Sunny Flare was busy filing her nails before the start of afternoon classes when the school public address system screeched to life with a squeal of feedback.
"Great, I wonder what the Wicked Witch of the West has to say this time," Sour Sweet muttered to her right. Sunny Flare smirked.
But it wasn't Principal Cinch's voice that boomed out from the speakers.
The class sat up, shaking out of their afternoon stupor. Murmurs broke out, and the teacher frowned at the PA speaker with confusion.
//Dis be your new principal here, goan' lay down dem BIG news fo' ever'BODY!// the male voice thundered. //Now dat uptight wahine dat run dis place, she goan' havin' de big medical surgery leave! Dem doctah say she gotta git dat stick cut outta her ass!//
There were some snickers and chuckles.
//So dis here kahuna, he done takin' over! Dis here be Principal Kuno, a-lo-ha oe, an' I'm havin' BIG NEWS 'bout some new school rules, so—//
The microphone screeched loudly.
//DON'T LISTEN TO HIM! HE'S TIED UP PRINCIPAL CINCH IN THE FACULTY RESTROOM! I CAN'T GET IN THERE BECAUSE HE BLOCKED THE DOOR WITH A PALM TREE! I'VE ALREADY CALLED THE POLICE BUT—//
Dean Cadance's voice was cut off by an explosion, leading to gasps and shrieks from the students.
//NOW LISTEN HERE, WAHINE!// Principal Kuno roared. //I'M HERE DOIN' DESE KEIKI SOME BIG FAVOR, NOW! DE BIG KAHUNA DOAN' BE NEEDIN' YO' SASS!//
//Somebody...call...help...// Cadance gasped out before the PA cut off.
The teacher looked around the room worriedly. "Umm...class dismissed," she said in a troubled voice. After a beat, she added, more insistently, "Run."
* * * * *
Enzan splashed some water from a public drinking fountain on his face with a sigh, then drank his fill. "Well, at least there's free water," he mused. His stomach rumbled, and he grimaced. "At this rate, I'll need to find someplace to camp that has a river, maybe some nuts and berries."
"If anyone can survive under these conditions, it's you, Enzan-sa..." Blues trailed off, stiffening. "Enzan-sama...look."
Enzan followed Blues' gaze. He blinked. "Nani kore...?"
A vehicle had just pulled to the curb nearby. It was the most unusual vehicle Enzan had ever seen. Most of the cars in this world looked pretty much the same as the cars he was used to. This, on the other hand...
It looked like a bizarre cross between a sports car and a camper truck. The whole thing was painted in gaudy red and orange tones, with chrome pipes running from the forward "cab" up the sides, bending at ninety degree angles at the top of the camper. The sides of the camper sported massive flame decals, and the hood of the cab had a smaller firebird decal forward of a sloping blue translucent canopy.
It was attracting more than a little attention. People were tilting their heads and staring at it. Some were laughing at its odd appearance; a couple of guys were staring at it like it was the most awesome thing they'd ever seen. An old lady rolled her eyes and snorted in disgust.
It was absolutely out of place in between the yellow compact and the white SUV it had parked between.
Enzan closed his eyes and smirked, pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose. "Some people have the worst taste in cars..."
"What I'm more interested in is that nobody's driving it," Blues said.
Enzan's eyes snapped open. "What?"
Blues nodded toward the blue canopy. Enzan shielded his eyes against the sun and squinted. He frowned. "Huh. You're right." He shrugged. "NetCars are auto-guided back home. It's entirely possible for a car to drive around with nobody inside."
"I don't believe that to be the case here," Blues said.
Enzan's dormant PET suddenly came to life, beeping insistently at him. He jolted, staring down at his pocket, then up at Blues. Blues frowned.
Enzan pulled his PET out of his pocket and powered on the screen. A map of Enzan's immediate surroundings appeared; his current position was marked with a yellow triangle, while a spot two blocks over was lit up with a flashing red dot. Beneath that were the words MEET ME HERE.
"What in the...?"
The camper car's engine gunned to life suddenly, and it pulled out of its parking space, rolling down the road.
