Legal stuff: I don't own the Care Bears and any associated stuff.
Checkmate Warren was inspired by the character Warren Wright from the webcomic Absurd Notions , which is the property of Kevin Pease. But the character is different enough for me to claim he's mine.
Villain.com doesn't, to my knowledge, exist – I was inspired by of the events from the first part of the story were inspired by the fanfiction "The Bears are Back in Town" ( author also coined the name "David Hall".
RETURN OF THE CARE BEARS
Part one: Time is Standing Still
"Um, hi. Are you Paul?"
A geeky-looking college student looked away from his computer and saw who had just addressed him: The guy had red hair, blue eyes, and looked like he was in his mid-twenties "Yes, that's me. Let me guess – you've been having trouble with your college computer account, and somebody told you to "ask Paul in the server room".
-No prob, I'll fix it – I've noticed some of our systems are a bit buggy. What's your name?
-…David. David Hall. Yeah.
-Um…I'd hate to poke my nose in someone else's business, but why did you hesitate before giving me your name?
-Sorry – I'm not completely used to it. I spent most of my life with a different name, and everybody I know has known about my new name for years, so I'm not used to telling people I'm "David Hall".
-Ah. Okay. Here's your account…Wait a sec. You're a freshman? You look older than me.
-I am. But after finishing high school, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do – I spent a few years doing small jobs before deciding I should study more.
-I see. It's my first year too, you know.
-Oh? But…If it's your first year, how come you already work in the server room?"
Paul smiled smugly. "I've been doing a summer course here, and I was good enough that they proposed I work in the server room as soon as I started studying.
-So you're the official techno-whizz, I see.
-Hey, everybody's good at something. I'm good with technology. My best friend is good at sports. What are you good at? "
David looked a bit uneasy.
"Oh, I'm sorry. You don't have to answer if it's too personal.
-That's not it – it's just that I'm not sure what I'm good for. I've spent most of my life doing nothing but trouble, and I'd like to do something useful for a change.
-Hoo boy. Don't remind me.
-What, you've had the same problem?
-Close. I used to be an outcast as a kid – you know, the nerd every bully picks on. And one day, I decided to get revenge. But what I did caused a disaster – much worse than what the bullies had ever done to me.
-Ouch. Guilt, hue? I know the feeling.
-Yeah. Luckily, some friends helped me repair the damage before it was too late. It sure was a relief – heck, even those kids who used to bully me were nicer to me after that. One of them is the best friend I mentioned earlier.
-That's pretty close to what happened to me – although I'm not sure we were helped by the same people." He smiled coyly.
"Heh. Probably not – in my case, it was the Care Bears."
David's eyes widened. "The – Care Bears?! They're the ones who helped me!
-You're kidding!" Paul gave a surprised smile. "Maybe we should swap our stories, Dave."
And so, each one told his story. Paul said how he had been tricked by Professor Cold Heart into helping him build a Freeze Machine, how the professor then used the machine to freeze the bullies, how the Care Bears (who had previously tried to convince Paul not to try to get revenge) and Paul had worked together, and unfroze the victims. And how the bullies, realizing how their regular victim had just saved their lives, eventually became his friends, and how one of them, Lumpy, was now studying at that same college.
Then David told his story. How he used to be an evil shapeshifter called Dark Heart. How he had tried to crush the Care Bears in order to spread evil through the world. How he had tricked the young Christy into helping him. How he accidentally hurt her. How he realized he truly cared for her, and how he only saved her with the Care Bears help. How his selfless act caused him to lose his magical powers (which were inherently linked to evil), transforming him into a human boy. How he made friends with Christy and the twins, John and Dawn.
"Wow, David. That's quite a story – I could never have guessed you weren't human originally.
-That's actually kinda good to hear. You know, I really owe those fuzzies everything – I wish I had a way to thank them, but I haven't since them since.
-Neither have I. As a matter of fact…You know, I've done a little bit of research on the web. I've heard many stories from people who were helped by the care Bears, but – here's the interesting part – all of them are from many years ago. I haven't heard about any recent Care Bear sighting.
-That's odd – I can't imagine them not coming down to Earth regularly for their caring missions." David suddenly looked worried. "You – you don't think something's happened to them, do you?"
-Paul looked worried too. "I really don't know. I'll try to some more serious research – meet me back in the server room tomorrow at noon.
The next day, two students entered the server room – one was David, the other a female student who quickly identified herself as Christy. Already in the server room were Paul, and a large (it wasn't clear how much was fat and how much was muscle) guy nicknamed 'Lumpy', Paul's friend. After introductions were over, Paul told them the results of his research:
"Here's a list of all the caring missions I managed to pinpoint. I'm probably missing about half of them, but never mind that – look at the dates: Until this point, the missions are more or less regular – never a week without a few. Then, suddenly, nothing. It looks like the Care Bears haven't shown up even once after this date – and I can't find a particular reason.
-That's – that sounds really bad", said Christy. "I'm sure they wouldn't stop coming if they had a choice! Something must have happened! We must discover what!
-Agreed", added David. "We all owe them Big Time.
-Yeah", said Lumpy, "but what can we do? Paul, do you have any idea?
-I don't know, Lumpy – even with all the stuff I've found on the web, we only have limited knowledge about the Care Bear family.
-If it helps, I know they live in a kingdom built on clouds, said David. You know, Care-a-Lot. I an give you its approximate position, but how do we even get there?
-Well, replied Paul, I might have something for that…I've been attending this inventors' club, and one of the people I know there will probably agree to lend us exactly what we need.
-Great! I'll ask for John and Dawn's help – I'm sure they'd want to make sure the Care Bears Family is okay."
And so, after a week of preparation, six young fellows finally embarked on a hot air balloon.
"Are you sure you can make it work, Paul?
-Well, that guy from the club spent several days teaching me how to do it…And the winds are just right to take us to Care-a-Lot. So it should work."
Soon enough, the unusual vehicle transported the six through several miles, and brought them to the clouds – well, maybe it wasn't just clouds, seeing how they could support their weight. But they were still clouds, after a fashion.
"Wow! I can't believe it – we made it to the Kingdom of Caring!
-I've never thought clouds could be so pretty! But where's everything and everyone?
-I think the Kingdom of Caring is a fairly big place. We'll have to keep looking if we want to find Care-a-Lot and the Forest of Feelings."
Soon enough, they reached Care-a-Lot. It was beautiful – but something about it was weird.
-Everything is completely still! Not a movement whatsoever!
-Hmm. See this half-finished sandwich? Looks like an emergency interrupted them, and they had to run somewhere. But this sandwich looks fine – if it has been here for several years, it should be decomposed by now…"
The group quickly searched through Care-a-Lot, but to no avail – it looked like the place had been abandoned suddenly. Finally, while searching the very borders of Care-a-Lot, they found what they had been looking for: The entire Care Bears family…but also No Heart, Professor Cold Heart, Shrieky, auntie Freeze, Beastly, and Frostbite. And they looked like they were in the middle of a battle – except that none of them was moving by half an inch.
"Hoo-kay. What the hey is this mess?!
-I think I can answer that" replied David. "See this huge gem No Heart is standing in front of? I still some basic knowledge of magic, and I know this is a time gem. They're used for some extremely difficult spells that deal with time itself – like, for example, a spell to freeze everything in range.
-So that's what happened! That explains it – they've been frozen in time all those years! But why would No Heart…I mean, not much sense in freezing himself in time, too, is there?
-We must get them free!
-Yeah, but how?" asked Lumpy. "Would breaking the gem work?
-Well, yeah" said David. "But these things are incredibly hard. I don't think dynamite would dent it.
-Well, something dented it" replied Dawn. "See? There's a crack here.
-That's strange" admitted David. "But I still don't see how we could destroy the gem…
-I think I know how to" answered Paul. "If we can make it vibrate at the right frequency, it'll shatter. There should be enough equipment in the balloon to make an oscillator, but I'll need your help…"
It took several hours of tinkering, but finally, the machine spun into action, and in a matter of minutes, the huge gem shattered into a zillion pieces. As it did, all the time-frozen beings – and all of Care-a-Lot – suddenly sprung to life. But they also seemed to get some kind of shock (hardly surprising in this situation). All of them looked very weak .
"No Heart! This isn't the way it was supposed to happen!" yelled a furious Cold Heart.
"I'm well aware of that! Something went wrong with the spell – it was supposed to affect all in range that was good, but it affected everything in range instead!
-Enough of this", interrupted David. You people are in such a poor shape, you're barely able to stand. Leave immediately, or it will get messy."
The villains glared at him, but they knew he was right – they were too tired to fight. They slowly retreated to the black cloud, which took them away form the Kingdom of Caring.
The Care Bears and Care Bears cousins, also very tired, looked toward their rescuers.
"Thank you…Whoever you are" said Tender Heart. "You look familiar…
-It's me, Paul!
-We're John and Dawn, from that summer camp!
-I'm Lumpy! You know, one of the kids Professor Cold Heart froze!
-I'm Christy! I was at that summer camp too!
-I'm, uh…when we last met, my name was Dark Heart, but it's changed since…"
The bears and cousins looked at them in astonishment. "How long have we been frozen?!
-I think we need to talk", said Paul.
After hearing their rescuers' story, the members of the Care Bears family (who were feeling much better now) told them their own:
"It had started as a normal day. Then we saw on the staroscope that Cold Heart and the rest. We were surprised to see Cold Heart working together with No Heart – but we were ready to fight them.
