Chapter 1: Prologue
“Leroy. You are a prototype.”
With those words, Leroy had been introduced into the world. He stayed up all night when he arrived, reading the rulebook from front to back. When he got to the first rule, he paused.
‘Prototypes cannot go to the Big World.’
Leroy ran a hand through his blond streaked brown hair. His blue and green eyes scanned the page, reading all the reasons why prototypes were required to stay in the Institute of Perfection and why they could never have a kid. Leroy let out a shaky sigh when he read that subtitle, but he pushed through the paragraphs nonetheless.
For two lonely years, most of Leroy’s nights were spent either reading rulebooks and manuals, watching instructional videos, or taking long walks around the Institute, occasionally striking up conversations with any robotic passerby.
Until one day, he heard it.
“Lucas. You are prototype 2.0.”
Leroy had rushed from his mansion to the center in time to see a blond step through the gates. He looked around with an excited grassy gaze, before locking eyes with Leroy and smiling brightly.
“Hey!” Lucas yelled, running towards Leroy.
“Hello,” Leroy greeted once the other prototype was close enough. “Lucas, was it?”
“That’s what the machine said! But, I think I like Luca better.” Luca laughed, looking around again. “So, what do we do around here, uh…”
“Leroy,” the first prototype supplied, “and, according to the rules, we’re here to help dolls reach the Big World.”
“Ooh, nicey-dicey~, wait!” Luca’s smile dropped. “There are rules?”
“Yep,” Leroy replied. “A whole book full.”
Luca’s nose wrinkled, and he kicked at the ground lightly. “Heh. Never been a fan of readin’...”
“I can read them for you,” Leroy suggested.
Luca perked up.
“Aw, you’d do that for me?” His tone was teasing, but his body language was slightly shy. Leroy smiled.
“Of course, Luca. We’re brothers.”
Leroy didn’t entirely know what possessed him to say that, but the way the younger prototype’s eyes sparkled once he did kept him from trying to retract the words.
“Okie-doke, let’s do it,” Luca said, grabbing Leroy’s hand and pulling him towards the unused dolls’ houses.
“Wait, right now?” Leroy asked incredulously.
“Yeah, why not?” Luca titled his head.
Leroy trailed off nervously. Luca was a prototype just like him. It wouldn’t be right for Leroy to keep the truth from him, no matter how awful it was.
“Okay,” he said finally, “follow me.”
Leroy led Luca to the mansion. As Luca curled up on the couch, Leroy brought the large rulebook over and sat next to him. Luca sat upright, swinging his legs as he watched Leroy open the book with anticipation. Leroy looked at him, before swallowing and looking down at the words.
“‘Prototypes cannot go to the Big World’,” he read aloud.
Leroy looked over at Luca, watching as confusion, realization, and eventually sadness wash over his face.
“Oh…” Luca sighed. “Oof. Def not a fan of that.”
Leroy chuckled softly. “Heh. Me neither…”
Both boys looked away. Luca broke the silence.
“Can you read me the rest?”
“Are you sure?” Luca nodded at Leroy. “Okay, scootch in. This is a long read.”
Luca scooted closer to Leroy, who wrapped his arm around him and continued reading softly.
Leroy and Luca spent three long years together. Luca would make jokes and pull pranks on the robots that made Leroy laugh. Leroy would take Luca around the Institute and explain things to him. Sometimes, they would play games around the Institute, such as tag and hide ‘n seek.
“Louis. You are prototype 3.0.”
Leroy and Luca ran out into the center. A blond stepped through the gates, looking around at everything with a bright smile. He ran up to meet the other two prototypes.
“Hey! I’m Louis, but I like Lou better. What’re your names?”
Leroy and Luca smiled softly at Lou’s enthusiasm.
“I’m Leroy, and this is Luca,” the oldest prototype introduced.
“Nice to meet ya, kid,” Luca greeted.
“It’s nice to meet you, too!”
Lou’s eyes were practically sparkling as he surveyed the other prototypes, zipping around them and talking a mile a minute.
“It’s super cool that we all have L names. Leroy, your eyes are super cool! Is your hair naturally like that? Speaking of hair, you and I have the same hair, Luca! And that mole kinda suits you, and draws attention to your eyes. That’s really awesome, actually!”
Lou continued to talk loudly the whole way to the mansion, asking where all the dolls were and what they were supposed to do and “Oh my gosh, is this where you guys live? It’s so cool!”
“It’s where we all live, little bro,” Luca told him.