Enzan and Blues exchanged a glance, nodded, and took off running, Enzan following the map on his PET.
"How do you suppose the operator of that vehicle managed to hack into your PET?" Blues wondered.
"I don't know, but I intend to find out," Enzan said.
The location marked on the map turned out to be an empty garage in an auto repair shop whose windows were boarded up. The camper car was parked inside. "Hello?" Enzan called.
"Over here," a male voice with a slight but noticable electronic distortion called from the front of the camper car.
Blues' right arm morphed into his glowing sword. "Be careful, Enzan-sama," he cautioned.
"Aa." Enzan crept cautiously into the garage, Blues a step behind him.
"Your friend can stand down his weapon. I'm not your enemy."
"We prefer to be careful, especially with unknown hackers," Enzan said coolly.
"Fair enough," the voice replied. "Heaven knows I've learned the hard way to be cautious."
As Enzan neared the front of the camper car, the canopy opened, revealing an orange leather interior and banks of computer controls, with a large screen set in the middle of the dash. "Don't you think this car is a bit conspicuous to let it drive around by remote control?" Enzan asked.
The voice was silent for a moment. "That's not exactly what's going on here, though I can understand why you might think that," the dashboard said. "Before that, though: am I correct in assuming you two are not native to this world?"
Enzan blinked. "Another world...?" He glanced at Blues. "Masaka... Could that be...?"
Blues frowned. "It would explain a lot," he said. "If such things are possible."
"Trust me, it's more possible than you know," the voice from the dasboard said. After a pause, he added, "Your friend there isn't human at all, is he?"
Enzan and Blues looked to one another. "No," Enzan admitted. "Blues is a NetNavi, an artificial intelligence designed to operate within computer networks. For some reason, he physically exists in the real world now. Neither of us can explain that."
"That explains that device you're carrying," the voice said. "I thought it seemed different from the rest of this world's technology."
"Sorry, but..." Enzan closed his eyes. "I think we'd both be more comfortable discussing this face to face instead of through this silly remote controlled car."
There was another, longer pause.
"Get in," the car said. "You're absolutely right. This isn't the place to talk. There's a secluded area by the river seventeen kilometers northwest of here. We'll go there."
"Enzan-sama," Blues cautioned.
Enzan snorted and smirked. "Wakatta." He jumped into the passenger seat and fastened the safety belt. With a frown, Blues got into the driver's seat and did likewise.
The canopy closed, and the camper car backed out of the garage.
* * * * *
Brook's introduction to the rest of the gang had gone about as well as Sunset could've hoped: Rarity was the only one who fainted and Tenten was the only one who actually attacked Brook. Fluttershy had screamed for a minute straight, then inexplicably calmed down and accepted the talking skeleton with mild, polite curiosity.
"Man, our wacky little family just keeps getting stranger," Miles said.
"Sunset, things are gettin' worse," Applejack said. "We've been hearin' about a helicopter blowin' up over Palomino Park last night."
Sunset grimaced. "We found the parachute of whoever survived," she said. "No sign of the actual survivor."
"And they're sayin' there's some crazy girl wearin' a taco on her head runnin' around Canterlittle sprayin' people with salsa and guacamole," Rainbow Dash said.
Everyone stared at her.
"...what?" Trunks said.
"What kind of sick, twisted world comes up with something like that?" Miles wondered.
"Actually, that sounds like Sonata," Pinkie said. "You know, that one Siren, the blue-haired one?"
"Huh," Applejack said. "Ain't heard nothin' outta them in a while."
"Well, they did move to Canterlittle not long after the Battle of the Bands," Sunset said thoughtfully. At the others' questioning looks, she ducked her head. "I, uhh...didn't say anything, but I kept tabs on them for a while, just to be sure they weren't planning any kind of revenge."
"Smart thinking," Rarity, now conscious again, said.
Sunset's phone went off; she pulled it out and read the screen. She blinked. "What the...?!"
"What is it?" Rainbow asked.
"S.O.S. from Flash," Sunset said. "He's been...kidnapped by three little girls? One of them's dressed like a stripper and has a gun?!"