Professor Cold Heart started using his freeze machine against us. We countered him, but it turned out he was just distracting us while No Heart was casting some kind of spell with that huge gem. Some of us disengaged from the fight with Cold Heart, and attempted to stop the spell. We were going to use our stare, when Shrieky did one of her high-pitched screams. We tried to cover our ears – and that gave No Heart enough time to activate the gem. We felt how we were somehow being blocked in time, and next thing, you were there!
-Of course! Now I get it!" exclaimed Paul. "Shrieky's scream must have caused the crack in the gem, which was the reason the spell backfired and affected the villains too!
-Oh. That explains it. By the way, we didn't get to ask you yet – how have things been while we were frozen? For you, and for the world as a whole?
-We're all in college now. Personally, I'm fine. I have friends, and I'm still interested in science and technology.
-I'm fine," said Lumpy. "I never got back to being a jerk, anyway – and I've remembered that I can be friends with people who are different from me.
-I'm okay," added Dawn. "Not half as many self-esteem problems.
-I concur," agreed John.
"I'm fine," said David. "Still adapting to being human, but I don't regret it a bit.
-No problem here," finished Christy. "But as for the world…Let's just say you have your work cut for you.
-Oh, we will take care of it, replied Noble Heart. Let it be known – the Care Bears family is back in town!"
Part two: Another Bear Bites the Dust
"So much for my alliance with Cold Heart!" fumed No Heart. "All those years wasted in temporal suspension! No matter what I do, those wretched do-gooders always end up winning! There must be a way to defeat them…But I've tried everything I could think of, everything I could do.
If I can't destroy them, maybe someone else can! There are many villains in the world, and only a few have fought against the Care Bears family. Myself, Cold Heart, Dr. Fright, Sour Sam…We have all failed. But surely at least one villain would know what to do! I'll hire the help of someone who will be able to crush them once and for all!
-So we're going to rally evil-doers from all over the world?" asked Shrieky.
"We shall pass a message among villains that I am hiring help to defeat the Care Bears family. At least one of those who'll answer will be powerful enough!"
And so, No Heart sent his message to the villain community. After about a week, in Care-a-Lot:
"Hi, Grumpy! Hi, Cheer! How did the caring mission go?
-It was a success!" Cheer replied in her usual good mood. "We convinced those kids that if they just kept trying to get even instead of forgiving each other, they'd only hurt each other more and more. Now they're friends again!
-It was so-so." Grumpy replied in his usual bad mood. "The situation on Earth has gone from bad to worse, and after all those years, most children haven't even heard about us! It's become much harder to convince them!
-That's to be expected" replied Tender Heart. "But if we keep trying, I'm sure we can make the world better."
Just as he finished, an unusual noise was heard. It was approaching quickly, and sounded like it was coming from below. Several Care Bears approached – and then saw, to their immense surprise, a helicopter emerge from the clouds! It was obviously from Earth, and, after some uneasy manoeuvring, finally landed on Care-a-Lot.
A man came out of the helicopter. He looked like he was in his early thirties. Slightly tall and skinny, dressed for the office, black hair, glasses, and an expression that meant business. He turned to the Care Bears, and spoke up:
"I assume this is Care-a-Lot, correct?
-Um, yeah" replied Tender Heart. "Welcome to the Kingdom of Caring, whoever you are.
-I am called Checkmate Warren. Here's my card." He handed Tender Heart a fancy plastic card. The bear looked at it, and read out loud: "Checkmate Warren, Evil Mastermind." He then looked at the newcomer, and asked: "Evil mastermind?
-That's correct. Mad scientist or cunning plotter, when there's need for an evil genius, I'm the man for the job!
Anyway, I'm sorry to have burst in on your home, but I wanted to make sure before I went any further: Is No Heart's castle in this direction?
-Uh, that's right" replied Tender Heart, not sure what to do. "But why do you ask?
-Simply because I'm answering a call he made. He's trying to hire help in order to defeat the Care Bear family once and for all, and I intend to get this job."
For a while, the Care Bears just stared at him, confused. Finally, Grumpy asked: "If you want to fight us, why are you telling us all this?
-Two reasons: One, I appreciate challenges, and it would be hardly sporting if I had the advantage of surprise in addition to all my other advantages. Two, it'll ensure that No Heart can't hire anyone other than me for this job – without the advantage of surprise, all the other villains are doomed to fail. I'm not.
Anyway, I've abused enough of your time. Thanks for the directions. See you soon." With that, he got back into his helicopter, and flew away.
"That was odd. We'd better warn everyone!"
"No Heart, I presume? You've built quite a reputation in the black magic department.
-I suppose you answered my call concerning the Care Bears family.
-That's correct. For the right price, I'll capture all the fuzzy denizens of the Kingdom of Caring.
-'The right price'? I'm not even sure I'll hire you yet. I'm expecting other people to answer this call.
-Don't hold your breath. Think about it: How would any of your plans have fared if the Care Bears family had known in advance you were planning something? Their odds of success would have been much smaller.
-What does that have to do with anything?
-Well, what's true for you will also be true for any other villain who might ask for this job – and, you see, I've already warned the Care Bears.
-Competition for a job becomes not of me. Unlike any of the fools you might have hired if it wasn't for me, I'm used to out-witting enemies who are expecting me. I've done it many times in the past.
Besides, there's another thing: I've spent most of this week making sure your message didn't reach anyone other than me."
No Heart, thrown out of balance, looked at Checkmate Warren for a moment. Then he replied: "I see you truly are evil, cunning and devious. Perhaps you are the man for the job. Depending on your price…
-Oh, I don't work that way. First I'll capture the Care Bears, then we'll talk price. I have my ways.
-As you wish. But how do you intend to capture them?
-Simple: Here's one of my cards.
-'Checkmate warren, Evil Mastermind'. So?
-Well, if you examined the card with a microscope, you'd notice it's filled with an array of sensors – I'm pretty proud of it, by the way. It wasn't easy to make sensors small enough to fit into a plastic card. But I doubt you're interested in the science of it. Anyway, these sensors can perceive everybody around them – and, guess what? When I warned the Care Bears, I gave them my card! It is now possible for me to observe them, without them even knowing it! This will allow me to strike at the right place, at the right time!"
In Grams' house, the two cubs were a bit worried.
"Grams, why is everybody busy at the Headquarters?
-It's because of the man who came with the helicopter earlier, dear. He said he'll come back to fight us, so they're planning a defence. Don't worry, I'm sure they'll figure out a way to protect the family."
Just as Grams said that, a smoking object flew through the house's window. Grams, Hugs and Tugs barely had the time to be surprised before the gases coming from it made them fall asleep. In a minute, the gases cleared, and Checkmate Warren stepped inside. He picked up Hugs and Tugs, and went toward a Rainbow Rescue Beam generator.
"I have to act fast. I know exactly how long the gas will keep Grams asleep, and as soon as she wakes up, she'll warn the others. With the Rainbow Rescue Beam, it'll only take me about twenty minutes to drop these cubs in that house in the desert – which will leave me with barely enough time to do all the rest of the work…"
A few hours later, in the HQ, True Heart was again trying to assess the situation:
"So, we know he's been keeping a low profile for a long time, and we're not sure what he really wants – but we know he's extremely clever.
-Positive", said Bright Heart. "He hasn't left much clues from his earlier works, but he's clearly a brilliant inventor and a genius strategist.
-So at no point must anyone be alone. If he attacks one of us, everyone else must know quickly…"
The founder was cut off when Grams rushed inside, with more concern in her eyes than anyone had ever seen before.
"Grams? Are you okay?
-No! Hugs and Tugs have been kidnapped!"
Grams quickly explained what she remembered to the rest of the family.
"He's already attacking us?!" exclaimed Noble Heart. "He's more dangerous than we thought! We must not lose time – let's find them!
-If he works for No Heart, then maybe that's where they are" commented Tender Heart. That's where we should go.
-You're right. To the cloud cars!"
In less minutes than you need all the fingers of your hand to count, all the Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins were in their cloud cars. But just as they prepared to go, cuffs suddenly sprung from the cars and locked them to their seats.
"Hey!" yelled Swift Heart. "That's not supposed to happen!
-Yes it is!" exclaimed Checkmate Warren, as he came out of hiding. "I had to work quickly to booby-trap all the cars, but when I build something, it always does what it's supposed to do!
-You!" yelled Brave Heart. "You may have tricked us, but we'll free ourselves, and we will fight you if we have to!
-I seriously doubt it. Even if you could free yourselves – and I'm by no means certain of that – you'd still have a teeny-weeny problem. You see, I have trapped the cubs in a house I own – nobody ever goes there. It's locked, so they can't get out. And there's no food. So unless I decide to free them, they'll eventually starve. In other words, you have no choice but to cooperate. Can you say 'checkmate'?"
The bears and cousins looked at each other uneasily – he was right, they realized. They were truly helpless this time. And as Warren proceeded with his plan, they also had to endure his singing on the tune of "Another One Bites the Dust":
All my life's aimed to succeed, at whatever the cost
My best weapons are my sharp wits, strategy ready to go
Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this, are you hanging on the edge of your seat
Outta my brain ideas ripple, to the sound of the beat
Ta-da-da, da, da, another bear bites the dust.