“Whoa!” Lou exclaimed, looking around. He ran deeper into the mansion, surveying everything he could.
Leroy came up behind Luca, sighing sadly.
“We have to tell him,” he said softly.
Luca sighed as well. “I know,” he whispered back, “but look how excited he is.”
The two watched as the younger prototype circled the living room, looking at everything, before eventually flopping onto the couch with a happy sigh.
“We should at least let him settle in first,” Luca said.
“You’re right,” Leroy nodded. “It can wait until after dinner.”
Of course, dinnertime came and went faster than the two expected. They were all lounging on the living room, listening to a classical music vinyl on a record player. Knowing they couldn’t put it off for much longer, Leroy gave Lou, who was beginning to doze of, a tap on the shoulder. Lou sleepily turned his head towards the oldest prototype, who made a ‘follow me’ gesture. Luca perked up as the two stood from the couch, and watched silently as Leroy brought Lou over to the bookshelf.
“Lou, I want to show you something,” he began. “It’s about the Institute of Perfection, and how things work around here.”
“You wanna show me a rulebook?” Lou asked, a small confused smile on his face.
“It’s very important that you read the whole thing.”
Leroy pulled the book from the shelf and handed it to Lou. He and Luca both watched as Lou gave Leroy another confused look before opening the book and flipping through the beginning pages. They saw the light drain from Lou’s as he read over the first official page of the rulebook, and then looked up at Leroy with wide eyes.
“Is… is this true?” he asked softly.
Leroy nodded sadly. “It is.” He looked over his shoulder at Luca, then turned back to Lou. “We’re really sorry, Lou.”
Lou was silent for a while, then he shook his head.
“No, no, it’s okay.” He looked at both prototypes, before looking back down at the book. “Can I… read this alone?”
“Of course,” Leroy said. “We’ll help you pick out a bedroom.”
Leroy and Luca walked Lou down the hall to the bedrooms. None of them said a word about their sad, ugly truth.
Chapter 2: The Ugly Truth
the boys meet the uglydolls
A robot in a butler outfit wheeled into the Perfection Office, where the three brothers were adjusting their suit jackets and adjusting their ties.
“The new line of dolls has arrived,” it told them.
“Perfect,” Leroy said, dusting off his jacket.
“Have they starting asking about us?” Luca asked, placing his lint roller on the desk.
“Kitty, Lydia and Tuesday are informing them of you right now.”
Lou tucked his mirror away in his pocket and clapped his hands together. “Welp, that’s our cue, boys.”
The brothers got in a line as the robot moved to open the side door. There was cheering and shouting from all the dolls in the Institute center. The brothers gave a silent laugh at Tuesday’s “I love you, Lou!”.
The music started. It was showtime.
“We know you hope to go to the big you-know-where,” Leroy began, before moving to the left.
“And you’re here to try and earn your ticket there,” Luca continued, sliding to the right.
“Better listen now, or you haven’t got a prayer,” Lou finished, stepping forward.
“Let’s break this down. Ooh!”
The brothers descended the stairs, pulling poses as they did so. Lou shot a few finger guns at his female fans while Luca blew a kiss at a nearby male doll. They made their way down the runway before stopping in the middle.
“If you want someone to love ya,” Lou sang, “babe, you gotta look like me.”
“Gotta be flawless, pure perfection, not for shelf,” Leroy added.
Luca moonwalked down the catwalk.
“And our first impressions of ya, as far as we can see,” he sang, “is that you simply can’t compete with our sweet selves.”
The three jumped down from the stage, merging in with the other dolls.
“Is your hair as thick as mine?” Leroy combed his cowlick back, only for it to spring back up.
“Are your glutes as tight as mine?” Luca popped his hips towards the crowd.
“Are the moves you got as drop-dead hot as this?” Lou danced around some of the dolls.
“Is your profile half this fine?” Leroy sized up a nearby female doll. Luca leaned against his brother.
“If not, let us hit ya with the bottom line.” Both pointed to Lou, who was back on stage, looking into his mirror.
“You’ve got to measure up, or you won’t get eternal bliss,” he said, smirking down at them.
Leroy popped in on the right. “So let us be honest.”
Luca slid in from the left. “We’ve got to be honest.”
Lou rested his arms on their shoulders. “We’re gonna be honest.”
They all jumped down from the stage. “Whether you like it or not!”
Leroy pointed to a male doll named Clark. “You’re much too short.”
Luca dismissively waved his hand at a female doll named Miranda. “You’re way too thin.”
Lou wrinkled his nose at a doll named Paige. “Is that a blemish on your double chin?”
