"You, you lead. You take the point. You, storm the front."

The two looked at each other, nodded, and began their mission.

Sheet metal could be so loud when one clumsily bangs away on it. Slowly, gently, this is how one takes the element of surprise. The team of two steadily shuffled through the ventilation system. The one in front didn't even bother looking back as their partner split off from them. Not with the target so close, revenge so ripe for the picking.

"Reporting in."

"In position. Enemy spotted."

"Go! Go! Go!"

CLANG!

Elvin whipped his head around to find a vent cover clattering on the floor. He looked up. An empty white face was diving right for him.

Elvin's chair fell right over. "R.O.B.! DEFENSE PROTOCAL! SENTRY MO-AUGH!" The attacker pressed their arm into his neck, closing his throat. That face. It wasn't a face at all. A white mask, three black circles painted on. WAIT! Elvin grabbed the mask, yanking his attacker's head to the side. Pushing the intruder off him, Elvin crawled away, vacuuming in air as he'd never done before, even massaging his neck. "You're...you're a Shy Guy! You're with the Doki Doki Gang. But Peach... she got rid of you years ago!"

"We cannot be killed!" The Shy Guy grabbed a screwdriver, lunging at Elvin.

A metal hand clasped onto the Shy Guy.

The assailant came mask-to-face with Elvin's personal Robotic Operating Buddy. Spinning his arms around, R.O.B built up enough moment to launch the Shy Guy back into the ceiling, legs left dangling overhead. ROB turned back to Elvin expectantly, waiting for another order.

Wow. Elvin took the time to get back to his feet, catching his breath as he leaned against the wall. I'd never actually seen Sentry Mode in action other than lab testing. I guess Peach was right to have me add it to my ROB. He looked up at the Shy Guy still lodged in the ceiling. And where there's one Shy Guy, there's plenty more on the way. Elvin rushed to the main computer and pulling up the security cameras. Where are you, where are you...

On the monochrome camera, Elvin spotted a Shy Guy at the facility's wide warehouse entrance.

Oh no.


"What is taking those two so long?! I'm freezing my eggs off out here!" She flipped open a pocket mirror. Hmm, all this wind seems to have pushed her bow to the side. And we can't have that now, can we?

The front door of Gadd Science Incorporated opened, a Shy Guy to wave the militia in.

"Crawl faster next time!" Birdetta was the first one in, pushing everyone and everything out of the way. "Let's get what we came here for, and keep those explosives locked tight and away from me! We have 12 minutes-"

A wave of noise emerged upon the invaders. Blinding, flashing lights encircled the group. "Gah!" Birdetta hunched over, trying to hear herself think She caught a glipmse of something small quickly zipping past her. Mechanical gnats to be swatted. Nothing more. "Everybody spread out! Snifits! Take care of this!"

The Shy-guys around her were either writhing in agony on the ground or were quickly retreating. Not a single one heard her.

A loud even louder whirring sound broke out. Birdetta looked up. With both arms swinging, ROB was barreling right toward her.

"Oh, karat."

Birdetta went flying with one hefty smack. Seeing their Lady Boss starting to plummet, a group of Shy-Guys formed a cluster to catch her. Birdetta completely squashed the entire pile underneath her, but she was relatively unharmed."SNIFITS! SHOOT THEM DOWN! NOW!"

The Shy-guys in the back quickly swapped out their white masks for black ones. From the extended nozzle at the mouth, the Snifits started spitting out black bullets. In mass volleys, the OTTOs started dropping out of the air as bullets dinged them over and over.

Birdetta focused her attention on ROB, who had swung his way into the middle of the pack, knocking Shyguys everywhere. "Tackle that spinning heap of junk! All of you, at once!"

As quick as they dove onto ROB, the goons were swatted away. Seeing their colleagues tossed into the wind made the out Shyguys pause, but one glare from Birdetta sent enough of a chill down their spine to move into action.

That's right...Birdetta steadied her eyes on ROB's head, which was slowing down as more Shy-guys rushed him. Right...NOW!

Birdetta's mouth flashed open, a white egg shot through the air. The solid projectile slammed into ROB's face, knocking the machine over on its side. The remaining Shyguys quickly piled onto him.

"Now... for Gadd."

Birdetta reached into her bow, pulling out a metal sphere. With the press of a button, the sphere opened, a singular robotic eye looking back at her.

"RoMr. AI, get him."

The sphere went zooming out of her hand. Already, the last off the OTTOs were hitting the ground around her. Birdetta picked one up, examining it between her freshly-shaved claws. "Not a bad little toy, Gadd." She promptly dropped it and crushed it underfoot. "But you're gonna have to do far better to outshine a star like me!"