Ta-da-da, da, da, another bear bites the dust.
And another bear down, and another bear down
Another bear bites the dust
Hey, gonna get you too, another bear bites the dust!
"Amazing!" conceded No Heart. "In just a few hours, you've successfully trapped the entire family! You truly were the man for the job!"
With the exception of the cubs, every member of the Care Bears family was tied to a wall in No Heart's castle. Metallic cuffs attached their limbs to the wall, while metallic plates covered their tummy symbols, preventing them from using their stare.
Standing next to her uncle, Shrieky looked like a cat who had just succeeded at catching the canary, and was going to eat it. "Finally! This time, you fuzzy-wuzzies are going to pay, and there's nothing you can do!" Beastly looked pretty much the same, but was more discreet.
"The cubs. They're not here" noted No Heart.
"I've trapped them somewhere else, and the bears and cousins don't know where. That's one more reason they're not trying to get free.
-Perfect! Then I shall now eliminate those wretched do-gooders once and for all!
-Not so fast, wizard. Aren't you forgetting something?
-What do you mean?
-My price. I captured the family, and intend to get paid.
-You never said what you wanted. What kind of payment are you interested in?
-Yes. Everything you have. The equipment, the stuff, and, most important, the flying castle.
-You're out of your mind!
-Not at all. I just plan many steps in advance, that's all." With that, he turned toward the Care Bears family: "Okay, listen up: If you use your stare to knock him and his niece out of here, I'll free you.
-What?!" yelled No Heart and Shrieky. But before they could fully assess the situation, Checkmate Warren had pulled a lever, which caused the metallic plates to come off from the tummy symbols.
"Well, don't just wait there!" urged Warren. "3-2-1, stare!
-Um…Stare!" agreed Noble Heart and True Heart.
Before No Heart or Shrieky could do anything, the stares of the Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins hit them, pushing them through the (not so thick, apparently) wall, and out of the castle.
"Boss!!" yelled Beastly, looking down into the void.
"I'm your new boss, kid. Get used to it" replied Warren. "Considering the power of No Heart's amulet, I'll bet they survive…But I now have this castle!
-What about us? You promised to free us!" pleaded Proud Heart.
"A deal's a deal" replied Warren, and pulled another lever, freeing the family from their cuffs. "However, this still leaves the matter of the cubs…
-Tell us where they are!" demanded Noble Heart. "They're just that – cubs!
-Oh, I'll free them…But for a price.
-A price? How can you demand a price for something like this?!" exclaimed True Heart.
"I always get what I want. Now, my price is simple – if you promise not to interfere with my plans in the future, then I'll tell you where the cubs are. I'll even give you the keys."
Noble Heart and True Heart only hesitated for a short moment, exchanged nervous gazes with the rest of the family, then turned to Warren.
-I'd like to hear all of you promise it."
Soon enough, all the Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins had promised not to interfere with Warren's plans in the future – he was anal-retentive enough to have them promise not to let Hugs and Tugs interfere either. After that, he gave them the coordinates of the house, as well as the keys. They quickly left with their cloud cars to pick up the cubs.
"Why did you let them go, boss?" asked Beastly.
"They're not my enemies. As long as they don't stop my plans, I have no reason to hurt them – as a matter of fact, I believe they'll be quite useful.
-But – what are your plans?
-Oh, nothing big. Just world domination! Muahahahahaha!!!
-B-boss, c-c-could you n-not laugh like t-this again? I almost died of fright!
-Heh. I've been practicing the sinister laughter for a while now – you need the right intonation, the right timing…It's too bad I can't put it in the e-mails I send. It doesn't come out very well in writing…"
Soon enough, the cubs were rescued. Grams told them the entire story on the way back to the Kingdom of Caring. When the cloud cars finally reached it, Wish stated what everybody was thinking:
"I'm confused. Did we win, or did we lose? Is Checkmate Warren a friend, or an enemy?
-I really don't know, Wish" replied Tender Heart.
"He defeated us with frightening ease, then used us to defeat No Heart" said Bright Heart. "If he decided to eliminate us, I don't think there's much we could do. Luckily, he doesn't seem interested in that.
-Yeah, but he mad us promise not to do anything about his plans!" interrupted Loyal Heart. "He's an evil mastermind, remember? I think we will regret not being able to interfere soon enough!
-Loyal Heart is right" added Grumpy. "If he wanted to make sure we wouldn't do anything about it, that means we would have wanted to do something about it otherwise! He could be doing all the nasty things No Heart or Cold Heart have been doing – or worse – and we've promised not to stop him!
-That's true", said Tender Heart. "But we didn't have any choice.
-Maybe things won't turn out too bad", said Cheer. "Maybe he isn't as evil as them…I mean, if he was, he wouldn't have let us go.
-You all have good points", concluded True Heart. "We'll have to watch him closely."
Meanwhile, in what had used to be No Heart's castle…
"Gee, boss! I'm not used to all those machines!
-No Heart's tool of choice was magic. I'm more of a technology expert. With a flying fortress as a base of operation, I'll now be able to implement my master plan!
-What is your master plan, boss?
-You'll see in due time. For now, we'll have to obtain a few objects…And I'll have to analyse this." he held a lock of hair – quite obviously taken from some of the Care Bears.
Part three: Birth of a Villain
"Well, what do you know!" exclaimed Professor Cold Heart. "It looks like No Heart and his niece were kicked out of their own castle! And by a neophyte no less!
-Is that a good thing or a bad thing, boss?" asked Frostbite.
"I don't know. I've never had a very high opinion of that sorcerer, but he did keep the Care Bears busy. We'll have to see what this Checkmate Warren plans to do. But in the meanwhile, we will ourselves go back to our nefarious business – we've been inactive for way too long!
-Then what do you plan to do, Professor?" asked auntie Freeze.
"Well, technology has progressed immensely during all the years we were frozen. The human genome has been decoded, computers have become amazingly powerful, and, last but not least, there's this new 'Internet' concept: I've checked it, and I'm sure we can use it for evil!
-So you have a plan, boss?
-Of course I do! Look at this picture!
-It's really ugly, boss.
-I took the picture with a microscope. It's a new kind of germ I just created with the new knowledge in genetics; it infects people, and freezes their feelings from the inside. I call it – the Freeze Germ!
-Wow! So we're going to freeze feelings all over the world with it?
-It's not that simple. I can't just release the Freeze Germ – it takes time to spread, and not only do we risk getting caught during that time, but somebody might develop a cure!
-In that case, how do you plan to proceed, Professor?
-This is where the Internet comes into play. I've engaged contact with a new group: Villain.com! They have ideas, plans, and equipment of all kinds! I gave them the genetic code of the Freeze Germ, and they agreed to help me spread it, in exchange for some of my inventions' blueprints! They will soon contact me to decide on our strategy!"
"What is it, Good Luck? You look worried.
-I am. It was my turn on staroscope duty, and I saw something bad.
-What was it?
-There were several people on Earth who lost their feelings. They just stopped caring about anything, and they looked…Cold. Almost as cold as Professor Cold Heart. And here's the interesting part: They all live in Rainbow City.
-Rainbow City? You think that uncaring crystal is doing this?
-That's the simplest explanation I can think of. We have to tell the others."
Soon enough, a group of Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins (Bright Heart, Wish, Gentle Heart, Cheer, Harmony, and Loyal Heart) was sent down to Rainbow City. There they met the mayor.
"It's good to see you here. We never thanked you people enough for saving us when we had become Drab City.
-No need to thank us – it was a pleasure. But you know why we're here…
-Yes, I know. The people who lost their feelings. There are already forty of them, and several new ones each day. It's becoming faster and faster – I'm afraid it will eventually engulf the entire city!
We've been trying to find the common element – in many cases, it happened to entire households, and very often, different victims knew each other well, but there are victims in many different parts of the town, some of which are far away from each other.
-Considering this town's history, I'm particularly worried about the uncaring crystal" said Bright Heart. "Has anything happened to it? To the pit where it was pushed? To it's vicinity?
-Nothing that I know off. There's this big building construction site that opened recently, and they do dig a lot, all the time…But it's two hundred feet away from the pit, so I don't think that's the reason.
-Well, we'll keep looking. We promise to do everything we can to solve this problem, Mr. Mayor.
-Thank you. The people of Rainbow City still remember losing their feelings all those years ago, and the last thing we want is for it to happen again."
Meanwhile, inside the building construction site, some questionable characters were lurking:
"Isn't it brilliant, Frostbite? Because we put our new temporary base of operation in Rainbow City, those fuzzie-wuzzies won't realize we were behind this epidemic until it's too late – since they'll think it's all happening because of the uncaring crystal! I'm a genius!
-Yeah, boss, but…Wasn't it an idea of villain.com?
-Silence, you fool!
…Yes, villains.net has been most useful. And it is a good thing that they provided everything and started this construction site, which hides our HQ.
-True, Professor" said auntie Freeze. "But do they have to keep their digging and drilling all night long? I have trouble sleeping, even with my earplugs!
-Their last e-mail insisted that if they stopped, people might get suspicious. And we can afford to lose some sleep, if that means we get to destroy feelings!
-Maybe…But maybe they could work only during the day?
-I'll ask them in my next e-mail.
-Why not just ask the construction workers?
-I don't think they're even aware of the true purpose of all this. It looks like they're normal workers who were hired by villain.com.