“Don’t ever walk a runway,” Luca said, wagging his finger.
“Or man a kissing booth,” Lou added, shaking his head.
“You’re U-G-L-Y, ugly!” Kitty, Lydia and Tuesday harmonized.
“And that’s the ugly truth,” Leroy sang.
The brothers looked around at the crowd of dolls. Some of them looked a bit uncomfortable, a few even looking away. Leroy stepped forward.
“Now, perhaps, we’ve just upset ya, but-”
“People, let’s get real,” Luca interrupted, pushing on Leroy’s shoulders.
Lou slid on the center floor as the portal lights shone behind him. “It’s the most exclusive club that you want in.”
He ran over and leaned against a smirking Lydia’s back. “There’s a price to pay, you betcha.”
Leroy side-hugged Tuesday, who giggled softly. “Hey, you gotta look ideal.”
“Or you’ll end up in the ol’ recyclin’ bin.” Luca pointed a thumb at Kitty, who gestured to a nearby trash can.
“But hey, we can help ya.” Leroy smiled at a doll named Harper.
“Well, possibly help ya.” Luca nonchalantly shrugged at a male doll named Sebastian.
“Well, hopefully help ya.” Lou patted a female doll, Abigail, on the head.
The brothers ran back on the stage, pointing out at the crowd. “But most of you, probably not!”
Lou popped in front of a male doll, Nolan, wrinkling his nose. “Your head’s too small.”
Luca came up behind Nolan, draping a sign marked “UGLY!”. “Your neck’s too long.”
Leroy shoved a finger in Fortune’s face. “Your nose starts right, but it ends up all wrong.”
Fortune nervously tugged her strawberry blonde curls as Lou held a magnifying glass to her cheek. “Mm, that tiny freckle.”
Leroy inched closer to Lou, looking into the crowd in disgust. “Ooh, that crooked tooth.”
Kitty pushed Fortune towards Nolan as Lydia and Tuesday sang, “You’re U-G-L-Y, ugly!”
“And that’s the ugly truth,” Luca said, pushing Nolan so that he and Fortune collided and fell to the floor.
“You’re U-G-L-Y. So sorry if that makes you cry,” the girls sang, pointing at Nolan and Fortune, who were tearing up. The girls addressed the crowd, continuing with, “You’re ugly, so ugly, so-”
At Lou’s shout, the music cut. A second spotlight came down on a group of misshapen dolls. Leroy, Luca and Lou stared at them in shock. Leroy snapped out of it first, pointing down at the group.
“Look at you, look at you, look at you,” he sang softly as he and his brothers descended the stairs. “We ain’t seen nothing like you before.”
“I mean, words fail us,” Luca added, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I mean, we’re tongue-tied. I mean, we’re speechless, baby.”
Lou approached the pink one slowly. “What’s a thing like you,” he sang, “doing in a place like this?” He knelt in front of her, leveling their gazes. “I gotta tell you, girl, you’re pretty…”
Kitty, Lydia and Tuesday appeared behind Lou. “Pretty ugly!”
“You poor, poor thing.” Leroy gestured to the orange one as Kitty tossed a bag over their head.
“Don’t look so sad.” Luca gave a few harsh pokes to the gray one’s stomach.
“We’re sorry you’re so ugly,” Lou said.
“Is that…” The pink one trailed off sadly. Lou nodded.
Luca loomed over the red one. “Imagine how you’d traumatize some unsuspecting youth.” Leroy patted the bag atop the orange one’s head.
“Yeah, it would be U-G-L-Y, ugly!” the girls sang.
“And that’s the ugly truth,” Leroy said, turning and walking back to the stage.
“So sorry that’s the truth,” Luca added, following Leroy.
“That’s just the ugly truth,” Lou sang, as he danced around the dolls.
“Yeah, you’re U-G-L-Y!” Kitty, Lydia and Tuesday harmonized as Lou stopped in front of the small group.
“I really do feel bad for you, but kids just don’t want ugly,” he said softly. “So, I don’t know where you belong, but it’s not here.”
Lou walked back towards the stage. His brothers joined him on the bottom step. They all smirked at the sad expressions on the misshapen dolls’ faces.
“And that’s the ugly… Truth!”
As the song ended, the lights came back on. Everyone clapped and cheered for the brothers, who waved and grinned at the crowd.
“Come on, Moxy,” the red doll said, nudging the pink one. “Let’s go home.”
The gray one picked up the red one. “”Do you want me to pick you up, too?”