"And as for you..." Birdetta walked over to ROB, who was still struggling with all the Shyguys anchoring themselves to him.

"Let's see if we can find your off switch."


Elvin ran inside the chemistry lab. He could hear the OTTOs going off behind him. Good. The longer the distraction, the better.

Underneath the main table, Elvin opened a glass case and pushed the button inside.

He ran over to the physics room. A number pad was on top of a podium that was jutting up from an opening in the floor.

2-0-0-1. The middle of the podium opened, revealing a key.

Prize in hand, Elvin ran down the long main hallway, and made a turn to the very back of the building, past a door labeled ROB SQUAD.

Dozens and dozens of ROBs lay slumbered before him in two groups: Launcher and Blaster. I can't have the launchers blowing around apart the building! If I activate the Launchers, they should do just fine. Wait a minute... Elvin turned around, realizing how quiet things have gotten. Why am I not hearing the OTTOs? They either chased the Shy Guys away or deactivated when the threat was no longer active. If that's the case, ROB should be coming any minute...right?

With his ear to the wall, Elvin walked back up the hallway. Hmmm...I'm hearing something mechanical but, that doesn't sound like ROB.

RoMr. AI made a sharp start at the middle of the corner, quickly turning to face Elvin.

"What the-?"

"TARGET IDENTIFIED. TARGET LOCKED."

RoMr. I rushed the professor down. Before Elvin could even start running, the drone clonked Elvin right on the back of the head.


RoMr. I returned to Birdetta. "TARGET NEURTRALIZED."

"That's a good little bot." Birdetta gave the drone a quick little cutesy-pat before putting it back into her bow. "And now, to test my other new invention..." She pulled up a small, gumstick-like contraption. "Say hello to...the FLASH DRIVE!"

Plugging it into the main computer, Birdetta watched with a squeal as the flash drive beeped to life, copying all of the files. "Soon, all of Elvin Gadd's research, his designs, all his secrets, it'll all be mine!" She turned back to her minions. "And while I'm hard at work, look at the rest of you, sitting on your keisters! You know the drill! Team ghouls: loot! Team goblins: Bob-ombs. Let's go. We're out in 20! Start laying the bob-boms down boys. And be careful, because if one of those things goes off, not one of ya's gonna survive this! One crossed wire, one wayward pinch of potassium chlorate, one errant twitch... and kablooie!"

With Bob-ombs in hand, Shy-guys swarmed throughout the facility, venturing out into the furthermost crannies and shadows. In their stygian solitude, each found themselves wringing their hands before turning the keys. As they were placed on the ground, the Bob-ombs sauntered on dutifully, awaiting their oncoming destruction. Cautiously taking the first few steps back, the Shy-guys then sprinted away, away from the meticulous tick-tick-tick the inevitability that it signaled. For these cloaked ne'er-do-wells, the light had never been so welcoming.

"Faster, goblins! You don't leave until this place is wired!" Birdetta's words of sharp reality spurred them on. They were spending far too much time being afraid and not enough time following orders. After all, Lady Boss Birdetta was never afraid. And her plans always worked as long as they were followed. Just make sure the Bob-ombs had enough room to roam back and forth, and all would be well.


"Ugh..." The world was swirling into focus for Elvin Gadd as he regained consciousness. "What is that awful racket?"

"That, Robotnitwit, is the sweet sound of revenge!" Birdetta planted her foot on Elvin's chest, three freshly painted claws pointed right at his neck. Elvin, gasping for air, tried to crawl away, but it was then he'd been tied up from the neck down.

"What are you even doing here? After what Peach did to you last time, I can't believe you'd ever show your face in the Mushroom Kingdom ever again! Where's Wart and the rest of your little gang?"

"In your dreams, Gadd. As for me and my crew, there's no way we'd pass up on a job this good!" Birdetta flashed her brilliant ring. "It takes a lot of dough to stay this fabulous, but the real reward is finally getting back at that spoiled brat princess all of you simpletons worship!"

"A job? Who would ever hire the likes of yo-Bowser."

Birdetta grinned. "Glad the Eggman didn't get his brains too scrambled. See Bowser paid a lot just to speak to me about it, never mind how much he paid upfront. Even if he hadn't, just the way he flattered me in the meeting would have been enough. In fact, this mission was so good, I gave Bowser a 1% discount! This job is on the house! After all, that abomination you call a princess owes me big time for what she did to the Doki Doki Gang." Birdetta put all her weight on Elvin as she leaned in. "And I always collect."

