fire Lion away. The looming walls of flames, flickering towards the sky, latched on to what remained of the houses lining the street. As the street progressed, the walls closed in, making it impossible to go anywhere but back. Smoke clogged the air and shuttered the eyes, and seeing past a few feet in front of his face became quite the challenge for Kirby. Still, he pushed onward, ignoring the choking scent of charred wood.

The Fire Lion attempted to resist. Rows of fire spilled forth from its mouth, and the few that managed to splash against Kirby's small round form managed to push him away, but it was a matter of seconds before he resumed his chance.

Then, a fire hydrant emerged from the smokescreen. Bright red, reflecting what little light found its way through the endless grey, like an apple; this was what Kirby had been trying to force the Fire Lion into.

With one last burst of energy, he changed forward. The Lion inched away, moving over the fire hydrant. Without a moment to lose, Kirby knocked the fire hydrant off the ground, and water gushed out in a spiraling column of frothing white. It slammed into the Fire Lion's belly and it blew up in an explosion of steam.

The water pouring out of the earth came drizzling back down. As Kirby stood in the small downpour, he looked around at what remained of the town.

Fires burned over the crumbling buildings. Stone walls ground to dust lay scattered on the streets. Splintered wood poles were strewn across the rubble, their ashen smell wafting off into the air. The wavering flames popped, and a wooden frame collapsed with an audible crack.

Overall, it just seemed like another average day in his life.


Kirby returned home, dead tired. Cities didn't fix themselves, and his vast array of abilities made him useful for helping with the cleanup. After another day of hard work, there was nothing he wanted to do than go to sleep.

Outside the window lay a cold, starry night. Tiny pinpricks of light decorated the vast black sky, and the moon leaked shafts of white into Kirby's humble abode. A wind brushed past the curtains hanging over the open window and tickled Kirby as he crossed the room to the table, and the wooden floorboards creaked.

As he sat down at the table, he put down the basket of fruit that had been in his arms on top. He sifted through the various fruits in the basket, not looking for anything in particular. It didn't matter what kind of fruit he picked; he loved them all. From spotty green peaches to juicy purple grapes. Had he not been so entranced by the basket of food in front of him, he might have noticed the second presence creeping into his room, a toxic sludge oozing into a peaceful stream.

The wheezing could have easily been the wind rustling the leaves outside. The raised temperature could have been the breeze moving on and letting the heat settle in. But there was no mistaking the dripping he felt on the top of his head.

Kirby raised his head. A giant white eye stared back amidst the black haze clinging to the ceiling, fading into the dark corners left untouched by the moonlight.

Frozen with fear, he didn't try to jump out of the way as the squirming mass of Dark Matter dropped down onto him. It captured him swiftly and soundlessly, muffling his cries for help. As Kirby struggled against his shapeless bonds, the blob of Dark Matter broke through the window and disappeared into the stars. The only trace of it left was a puddle of thin black liquid on the floor, but after a minute, that too slid between the gaps in the wooden floor.

Chapter Text

"That was some stunt you pulled at the racetrack."

Fox McCloud, former leader of the team Star Fox, just glared. Bill Grey, his canine companion, raised an eyebrow. There was a long period of silence between them, as Fox put his cup to his lips.

A sleazy tune hung in the air. Yellow sunlight leaked in from the large windows to the side. From the tables around them, the sound of chatter wavered over their heads. The soft light of the lamps hanging above them etched soft shadows into the wood floor. Someone laughed far away, and Fox kept drinking his cup dry.

"Is that a problem?" he said after he put down his cup.

"Nah," Bill replied. "I figure you can handle yourself out on some run-down F-Zero track." He frowned, before he added, "What's got me worried is why you've been hanging out there in the first place."

"It keeps me busy."

"Keeps you distracted."

Fox didn't say anything. His bushy orange tail swished behind his seat. He raised his cup back to his lips and took another long sip.

Bill sighed. "You've been off work for, what, half a year? And you're still out there chasing thrills in that Arwing of yours. Face it; you're not going to stay out of the force forever."

The cup hit the table with a clink.

"I'm not going back," Fox growled. "Not after what happened to Falco."

"That was half a year ago," Bill said.

"He was my friend! After Andross killed him, I couldn't face having to lose another teammate."

"Well, we just need you one more time, Fox. General Pepper says there's been some fishy business going on near Venom, and we need our best pilot to investigate."

"Forget it." Fox got out of his chair, giving Bill another glare. He made to leave, but Bill raised a hand to stop him.

"General Pepper says Andross might have something to do with."

Uncertainty flickered in his eyes, and he whirled back around to face Bill. "That's impossible. Andross is dead. I made sure of it myself."

"We never did find his body."

The music playing over the speakers drifted between them. Fox's tail swished again, and he frowned.

"If you were thinking of going it alone," Bill said, "I gotta remind you, Venom ain't the best place for solo missions, even if you are the best pilot in the system."

Finally, Fox said, "Star Fox is gone for a reason. I'm not ready to lead a team again."

"Never said you had to lead it."

"You know me, Bill," Fox said as he walked away. "I don't follow anyone's orders but my own."

The door opened. No one seemed to notice except the one person standing right next to it. Bill kept his eyes on the door as it slammed shut, and he huffed.

"I sure hope you know what you're going to do, Fox."

A soft buzz slipped through the cracks underneath the open windows. An Arwing zoomed out from below and swept into the skies, teetering on its four wings. A trail of smoke dragged behind the sputtering flames flickering from the craft's engine. There was a crack, and the Arwing disappeared between the clouds, surrendered to the cold clutches of outer space.

Chapter Text

Trails of orange and yellow light slid over the city, and the sunset overtook the sky. In the windows overlooking the streets, the lights began to flicker on as people returned to their homes. A musky scent, like that of wet Raticate fur, drifted over the cracks in the sidewalk. By this time, most people would be settling in for the night, ready to rest after a long day in the sun.

Pikachu was not most people. (Technically he was a Pokemon, but who's counting?)

In the wonderful world of Pokemon, most had trainers to order them around, to tell them what to do. Not this one, however-this particular Pikachu had been trainer-less for a year now.

There was a rockslide. He and his trainer's only other Pokemon, a Jigglypuff, were lucky enough to escape. Their trainer had not.

It was an accident; a result of unfortunate circumstances, as the police called it. But his Pikachu had not been so easily convinced.

For the past year, he made himself busy picking up scraps of food to bring back to the Jigglypuff, his only companion. Weaseling his way through the trash, looking for the few bits that seemed somewhat palatable took up most of his days.

As the sun fell, however, he immersed himself in a world of conspiracies and murder. Pikachu bent every effort in finding the people responsible for his trainer's death, sniffing out clues, putting together evidence, coming up with theories.

And now? Now, it seemed as if he had finally reached the end of the trail. His latest set of leads had led him here, into an alleyway offset from the road, far beyond the sun's reach as it slowly began to disappear over the edge.

There was a big 'R' on the door he stood in front of, half-hidden by the thick shadows set in the alley. Faint light leaked out from underneath, mingling with the soft muttering inside. The door barely made a sound as Pikachu opened it a tiny bit and slipped through.

Rattling cages greeted Pikachu as he closed the door behind him, hanging from chains on the ceiling. A metallic clink followed him as he crept forward, and the cages swung in the air. Behind them, he found two people-a man and a woman-discussing over a piece of paper in their hands. A Meowth stood behind them.

Criminals expected to see policemen burst through their front door when they slipped up. But a single Pikachu? That was always a surprise.

The shocked faces on the man and woman brought Pikachu a tiny bit of satisfaction, before he threw their Meowth off his perch with a thunderbolt.

It only took a moment for their shock to pass. The two humans unclipped two pokeballs on their belts, and in a flash of light, an Arbok and a Wheezing appeared, the former, a purple cobra-like Pokemon, and the latter, two purple orbs strung together, spewing poisonous gas from the various pores on its body.

The Arbok attacked first. It lunged forward, fangs bared as it attempted to snap down on Pikachu. He jumped out at the last moment, and the Arbok ran headfirst into a wall.

The Wheezing sprayed a toxic cloud in his direction, its choking scent curling into the air as it ambled towards him. Pikachu dove under it before it could engulf him, and launched himself into the Wheezing with a headbutt. It let out a cry as it flew through the air, breaking through a wall of cages. The cages toppled over, burying it under a pile of misshapen metal. As the last of the cages crashed onto the pile, a thick purple fog began to cover the area.

Distracted, the Arbok gave Pikachu no time to react when it came barreling into him again, wrapping its coils around his smaller body. He could hear the woman cheering it on as it tightened its grip, slowly squeezing the air out of him. It didn't help that the toxic fumes were strangling the very same air he was trying to breathe.

So he unleashed a burst of electric energy into the room.

The resulting explosion shook the ground, leaving scorch marks all over the walls. As the smoke dissolved into the air, Pikachu untangled himself from the Arbok, throwing the unconscious snake onto the ground.

Police sirens rang out, but they sounded far off. Someone had heard the ongoing battle, it seemed. Pikachu took a minute to take in his surroundings. For one, the man and woman were sprawled on the ground, still breathing but unmoving. Ash covered their clothes.

For another, these two had only used Pokemon of the poison type. They couldn't have been the people who killed his trainer, as their Pokemon couldn't have possibly started an avalanche.

A piece of paper fell at his tiny feet. A list of buyers, Pikachu noted as he stared down at it.

Then he remembered the cages. He had dismissed them before. But now that he took the time to pay attention to them, they were everywhere. Surrounding him, rustling in the wind. Chained to the ceiling, chained to the walls. There was a bloodstain in the corner. How had he missed that?

The buyers, the cages, the blood-these people were doing something very illegal.

He thought back to the 'R' on the door. Looking back to the unconscious humans, he saw that they had the same 'R' on their clothing as well. Did the 'R' represent some kind of organization?

Pikachu knew he had uncovered something. Only now was he realizing that it was something big.

Chapter Text

"I can still see the flames as Zebes tore itself apart. In a flash of light, the planet I had grown up on, reduced to nothing more than a loose cluster of rocks.

On that day, the Space Pirates became a shadow of their former stature. Mother Brain, Ridley, and all the members of the High Command met an end by my cannon, or to the fire as it swept through what remained of the Space Pirate base.

At last, the galaxy will be safe once again. With the looming threat of the Space Pirates no longer casting a dark shadow over our great civilization, the denizens of the Galactic Federation would be safe to traverse the four corners of the galaxy. But at what cost had this peaceful time come for?

Every night, I can hear the screaming of the baby Metroid as Mother Brain, the vile leader of the Space Pirates, blasted it apart without remorse. The Space Pirate leader had paid the cost, but at the end of the day, I was left all alo-"

"SAMUS!"

Hearing her name yelled into her ear, Samus let out a yelp as she jumped into the air. Her head snapped to the side, searching the room for her mysterious assailant, only to find a friendly face looking back at her.

"Oh," she said, straightening herself. "What do you want, Higgs?"

Anthony Higgs, the Galactic Federation soldier standing next to her, let his jaw open. When no words came out, he closed it and glanced to his right. His eyes drifted back to her, and his mouth opened again before it closed without a single word.

"I forget," he said at last. "I was trying to catch your attention for so long, so it just slipped my mind."

"And how long have you been standing there?"

"Fifteen minutes, I believe. Been the longest I've seen you stop to brood."

"I see."

"Why here though?"

"Well-"

"That was what I was going to ask you, by the way."

Samus gave Anthony a look. "Paranoia, I suppose. I wanted to make sure none of the Space Pirates broke out."

She felt his slightly confused gaze on her as she turned back to the window she had been reflecting on. Relief passed through her when he decided not to comment.

Outside the large glass panel, ships wandered across the orange sky. Wisps of white that might have been clouds stretched beyond them, and skyscrapers reached up to the heavens, forcing the few ships that dared fly close to weave around. Off in the distance, smoke tumbled out from somewhere, and a few lit windows dotted the cityscape. The few sounds that slipped through the glass were mostly composed of rumbling engines as the few ships that teetered close to the Capital Building sputtered past.

Against the blazing light of the sinking sun, a gargantuan of a ship hovered over the city. It bore a rigid form, and its steel stripes glimmered in the dying shades of pink and red. Lights blipped down from its sides, and canons of all sizes speckled the ship's outline.

"We've had another prisoner transferred here," Anthony said, pointing to the large ship on the horizon. "The ruler of the locals told us that the man couldn't be kept too close to home. Something to do with dark magic or whatnot. One of his advisors, a religious figure, I believe, backed him up."

"If the king was afraid of this man doing things with dark magic, why bring him here?" she said.

"I believe he said something about our place having fewer trees, and him having less influence over tech. Other than that, we haven't had much of a problem with the containment of our prisoners."

Samus hummed in acknowledgment.

"Have you considered joining the military again, Princess? We could really use someone like you."

A ship stumbled past the window before she turned to Anthony. "I've already stayed long enough," she said. "I'll be out of your hair by the end of the day."

Chapter Text

”Our world’s about to break

Tormented and attacked.

Lost from when we wake

With no way to go back.

I’ve been standing on my own

But now I’m not alone.”

~Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes


Space travel was never pleasant for Pikachu. The ships he stowed away in were fairly smooth-it wasn’t as if there was anything to toss him around, anyway-but he never liked how crowded the luggage department became when the ship set off. Being a Pokemon, he had no way to travel through space legally since he had no way to ask for a ticket, so he had to resort to more sneaky means. Still, he wouldn’t say no to an actual seat to wait out his travels with.

The last time he had ridden a spaceship, however, he never recalled the ride being this bumpy. And for all reasons, it shouldn’t have been. No outside gravity would have meant nothing for the ship to fight against.

His eyes fell to the pack below him. Pikachu was a Pokemon, but he was also a detective, and when he chased a lead, he always made sure to bring his detective stuff with him. There wouldn’t be much case-cracking if he didn’t have his trusty notepad to jot down statements, or any crime-busting if he didn’t have any evidence to show for it. But when he took a closer look at his bag, it seemed to bulge a little more than usual. How odd.

The zipper gave a small crackling noise as he pulled it loose. The notepad he had brought jostled loose, and a few pieces of evidence stuck out of the bag. He wasn’t surprised when he caught sight of a tuft of pink hiding among the scattered pages.

With a sigh, he pulled Jigglypuff out of his bags. As she squeezed out from between the various pieces of equipment, she blinked awake. For a moment, she looked confused, glancing around the cramped baggage compartment, before she noticed Pikachu glaring at her. Her eyes went to the floor, and she shuffled her feet uncomfortably. When he left, Pikachu told her that he would only be meeting a long-time friend. Clearly, his excuses needed work.

Outside the small window, a puffed star-shaped planet grew from the distance, with several white rings orbiting around the yellow crust. Pikachu took a look at it and grumbled. It was too late to turn back now, he supposed. His investigation had led him to Popstar, and it seemed like now he had to take care of Jigglypuff as he continued his search.


The radio hummed quietly in the corner as Link brushed another clump of dust into the pan. Apparently, his master hadn’t liked him running off with the Master Sword, and as a result, he had been reduced to dust boy.

He whistled a tune as he swept, making sure not to leave an inch of the floor untouched. The bristles gave off a scratching sound as they scrabbled against the shiny marble, kicking up dark clouds in their path. Rays of sunlight touched down on the floor, giving it a harsh glint and obstructing Link’s vision as he worked, much to his annoyance. The heat bearing down on his back didn’t make the job any more pleasant, slipping past his green tunic without a problem.

As he swept a hand across his forehead, wiping away the few beads of sweat that had formed there, the radio started to crackle. Link winced as the sound grated against his eardrums, and he made his way over to the cabinet it stood on. With his free hand, he fiddled with the knobs, keeping the brush he held in the other hand under the table. The speakers squealed in protest, and the monitor on the front flickered, but eventually, the noise died back into a tune.

Link paused for a moment to glance at the radio, scanning it over with his eyes. Eventually, he dismissed it as nothing and went back to his work. The sound of scrubbing filled the air again, and Link put his entire focus on the floor. Every now and then, he would sneak a glance at the sword at the center of the room, towering over him from its stand.

The cold metal blade shimmered in the light, giving off a soft blue glow, but Link hardly spared it a glance as he continued to dust the floor.


Krusha glared up. Two yellow eyes stared back down. As the world came back into focus, the two yellow eyes receded back into the shape of a brown egg. A blue cloak hung down its sides and covered its body, and a hood with two white horns was pulled over its head. Krusha blinked, and the odd figure remained.

“Hey there!” it said. “I see you’re finally awake! Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Ma-”

Whatever the small egg thing had been about to say was cut off as the Kremling pounced on him. His scaly jaws opened to reveal rows of glistening white teeth as he snarled, holding down the egg thing with a single clawed hand. The egg thing squeaked in fear as jagged teeth snapped inches away from his face, getting closer and closer by the second.

Suddenly Krusha found himself going stiff as a searing pain shot through his body. His grip on the egg thing loosened, and it wiggled out from beneath him just as he collapsed onto the floor. The armored scales on his chest clinked as they came into contact with the metal ground. He tried to push himself back up, but his arms refused to move.

Through his daze, he heard a monotone voice speak from behind him. “Subject neutralized. Do you require any more assistance, doctor?”

“That will be all for the moment, SD-02,” the egg thing replied. Then it turned back to the downed Kremling. “Want to talk now?”

“Shcrew ohff,” he said through numb lips.

The egg thing let out a sigh, despite not having any visible lips. “Well, I suppose we’ll have to talk later then. Might as well catch some sleep while I can.”

The doors behind him slid to the side, and the egg thing floated out, followed closely by a pair of wiry figures clad in pink and yellow. By the time the feeling returned to his limbs, the door had already swung shut and locked tight with a click.

The moment he got to his feet, Krusha lunged at the cell bars at the entrance, roaring as he slammed his arms against them. His tantrum did little against the bars besides letting out a loud clang, and he roared again in frustration.

As the anger cleared from his system, he noticed the calm settled over the prison. He flicked his gaze from cell to cell, and with increasing irritation, saw that none of the prisoners seemed to care. Across from him, a group of Koopas were crowded around a table, playing poker. Next to them, a Shy Guy, tiny little creatures in little red hoods and white masks, sat next to a desk with a piece of toast in its hands, while a blue Kremling with a long purple mane-Kasplat, if he remembered correctly-lounged on his bed in the cell above. Even the giant Whomp in the corner was engrossed in a book hanging on the wall.

“What is this?” Krusha said, rumbling his throat with an angry growl. “Why aren’t you breaking out? Those stupid guards are no match for us lot. We should be revolting, we should be running the place!”

“No.”

“Huh?” Krusha turned to the wall on his left. There had been a voice, thick and nasally, from the cell on the other side.

“We are not standing idle,” said the voice, distaste clearly present. “We are waiting. This prison can’t hold us forever. Those running this place don’t know yet, but the doors that separate them from us are about to fail. When that happens, we will rise up above the rest of the scum, but right now, all we can do is wait.”

“For what?” Krusha said, skeptical.

The voice fell silent. Although its owner probably couldn’t see his face, a sneer formed on his mouth, baring his jagged teeth.

That sneer died when a rumble erupted from somewhere below him, and the ship shuddered. The lights flickered, and the cells gave a loud groan. Finally, all the other prisoners looked up from what they were doing, suddenly finding their cell doors very interesting. The floor beneath them rocked, and an alarm sounded off once before its call was quickly cut off.

A tense quiet held the air. Several seconds passed, each seemingly dragged on longer than the last. Then the lights died, engulfing the prison in black, and a click rang out as the cell doors unlocked. The room was basked in red as the ship’s emergency power kicked in, and somewhere on the ceiling, an alarm sputtered as it attempted to release a strangled cry.

At last, the voice spoke again. “That.”

Chapter Text

An explosion rocked the city. The pebbles on the street below tumbled across the blacktop, and the buildings that towered above trembled down to their foundations. Even miles away, walking down the sidewalk of an unfamiliar part of the capital, Samus could hear the deep thundering of the blast as it swept over the city Her head turned to the sky just in time to see the prison ship come crashing down into the city below, landing in a pit of flames as the skyscrapers around it crumbled.

Already, people scrambled past her in a frenzied panic, most of them eager to get as far away from the wreckage as possible. Samus liked to think she ran towards danger more than she ran away from it. Now she was beginning to doubt that, and considered losing herself to the crowd - at least, as easily as a woman in a hulking suit of armor could be lost in the crowd.

She considered going back to help, recalling the bout of paranoia she had earlier. As quickly as it had come, she brushed it off. The place would be crawling with security drones, anyway.

When Anthony had mentioned the drones to her, she was a bit skeptical-even more so when she glanced at their pink and yellow armor and wiry forms. They looked so frail and so small that even the lowest Space Pirate grunts could have taken them out. The demonstration she had borne witness to had changed her mind. She certainly didn't want to get caught in the crossfire, not when she knew there would be so many of those machines.

Anyway, if the drones couldn't handle whatever the Pirates threw at them, the Federation Police would show up, and she trusted them more than she did the drones.

When she saw tiny black pods fire out from the falling ship, like tiny seeds flung into the wind, then she started to get concerned. In the wreckage of the prison, the security drones could take care of any rebellious prisoners there. Spread said prisoners across the city, however, and the Federation's forces wouldn't be able to reach them quickly enough. She had to help. At least, help where she could.

One of the pods soared over her head and landed somewhere down an alley. Birds scattered to the sky from behind the building to her left, and thin trails of smoke rolled out a second later. Samus moved forward to begin her hunt, slipping her helmet over her head as her arm cannon hummed to life.

Only, she hadn't activated her cannon yet. When she looked down at it, her arm cannon was as still as always. So then where was that sound coming from?

An electric crackling reached her ears. The sound of crumbling rock, not long after that. Behind her green visor, Samus frowned. Federation blasters sounded much different from her weapons. As of yet, the only ones who had managed to replicate them were the Space Pirates.

Her boots clanged against the street as she sprinted down the empty alley, in an effort to catch up to the escaped Space Pirates before they caused too much damage. When she came upon the pod sitting in the rubble, she found the door flung open. To her surprise, the Pirates inside were already dead, red blood splattered on the floor. She turned over a limp, reptilian body with her foot, and saw a gaping hole on the other side.

Space Pirates were known for the harsh punishments they inflicted against their own kind, and this was just another example of it. Among the Pirate Commandos especially, acts of cowardice earned a shot in the back, and for this group, letting themselves get captured appeared to be considered cowardly to the Pirates.

This still meant that there were Space Pirates in the area. Albeit a bit more well-armed than she expected, but that shouldn't be a problem. Right?

Samus shook her head. Ridley was dead. Without him or Mother Brain, the Space Pirates were nothing more than a bunch of thugs.

Then the wall next to her blew apart. Her head rattled as she slammed into the bricks on the other side, and bits of the wall shaken loose from the explosion pelted her armor. From the rising dust, three reptilian creatures emerged, silver plating gleaming in what remained of the setting sun as they scanned the alley with beady eyes. They hissed, their scaly lips peeling back from their snout as their claws clicked against each other, shifting their grip on the blasters in their hands in anticipation.

The cloud of dust in the hole behind them finally parted, revealing one more Space Pirate. Unlike his three companions, the fourth Space Pirate held a smooth, spherical gemstone within its grasp instead of a weapon.

When they caught sight of each other, Samus immediately found herself staring down three glowing barrels. Her arm cannon shot out of the rubble, scattering bricks to the road as a fizzling beam of energy shot out and grappled onto a nearby ledge. By the time the blasts of blue energy tore up the wall across the street, Samus was pulling herself to safety.

As soon as her free hand grasped onto the roof of a building, she hauled herself over the top, swinging her cannon back around and fired at the Space Pirates. The four Space Pirates turned and fled, returning her fire with their own weapons.

Samus gave chase, raining blasts of energy down to the street. She leapt from building to building, using her grappling beam to cross the wider gaps as the Space Pirates sprinted down the alley, the one with the gemstone leading the way.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a tiny figure in the distance, crossing over rooftops like she was doing right now. At first, she dismissed it, turning back to pursue the Space Pirates. Then an electronic burst rang out, and the ledge below her crumbled. Something tackled her off the roof, and a silver coat of fur-covered her sight just before she slammed into the pavement.

The moment she hit the ground, she felt a weight lift off her body. There were cracks around where she had landed, leaving a nasty scar in the pavement. She clutched her head, taking a second to steady herself as adrenaline pumped through her. While she had been downed, the four Space Pirates had surrounded her, three of them pointing their weapons at her, while the remaining one had an energy scythe out over his free hand. Despite the four-to-one odds she faced, she could probably beat them all if it weren't for the newcomer at the head of the pack.

This new arrival was covered in grey fur, with white fur over his muzzle and a shiny blue eyepiece over his left eye. His chest was strapped over with a rugged jacket, spikes over his shoulder and knee pads, while claws tipped his gloves, his face set in a snarl made him look like a wolf.

"And who's this lady here?" the wolf said, arms across his chest. From the ground, Samus racked her memory for any bounty hunter or mercenary that matched him, and a name came to her a second later: Wolf O'Donnel.

The Space Pirates spoke in an animalistic series of snarls and hissing that would sound like garbled nonsense that resembled a rock being tossed through a wood chipper if it weren't for the translator in her helmet.

*This is Samus,* the Space Pirate with the gem said, *the troublesome bounty hunter we told you about.*

"Samus eh?" Wolf said, turning to look at her. "You really think you can take on all of us here?"

Samus replied by aiming her cannon at one of the Space Pirates and firing a missile at him. The Pirate leapt to the side, and flames burst from the ground as the rest of the Space Pirates open fired. The air became alive with burning hot bolts of energy, and Samus found herself ducking and side-stepping the frenzied attacks.

She closed the gap between her and two of the Space Pirates in a single bound. With one hand she twisted the blaster out of the hands of the Space Pirate on her left, while she fired a blast into the arm of the other, forcing him to drop his weapon. Before they could react, she kicked both of them in the face, sending them stumbling back.

A third Pirate started firing at her as she landed behind the lot of them. She whirled around and launched a grapple beam at him, and in one swift motion, yanked him over to her before slamming him into the ground. As soon as her grapple beam retreated back into her cannon, both of the Space Pirates she had knocked down rushed back towards her, their blasters replaced with a pair of energy scythes.