The pink one, Moxy, didn’t reply.
“Okay, just let me know.” The gray one walked off, carrying the others.
Moxy looked up the three brothers and, seeing Luca and Lou’s smirks, turned to leave as well.
Lou laughed. “Bless their ugly little hearts,” he said.
“Such a shame,” Luca agreed. “Right, Roy-boy?”
He nudged Leroy, who fondly rolled his eyes at the nickname. The three vaguely registered Mandy talking behind them as they watched Moxy pause and look up at the Institute screen. They watched as she looked up at the screen the same way every other doll did: with longing and the sweet hope that they, too, could reach that happiness.
Of course, for the brothers, it was just a painful reminder of what they couldn’t achieve.
“Moxy…” the orange one warned. The other UglyDolls looked to see Moxy turn back to the stage with a determined smile.
“You know what?” She crossed her arms. “We’re not going anywhere!”
The orange one whispered something to her, to which Moxy replied that they’d come this far. Lou blinked.
“Um… come again?” Something about this felt terribly familiar, not just to Lou, but to Luca and Leroy as well.
“We’re gonna train to get to the Big World,” Moxy announced, stepping closer to the brothers. “We’re just as lovable as the rest of you. And we’re gonna prove you three wrong.”
Leroy, Luca and Lou gave each other a look. Then, Luca let out a burst of laughter, prompting the rest of the Pretty Dolls to do the same.
“Before we do this, shouldn’t we tell Ox?” the red one asked.
Lou held a hand out to stop the laughter. That name was extremely familiar. Could it really be…
“Ox?” Lou stepped closer to the bright colored dolls. “Who is Ox?”
“Well, he’s the founder and mayor of our town, where we live.” The five dolls all looked quite proud of that fact.
As Lou looked away in confusion, Luca stepped forward.
“So,” he chuckled weakly, “There’s a whole town of…” Luca gestured to the five. "Uglies?”
“It’s called Uglyville,” Moxy said with a smile.
Lydia muttered something to Kitty, who nodded.
“Um… none of this matters,” Leroy stammered nervously, “okay?”
“Lee’s right,” Lou said, shaking himself from his stupor. “Only Pretty Dolls can run the Gauntlet. Rules are rules.”
“What rules?” Moxy retorted.
The brothers looked at each other nervously, before a robot wheeled in, carrying their rulebook and beginning to read from it.
“Oh! No, no, no.”
Leroy slammed the book shut, shooing the robot away. He turned back to the UglyDolls.
“You know what? Stay here,” he said.
“Really?!” Moxy asked excitedly.
“Of course!” Luca exclaimed, forcing a smile.
“What kind of amazingly benevolent leader would we be if we denied fellow dolls a chance to fulfill their dreams?” Lou clapped his hands together. “Mandy, show our special guests their quarters.”
“Might I suggest the Supply Suite, dear brother?” Luca grinned at Lou, who smirked back.
“Magnificent idea, Luca,” he said as Mandy escorted the five away.
As she did, Lou beckoned Moxy closer. When she was a foot away, he loomed over her with a sardonic smirk.
“We’ve a reputation to maintain. so we’ll let you skate by this time,” Lou whispered. “Enjoy this moment, because it doesn’t get better than this.”
Moxy gulped, before turning to follow her group of friends.
The Pretty Dolls watched as they left. When the five were gone, they all began milling about, talking amongst each other and heading towards the houses.
“Kitty, Lydia Tuesday.” The three girls came forward at Lou’s call. The brothers turned to them with serious expressions on their faces.
“Find out everything you can about their town,” Lou said, “and report back to us tomorrow night.”
“Night?!” Tuesday asked excitedly. “Like a date?”
Lou rolled his eyes in exasperation while Luca shook his head.
“Nope,” he said, before smirking. “But, there is one more thing we need you to do.”
Chapter 3: Tips and Tricks
Surprise, Leroy is a soft boy.
Later that night…
Lou slammed open the door to the brothers’ shared study. Though dressed in a blue T-shirt and pajama pants, his angry glare still made him look intimidating.
Lou sneered, remembering the way Moxy had tried to stand up to him and his brothers earlier. And then mentioning Ox…
“I’ll crush them all,” he sang, “destroy their dreams…”
He had to. Not just for him, but for the Institute. For his brothers.
“To save our perfect empire, nothing’s too extreme.”
Lou approached the window, looking out at the sun, which was setting behind the doll houses.
“And I know how to do it without looking too uncouth…”
He especially had to do this for his brothers. They had worked too hard for all of this.