Everyone looked around in confusion.
"What?!" several of those present shouted at once.
"That damn sure better not be mah sister an' her friends," Applejack said sourly.
"I think he'd have named names if it was," Sunset said as she texted Flash back. A minute later, she rubbed the bridge of her nose. "He's fine, he's just really weirded out and uncomfortable."
"So let's go save him!" Rainbow said, pumping a fist.
Sunset thought about it for a minute, then shook her head. "He can wait," she decided. "First, we need to—"
"GIRLS!" Sci-Twi came running out of the school, eyes wide and frantic. She skidded to a halt, breathing heavily and waving her phone.
"What's up, Twi?" Rainbow asked.
"Is something going on with the you-know-what?" Pinkie asked.
Sci-Twi shook her head. "I just got a text from Sugarcoat," she said. "Crystal Prep's been taken over by a madman! He's done something to Principal Cinch and Dean Cadance!" Her eyes welled up with tears. "Principal Cinch can go lick a butt, but we have to help Cadance!"
"Whoa," Rainbow said in an impressed tone. "I never thought I'd hear you say something like that."
"Can you blame her?" Applejack asked.
Sunset stood and walked over to Sci-Twi, placing her hands on her shoulders and smiling. "Don't worry," she said. "We'll go help Cadance."
"Th-thank you," Sci-Twi said, sniffling.
"Umm..." Fluttershy piped up. "We should probably help Flash, too. I mean, it really does sound like he needs help."
Sunset sighed. "Fine," she grumbled. "X, you and the bonebag go deal with Flash's female troubles. Miles, Tenten, Trunks, you're with me."
X nodded. "You can count on me."
"I won't fail!" Brook said. "I'll rescue your friend if my life depends on it!" He paused. "Even though I'm already dead."
Sunset groaned. "Here's the address," she said. "Just go." She turned to her team. "Let's hurry."
* * * * *
A crowd of nervous, anxious, and panicking Crystal Prep students gathered at the school entrance, which had been sealed off—locked steel shutters covered every conceivable exit from the building.
"Everybody calm down," Sunny Flare called to the crowd. She, Sugarcoat, Lemon Zest, Indigo Zap, and Sour Sweet stood between the frantic students and the madman who had somehow seized control of their school.
"Madman" was putting it mildly. "Principal Kuno" was a stocky, deeply tanned man wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt which clashed terribly with his loud lime green capri pants, sandals, sunglasses, and a lei around his neck. His short brown hair was topped by a tiny palm tree. A ukulele hung from a thin strap around his waist; he held a megaphone in one hand and a pineapple in the other.
"Now listen up!" he shouted at them. "You all be wearin' your school uniforms real nice an' proper an' dis Kahuna be diggin' dat, but dem funky skin colors an' wild hair, dat's gotta go! Dat be against dem rules!"
"You can't make rules against skin color!" Lemon Zest shouted.
"He can't make rules at ALL," Sour Sweet muttered. "Nobody died and made him principal!" She paused, then added, "Ooh, unless he killed that bitch Cinch!"
"None of us like Cinch, but we don't want her dead," Sugarcoat said. She adjusted her glasses and glared at the usurper. "If you think you can get away with taking an entire high school hostage like this, you're insane. The police are on their way and they'll arrest you. You're going to prison."
"Oh, I don' think dat goan' be happenin', wahine," Principal Kuno cackled. "Ain't no five-o goan' be makin' it past dem traps I done goan' put around de school, yah?"
"Traps, you say?" Sugarcoat asked, raising an eyebrow. Behind her back, she began rapidly texting. "Do tell."
Principal Kuno lowered his sunglasses. "Oh, I tell you all about it when you stop fiddlin' widdat fancy phone you got behind yo' back," he said. "Doan go thinkin' I ain't figured out dese here crazy phones, yeah! Dat pink wahine thought she got one up on ol' Principal Kuno, but—"
He suddenly threw the pineapple he held like a quarterback throwing a high forward pass. It sailed over the heads of the students and collided with the steel shutters, exploding violently on impact. Several of the students screamed and cowered in terror.