Anyway, auntie Freeze, I'd like you to do a little job: Now that there are Care Bears and Cousins in town, it would be most unfortunate if they did somehow discover the truth. I'll need you to use your invisibility to spy on them…"
"Okay," said Bright Heart, "I'm stumped. If the problems here were caused by the uncaring crystal, I'd have expected the victims to be people living near the pit. But it looks like the thing is spreading like a disease. It just doesn't make any sense."
Just as Bright Heart finished his sentence, a toy remote-controlled car with a paper taped to it rushed toward the group, and stopped in front of Gentle Heart. She hesitated for a while, then picked up the message.
"What does it say, Gentle Heart?
-It says that if we want to know the cause of the recent problems around here, we have to meet someone on the small island in the middle of the lake."
The bears and cousins hesitated. It could have been a trap – why not just come and speak to them? But since they had no other lead, decided to follow that one.
Soon enough, they found the lake. It wasn't very big – Just a quarter mile wide. In its middle there was an island, and on the island a house. And on the lake's shore, there was a row boat, with a piece of cardboard on which it was written: "For the caring mission".
A short while later, the group was rowing toward the island. And on the shore, the invisible auntie Freeze muttered: "Just great. I can't follow them. How am I supposed to spy on them if they're so far away I can't hear them?"
When the bears and cousins reached the island, they went to the house's door – where another message said "Come in. That means you." They did as they were told, and entered the house – only to be flabbergasted at the sight: From the outside, it looked like a little wooden cabin; but inside, it was full of computers, surveillance systems, and high-tech of all kinds. And among all the machines, a chair, with somebody in it – but with his back to them, they couldn't see who it was.
"Um, excuse us? Did you want to tell us something?
-Quite." Said the man as he turned to face them, revealing himself to be no other than Checkmate Warren.
"You!" exclaimed Loyal Heart, preparing for a fight.
"Now, now", said Warren, "you've promised not to oppose my plans, remember?
-So you're behind all this!
-Wrong. I have no interest whatsoever in causing the epidemic you've witnessed. But I do know what its true cause is.
-Why did you bring us here?
-To show you this." And with that, he made an image appear on one of his computers' monitors.
"This…This is some kind of germ" observed Bright Heart.
"Indeed. And look at this simulation of what happens when it infects a human host: In a short amount of time, no more feelings. That's what's been happening to the people of Rainbow City – an epidemic, not a resurgence of the uncaring crystal.
-Of course! That explains the way it spreads – it's an infectious agent, not radiations!
-You're catching on. And take a look at this: The germ's complete DNA sequence, as well as the formula for a cure.
-I…How did you get this?
-The formula for a cure was easy to develop as soon as I obtained the DNA sequence. As for the sequence itself, I…swiped it from its creator.
-Creator? You mean…
-I mean this germ was designed as a biological weapon. By no other than Professor Cold Heart himself!
-Hold it" interrupted Loyal Heart. "How do you know all that?
-I'm a genius. I have my ways. I have my information sources. I know nearly everything I need to know. For example, I know the new construction site is actually a cover – Cold Heart is hiding there with Frostbite, and there's also auntie Freeze, who had followed you up to the shore. That's why I wanted to meet you on this island – she couldn't follow you here.
-So Cold Heart is the one behind this mess?!
-That's what I just said. By the way, I also know that Cold Heart has a freeze machine in that fake construction site, and that if he thinks you're coming for him (which he will think after we leak information to auntie Freeze), he'll have it aimed through the main entrance. So if you come from this angle, he'll be forced to come out in order to aim his machine in your direction – which will leave him a lot less time.
-But even if he has less time, that'll still be enough to freeze us!
-Not if you take these with you" Warren held up several identical small gadgets. "These are heating units. Enough to protect you from a blast or two from the freeze machine. Enough for you to win.
-Why are you helping us?" enquired Loyal Heart. "You're an evil mastermind. You've said it yourself.
-Listen up. I have plans for this world. I have plans for this whole planet. And people like No Heart and Cold Heart – are troublemakers who make it harder for me to implement my plans. I need them out of my way.
-Plans? What plans?" worried Harmony.
"I intend to conquer the world, and set myself as its supreme ruler. Not original, I know, but that's what I want.
-But why would you want such a thing?" insisted Harmony. "Having power won't make you happy, and having control over people won't mean you'll get along better with them. Why not make friends with them instead?"
Warren snorted. "You'll need to do better in the speech department in order to convince me. I like being in control, but that's not the point. As for making friends with people…As a general rule, I start to dislike people after talking to them for a few seconds. Many of them are jerks (not as much as me, but jerks nonetheless), and even more of them are idiots.
-But you don't even know what you're missing!" exclaimed Cheer. "There's nothing better than having a good friend – except having many, that is. If you open your eyes and give friendship a chance, you'll see it's true!"
Warren snorted again, more loudly this time. "You people just don't get it, do you? Well, it's story time." And with that, he activated a program, and old pictures started appearing on the screen.
"This is me, at age twelve. I lived with my family in Salvation Town at the time.
-Yes. You see, that town was founded (and inhabited exclusively) by people who believed in the legend of the Perfect Book. It's an old story – but it said that the original founders of this city were given this book as the greatest of all gifts, and that, if somebody managed to understand its mysterious language, it would explain how to easily solve all the problems in the world.
-That's a nice story.
-That's what I used to think. You see, everybody in Salvation Town spent their lives trying to understand the Perfect Book. That's what our lives were about. I was a child prodigy – incredibly smart for my age. My parents hoped that one day, I'd be able to decipher the Perfect Book.
Then, about the time I turned thirteen, I started examining the book. Remember how I said I was incredibly smart for my age? Apparently, I was already smarter than anyone else in town (which wasn't saying much, as I discovered): After a not-so-long study, I found many indications, and even proofs, that the book was a fraud – it didn't explain how to solve any problem whatsoever. It was nothing but a scam – some con man or somesuch had tricked the founders into buying this forgery. All the people I knew were wasting their lives for a lie.
-Are you completely sure it was a fraud?
-Oooh yeah. I didn't want to believe it at first – it seemed too horrible to be true. But I kept checking – and there were many undeniable proofs. No matter how much I wanted the legends to be true, the Perfect Book was nothing but a waste of time.
-That's sad. What did you do?
-Well, I didn't want everyone in town to waste their lives like that. So I made a big announcement, explaining to everybody how the book was a lie, and giving them all the needed proofs. But they didn't care about my proofs – they were so angry at me for saying they were wrong about this, they all became my enemies overnight! When I refused to 'admit' the legends were true, they all hated me – the neighbours. My siblings. My parents. My classmates. Even my teachers. Everyone in town was suddenly my enemy. Everyone wanted to hurt me – sometimes physically.
My father, who used to be so proud of my intelligence, was now ashamed of my heresy. Just a few days after my announcement, he tried to have a talk with me – well, he yelled, mostly. He kept yelling the legends were true, and that we had to believe in them. I kept explaining my proofs. Finally, he snapped, and started spanking me.
-Y…Your father spanked you for disagreeing with him?
-These people were completely crazy about their legends. But anyway, at that moment, my brain raced like it never did before – and I found a way out. I slid out of my father's grip, dived toward the ground, and pulled on the carpet he was standing on. He fell backwards, and knocked his head against the wall. Nothing serious, but he was too shocked to get up. I looked down at him – and that moment, there are no words to describe the contempt I had for him. Too fanatical to consider evidence! Willing to beat his child for disagreeing with him! Outwitted by a thirteen-years old! I never considered him as a father anymore – he was just someone who shared some DNA with me, and nothing more.
But if you think my father was bad, wait till you hear about my classmates. You know how often kids get bullied by another kid or two, sometimes more? Well, I now studied in a school where everybody hated me, students and teacher alike. Believe me, it was not fun. I got beaten up by entire gangs of kids, and the teachers wouldn't lift a finger to stop them. Eventually, I realized that if I was to survive, I had to fight them back – not with muscles, but with my brain. I had to become the king of dirty tricks and clever strategies.
-There it goes" interrupted Loyal Heart. "You had to use dirty tricks? What happened to fair fights?
-Fair fights?! They were all against me. This wasn't about fairness – it was about survival. And I was determined to win, no matter the cost.
I spent my nights thinking up new ways to beat them all. I came up with hundreds of tricks – poking the eyes with my fingers; climbing on the toboggan's ladder when they were following me – and then jumping on them; throwing sand from the playground in their eyes…I even started to design all kinds of gadgets to hurt anybody who'd attack me. When they tried to hurt me, I'd hurt them even more – but they were so many, and they'd just keep coming.
Eventually, I realized that if I wanted them to leave me alone, I had to hurt them – or at least some of them – so much that they'd be too afraid to ever attack me again. So I used the squirrel cage.
-It's some kind of 'ride' that we had on the school's playground. It's made of several interconnected steel bars, which form a big cube (about six feet high), itself divided into many smaller cubes. Children can climb on it, crawl through the cubes…You get the idea.
Anyway, that day on recess, there were eight bullies pursuing me – which had, sadly, become rather typical. This time, to escape from them, I ran to the squirrel cage, and climbed on it. The bullies were stupid enough to try to climb too – but then, I jumped down the other side of the squirrel cage. So now, all eight of them were hanging on one side of it, while I was standing on the ground at the other side – it was easy for me to push the metal construct upwards, and with the bullies as a counterweight, it just…Fell on them.