“I’ll plan it so foul, gross, hideous, nast-eh!”
They had suffered too much for Lou to just let those misshapen creatures slip past them. How dare they? How dare those, those Uglies just waltz in thinking they could have what Lou and his brothers never could. He’d show them.
“They’ll never see the ugly… truth,” Lou finished, shutting the blinds as he did so. He glared at the shaded window. Ox… Could it really be him? Of course, he and his brothers would have to confront the rabbit when the Spy Girls finally returned with him. But, what would he tell Leroy and Luca...
Two knocks against the doorframe startled Lou out of his brooding. He turned to see Luca standing in the doorway.
“If you’re finished being an evil villain for today,” Luca teased, “I’ve got the console set up.”
Lou rolled his eyes, but smiles anyway.
“Yeah, I’ll be right down.”
He could tell the others later.
Leroy made his way towards the supply shed. In all fairness, he was kind of curious about the UglyDolls they now had in their midst. Just because they wouldn’t be there for much longer didn’t mean Leroy couldn’t at least learn their names.
The door to the supply shed opened, and Mandy walked out. She was looking down at something, though Leroy couldn’t exactly make out what it was.
The doll yelped, shoving whatever she’d been holding in her pocket.
“Oh, Leroy.” Mandy sighed, holding a hand to her chest. “What are you doing out here?”
“I thought I’d check on the little sock puppets,” Leroy answered. “I want to give them a few tips.”
Mandy’s eyebrows rose. “You do?”
“Is that so surprising?” Leroy cocking a brow.
“Um, n-no, I just… I didn’t… See you tomorrow, Leroy!”
Mandy scampered off, nearly running into a lamppost. Leroy shook his head as he turned back to the shed. The poor girl could be terribly clumsy at times. Shaking his head again, Leroy knocked on the door, stepping back as it opened.
“Oh, Mandy, did you need some...” Moxy trailed off as she registered exactly who was at the door.
“It’s Leroy, actually,” he said, stepping inside the shed.
“Whoa, whoa!” The blue dog-like one jumped in front of him. “What is he doing here?”
Leroy held his hands in front of him. “Now, I know we got off on the wrong foot earlier-”
“-but, I wanted to offer some assistance,” Leroy continued, as if the orange one hadn’t spoken.
“Assistance?” Moxy asked.
“Tips,” he elaborated. “For tomorrow.”
“You want to help us?” The red one gave him a confused look.
“Of course I do, uh…”
Leroy waved his hand at the red one, whose eyes widened in realization.
“Oh, I’m Lucky Bat,” he said, extending his wing. Leroy gave it a tentative shake.
“I’m Babo,” the gray one introduced, holding out his hand. Leroy hesitated, but shook it as well.
“The name’s Ugly Dog,” the blue one announced, pointing a paw at himself.
“Wage.” The orange one unenthusiastically raised a hand.
“And I’m Moxy!” Moxy came over to sit next to Ugly Dog. “And really, any help would be welcome. Right, guys?”
The others nodded, though Wage grumbled a bit.
“I just have a few things I want to inform you of,” Leroy told them, “and then I’ll be out of your, erm, fur.”
The UglyDolls looked at him expectantly. Leroy fidgeted a little. He had never been the fondest of being the sole center of attention. That was mostly Lou’s forte, though Luca didn’t mind it either. But him?
“So, um…” Leroy rocked back and forth on his heels. “Well, there’s gonna be a lot of tests before you can actually go to Big World.”
“We can pass a few tests,” Moxy said confidently.
“They’re going to be super difficult,” Leroy continued. “Like we said, only the best can get to the Big World.”
He ignored the voice in the back of his mind that screamed that he and his brothers were the best, so why couldn’t they go?
“If you’re trying to discourage us, it’s not going to work.”
The other UglyDolls made noises of agreement to Moxy’s statement. Leroy blinked. These sock puppets were so determined, not to mention supportive of each other. It kind of reminded him of Luca and Lou…
“No, no, not trying to discourage. Trying to warn.” Leroy looked down at his perfectly polished shoes. “My brothers aren’t going to make any of these tasks easy for you. Just… be prepared for everything, okay?”
The UglyDolls looked at him in confusion. Leroy sighed inaudibly, before taking his leave.
Hopefully, they heeded his advice.
Chapter 4: First Day of Training
sorry for the delay
The next day, the brothers were on their “Teaching Stage”, looking out at the empty desks. As they all looked over their appearances to make sure they were perfect, Leroy stole nervous glances at his brothers. He wanted to say something about his conversation with the UglyDolls, but he wasn’t sure how the two would take it.