A blur of orange energy went past her face as she twisted away, and when the other Space Pirate swung across her mid-section she took a step back. In reply, she swung an armored boot at the closest Pirate, snapping his face to the other direction with startling speed. His companion attempted to jump her, but she quickly spun around and planted her foot into its chest. Both stumbled back, one clutching the side of his face, the other gasping at the newly formed dent in its armor. Samus stood, panting heavily as she brought her foot down, scanning the area for the last Space Pirate. It wasn't until she felt claws scrape across her back that she remembered Wolf.

Wolf clambered over her helmet, a tornado of slashes and snarling as he cut across her face, beside her visor, and down her neck. Pain erupted from all around her, and she flailed around, trying to knock him off her. Metal clanging was all she received for her efforts, as the slippery Wolf wove around her strikes. In a last-ditch effort, she aimed her cannon over her head and set off a blast right outside the muzzle. She heard a yelp, and the wolf landed in front of her on his feet. When he turned to face her, the fur on the side of his face was singed, much to her satisfaction.

Blue bolts of energy flew over her shoulders before she could feel good about herself. Apparently, the Space Pirates she had downed were not out of the fight just yet. Something knocked against her stomach, and she stepped back again. Her suit's energy slipped down a notch. One of the Pirates had re-armed themselves, forcing her to retreat. His two companions thought different and decided to charge at her with their scythes drawn.

A slash came at her from the side, effortlessly cutting through the air where she had been standing moments ago. The second Pirate jumped up to bring down the blade on her, but he raised his arms so high up it left him wide open, a mistake she quickly took advantage of by ramming her knee into his chest. He crumbled to the ground as another shot glanced her shoulder, draining more of her suit's energy pool. Tiring of the constant annoyance, she fired a missile at him. The Pirate leapt away, but the resulting blast still knocked him over.

The fourth Pirate, the one with the gemstone, ran in to take the place of his comrade as he fell to the floor. He raised his scythe, but Samus caught his arm mid-strike. Any normal human would have collapsed under the reptilian's brute strength. Samus overpowered him with ease.

Before she could follow up, a powerful blast hit her from the side. The suit's lights flickered, and her energy took a dive. A pained hiss escaped her, and she turned around just in time to see another purple bullet hit armored plates. In her momentary falter, the Space Pirate she had been struggling with struck her, and she finally buckled.

She hit the street with a clang, shaking her vision as pain rang out through her head. As the fog over her came into sharp focus, she became aware of a searing heat pressed close to her neck.

"Shouldn't have turned away," Wolf said from somewhere out of her peripheral. "Tough luck, partner."

*We should execute her now,* the Space Pirate standing over her said. *She will only work to hinder our plans if we keep her alive.*

"Fine by me," the wolf replied.

Then a third voice joined in. "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Wolf."

Four seconds. Four shots went off. From her place on the floor, she saw the Space Pirate fall to the floor, smoke wafting up from several holes in his chest, and the gemstone he was holding fell to the ground. In an instant, Samus was on her feet, swinging blindly and catching the two Pirates standing around her unprepared.

Wolf let out a snarl as he and the remaining three Space Pirates backed away, leveling their weapons at Samus. One of them bent down to pick up the fallen gemstone.

She looked over her shoulder to see who had saved her and caught sight of someone covered with bright orange fur. He had an eyepiece over his right eye, and a blaster in his hands. He was wearing a white jacket, and a stripe of white fur ran down his head, stopping just before his muzzle. The two pointy ears atop his head and the bushy tail swishing behind him told her he was a fox.

*We still hold the superior numbers,* a Space Pirate said.

"Only by two," Wolf said. "We're going to have to take the gem and head back to Popstar."

Although he looked disgusted by it, Wolf turned heel and fled into the alley. The Space Pirates exchanged a glance, before they followed shortly after.

"Are you alright?" the fox said once they were alone. "I came as soon as I received word that the capital prison ship was going down."

Samus didn't respond, immersed in her thoughts.

"The Space Pirates were just a bunch of terrorists before Mother Brain arrived. They attacked ships, slaughtered the crew, looted everything there and left."

"Who am I kidding. It's a man in a suit of armor. I'm sure he'll live."

"But this time they just left with only a single gemstone in their possession. Even if its value was incredibly high, I doubt they would have been satisfied with just taking such a measly object. Something is going on. If that gemstone had some sort of strange, mythical power to it, without their leaders, I doubt the Space Pirates would have the intelligence to organize an effective way to use whatever powers it may hold. That is, unless-"

"Andross I behind this. I'm sure of it."

Reality finally caught up with Samus, much to her annoyance. She blinked as she focused herself back on the task at hand, and found the fox kneeling over the Space Pirate corpse, running a hand over the glowing energy scythe in its hand.

"Sorry," she said, snapping out of her daze, "who?"

The fox turned to give her a confused look. "You're a woman?" he said at last.

Samus's hands went to her hips. "Problem?"

"No, not at all."

Samus rolled her eyes. "Good. Now, who is this Andross?"

"How do you not know who Andross is?" The condescending look the fox gave her almost made her regret asking. "He's a galaxy-conquering megalomaniac with an obsession with bioweapons. Who else would be unhinged enough to give these freaky lizard things guns?"

Samus could name a few. She just didn't want uncomfortable memories to resurface.

"Looks like I'll have to head to Popstar to investigate," she muttered to herself as she walked away. "Don't want to give them time to prepare their defenses for my arrival."

"Hey! Where do you think you're going?"

With a disinterested glare, Samus spun back around. "Popstar," she said. "To follow the Space Pirates."

"I don't want you getting the rest of the Federation involved in this, officer," the fox replied. "This is my fight."

"And the Space Pirates are my responsibility. You don't know who you're dealing with."

"Now you're just making things up."

"How-"

Then she remembered who this person was. This particular fox, called Fox McCloud, just so happened to hang out in the Lylat System-one of the few systems the Space Pirates avoided.

"You'll want to stand aside, Fox," she said. "This is bigger than you."

"Like the devil I will. Fox McCloud stands aside for no one."

A scowl crossed her face. "I'm heading to Popstar. Don't get in my way."

And with that, she headed off, shoulders set in anger. Fox watched her leave, and a sigh pushed through his teeth.

"I guess I'll have to tag along to make sure she doesn't get herself killed," he said as he set off after her.

Chapter Text

Popstar had been a bust. Nothing but dead ends for the mysterious 'R' case. Anyone could see that from the way Pikachu seethed as he crawled down the sidewalk. At least, if they bothered to take a look at the ground.

He sulked as he made his way over to a nearby bench, Jigglypuff not far behind. The only threads he gained here, as minuscule as they might have been, pointed him to the capital, which was locked down.

The recent breakout had put his investigation on hold, barring any sort of public transport from getting to the capital. While stowing away on a private transport was an option, there was no guarantee he'd get where he wanted to go, so he was out of options.

Well, aside from staying underneath a bench and angrily tapping his paws against the ground.

As Pikachu mumbled to himself, Jigglypuff made herself comfortable beside him and patted his back. People crossed through his vision, too busy to pay any attention to the lonely bench as they went about their lives.

Not that he minded. A bit of peace of mind was what he needed as he considered his next step.

A creaking snapped him out of his thoughts. Pikachu blinked and found a pair of boots blocking his sight. Considering most of the people here didn't have legs, this looked out of place.

The bench creaked again under this new weight, and Pikachu hastily pushed Jigglypuff to the other side. He considered leaving it entirely, but he was curious to see where this went.

A groan came from above, and Pikachu felt he could empathize with whoever was there, a little frustrated himself.

"I should have known Rupees wouldn't get me anything here," Link muttered to himself, unaware of the two eavesdroppers hiding under the bench. "Now I'm stuck here, and I don't know how to get back. Just my luck."

He sighed, and his boots clicked against the pavement. A sword touched down onto the street with a clang, and the bench protested as he shifted his weight on it. As splinters rained down on him, Pikachu closed his eyes to keep them out.

"So much for seeing the capital," Link said, lifting his gaze to the clear sky. "I guess I'll have to keep my master waiting for a bit while I try to get enough money to get back home."

Pikachu's lips turned downward, and he let out a disappointed sigh. This strange person didn't have anything interesting to offer, it seemed.

"What's this?"

Something crinkled. Pikachu's ears perked up, and he glanced at the man sitting above him. Even Jigglypuff leaned forward, eager to catch whatever had caught his interest.

"A bounty list? And for escaped prisoners on Popstar, too?"

There was a pause.

Finally, he said, "He's not on here. That's a relief."

Another brief hesitation. And then: "Wait. What if this is my ticket out of here? I could get money to buy a ship to the capital."

Meanwhile, Pikachu was coming to a different realization. Just like this man, he wanted to get to the capital, so if he tagged along, he could hitch a ride to the capital. Even then, if he stuck with a bounty hunter, there was always the chance they could meet another bounty hunter who could take him to the capital before the travel ban was lifted.

Then the bench shuddered. Jigglypuff shrunk back, Pikachu flicked his gaze up, and Link glanced around wildly. No one moved, completely confused.

When the bench collapsed into a pile of twisted wooden planks, Link yelped as he tumbled to the ground. Dust poured out from beneath him, and somewhere in the scuffle, he lost the sheet he was holding on to.

Link waved an arm to clear the air and found Pikachu sitting on the bounty sheet not far from him, Jigglypuff leaning over his shoulder.

"Hey there little guy," he said.

Pikachu narrowed his eyes, but forced down his irritation. It wouldn't help to cause a scene here. He rapped a paw against the sheet, like he was trying to smooth out a wrinkle.

Link raised an eyebrow. "Are you interested in helping me hunt down the bad guys?"

The electric mouse nodded, and Link grinned. "Cool," he said, slowly pushing himself off the ground, taking the sheet with him. "Now, how about we-"

Without prompting, Pikachu leapt onto his right shoulder and nestled himself over his neck, letting out a comfortable sigh. Link gave him a look, but a tug on his boots grabbed his attention.

He turned down. Jigglypuff met him with pleading eyes. A smile slipped onto his face, and he picked her up, letting her down on his other shoulder.

With the two Pokemon settled down over his shoulders, Link took a minute to go over the sheet in his hands.

"That's a lot of bad guys," he said under his breath, letting his eyes roam over the various profiles on the sheet.

Hearing his comment, Pikachu gave his ear an amused flick. His cheeks sputtered as he sent an electric spark to Link's hands, causing his fingers to twitch. The sheet folded out, spilling onto the street and revealing even more profiles.

Link groaned. "Okay," he said, turning to his right, "who do you think we should go after? We can't go after them all, and we probably shouldn't waste time going after small fry."

With a sigh, Pikachu slid down Link's arm, careful not to put too much weight on him. Leaning over the sheet, he scanned it, before putting his paw over the picture of a plump man with a jagged mustache, a yellow cap over his head and an ugly sneer on his mouth. He held a bag of gold coins close to him, turned away from the camera.

Link gave a huff and exchanged a glance with Pikachu. "This guy?" He took a closer look at the picture, but his frown showed that he was unimpressed. "He doesn't look all that strong. But I won't argue with the reward posted for him."

Pikachu nodded at him again, giving him a pleased smirk.

"But where do we find this guy?" he asked. "I mean, we're just three people. I don't want to have to look all over the planet."

Pikachu rolled his eyes as if he was talking to a child. He moved his paw over to the bag of gold in the corner of the picture, circling around it to draw Link's attention to it. Then he tilted his head over to a nearby poster on the wall.

At first, he wasn't sure what it said. He moved closer for a better look. At the center of the poster, there was a bird face surrounded by big bold text saying: "Triple-D Bank".

The realization hit him, and he grinned at Pikachu. "Hey! Not bad, little guy."

If the yellow sparks shooting off Pikachu's cheeks didn't raise a flag with Link, Jigglypuff jumping off his shoulder certainly did.

Chapter Text

Mario clenched his gloves, and a tiny squeak slipped between his fingers. Anyone who walked in front of him quickly wilted under his glare and passed by, leaving the street almost empty and lifeless.

Not too far behind, Yoshi and Donkey Kong eyed the red-capped plumber warily. They both wanted to ask what was on his mind, but neither of them knew what to say.

"So, that egg guy," Mario said, keeping his eyes on the bank across the street, "Magolor, right? He said Wario and Waluigi and the crocodile guy crashed their pod on this planet here. And we know he's probably going to hit this bank because if there's something Wario can't stand, it's having his pockets empty."

Out of sight, Yoshi hummed in agreement.

"Well, we've been sitting here for two hours, and they haven't so much as shown up. I'm starting to think we might've gotten a wrong lead."

No one else spoke. Yoshi looked somewhere else. Donkey Kong crushed a chair under his palm, and Mario glanced over as the wood crumbled beneath the ape's hand.

"You gonna pay for that?" he asked, nudging a hand towards the splintered mess.

Donkey Kong's face spread into an awkward expression. Glancing away for a moment, he swept the remains of the chair behind him, as if to pretend nothing happened.

A green tail tapped Mario on the shoulder, and he turned around. Yoshi flicked his eyes over to an alley across the street, and Mario followed his gaze just in time to see a bushy orange tail vanish into the dark. He didn't miss the blaster strapped to its side, and he instantly became suspicious. No one from this planet used blasters.

The red-capped plumber exchanged looks with his two companions. Without a word, the three of them got up to tail after this mysterious figure.

Footsteps echoed through the narrow walls as they slipped between the buildings, and as his eyes adjusted to the unlit alleyway, Mario could barely make out a small figure disappearing into the distance. He looked over his shoulder and motioned for his companions to be quiet, but when he turned back, the figure was gone.

Very carefully, Mario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong crept forward, throwing cautious gazes around the walls towering over them. The cold stone underfoot gave no sound, and Mario grew more wary as they made their way down the alley, passing by the back of the bank.

"They know we're here," he whispered, bringing his guard up. Out of his sight, he could hear Yoshi and Donkey Kong shuffling around as they did the same.

Then a blue glow gently washed over his cheek. Mario's eyes swiveled over to his right, and he found himself staring down the barrel of a cannon and the faceless green visor that lay beyond it.

"You were right," Samus said, keeping her focus on the short red-capped man.

Out from the shadows, Fox stepped forward with an arrogant grin. "What'd I tell you?" he said, tapping his pointy ears. "A fox's ears never lie."

"Wait just a minute," Mario cut in, lowering his arms. "Who are you guys? I ain't never seen you hanging around the Mushroom Kingdom before."

"You don't get to ask questions," Fox said, unclipping the blaster and bringing it in front of him with one swift motion. "Now, what do you know about Andross?"

Samus cleared her throat.

"Or the Space Pirates," Fox added begrudgingly.

"If they don't got business in the Mushroom Kingdom, they ain't my problem."

"Sounds simple enough," Fox said, "but I don't buy it."

"At ease," Samus said, and she pushed down Fox's blaster with her cannon. "I know this man. This is Mario, the guardian of the Mushroom Kingdom."

"How can you tell it's him?"

"His files say that, outside of the Mushroom Kingdom, he doesn't care about anything else." Samus turned to face Mario. "Am I correct?"

"Yeah, that's right."

"I see." Fox's smile quickly changed to a more friendly one, and he slid his blaster back onto his belt. He extended a hand towards Mario. "I apologize for that. My name is Fox McCloud, and the tall lady in the suit is Samus."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Fox," Mario said as he took Fox's hand. "If you were a goldfish, I'd introduce myself again, but I think you can remember who I am."

Fox's tail swished, and he frowned. "I actually know a few goldfish, and they're a lot smarter than you think."

"Really? Well, I wouldn't know. I lived my entire life in the Mushroom Kingdom, I don't go out a lot."

"That would be like if I said your monkey friend liked bananas," Fox said, pointing to Donkey Kong. The ape snorted, but it went past Fox unnoticed. "Who are your two friends, by the way?"

"These two?" Mario looked back to check if they were still there. To his relief, both of them hadn't moved an inch. "The green dinosaur is Yoshi. The big ape is Donkey Kong."

"I see," Fox said again. "Now, if you'll excuse me for being suspicious, why aren't you back home?"

"I got my brother holding down the fort while I go chase down some yellow and purple wannabe me," Mario said with a shrug. "The criminals back home don't usually move around, so I don't go off-world very often."

Not to be forgotten, Donkey Kong grunted and straightened his tie, bringing all eyes to him.

"Oh yeah, and he's here because one of his bad guys went with 'em. They've been working together, which is kinda strange, but criminals don't usually make sense so I ain't gonna question it."

"Odd," Samus said. Everyone turned to her in an instant. "First the Space Pirates with Wolf o' Donnel. Now this."

Mario tilted his head. "What are you thinking?"

"It's probably nothing. Just that I'm used to criminals keeping to themselves."

"Yeah, but things change," Mario said. "Take my good pal, Wario. You used to be able to see him from a mile away 'cause he'd blow up half the block every time he went out for some cash, and now I can barely find him in this pint-sized city."

As soon as the words left his mouth, an explosion shook the alley. Dust sprinkled down from above, leaving tiny specks scattered over their clothes. A confused murmur rose between them, all of them wondering where it had come from.

And then they saw a plume of smoke unfurling over the rooftops, and the fire clawing its way out of the bank down the alley as the walls splattered against the other buildings like the scraps from a burst balloon, and they all sprinted back to the street. Above the crumbling stone and crackling flames, an alarm wailed, and the screams of the crowd filled the air.

Chapter Text

No matter which way you twisted it, the word 'bank robbery' could never spell out 'subtlety'. Link knew this from experience, having foiled a few back in Hyrule. More often than not, he'd find out about the robbery long before someone told him about it; the screaming crowds kind of gave it away.

Even so, he didn't know what to expect when he slipped through what might have been a wall and into the bank. Pikachu and Jigglypuff, closely followed in his footsteps, looked worried as they stepped over a few loose rocks, and as they pressed on, Pikachu pushed Jigglypuff behind him with his tail.

Link still found his hands shaking as he drew an arrow from his quiver, and slid it onto the taut bowstring. Quietly he cursed his trembling fingers, stepping over a few rocks as he did so.

Behind him, he could hear sparks crackle to life. At least I'll have someone to watch my back, he told himself as he crept forward. He stole a quick glance over his shoulder, and Pikachu gave him a nod.

They stepped around another downed pillar, and their target finally entered their view. Round, stout, dressed in yellow; his picture from the poster hadn't left out much to the imagination.

Link stepped over a piece of fallen debris, drawing the arrow back on his bow when a jagged orange-tipped bolt dropped down to intercept him. He glanced over to his left. Pikachu's angry scowl met his gaze.

Link let out a resigned sigh but didn't question it. As he moved back beneath the deep shadows cast by the overhead sun, it was then that he spotted two other people huddled close to Wario.

He turned to ask Pikachu about them. The electric mouse was already one step ahead of him, flicking through their sheet to search for the new faces.

The first one they found was Waluigi, Wario's tall, scraggly brother. He bore an identical mustache, as well as an identical set of clothes, only colored purple instead of yellow. The sneer on his face looked so similar to Wario's, Link wondered how he could have missed this little detail.

The other was harder to pin down, since even a rather 'unique' face like his would be lost in the sea of colorful and weird forms of the residents of Popstar, but they did manage to find it after a few seconds. Krusha the Kremling kommando, as dangerous as a speeding train and as tough as a house. This was certainly shaping up to be a rather strange bunch of bank robbers.

The three seemed to be locked in a conversation, none of which Link or Pikachu could pick up on. Their words were too hushed to carry on the wind, and Link didn't want to risk giving their positions away by stepping closer.

Sometimes the best action was no action at all. At least, that was what his master always told him.

A minute passed before the robbers finally broke apart. As Wario turned his back to them, Waluigi and Krusha moved deeper into the ruins, shuffling through the rocks scattered across the floor. They were searching for something. That much was obvious.

Link looked for Pikachu, and found him already jumping over half of a pillar. His red cheeks were clear of any sparks, so he probably just wanted to get a closer look. The arrow on his bow lowered, and Link tracked the yellow fur that flashed through the cracks, ready to step in if something happened.

"Well, it's about time you showed up."

Link's blood froze. Pikachu's fur stood on end from under a smashed door, so he had heard it too. The arrow creaked in his fingers as his grip tightened, and his breath rattled in his chest.

"And I'd say it's about time I found you," another voice said. "Took you long enough to show your mug."

All the tension spilled out from Link, and he breathed a sigh of relief. So he hadn't been talking to them. This had been someone else.

"This ain't your style, Wario, and me and my pals want to know what's up. You and your brother ain't never worked with other people before. 'Specially not people like the Space Pirates."

"I'm afraid I haven't a clue what you're talking about."

A second voice entered the conversation. "Don't play dumb. We can see the ship above you."

Link looked up. Sure enough, there was a dark shape hovering in the sky, a black speck against the pearly white clouds. His finger rubbed against the feathered shaft in his grasp, and his eyes flickered around nervously.

"So there is," Wario said at last.

"Yes, there is. And you're not getting on it."

"If you ain't gonna explain yourself in the next few minutes, that is," the first voice cut in.

"What? That's not-"

"There's going to be a change in management," Wario said. "I just happened to be lucky enough to take the ride to the top."

"Yes, but-"

"And who's the guy that told you about this?"

"Someone who called themselves a dark dragon or something. Doesn't matter to me, as long as there's a pot of gold waiting at the end."

"Yeah, I thought so. Wouldn't be you if it weren't for the cash. But, like, you're not gonna halve the population of the galaxy to do it, right?"

"Like I'd say."

"Ooh, real scary. Gotta give you credit, though; you're persistent. Most guys'd probably give up trying to be the big man after the first time. How's it feel to be a special kind of idiot?"

"Now, Mario, I-"

Then something blew up. Link peeked out over the shattered window he was hiding behind, only to get an eyeful of dust, and he slid back down to rub his eyes. He could hear an uproar in the making, and as his vision cleared, he found his eyes drifting to his sword.

"Alright, that's enough of that. You can continue your little therapy session when this man is behind bars," the second voice said through the sound of falling rocks.

A piece of the wall clattered to the ground as someone new pushed their way into the ruined bank. "Hey! What are you lot fooling around fo-"

Something squeaked underfoot. Fear grasped at Link when he realized what just happened.

"What's this?" he heard the newcomer say.

Without thinking, Link leapt out and fired. Krusha turned his head, Pikachu struggling within his claws, and saw the arrow heading for him. He blocked the arrow with a stout arm, and it glanced off his thick scaly hide just as Waluigi appeared from behind a door.

"I got the gem!" he said, only for the stray arrow to knock it out of his gloved hands. He tried grasping at it as it fell, but it disappeared between the loose rocks and marble.

Still trapped in Krusha's grip, Pikachu let out a burst of electricity. Pain spiked up the Kremling's arm, and he hurling Pikachu to the floor without a moment of hesitation.

As Pikachu scurried to safety, Link drew his sword, crossing over the rubble in a few seconds. He swung the Master Sword in a downward arc, sending it crashing into the floor as Krusha deflected it with the back of his clawed hand. In return, he received a blow to the stomach that forced him back, keeping his sword between them.

Now that he was fully out in the open, as Link caught his breath he surveyed the scene before him. To his surprise, he found six other people aiming their weapons at the three criminals, and in the middle of fanning out around them. More than he had expected to see.

"Fall back!" Wario snarled, and his two companions drew closer to him, arms raised in defense.

"You're not getting away," Fox said, his blaster trained on Wario. "We have you surrounded. At least one of you is coming with us by the end of this."

There had to be no other options. Link couldn't see any way out, but he still expected the bad guys to fight back. When he saw Wario's lips twist into a smile, he couldn't say he was surprised.

"Of course, you'd say that," Wario said, taking a step back. His two companions stepped back with him.

"But what kind of a villain would I be without a back-up plan?"

And just like that, a thick cloud of smoke submerged the area. Rolling purple whisps unfurled over the rocks, and Link covered his mouth with a hand, holding his breath to avoid inhaling the fog as he stumbled forward.

In his head, he cursed. The smog was perfect to hide the robbers from his line of sight, and no one he'd ever faced had used this trick to get away, so any ideas of how to send it away escaped him.

A spark of electricity snapped in front of his face, and his head jerked back as it whipped past. He forced his eyes to open wider, just in time to avoid another bolt of lightning to the face. As the purple smoke faded away, the electric bolts trashing about became more clear as Pikachu wildly flung attacks left and right.

The whirring of a loud set of engines called his attention to above, and Link looked to the sky to see Wario cackling as he was pulled up by a grappling beam from the ship. He became a tiny yellow dot in the distance before he vanished completely. The ship turned away and blasted into space, leaving a streak of white in the sky.

"What was that about, eh?" Mario yelled, breaking the stunned silence. "I was doin' fine before you went in all guns blazin'!"

"I think you're missing the bigger picture," Fox said. "He was trying to stall. The moment they got what they wanted, they would have split!"

Mario growled. Fox did the same. They stepped towards each other as if trying to impale each other with their glares. Fox's hand fell to his blaster, and Mario's clenched into a fist. Link, just a figure in the background, tried to slip away when the sun was suddenly snuffed out, and everything became dark.

"Guys?" Samus stepped between the arguing pair, breaking them up long enough to see the ground engulfed in black.

As Samus lifted a hand upward, Link's eyes followed it to the heavens. Where there was once a tiny black speck against the blue, now a large ship stared down at them through the visor in the mask at its prow. Four large bat wings unfurled over the ground, claiming complete control over the sky, and Link's jaw fell open in awe as he laid eyes on the massive flying structure, tracing the many cannons that bespeckled the impenetrable steel hull.

"I think we have bigger problems," was the next thing he heard her say.

Chapter Text

The inside of the massive ship, the Halberd, was busy, with crew members constantly rushing up and down the halls. Despite only coming up to half her height, Samus found it kind of amusing how the Meta Knights scuttled about with such energy. Hefting tridents, axes, and maces twice their size-the appearance of the creatures running around her feet was almost comical.

The weird look of the crew did little to waver the tension in the air. Within the cold, metal halls of the ship, everyone, from Mario to Fox to the man with the pointy green cap next to her, waited against the wall as they were taken away and had their words dissected letter by letter.

No one said anything. A few of them exchanged nervous glances. Samus would hardly say there was anything similar between all of them, but she could say for certain that right now, they all had the same question on their minds: what was going to happen to them?

"So," Link said, turning to her, "Isn't your name is Samus?"

"That is correct," she replied.

"Why are you following the Space Pirates?"

"I found them stealing gemstones in the capital. I followed them here."

"You came from the capital? How?"

"On my ship."

"Okay."

An awkward pause followed.

"Hey," Link said. "Do you think you can give me a ride there when you catch them?"

"No."

"But why?"