Principal Kuno grinned broadly.
"Now, let's talk about dem rules 'bout haircuts. Startin' wit' you, big-talkin' smartie blue wahine..."
* * * * *
Brook looked around in amazement as he and X walked down the street. "This world is remarkable," Brook said. "I've never seen anything like it!"
X regarded him. "I think it's safe to say this world's never seen anything like you either." He frowned. "Sorry if this sounds rude, but in my experience, dead humans stay dead. They don't..." He gestured vaguely at Brook. "This."
"Aa," Brook said sagely. "Yeah, this isn't exactly normal where I'm from either." He bowed his head. "On the one hand, I wish I had been able to die with my nakama and join them in the afterlife. On the other hand..." He clenched his fists. "There's a promise we made that still needs to be fulfilled, and...I'm the only one left to do it. And since I can't die, I'll keep that promise no matter how long it takes."
X looked away. "Gomen," he said. "I misjudged you. You seem strange, and I based my first impression of you based on your appearance and the fact that you claim to be a pirate." He chuckled. "I'm supposed to be better than that."
Brook waved a hand dismissively. "If I were in your place, I'd probably react the same."
They walked in silence for a minute. Then, X asked, "How did this happen to you? I think you explained it when we first met, but your explanation made absolutely no sense."
"Aa," Brook nodded. "Which part did you want explained? How I died, or why I'm a talking skeleton?"
"That last part," X said. "I can't imagine the other thing is something you want to talk about."
Brook shrugged. "Actually, that part's easier to explain," he said. "Our ship was boarded by a rival crew and they cut us down with poisoned weapons. Even after we drove them off the ship, it was too late." He looked down. "All we could do was wait to die."
X frowned. "So, a disagreement between criminals?" He paused, then added, "Suman."
Brook laughed hollowly. "Not all pirates are criminals," he said. "It depends on how you look at it. Where I come from, sailing under a pirate flag means you've taken the responsibility for your life and how you choose to live it in your own hands, and reject the order forced upon the world by the people who claim to own it." He picked idly at a loose thread on his jacket. "True, many pirates rob and kill and do other terrible things, but some, like me and my nakama, just seek a life of adventure. There are so many mysterious and exciting things to see in the world, but the only way to fully enjoy the world's many wonders is to fly the Jolly Roger and live outside of the law."
X tilted his head. "I don't...completely understand," he said. "Gomen, where I come from, my job is to enforce the law and protect mankind and Reploids alike from outlaws and renegades. Accepting that being an outlaw and being a criminal are two separate things is kind of a tough concept to process."
Brook chuckled. "It's not easy, no." He sighed. "Alright then, the other thing. Have you ever heard of Devil Fruits?" X shook his head. Brook nodded. "Alright. They're a rare type of mysterious fruit that exist in my world. As far as I know, there are no two Devil Fruits exactly alike. Eating a Devil Fruit gives one strange, unnatural powers and abilities, but it also curses you. If you've eaten the Devil Fruit, you lose the ability to swim forever."
X blinked. "Lose the ability to swim?"
"You sink like a hammer if you fall in the water," Brook said. "And given that the world is nothing but islands and ocean and it's almost impossible to avoid sea travel at any point in your life, that's not exactly a trivial curse."
X frowned. "I suppose it isn't."
"In any case, a long time ago, I ate the Yomi Yomi no Mi," Brook explained. "As far as Devil Fruits go, it isn't the most practical. It doesn't have the kind of powers that can be used every day, like many fruits. It does exactly one thing: my soul returns to my body after death." He paused. "The problem is, when I died after the attack on our ship, the ship was lost in dense fog. It took an entire year for my soul to find its way back to my body. By then, I had decomposed." He laughed. "So when I woke up, I was nothing but a skeleton! YOOOHOHOHOHOHOHO!"
X winced. "Well, at least you're handling it well."
* * * * *
The camper car coasted to a stop at the end of a gravel path that led to a grassy clearing in a sparse wooded area by a sparkling river. The canopy opened; Enzan and Blues got out.