After his eighth glance, Lou sighed.
“What is it, Leroy?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I, well…” Leroy took a deep breath. “Do we have to keep the UglyDolls from running the Gauntlet?”
Lou and Luca’s eyes widened, before the former narrowed his dangerously.
“What?” Lou hissed.
“Er, I just meant… they’re really determined. Are you sure we can keep them from it?”
Both dolls relaxed at Leroy’s rephrasing. Luca rolled his eyes.
“Of course we can, Roy,” he said. “We just have to discourage them enough.”
“And if that doesn’t work,” Lou spoke up, “I’ve got a special trick up my sleeve.”
Leroy looked away. That was exactly what he feared.
Lou patted his eldest brother on the arm.
“Don’t worry, Lee,” he said softly, “we’re not going to let these sock puppets jeopardize our empire.”
Leroy was more worried about what Luca and Lou would do to the UglyDolls, but, of course, he kept that to himself.
The three prototypes fell into a uniform silence as the new dolls entered the Teaching Area. The UglyDolls were among them. Leroy looked out at the crowd with a reassuring smile, while Luca and Lou wrinkled their noses at the sight of the brightly colored misshapen dolls. As soon as the dolls took their seats, Leroy cleared his throat.
“Welcome, new dolls, to your first official day in the Institute of Perfection!” he said brightly.
The dolls gave the three brothers their full attention, some putting their folded hands on the desks in front of them.
“Today, you will all begin your training,” Leroy continued, clasping his hands together. “Now, we know this may seem a bit stressful, and maybe even a little scary. But remember, this is your purpose as a doll.”
A few dolls, who had looked a bit apprehensive at first, seemed to perk up a little at Leroy’s words. However, the words had an opposite effect on the brothers, who mentally wilted at the reminder that it wasn’t their purpose, but the purpose of the dolls sitting in front of them.
“And we would never let you fail!” Lou exclaimed, plastering a bright grin on his face. “We’ve dedicated our entire lives to making sure you go to the Big World.”
As the dolls looked at each other with small grins, the brothers mentally winced.The Big World… The place where everyone else except them could go.
“That’s right,” Lou continued before he could get too lost in his thoughts. “We’re doing this for you” he popped in front of a dark-skinned doll named Zania “and you” he tapped Fortune on the nose “and you!” Lou pointed at Nolan, who looked surprised.
“Wait, me?” he asked.
“Yes, you!” Lou poked Nolan in the middle before zipping back to the stage.
“Wait, so that whole ‘you’re ugly, you’re trash’ song,” Nolan recalled softly, “that was because you loved me?”
Leroy winced a little at the doll’s hopeful, imploring look, while Lou and Luca smirked.
“Of course we love you,” Luca said dismissively. “We love all of you. And we are gonna take you there!”
Luca raised his arms above his head, and a burst of blue, green and aqua colored fireworks exploded in the sky. The Perfect Dolls and the UglyDolls oohed and ahhed at the spectacle.
“Listen, I wanna hate them. Like, I really wanna dislike these guys,” UglyDog spoke up. “But I gotta respect a bomb ass fireworks budget.”
“Yep, we’re pretty awesome,” Luca bragged in response.
“But we’re here to get you pretty,” Lou told the crowd.
“Because pretty makes perfect.”
The brothers recited their self-proclaimed motto in perfect unison, taking a quick pause for the meaning to sink in.
“I don’t know about you guys, but that sounds great to us!” Lou exclaimed.
“So, let’s get started!” Leroy sung, clapping his hands together again.
Luca pointed to a male doll named Felix. “Do you want your clothes ruined by a tea party gone awry?” The doll shook his head.
Lou scrutinised a female doll named Jillian. “Do you want to find yourself on the business end of a permanent marker?”
Jillian gasped. “No!”
“And you!” Luca turned to a blonde doll, Whitney, who seemed a bit distracted.
“H-Huh?” They snapped to attention as Lou stepped in front of their desk. Lou rested his hands on the desk, leveling his and Whitney’s faces.
“Your kid spent an hour styling your hair,” he said with a soft smile, that melted into a blank look. “But then, disaster strikes.”
Before Whitney could ask, Luca thrust his pointer finger in their face, startling them.
“Who’s gonna get the gum out?!” Luca shouted. “Who?!”
Whitney shook their head, tearing up a bit. “I-I don’t k-know!” they cried.