"My ship only has one seat. You wouldn't fit."

Link frowned, and a hand came up to his chin. He lost himself in his thoughts, and Samus inwardly sighed in relief. Just as she was getting comfortable again, he spoke up.

"Well, if you only have one seat-"

"What? Are you going to ask for my phone number now?"

"Phone number?" Link blinked. "What's that?"

A slam shook the walls, as a door flung open. Pikachu quietly slipped back into the hall, glancing left and right as he crawled back to Link, hopping back on his shoulders. The captain of the ship, Meta Knight, closed the door behind him as he followed not far behind.

Almost immediately everyone else crowded around him.

Fox spoke first. "Alright, are you going to tell us what is going on?"

"I am afraid you do not need to know," Meta Knight replied, brushing past all of them due to his smaller size. "This is classified information. It is none of your business."

"Well, if the Space Pirates are involved," Samus said, putting a foot in front of the masked warrior, "then it is my business."

"And if Andross is involved, it is mine as well."

A sigh passed through the metal mask. "No, it is not. Please understand this situation is on a different scale than any of you are used to." Meta Knight shot a meaningful glance at the eight people gathered in the halls. Normal people would have wilted under his harsh, yellow glare. There was nothing normal about the group before him.

"What's so different about this, then?" Fox asked. "It's Andross and Space Pirates. How dangerous can it get?"

"As I said before, it is not your business. Now leave me be. I have guards to assemble."

"Well, I don't see why they shouldn't know," a voice rang out somewhere. "If they are interested in the stone, I say let them in"

Everyone's eyes went around the room, and an unsettled mumbling went between them. Everyone except Meta Knight, who turned his glare far down the hall.

"I know your Meta Knights are already stretched thin trying to manage threats all across the galaxy," the voice continued, slowly growing louder, "so what's the harm in letting this lot take care of the stone?"

"Master Hand. Why are you here?"

A few people in the group straightened when they heard the name, recognizing it as soon as it reached their ears. With a rumbling chuckle, a giant, white hand drifted into the dim light of the corridor.

"Is it so strange for me to check up on an ally in this time of crisis?" he said.

"If you are here to hire my help in this mess you've made, I have already given you my answer. We will not act as your personal army, and you have no place at the head of such a powerful force."

Master Hand chuckled again. "And I could say likewise. But that is not why I am here."

"You do not need to concern yourself with the stone."

"And I find it funny how you are doing so yourself, considering your usual behavior."

Meta Knight's yellow eyes narrowed behind his mask. "If this 'harbinger of the shadow dragon' or whatever they may be named get their hands on these stones, there is a risk for all of us. That is enough of a slight against me."

"Then I do not see what harm you see in letting these warriors and heroes have control over this," Master Hand said, motioning to the colorful group standing idly in the hall. "They seem to know the people making up the group. Letting them investigate might be motivation enough for them."

"Payment would be nice too," Fox cut in.

Yellow eyes flicked between Master Hand and Fox. Meta Knight let out a low growl, but eventually, he gave in. "Very well," he said, storming past Master Hand. "Come with me. We shall discuss this somewhere more private."

Master Hand floated after him, laughing as he moved along. The group hesitated to follow, exchanging uneasy looks before they finally broke out after him. Boots, feet, and metal plates of armor clanged against the metal floor as they shuffled forward like a disorganized herd, footsteps ringing out loud enough for any crew members to hear them from miles away.

Samus walked onward, so completely focused on the shifting crowd before her that she didn't notice Link slip in beside her with the two Pokemon on his shoulders until he started talking.

"Who's that Master Hand guy?" he said.

"Hm?" Samus glanced at Link from the corner of her green visor. "Oh. Master Hand is the marshal of galactic law."

"Meaning?"

"He enforces the order all over the galaxy. What he says is law, mostly because he set the laws himself."

"So I think it's safe to assume that he's here because something bad is happening."

"Yes."

Link nodded, and he absentmindedly reached up and tousled the tuft of fur on Jigglypuff's head. The pink Pokemon leaned into his touch with a smile, and it gave a content hum.

One by one, they filed into a room off to the side. Meta Knight closed the door behind them as the last of the group stepped past him, as he had done with the interviews before.

"Now," the floating hand said, his booming voice carrying over to everyone present, "I know you all might be itching for a fight, considering who your enemy will be, so I'll make this quick."

A screen behind him flickered to life, and a set of five gemstones circled around it.

"Five months ago, the Space Pirates stole a gemstone from the Oreburgh Mining Museum, on the planet Kanto. Three months after that, two similar gemstones were taken by the Space Pirates from an armored convoy. Just yesterday they took another gemstone from the Galactic Federation Capital, and today they came for the very same gemstone we have on this ship."

"That's all well and good, but why are they stealing these gemstones?" Fox said.

"You know, I ain't exactly stupid," Mario said, waving his hand around, "but could you try not to talk circles around us? Just get to the point."

If Master Hand had eyes, he would have given them an irritated glare. "I was getting there. Anyway, the colors of these gems, blue, green, black, red, and yellow, match up with an old legend from the planet Fe."

"So we're acting on a fairy tale, then?" Fox huffed.

"Hardly. Take a moment to stop and think. What did the leader of the group call himself?"

The room immediately descended into silence. Master Hand looked around the room, only getting blank stares in return.

"Messenger of the dragons. Right?"

The attention of the group turned to Link on the other side of the room. Master Hand pointed a giant finger at them, waving up and down excitedly.

"Something like that," he said. "The legend says that if all five gemstones are brought together, they will revive an ancient and very powerful dragon. We don't know how powerful the dragon is. It could only be strong enough to level a city, or it could be strong enough to destroy a planet."

"Sounds like something Andross would love. Though I don't think he believes in legends or fairy tales."

"While normally, we would have locked away this last gemstone somewhere deep underground, Meta Knight suggested that we use the gemstone as bait to lure out this ringleader. And that is where you come in. Even though this dragon's power is unknown to us, Fe itself greatly lacks in technological might, despite its tactical prowess, and it is a risk we will be willing to take. Any questions?"

Link raised a hand. "This is a story from Fe, right? If it's from Fe, then why are the different bits in space and on other planets?"

"We do not know." This time, it was Meta Knight who spoke, stepping out of the shadows. He had been so quiet and so still, everyone forgot he was there. "It happened long ago. Perhaps the gemstones were lost in time, or perhaps the gemstones we've been chasing are fakes. We only have one in my possession, so we can not compare them. The council of Fe is secretive, so the information on these gemstones we have is limited."

A frown crossed Mario's face. "That's not very neighborly of them. You think they might tell us a thing or two, with the whole breakout going on right now?"

"I should hope so. I will be traveling over there to search for a missing companion of mine. I shall ask the council about this while I am there."

With that, Meta Knight disappeared. The only sign he had ever been there was the swinging door beside them.

"You're doing the galaxy a great service, helping us take down this mysterious threat," Master Hand said, bringing their eyes back to him. "The last gemstone will be housed in a bunker beneath one of Dreamland's castles. Your job is to catch whoever comes for it. Good luck."

Chapter Text

The bunker itself was one vast chamber, a refreshing change from the tangled maze of halls that was the Halberd. There were large beams strung across the room, dotting the perimeter. High above them, a few lamps hung off the ceiling from a series of cables, and the walls were so far apart you could feel the cold air between them. At the center of the room, under the focus of a bright spotlight, was the gemstone, held within a cage lined with energy that frazzled and popped loudly. While to others, the room might have seemed grandiose, to someone as small as Pikachu, he was practically an ant compared to the walls that stretched high overhead.

"So this is the place, huh?" Link said, letting his eyes wander to every corner of the giant bunker.

Mario whistled. "This Meta Knight guy must be loaded if he built something like this. The castles back home ain't much bigger than this, an' that's not counting for the flying palace he's got hanging around."

Silence settled over the eight of them. Mario, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Link, Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Samus, and Fox. A few of them, namely Link and Yoshi, shuffled around, eager to take a look around.

Fox was the first to speak, grappling control of the silence. "Well, since we'll be working together, I think we should choose a leader for our little band."

No one seemed too enthused about that idea. "Yeah, you do that," Mario said, waving a hand behind him. "Me an' my pals'll stick to ourselves, thank you."

Yoshi nodded, and Donkey Kong didn't raise a complaint. Neither of them was against it. On the other hand, a look of irritation flashed across Fox's face.

"We all have a common enemy here. I think it would be best if we could work together to take them down."

"We don't got a common enemy," the plumber shot back. "They all just decided to stick to the same boat. Don't mean they had to get all buddy-buddy with each other, so why should we do the same?"

The others exchanged looks, but no one dared comment.

"Now, how's about we find where they keep the food, eh fellas?" Mario turned to give Yoshi and Donkey Kong a passing glance. "I could really go for somethin' to eat right now."

The floor clacked as Mario stepped back around and left for a nearby doorway. Yoshi and Donkey Kong ran after him, all too happy to get away from their meeting, and the eight was reduced to a five.

"Alright, anyone else have any complaints? The 'shadow dragon people' could be here at any second, so I don't want to waste time with pointless chit-chat."

"The plumber has a point," Samus said. "I think I would rather work on my aim in this time than trying to adjust myself to you lot."

Without another word, she left. The five was reduced to a four, and the three others that remained exchanged awkward glances under Fox's scrutinizing watch. Link seemed to see something on the smooth, stone floor that he really liked, as his attention was entirely fixed on it like a lost child, and Jigglypuff stared at Pikachu for support. Normally such would have been endearing to him, but with the other set of eyes on him, he couldn't find himself focused enough to give her his attention.

At last, he got to his feet and walked out. Jigglypuff didn't hesitate to follow. Together they headed through a door to the right, half-hidden by a stack of crates leaning against the wall. Behind it, bits of scrap metal and steel plates were piled on the floor, leftover from whatever project the bunker had housed before (presumably the ship). There were other things too, scattered in between the mounds of spare armored plating, and Pikachu and Jigglypuff immediately took it upon themselves to look through them.

Underneath one, Pikachu found a giant mechanical claw made of brass. Nestled between the two pincers was a cannon, and the wiring exposed behind it caught his eye. There were machines too, varying from some kind of radio to half of a sonar device. From her part of the room, Jigglypuff held up a camera, capped with a dome-shaped blue cover, smiling like she had uncovered some great treasure.

They were just scraps, but Pikachu was used to working with scraps. While he was by no means an excellent engineer, he did know how to string together a few traps, and as he eyed the parts, his mind raced as he began to assemble some of the pieces together in his mind.

Motioning to Jigglypuff, he started dragged a few pieces out of the room, and into the main chamber. The grating sound it made as it slid along the floor resounded through the room, irritated Pikachu's ears, but for the most part, he brushed it aside. There wasn't much in the way of obstacles as he pulled the mechanical parts to where the gemstone was kept. The others had already left to go do their own things, as he had. Wordlessly, he started stringing together the parts, rewiring weapons and machinery with his tiny paws. He was so focused on his work, he didn't hear the footsteps approaching him until they were a few feet away.

"What are you working on?" Fox asked.

Pikachu didn't bother giving him a reply. This was more important. He could feel Fox's suspicious gaze on the back of his head, but he kept his full attention on the pieces he was trying to weave together.

"We're all working together on protecting this thing, you know. It wouldn't hurt if you told me."

Again, Pikachu remained silent. A few sparks flew out from the wires in front of him, and he barely flinched as they touched his fur, before they flickered and died.

"I know you're probably used to working alone, but can't you lend me a hand here?"

When Fox continued to stand over his shoulder, he felt annoyed at his persistence. Why was this person so insistent on getting to know what he was working on? He didn't need him to help with his work. Couldn't he see how he was disturbing him?

The hiss of metal being dragged against metal signaled the arrival of Jigglypuff as she entered the room, bringing more spare parts behind her. When she saw Fox looming over Pikachu, she stopped and stared. She quickly shook it off, but Fox noticed her hostility.

"Alright, fine. You don't have to tell me. You'd better know what you're doing, though."

Unlike before, Pikachu did listen for his fading footfalls as he turned around to leave. Only until the room fell back into silence did he finally allow himself to relax.

...

Huh. When did he get so riled up with Fox?

Chapter Text

"-so she takes the bottle ah' bleach, and I say 'Lady, that stuff's for toilets and glass. You don't wanna put it on your shell.' She doesn't listen, so she sprays it on her back and what'dya know it breaks open. So I say 'Guess it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, eh?' "

"Of course, I get an egg in the face for that, and after you spend half th' day washing yolk outta your hair, you kinda lose your taste for 'em."

Yoshi hummed in agreement from his place at the table. Donkey Kong only shrugged.

From the other side of the small kitchen sectioned off from the empty hall, Mario peeked at their reactions through the reflective surface of the refrigerator beside him. With a smile, he brought the plates back around, and laid them down on the table they all gathered around. The bundle of bananas slid in front of Donkey Kong, and he placed the plate of apples before Yoshi.

"Enough about that, though," he said, taking a pear in his hands. "I'm starving! Let's dig in!"

For a few moments, the only noise in the air between them was the soft sound of chewing. Simple people they might be, they still had enough decency to keep conversation and eating as two separate things. Yoshi swallowed, but he grabbed another apple with his tongue as soon as he was done.

As Donkey Kong finished chewing, he motioned between the three of them. Having known the ape for a long time, Mario understood what he was trying to say.

"Yeah, it has been a while since we've been together like this," he said, taking a chunk out of another pear.

A smile spread across Donkey Kong's face. He tossed a banana between his hands, before he nodded.

"Those were some fun times, weren't they?"

Another nod. Donkey Kong squeezed another banana out of its skin, popping it into his mouth.

Yoshi stopped them by clearing his throat. When their eyes set on him, he waved his nose at the three of them. A brief snarl parted his lips, gone as suddenly as it had set in, before he tilted his head in a questioning motion.

Mario gave Yoshi a half-assed look and shrugged. "Why are the bad guys working together? I dunno. It ain't for fun, that's for sure."

Yoshi glanced at the ceiling for a moment, before he nodded in understanding.

"Although their band is made up of crooks and cash-hungry idiots, like that Wario guy and his brother, so if you ask me, I think it's probably just another scheme to make a quick buck. Maybe they'll hold an entire planet ransom or something dumb like that."

Yoshi and Donkey Kong snickered, and Mario found the edges of his lips turned upward at the thought. Holding a planet ransom. That sounded like something a certain "friend" of his would do if he woke up on the wrong side of his bed.

They were interrupted by a loud clang. Immediately they all turned around to see where the noise had come from. A coil of cables lay tangled on the ground, thrown out of the Jigglypuff's grasp from where she was standing a few feet away. She looked like she was itching to take it back, but at the same time she eyed the three sitting at the table warily, like she was afraid of making them angry if she took another step toward them.

Donkey Kong and Yoshi exchanged worried frowns. The glanced at Mario, who at least had the sense to show a little worry

"Alright you two," he sighed. "Help her up."

With a grunt, Donkey Kong lifted himself out of his chair. He paused to pick up the cables, before he walked back to her.

Jigglypuff only seemed to grow smaller as he approached. That confused him, and he flashed her what he thought was a reassuring grin. She wilted, and his smile quickly dampened. She raised her arms to the coils wound around his arm, her eyes silently asking for it back. He shook his head. This surprised her, and not in a pleasant way if the way her face fell was any indication.

Donkey Kong jerked his head down the hall and hefted the cords in slung over his arm. He wanted to help, he practically said. This time, it was Jigglypuff's turn to shake her head, and she reached for the cable. The ape raised them higher, refusing to back down, but Jigglypuff whimpered in distress.

Mario noticed this, and yelled, "Oi! Just give her the cable! She don't need you to hold her hand, you big ape!"

Donkey Kong looked at Mario. Then he turned back to Jigglypuff. At last, he sighed, and shrugged the cables into his hand, before giving it back to her. The moment she had a firm grip on them, she rushed out, leaving Donkey Kong staring at her disappearing trail in confusion.

"Don't take it personally, DK," Mario said as Donkey Kong got back to his chair. "She's probably one of those people who can't go out in public without an armed guard."

Donkey Kong grunted again, letting him knew he heard, but the frown that appeared on his face remained plastered on. That soured the mood, and the room descended into silence. Everyone just gave each other awkward looks, but no one dared try to speak up.

Luckily, none of them had to.

"There you are!" With a shout, Fox stormed into the kitchen.

Mario groaned into his gloved hands. "Oh boy," he said, "it's this clown again."

He turned around as Fox stomped closer, meeting him face to face. They glared daggers into each other, anger clear on their face. Donkey Kong and Yoshi saw the argument coming a mile away, and they simultaneously shuffled their chairs to the other side of the table.

When they finally burst into angry words and insults, they watched all while they stuffed their faces full with fruit.

Chapter Text

The darkness that engulfed him the moment he stepped inside should have been a big red flag. Link was used to ignoring red flags, always the first person on the scene whenever someone needed his help, and as a result, had a few strands of hair singed off the front of his face.

The sudden attack startled him, and his shield instantly went up. He hadn't been expecting it. The only other people he could have run across were supposed to be his allies, and allies didn't attack each other. Didn't they?

"Who's there?" he said. When no one replied, he felt brave enough to peek out behind his shield. Past the smoky scent of the burned tips of his hair, he saw something glow in the darkness. It took him a moment to realize that was the burning edges of a hole, punched straight through a metal sheet, smoke still drifting up and out of it.

Someone sighed behind it, and the low whir in the air slowly died down.

"Light off," Samus called out in the distance.

Finally, the darkness drew back, revealing a spacious room inside. Around the room, several wooden crates and metal sheets were propped upright, strewn about as targets if the smoldering holes torn through every one of them were any indication. There were a few planks splintered on the floor, victims of more explosive attacks, and as Link scanned around the area, he saw an armored red and yellow figure step out from behind a stack of boxes.

"Why are you shooting things in the dark?"

"Testing out some new equipment," Samus said, tapping a finger against the side of her helmet. "What do you want?"

That snapped Link out of his temporary stupor, and he slung his shield over his back. A relaxed smile spread over his lips, and his hands fell to his sides. "Oh. Right. Well, I was thinking back to what we were talking about."

"You wanted me to take you to the capital."

"Yeah, that!"

Samus huffed, and she crossed her arms, turning away. She still didn't want to take him, that much was clear.

"Please?" Link said. "I promise you won't regret it."

"How so?"

Link's smile quickly fell. He hadn't thought this far and looked a little unsure.

"Well, I'm a good shot," he said, pulling out a bow to show to her.

"I've trained in the military. I can shoot things myself."

"I can reach high places with my hookshot."

"I have a grapple beam."

"I can cut things?"

"What would I need to cut?"

Link didn't have an answer to that. He'd put most of his cards on the table, and she turned away all of them. He didn't have anything else left to barter. Even if he did, she probably didn't trust him enough to take him up on it.

"Come on, I really need to get to the capital. There's a really bad guy held up in there, and I need to make sure he didn't escape. Can't you help me out?"

Behind her visor, Samus huffed. "Whoever he is, he can't be worse than the Space Pirates."

"Are you sure?" Link said.

"Why are you so insistent on asking me?"

Link frowned at her, not that it bothered Samus. "You have your own spaceship. Who else would I ask?"

"Fox? He has a spaceship too."

"Yeah, but he's busy. He's always talking to other people."

"Then you're going to have to find someone else to take you. I won't."

With that, Samus turned on her heel and left. Her metal boots clanged loudly as she crossed over to the entrance, walking past Link before he could get his thoughts in. He watched her hurl the door open before he remembered what he was trying to do and stumbled over his feet to try to catch up with her.

He tried to get her to stop, tried to get her to listen. He protested as he kept pace with her, and to her irritation, she found herself wearing down.

"Okay, I'll do it," she snapped.

"Really?"

"But only if you beat me in a fight."

What little excitement Link had shown was quickly dragged into a shady alleyway and shot dead. He grimaced, but it was short-lived, and he reluctantly stepped into a fighting stance.

With a shrug, his shield slid back down onto his arm, and he drew his sword, holding it behind his shield in a defensive pose. Samus did likewise, bringing the sights of her arm cannon onto him, activating it with a mechanical buzz.

The look on his face when a missile launched itself from her cannon told her he wasn't expecting it. He dove away. By the time he hit the ground, the missile went off. The heat from the resulting explosion washed over him. He got to his feet before she could take advantage of that and charged.

The next missile hit his shield dead on. This time, he was sent flying back. He tried to push himself back up, but she wouldn't give him the chance. Another missile came, and he was forced to push himself away. He jumped up as he did so, and their playing field leveled out.

Again, he tried to close the distance. Her constant barrage kept him away. As his efforts failed over and over, he realized that it would never work. So he adapted.

He slid his sword back by his side, drawing his bow out at the same time. As he wove around another attack, he leaped behind one of the few piles of crates still standing. He placed an arrow on the bowstring. He breathed deeply and thought out his next move. A loud cracking sound broke him out of his thoughts, and he glanced back at the crate he was hiding behind to find a smoking hole ripped right through.

Without thinking, he sprung out from his cover, firing an arrow at Samus. Her arm was already pointed in his direction, but she moved it to block his attack on instinct. It didn't give him much time to plan another attack, so he fired off another arrow. This one hit. It bounced harmlessly off her armored suit, but the sheer force behind it jerked her shoulder back.

The attack caused her to take a step back, but by the time she recovered, a third was on its way. It headed straight for her face. Her arm moved up to block it. This obstructed her vision, however. Link took the opening to dash through her, drawing his sword as he moved past. The blade swiftly became a silver blur cutting across her side. She stumbled forward, crying out in pain, but as he finished his attack, something dislodged from her armor.

A piece of it fell to the floor with a clatter. Missiles poured out after it. Samus instantly swung around, and Link found himself staring down the barrel of her cannon. He was caught off guard and braced himself for an attack. When it never came, he snuck a peek. Like him, Samus was confused, staring intently at her arm cannon. She never noticed the shield coming from her left until it slammed into her face, throwing her to the ground.

In an instant, Link had his sword against her throat. "Surrender," he said.

It looked like she might argue, but in the end, she had to accept it, slumping in defeat. Link paused, making sure she was really admitting defeat, before he finally took the tip of his sword off her throat and stepped away. He held out an arm for her, offering to help her to her feet. She brushed it aside, and she pushed herself off the floor, taking a moment to brush the dust off her armor.

"What was that, anyway?" Link asked.

"Missile tank," she replied, crouching down to collect the scattered missiles, slipping them back inside the compartment in her armor. "Without it, I can't use my missiles."

"Well, it came out quite easily."

"It happens."

"Are you sure? It can get annoying when you have to keep putting them in every time they fall out."

Samus didn't reply.

"So about going to the capital..."

This time, Samus glared. Link shrunk back, and despite having won fairly, still felt guilty.

"Okay, maybe later."

Something crashed into the floor outside. Link and Samus exchanged worried expressions, and they rushed outside. The base might have been under attack for all they knew.

The moment they stepped out into the hall, their weapons were already brought out. An arrow nestled over the fingers gripping the bow. Beside it, the arm cannon whirred to life, a blue glow coming from within. They were prepared for the worst.

Perhaps they might have been forgiven for murdering a select few of the others with them when they found out the noise was just Fox and Mario hurling things across the kitchen.

Chapter Text

No one missed the glares between Mario and Fox at the kitchen table. The long hanging lights casting soft shadows in the orange light didn't make the scene any less tense, and with the way everyone else kept their distance, it felt like a bomb was about to go off.

The meeting had been called to the kitchen table, not out of any personal preference, but out of convenience. Since most of the group were already assembled there, it had been a simple matter to summon the few stragglers over.

Fox was the first to break the silence. "So, everyone is here."

"Yeah, I think we can see that," Mario replied. "I also think we'd like to know why you think we need this."

"To work together?"

Mario waved a hand dismissively. "Nah, I'm fine with that."

"Then what's the problem here?"

"You want to know what's the problem? It's that you keep trying to force yourself on everyone else here."

An angry look passed on Fox's face. He bared his teeth in a snarl. "Says who?"

"I don't know," Mario said with a shrug. "Why don't you ask everyone else here?"

Another snarky reply boiled up in his throat, but he was barely able to hold it back. "Alright," he said, sweeping his green eyes over the crowd. "Let's hear what they think."

A cocky smirk spread across his lips, confident that everyone else would see the wisdom in his words. He'd been the leader of a team a while back, so he knew how these kinds of things were supposed to work.

As expected, the dinosaur and the ape shuffled themselves behind Mario. Fox could respect loyalty like that. The others, though...

Pikachu narrowed his eyes, and sparks shot out of his cheeks, while Jigglypuff moved to put the mouse between her and Fox. That left Samus.

The moment he glanced at her, however, she shook her head. "I don't work with other people," she said.

"See what I mean?" Mario said, a smirk under his brown mustache.

"No, I don't," Fox replied, slamming a hand down on the wood. Jigglypuff jumped from behind Pikachu. "How can any of you not see that working together will be the best way to get this job done?"

Link raised a finger to get a word in. "Hey, I think it's a good idea."

"Okay, that's one of you. But what's wrong with the rest of you?"

"It's all about trust. Maybe you are used to working on a team, but you ain't got nothing about starting one."

Fox snapped his gaze to Mario. "Explain."

"Well, let me explain it like this." Mario leaned back in his chair. "If you want to make spaghetti, you don't start by mixing the sauce with the noodles, right? Cause if you do, the sauce gets mixed in with the water and everything tastes like water. Same here; if you want to make a team, you have to bring it to boil with trust before you can start adding your demands into the pan."

Off in her corner, Samus huffed. Her suit made a metal shuffling noise as she folded her arms across her chest, showing what she thought of that analogy. Aside from a concerned glance from Link, no one else noticed.

"And just how do you think I could do that?"

"You're coming on too strong," Mario said as he rolled his eyes. "You can't make a pizza pie with too much flour and not enough water, or it's gonna fall apart. Maybe you were the best of the best in your hometown, and maybe your team leading skills were as good as you say they are, but you don't know any of us, so you won't be earning any favors by actin' on top of the class."

"Well, that's going to take time," Fox said, tapping his foot impatiently. "Time we might not have. Remember, the carriers of the dragon could be here at any minute, so we need to be prepared to work together."

He received a skeptical glare from six of the other people gathered around the table. He didn't waver under their eyes, already out of his chair and pacing back and forth behind the table.

"I mean, just think of what we could do together." Fox swept his gaze over everyone present. His eyes stopped at Link, and he pointed at him.