Blues frowned as he looked around. "I don't see anyone here," he said. Unconsciously, he formed his sword.
"Alright," Enzan called. "No more games. I don't have time to waste on this foolishness."
"I couldn't agree more," the voice from the camper car said. And then...
Enzan and Blues stared in surprise as the ridiculously flashy camper car transformed into a tall, flashy orange-and-red robot with a silver face and glowing blue eyes. Blues tensed, his sword glowing; Enzan took a step back.
"Please," the robot said, kneeling. "I'm not your enemy. I'm sorry for the surprise, but I didn't think you'd believe me back at the garage. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rodimus Prime, and if I'm ever going to get back to my own universe, I'm going to need all the help I can get. I think we have a common interest here."
Enzan stared. "You're a..."
"Sentient...robot?" Blues asked in wonder.
"Is that so hard to believe?" Rodimus asked. "You're a sentient computer program."
Blues frowned. "Point taken."
"Who...built you?" Enzan asked curiously.
"I wasn't built," Rodimus said. "Not exactly. I'm part of a race of sentient robots that's billions of years old. I'm an Autobot, from the planet Cybertron. Our entire race was created ages ago by the Allspark."
"So...alien robot," Enzan said. "That explains why that car you turn into looks so ridiculous."
"Hey!" Rodimus said. "I admit I don't blend in as well as I used to before I became a Prime, but I happen to like my vehicle form!"
Enzan raised an eyebrow. "You like looking like someone welded a camper trailer onto a sports car and riced up the paint?"
Blues coughed. "We're getting off the subject here," he said. Turning to Rodimus, he said, "Then this isn't Earth?"
"Not the Earth I'm familiar with," Rodimus said. "I've been searching their Internet to the best of my ability. A lot of my comm systems are messed up."
"Same here," Enzan said. "I can't even access this world's network. My PET isn't compatible with their computers."
"I'm not surprised," Rodimus said. "Your device's technology is more advanced than this world's Internet infrastructure in many ways. It's like a Quintesson trying to teach a Dinobot to speak Japanese."
"I understood one word of that," Enzan muttered. "I'm guessing you were able to hack into my PET because you're more advanced technology than anything here?"
"Essentially," Rodimus said. "I think if we work together, we can modify your device to communicate with this world's computer networks, figure out what's wrong with my comm systems, then get the information we need. I've learned one thing: we're part of a larger problem. This world's news broadcasts are full of reports of strange people and things appearing out of nowhere."
"If we can find the source of all this, we can get the answers we need...maybe even find a way home," Blues mused.
Enzan nodded. "Alright. Let's all work together." He frowned. "We're going to need some tools, someplace to work, and provisions for me. Unlike the two of you, I'm human. I have basic needs I can't ignore."
Rodimus smiled. "Well, we're by a river," he pointed out. "And there's a forest. I can synthesize a container to carry food and water."
"I can forage for edible fruits and nuts in the forest," Blues said. "Enzan-sama, you can put your fishing skills from that cookout with your friends to good use."
Enzan smirked. "I was better at it than Hikari Netto," he said. "Alright. Let's get to work. First order of business, survival. Then, we find out what the hell's going on here."
* * * * *
"This is the place," X said. He and Brook exchanged a glance. Nodding, they walked up to the door. As they drew near, they heard music from inside.
"That sounds...rather festive for a hostage crisis," Brook mused. "Also, that doesn't sound like any music I've ever heard."
"It's rock and roll," X said with a wistful smile. "I always feel nostalgic somehow whenever I hear it." His eyes flashed as he scanned the door. He extended his hand, which flashed and reconfigured itself into a short, thin, glowing plasma blade that sparked as he slid it into the groove between the door and the frame.
"That's handy," Brook mused.
"It beats breaking down the door," X said. Smoke and the smell of burning wood filled the air as sparks flew from X's cutting blade. After a moment's work, he pushed the door open, his cutter turning back into a hand.
Brook surveyed the molten, glowing deadbolt and the badly scorched, smoldering wood around it. "I think you probably did about the same amount of damage either way," he said as he followed X into the house. They entered a spacious but empty living room and looked around. "The music is coming from..." X trailed off. "Sounds like downstairs. A basement?"