Leroy zipped over, patting Whitney on the head.
“That’s what we’re here to teach you,” he told them softly, handing them a handkerchief from his suit pocket.
“Today, you’re going to practice how to avoid stains, smudges and spills,” Lou announced, back up on the stage. “Or as I like to call them: The S’s of Messes.”
The Perfect Dolls clapped and cheered, as did Luca and Leroy.
“Thank you,” Lou chuckled, placing a hand on his chest. “I actually came up with that by myself.”
Luca and Leroy took a step towards the stage when a huge glob of glue sprayed in their path. A nearby doll, Temple, shrieked, leaping over their desk and toppling over onto Ihsan, accidentally causing her to rip the paper she was writing notes on. The three brothers turned to see the UglyDolls covered in glue, glitter and paper, looking a bit sheepish.
Leroy almost let out a shriek himself. He had promised himself that he’d keep an eye on them, yet he was so caught up in teaching and self-pity that he forgot all about the fact that he said he’d help them. Out of the corner of his sky blue eye, Leroy took note of his younger brothers’ glares. Lou’s was disgusted, but Luca’s was downright furious. The spray of glue had sprayed right in front of them, almost coating their shoes.
Leroy’s eyes widened as he fully registered that fact. It had almost gotten on their shoes…
Luca was going to raise hell.
Chapter 5: Get Messy
can't think of a good chap summary
Luca stalked over to the UglyDolls, who looked a bit nervous. In fact, almost everyone in the area was alight with nervous energy, including Leroy. The green-eyed blond towered over a glue-covered Moxy, who took a few steps back as he approached.
“Do you have any idea what you almost did?” Luca asked in a dangerously quiet voice.
“Do you?!” Luca cut Moxy off, a furious scowl on his face.
“Luca, buddy, come on,” Leroy spoke up, gingerly placing himself between the two as to not get any glue on his skin or clothes. “I’m sure they didn’t mean it. They’re new, after all.”
The older prototype understood Luca’s outburst, of course. Besides the Institute, looking perfect was truly the only thing the brothers had actual control over. They weren’t entirely fond of getting messy.
Behind the fiery anger, Luca was downright terrified.
“Listen, we’re really sorry,” Moxy said softly, before laughing nervously. “But, don’t kids like to play rough and get messy?”
Luca’s eye twitched. How the hell would he know? His eyes narrowed into slits as he glared daggers into the misshapen sock puppets. The quintet flinched a bit.
“Wait a minute.” Moxy gasped, looking from Luca to Leroy with wide eyes. “This was one of the tests, wasn’t it?”
Leroy sighed. “Yes, it was. And-”
“And you passed!” Luca exclaimed brightly, covering Leroy’s mouth with his hand.
“Really?” Moxy asked incredulously.
“Really?” Leroy echoed, his voice a bit muffled.
“Yes, really,” Luca replied, turning to Leroy. He was smiling, but his eyes held a familiar gleam that Leroy recognized.
This wasn’t going to end well for Moxy and her friends.
Luca directed the same look to Lou, who nodded as he beckoned the UglyDolls to the stage.
“Luca’s right! Come on up here, and enjoy the Big World!” Lou exclaimed, moving part of the curtain to reveal what looked like the Big World portal.
As the UglyDolls ran up to the stage, cheering and whooping, Luca removed his hand from Leroy’s mouth. He gingerly stepped over the glue before running up to stand by Lou. Leroy slowly did the same, regret rushing over him in waves. He told the UglyDolls he’d help them, but he wasn’t stopping his brothers from going through with their impromptu humiliation plan.
As Leroy hopped up the stage stairs, Moxy turned to him.
“We just want to thank you guys,” she said. “We didn’t think we’d get this far.”
Leroy just nodded silently, before going to stand on Lou’s other side.
“Are you guys ready?” Moxy asked her friends. They all nodded, and the five of them entered the circular passageway…
...only for a glass door to close behind them. Muffled noises of confusion came from behind the glass as Lou addressed the crowd.
“This, students, is what happens to dolls who get messy,” he announced. Lou turned and pushed a button on the washer.
As the machine started up, the muffled noises of confusion turned into cries of pain and terror. Leroy winced. He’d seen dolls go through the washer before. It was a doll’s worst nightmare.
It was his worst nightmare.
Leroy looked away from the washer as Lou turned back to the crowd of fearful-looking dolls.
“Messy dolls get put through the wash!” he exclaimed. “Everytime you go through the wash, you come out a little less perfect, until one day, the washer won’t save you.”