"This guy, he has a sword. And a shield. We can use that as a team to protect each other, right?"

"I have a bow too," Link muttered. Fox frowned, and he stopped.

"That's beside the point. My point is, I'm sure we're all very good at what we go. But if you can all listen to me, I know we can do better."

Seven tiny grey pieces clattered to the table. Fox stepped back as the others leaned in to get a closer look. One by one, they plucked a piece off the table, each taking them into their hands and carefully turning them over with their fingers, paws, whatever they had at the end of their arms. Fox received a few confused stares, and Donkey Kong and Yoshi exchanged looks as if they were having a silent conversation. No one knew what these things were.

"Mister Fox? What are these things?" Link said, asking the question on almost everyone else's minds.

"Earpieces," Samus replied before he could. When all the eyes in the room turned on her, she added, "I scanned it with my visor. It's got a speaker and a mic, and they're all hooked up to the same frequency. They're earpieces."

Mario gave a snort. "I think you might be layin' it a bit thick, Fox," he said, stuffing the earpiece into a pocket.

"I wouldn't want us to be caught unprepared," Fox shot back. "When this base is attacked, I think we should-"

A low rumble cut him off, and the lamp hanging above the table flickered on and off. Jigglypuff shrank back, and Donkey Kong and Yoshi threw uneasy glances around the room. Fox's hand drifted to his blaster. On a nearby counter, the glass trembled, the water inside thrashing against the walls.

The shaking stopped as soon as it had come. The glass on the countertop calmed down, its contents beginning to relax. The people in the room, however, did not.

"Someone's blasted down the front door," Samus said, looking down at something on her visor. When she looked back up, the growl set in her mouth said it all.

"They're here."

Chapter Text

One by one, everyone entered the main room slowly, weapons drawn at the ready. Above their heads, the lights still blared down, giving the metal walls a shiny white shimmer. Scattered about the room, the crates were still stacked high, and at the center, the gemstone sat on its perch. The bars of energy surrounding it fizzed and crackled, sparks flying off it into the spotlight hanging overhead, just the same as it had been before.

There was no one else there. The bunker was completely empty.

A few uncertain glances were exchanged between them. No one seemed to know what to think, already on edge from all the tension between them.

"I should have known it would be a false alarm," Fox grumbled, sliding his blaster back into its holster.

Samus growled back. "The system says the doors have been breached. This is no false alarm."

"Well, does it show anything on the cameras?"

Samus paused. She turned away momentarily, and a scrolling sound echoed through the chamber as she checked the cameras.

There was a moment of silence.

"There's nothing," she said at last.

Fox waved dismissively as if that explained everything, and Samus straightened her shoulders, obviously feeling patronized.

"It's not hard to hack security cameras," she hissed. "The Space Pirates probably have them on a loop."

Something clattered to the floor. It was distant, a very small and insignificant sound in the empty chamber, but its echo carried across the room. That shut everyone up very quickly.

Another clatter. One of the lights trembled, and the shadows flickered, like ripples in a pond. Fox took a step forward.

I've been through things like this before. I need to stay calm, he kept telling himself. His fingers wrapped around the hilt, shaking just a little bit. He slowly drew it out, but it almost fell from his grip, and he cursed. He tried to steady his aim, hissing when the barrel of his blaster continued to tremble.

It was then that he realized he had spent too long out of action.

A low crash sounded over a wall of crates, and from behind Pikachu, Jigglypuff let out a squeak. Everyone glanced at each other, and a silent agreement passed between them; the first since they set foot in the bunker.

Fox took a step forward, and his finger flicked the trigger, ready to fire at a moment's notice. When the warehouse remained silent, one step led to another.

Then a sound, a faint ringing, came from the left. In an instant, Fox's blaster snapped on to the source, and he fired.

An explosion of yellow shards hit the floor, giving off a metallic glimmer in the light.

A bell. That's all it was. Fox looked down and found one of his metal feet tugging on a tripwire, almost invisible against the floor.

It was one of Pikachu's traps.

"Hey kid, your sword's glowing. What's that mean?" Mario said.

All eyes turned to Link, and, as Mario had noticed, his sword was giving off a faint white gleam.

"Oh, this?" he said, a bit confused as to what the big deal was. "The Master Sword glows whenever dark magic is close." He frowned, before he added, "That probably means something is here."

Then, there was a crash. Several crates tumbled to the ground, splattering in a mess of wood and scrap metal. Everyone looked back to the other end of the bunker.

In the place of a few of the crates, a giant blob hovered over the ground. Formless and shifting, it pulsed with an unnatural light. No piece of it seemed content to stay in one place, rising out, before sinking back into the ever-changing slime. Its appearance defied definition, and its constant undulating was almost hypnotic, snaring the attention of any who gazed upon it and never letting it go.

No one seemed sure of what to do. Donkey Kong and Yoshi shuffled their feet, anticipating an order to strike, while Mario watched it with narrowed eyes. Link had his bow out, but the arrow was slack against the wood, and he looked unsure. Jigglypuff hid further behind Pikachu, who was crouched low as angry sparks shot out of his red cheeks.

Samus was the only one who held any sort of certainty, standing straight, calm and collected, with her arm cannon pointed straight ahead.

Mario spoke first. "Who are you?" he said.

The thing, whatever it was, didn't respond. It just floated in place, squirming and writhing, folding in on itself, a wet squelching the only sound in the room.

Then the chamber was basked in crimson, giving the appearance of blood on the walls. The shapeless blob took on a bright red glow as if it were going to attack.

"Clear," was the only warning they recover before Samus stepped forward. She pushed Fox to the side and fired off a missile.

It streaked through the air, leaving a thin trail of grey behind. There was a loud bang as it slammed into the blob. Fire bloomed forth from the impact, sending the red thing into a pile of crates.

Once again, the atmosphere became silent. Everyone stared at the pile of crates the thing disappeared behind, as smoke curled out from beneath it. When nothing happened, they began to relax.

Suddenly, something threw the crates into the air. The glowing red blob burst out, whirring loudly. As the glow faded back to white, its flesh pulled back, revealing bright red plates of armor, curled into a large barrel pointing straight at them. The inside of the barrel started pulsing with blue energy. They had just enough time to scatter before it released a gigantic beam of light. Somewhere in the confusion, Jigglypuff ducked behind a wall of crates.

The moment it hit the floor, the beam exploded. The blast sent all crates nearby sprawling to the floor. When the smoke cleared, there was a crater left in its wake.

Link was the first to break for the thing. Seemingly out of nowhere, he pulled out a shield. It was different from the one strapped to his back, with a red rim around a shiny reflective face.

The thing tried to blast him, but the reflective material on his shield redirected it away. Link crossed the distance in a matter of seconds, when, once again, a red glow began to emanate from the inside.

Link's sword came down in a silver blur. The thing swerved to the side, and the blade glanced off its armor. He came up for a second swing, and the thing moved back again. Donkey Kong and Yoshi watched, looking to Mario for directions.

"What are you waiting for, an order?" he said. "Go! Help him!"

Link lunged. The thing slipped to the side. Link growled, and he thrust forward again. Once more, the thing danced out of reach, but it refused to attack. The glow coming from inside it receded just as Link swung wildly at it. The thing's only reply to that was to hit him with a massive burst of energy.

Something exploded against its side, leaving a shower of bright sparkling dust. The thing whirled around to its left. A meaty fist slammed into it before it could lock on to Yoshi, sending it spinning away. The force crammed into it quickly faded, but Donkey Kong rushed it before it could take aim again.

Unfortunately, the thing had other ideas.

The red plates of armor split apart, revealing a blue shield hiding beneath. Donkey Kong's fist crashed into it, but the blow didn't even leave a dent. The rest of the thing's armor disappeared beneath a blue casing made entirely up of shields. Before the ape could try to get away, the thing slammed into him, and he crashed into the ground.

The sound of blaster fire rang through the air. From atop a tower of boxes, Fox fired down onto the thing, letting loose a relentless hail of red lasers. It was on him in an instant, hurtling towards him. Fox leaped to another stack of crates before it could reach him, and the tower he was on moments before caved in from the collision.

He let out another stream of fire. One after another, the bullets pinged harmlessly off the shields.

Instead of throwing itself at him again, the thing changed back into its cannon form. It fired another burst of energy. Fox pressed a button on his wrist, and a shiny blue reflector popped up. The blast hit, but it was deflected.

Just as before, the thing's barrel started giving off a red light. Fox's eyes turned into slits. His feet tensed, and he prepared to leap away.

A second passed. The red glow faded as it did before. The barrage of fire was back in an instant, pelting it with lasers. In return, the thing blasted him with energy. Fox managed to avoid being hit, jumping away at the last second. He tried to turn around to face his attacker, only to find himself tangled in a web of string that had appeared out of nowhere. A jolt of electricity shot up his arm from the wire, stunning him momentarily.

The thing moved in to follow up, but before it could get close, Samus popped out from behind a crate. She fired a missile, and it soared towards it with a whistle. Blue reflectors materialized into existence, identical to the one Fox had used. The missile bounced off them, and, as luck would have it, straight into Donkey Kong as he was about to take a jump.

With the ape no longer a threat, its attention snapped onto Samus again. In a whirl of blue, it changed into its shield form and rushed at her, but Mario grabbed on to it before it could hit. Gloved fingers grasped the edges of one of its shields, and Mario spun around and flung it away.

As the thing halted its flight, a crate knocked over its side. Donkey Kong had thrown it across the room. The thing tried to turn. Mario stopped it, seizing it with his gloved hands. Then, he spun around and chucked it into another pile of crates.

Wood planks flew everywhere. The thing took a minute to steady itself. A yellow blur whizzed by, striking its shields several times with a loud ping. Before the thing could retaliate, the blur streaked over to the nearest crate.

It was Pikachu, with a wire in its mouth. He instantly lit up in a burst of electricity. The energy traveled down the wires, and the thing ignited like a match.

The thing was unfazed. It dislodged its trappings with a spin. Pikachu, on the end of the wire, was dragged along and sent flying to the other side of the room.

Donkey Kong threw another crate at the thing. This time, it managed to bring up its reflectors and redirected the attack to Mario. He batted the crate aside, but the few seconds it bought were enough for the thing to change back into its shield form.

With a single bash, Mario was knocked into a large tower of crates. The tower crumpled over him, burying him in a mound of planks. With him pinned beneath a wooden mountain, the thing moved closer and a red glow slipped out from between the shields.

A pillar of flames rocketed out from beneath. Crates exploded into the air, knocking over a few of the surrounding towers, and Mario stepped through.

Tiny flames licked his overalls, once blue, now dyed a bright red-orange. His sleeves and his hat had become white, and in his gloved hands, a fireball fluttered between his fingers. His lips were turned down in a snarl, and as he pushed himself off the ground, he hurled the fireball at the thing. The reflectors overtook its form, protecting it from the flames.

By the time he reached the ground, Mario already had two more fireballs in his hands. He threw those as well as he started charging forward, and they tore towards it in a spiral of orange. They were halfway there when the thing covered itself in red armor once again. There was a low whir. The cannon heated up and fired. The two fireballs were instantly vaporized as the blast plowed through them. Mario couldn't stop himself in time, and he took the full brunt of the blast. He flew back and crashed into a few crates piled up behind him, down for the count at last.

Another crate threw itself against the thing. Already Donkey Kong had another crate in his hands. With a loud grunt, he swung his arms and let go, turning the crate into a whirling wooden projectile. The box collided with it and fell apart into a mess of charred planks, revealing the thing, completely covered in a think coat of crackling flames, hurtling at the ape with terrifying speed.

Donkey Kong's eyes widened, and he dove to the side. As the giant fireball smashed into the floor, it let out a huge shockwave, catching him as he tried to get away. The searing heat from the impact caused him to stumble, and he was unable to avoid the thing when it came around a second time to hit him.

When Fox entered back onto the scene, finally untangled from the web, he arrived just in time to see Donkey Kong flung into a wall of crates, caving it inwards. The thing glowed red for a few seconds, remaining completely still. The glow faded just as an egg flew from the other side, Yoshi at the end of it. The giant fireball dove through it, burning through the wall the dinosaur had been standing on moments prior. Yoshi fluttered over to another stack. He jumped away again when the fireball destroyed that too.

A missile flew past the thing, blowing up in a shower of splinters beside it. The thing's shields were up in an instant, and it set its sights on Samus, hiding behind a very tall box.

"Not what you expected, eh?" a gruff voice spoke from his left. Fox's blaster snapped on to it, only to drop when he saw Mario limping over to him.

Fox saw a lick of flame stuck on the rim of Mario's cap. When the plumber noticed it as well, he snuffed it out with a pinch.

"I didn't think this would be what we were fighting against," Fox replied.

"Well, I didn't either." Mario chuckled. His laugh turned into a sharp cough, and a grimace crossed his face. "Mama mia, nothing seems to hurt that thing," he said.

Fox hummed in agreement. A brief silence passed between them.

"So?"

Fox glanced at Mario. "So?" he said, confused.

"Got any attack strategies for us, brilliant leader?" Mario replied. "You wanted to be in charge. Now, what are we supposed to do?"

This time, Fox growled. His tail flicked in annoyance, but he didn't comment. "It keeps changing its tactics too fast to keep up with. Maybe once we get a good look at what it can and can't do, I can tell you."

"Good luck with that," the plumber scoffed. "This thing's got more shapes than a geometry book. By the time we figure all that out, we'll be dead."

Fox wanted to argue, but he found himself agreeing with that point. "Alright then. If the gemstone we're protecting really has some kind of magic power behind it, we could try to use that power to destroy... whatever this is. That good enough for you?"

They were interrupted by a red shape crashing into the wall over their heads. Another explosion rang out from the other side. The thing was distracted, it seemed. In a split-second decision, Fox decided to go for the gemstone.

He broke into the space cleared out from the fight just as Link deflected a beam of energy with his mirror shield. As Link lowered his shield to hit back, the thing's red armor curled up, transforming it into a giant white sphere. Like most of the thing's other attempts to attack, it swung itself at him. He leaped back with his shield held facing it, but instead of crashing into the ground, its path arched up and struck his shield dead-center. The force behind the strike was powerful enough to send him out of the clearing again, but the thing barely had a moment to itself before Pikachu returned, sending bolts of lightning through the air. The thing split open as Pikachu darted across the floor, and a grapple resembling a tongue shot out, missing the electric mouse by inches.

Fox ignored the chaos going on behind him, crossing to the center of the room in seconds. The container the gemstone was held in had been left untouched. Fox thought that a little convenient, but he didn't have time to think about things like that. He pressed a button at the base of the perch, and the barriers around it fizzled out of existence.

Reaching inside, Fox grabbed the gemstone and spun around to face the thing. The scene before him was none different to the one he had seen moments before; the thing was still trying to grab Pikachu, flailing its grapple about in an attempt to snare him. Acting on a whim, he held out the gemstone before him, pointing it straight at the thing.

He expected a beam of magical energy to shoot out, piercing right through the thing's shell, leaving a smoldering hole in its wake. He expected some grand display of mystical power to burst forth and solve all their problems. He expected something, anything to happen.

To his disappointment, nothing happened.

As he tried to figure out what was wrong, Samus stumbled out from behind a burning heap of wood. Her armor was dented in multiple places. Her helmet was cracked, and she was slightly slumped over, low on energy. Despite that, she tried to fight on, holding her cannon in her free hand as she discharged yet another missile. As it had done before, the thing changed into its reflector form. The missile bounced off like it was made of rubber; a fruitless effort. What was different this time was that Pikachu saw this coming, and rolled under the reflected missile, turning the motion into an attack as he launched a thunderbolt right out of it.

White goo splattered on the floor. The bolt had run over the thing's top, and a piece of it had torn off. Even Pikachu seemed surprised, freezing in place to nervously eye the quivering gel on the ground. The thing brought up its shield form, but that didn't seem to erase the damage. One of its shields was missing half its face.

This new chip in its armor seemed to enrage it. If the thing had held the upper hand before, now it seemed intent on destroying them. The shields quickly disappeared; a moment of weakness, apparently. The cannon was brought back to the forefront, and it let loose a stream of destruction, obliterating a number of crates as it swept overhead.

Burning scraps of wood rained down on Fox, and he cursed as he moved to avoid being hit. Seeing no other option, he rushed the thing as it continued its rampage. It came within reach in a few short strides. He swung at it, intent on striking it with the gemstone.

Crack!

The sound of the impact echoed through the chamber. Time stopped. Everything else slowed to a crawl. The thing remained still for the longest time. Fox dared hope that the gemstone had done something. Maybe its magic had frozen the thing in place.

Then, the gemstone broke.

Countless shards scattered out from beneath his palm, tinkling like pieces of glass. Fox barely managed to stay on his feet as he hit the floor. Bits of the gemstone crunched underfoot. Slowly, he rose again, unsure of what had happened.

Some magic artifact, he thought.

Then he remembered where he was. The shadow above him moved, and he dove forward in turn. He felt something brush the fur on the back of his head; the thing, no doubt.

The thing missed Fox by a hair, spinning it its plain, spherical form. It continued with its swing, however, knocking down a few more crates in its path. As luck would have it, with the tower before it now a few crates shorter, it would be impossible to miss the trembling pink ball hiding behind it.

When the fighting first broke out, Jigglypuff had taken refuge behind a stack of crates near the edge. Now, with all the other crates destroyed, she was left to face the thing alone.

Seeing the defenseless Jigglypuff before it, most would have left her alone. The thing, however, seemed to feel no mercy. It reared back for another strike, and Jigglypuff braced herself. Somewhere on the other side, Pikachu let out a distressed squeal.

Just moments before it could land the hit, Mario jumped in. He pushed Jigglypuff out of the way and took the blow himself. With a cry, he flew away, bouncing over the cold floor, and coming to a stop at the end of the room.

He was dazed, disoriented with the world around him. The thing had hit him hard. By the time his vision cleared, the thing was already upon him, looming over for the finishing blow.

The air crackled and popped. Something cracked behind them, and then Pikachu was there. He shot through the air, a missile on his own, and knocked the thing away from Mario with a skull bash.

The thing spun into the air, reeling from the hit. As they slowed, Pikachu attempted to jump away before it could retaliate.

The thing's rounded surface offered no solid place to push his paws off of, and he slipped instead. He stumbled when he hit the ground. Before he could get any further, a grapple shot out of the thing and latched onto his back paw.

He tried to pull away. The thing pulled harder. It dragged him towards a hole in its shell as he struggled. The others moved in to stop it, but in his panic Pikachu let out wave after wave of electricity, preventing any of them from getting close.

The shockwaves washed over the thing, rolling over its smooth spherical form. Each attack seemed to be a fruitless effort. Pikachu only struck harder, letting out bolts of electricity in every direction. The thunderbolts struck the walls, the burning remains of boxes, the lamps hanging above.

The lights began to flicker rapidly. In the dark, the sounds of lightning striking the room and paws scrabbling against the floor was made clearer as Pikachu tried to escape its grasp. No one knew what to do; they could only watch as the thing reeled Pikachu closer to its gaping maw.

Then, the sounds stopped. With one final cry, the thing engulfed Pikachu. A tiny spark slipped out, fluttering in the air before it snuffed out.

Link gave a battle cry and ran at the thing. He swung his sword right down the middle, but the thing floated away. He gave chase, but it was too fast. It zipped away, bobbing over the flaming rubble, and disappeared out the door.

Link whirled back to face the others. "We can't let it get away!" he said, frustration clear in his voice.

"And we won't," Fox replied. "As soon as we-"

Mario cut him off. "Hey kid, your sword's getting real bright. Is that normal?"

Everyone looked down to Link's sword. As Mario had said, it was shining a brilliant white.

"That's weird," Link said. His brows drew down. "That thing is gone now. It shouldn't be getting brighter unless…"

A loud sound resounded through the empty room. The group was instantly on guard. Through the flames, someone emerged from the same doors the thing left through. As they stepped closer, the team caught sight of a familiar yellow cap.

"Mama mia," Wario drawled, clapping slowly. "I really like what you've done with this place, I really do."

Chapter Text

Internally, Fox groaned, but he forced himself to stand straighter. It seemed the universe wasn't finished throwing things at them just yet.

Wario stood by the door, a smug grin spread across his face. "What, nothing to say? Have I left you speechless? I know I look good, but-"

"Why are you here?" Mario said, pointing a flaming palm in his direction.

Wario chuckled. "I thought you, of all people would know, Mario. Once I get my hands on something, I never let go." He paused. Then, his smile took on a malicious glint. "We're here to finish what we started."

Footsteps came from the doorway. The team, already worn by their encounter with... whatever that thing was, could barely stand together, but they turned to face it anyway.

The sniveling face of Waluigi was the first to peek through after his brother. As he stepped in line beside Wario, Krusha entered with a toothy smile. Wolf followed, accompanied by the three space pirates.

The two teams stood face to face under the flickering lights, one side utterly spent, the other eager for a taste of blood. Fox's finger itched to pull the trigger, but a single disturbance could descend everything into chaos.

His green eyes scanned over each of the members of the enemy team, counting them in his head.

"Alright," he whispered, "we're outnumbered. There are eight of them and seven of-"

He heard a zipper. Fox looked to his right just in time to see Link's backpack close by itself and Link readjust the strap on his shoulder.

"Okay, six of us, but we can still do this as long as we stick-"

Krusha opened his maw, flashing his pearly white teeth and shook the room with a roar. He charged, the shadows below swaying with his every step. Link only had time to raise his mirror shield before the Kremling grabbed the edge of it.

Krusha dragged Link across the ground. Samus stepped forward, her cannon charged. Before she could fire, Krusha slammed Link into her. She crashed into a pile of wood, and Link flew in a different direction.

Donkey Kong grunted angrily. Cracks spread across the floor with the force of his jump, and he lunged for the Kremling. A burst of electricity hit his bare chest mid-air. The force knocked him back, and the three space pirates ran forward.

One of the pirates dropped a small, round object. It clicked, and smoke poured out from it, filling the room in a matter of seconds.

The rolling, dark clouds obscured Fox's vision, a blanket hanging over his face. He cursed, waving his hand before his face as if to brush it away. The smoke in front of him parted but more just poured out in its place.

A footstep echoed to his left. He swung his blaster, causing the smoke to pull back like the tide. A thick grey screen was all he saw.

Then, a flash of yellow rushing into his vision. Fox immediately started firing. The smoke lit up with streaks of red. They all bounced harmlessly off thick skin as Wario came charging in.

The yellow-capped man lashed out. His shoulder dug into Fox's stomach. Fox gritted his teeth to hold back a gasp of pain. He raised his arms and caught Wario's foot as it flicked out.

The sole of his shoe crashed into Fox's gloves. His arms buckled an inch, but they held strong. Fox threw his arms apart, twisting Wario's foot to the side. His arm thrust forward. He felt a satisfying squish under his fingers, and Wario staggered back, clutching his nose.

With space between them, both of them took a moment to breathe.

"Fox McCloud," Wario hissed, his voice pitched from the hand pressed to his face. "I've heard many things about you. Your friend Wolf was very detailed."

"Sorry I can't say the same," Fox replied. "Mario's been very tight-lipped about his foes."

"Poor you." Wario's mustache lifted in an ugly sneer.

"So, you're the leader of this little strike force."

The pudgy man tsked, shaking his head. "As much as I hate to admit, I'm not in charge here. Wolf leads these attacks, not me."

His fingers opened up, revealing a bomb in his hands. His arms a blur, Wario hurled the bomb at Fox. He barely had time to bat it away with his reflector before Wario tackled him to the ground.

Fox's arm smashed into Wario's face, and his reflector stuttered. A jolt of electricity clawed into Wario. He jumped off with a yowl, and Fox flipped away, holding his blaster in front of him.

Wario tore away the sparks clouding his charred face, lighting up his hands with electricity. Fox fired his blaster, and the air became alive with red lasers. Wario ducked under his shots and lunged again. Fox brought his arms to block it. Wario's meaty fists sparked with the contact, and electricity arched over Fox's gloves.

Fox pushed Wario away. His arms stung, burning from the attack.

"What's this?" he said, brushing his arms to extinguish the sparks still clinging to his fur.

"Electric, isn't it?" Wario flexed, and electricity flared to life in his arms. "How do you like me now?"

Cackling, Wario charged at him, leaving a thrashing electric trail in his footsteps. Instead of blocking, Fox jumped over. He held his reflector close to him, and the sparks leaping off Wario were canceled out by it.

Wario whirled around, snarling in frustration. Fox spun to face him, pulling something out of his jacket. Sparks leaping off his body in every direction, Wario ran at him again.

Fox clenched his hands into fists. His fingers closed around a small capsule surrounded by orange rings. He took a deep breath. A click rang out, and the air around him burst into flames. Then he jumped, and the flames swept over him, thrusting him forward. Fire and electricity met head-on, going off in a huge explosion.


Ribbons of orange curled out through gloved fingers. Mario squeezed tighter. The barrel of the gun melted in his hands. The space pirate commando on the other end hissed and threw its weapon aside. Its gauntlets buzzed angrily, and an energy scythe popped out. The space pirate swung it wildly. Its strikes were clumsy, and Mario easily stayed beyond its reach.

He hurled a fireball at its chest as it slashed. The space pirate commando stumbled back when it hit. Mario was on it in an instant, and his foot slammed into its exposed stomach. The smoke engulfed the space pirate commando as it flew away, leaving Mario alone in the smog.

The moment his opponent disappeared, Mario sprinted in the opposite direction. The smokescreen parted for him as he ran. He was able to see just a few feet from his face, but it wasn't enough.

He needed to find Donkey Kong and Yoshi and get out as fast as they could. There was nothing for them here anymore; this whole idea had fallen through. They needed to leave before things could get worse.

A loud clang stopped him in his tracks. Mario spun to his left and ran towards the sound. The smoke obstructed his vision, so he had no idea where he was going. He could only hope the sound led him to one of his friends.

As he burst through the edge of the smokescreen, a green blur passed inches in front of his face. In the haze of grey and red, he could just make out Samus flailing around with a weight grappled on to her helmet.

Mario may have wanted to get out, but he couldn't leave someone to struggle on their own. The smoke pulled back as he leaped into the air. His foot swung forward, connecting with something solid. Wolf tumbled away, gracefully landing on his feet.

Mario fell into a fighting stance. Beside him, Samus straightened herself, aiming her cannon down at Wolf. Her armor was torn open in multiple places, revealing sparking wires underneath. She leaned more on one leg as she stood, her other leg slashed and dented all the way down.