"That way," Brook said, pointing to the back of the living room, where a door stood slightly ajar. They crept cautiously toward it; X pushed the door open and descended the stairs, Brook peering behind him.
"I can hardly see," Brook said. "Not that I have eyes."
"Shh." X reached the bottom of the stairs and tested the basement door. Finding it unlocked, he threw it open and jumped through, X-Buster at the ready...
A teenager with spiky blue hair was wailing away on an electric guitar. Beside him, a short, skinny red-haired girl wearing an extremely skimpy black leather outfit jammed on a bass guitar, while a blond girl in a white dress pounded energetically on a drum kit. A girl with short purple hair and bat wings sticking out of her head, wearing a junior high school sailor uniform, was singing into a microphone, her eyes closed and a smile on her face as she swayed to the music.
Blinking, X looked from the group in the basement to Brook, who seemed similarly perplexed. X coughed and amplified his voice. "Are you Flash Sentry? Sunset Shimmer sent us in response to your S.O.S."
The girls and Flash stopped playing. The bassist shot Flash a sideways glare. "Really? You called for help?"
"Well what did you expect me to do?" Flash asked. "You three kidnapped me and nearly got me in a lot of trouble!"
"He's got a point," the singer said with a casual shrug.
At a normal volume, X repeated, "You are Flash Sentry, then."
Flash laughed and scratched the back of his head. "Y-yeah, but..." He blinked. "Is...is that a skeleton?"
Brook bowed. "Humming Brook, the singing swordsman," he said. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Our servant doesn't need rescuing," the redhead said. "We're not hurting him. As you can tell, we're all actually having a lot of fun!" She glared at Flash. "Aren't we?"
"Umm...actually, we kinda are," he said. "You're still freaking me out with the whole half-naked loli thing and, y'know, the gun, but you totally rock on bass!"
"Aww, thanks!" the redhead said sunnily, smiling.
X frowned. "So...you're in no actual danger," he said.
Flash smiled sheepishly. "I guess not," he said. "I do sort of have...questions," he said. "About a lot of things actually. Like, whether or not these girls are more freaky magic from Equestria, or—"
X held up a hand. "Reality has become distorted, alternate universes are folding into this one. I myself am from another universe, as is my companion here. I suspect your...guests are as well. Sunset Shimmer and both instances of Twilight Sparkle are working to remedy the situation."
Flash's eyes lit up. "Twilight?" he said interestedly. "She...she came back?"
"Briefly," X said. "Assuming you're referring to the equine princess version of Twilight Sparkle, she returned to her world to obtain rare materials necessary to build a containment device." He grimaced. "Apparently, it's going to take a month."
"Oh," Flash said, deflating visibly. "That's...that's cool. You can count on her. Heh." The redhead raised an eyebrow and smirked.
"Then you are, for the moment, in no immediate danger," X said.
Flash grimaced. "Other than possibly being mistaken for a pedophile? Not...not really."
X nodded. "Then we're needed elsewhere. A school known as Crystal Prep is apparently being threatened by a terrorist. Sunset Shimmer and other visitors to this world are responding to the threat, but they may need our assistance." He turned to Brook and gave a curt nod, then headed for the stairs. Brook waved jauntily to the group in the basement, then followed him.
Once they were gone Flash looked around at the three girls, who shrugged in response. Shaking his head, he started playing a riff. The girls joined in, and upbeat music followed the hunter and the pirate out of the house.
* * * * *
Sunset's motorcycle roared to a stop at the curb across the street from Crystal Prep. As she got off the bike, Tenten, Miles, and Trunks landed beside her, each having followed her from above.
Miles shuddered as he looked up at the tall, forbidding facade of Crystal Prep. "Wow. This place screams soullessness."
"The principal's a cold heartless bitch," Sunset said as she stowed her helmet and ran her fingers through her hair. "Still, if she's in danger, I guess we should save her too."
"I wonder what exactly we're dealing with here?" Trunks asked.
Sunset checked her phone. "The last text from Sugarcoat was cut short," she said. "It mentioned traps."