Lou took a pause, before continuing.
“And when that happens, your child’s parents will throw you away!”
The Perfect Dolls gasped, a few of them fainting from shock.
“We don’t want to see any of you face that type of rejection,” Leroy told the crowd.
“So, if you wanna pass these tests, avoid messes,” Luca added nonchalantly.
The washer dinged, and the UglyDolls sat up inside, looking disoriented. Luca turned to them with a smirk.
“Stay out of the wash.”
After that ordeal, the brothers lead all of the dolls to an obstacle course. Luca jokingly liked to call it the Mini-Gauntlet, because that’s what it was. This had been the original Gauntlet, not that the brothers would reveal that to anyone.
They didn’t mention that night when, after watching the batch of Type-5 dolls pass through it so easily, the brothers had demanded a new, harder Gauntlet be concocted, with harder obstacles and a time limit, and a curriculum and standard that would sway dolls from leaving, so that they wouldn’t have to be alone any longer.
Besides, that was in the past. They had more pressing things to worry about now.
For Lou and Luca, that was intentionally sabotaging all of the UglyDolls’ attempts at passing through the Mini-Gauntlet without getting in a mess, a feat that wasn’t all that difficult.
For Leroy, it was trying to ignore the guilt he felt every time one of the UglyDolls was sent to the wash. It didn’t help that whenever it happened, they’d send the oldest prototype a pleading or angry look that he found himself ignoring because a secret, horrible part of him wanted to see them crash, burn and fail.
Finally, class was over. The Perfect Dolls began to disperse, talking amongst themselves about how hard class was and how they really wanted to pass the Gauntlet and be deemed perfect. The UglyDolls, however, had just exited the washer for what must’ve been the eleventh or twelfth time.
The hilarity of seeing the UglyDolls walk out of the washer looking like giant balls of fluff almost outweighed the anger the brothers felt when they realized that they all kept their bright colors.
“Well, damn,” Luca said, sarcastically clapping. “I don’t know about you two, but I’m impressed.”
“Why, thank you,” Moxy replied defiantly.
“And yet…” Lou trailed off, a hint of laughter in his voice. “Actually, nevermind.”
“What?” Moxy asked, curiosity piqued.
“Er, well…” Leroy glanced at his brothers, who looked at him expectantly. “Far be it from us to try and discourage you…” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
Moxy laughed it off.
“Yeah, no, that’s really hard to do.”
Lou narrowed his eyes.
“Of course it is,” the youngest prototype said flippantly. “But, just between the four of us, no matter how agile or unshakable you may be, when you look up there” he pointed to the screen displaying what it’d be like in Big World “at that perfect, pretty doll and all the joy that she comes with, do you truly think you and your little sock puppet friends stand a chance in a place like this?”
Moxy looked up at the screen, then back at Lou with a defiant, stubborn expression. Lou just shrugged.
“Well, okay, then. Carry on tryin’,” he told her. “But it’s like I always say. Pretty makes perfect. Good luck trying to beat the Gauntlet.”
The brothers watched as Moxy left with her friends.
“You truly have a way with words, little bro,” Luca said once they were alone.
“Yes, but is that really enough?” Leroy asked, as they began to make their way back to their mansion. “I can’t say much about her friends, but Moxy is truly stubborn.”
“And so am I,” Lou replied. “Not only that, but I’m a realist. I actually know how this world works. You don’t get what you want so easily.”
The two older prototypes blinked. They knew they had all grown a bit jaded, but they’d never heard the youngest prototype sound so cynical. Before either could bring it up, though, Lou’s phone chimed. After reading the message, he smirked and turned to his brothers.
“Our guest has arrived.”
Kitty, Lydia and Tuesday unceremoniously dumped Ox out of his sack, watching as he fell to the floor in a heap.
“Where am I?” Ox asked, eye darting about quickly. “Who’s in charge here? What- huh?”
Lou stepped out of the shadows, flanked by Luca and Leroy, whose eyes widened a bit in recognition and realization.
“Hello, old friend,” Lou drawled, smirking.
“L-Lou?” Ox’s eye widened, and he scooted back a little.
“Wait, they know each other?” Lydia asked quietly.
“Dia, he just said ‘L-Lou?’, keep up,” Kitty snarked.
“Oh, Lou, have you seen my bangs?” Tuesday pointed to her hair.
Lou sighed. “Girls, please. You can leave now.”
He waved them away as he stepped closer to Ox, towering over him.
“I’ve a private matter to attend to,” Lou said with a smirk.