Wolf frowned as he slid back. Then his eyes landed on Mario, and his lips pulled back in a vicious growl.

"Mario," he growled.

"You know who I am?"

"Hard not to."

Mario could guess why. He turned to Samus. "You alright?"

"Could be better," she replied, as brief as ever.

Mario nodded and set his gaze back to their opponent.

"It seems our little surprise did quite the number on you," Wolf said, a sneer on his face.

"Well," Mario said, narrowing his eyes, "you should know that the gemstone you came for; it's gone. It broke during the fight."

"Oh, we're not here for that. We're just here to clean up the mess."

With that, he lunged for them, blowing the smoke back. His claws extended, leaving glowing purple trails as they arched down. Samus and Mario jumped away, and Wolf etched deep scars into the floor.

Samus's canon clicked, and a missile sped out of the barrel. Wolf ducked. It sailed over his head. The missile streaked towards Mario, but he caught it mid-air. He spun on his heel and hurled it back at Wolf. Not expecting it to return, the missile caught him in the chest.

The resulting explosion tossed Wolf right into Samus's grapple beam. The bounty hunter swung her arm downward. The grapple beam whistled through the air, and Wolf crashed into the ground with a resounding crack. The impact kicked up clouds of dust. With a pained grunt, Wolf lifted his face off the ground, only to receive a leather shoe to the chin.

Wolf sailed through the air, coming back to the ground and hitting the concrete with an unceremonious thud. He rolled away to avoid a follow-up kick, and he scrambled to his feet.

"You're good," he said, flicking off a trail of blood under his nose, "but I'm better."

"Better? I've seen wet spaghetti noodles fight better than you."

"I haven't begun to get-" He stopped.

Mario and Samus tensed. Something was going to happen. Any second, he would attack. But he didn't attack.

Instead, Wolf stood up, drawing his claws to his side in a graceful motion. A predatory grin revealed his razor-sharp teeth as he slipped his blaster back into its holster. He stepped back into the writhing smoke slowly. As the coiling dark clouds swallowed him, the smile never left his face.

Mario's eyes swept the smokescreen, igniting a fireball in his hand. Now he was certain something was up. People didn't step away from a fight without a reason, and Wolf didn't seem scared of them. The smoke wasn't helping, however. It was all he could see as he scanned around him.

A quiet whistle was his only warning. It was only his instinct, honed by years of fighting against the Koopa King, that saved him from the crushing blow from behind. As he leaped away, he spun around and hurled a fireball at his attacker. From the missile he saw at the corner of his eye, Samus had the same idea.

Both attacks hit the imposing figure behind them dead-center. Like smoke, it parted around them, going up in a swirl of darkness. Instead of dissipating, however, the dark wisps flew towards Mario. Something in his head told him of an attack from behind, and his foot whirled around in a spinning kick. To his surprise, Mario's kick passed right through the fist inches from his face.

An illusion, he thought.

Then the fingers opened up and wrapped around his throat. The arm attached to it swung around, hurling Mario back into the smoke.

Definitely not an illusion, then.

Chapter Text

Link felt it before he saw it. Even in the middle of combat, it was impossible to miss the burning in his hand. His eyes strayed to his sword. The faint glow it was giving off had only intensified, almost blinding him. An unpleasant feeling crawled up his back, like an unnatural row of scales clawing over him. He shuddered.

That moment of distraction cost him.

He tore his gaze off his sword only to see a scaly blue fist close in. The hit sent him flying through the air. Smoke parted for him as he tumbled over the concrete. He bounced off the floor once, then came to a stop against a smoldering pile of wood.

His head pounded. There was a distant ringing in his ears. Through the dull aching in his head, he saw Donkey Kong fend off the three Space Pirates. With one sweep of his hand, he batted aside the first two coming in to attack him. The third fired off shot after shot, but he blocked his attacks with his other arm as he came charging in.

Just before he could connect, a tennis ball pelted him on the head. Waluigi stepped out from behind a pile of charred embers, a racket in one hand, a tennis ball in the other. He raised them in the air, and with a loud thwack, sent it hurtling towards Donkey Kong. He brought up an arm to block it, only for another tennis ball to swerve around it and hit him on the right side of his chest. Donkey Kong stepped back with a grunt.

Waluigi was on him in an instant, and tennis balls streamed at the ape in an unbroken torrent. The sight might have seemed comical if the assault wasn't so effective, driving Donkey Kong back under a relentless hail.

Then, Yoshi leaped out of the smoke. He swept his tail through Waluigi's feet, knocking him over. Waluigi landed on his hands and pushed himself back up, but an egg exploded in his face, blinding him. As he stumbled around, scraping the glittery contents off his face, Yoshi turned around and extended a hand to Donkey Kong.

He was unprepared when the smoke burst apart and Wario came at him spinning like a top. Dust clouds flew up around him, and he quickly closed in on a startled Yoshi.

Fox intervened, flying into the clearing surrounded by a stream of fire. He landed a solid blow to the side of Wario's head, halting his momentum. As he staggered away, dizzy from his spinning, Fox peppered him with a flurry of kicks, before sending him back into the smog with a foot to the face.

He hit the ground without a sound, and the flames around him vanished. Yoshi and Donkey Kong watched him with a sense of awe, his tail flicking as he looked at the rolling grey clouds. When he turned around, there was concern beneath his arrogant smirk.

"Are you two okay?" he said.

Yoshi nodded, a little dumbfounded. Fox opened his mouth to say more, but Wolf tackled him from the side before he could speak. They tumbled around, and the smoke engulfed them once again.

The ground trembled. In the distance, Link heard the sound of metal crunching. Link glanced over from his place on the ground.

He froze.

A few yards away, he saw Samus. Her armor was spitting out sparks, and there was a huge dent in her chestplate. One of her legs was torn open, spilling wiring into the air. And clutching at her throat was a man he'd only heard stories about from his mentor.

An imposing figure, he even towered over the struggling Samus in his hand. Where Donkey Kong was huge, he was massive, with shoulders as broad as a planet and as tall as a temple. While the ape was more muscular, this man made up for that with his overwhelming presence, from the evil look in his piercing yellow eyes and the wall of armor encasing his entire frame and the dark energy rippling through his arms. Most gripping of all was the white mask over his face. It shielded his emotions from view, giving the man a cold, emotionless stare.

Link knew who the newcomer was, without a doubt.

Ganondorf, the Great King of Evil had arrived.

He had prepared his whole life to face this man, and he was still scared out of his mind. His foe looked indestructible, all-powerful. Even with the body of an adult, he was still just a kid–how could he hope to stand against an unstoppable tidal wave of darkness? Out of all the tales his master shared with him about Ganondorf, none of them could have prepared him for the reality of it all.

Then his eyes traced up his arm, back to Samus. She thrashed in his iron-clad grip. Her hands beat against the Gerudo King. Ganondorf watched her struggle, his mask only giving her a blank stare. And Link?

He felt a surge of anger like never before. Dragging himself to his feet, Link pulled his sword out in front of him, the blessed steel of the Master Sword glinting in the failing lamps. He gave a battle cry. Ganondorf's eyes snapped on to him, and he charged.

His heart slammed in his chest with every step he took. The fights around him were nothing but a blur. The concrete floor passed with each stride. He couldn't be more terrified than he was, running towards the Great King of Evil. His breathing came out in ragged gasps, the hilt of his sword becoming slick in his sweaty palms. Even landing a scratch on Ganondorf was an impossible task.

There was no hesitation in him as he swung his sword. A hoarse scream escaped his lips as the blade arched down.

In an instant, he found the dangling body of Samus inches from his face. His blade halted mere seconds away from cutting into her. Ganondorf didn't even spare them a glance as he hurled the bounty hunter into him, sending them both crashing into a wall.

Samus and Link lay on top of one another, slumped against the wall, a tangled mess of limbs. They barely had a second to catch their breath before Ganondorf was upon them. An armored hand streaked towards them, whistling in the air. It crashed into where they had been moments ago, and the wall caved in a storm of dust. Link and Samus already had their weapons aimed down at Ganondorf as he pulled his fist out from beside the electrical generator stuck to the wall.

The moment his hand was free, Ganondorf locked on to Link. A second swing brushed against the tip of his nose as he attacked again, Link only just managing to avoid breaking his nose against it. He didn't see the third strike until it had already crushed his stomach.

Link doubled over. Pain flared from the hit, and his mouth felt dry as his breath was forced out of him. As his knee hit the floor, he attempted to recover his senses. Ganondorf wasn't about to give him the chance. Volatile dark magic flared up from his fist, crackling with energy as he reared it back to finish him.

Only, when he tried to follow through, it wouldn't budge. Ganondorf's eyes looked back. A blue grapple was fastened to his arm, Samus on the other end holding it down. He tugged again, stronger this time. Samus's feet dug into the concrete, refusing to move. A silent fury blazed in his yellow eyes. He twisted his hand around the grapple beam, and the cord holding it together disintegrated in his fingers, dark magic streaming out between them.

He lurched forward. His gaze fell to his chest to find a glowing white blade protruding between the plates of armor. Behind him, Link held the hilt of the Master Sword to his back. In the second he was distracted, Link had run him through.

Ganondorf's mouth gaped open, revealing the swimming darkness inside. A sound emerged from him, the first he'd made; it was an inhuman screech, tearing through both Samus and Link's ears. They instantly stepped back, clutching their ears as Ganondorf crumpled, hissing and shrieking.

Golden flecks appeared on his skin. They flickered and danced, like the yellow pupils in his mask. Ganondorf wailed as his skin curled and crinkled, tearing his form apart. Both of them found themselves unable to tear their eyes away from Ganondorf as he lay writhing on the ground, his skin peeling away, disappearing into twirling ribbons of shadows until all that was left was a black smudge on the ground. At last, the glow faded from his sword.

They stood together, staring at where the thing had been moments prior. No one spoke. No one even knew what just happened.

"Who was that?" Samus finally said, throwing her arms out to the darkness splattered on the floor.

"Ganondorf," Link said. His voice wavered even as he spoke. "Or, I thought it was Ganondorf."

"So it's not Ganondorf? What–Why–How?"

"It's just a phantom. They're made of dark magic, and they dissolve into dark magic. This one, though... only Ganondorf's shadow could be that powerful."

Samus fell back into silence. Link couldn't blame her. Magic creatures were hard to wrap one's head around, especially since magic was rarely discussed within the Galactic Federation.

Samus let out a long sigh and leaned back against the wall. As her armor scraped against the bunker, Link realized that the room had fallen into an eerie silence.

"Hey Samus."

"Hm?"

"Where is everyone else?"

Samus stiffened. She glanced up at him, regarding him with her green visor. Now that she thought about it, where had everyone else gone? The rolling clouds of smoke isolated them from the others, so they could be the last ones alive for all she knew.

"Let me check the cameras."

A few wires sticking out of her chest sparked in protest, but she forced the suit to bend to her will. Several screens popped up on her cracked visor, feeds from the various cameras around the building.

Samus hissed.

"What?" Link said, noticing her sudden change in demeanor

"It's not good."

To their left, Wolf had Fox pinned to the wall, his claws held back to strike. Fox clawed at his hands, and Wolf watched with a malicious smirk.

On the other side of the room, Mario and Yoshi stood guard in front of an unconscious Donkey Kong slumped against the wall, their fists raised. Wario, Waluigi, and Krusha loomed menacingly over, closing in.

As for her and Link-

The screens on her visor sputtered, going out in a sheet of static. Samus cursed, and she tapped the side of her helmet in an attempt to bring it back.

"Energy's low," she muttered to herself. "I can't keep this suit up for much longer."

"Look out!"

Samus instantly whirled around, swinging her arm cannon. The heavy machinery crashed into the skull of an oncoming space pirate with a crack. As the space pirate crumpled, Samus reversed her swung just in time to fire at the space pirate behind him.

The rounded shape of the power bomb latched on to the space pirate dead-on. It gave a garbled hiss, frantically swiping at the bomb on his chest. Samus lashed out with an armored heel without missing a beat. She connected a solid it, and the space pirate stumbled back just before the bomb went off, and the reptilian creature exploded into a splatter of green blood.

Samus stared at the fallen body at her feet, and the quivering pieces of flesh scattered on the ground. Her shoulders heaved, and her arm cannon fell to the floor. The space pirates attacking her were either dead or unconscious, and she relaxed.

A blow to her side caught her off guard as the third and final space pirate rushed her down.

With the energy reserves in her power suit already dipping low, she had almost no strength left to fight back. The space pirate slammed her helmet into a wall, and it tolled like a bell. Samus almost buckled there, barely managing to grasp the wall. The space pirate was on to her the moment after, and her head snapped to the side as it struck her on the cheek. She weakly pawed at the space pirate commando, but her digits slid off slanted metal plates.

Helpless to do anything, she was left at the space pirate's mercy as it hammered away at her armor. At such close quarters, the energy scythe would be unwieldy, so it slammed its clawed hands into her over and over again. An alarm blared inside her suit as her energy reserves took a dive. It struck her head, her chest, her stomach, as her arms flailed in an attempt to dislodge her attacker. She had no hope of winning. Yet she refused to give in.

Then, the space pirate squeaked. Its arms stopped inches from Samus's face, held back by a chain embedded into its shoulder. Link stood behind it, his hookshot extended. With a roar, he tore the space pirate off Samus. The space pirate shrieked as it hurtled through the air. Link flung the reptilian creature into the nearby power generator, and the space pirate commando crashed into it in a burst of sparks.

The metal casing of the generator folded around the space pirate. Electricity surged out of it and into the new weight pressed against it. The space pirate opened its maw to scream. A distorted gurgle was all it could make as white sparks of electric energy dug into its flesh, frying the reptile to a crisp.

Above them, the lights flashed violently. The shadows in the smokescreen flitted about from the dying light. As the generator coughed out one last burst of white, the lights finally faded into black. The bunker was plunged into darkness.

Pitch black surrounded Samus on all sides. The rubble strewn about the battlefield vanished in an instant. If it weren't for the floor beneath her feet, she might have believed that she had fallen into the abyss.

With the flick of a switch, Samus activated her x-ray scope, and her surroundings revealed themselves to her. Mounds of burning wood appeared before her, outlined in vibrant hues of pink and blue. Through the stacks of crates obstructing her path, she could see the outlines of everyone else. On the left side of the room, she saw Fox, still pinned to the wall by Wolf. On the other side, she could see Mario and Yoshi standing in front of Donkey Kong, surrounded by Wario, Waluigi, and Krusha, all of whom were glancing around in confusion. And a few paces away, she could see the distinct figure of Link, one end of the hookshot in his hands. The other was plugged into the generator.

Hauling the unconscious space pirate at her feet into her arms, she staggered over to Link. Slowly, she placed a hand on his shoulder. He stiffened at the contact. When he recognized her, he lowered his guard.

"Samus?" he whispered.

She nodded, then realized he couldn't see her in the dark.

"Yes," she said back. When he showed no reaction, she realized that the microphone in her helmet was disabled. With her power levels so low, she had to re-route all of it into her x-ray scope.

She sighed, and a quiet breath escaped through her vents. She reached up to the side of her helmet and turned, pulling her visor up an inch before she repeated herself.

His shoulders fell, and he let out a relaxed exhale. Now that she was no longer worried that he would attack, Samus stepped closer to him. When she was close enough, she unloaded the unconscious space pirate into his arms. He opened his mouth to protest. She stopped him, putting a hand to his mouth.

"We need to get out of here," she said.

"Right," Link said with a nod. He shrugged the space pirate over his shoulders, but as he did so, she saw him hesitate. "What about the others?"

"The others?" Samus shrugged. "What about them?"

Link frowned. He tried to glare at her. It came out as more of a childish pout. "You said they were in trouble."

"My exact words were: It's not good."

"That's not the point!" Link stopped hit foot, jostling the body slung over his shoulders.

Samus sighed, leaning more on her less wounded leg. "Kid, a bounty hunter only looks out for themselves. If the bad guy gets in my way, I'll take them down, but it's always better to just take what you can and get out."

"Well, if the others die, who do you think these 'darkness henchmen' are going to come after next? They know who we are."

Behind her visor, Samus's eyes narrowed. "My microphone is down," she said. Link's face brightened.

"Then it's a good thing I've got this," he said, pulling a tiny piece out of a pouch on his belt.

Samus tilted her head. She peered at the thing between his fingers. It took her a moment to recognize it as one of the earpieces Fox handed out to all of them earlier.

"Alright, kid. But you're doing the talking."

Chapter Text

Clouds drifted over an orange sky outside the window as the sunlight stretched over the vast sea beneath them. At the bridge, Captain Vul, a large, brown bird in a captain's outfit, watched the Meta Knights on the deck below scramble around, tiny shapes on the ship running between the massive cannons strapped to it.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly, with the Halberd cruising over the Orange Ocean at a leisurely crawl. Blue eyes glanced at the screens on the console beside him. The engine was pumping at a steady pace, the fuel tank still had enough to keep them flying for the rest of the month, and no problems had come up with the cannons so far. The ship, down to the smallest bolt, was fine. For once, they weren't being bowled over by a certain pink puffball or being attacked by a giant rainbow-colored bird. Captain Vul smiled as he brought a mug to his beak, taking a long sip as he relished the rare moment of peace.

A Waddle Dee with a sailor hat burst through the door in the middle of Captain Vul's drink, shattering the brief calm. Captain Vul sighed as he turned to face the Waddle Dee, and he put his cup down on the windowsill.

"Captain!"

"What is it, Sailor Waddle Dee?" he asked, keeping his face flat.

"You remember that group of mercenaries the boss kept on board for Master Hand? We're receiving a transmission from them."

Captain Vul perked up at this, straightening his feathers as his shoulders rose. "You think they got them? The dragon cultists?"

"I can't say, sir."

Tearing his gaze from Sailor Waddle Dee, Captain Vul turned to the Meta Knights stationed around the bridge. To his irritation, he noticed that the commotion had all their eyes on him. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he barked. "Patch them through!"

"Yes sir," they replied in unison, and they hastily forced their attention back on the computers scattered about. A Capsule J, a blue creature with a green visor over his face, fiddled with the communications console to the left wall. The speakers on it gave a low buzz, before the Capsule J turned a red knob, cutting it off with a click. A second passed, and a video feed flickered to life over the large glass window at the front of the bridge, the face of Fox McCloud on display.

"McCloud," Captain Vul said, taking the mug into his hand. "How has your mission gone?"

"Very badly," Fox said. The voice that came over the video was low in quality, riddled with static. Past the loud crackling and hissing, Captain Vul could hear the faint sounds of blaster fire.

"I see." Captain Vul frowned, and all traces of his relaxed mood vanished, replaced with a stern expression.

"We're being chased, and we need somewhere to dock for a little while. We also have an urgent message for Meta Knight, so we have to come aboard."

"You can stay here for the time being. As for Meta Knight..." Captain Vul's eyes fell to a clock on one of the consoles before him. "He's in a meeting with the Council of Fe. I'm afraid you'll have to wait an hour if you want to get in contact."

"That's fine. Just let us land. We should be approaching soon."

"We'll let you board." Captain Vul nodded to the Capsule J, business finished.

As soon as the video cut off, his sharp eyes spotted three tiny specks in the distance. Ships, no doubt. They neared in a matter of seconds, and Captain Vul was able to make out a more detailed outline from the three ships. Two of them were sleek and triangular in design, with four wings branching off the hull. The one in the front had blue wings, while the one in the back had red. The third ship was bulkier, padded with bright red metal. He recognized the blue-winged ship and the bulky red one, so the last one must have been their pursuer.

Glued to his place at the bridge, he leaned down to another one of the Meta Knights, a Waddle Dee. "Order the cannons to fire on the ship with red wings."

The Waddle Dee replied with a nod, before turning to the console before him. Confident that he would get the job done, Captain Vul turned his attention back to the three ships in the sky.

As he watched them grow closer, the assortment of creatures below started scrambling around more frantically. The large cannons mounted to the ship moved slowly, taking a few moments to align themselves in the right direction. The Halberd's weapons were by no means fast, as much as it frustrated Captain Vul to admit. They did have much lighter guns on the ship, but those lacked the range they needed right now.

Where the Halberd's cannons lacked in speed, however, they made up for in power, and when the cannons were locked on, the air, calm and quiet moments before, rumbled as they discharged with a resounding boom. Large blasts of energy streaked through the sky, flying past their allies' ships with precision as they hurtled towards the single ship behind them. The ship wove around the sluggish volley with ease, but Captain Vul never intended to hit the tiny ship. As the blue-winged ship and the red gunship drew nearer, their pursuer turned away from them. It would be suicide to go after them, not when they were so close to the Halberd now, and as the third ship flew away, a small smile crossed Captain Vul's beak, satisfied with scaring them off.

The two ships began to lower on to the deck, preparing to land as the cannons moved back to their original positions. With them so near, Captain Vul was able to see how badly damaged both of them were. The blue-winged ship had smoke pouring out of its thrusters, even as the fire coming from it died down, while the bulky red ship was torn open down the side, with fuel dripping out from another wound beneath it. As the Meta Knights on the deck rushed out to the two ships, Captain Vul turned around and headed for the door.

Noticing his departure, Sailor Waddle Dee ran over to catch up with him. "Where are you going, sir?" he asked as he fell in line beside him.

"To greet our guests," he replied, and he pushed open the door, stepping through with a proud strut.


"Well, at least we made it out alive."

After all they'd been through, after the bunker, after their brutal defeat at the hands of the masters of shadows, it seemed a little too convenient that they ended up back where they started; standing around the conference room on the battleship Halberd.

There was a long table in the middle of it now, and chairs were placed on the sides. The first time they had gathered there, the room had been completely dark, the only source of light being the large screen at the head of the room. That was still there, but now the room was much brighter thanks to the windows lining the wall that were closed before, letting in a cascade of orange light. The room felt warm in the soft glow, but the atmosphere couldn't be any colder.

Mario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong huddled together in one corner of the room, the former leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. While the latter two looked uneasy with the tension in the air, Mario never made to speak with any of the others, so neither did they. Donkey Kong sported a black eye, and the fight left little rips and tears all over Mario's blue overalls and a slight singe on his mustache, but aside from that, they just seemed tired.

In the other corner, Link shuffled his feet, clutching Jigglypuff in his arms. The Pokemon didn't seem to mind, a little lost without Pikachu, and when one of Link's hands moved up to stroke her tuft, she leaned into it. Her fur was a little ruffled, and Link had taken off his cap, revealing the frazzled blond hair. His tunic was covered in dust, his belt hung a bit low, but they were spared of any serious wounds.

Samus stood by the door a few feet away, her heavy suit striking an imposing figure against the evening light. It was still badly damaged, cut open across the chest and arms, and a particularly nasty gash ran down her leg. Her visor had cracked during the fight, revealing nothing more than a single blue eye behind it. The rest of her face was unreadable, hidden from view. And at the front, Fox glanced between the seven of them, an awkward smile on his face as he tried to bring them together again.

His words hung over them for a few seconds. It did little to reduce the hostility in the air, and no one gave a reply. The room remained quiet, leaving Fox alone. In the corner, Jigglypuff sneezed. No one paid her any heed, all eyes on Fox. His tail twitched, but he refused to buckle under their gaze. His team had never turned against him like this. Maybe he was misreading the atmosphere.

Finally, Mario stepped off the wall, tired of all the silence. "You know what? No," he said with a growl. "We just had the fight of our lives. You can't just act like everything is okay."

"If you all just listened to me and worked together, we could have avoided this."

"Oh sure." Mario rolled his eyes. "Like you could've seen whatever that was showing up on our doorstep, or figured out how to beat it, Caesar." He turned to Donkey Kong and Yoshi behind him, and asked, "Right guys?"

Donkey Kong and Yoshi exchanged hesitant glances. Neither one seemed eager to agree, Donkey Kong giving a concerned frown, but in the end, they both nodded.

Fox sputtered. "Well, you didn't try, either! You just kept throwing random attacks at it."

Mario shrugged, uncaring. "It was fine before. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, my mama always said."

"Not when that thing could take whatever you threw at it and throw it right back." Fox paused, and he frowned as he considered his words. "What was up with that, anyway? It's obviously a bio-weapon if my battles against Andross are anything to go by, but that thing had the same weapons and attacks as us."

"Seems like whoever made it had us in mind."

"Yeah, that's possible. But at the beginning of the fight, it only used a small portion of its powers. We didn't see the other half until much later."

"Didn't we?"

"Yeah. It must be copying all our powers, much easier to do than making something like that just has all those powers."

"All our powers, specifically."

Fox turned to Mario. "What are you saying?"

Noticing Fox's confusion, Mario rolled his eyes again. "Ya don't get it? You think ancient magic rocks would break so easily? We've been set up."

"Set up?"

"Yeah, you got pasta in your ears?"

Fox's frown deepened further. "No, I heard you. They brought us together to hunt down each of our enemies, then set us up to take our powers." A realization hit him, and his eyes widened. "Only, it didn't just take our powers. They also took Pikachu, probably to power the thing. Using so many powers must take a lot of energy, so they needed a battery."

"So we know what they did, and how they did it. Now Wario and his pals have got some kind of bio-super-weapon, so we, being the kind citizens we are, have to stop 'em."

"But how did they get such a powerful bio-weapon?"

Mario threw his hands up in frustration. "Do we need to be having this conversation? So what if another bad guy is pulling the strings? We know who's on the team, so beating him is going to be simple as waiting for them to pull their big, money-making heist, asking them where he lives, and blowing up the place."

"You said it yourself; the gemstones were a set-up. We don't even know if making money is still their goal. If we knew who was leading them, we could try asking Master Hand to track him down, but we don't, so we're stuck here."

"I know who it is."

Fox and Mario froze. Link, who had been quiet ever since they'd landed on the Halberd, stepped out of the shadows. As he moved forward, he gently placed Jigglypuff down beside him. She quickly hid behind his legs. Link barely noticed, sweeping his eyes over both Mario and Fox. Even with his displaced hair and dusty tunic, he tried to stand tall, not a very hard thing to do when the only person taller than him in the room was Samus. Fox didn't miss him wringing his hands behind his back, but he didn't point it out.

"You do?" he asked instead.

Link immediately wilted. "Well, I've got a very good suspicion. It might be who I think it is, but it just seems so unlikely."

"What do you mean?"

"He doesn't usually work with anyone else." Link hesitated. "At least, anyone else he doesn't have complete control over or brainwashed."