"Perfect," Miles muttered.
Tenten smirked. "Traps? I'm an expert with those." She frowned. "Or would be if I wasn't down to my emergency cache of weapons."
Trunks frowned. "Well, if we're just dealing with garden variety explosives or hunting traps, I can just set them all off. They wouldn't be any real threat to me."
Sunset, Miles, and Tenten exchanged a glance. Miles shrugged. Sunset nodded. "Alright," she said. "If you're sure."
Trunks marched boldly up to the wrought-iron gates and grabbed them. Sparks snapped across the bars, and his companions tensed. Trunks snorted and snapped the lock on the gates, flinging them open. He glanced back over his shoulder. "First trap clear," he said.
Tenten stared. "Did...did he just ignore being electrocuted?"
"Yep," Miles said.
Tenten's jaw dropped. "Wow," she said breathlessly. "He just gets better and better..."
"You know, I don't normally see a bunch of kids breaking into a school," a youthful male voice with a light French accent said from above the group. Tenten, Miles, and Sunset looked up.
A boy, slightly older than Miles but slightly younger than Sunset, somersaulted from a tree limb overhead, landing neatly and soundlessly in front of them. He was clad in a tight black leather catsuit that covered everything but his head, with a long leather cat tail lashing behind him. A black leather domino mask surrounded his luminescent, slit-pupiled green eyes, and a pair of black leather cat ears peeked up from his wild blond hair. In one hand, he held a sleek, shiny silver-black baton, which he leaned casually against as he smirked at them.
Tenten's eyes lit up. "Mine," she said.
"Whoa," Miles said. "That's...a lot of leather."
The catboy chuckled. "Alright, so just so I know whether or not I need to put you all in time-meowt, what's going on here?"
"A madman has taken all the students hostage," Sunset said. "We're here to rescue them."
The catboy raised an eyebrow, looking them over. "Okay, pajama boy here, obviously a superhero or thinks he's one. Dude with the sword, I just saw him break open an electrified gate with his bare hands, so I can buy that. But you two?"
Sunset raised a hand which glowed with a teal aura. "Magic," she said.
"Ninja," Tenten supplied.
"Fair enough," the catboy said. Bowing grandly, he added, "I'm Chat Noir. Perhaps you've heard of me?"
The trio looked at one another. "Can't say we have," Miles said.
Chat Noir sighed. "Figures." He stretched and glanced at the school. "Okay, so hostage crisis. I'll lend a paw. Then I need to figure out where the heck I am and how to get back to Paris. Can't leave My Lady by her lonesome for too long."
Tenten pouted. "Aww. The cute ones are always taken! Or gay. Or psychopaths."
A loud explosion from the courtyard drew their attention. Trunks hung in midair above a cloud of smoke. Chat Noir did a forward flip and swung his baton out to the side, extending it. Sunset tensed; Tenten suddenly had a kunai in each hand.
"Careful," Trunks called to them. "Looks like he mined the school."
Chat Noir's jaw dropped. "Okay. Now I'm officially impressed."
"'EY!" A window opened on the second floor, and a tanned man in a loud Hawaiian shirt leaned out. "NO TRESPASSIN' IN DE BIG KAHUNA'S NEW SCHOOL!" He pulled a Super Soaker out and aimed it at Trunks. "De Big Kahuna goan' teach you a lesson, keiki! Hawaii style!"
In a blink, Trunks was in his face, with his hand clamped around the man's thick neck. "You're gonna let those kids go now and turn yourself over to the police," he snarled.
The man gurgled, but a trembling hand pointed his Super Soaker right at Trunks' eyes. A thick yellow stream sprayed out of the weapon.
"AUGH!" Trunks roared, letting go of the terrorist and clutching at his face. A second stream hit him, most of it going right into his open mouth. Trunks let out a strangled cry and dropped to the ground like a stone.
"TRUNKS!" Sunset cried. "Miles, get him out of there!"