She turned around to the sacks of loot the Shyguys brought forth. " And speaking of collecting, let's see what we got here. Hmmmm..." Birdetta dug through the sacks of loot. "Hmm...some stupid glove...a cassette tape... a dog bone? Are you kidding me?!" She turned back to Elvin. "Where's the good stuff?!"

"That is the good stuff! Don't break it!" Elvin reached out for a bag, Birdetta's foot crushing his hand underneath. "I build appliances for everyday use! I work to serve law-abiding citizens, not monstrous thugs like you!"

"Monstrous?! How DARE you?!" Birdetta balled her diamond ring fist and socked Elvin as hard as she could. His glasses careened into the air before shattering on impact with the ground. "I am more gorgeous than you will ever be, Gadd! If Bowser wasn't paying so high to keep the two of you breathing, I'd let you stay and get redecorated with the rest of this place!"

Only seeing Elvin bleeding did she relent, picking up the flash drive from the computer. "But don't worry, ol' Dr. Chaos will stay breathing while we bring back one of his tin cans, and all your other junk as a bonus!"

"One of my-" On the backs of Shyguys laid ROB, his head completely busted in. "My ROB!"

"Correct! My ROB." Elvin didn't need glasses to see Birdetta's sneer. "See, I'm something of an engineer myself. Bowser's interested in your little gyromite. And with the schematics on the computer on this flash drive, I'll have a little head start."

"How do you know about my ROBs? I've never told any Koopa Empire representative anything!"

Birdetta shot him a sheepish look. "You seriously haven't figured it out? We've been in the Mushroom Kingdom for months! Who do you think has been stuffing the pipes full of Pirana Plants? We have surveillance everywhere, that's how we stay out of sight!"

"That was you?! Of course it was you! I should have seen it sooner!"

Birdetta rolled her eyes. "Look at the genius with all the answers after the open book test. And you still don't have everything. I'll let you in on a little secret: Bowser's already won this war, and just like you, that spoiled little princess that's got it all figured out is too stupid to realize it. This right here is checkmate. Once your group of ROBs are gone, she'll have nothing left. for what's coming."

"What's he done? What is Bowser going to do?"

"Well, here's exactly what Bowser told me," Birdetta leaned down to whisper into Elvin's ear.

"Don't blab about the plan to idiots who don't need to know. Especially future hostages."

"HE REALLY THOUGHT I WAS GONNA TELL HIM! REALLY! AHAHAAHAHAHAHAA!" Birdetta rolled on the floor. "DID YOU GET THE LOOK ON HIS FACE?! OHOHOHOHHOHO!" She took a moment to wipe a tear from her eye. "And while this has been a great conversation," she snapped her fingers, summoning a Shyguy with duct tape in their hands. "Its about time we finish up."

"WAIT! WAIT! WA-" Thick adhesive sealed Elvin's mouth shut. Bomb-ombs casually walked all around him. They're going to blow up whoever Peach brought! Birdo was far too busy examining her diamond ring to notice Elvin's distraught pointing. The only sound she wanted from him was his body sliding against the linoleum. And now, to set the timer...

"Alright boys, get in sync! This place goes bye-bye-bye in 5 minutes!"

"5 MINUTES?!"

"I THOUGHT WE PLANNED FOR 7!"

A horde of Shy Guys poured out of hallways and vents for a mad dash to the main entrance. ROB and the loot bouncing up and down among them.

Birdetta bent down to whisper at Elvin. "I actually have it set for 10. This just keeps them from being lazy." She looked back up at the stampede of Shyguys charging up the hill. "Hey! Every time that ROB hits the ground, I dock your pay! And whatever you do, don't trip! You remember the last guy who stumbled over during an escape!" She looked back down to Elvin. "Our biggest cause for casualties in the past several missions has been stampeding, and its kinda hard to get new recruits...do you think I should stop this?!"

"MM! MMMM! MM! M!"

"Eh, your right, it's way too much fun watching their little legs move."

Dragging him up the hill, Elvin had to look upside down to get any glimpse of the laboratory. THERE IS A PERSON IN THERE! STOP! STOP!

Birdetta checked the timer. "Clock's winding down Gadd. Any last words before your lab lights up like a George Washingtoad Parade?"

"MMMMPH! MMMMPH!" YOU CAN'T! YOU CAN'T!

A flash of light erupted from inside Gadd Science, Inc., the explosion blowing the walls from their foundations, rocketing them into the sky. Most of the Shyguys fell over from the shockwave. And there was Birdetta, proudly standing on the hill, laughing in the face of her destruction.

"If you're still looking Gadd, I just did."


Walls so thin I can almost
Hear them breathing
And if I listen in
I feel my own heart beating