-Says you! But I was rather glad – all of them had broken something, and after that, everybody was too afraid of me to attack me! I was now left alone, and could spend my time thinking about new ideas and inventions. That's how I began my journey to become an evil mastermind.
After that, five years passed without much happening. People still hated me, but they left me alone. When I became old enough for college, I told my parents I'd been accepted to a university in California, left my home, and took the bus for New Jersey, where I studied at the Trenton University. I've never heard again from anybody from Salvation Town, and I consider this to be one of the good aspects of my new life.
-And you've never had a friend since then?
-Oh, I did have one friend: My college roommate, Isaac. He was as smart and logical as me, and we got along fine. I haven't seen him since I got my degree, though.
Anyway, after finishing college, I knew what I wanted to do: Take over the world! I started paying the bills as a computer technician, but soon enough, I was blackmailing management, patenting inventions, and cashing enough money to start working as an arch-villain. That's my story.
-That's the saddest story I've ever heard" said Gentle Heart, almost crying.
"It is sad" conceded Harmony. "But you shouldn't give up on friendship because of it. If you could make friends with that Isaac, then surely you can make friends with other people! If you'll give love, you'll receive love!
-It's not about love. It's about incompetence.
-What do you mean by that?" enquired Bright Heart.
-Never mind. Story time is over. It's time to crush Cold Heart's plans. You'll have to call for the rest of the family to help you."
As the staff of the caring mission got out of the house, Wish turned to Checkmate Warren one more time: "I just wanted to tell you…I hope things will get better for you, and you'll be happy again."
Warren gave a creepy grin, and replied: "Trust me, you might want to save up on your wishes…You will need them soon."
When the row boat reached the shore, auntie Freeze was waiting for it. She could see the bears and cousins now had a walky-talky with them, presumably taken from the house in the middle of the lake. She also managed to hear the voice coming out of the walky-talky: "Let's recapitulate: Cold Heart and co are hiding in the construction site. You'll have to strike them as soon as possible."
"Oh great. I have to hurry to warn the Professor."
"So, the fuzzies intend to strike? I'll deal with them appropriately. We'll position the freezing ray so that we can get them easily, and villain.com said they're sending in air support – whatever that means."
After a while, the denizens of the Kingdom of Caring reached the construction site – but instead of coming from the main entrance, they circled the site, and approached from behind.
"Curses! I won't be able to freeze them from here! Frostbite, help me carry the freeze machine outside!"
Soon, the icy trio was facing the bears and cousins in the street. Chuckling evilly, Cold Heart activated the 'careless ray contraption device', sending a beam of frost toward his enemies – and was unpleasantly surprised when some gadgets they had on them protected them from the cold. That gave them enough time to coordinate their stares, destroying the freeze machine.
"Noooo! Not again!
-It's over, Cold Heart!" shouted Brave Heart. "Your plan to destroy the feelings of Rainbow City has failed!
-Not so quick, you fool! Air support is coming!"
And indeed, they could see a huge, menacing helicopter flying in their direction. It had "villain.com" emblazoned on its hull, and attached to its bottom was something that looked like a combination between a ray gun and a satellite dish. It positioned itself above the Care Bears and Cousins.
"What on Earth is that?!
-Help from villain.com! When I told them about my Freeze Germ, they helped me establish my base of operation here! And now they are going to destroy you!"
As if to confirm the Professor's saying, the huge device underneath the helicopter moved, aiming itself toward the bears and cousins. It then started making menacing noises when the battelcry came out: "3, 2, 1, stare!"
The powerful stare hit the device head-on – but instead of destroying or neutralizing it, it was just somehow absorbed by it. The Care Bears and Cousins didn't know what to do, and the Professor was laughing manically, when four of the construction site workers, wearing decontamination suits, came out of the site, holding a big box containing the uncaring crystal!
"What the…" was all the Professor managed to utter before a cable was lowered from the helicopter, and the workers fastened it to the box. The helicopter then lifted the huge crystal up in the air.
"What do you think you're doing?!" yelled Cold Heart toward the helicopter. That's when someone stuck his head out of it – Checkmate Warren!
"Allow me to explain, Professor Cold Heart. You see, villain.com was a front I created in order to manipulate you. It allowed me not only to ruin your Freeze Germ plan, but also to obtain a few useful things which I'll know how to take advantage of. Now, Farewell! Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha !!! ''
As the helicopter got away, Cold Heart, looking defeated, turned to the construction workers: "How…How did that crystal get there?
-Are you kidding? We've been digging tunnels from the basement day and night to reach that pit over there " he motioned toward the pit where the uncaring crystal had been laying for all those years. "The boss said we had to get a radioactive rock from there, so he provided us with those suits. He told us to attach the rock to the cable when the helicopter would show up. We just did our job. Why's everyone looking at us funny?"
Somehow, Cold Heart and his two associates managed to flee. The mayor was a bit confused by all the events, but nonetheless happy that the crystal was gone, that the cause of the uncaring epidemic had been found, and that a cure was provided. The people of Rainbow City thanked the Care Bears family again – but the family members weren't so sure there were reasons to be happy. Whatever Warren's plans were, it looked like they were progressing…
"At last! The two final elements necessary for my master plan! This fool Cold Heart and those naïve Care Bears played right into my hand – I will soon rule the world!
-Gee, sounds good, boss. But what then?
-Then? Then the important part starts. I don't intend to take over the Earth just for the power – I intend to take it over because I mean to change it! And nothing will stop me!"
Part four: The Master Plan Unfolds
"He ruined it all!!" exclaimed Professor Cold Heart. "My Freeze Germ was such a grand plan, and he not only ruined it – he also used me to get his way!
-And he stole my lair!" added No Heart. "In a few weeks, Checkmate Warren has done more damage to us than the Care Bears family ever has! Which is why I fear you are right – we will have to work as allies again."
In Care-a-Lot's Head Quarters, the Care Bears family was discussing about Checkmate Warren too.
"If you'll ask me, he's even creepier than all the other villains we've fought. At least their plans were simple enough for us to understand. But Checkmate Warren seems to always think dozens of steps ahead of everyone else.
-It is creepy." admitted Bright Heart. "He's not only a master inventor, but also a genius strategist. I found out that he used to be a member of a chess club – and he was a world-class player.
-Excuse me" pointed out Loyal Heart, "but what's the point of this discussion? There's not much we can do anyway. We promised not to interfere with his plans, remember?
-That's true", said True Heart, "but that doesn't mean there is no hope. For example, maybe we can convince him to renounce his evil ways…
-Him? I doubt it.
-Don't be so certain" replied Noble Heart. "If someone as evil as Dark Heart could care, then I'm certain Checkmate Warren might, too.
-I'm not sure he's that evil, actually" said Wish. "I mean, he could have eliminated us easily. And he didn't have to give us the cure to the Freeze Germ. Are we even sure that he has bad intentions?
-That's another problem" explained Tender Heart. "We don't know what he intends to do, really. He says he's aiming for world domination, but we're not sure why – and we have no clue how.
-Well, let's examine the facts" prompted Bright Heart. "So far, he has taken over No Heart's flying castle, which he uses as an HQ. He has obtained the uncaring crystal. And there was that weird device that absorbed the stare we used against it. How can all these things be used to take over the Earth?
-You're the scientist here. What do you think?
-Well, the castle is easy: It's a mobile base of operation, and it's almost unreachable, so he doesn't have to worry about the authorities coming for him. The crystal…I don't know what he intends to do with it, but if its radiations could remove the colours and caring of a city, then I fear to imagine what he could do with it. As for the other device…I don't have a clue as to its purpose.
-So basically, we don't know what he's planning, and we don't know what to do", complained Brave Heart.
"Aaand checkmate." Warren moved the tower on the screen. "This computer hasn't defeated me even once in the last three years – I've won more than a hundred times in a row. Considering that it's one of the most sophisticated models in existence, I'd call that a good score.
But enough bragging. Beastly, are you done putting everything where I told you to?
-Yes boss. But why didn't you want me in the lower room?
-Because what I put there is the most vital element of my plan, and only professionals should be allowed near it. Which, I'm afraid, strikes you out. You've done your grunt work well enough as far as I'm concerned, but the technical work is mine to do.
Anyway, the time has finally come. Everything has fallen into place. Within 24 hours, I'll be Emperor of the Earth – and then we can finally get some changes moving. And let's start by moving this castle – our destination is the airspace of Rainbow City!"
"What do you want to show us, Bright Heart? Does it have something to do with Checkmate Warren?
-You bet it does! It's on TV worldwide – he's doing something! Look!"
Immediately, the image appeared on the screen: No Heart's spooky castle, surrounded as always with dark clouds and lightning bolts – except that this time, it was floating half-a-mile above Rainbow City.
"Oh my stars. What is he doing now?"
As if to answer the question, a head-sized device fell from the castle. In mid-fall, it exploded; particles flew in all directions, and as they hit the surface, it became grey – and in one second, Rainbow City was transformed back into Drab City.
"No!" cried True Heart. "What does he think he's doing?!"