"On it!" Miles said. He shot a web line up to the tall crystal spires of the clock tower, swung over the fence, and swept in a low arc, seizing Trunks with a second web line. Avoiding the stream of fire from the madman, he returned to Sunset's side, depositing Trunks on the pavement. "He's not looking too good," he said.
Trunks was clawing at his throat, gasping for breath. His eyes were red and burning and his tongue was swollen.
Tenten stared at him in shock. "What the hell did that maniac shoot you with?" she asked. "Some kind of poison?"
"It looked like pee," Miles said.
Chat Noir's nose wrinkled, and he frowned. Crouching beside Trunks, he took a sniff. His brow furrowed. "Smells like...pineapple?"
Sunset ran a finger through a wet trace on Trunks' cheek and brought it to her lips, tasting it. "It's definitely pineapple juice," she said.
"Kkkt..." Trunks rasped. "Can't...breathe..."
"Oh dude," Miles said softly, worriedly. "I've seen this. This is totally an allergic reaction. A bad one, too."
Sunset nodded. "Yeah, that's what it looks like," she agreed. "He needs one of those, umm...those pen things. You know, the shot thing they do for this?" She looked Trunks in the eye. "Do you have an allergy shot pen thing?"
Trunks winced and managed to whisper, "Didn't...know...I had any...allergies..."
"Well this is a hell of a way to find out," Chat Noir said sourly.
"I'll get him to a hospital," Miles said, hauling Trunks over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. "You three deal with Mr. Pineapple up there."
"Oh, we will," Tenten said dangerously, eyes narrowed.
As Miles swung away with Trunks, Sunset looked from Tenten to Chat Noir. "Any ideas for getting past the minefield?" she asked. "I'd rather not risk teleportation when I don't know where I'm going."
"I can get us to the roof," Chat Noir said. "When I give the signal, you girls grab onto my baton and hold on tight, okay?"
Tenten and Sunset looked at one another in confusion, but nodded. Chat Noir sprinted forward, his baton growing longer in his hands. He planted one end of it and jumped. The girls watched in astonishment as the baton grew longer and longer, launching Chat Noir toward the roof at startling speeds. He landed neatly on the roof, then turned and waved frantically at them.
"Are you sure about this?" Tenten asked.
"Nope," Sunset said as she jogged forward and grabbed hold of the baton with both hands. With a sigh, Tenten jumped over and grabbed on tight. Then both girls screamed as the staff retracted at high speed, sending them whipping through the air.
Seconds stretched by with terrifying slowness, and then they were sprawled out on the roof next to a very casual, cross-legged Chat Noir, who attached the baton—now barely the size of a flashlight—to his belt. "Thank you for flying Air Miraculous," he said lightly. "We hope your trip was the cat's meow."
After her heart stopped trying to jump out of her throat, Sunset glared at him. "So now we're stranded on the roof," she said. "What's the next part of your plan?"
"Find a way in," Chat Noir said. "And if we can't find one, we'll make one."
Sunset grimaced. "I think from here I can get us inside the building without any unnecessary property damage." She took each of her companions by the wrist and concentrated. A teal aura surrounded them...
...and then they were inside a classroom. Hanging in midair. They fell onto and through some school desks, creating a huge commotion.
"Ow," Tenten muttered, rubbing her elbow as she stood up.
"Sorry," Sunset grunted as she stood, rubbing her shoulder and rolling her neck. "Teleportation is hard to aim when you don't know exactly where you're going."
Chat Noir grinned excitedly as he bounced up onto a desk and perched in a light crouch. "You know, if I didn't already have Ladybug, I would seriously not mind being your familiar."
"Familiar?" Sunset asked, frowning.
"Don't hot, sexy witches keep black cats?"
Sunset facepalmed. "Ugh. Anyone ever tell you how corny you are?" Tenten giggled. "Okay, so we're in. Now we need to get the kids out, then kick that pineapple guy's ass."
"Only ass goan' get kicked is yours, wahine."
The three of them turned to the door, where the madman in the Hawaiian shirt stood, a crazed grin on his face as he brandished hair clippers and shears at them.
"Goan' be takin' dat hair off now," he said. "Den you kids goan' be in detention fo' a big long time."