"And how can you make sure this is what we're up against?"

"I need to get to the Capital and make sure he hasn't escaped, which isn't going to be easy, because..."

"The Capital isn't letting any public transport ships in."

Link nodded, and the room fell back into an awkward silence. Fox deflated, and he stepped back. So much for that lead.

Link must have seen his disappointed face, and he reached out to say something to him. His mouth opened, but he couldn't find the right words to say, so it snapped shut again. Mario moved back to the corner with Donkey Kong and Yoshi. They were stuck, and no one knew what to do.

Then, Samus finally stepped forth. "Hey kid," she said, and Link looked over his shoulder to meet her eyes.

"Huh? What is it?"

"About that ride I owe you..."

Chapter Text

"I thought we were going to the Capital?"

Samus gave Link a sideways look, and an eyebrow went up.

"My ship is still being repaired," she said. "We're not going anywhere, so I'm doing the next best thing."

"Which is?"

"I'm putting you in contact."

In front of them, Captain Vul emerged from the room right in front of them. The pair stood straighter as he swept his gaze over them, and he straightened his own coat.

"I've set up the call," he said, "but you're going to have to put the access codes yourself."

Samus nodded. Noticing Link's confused expression, she whispered, "Stay here. I'll get you your talk with Ganondorf."

Captain Vul pulled the door open for Samus, and she walked through. As she stepped under the door, the door clicked shut behind her with a hollow metal sound. Left alone, Link shuffled his feet, his weapons rustling as he moved. Captain Vul watched him with some interest. Maybe it was innocent curiosity, but it unnerved Link nonetheless. He avoided the captain's eyes, finding an interest in the dent on the metal walls out of nowhere.

Minutes ticked by. Link stood in silence, his eyes on the floor. With each second Samus stayed locked in that room, he grew more worried. A doubt crossed his mind; what if she wasn't able to patch him through? Was that why she was taking so long?

He didn't have to worry. A knock came from behind the door, resounding through the hall. Captain Vul opened the door again, and Samus stepped out from within. Her eyes met Link's, and she nodded as she took her place beside him on the wall. He shrugged off his backpack, gently placing it on the floor beside him as he pushed himself toward the door.

"Are you sure you want to do this alone?" she said as he moved past her.

"I'm sure. This is my responsibility."

"Alright." Samus looked hesitant, but she didn't protest as he slipped through the waiting door. He glanced over his shoulder as the door swung closed behind him, catching one last look at Samus, before it snapped shut, leaving him by himself.

The room was completely empty, not to mention dark. A lamp hanging from the ceiling cast a spotlight on the floor. Even though the room was sealed off, he couldn't help but feel at the center of attention.

Of course, there was also the screen embedded in the wall beside him. It glowed brightly in the gloom, and Link had to blink a few times to let his eyes get adjusted. When they finally did, he found himself face to face with none other than Ganondorf himself.

Easily recognizable by the dark skin and the garments that braided his fiery red hair; there could be no doubt about it. Through the screen, Link could feel his piercing orange eyes, his fearsome scowl searing his face. He tried to stand a little taller, make himself seem the bigger person. They were separated by a couple of lightyears, and Link still needed to remind himself that Ganondorf couldn't hurt him here.

Or could he?

Link snuffed the thought in an instant. It wasn't fast enough. A faint ticking noise came through the speakers. A clock hung on the wall behind Ganondorf. That was where the sound was coming from. The man's scowl remained engraved to his face like it was some ancient carving in stone. Link steeled himself. His master had faced down this man by himself. He could do the same, right?

A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead. Out of the corner of his eye, he could have sworn he saw movement. Was it just him, or did something seem to flicker behind Ganondorf's eyes? Link snuffed that thought too.

He's imprisoned. He can't do anything. I've got questions and he's going to answer them. Everyone's counting on me.

Ganondorf spoke first. "Like a beacon in the night, you've finally shown your face. I hoped you might have forgotten your age-old enemy. Maybe I would have been able to make a move at last."

Link's mouth turned down. "We'd never forget you, not after all the terrible things you've done."

"You've kept count? I'm touched."

"It's our sworn duty to keep track of all the nasty schemes you've pulled each lifetime just so you can't do it again."

"And here I was, thinking you kept tabs on me as a hobby. Poor me." Ganondorf grinned, a motion that implied all kinds of sinister thoughts. "Also, I do believe you seem a bit young to be playing this game, no? How standards have fallen."

Link growled. "Hey! I'm old enough to fight by myself."

"Yes, yes, I can see that." Ganondorf's eyes trailed up over his shoulder. Link's gaze followed, and to his surprise, he found his hand on the hilt of his sword. His brows drew down, and he pulled his arm back down to his side. "Such a good waste of potential. A young man such as yourself should be working the fields, not running around playing hero."

The words seemed to snap Link back to Ganondorf. "Well, that's not how I was raised," he replied. "Young men like me have more important things to do than farming."

"Of course not. Before your time, people your age threw themselves into more respectable work. Nowadays, all you care about is drowning yourself in a bottle at parties. Is that why you're here, then? As some childish dare?"

Internally, Link sighed in relief. Without the Master Sword aging him up, he was barely more than a child. That Ganondorf couldn't tell spoke loudly.

"I came to talk." Link leaned closer to the screen, a fire in his eyes. "What are you doing, sending people out in space? You aren't after the Triforce, because it's in Hyrule."

Ganondorf's grin stretched wider, revealing even more teeth. "I'd tell you, but if you had any of that sense any of the heroes before you had, you'd already know. My question is this: do you have it, or are you just a young man over his head?"


When Link stepped out of the room, he looked exhausted. A few lines of sweat ran past his face, and he wore a scowl on his face. The expression looked childish on his face. Samus didn't tell him that.

"Well?"

"He's a fake.

"How can you tell?"

"He doesn't know things he should. I'm supposed to share some kind of telepathic link with him, so the real Ganondorf would know things that this one doesn't." He paused. "At least, that's what I've heard."

"You've heard?"

"From my mentor." Link huffed and crossed his arms fixing a firm look at her. He didn't want her continuing that line of questioning.

"What does he know?"

"I don't know. He wouldn't say."

"Then let me have a turn." Samus reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. She didn't miss how Link frowned in disapproval, so she added, "We've faced him before."

"That was just his phantom, his shadow."

"Is there anything different about the real one I should know?"

Link snorted, and for a moment he let a smile show. "He's got a face."

"So no, then."

Samus's footsteps resounded through the hall as she made toward the door again, like a tolling bell. As she passed through, she reached out behind her and closed it. Her visor helped dim the harsh glow of the spotlight, and through the cracks, she could still see the faint glow of the screen on the wall.

The room I'd just entered was barren of furniture, aside from the video feed to my left, and the lamp over my head, swaying on an unsteady cord as the ship crawled through the air. The shadows beneath me grew and shrunk with the spotlight as it moved, leading up to the dark-skinned face plastered on the screen. Ganondorf, as I knew his name to be, stared menacingly at me through the feed, his amber eyes narrowed as a smug grin split his face. He was as imposing, if not more so than his phantom, with a sneering expression strewn over his features, his orange brows drawn down as his teeth shone in a grotesque shimmer-

"Didn't they tell you not to insult the prisoner during interrogation in the military academy?"

Samus blinked. "How much of that was out loud?" she asked.

"I caught the part where you started describing your surroundings. Nothing I couldn't see from here."

"I'm sorry then. I do that." Samus raised her hand to the side of her helmet. She pressed a button on one of the few places her helmet had remained intact, and plates of armor slid back to reveal her face, smooth and unmarred despite the years of battle, and blonde hair flowing into a ponytail tickling between her shoulder blades.

"My name is Samus Aran," she said, her face as stoic as it always was.

"I know who you are, bounty hunter. Hard not to. Although I do find it odd that you're willing to work with his sort. You work for profit, so what has he paid you for this?"

"This is part and parcel of a deal I made with him. He helped me bring in the Space Pirates. I'm helping him with you."

"A shame not everyone who's helped you have had their effort returned, is it not?"

Samus offered no reaction. There could be no doubt here that she had to control this situation. "If I am paid, I always follow through. Not everyone is as just, though."

The grin never left his face, either. "What makes you say that, Ms. Aran?"

"You're incarcerated on the Capital, one of the most secure places in the galaxy. It might have been easy to get you in, with all the prison ships under maintenance. Once they're fixed, though, how do you know your employer won't cut loses and abandon you?"

A twitch from the corner of his mouth; that was the most reaction she'd seen Ganondorf give. He recovered quickly, however, and in turn, he asked, "Abandon me? Like how reptiles abandon their young?"

Samus flinched. She tried to suppress it, but a memory surfaced before she could stop it. A screech–no, a scream–echoed in her mind, and her eyes clenched shut. "No, it wasn't abandonment," she said, more to herself than anything.

Ganondorf must have noticed her drop her stoic face, for his grin, shrinking bit by bit moments before, stretched wider. "Tell me, do you know what a hamster is? Those cute little rodent-creatures that fit in your pocket?"

"I had a friend. He had one."

"Well then, do you know what happens when a mother hamster has too many pups? Too many problems?"

Samus knew what happened. She'd heard of it, something her friend had mentioned in passing. Before the words left his lips, she knew what he would say.

"She eats them. She eats them to give her the strength to feed the rest. And that's what you did, didn't you?"

"N-no..."

"So much easier to simply deal with Mother Brain than to keep it alive. So you let it die, and that gave you the strength to survive. You're only alive today because you let the Baby die."


"He knows too much."

Link, in the middle of using a sleeve to wipe the sweat off his forehead, jumped back in surprise as Samus burst from the door. Even behind her cracked visor, he could see the burning anger behind her one green eye.

Leaning away from her, Link frowned. Something happened in that room, but he chose not to mention that.

"Did you get him to talk?" he asked instead.

"He talked. Just not about anything important."

"Oh."

Footsteps echoed from down the hall. Link's gaze strayed over to his right, and he saw three of the Meta Knights march into a set of doors in the distance.

"Maybe we should ask one of the crew to help us," he said. "They might know a few interrogation tricks you might not."

"I don't trust them."

Link huffed. He didn't complain, though, staring at the door across from them. Behind it lay answers. How they were going to get them, he didn't know, and that frustrated him. The frustration must have shown on his face, because out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the Meta Knights approach, then turn right around and walk away.

Something tapped his foot. He glanced down to find his backpack leaning on his leg, moving. He turned back to Samus, and they exchanged a cautious look before he knelt down to open it. As soon as the flap parted, a pink tuft popped out, and he immediately knew who it was.

Jigglypuff squeezed herself out of the bag, landing with a plop between Link and Samus. She tugged on one of Link's pant legs, pointing towards the door. Her intention was obvious.

"Do you know something we don't?" Link said, leaning closer.

Jigglypuff nodded. From behind her back, she pulled out a pad of paper and a pencil. Under both their watchful gazes, she drew out a big, toothy grin. She glanced up at them again, looking for confirmation. Neither Link nor Samus could understand, but they had an inkling of an idea what she was trying to say.

At their nodding, she began to draw around the floating smile. Four long, gangly limbs appeared around it, and claws drew out from the ends. A thick mane encircled the body, arching away at an angle before it stopped in a bead, pushing out from behind it in a small ponytail. Below it, she wrote a name: Zoroark.

Link peered closer at it, confused. "Zoroark? What's that?"

"Illusion Pokemon," Samus said. Her eyes fell on Jigglypuff. "Is that what we're dealing with?"

Jigglypuff nodded, and once again pointed to the door. Link frowned, hesitation clear on his face, but he tugged the door aside for Jigglypuff. There was really no other option they had left.

Jigglypuff gave him a grateful smile as she passed under him, thanking him for his trust. Still, he couldn't help but feel uneasy once he closed the door behind her, taking her out of sight. Samus was no different from the way her shoulders hunched as he returned to the other side of the hall.

At least, that was before the buzzing started, low and airy, like the sound of an insect loose in the room.

Minutes passed in tense silence before he heard a knock from the door. Link approached it with a bit of hesitation, not sure what he would find on the other side.

When Link opened it to let Jigglypuff back in, she was wearing a smile. It was a small thing, shying just out of his sight. Behind her, he heard a sound coming from the room that might have been whimpering.

"Did you find anything?" He asked as he turned to her, pushing whatever was going on behind him to the back of his mind.

Her only response was to hold up her notepad. An assortment of words was scrawled over the paper. Out of all of them, there was one in the center, written larger than the rest with a circle drawn around it; Neo Star.

Chapter Text

"Ganon-who?" Fox asked.

"Ganondorf. He's the one behind everything, and we know where he's going to strike next."

Fox turned away from Link and looked over to Mario, who was leaning against the door on the opposite wall.

"See?" he said. "We're not just running around in the dark. We have a lead."

"Well good luck with that," Mario replied. He turned around and pulled the door open behind him.

Fox frowned. "Where are you going?"

"I'm leaving."

"You're leaving?" Link stepped forward, a worried look on his face. "But why? I thought you needed to capture Wario. Don't you have to bring him in?"

"Only because I thought he was coming back to the Mushroom Kingdom," Mario said, waving his hand dismissively. "Now that it's clear he's got some other grand scheme on his mind, I think I've stuck around long enough. I've got family back home that's probably wondering what's been taking me so long. Frankly, I've been wondering that as well, since I know he can't hold down the fort for long."

"But you can't leave!" Fox said. "We need to stick together."

"Well consider yourself down three members." Mario stepped through the door, before he threw a glance back at Donkey Kong and Yoshi. "Come on guys. We're going."

Fox turned to them. "You have to help us."

Donkey Kong's eyes flicked over to the open door, then back to him. Yoshi stepped toward the door, but even he looked unsure about leaving.

Seeing a chance, Fox grasped it with both hands. Turning to Mario, he said, "Do you think the four of us can take on the enemy? We need you."

"Well we don't need you," Mario said. "We were doing fine before I let us get dragged into this mess, and we'll do just fine without you. We don't owe you anything."

"You owe it to Pikachu," Link cut in. "If it weren't for him, that thing back there might have killed you."

"Yeah?" Mario's shoulders slumped a bit, but he kept his glare firmly fixed on Fox. "Well, whose responsibility is it for keeping their teammates alive? The team leader. You wanted to be head chef, so now you might as well try acting like one."

With a huff, Mario turned to leave.

"Wait."

Mario stopped. He kept his face turned away, but the fact he'd stopped showed that he was listening. Everyone else's eyes fell on Fox, and Fox's eyes fell to the ground.

"You're right," he said. "It's my responsibility. Just like it was my responsibility to keep my team together after I lost a teammate. I couldn't do it then, and I always felt guilty about it. I guess it's been weighing me down more than I've realized since now that I'm back on a team, I don't think I'd be able to live with myself if I couldn't make this work. I lost a teammate before. I don't want to lose another."

"I won't try to stop you if you want to leave after this is done. No team leader should try to control their teammates, something I think I might have forgotten from spending so much time by myself. But what's happening right now, if we don't stop it, it'll come back to hurt your family and friends. I just need you to trust me to keep you all alive until we finish this."

Silence hung in the air. A shadow passed through the room, a dark cloud in the orange sky. Slowly, Yoshi stepped away from the door, but Mario remained at the doorway, his back still turned to the rest of them, as the setting sun cast his shadow out into the hall. Fox held his breath.

Then, Mario closed the door.

He turned back to Fox, the beginnings of a smile on his face.

"Alright, Fox," he said. "I'll give you your chance to make things right. For us, and for yourself."

"Thank you," Fox replied, his face breaking out into a relieved grin. "I won't let you down!"

Chapter Text

When Meta Knight finally walked in, he looked exhausted. His glowing yellow eyes were dim, and he moved with an unsteady gait as he stumbled through the door. Everyone made sure to give him a wide berth. If he noticed, he didn't say anything.

He scanned the room, meeting each of their gazes one at a time, as everyone waited with bated breath. Maybe it was the lack of sleep getting to him, but letting the tension stew in the room felt oddly cathartic.

"So," he said, "what is it you need to tell me?"

"The gemstones were a ruse to throw us off," Fox said, stepping forward.

Meta Knight blinked. Fox stared back, and behind him, his tail twitched nervously. It took Meta Knight a moment to realize that they expected more of a reaction from him.

"I already know," he said. "The Council of Fe informed me that all five gemstones were hidden away on their planet." Quietly, he added, "It took hours for them to get to the point, but that's what they said."

"Oh," Fox looked a little annoyed. Meta Knight paid him no heed.

With a sweep of his blue cape, he turned to leave. "Well, if that is all you needed to tell me..."

The room fell into an unsettling silence. The long blue cloak covered his back, masking anything that he could do next, and no one was eager to find out for themselves. The only thing they could do was wait.

A second passed. Then another. A dark, formless shape crossed behind their shadows painted to the floor as a cloud drifted behind him. As the time ticked by, the uneasy feeling hanging in the air slowly gave way to an odd sense of awkwardness.

Finally, Link said, "Mister Meta Knight? Are you-"

Meta Knight jerked awake with a startled snort. An arc of lightning trailing in a tight circle around him as he spun around, flaming sword swinging wildly and eyes darting about the room. Link squeaked and retreated to his corner of the room.

"Hey!" Mario said. "What's the matter with you?"

"Wha-" Meta Knight's eyes flickered, and his sword disappeared in a flash. He looked around the room, more confused this time as he noticed everyone staring at him like he was some wild beast.

"Mister Meta Knight? You look tired." Link said from behind the unmoving form of Samus.

Meta Knight closed his eyes, and a deep sigh echoed behind his mask. "I have not slept for some time," he said. "A close friend of mine has gone missing, and I've been searching for him for some time."

"Oh." Link shrank even further behind his armored companion as if he were trying to melt into her shadow. To his left, Meta Knight saw Mario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong exchange glances, while Fox coughed.

"Well, do you have anything else to report?"

Fox cleared his throat and took a step forward. "Actually we do. The dragon cult is on Neo Star."

"Neo Star?" Suddenly, Meta Knight stood a little straighter, a lot more interested. His eyes narrowed, and he raised a hand to a button on the side of the door sitting directly under a small microphone. He whispered something to the microphone, and after a second, he let go of the button.

Moments later, a tinny voice slipped through a small speaker. Meta Knight, the only one close enough to hear the words, leaned into the speaker. Whatever he heard seemed to surprise him, and his eyes widened.

"What?" Fox asked. He had seen Meta Knight's reaction, and of course, he was curious.

"It's nothing," Meta Knight replied. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to fly to Neo Star."

Fox scowled, leaning forward to meet the knight's gaze. "It's not nothing," he said. "We're a part of this too." Steps sounded behind him, and he felt his five teammates fall in line behind him. It made him feel better, knowing that they had his back.

Meta Knight's piercing glare swept over every one of them, hardening his eyes behind his mask. When it was clear that no one was going to back down, he slumped back with a sigh.

"Alright. The ship's scanners have picked up a massive trail of Star Rod energy coming from the planet, something that I need to investigate."

"Star Rod energy? What's that?" Link piped up.

"Something very powerful. Something you wouldn't want your enemies to get ahold of."

"And they have it now?"

"Not completely." At their confused expressions, Meta Knight explained. "They're draining it."

"But what happens if they drain it completely?"

"I don't want to find out." Meta Knight's eyes glowed a burning crimson, and at his side, his sword crackled with electricity as he tightened his grip on the hilt, driving his point home.

"We have an hour before the Star Rod energy disappears. I'll be waiting in the hangar."

His cape billowed in the door, filling up the frame as he disappeared around the corner. In the halls, they could hear his footsteps ringing, growing softer with each repetition. Everyone's eyes remained on the door even as his footsteps faded into silence, no one quite sure what to do.

Fox spoke first. "You heard him," he said, straightening his posture. "We've got an hour. I'm going to give you five minutes to get your weapons. We're going to take the fight to them, and we're going to put an end to their plans. Are you ready for the final battle?"

The resulting cheer resounded through the walls of the Halberd.

Chapter Text

"Here we are."

Link turned to look out the gunship's windshield. From what he could see, the planet's surface was covered in a canopy of dark green leaves, dripping with vines woven between thick tree trunks like threads in a shawl. Off in the distance, towering peaks dotted the horizon, the tallest one spilling smoke out into the clear blue sky. As far as he could tell, Neo Star was a planet choked with tangled jungles and volcanoes waiting to explode. The place was wild and untamed; not somewhere he hoped they would have to stay for long.

"So," Mario said, clutching the wall with one hand, inspecting the other hand in front of him, "this is it, eh? The final standoff between the good guys and the bad guys."

"There will still be evil once these villains have been put back behind bars," Link replied. "It was here before this, and it will still be here after this."

"Not like this, Link," Samus said. "This is on a different scale. The Space Pirates don't usually work with anyone outside their faction. After this, they won't do it again."

Without warning, the floor beneath them shifted as something rocked the ship. The sudden movement threw Link off from the window, and he crashed into the other wall. Behind him, he heard a loud grunt from Donkey Kong and a startled squeal from Yoshi. It seemed like he wasn't the only one caught off guard.

The ship's comlink crackled to life, and the voice of Fox came through. "Samus? Are you alright? Your engines just stalled."

"We're fine," Samus replied. She glanced at a monitor on her dashboard, and her eyes narrowed. "There's an electric field. It cut off our engines. You'll see soon enough."

"What do you–"

The radio cut off for a moment, and a sharp static replaced it on the comlink. It passed after a second, and Fox's voice returned.

"I see what you meant." He paused, before he added, "You think this is because..."

"Pikachu?" Mario said. "Probably."

"They must be using him to store the Star Rod energy. Whatever they're doing is displacing his electricity."

"We must be getting close," Samus muttered.

"You said it." Mario then turned to Link, slowly picking himself off the floor. "On the topic of the little scamp, where's his pink partner?"

"Jigglypuff? I told her to stay put back on the Halberd. When we do rescue Pikachu, I'm sure he won't be happy if he found out I brought her along."

"You have a head on your shoulders. Good on you, kid."

Link gave him a smile, before he turned back to look out the window. As the ship streaked overhead, the treeline began to pull back. Patches of grass seeped through the thick blanket of leaves beneath, and a clearing began to emerge in the middle of the jungle.

"Samus," he said, turning to the seat at the front.

"I see it," she said, and she glanced down at a blinking red dot on the monitor beside her. "Fox, we're nearing the rendezvous point."

"Copy that. Let's just hope Meta Knight is waiting for us there."

"Hey," Link said, "what about Meta Knight's workers?"

"They're still busy dealing with the Federation breakout," Fox replied. "He said they'll send a team to pick up the legion people when we're done with them."

"Oh. So we're on our own, then?"

"Yeah. It's just us."

"Better us than no one at all, I guess," Mario said.

"Alright, listen to me," Fox said, and his voice became firm. "We lost last time because we let them split us up. If we want to win, we need to work together."

"Use teamwork. Got it," Link said with a grin.

"We just watch each other's backs? Should be no problem, right, guys?" Mario turned to look at Donkey Kong and Yoshi standing behind him. Yoshi gave him a nod. Donkey Kong hooted and raised a fist to the air.

"We're here," Samus cut in. Link felt the floor shift beneath him as the ship slowed down. Warily, he glanced out the window. The treeline was a good distance away from them now, and below them, he saw various crates scattered around the clearing. Two stone pillars reached up from the ground, towering over the grass, and there were a few pieces of machinery lying on the ground. Aside from that, however, the small yard was empty.

"There's no one here," Mario said, walking up to stand beside Link and peer out the window.

Link turned to the red plumber. "Do you think they forgot the welcoming party?" he asked.

A loud boom interrupted him before he could reply. Their attention immediately snapped back to the window. Outside, Link caught a glimpse of a beam of blue energy tearing through the air. The beam ripped straight through the Arwing's side, and a large fire burst out from where one of the Arwing's wings had been moments ago, smoke billowing behind the craft as it swerved out of control.

"They're here!" Fox said. " I'll see you all on the ground!"

They watched as the Arwing spiraled forward, leaving a dark trail behind it. At the last second, the glass cockpit threw itself open. An orange blur flew out of the Arwing, tumbling to the ground as the Arwing crashed into a rock face behind it. The craft immediately went up in a bloom of red and orange, scrap metal raining down on the clearing below.

Link released a breath. He slumped back from the window, relieved. It didn't last for long.

The monitor next to Samus suddenly flashed red. The gunship gave a shudder. Link lost his footing, and he fell to the floor with an undignified squawk.

"We've been hit," he heard Samus hiss. "They must have re-opened a wound in the engine compartment."

"Re-opened? Whaddya mean?" Mario said.

"The Meta Knights didn't have time to fully repair my ship. It isn't as strong as it should be."

Link pushed himself off the floor with a grunt, rustling the weapons on his back. As he got to his feet again, he caught sight of a streak of white and pink pass by the window.

"Samus!" he called, pointing to the sky. "Up there!"

Samus looked up. Then she cursed. "It's that wolf again!"

"We ain't gonna be able to do anything if he's pelting us with bullets from above," Mario said, clutching on to a hatch on the wall.

"Then I'm going to have to drop you off."

"Okay." Mario reared his fist back and slammed it into the hatch with a loud clang. The hatch popped off, flying out behind the ship. Air came rushing in, screaming into their ears from how quickly they were moving.

"Wait!" Link said, his panic rising. "Can't you go a little lower before you drop us off?"

"There's no time," Mario yelled over the wind. "Donkey Kong, grab the kid, and get outside."

Link barely had time to hear Mario say, "Let's-a go!" and leap out of the ship before a large, furry arm wrapped around his waist and dragged him to the hatch. One second, he was inside the ship, looking out onto the grass below. The next, the wind was whipping at his face. The ground rushed up to meet him, and he let out a scream.

Chapter Text

The moment Fox hit the grass, he was already moving. He rolled to the side, and a rippling beam of blue energy tore past him. An explosion went off behind him as the beam ripped apart a small stack of crates, and splinters pelted off the back of Fox's jacket.

"Ah ha ha! How do you like the taste of the Blaze-o-Matic?" Krusha said, clutching a large cannon with a long pole and a brass ring at the end.

Fox looked up across the field, growling. At the mouth of the cave, Krusha laughed.

From above, Fox heard Mario yell, "Here we go!" By the way Krusha's gaze snapped up, he heard it too.

A toothy grin split his face, and he pointed the Blaze-o-Matic to the sky. The cannon gave a low growl. The pole at the end sparked with energy, aimed right at the falling forms of Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and Yoshi.