Again, as if to answer the question, the image was suddenly replaced by that of Checkmate Warren, speaking from one of the rooms in No Heart's castle. Next to him was a device not so much unlike the one he had dropped a moment earlier – except that it was much, much bigger. And its main element seemed to be the crystal of uncaring.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, citizens and leaders of the world, good after-noon. As some of you may have heard, I am known as Checkmate Warren. This crystal" – he pointed to the one in the device – "has certain interesting properties. It's radiations, unless a shield stops them, remove both caring and colours. When overheated, the crystal explodes – sending particles which destroy the aforementioned caring and colours. What I have designed here is nothing less than a carelessness bomb, or C-bomb if you will. A moment ago, I used a very small one on Rainbow City, with complete success. This one, however, is so big that when it explodes, it will affect the entire planet!
This is a simple extortion. I can use the C-bomb with no ill effects to myself, as this castle has a sufficient electromagnetic shield. If I do, every single inhabitant of this world will lose all his or her emotions – and that's exactly what will happen soon unless the world's governments accept me as their supreme ruler. Any attempt to attack me will result in my detonating the C-bomb. I'm sure you'll know what to do – have a good day." And with a smirk, he turned away – and the image faded.
"So that was his plan all along!" exclaimed Noble Heart. "There must be some way to stop him!
-But – we promised not to stop him" reminded him Loyal Heart.
"I…I don't know" replied Noble Heart, uncharacteristically unsure of himself.
"There is always a way" said True Heart. "We have to at least try to convince him to stop this madness!
"I'm trying to get access to his computers" noted Bright Heart. "He used a special Internet connection in order to transmit his message everywhere – I've found his address. I don't think I can hack through his security, but wait…I think I can establish videophone communication."
And indeed, after a very short while, a video-com was initialised – and Warren's face appeared on the monitor of Bright Heart's computer.
"Why, if it isn't my favourite family of saints. I don't suppose you're calling to congratulate me on the progress of my master plan, are you?
-No we're not!" yelled Tender Heart. "Are you insane, Warren?! This – this is just pure evil!
-Oh, I wouldn't say that. It's more of a 'the ends justify the means' situation.
-What does that mean?
-For crying out loud, people – just look at the world! It's led in such an incompetent manner, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry at the sight!
-Hey, what was it you said last time" interrupted Bright Heart – "It's about incompetence?"
-Correct. Our world is being led by a bunch of imbeciles, many of which happen to be corrupt to the bone. It's up to me to fix this mess.
-Hold it right there" interrupted True Heart. "Are you trying to tell us the reason you've been trying to take over the world was that you wanted to improve it?!
-Correct. As you know, I've seen human stupidity ruin a city – and my teenage years with it. And it wasn't just Salvation Town – everywhere I have gone, people are too dim to think beyond the short-term, or understand the situation – they just don't bother to think. That, together with their inherent selfishness, leads to the sad state of the Earth – crime rages in our cities, wars destroy countries without benefiting to either side in the end, our environment is being destroyed for the sake of short-term profit, entire populations starve when we already produce enough to feed everyone, chaotic disorganization renders daily life nightmarish, and our governments don't have the intelligence – and sometimes not the integrity, either – required to solve all these problems. I don't intend to let idiots ruin this planet any further – I'm taking charge.
-You remind me of an old enemy of ours, the wizard of Wonderland. He too thought that his world needed him to fix it, and tried to take over. It's a good thing we foiled his plans, because they would have spelt disaster. What makes you think you'll be any better?
-Ha! I never fail! With my genius, I'll fix this world – as someone should have done a long time ago!
-This is insane! You're only going to cause more harm! Stop it while you still can!" Pleaded several members of the family.
-You want to convince me? Just come here. Maybe I'll deactivate the security system. Maybe." And with that, he cut off the communication.
"We have to go there" said Noble Heart. "If there's a chance to stop this, then we must take it.
-I agree," said True Heart, "but considering whom we're dealing with, I think we'll need all the help we can get. Before we go to the cloud cars, I think Good Luck and I should take the Rainbow Rescue Beam and go down – to Paradise Valley."
"Why do you want them to come here, boss?
-I'll need them as backup. You see, while I need the bomb to threaten the world with, there are a few people who would actually want it to go off and turn our world into Drab Earth – Cold Heart and your former boss. They'll be here anytime soon – and while I think the security system I've installed will be enough to keep them at bay, I'd rather have a plan B. If they find a way to bypass security, the Care Bears family might stop them."
"It is so nice to see you again, good friends!
-It does seem you were frozen – you haven't changed!
-You don't seem to have aged that much, either" pointed Good Luck, "you're not that older than most of us now.
-I'm sorry," interrupted True Heart, "but this is an emergency. Polite, Perfect, we'll need your help – the world is at stake here. We'll need you to come with us.
-But what of our valley? It will quickly freeze!
-The blizzards will come instead of gentle breeze!
-Which means we'll have to act quickly. You can leave the valley for a day or so, so come now! We have no time to lose!"
"Look at those monitors, Beastly. Our surveillance cameras are catching an interesting glimpse…"
And indeed, the uncalled visitors Warren was expecting were coming. Cold Heart and his crew were positioned on a big rectangular platform, which had a propeller like a helicopter's on each corner. Of course, they had a freeze machine. No Heart and Shrieky were standing on a dark cloud, looking determined to get their castle back.
"The hour of my revenge has come!" shouted No Heart. But as he did, a canon appeared on a side of the fortress, and shot in his direction – he only managed to get the cloud to move away at the last moment.
Immediately after, a sound came from the castle through loud speakers: "I've been expecting you failures. As you see, I have equipped this castle with a defence system. I wouldn't recommend getting too close."
Inside the castle, Beastly was doing casual grunt work, and thinking.
"All in all, working for Warren is still better than working for No Heart. He can be nasty, and he's very scary when he gets mad – which he does easily – but he doesn't make me do more work than I should have too. And he's never mean for no reason. I guess it's a good thing he's the new boss…"
Just then, a voice screamed in his head:
"Beastly! Answer immediately!
-No Heart? Where are you?
-I'm using a spell to speak to you from mind to mind. You're going to help me deactivate the defence system that fool Warren put in my castle!
-Sorry, No Heart, but you're not my boss anymore. Too bad, eh?
-You fool! Have you forgotten how I summoned you to serve me? With only one word, I can unsummon you, and then you'll be back to where you were before!"
Beastly stopped in his tracks, suddenly paralysed with fear. "Don't do that! I'll do as you say! You're the boss!
-Excellent. Then I want this defence system out of the way immediately!
-But I can't do that! It's a huge system, and Warren will kill me before I'm half-done!
-What of the shadows? They're loyal to me! How can they tolerate his presence in my castle?!
-They were troublesome at first, but he looked in your spell book, and easily made wards that trap the shadows. I haven't seen them since!
-Then find the wards, and destroy them! The shadows will then neutralize the defence system!"
Meanwhile, in the control room, Warren was waiting for capitulations from the world's governments, and watching his enemies on the monitors at the same time.
"Ah, isn't it the Care Bears family in their cloud cars in the distance? And with the pandas no less! Not a moment too soon, too! Although I might not need their help after all…"
Just as he said that, shadows suddenly went flying throughout the castle. Before Warren could do anything, the defence system went offline – but instead of panicking, he just activated a function on his machines, put his finger on a button, closed his eyes, covered them with his left hand, then pressed the button. An incredibly – perhaps supernaturally – bright flash of light went through the castle, and the shadows shrieked in pain and disappeared.
"Good thing I always have contingency plans. I could turn the defence system back up, but it looks like No Heart's cloud and Cold Heart's platform have already landed on the castle. Oh well – the Care Bears family will help me defeat them. But I wonder as to the cause of the shadows' sudden appearance – my guess would be…Correct!" A video feed from a surveillance camera showed Beastly around the destroyed wards, covering his sore eyes.
"I'll have to check why he betrayed me…But first things first."
Coming from different directions, both heroes and villains were racing toward the bomb's room – and when everybody (including Beastly, who was still seeing spots) got in front of the door, Checkmate Warren was waiting for them.
"Well, well, well. It looks like everyone is present. But I'm afraid the plans remain the same – the bomb behind this door will be used for extortion purpose, no more, no less.
-You ruined my plan and used me for yours!" exclaimed Cold Heart. "It's my turn this time! I will make sure that this bomb explodes!
-I wouldn't appreciate, and neither would our furry friends here. Who might use their stare anytime now…"
The fight broke out. No Heart sent purple lightning bolts, Cold Heart sent rays of frost, Shrieky used her magic mirror, Beastly clumsily tried to attack Swift Heart – and, still unable to see clearly, ran into a wall. The Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins all used their stare. Auntie Freeze turned invisible – which didn't really help, since the moment she did, Warren threw a net on her. Frostbite tried to charge Warren, but the mastermind just took some marbles (out of who-knows where), and threw them where Frostbite was about to step – causing the henchman to fall rather inelegantly (and not painlessly at all).
Seeing that they weren't exactly winning, Shrieky used her dreaded scream. Soon, almost all the villains, Care Bears, and Cousins were on their knees, holding their ears in pain – the only exceptions being Shrieky herself, No Heart (whom the scream had caused to transform into a giraffe, thus painfully banging his head against the ceiling), and Warren, who just gave one of his creepy grins, and turned his head so that Shrieky could see a small device in his ear. "An electronic filter. Blocks sounds like this."
Before the Care Bears and Cousins would get up, No Heart then used his amulet to transform into a rhino, and charged toward the door of the bomb's room. This led to a rather loud "Baong", an even more severe headache, and a small dent on the door.