"Look out!" Fox said, jumping to his feet.

With a loud clap, a beam of destructive energy shot forth toward them. Link had the mirror shield out in an instant, and the beam flew right back to the ground. The impact threw dirt into the air, leaving a deep scar on the ground.

"Watch it, will you?" Wario snarled, stepping out from behind a stack of crates. He slapped a button on the side of the Blaze-o-Matic, and it cut off with a sputter.

Taking the momentary distraction, Fox whipped his blaster out of its holster. He fired three shots down the clearing at the Blaze-o-Matic in Krusha's hands. Wario stepped in front of it, and he absorbed the shots with his arm.

"It's not going to be that easy," he said. Wario snapped his fingers, and in an instant, Fox found himself surrounded by the other villains; Waluigi, Phantom Ganondorf, and a uniformed man and woman he didn't recognize. Fox grit his teeth. His grip on his blaster tightened, and he fell into a fighting stance. Absentmindedly, his other hand fell to his reflector.

The strange man moved first, hurling a tiny red object into the air. A flash of light emerged from the object, and when it faded, a creature with two round heads attached by a stem appeared.

"Weezing!" the man said. "Use Smokescreen!"

The creature, the Pokemon Wheezing, gave a raspy groan, and a dark cloud poured out from the pores dotting its heads. Fox braced his face with his arm as smoke washed over him, and the force of the sudden gust of air dragged him back.

Not this again, he hissed internally.

"Donkey Kong!" he yelled over the smoke. "You know what to do!"

Somewhere in the smoke, he heard the ape roar. The ground heaved. A mighty clap shook the air, and it swept the dark clouds away with a rush of wind. Fox stumbled forward as the smoke blew past him. Very quickly, the dark clouds gave away to the clearing, and Fox found himself looking at a group of very surprised villains.

He whirled around to face the others. Donkey Kong had his hands held together from blowing away the smoke. Mario had a yellow feather pinched between his fingers. Link stood over him, an arrow already nocked on his bow. Yoshi just had his fists held on guard in front of him. They all looked eager for a fight.

The villains recovered quickly, falling into fighting stances as well. The woman threw another red and white ball into the air, and a purple cobra materialized on the field.

Fox gave his teammates a quick glance over his shoulder, and a grin spread over his lips.

"Take them down!" he shouted, flicking his blaster towards the villains.

He leaped forward, and he clenched his fists. The air around him ignited. He lunged for Wario at the head of the group. Wario wound up a punch in response.

Then a giant burst of blue energy came down from the sky, breaking apart the clearing between them. The attack missed hitting Fox by a hair, singing one of his whiskers. He came to a halt, and a burst of laser fire ran past him.

Fox looked to the sky, just in time to catch Wolf's ship soar overhead.


"What's the matter? Can't keep up?"

Samus growled, and she tuned out Wolf's taunting words over the commlink.

She'd have to see how he managed to get into it later; right now, it didn't matter.

With a grunt, she twisted the ship's controls to the side. The engines groaned in protest, but they forced the ship to turn after a moment.

The view outside her window changed from the treetops to the sky, then back to the treetops again. She heard the faint sound of laser fire rush past her, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of red zip by.

Her eyes glanced at the monitor beside her. An angry red dot blinked at her from behind her position.

A sigh escaped from the vents on her helmet. Again, she tried to serve her ship around. A familiar ship tinged with pink finally came into view. Samus gave a satisfied grunt. Her fingers tightened on the triggers on the ship's controls.

The ship rumbled, and a crack split the atmosphere as the ship's Zero Laser streaked toward the enemy ship, pulsing with destructive energy.

Wolf's ship spun to the side, and the Zero Laser carved a path in the ground instead. Samus's eye twitched.

She turned her ship after Wolf and fired again. This time, a small red object popped out. The laser engulfed it in an instant, but the red object went off in a giant explosion, temporarily obstructing her sight.

Before she could react, Wolf's ship burst out from the smoke. He fired, and his bullets pinged off the side of her ship.

"You'll have to be smarter than that!" Wolf's voice crackled over the commlink.

She glanced at the monitor above displaying her ship's energy levels and scowled. The attack had only nicked them, but her ship had started off with a low energy reserve. She couldn't keep this up.

She spun her ship around, trying to keep up with Wolf. She fired again. Wolf danced out of the way, and her attack scorched the ground.

Another bomb dropped out of Wolf's ship. Samus swerved to avoid it, but Wolf detonated it beside her. The ship rattled with the impact, and as Samus glanced out the windshield, a piece of the hull fell away.

That's not good.

Another round of fire pelted the hull. It traced up the side of the ship, ending with a small explosion. The ship shuddered, and smoke began to come from somewhere off to the side.

"Ouch, that must have hurt," Wolf said. Though she couldn't see his face, Samus could imagine the sneer on his face.

"Shut up," she muttered under her breath.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I bruise your ego?" Wolf replied.

Samus spun the ship around and fired in reply. This time she singed his wingtips, but he rolled away before she could do any more damage.

Wolf pulled up into the sky, his engines roaring. Samus tried to follow him, but the ship's engines groaned at the effort. One of the wings sputtered, and bright orange sparks spurted out. Samus's eyes strayed over to the smoldering wing for a second too long. She turned her attention back in front of her just in time to see a bomb outside her windshield.

Samus twisted the controls as far to the right as they could go. A loud explosion scraped against the other side of her ship. Overhead, she saw her ship's energy reserves tank. A bead of sweat trickled down her forehead. Blinking it away, Samus quickly pressed a button on the side of her helmet, and the power suit's fans kicked in with a roar.

A flash of grey streaked into her view. Wolf's ship slid into the airspace in front of her, weaving and bobbing. He was teasing her, staying within her sight, flying up and down in a completely unpredictable manner.

"You'd like to get me for that, wouldn't you?" Wolf said, and he gave a barking laugh.

Samus responded the only way she could: by heating up the air with a huge burst of energy.

Like it had done many times before, the Zero Laser scorched the side of Wolf's ship, sparks leaping off the writhing laser beam as he pulled away. The Zero Laser kept going, however, and raced towards a pile of crates on the ground.

The wooden containers went up in a massive blossom of burning shrapnel. Even from inside her ship, Samus could feel the heat wash over her as the explosion reached for the sky. She swerved away at the last second, and the sky loomed out her windshield once more. As she relaxed the grip on her controls, relieved, her commlink buzzed.

"Watch where you're shooting!" Fox said, his voice barely audible over the chaotic sounds of battle behind him.

"Sorry," Samus replied.

Something flickered out of the corner of Samus's view. Her hands were on the controls again in an instant, and her ship's engines screamed to life as she forced them to continue the pursuit.


Link's arm was starting to get sore. Over and over, his shield rung out, the only thing between him and a hail of endless projectiles.

Link chanced a peek over his shield at his attacker: Waluigi. The wiry man continued to pelt him with tennis balls with each crack of his racket. It shouldn't have been any trouble, but the speed behind it kept Link from getting any closer.

Link frowned. As the balls continued to slam against his shield, he reached into his pocket. His fingers grasped a solid wooden object. In a single motion, he pulled it out of the bag and flung it at Waluigi.

The man scowled, and he ducked under the wooden boomerang. It hurled through the air, skimming over Waluigi's purple cap, before it flew right back into Link's waiting hand. Swiftly drawing his sword, Link charged at Waluigi.

"Weezing! Sludge bomb!"

A glob of sludge arched through the air, a trail of toxic fumes not far behind. Link's eyes widened. He leaped away, and the sludge bomb plopped on the spot he had been moments before. As he was in the air, he caught a flash of blue out of the corner of his eye. A deep rumble was his only warning.

Fox jumped in front of him before the beam could hit him. His reflector deployed with a ping, and the Blast-o-Matic tore into the tree line over their heads. At the other end, Krusha snarled at them. His gaze didn't stay on them for long, and he turned to the side to catch a red role coming for his face.

Yoshi squeaked. Krusha threw him to the ground, and dust flew up into the air. He lunged to forward. A passing Mario pulled Yoshi away before he could follow up. The Kremling bared his teeth, but Phantom Ganon stepped between them before he could give chase.

Mario leaped away. Phantom Ganon's sword came crashing down on the grass, but his glowing yellow eyes never left the plumber. He swung upward. Mario billowed his cape, and the breeze blew him further away, before he and Yoshi landed right beside Fox.

"They've got us pinned down," Mario said between breaths. "We can't do nothin' in this kind of weather."

"You're telling me," Fox said over his shoulder, and another wad of sludge bounced off his reflector.

Behind him, Link drew another arrow to his bow, when he noticed a giant blue laser sweep towards them.

"Look out!" he said, and everyone turned to look.

The Zero Laser cut a deep gash into the clearing, and dirt flew to the wind behind everyone as they all dove away from the blast. Fox rolled to his feet the moment he hit the ground, and his hand flew to his earpiece.

"Watch where you're shooting!" he said.

All he got in return was a muttered "Sorry."

Fox frowned. Something thudded behind him, and his blaster whipped around. Donkey Kong stumbled past, the purple cobra wrapped around his arm.

The snake pulled his arm into punching his face. Donkey Kong stepped back, dazed from the blow. The snake only hissed, and it reared his arm back for a second strike.

Fox stepped in before it could, and he slammed his reflector into it. A shock traveled up the snake, and it finally let go. It flopped on the ground for a bit. Then it turned back and hissed at them, and it disappeared into the grass. Donkey Kong stepped forward, intent on chasing it down. A heavy strike to his side drove the wind out of him. He fell to the ground, clutching his stomach, and the towering shadow of Phantom Ganon loomed over him.

Fox aimed his blaster at Phantom Ganon's back. Before he could pull the trigger, a gloved fist knocked it out of his hand. He turned to face the new threat, only for a tennis ball to nail him from behind.

Fox stumbled away, turning as he put some distance between his attackers. Wario and Waluigi sneered back.

"I'm sorry, but we can't let you leave just yet," Wario said, and he pulled two bombs out of his pockets.

Fox flicked his thumb against his blaster. "Try and stop me," he said.

Wario just cackled, and he lit the bombs and hurled them at Fox. He tracked them as they spun through the air, their fuses sparking. His blaster snapped onto them, and he fired twice. The bombs went up in a fiery blast. Something moved from behind the flames, and Fox barely had time to react when Wario came hurtling through the smoke.

A flash of blue cut of the pudgy yellow man mid-air. Wario tumbled away, and a stack of crates toppled over him.

Fox lowered his blaster. A deep blue cape fluttered before him, billowing in the wind like a sail. As the newcomer turned, the sun glinted off his mask, and two glowing yellow eyes bore into his gaze.

Meta Knight had arrived.

Chapter Text

Another laser blazed past Fox and Meta Knight. Dirt licked their heels as they dove for cover, coming to a stop behind one of the few towers of crates still standing.

"It's about time you showed up," Fox said. "Where were you?"

"Travel complications," Meta Knight said. His eyes flickered for a moment, but he shook his head. "As much as I'd like to help, I need you to keep Ganondorf's allies distracted while I sneak inside."

"What?"

A loud buzzing cut their conversation short. They looked back over the battlefield. Fox groaned.

"Great, now we're going to have to deal with that again," he said, narrowing his eyes as he watched Krusha haul the Blaze-o-Matic to aim it down the clearing. "Sure thing, boss. I'll see if we can keep the giant laser on us while you run away."

"You don't quite understand what is at stake, Fox," Meta Knight growled. "I need to ensure Ganondorf does not drain the Star Rod energy. If he does-"

Before Meta Knight could finish, a wave of bright yellow energy swept through the area. The wave passed Fox's sight, and when he blinked it was already gone.

Behind his mask, Meta Knight's eyes took on a fiery orange tint as they narrowed to slits. "Get. It. Done."

His cape gave a ruffle, and it unfurled into two large wings. In a dark blue blur, Meta Knight leaped back into the clearing. Fox jumped after him, his blaster out and primed to fire. He wasn't happy with the order, but he was in no place to argue. He was just about to run off when a deep buzzing reached his ears.

"Where do you think you're going?" Krusha said, taking notice of Meta Knight's fleeing form.

Fox cursed, watching as the Kremling hefted the Blaze-o-Matic again, swinging the giant cannon over to Meta Knight. Acting swiftly, Fox pointed his weapon at Krusha. A stream of laser fire poured out from his blaster. Krusha only had time to see the red lasers fly toward him, and his eyes widened.

Phantom Ganondorf swept in before they hit. His red cape fluttering in the wind, and the shots bounced harmlessly off his chestplate. He met Fox's gaze with glaring yellow eyes, almost daring him to shoot again.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" Krusha snapped from behind Phantom Ganondorf. With an angry snarl, he shoved the flickering red cape out of his face. He scanned the clearing for his target, but, to Fox's satisfaction, he had already disappeared inside.

"He got away!"

Phantom Ganondorf leveled at Krusha with his glare. The Kremling bared his teeth but otherwise didn't reply. Phantom Ganondorf kept his gaze on him for a second more, before it turned back to Fox. His arm disappeared in a blur, and without a word, he charged.

Fox jumped back. The phantom's broadsword swung past his face seconds later, inches away from severing his head. Fox had barely landed on his feet before he stepped to the side, and the broadsword crashed into the ground in front of him. With a grunt, Fox swung his blaster back up, but the phantom vanished in a black mist. A rumble was his only warning before, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a giant blue laser barrel toward him.

Fox's reflector came up just in time to intercept the blast. He didn't have time to angle it away, however, and the force sent him flying into a stack of crates. The moment the laser dissipated, Fox pushed himself back up and fired again. Once more, Phantom Ganondorf materialized before the Blaze-o-Matic, blocking the shots.

Gritting his teeth, Fox activated his earpiece. "I could use some help," he said.

In front of him, Phantom Ganondorf opened his palm. A yellow orb flared to life above it, crackling with magical energy. The phantom hurled it at Fox, who dove away to avoid being hit. The orb crashed into the crates behind him, and the wooden boxes exploded into a shower of splinters.

"On my way," he heard Mario's voice buzz over the sounds of battle.

"I'll try to get there," Link piped in. Fox kept himself from sighing in relief. He just needed to hold out until the plumber arrived.

Granted, with a magic phantom and a laser-cannon-toting crocodile, it was going to be a bit of a challenge.

Fox batted aside another orb of yellow energy with his reflector, and Phantom Ganondorf rushed at him again. This time, Fox ducked under the first swing and lunged for him.

He yelped as his hands went through a cloud of black smoke. The moment he felt grass beneath him, Fox tucked his legs into a roll, jumping back to his feet in seconds. He whirled around to face Phantom Ganondorf, but something else had caught his attention.

To his surprise, Phantom Ganondorf evaporated again. He only had seconds to think about it before the ground started shaking beneath him. His instincts yelled for him to jump away, and as he sprang up, and blue energy beam from the sky cut across his sight, followed by the low buzz of engines.

Before Fox could get on the ground again, a searing pain spread across his back. He flew across the clearing, tumbling over the ground and breaking through a smoldering pile of wood. Thinking fast, he dug his fingers into the ground, and he pulled himself to a stop. As he pushed himself to his feet, wiping the dirt off his face, a shadow cast over his line of sight. Fox looked up just in time to see a blade streak toward him.

Before it could reach him, a blue and red blur rushed in front of him. Two leather boots slammed into Phantom Ganondorf's face. As he stumbled back, Mario flipped off his face, landing neatly in front of Fox.

"Glad to see you held out for me," Mario said, giving Fox a wink.

Phantom Ganondorf blindly flailed around, and as he stepped back again, a bomb rolled behind his feet. He tripped over it, and the bomb exploded, sending him into the air. Link landed where the phantom had been moments before, taking a few steps forward to catch himself. The second he did, he spun around, catching Wario, covered in flickering tongues of fire, with his padded leather gloves and hurled him at Krusha.

The Kremling hissed, and he swung the Blaze-o-Matic out of Wario's path. Wario rolled over the grass, coming to a stop at the cave wall. While the pudgy yellow man tried to stand, Link dusted off his gloves, extinguishing the flames on his coat.

"Sorry I couldn't get here faster," he said, turning to them. "What's the plan now, boss?"

Fox opened his mouth to speak. A tiny voice called out from behind him before he could say anything.

"Get out of the way!"

A frown crossed Fox's face. He tapped his earpiece, confused as to why it was so quiet.

The deep buzzing of engines caught his attention. He, Mario, and Link looked behind him to see Samus's ship hurtling toward them, smoke streaming out behind it. One of its wings was completely gone, a giant fire in its place. With growing dread, all three of them realized that the falling ship was growing closer by the second.

They scattered as quickly as they could. Krusha and Wario weren't so lucky. Krusha tried to jump out of the way, but he tripped over his own weight, while Wario only saw it coming as he wiped the last of the dirt out of his face.

The hulking red ship crashed into the cave. It crumpled with a nasty metal creak, before it went up in a massive explosion that shook the ground beneath them. Fire and scrap metal, flying everywhere. Debris tumbling over the dirt. Mario and Fox watched from a distance, blinking in awe as a wave of heat washed over them.

A cloud of black smoke rose out of the rubble. Mario and Fox tensed. They watched in silence as the mist began to gather itself into the form of Phantom Ganondorf. The phantom gave a loud roar as it emerged from the mist, and two orbs of magical energy burst to life in his hands. His arms drew back. His eyes glowed brighter.

Before he could hurl them forward, Link leaped out from the left. Phantom Ganondorf's head snapped on to him, but it was too late for him to react. With a cry, Link swung the Master Sword across the air, separating the phantom's head from its body. The phantom gave an ear-splitting shriek as it dissolved into an inky black stain in the air, a terrible sound that quickly faded as what had once been Phantom Ganondorf vanished from sight.

As Link pulled his sword back, his eyes drifted back over to the wreckage. "That was Samus's ship, wasn't it?"

Fox took one look at it, and a worried feeling wormed its way into him. He glanced at the sky, and to his immense relief, he saw a red figure fly through the air. Samus was still alive.

As he watched her tumble across the blue sky, a grapple beam shot out of her cannon. It writhed its way forward, flinging itself farther out until it latched on to the wing of Wolf's ship.

With the jerk of her hand, Samus flicked herself up and over the ship as it sped overhead, coming to land over the glass cockpit. She reared her hand back and sent shards of glass trailing behind the ship as she thrust her hand inside. When she pulled it back, Wolf was dangling from her hands.

From the ground, Fox could only catch a murmur from her, before she tossed Wolf to the ground. He tried to get back up, surrounding himself with a bright purple flare, but before it could ignite behind him, Samus swung her arm cannon over the edge and fired a missile at his face. The projectile exploded, and the force spiked him back down. He slammed into the grass with a crack, bouncing up once before coming to a stop at Fox's feet.

Samus wasn't too far behind, landing in a crouch at the center of the clearing. She rose, rolling her shoulders, and as she looked around, she said, "I guess that settles it."

A wooden thud came from behind. All four of them whirled around, but it was only Donkey Kong and Yoshi who walked into view. They stepped over what remained of a wooden board, shattering it beneath their feet. Donkey Kong came to a stop a few feet away, and with a grunt, he tossed the unconscious bodies of the man, the woman, and Waluigi before them.

Fox scanned his eyes over the clearing, small fires etched into the dirt all around them. He whistled, kicking a foot out as he took in all the destruction they had caused.

From the wreckage of Samus's ship came a cough. From the reflection of his green eyepiece, a sheet of metal moved aside with a loud screech, and who else emerged from the rubble but Wario, covered in burns and bruises.

An expression of fury overtook Wario's face the moment he saw them. He tore a bomb out from his overalls and lit the fuse. Without turning, Fox fired his blaster at the bomb, detonating it in Wario's face.

When the smoke cleared, the pudgy man slumped back over the mangled pile of scrap, unconscious.

"I guess it does," he finally replied, just as, in the distance, several ships appeared in the sky.

Chapter Text

Everything seemed to be in order. Link watched from the mouth of the cave as the Meta Knights hauled away the bad guys. A few of them protested, Wario being the loudest, as they dragged them into their ships. Wolf, on the other hand, was oddly quiet about the whole affair, a stark contrast from the snarling beast a few moments before.

His master had taught him to watch out for weird things like that. He said that meant they were planning something, so you had to stay on your toes. As much as Link would have liked to stay to keep an eye on Fox's enemy, Ganondorf was the more pressing matter here.

Link looked over the ruins of the clearing one more time. He turned away into the mouth of the cave, and he made to slip away. Fox stopped him before he could leave.

"Going somewhere?"

Link glanced back. "Ganondorf is still in there," he said. "I need to see what he's up to."

"By yourself? Not a chance!"

"I know we're supposed to stick together, but I think I know what Ganondorf's like, so I'll be safe by myself. You need to make sure your bad guys get to where they need to go, but you can come find me after I track down Ganondorf." Link turned to Samus, off talking to one of the Meta Knights. "Hey Samus?"

"Hm?" Samus looked up from her conversation.

"Can you track me down with your X-Ray scope?"

"Yes."

"So you don't have anything to worry about!" Link turned back to Fox. "Just keep an eye on the bad guys for now. Wolf especially."

"Alright." Fox didn't look like he agreed, but he didn't seem to have any other argument for it. Link flashed him a quick smile and headed inside without another word.

His boots clicked against the stone with his every step, resounding in the empty cave as he sprinted down the hall. Every sound he made rang off the cave walls, from the rustling of the weapons strapped to him to his footsteps, bouncing back to him and making the space seem smaller. As the sunlight behind him faded into darkness, blue crystals began to appear on the walls, their faint glow giving the boy an outline of the rough terrain, keeping the cave from becoming too dark. A few of them had large chunks torn out, gashes splattered with some kind of dark matter engraved into their sides. Link guessed that Meta Knight had passed by not too long ago, but didn't question it otherwise.

Every now and then, the cave would branch out, openings appearing in the walls beside him. His intuition kept telling him to move forward, however, so he ignored them and pressed onward. Gradually the branching paths decreased, leaving Link to run ahead without any interruptions.

At last, the hallway opened up into a giant chamber. The clicking of his boots faded into silence as Link slowed, and silence engulfed him the moment he came to a stop. Compared to the dimly lit halls, twisting and turning in every direction like an ant colony, the chamber was much more bright. Crystals sprouting from the walls cast light in every direction, giving the space a mysterious and eerie atmosphere. The stone floor glittered all around him in the blue light, like snow on a sunny day.

At the center of the room, a giant glass tube lay on its side, ints front scattered over the floor in the form of countless glass shards. The blue light shone in the face of each of them, and as Link glanced at them from the corner of his eye, a thousand reflections stared back. And beside it, lying on a metal surface glowing like ice in a formless white blob, was the thing. Lifeless now and without the bright red glow pulsing through it, the thing seemed like a completely harmless pile of dough.

Above him, Link heard footsteps ring out. He lifted his gaze to the metal catwalk hanging overhead to see a pair of giant patterned boots step over it. Standing high over the thing was Ganondorf, his orange eyes firmly fixed on the glass casing beside it.

"How disappointing," Ganondorf said, his voice rumbling the room like the deep thrum of a monstrous growl. "It seems he got away."

"Ganondorf," Link said, and his hand fell to the Master Sword.

"Hm?" Ganondorf's gaze slowly moved from the glass tube to Link. Catching sight of the green-clad hero, his expression remained set, like he hadn't even seen him. "Oh. It's the boy."

"Whatever it is you want, we'll stop you!"

"You'll stop me?" Ganondorf's eyebrow went up an inch. "And what exactly is it that you'll stop me from getting?"

Link paused. "Hyrule. Our home. We'll destroy... whatever it is you've created and stop you from taking over Hyrule."

"Really, now? I suppose I shouldn't have thought so highly of a mere child. The old man would never jump to such an obvious conclusion."

"Obvious? Are you saying you didn't create this... thing to take over Hyrule?"

"The power held within this 'Miracle Matter' is but a fraction of anything you can comprehend, boy. Still, it can barely level a castle by itself. Were the old man here instead of you, he would be able to vanquish this monster in an instant. Even together, however, I doubt you lot would be able to even land a substantial blow."

"Well, my master isn't here."

"And that is why you will die, boy. You're hardly a threat, barely more than the dust that precious temple of yours collects on a daily basis."

"I've trained!"

"For five years?" Ganondorf's eyes narrowed, like he was trying to understand the nonsensical babbling of a toddler. "You do not seem to comprehend the situation you are in, boy."

"I do. My master has told me all about you. Whatever it is you can throw at me, I'll be ready for it."

"Don't make me laugh. No matter how much the mouse knows, no matter how big it grows itself to be, it can never hope to defeat a lion. I don't care how much of the old man's knowledge you have, boy. Were I to strike you, a single blow is all it would take to reduce you to a bloody pulp."

Link growled, not at all happy about Ganondorf's words. "I think you know what I think about that, and what I'll do."

"Of course. The spirit of the hero would not have chosen you as a vessel in any other case, despite your lack of anything else. How disgustingly heroic. Just like all the others before you." Ganondorf's lips pulled downward in a frown. "Such a shame that you won't live long enough to see Hyrule fall, but in truth, you and your actions thus far are inconsequential to me."

"Wha–" A concerned expression took to Link's face. "If this wasn't part of some plot to take over Hyrule, what was all this for?"

"Believe me, this is part of a plot to take over Hyrule, albeit a very minor one. Whether you live or die does not matter to me. I've already finished with what it is I needed to do."

Link looked to the glass tube. "The star rod."

"No."

Link's eyes widened. "Then what?"

"Your friend, the electric mouse." Ganondorf huffed. "You may wield the same weapons as the old man, boy, but you lack his sharp mind. You should know your place."

From the cave behind him, Link heard someone approach him. A lot of someones. From the way Ganondorf's scowl deepened, he heard it too.

"Well, looks like the cavalry has finally arrived," he said, just as the rest of the team spilled into the room. "I have business elsewhere, so I'll leave Miracle Matter to deal with you." He turned to leave, but at the last minute, he leveled a glare at Link. "If you survive, though, tell the old man that if the next time he wants to deal with me, I'll be insulted if he sends another dewy-eyed imitation my way. They bleed much more than he ever did."

"Hey!" Fox said, stepping out to Link's right and flicking his blaster up to Ganondorf. "Don't talk to my teammate that way!"

Fox pulled the trigger. A shot rang out. Ganondorf didn't bat an eye, even as the red laser streaked toward him.