"Just how imprudent did you think I was? I've had that door reinforced with steel.
-And surely you know how much easier to break steel is when it's frozen" replied Professor Cold Heart while sending a ray of frost from his eyes to the door. This got him a small brick to the head from Warren, but allowed No Heart in rhino mode to break through the door, and storm into the room – only to be hit by an electrical trap.
Warren raced inside the room, and was quickly followed by those who had been the closest – Cold Heart (with his own headache), Shrieky, then Swift Heart and Champ, then Frostbite. As they got it, they saw some machinery, the carelessness bomb in the middle of the room, and, standing on a tripod next to it, what looked like a machine ray-gun, with Warren manning it.
"I'd suggest for all of you to step back – this impulse gun can be as painful as a very strong blow. My plan is perfect.
-You can't threaten me in our castle!" screamed Shrieky, holding up her magic mirror and preparing to zap Warren – which she didn't have enough time to do, as an energy impulse hit her at full force, sending her several feet backwards.
Professor Cold Heart lunged toward the C-bomb, and Swift Heart and Champ were preparing their stares to stop him – but then Frostbite threw himself at them, causing their stare to hit the impulse gun instead of the Professor – which caused Warren's second shot to hit the wall instead of Cold Heart, increasing the entrance's size. As the Professor reached the bomb and started meddling with its mechanisms, he said: "Take it from experience – no plan is perfect."
Warren lunged toward the Professor, but then the bomb's mechanisms activated – and a thermometer connected to the crystal indicated '80°C', and kept going up.
"Are you insane?!" yelled Warren. For the first time, he was showing signs of panic. "If the bomb goes off here, it won't just affect the world – the heat will kill us, too!" And with no further comment, he rushed to a nearby lever, and pulled it down.
The remaining villains and members of the Care Bears family were coming into the room, and the bomb's thermometer was indicating 200°C, when the floor under the bomb opened, and it fell down.
The bomb was now nearly 200 feet below the castle.
The bomb was now 500 feet below the castle.
The bomb was halfway to the ground.
The thermometer exploded, and so did the bomb. At an incredible speed, particles flew in all directions. Some hit the castle's electromagnetic shield, and were deflected. But most hit the earth. Wherever they went, all became grey. The grey spread in all directions, covering immense distances in almost no time, quickly covering the continent, then spreading further, eventually reaching the antipodes.
That day, the Earth went grey.
Part five: The World at Stake
Floating above an endless grey, No Heart's castle was as menacing as ever – but slightly more crowded.
For a moment, in the bomb's room, nobody moved. Then, Checkmate Warren lunged toward some machinery, and activated some mechanisms while shouting: "If I don't win, nobody does! I have activated a self-destruction system – in three minutes, this castle will explode!"
The statement took a moment to register, but when it did, reactions were uniform:
"To the heli-platform!" yelled Cold Heart and ran away, followed by Frostbite and the recently-untangled auntie Freeze.
"Goodbye – forever!" yelled No Heart, who then transformed into an eagle and dove through the opening in the floor.
"To the dark cloud!" yelled Shrieky and Beastly simultaneously.
"To the cloud cars!" yelled True Heart, Noble Heart, Tender Heart and Brave Heart, followed by the rest of the family.
"Not so fast, Care Bears!" yelled Warren, who took position at the impulse gun again and proceeded to knock down several members of the family. While the villains ran away, the Care Bears and Cousins fought against Warren, matching their stare against the impulses.
After a while, Warren unexpectedly turned off the impulse gun, and turned to the family: "Now that this is taken care off…
-But…" tried to understand Bright Heart, "the self-destruction system!
-There's no self-destruction. I made that up on the spot to make the rest of them go away. Now to the control room! If I can restart the defence system, they'll be unable to gain entrance!"
Warren, followed by the still-confused members of the Care Bears family, raced to the control room. There, he quickly made a few adjustments to the computers, which soon emitted: "Defence system online."
"Good." Warren calmed down a bit. "The 'villainous freaks' are now all outside the castle, and can't get too near. We can do a damage assessment."
Warren then activated certain programs and applications. Soon, satellite images of the Earth appeared on-screen – completely grey. Not a hint of colour.
"This is…This looks so sad!" wept Treat Heart.
The images were then replaced by the video feeds from security cameras, which showed what was happening in the cities themselves. Not only was everything grey, but the worst part was the people: They were completely apathetic, like the people of Drab City before the Care Bears had saved it the first time.
"Oh dear" whispered True Heart, "have we failed – by this much?
-No. No!" Warren was holding his head. "I never meant to use the carelessness bomb – just to threaten to use it! I wanted to fix the world, not destroy it!
-Well, technically, you haven't" pointed out Bright Heart. "Although it isn't better by much…
-To live like this, with no feelings or emotions or anything – that's not so different from being dead!" replied Warren. "If they hadn't somehow gotten Beastly to destroy the wards – if your stare hadn't hit the impulse gun…" He then tried to calm down, and said – probably to himself: "Well, it's not like I don't know how to fix this – I don't know how to fix this! – Yes I do! The serum – Is barely enough for Rainbow City! I'll need several thousand times more for the world! – Don't panic, stay calm – Arghhh!"
Warren then covered his head with his hands, and said: "I need to think and to be alone. Everybody go out."
In a room next to the control room, the Care Bears and Cousins were trying to sort out the situation.
"I'm still not sure I understand everything" admitted Brave Heart. "If Warren built the bomb, how come he's that upset?
-Because he didn't want to destroy all the feelings in the world" Bright Heart calmly explained. "He just wanted the bomb so that he could threaten to use it. He thought that if he could force everyone to do as he said, he would be able to solve the world's problems. And instead, because of the other villains' interference, there's a larger problem than ever before!
-Now I get it. But does that mean he's not a bad guy?
-Nobody's completely bad" replied True Heart. "As I see it, Warren intended to do good – he thought he knew how to do it better than anyone else. But his plan was too dangerous. Now, we must see how to repair the damage.
-That'll be impossible without Warren's help" commented Bright Heart. "We never really got to understand how the crystal of uncaring worked.
-Then let's see what he can do" replied Noble Heart. "He has some responsibility in what happened; hopefully he'll try to amend for it."
When they came back to the control room, they found him playing chess against a computer. Tender Heart was the first to address him:
"Warren, we'll need your help to remove the grey. You must do something.
-What do I care?" grumbled Warren. "Why should I give a damn? Pretty much every time I get to know people, I want to beat them with a steel bar after thirty seconds. So why am I even trying to improve their condition? They can all go to Venus as far as I'm concerned."
The Care Bears and Cousins looked at him worriedly. He didn't look good. "He seems in a worse shape than I thought" confided True Heart.
"It's even worse than that - " Bright Heart told her – "I think he's losing the game to the computer."
"Okay, listen up" Grumpy told the mastermind, "You built this bomb, it's your duty to fix this mess!
-You're wasting your time. I'm evil, remember? I don't care." The computer made its move, and said "Checkmate. Game Over."
"Yes you do!" countered Harmony. "If you didn't, you wouldn't have even tried to do good in the first place! Just because your plan failed is no reason to give up!
Warren looked like he was on the brink of crying. "My plan was supposed to be perfect! It was just…A sequence of bad luck…Everything that could go wrong did…
-Pretending you don't care won't help" told him True Heart. "But you can still repair the damage done.
-I…I…It isn't simple." Warren was starting to regain his composure. "None of this is part of my original plan. I can't promise anything.
-But you can always try!" replied Champ.
"You mentioned earlier a serum to cure Rainbow City" said Bright Heart.
"Well, I had to use a small C-bomb on Rainbow City in order to prove to the world that I could do what I threatened to. But I intended to bring colours and feelings back to the town after I had taken over. So I designed this serum" he showed the video feed of the security camera in one of the rooms, where a few litres of a strange liquid were stored.
"I took some DNA samples from you back when I captured you, so that by studying them, I could get a partial understanding of how your powers worked. And I concluded that I could make a serum against the carelessness – with your stare.
-Oh! Is that what the device under your helicopter was for?
-Exactly. It absorbed your stare, and used it to make the serum – plenty enough for Rainbow City.
-Then can't we just make more, for the rest of the world?" enquired Share.
-Do the math, bear. Even if you could make additional serum, you'd need years to make enough for the entire world. Besides, it wouldn't work – one person's caring can only cure so many people. We would need an entire city of Care Bears to make enough serum.
-In the meanwhile, we can at least fix Rainbow City" commented Bright Heart. "Hey, wouldn't it be possible to use their caring?
-I fear it's impossible. The Care Bears stare is the only way one's caring can have a substantial effect on the physical world. Wait a second…" Warren's eyes suddenly lit up. "I may have an idea. But it won't be easy.
-As long as there's a hope, we'll try it! What is your idea?
-Well, as I said, I've studied your DNA in order to understand your powers a little bit more. And I think it should be possible – but complicated – to transfer a tummy symbol (together with the ability to do a stare) to someone else. So we could just transfer your tummy symbols to the people of Rainbow City!
-Uh…But won't that just mean there'll be 32 of them who'll be able to do the stare? That won't be much better than what we have right now.
-I'm fairly sure it would be possible to 'dilute' the symbol during the transfer, so that the entire population has them. Now, that'll only give them very unstable symbols, but that's actually a good thing – it means the symbol will break down after a short use, and will then go back to its natural place: your bellies!