Time slowed. At the center of the room, the thing began to glow. Electricity crackled all over its body, and before anyone could react, it flew off the table in a massive white blur. Moments before Fox's laser could connect with Ganondorf's chest, it appeared in front of him. Its reflectors were up in an instant, and Fox's laser tore apart a small blue crystal on the wall.

Link tried to look behind Miracle Matter, but Ganondorf had already vanished. As the bright glow faded from Miracle Matter, it began to buzz. The reflectors all over it flickered angrily, catching the light from the crystals.

Without a word, Link turned to face everyone else. No words needed to be spoken between them, and they fell into line, watching the white blob hovering above them all. The final battle was about to begin.

Chapter Text

The reflectors fizzled out, and orange flames burst out from beneath. With only the crackling flames, Miracle Matter rushed toward Fox, like a meteor. Fox took a step back, startled.

Mario jumped in between them before it could connect. He swept his cape, and he batted back Miracle Matter, sending it crashing into a wall. As shards of crystals showered down on the floor, ringing out like bits of glass, Mario hissed in pain. The side of his cape had caught fire, and he extinguished it with a strong flap.

"It's gotten a lot stronger," he said. "You think it's got anything to do with that Star Rod energy Meta Knight mentioned?"

"That's as good a guess as any," Fox said, gripping his blaster tightly.

"I saw it give off sparks when Ganondorf activated it," Link said, and he drew his sword with a metal rasp. "It's holding Pikachu inside of it. That's probably where all its power is coming from."

"So if we take out Pikachu, we win." Fox grinned. "Anyone have any ideas?"

"I've got one." Mario turned to Donkey Kong and Link. "DK, punch it out. Kid, cover him."

"Got it!"

Link let an arrow fly. He had another arrow on the string the moment Donkey Kong took off. It whistled over Donkey Kong's head as the ape lumbered forward.

Just like before, Miracle Matter put up its reflectors. The arrows pinged off the sides and flew right back into Donkey Kong's face.

A flash of yellow flickered in front of Donkey Kong. The arrows clattered away, chipping off some of the floor. Mario leaped out of the way, his cape fluttering in his hands, leaving Donkey Kong to lunge for Miracle Matter.

Flames burst out from behind the electric barriers. They moved quickly to engulf Miracle Matter's form, but Donkey Kong moved faster. His fist connected with a thunderous crack. Sparks flew off the reflector's face as it caved. It hurled into the opposite wall, tearing chunks from the wall with the impact. When it ripped itself out from the crater, there was a massive dent in its front.

"See?" he said, smirking. "It ain't so hard if we all work together."

The smirk died as Miracle Matter changed its shape, bubbling and squirming like a ball of dough about to burst. For a moment, a streak of yellow appeared inside the dent. Then white gel smothered it down, leaving Miracle Matter just as before; it was like they hadn't even touched it.

"Okay, maybe it ain't that easy."

Red plates of armor emerged from the White matter, squashing it into the shape of a barrel. A low hum was their only warning before a blast of blue energy burst forth. Fox dove to the side. Everyone else did the same, and the beam gouged a deep scar into the blue crystal walls.

"Hey Yoshi!" Link said, shouting over the noise. "You can use your tongue to grab things, right?"

Yoshi paused, then he nodded. Link turned to Samus.

"Samus, could you blow an opening for Yoshi to get to?"

Samus replied with a thumbs-up. A grin split Link's face. He put away his bow, and his sword came out with a screech. He gave Yoshi a signal to follow him, and he jumped out toward Miracle Matter.

His boots rung out as he sprinted forward, the dull thud of leather pounding against the stone floor with each step. Miracle Matter locked onto him the moment he stepped into view. Another blue laser beam tore up the ground, but Link slid away, his boots allowing him to stay light on his feet.

It fired again. Link rolled to the left, feeling the heat simmering off from the attack as it brushed past him. He got to his feet and leaped aside when Miracle Matter fired once more time. Only one of his boots touched the floor before he jumped again. He wove back and forth, in and out, all while his sword flashed dangerously in the blue light. His constant moving seemed to confuse Miracle Matter, and for a moment it stopped shooting. It was an opening if Link had ever seen one.

His boot squeaked as he twisted it on the stone floor. His grip on his sword tightened. He allowed his other foot to touch the floor for a split-second. Then he jumped.

The tip of his sword glinted as he raised it above his head. It hung there for a second, before he brought it crashing down in a silver blur.

That was a mistake. Miracle Matter locked on to him when his blade was only inches away from making contact. His eyes widened, and a blue glow washed over his face.

He had enough time to think, Samus better pull through, before a heavy beam of energy slammed into his chest. Strips of his tunic burned away, and he sailed into the air, coming to a stop on the jagged crystals lining the walls and falling to the floor with a thud.

From behind Miracle Matter, a click sounded out. Samus stepped out into the open, loading the last missile in her chamber. Miracle Matter didn't have time to throw up its reflectors. Samus's retaliation was swift, firing one missile after another into it. The first one slammed smack-dab into the center, leaving a crater into its side, spinning it out of control. The second missile blew a large crystal off the wall behind it, the first explosion sending it flying out of its path.

Its reflectors flickered, trying to get up as it steadied itself. Samus adjusted her aim before it could fully recover, and the third missile connected to it, blasting open another hole. Miracle Matter stumbled back, right into the path of a fourth and fifth missile, completely submerging Miracle Matter in a blossom of fire. When the smoke cleared, white gel was splattered in every direction, sticking out like thorns on a rose.

Without missing a beat, Yoshi sprinted down the room. Miracle Matter gave a growl. The goop squirmed, whipping around wildly as Miracle Matter brought them back toward itself. Its body reshaped itself, opening and closing holes in its side as it rearranged itself back into its original form. Yoshi threw out his tongue just as a spot of yellow revealed itself. Miracle Matter tried to fold itself over it, but Yoshi's tongue stretched beyond it, latching on to something inside it.

The moment Yoshi's boots touched the floor, Mario, Donkey Kong, and Fox rushed to his aid. They grasped onto him, and together they pulled. Miracle Matter hummed angrily, and it pulled back. Between them, Yoshi hissed, not too happy about being the rope in their tug-of-war. His tongue began to reach its limits, and feet scraped against the floor as they gave their all against the shape-shifting blob. No matter how hard they pulled, however, Miracle Matter refused to let go, and Yoshi finally retracted his tongue, no longer able to stand the pain.

The moment they stumbled away, Miracle Matter engulfed itself into flames. From the side, Link watched as Miracle Matter dove at them, the others scattering as a column of fire burst out from it the moment it slammed into the floor. He tried to get up to help, but a sharp pain lanced up his side. His hand reached around his back. It came away with blood, sending a shiver down his spine.

Propping himself against the Master Sword, Link hobbled back to Fox, the person who had landed closest to him. Fox's ears perked as he approached, and his eyes brightened as he saw Link approach him. Link offered him a hand, and Fox took it with a hard grip.

"We haven't even scratched that thing," Link said as he dragged Fox back to his feet. "How are we supposed to beat it?"

Fox grunted. "It's got too many powers. We won't be able to form a plan to get Pikachu out if it keeps swapping tactics."

"Then what are we supposed to do?" Link said, feeling a little hopeless.

Another explosion rocked the ground. Both of them looked back to the fight to see Samus fire another missile at Miracle Matter. Without Link to distract it, though, Miracle Matter had its reflectors up already, and no matter how many missiles she hurled at it, they just bounced harmlessly off its sides. Link's brows drew down as he watched yet another missile chip off a crystal on the ceiling, and he brought his sword back up. He stepped forward to rejoin the fray, but a tug on his sleeve stopped him.

"Do you see that?" Fox said, pointing at the top of Miracle Matter.

Link tried to follow his finger, but he couldn't see anything special and shook his head.

"At the top. There's a bit chipped off from our first encounter."

Now that he had mentioned it, Link did see that one of the top reflectors did have a piece missing. The side of Miracle Matter that Donkey Kong had caved in was untouched, but that reflector at the top was clearly damaged.

"I see it!" Link said, excitement rising in his voice. "Where did that come from?"

"Pikachu. Pikachu's electric attack damaged it." Fox frowned, and he touched the reflector strapped to his hip. "My reflector runs on electricity. Pikachu can only use electric attacks." His green eyes widened, and they snapped to Link. "That's it! The only way we can damage it is by using its powers against it!"

"Really?" For the first time since the battle had begun, Link felt a flicker of hope: hope of finally finding a way to beat the shape-shifting blob. Then a thought came to him, and he frowned. "But how will we get it to use our powers the same time we attack it."

Fox just offered him a grin. "Leave that to me."

He pressed a hand to his ear. The commlink activated with a static buzz.

"I've got a plan to beat this thing," he said, "but you're going to have to trust me."

"Okay," Samus said.

"We're listening," Link said.

"What's the plan, boss?" Mario said.

Fox smiled. It'd been a long time since he'd been called boss.

"Okay team. Samus and Link, keep distracting the thing."

"How?" Link said, giving him a confused look.

"Keep shooting at it. Pin it down."

"But it'll just reflect them back at us."

"And that's where you come in," Fox said, pointing to Mario.

"Me? What do I gotta do with..." Mario looked at the scorched cape on his back. Understanding dawned his face. When he turned back to Fox, he gave him a sly wink.

"Okie Dokie. I see what you mean."

Samus fired another missile. It tore through the air and bounced harmlessly off a shimmering blue faceplate. It spiraled back to Samus, but Mario jumped in front of her and swept it aside with his cape. As Samus stepped back to load another missile into her cannon, Link let three arrows fly. Fox dove under them, and they sailed overhead as he broke into a sprint. His sudden approach didn't go unnoticed. Link's arrows collided with Miracle Matter's reflectors once again, but it slammed them downward. Tips gleaming in the soft light, the arrows hurtled toward Fox.

In a flash, he had his own reflector up. The arrows embedded themselves into the floor. Fox jumped into the air, narrowly avoiding a reflected missile thrown at his feet. He launched himself at Miracle Matter without a second thought. Its reflectors bristled as he raised his own above his head. A gurgling sound reached his ears. Then he brought down his arm in a blur of electric blue.

His foot pressed up against a wooden shield. Fox jumped away, and an arrow zipped right under him, plunging into the shield.

"Link!" Fox yelled, keeping his eye on Miracle Matter. "Throw me your shield!"

"In a second!" In one swift motion, Link slid the shield onto his arm. He hurled it at Fox. The shield flew through the air, coming to a stop in Fox's waiting hand.

An explosion went off behind Fox. Hot pieces of shrapnel rained down on his shoulder as he watched a second missile sail overhead, slamming into the shields covering Miracle Matter. Fox spun on his heel and hurled the shield at Miracle Matter with a flick of his arm.

The metal edge of the shield crashed into the wooden face of its imitation. With a crunch, Miracle Matter's shields folded like paper. The formless blob shrieked, the inhuman sound echoing in the chamber. Flashes of white appeared beneath the crumpled shield, but before anyone could move the shields disappeared behind a searing wall of fire.

Mario stepped back, stunned. "Did we... finally hurt it?" he whispered, almost like he couldn't believe it.

"The only way we can hurt it is by using its own weapons against it," Fox said, watching as Miracle Matter retreated. "Since its forms retain the damage it takes, once you land a hit that form becomes useless."

"Gotcha."

Without missing a beat, Mario tore the feather off his shirt. The cape disappeared into the feather, quickly replaced with a bright red flower. Fire spiraled up from his fingers as they curled around the flower, engulfing Mario's form. As it burnt away, Mario's clothes were dyed white and red. The flames on Miracle Matter extinguished, replaced with a bright tan glow. Samus fired a missile at it as it charged toward her, but the explosion washed over it like it was nothing.

At the last minute, Samus rolled beneath the hurtling tan blob. Crystal shards flew in every direction as Miracle Matter crashed into the floor. It picked itself back up the floor, shaking the dust off from it, when the floor started shaking.

Behind it, Donkey Kong reared his fist back. Air whistled past him as he swung forward, bringing his arm forward for a devastating punch. Flames burst forth from Miracle Matter, and as Donkey Kong smashed it back into the ground, his arm was engulfed in flames.

Donkey Kong pulled back, hissing as he shook the fire from his arm. Miracle Matter popped out from the crater in the wall, whirring angrily. Smoke rose up from its form as it prepared to deliver a blow in return. A white hand touched it from below. Miracle Matter tried to extinguish its flames, but Mario lit his palm before it could do so.

A column of fire burst out from the ground. Flames swept everywhere, splaying out against the ceiling. As the flames slowly died away, Miracle Matter crashed into the crystals on the wall, smoke wafting off from its scorched white form.

At first, Fox thought Miracle Matter turned red with rage. He quickly realized, though, that the red he was seeing was actually the armored plates of the cannon staring him down. A blue beam of energy shot toward him. Fox swung his reflector out in front of him, and he stumbled back as the force of the beam slammed into him. He took a step back. From the corner of his eye, he saw Samus step out and fire an energy blast of her own.

The moment the beam on him disappeared, Fox turned to Donkey Kong. "Throw me up!"

A giant hand grabbed hold of his arm. The world around him spun, then he was flying through the air. He caught sight of Miracle Matter just as its reflectors came to life. Samus's attack deflected to the side without leaving a scratch. Fox's attack did not.

With a yell, Fox slammed his reflector into Miracle Matter. Reflectors sparked violently. Bolts of electricity lashed out in every direction. Beneath him, Miracle Matter bubbled and popped, like boiling liquid. One last wave of sparks surged out. Then, with a groan, Miracle Matter fell to the floor, stunned.

A grin broke out on Fox's face. "Samus, Yoshi!" he said, calling over his shoulder. "Now's our chance. Let's get Pikachu out of here!"

He heard a series of rapid footsteps behind him. Yoshi and Samus appeared at his sides a second later. They both turned to look at Fox.

Fox pointed to Samus. "You blow open a hole in its side." Then he pointed at Yoshi. "When she opens you a hole, you pull out Pikachu."

They listened to him without hesitation. Samus's hand reached into a compartment in her armor. She fumbled around a bit before her hand came out with a power bomb. Miracle Matter's white flesh squelched as she pressed the bomb inside, engulfing it completely when she pulled her hand away. Not a moment later, it detonated. White goo blew out, splattering all around them.

The second the smoke cleared, they all peered at Miracle Matter's side. The bomb had torn a gaping hole, rimmed with white matter. Not a speck of yellow in sight, though.

Miracle Matter started quivering, tiny electric sparks arching around its form. Below them, the goo around the crater inched back inside. They didn't have much time.

"Come on!" Fox hissed at Yoshi.

White specks began to pull back toward Miracle Matter. The flesh boiled, and the sparks around it only grew faster and faster. Fox and Samus stepped away. Yoshi remained glued to the spot. Fox's hand fell to his blaster as he moved. They weren't going to make it.

In a sudden burst of movement, Yoshi's tongue lashed out. It plunged into the bubbling white matter as bits of it flew around him, gathering back together as Miracle Matter slowly rose back into the air. He seemed to struggle for a bit. There was a wet sloshing sound.

Then Yoshi tore his tongue out from Miracle Matter. Blobs of white rained down on the floor. Behind Yoshi, Miracle Matter slumped back to the floor. Everyone stepped back, and something yellow hit the floor with a thump.

It was Pikachu. The pointy yellow ears, the jagged tail; he was lying on the floor at the center of the room. But his eyes were closed, and he wasn't moving.

Fox's eyes widened. Even after all he had done, had he still...

Before he could finish the thought, Pikachu let out a cough. His eyes flew open. Slowly, the mouse got to his feet. He glanced around, confused. Confused, but alive.

Pikachu was still alive. He hadn't failed after all. Fox sighed in relief. They had saved Pikachu.

He glanced around at the rest of them. They all looked just as relieved as him. Fox grinned, and with the battle over, he leaned a hand against a nearby wall. They'd finally won.

That was before he realized someone was missing.

"Hey, where'd the kid go?" Mario seemed to notice it too, from his reaction.

From the platform above, footsteps rang out. Fox looked up just in time to see a green tunic disappear into the hall.

Right. They still had to catch Ganondorf.


Once again, Link sprinted through the halls. The walls here were much cleaner, a contrast to the rough walls of the cave. There was no light. He was stumbling around in the dark, yet his instincts were telling him to run forward.

In the distance, he saw a light down the hall. Maybe it was a way out. Link ran faster. If he moved fast enough, maybe he could still catch Ganondorf.

A metallic glint caught his eye on the side of the hall. A sword? No, it was a mask. Link slowed a bit, just enough to catch a glimpse of the small figure lying against the wall. When he saw the mask over his face and the sword at his feet, he realized that it was Meta Knight.

A faint rasp rattled the mask. He was still breathing, so that was good, but he wasn't moving. No help there.

Link was so distracted by Meta Knight that he didn't notice the looming figure before him until he noticed that all the light had disappeared.

Drawing his sword, Link jumped back with a yelp. Blocking out the light at the end of the tunnel was none other than Ganondorf. It took Link only a second to bring his sword in front of him. In his master's stories, though, a second was all Ganondorf needed to make a move. Odd that, for all his talk before, he was standing still.

Not only that, but his sword wasn't glowing.

Link wasn't given much time to think about it. He wasn't given much time to react at all before Ganondorf's head exploded in a flash of rainbow light and a cloud of hearts.

The warlord's body tumbled over Link's head, smoke billowing behind it. Link's jaw hit the floor, exactly as Ganondorf hit the floor. He spun around. Who could be powerful enough to kill Ganondorf?

Of all the possible people he imagined would be standing behind him, a tiny pink puffball was the last thing on the list.

Link blinked. The pink puffball blinked back. Link rubbed his eyes, not quite sure what he was seeing. He looked harder. The pink puffball just became uncomfortable, shifting on its feet with the shiny rainbow stick in its hands.

"Did you do this?" he asked.

"Poyo!" the pink puffball said, giving him the most innocent smile he had ever seen.

What was he thinking? Of course, this cute creature couldn't be responsible. This was all probably some crazy coincidence.

"Link! Wait for..."

From behind him, Link heard Fox trail off. He turned to face him and the rest of the team and found Fox staring at the body. A pool of dark matter had formed on the floor. Link took a look at the pool, then back at Fox. No one seemed sure of what to make of it.

"Woah, kid, what happened here?" Mario said.

Link opened his mouth to reply. A chuckle echoed in the halls before he could speak. It bounced off the walls, ringing out like the inside of a bell. Link tried to find where it was coming from, but where the sound was loudest was...

The body.

The body rose off the floor slowly, dark sludge dripping from it. A black mist oozed out from somewhere, stewing on the floor like quicksand as the laughing only grew louder and louder. Link swung at the mist. It parted for the blade, only to pull back together. All the while, his blade never once started to glow.

If this wasn't dark magic, what was this?

The laughing reached a peak in volume. A low gurgle came from within the body, and an eye burst out of the stomach. Link's blood went cold. As the yellow eye swirled around the room, he could feel nothing but horror.

Voices, whispering voices circled in his head. Whispering, hissing words he couldn't understand. The cogs in his mind tried to piece together their meaning, despite that, somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew there was none, and the harder his mind tried to understand, the harder it worked, all his thoughts twisted in one single direction, eroding any sense in the vast empty void. Suddenly, nothing made sense. Not the wet feeling in his shoes. Not the orange person in front of him. Not the way the yellow eye locked onto him.

Then there was a flash of bright colors. Link snapped back to reality, and he found himself on the floor. He didn't remember falling down.

Link looked up. No one else seemed sure of what had happened either if the confused looks everyone was giving each other was any hint. All that remained of the body was a trail of black mist curling up into the air, and as he peered closer, he noticed a trace of rainbow glitter fluttering to the ground.

A little warier, Link glanced over his shoulder. The pink puffball was still there, the wand in its hand sparkling with bright colors. The pink puffball met his eyes, and its grin grew wider.

It walked over to Link. To stunned to react, Link let it his arm, and, despite being half his size, it pushed him back to his feet.

"Poyo!" it said, using its arms to rub the dust off his sleeves.

What... what even was this?

Chapter Text

"Truly an impressive victory, if I don't say so myself." Master Hand loomed over them, casting all nine of them in his massive shadow. "Truly sound and decisive. If there's something these guys were going to do, I don't think they'll get it done."

After their... bizarre encounter with whatever that was, they had run outside and found Master Hand waiting for them, a squad of Subspace Soldiers standing right behind him.

"Yeah, yeah, don't patronize us," Mario said, waving his hand. "We know we won, you don't have' ta tell us."

"Our payment," Samus said. "Where is it?"

"Worry not. Your payment will be digitally deposited into your accounts, or if you do not have them, it will be delivered by mail. Although..."

Mario groaned. "Oh boy, here comes the sales pitch."

"Any there's a good reason for it, my boy. This threat is the first of its kind, and, I fear it will not be the last. When the prison ships went down, the escaped convicts scattered all across the galaxy. It won't be long before we might face a similar threat."

"Any that's where we come in, right?" Fox said.

"Correct! If we have a team such as yourselves to fend them off, the galaxy would be safe for years to come." Master Hand paused for dramatic effect. "So. Who wants to join?"

There was a moment of silence. A few of them exchanged looks.

Mario spoke first. "As fun as saving the galaxy sounds, I've got family back home I need to take care of." He moved away from the group and stood at the other side of the clearing.

"I understand." Master Hand turned to the rest of them. "Anyone else?"

Donkey Kong walked over to Mario without a moment of hesitation, making his choice clear. He gave a low grunt, mumbled something about bananas, and stood behind the red plumber.

Fox, however, was much more clear in his choice. "It's been so long since I've worked with a team," he said. "I'm not about to lose that again, even if I might be out of practice. I'm in."

Link moved in next to Fox. "I might not know that much. I'm still learning a lot about what I need to do, but Ganondorf is still out there. I'm not going to be able to protect anyone if I stay out of this. I'm in."

Pikachu couldn't say anything, but he didn't need to. His red cheeks lit up with electric sparks, and he scowled, the memory of his imprisonment still fresh in his mind. His paws carried him over to Fox's side, and he plopped himself down.

Samus said nothing for the longest time, staring into space instead. When she finally came back down to earth, there was a certain steel in her eyes. "A bounty hunter works alone," she said. "I don't want to tie myself down to a team. That's just not what I do. I'm out."

At last, the spotlight fell on Yoshi. His choice should have been obvious. To everyone's surprise, though, he hesitated.

The dinosaur took a step toward Mario, then stopped. His eyes flicked between Mario's side, then Fox's side. His eyes met the plumber's, and when Mario nodded, Yoshi nodded back.

Without a word, Yoshi took Fox's side.

"Well, Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus," Master Hand said, sweeping over each of them with his gaze. "I am terribly sorry none of you feel you can join the team. You'll still receive your payment."

"You think you could give us a ride back too?" Mario said. "All the ships we came in got blown up."

"We can provide those too." As a few Subspace soldiers stepped forward, motioning for Mario, Donkey Kong, and Samus to follow, Master Hand turned to the group that was left. "As for the rest of you, welcome aboard! I can promise that you'll be paid well for your work. Fox. Link. Pikachu. Yoshi. I have the feeling this is the start of something great."

A pink hand tapped his side. Master Hand glanced down to see Kirby standing beneath him, looking up with pleading eyes.

"Do you want to come too?" Fox said, tilting his head.

"Poyo!" Kirby said with a nod.

Fox looked up at Master Hand, and Master Hand sighed.

"He can join as well."


A glowing red eye drifted in a dark chamber. In the darkness, it was the only thing visible, but the soft light it gave off managed to illuminate an outline of its surroundings.

*There was no need to engage them,* a voice came from it, broken and crackling like radio static.

Ganondorf didn't answer, standing at the front of the room with his back facing it. As the silence stretched on, the red eye narrowed. It didn't like being ignored, especially when it was trying to speak.

*Your enemy may not know what they've stumbled upon, but the Star Warriors will not be so easily fooled. Revealing our alliance is highly illogical.*

"Patience, Zero."

Ganondorf held up a hand, and the voice went silent. "All good things come to those who wait," he said, "and it would not have taken long for them to identify the Dark Matter clone. My reveal will do little to impede our plans. You wanted a field test for your experimental Matter creation, so any results that might have brought would progress your research much farther than my reveal could have slowed us down."

The voice was silent for a moment. Then the eye relaxed. *Your reasoning is logical. Though tell me, why is it you decided to place yet another one of our cards on the table?*

"To raise the stakes for our game. Had I not, there would be no guarantee that little Star Warrior would join Master Hand's brigade of enforcers."

*I still believe he is an unnecessary element. As long as you can keep him from interfering with me, though, I shall allow it.*

The red eye closed, disappearing into the pitch black. Ganondorf crossed his arms, and as all light faded from the room, he just stood in place. Waiting.

He didn't have to wait for long. A tone cut through the silence, and a call flashed in his face. Ganondorf flicked a finger, pressing a button on the console in front of him with a spark of dark magic. The screen broke out into a fizz of black and white before a picture emerged from it bit by bit.

"You're really something, you know that?" Wolf's voice came through, etched with cracks in the poor transmission. "You couldn't have sent us reinforcements? You just left us out to dry!"

"Spare me your complaints, Wolf," Ganondorf said. "From the fact that you are speaking to me right now, I take it you have escaped?"

"The Meta Knights roughed me up a bit, having no idea how to handle a prisoner, but yes, once they made the transfer to a subspace shuttle, I was able to hijack it for myself."

"I see."

Wolf growled, perhaps unnerved by his lack of a reaction. "Did you really have to let us get blown around by those amateurs?"

"I had to make sure they could put up some semblance of teamwork. They'd hardly pose much of an imposing threat otherwise."

"And what about Miracle Matter? Did they beat it?"

"Indeed."

"You don't sound very surprised."

"I'm not. Give a hundred idiots a hundred sticks and lock them in a room with a monster, and, given time, they will find a way to kill it."

"Yes, that all sounds very nice. Did you at least get what you needed? I don't want to hear that I got thrown out of my own ship for nothing."

"Don't worry. Master Hand has his team. And now, we can make a team of our own."

At once, Ganondorf's face was lit by a wall of screens. Each screen proudly displayed the faces of Mario, Link, Fox, and everyone who had gone against him, holding their own against Miracle Matter's onslaught of attacks. Seeing every one of them, watching them work together to bring down the beast.

His lips split into a grin, and he chuckled. From the console in front of him, he picked up a letter with a familiar red seal stamped over the envelope, and he held it before his face.

"Call the brotherhood to arms," he said.

And the room fell back into darkness.