-Brilliant!" exclaimed Bright Heart. "We'll use the serum on them, transfer to them our ability to stare, and ask them to produce enough serum to cure the world!
-But as I said, it won't be easy. First, I don't have a transfer machine in handy – only the general working principle in mind. I'll…I'll need your help to build it quickly, Bright Heart."
That was when the pandas interrupted:
"Have you forgotten our valley? We must go back soon!
-Or else it will become as lifeless as the moon!
-One more reason to act fast. Now, the second problem is the six villains waiting for us outside – if we try to pull out this plan, they'll do everything they can to stop us. And considering how delicate the whole operation is, they'll most likely succeed.
-Then what shall we do?
-As they say, the best defence is a good offence. While you will be dealing with Rainbow City, I'll distract those six – I have just the invention for that.
-Then we have a workable plan!" exclaimed Noble Heart. "Let's start immediately – the world is at the stake!
-I concur. Bright Heart, let's get to work on this machine…"
It was hard work. That night, many Care Bears and Cousins had trouble sleeping – those who even tried, anyway. Bedtime Bear was constantly watching over the security video feeds, making sure the six villains weren't trying anything. He was thankful that it was too dark to see how grey the Earth below them was – it would have been extremely depressing. Meanwhile, Warren and Bright Heart were still working on the transfer machine – it was a good thing Warren was a coffee addict, and that Bright Heart sometimes worked late on his inventions.
Finally, around 10 A.M., the machine was finished. Checkmate Warren and the Care Bears family went over the strategy one more time:
"Press on this button to release the serum on the city. Then, all of you must direct your stare at the transfer machine, and it will give your symbols to the population. Use this microphone to address them – I rigged it to connect it to loud speakers all over the world, for when I had important announcements to make. Just tell them how to use their stare, and to aim it at the device under the castle – that'll produce enough serum, which will go to the big cauldron. Then, all the energy from all the machines in this castle will be transferred to the cauldron – the serum will boil, and fall like rain all over the Earth.
In the meanwhile, I'll be fighting the 'Sinister Six' – with this!" he then revealed his invention – a robotic exoskeleton.
"Wow. Is that…
-A battle suit. I could stop a tank or two with it…I just hope I'll be able to stop them.
-Then everything's ready?" asked Tender Heart. "Good luck out there, Warren.
-Don't screw up", replied the mastermind.
Outside, at a safety distance from the castle, No Heart's dark cloud and Cold Heart's heli-platform were in stationary flight.
"The Care Bears family are now the only creatures in the world who still have feelings" said No Heart. "Once we destroy them, our victory will be complete!
-I'm still trying to figure out a way past the defence system" replied Cold Heart. "Maybe with enough explosives…"
Their plotting was cut off when suddenly, serum was dispersed from the castle over Rainbow City (well, Drab City). Before the villains could understand what was happening, all the colours came back to the town.
"Nooo! They're ruining it! We must stop them!" shouted No Heart – but he was cut off by Cold Heart's remark: "Hey, what's this flying in our direction?"
His question was soon answered: Warren, in his robotic battle suit, looked like a futuristic knight…With the jet-packs on his back, he could fly toward the villains at high speed…And when he used impulse guns on his suit's arm to shoot in their direction, he didn't leave much room for doubt as to his intentions. A fierce fight soon began.
In the meanwhile, the people down there were realizing that they now had their feelings again…And before they could make heads or tails of the situation, the familiar voice of Tender Heart came through the loud speakers (it was also heard in pretty much every place, but was aimed only at the population of Rainbow City):
"This is Tender Heart of the Care Bears speaking to the people of Rainbow City! We have just returned your feelings to you, but we'll need your help to return the feelings of the rest of the world. In a short moment, we'll transfer our tummy symbols to you. Don't be scared.
-Wait a second there" asked the mayor, after clutching his often-used loud speaker, "what about Checkmate Warren? And why is he fighting those villains?
-There is no time to explain in details. Let's just say that Warren is trying to repair the damage. Now please, we'll need you to work with us, and we'll need you to do it now."
Warren's suit was holding out against the rays of frost and the lightning bolts, but he knew it would break down sooner or later. A quick impulse shot the magical mirror out of Shrieky's hand – but the protective heating unit finally died out, and Cold Heart was able to freeze his impulse gun with the freeze machine. In response, Warren got a metallic cable out of some part of his suit, and threw it at one of the propellers of Cold Heart's platform. The propeller immediately caught the cable and tangled up, immobilizing itself – which caused the platform to start tipping over.
As the Care Bears and Cousins all stared into the transfer machine, their tummy symbols disappeared. It felt odd to be without them – but it felt even odder for the people in the town below to suddenly have symbols on their bellies (and showing on their cloths) that matched their personalities!
"Each one of you now has his own symbol. We will need help from all of you – only you can now return colours and caring to the world. Can you see the device below the castle? If you use your stare on it, it will allow us to make a serum to restore caring, just like the one we just used on you.
I know you've never done this before, but it isn't too hard: Just focus on how much you care, and how much you want to restore caring to the world – then try to send your love toward the device. It'll come naturally."
Realizing his spells weren't breaking through the suit's armour fast enough, No Heart decided to use his amulet instead. He transformed into a powerful gryphons, and flew toward Warren. The two clashed in mid-air while Cold Heart and his acolytes were desperately trying not to fall off their platform. As No Heart immediately discovered, the battle suit increased Warren's strength – not to the point where he was as strong as a gryphons, but still to the point where he could put up a decent fight – and he surprised No Heart by removing his amulet, and throwing it away. This caused No Heart to transform back into his wizard form – but he clutched the battle suit so he didn't fall down.
Beastly, however, had in the meanwhile left the dark cloud and mounted his flying machine. He managed to catch the amulet, and throw it back to No Heart – and ram into Warren. Warren responded by kicking Beastly and his machine out of the way, but still fell with No Heart almost all the way down to the ground.
Slowly but surely, the people of Rainbow City were using their stare. Thousands of rays of lights lit up and beamed toward the device, soon becoming tens of thousands. For a short unforgettable moment, there was a gigantic cone of light between Rainbow City and the castle – and in no time, the huge cauldron filled up with serum. Which was when a huge surge of energy from all of Checkmate Warren's machinery hit the cauldron. The serum sort of blew up – it flew several miles high into the skies, and stared falling back to Earth. The radius of several miles surrounding the city quickly regained its colours, and the grey kept regressing at an incredible speed – perhaps not as fast as it had come, but more than fast enough. And as the tens of thousands of stares ceased, the tummy symbols of the population faded, and returned to the Care Bears family.
On the ground not too far from the city, Warren and No Heart were still fighting.
"No! The uncaring is disappearing! You've ruined it all!
-What were you expecting, you pathetic Dr. Doom wannabe? That I'd let you use my invention to ruin this world even further?
-Enough! You shall die for this!" And with that threat, No Heart changed form again – he looked now like some kind of Grizzly-sized lobster. With one of his huge pinchers, he tore off the battle suit's right arm (good thing Warren's arm didn't come off with it). He then proceeded to squeeze the suit with both his pinchers in an attempt to crush Warren – but the mastermind simply slid out of the suit, getting away just before No Heart crushed it – causing the suit to explode in the sorcerer's hands (err, pinchers).
While Cold Heart's platform was hitting the ground (at a speed that wasn't enough to kill its occupants, but nevertheless too fast for their well-being), as Beastly's machine, damaged by Warren's kick, crashed into the ground, as Shrieky on the dark cloud approached the ground trying to grab her magic mirror (which now had a big crack in it), No Heart, a bit dizzy from the shock, faced Checkmate Warren.
"I am evil. I am hate. I am No Heart. And I will crush you!
-Charmed. I am strategy. I am cleverness. I am Checkmate Warren. And even if I was blind, deaf, crippled, and with my arm tied behind my back, you still wouldn't be a threat to me, you incompetent fool. I have more clever tricks up my sleeves than you'd be able to count. I can, and do, beat all odds regularly. And I won't even have to fight you, anyway – look what's coming this way!"
And indeed, the Care Bears and Cousins were coming on their cloud cars, their tummy symbols already glowing. No Heart knew very well that he was in no shape to fight them – but he also realized that right now, there was no-one in his castle. He transformed into an eagle, grabbed Shrieky and Beastly, and flew up to his old lair – not noticing (yet) the smoke starting to come out of some parts of it.
The icy trio didn't stay for another fight either – they just hurriedly discharged a vehicle from what was left of the platform, mounted it, and hurried away. The Care Bears family didn't bother trying to stop them. Instead, they landed near their unlikely ally.
Take Care was the first to speak to him: "Are you alright?
-Fine, I guess. No Heart's problems aren't over, it would seem." Warren looked up. Some of the bears and cousins did the same – and saw frightening amounts of smoke coming out of No Heart's castle.
"What's going on there?
-When all the energy from my machines surged to overheat the serum, it pretty much destroyed my machines. They're burning." He looked down at the remains of his battle suit. "This machine is ruined, too." He sighed sadly. "Oh well. I still have many inventions in my house…And financial resources…But it looks like I'm back to square one.
-Square one? What do you mean?" asked Tender Heart.
"What I wanted was to make the world a better place – I failed. Big time. I'm not used to it.
I guess that, in a way, the mentality of Salvation Town hadn't completely left me – I was still looking for a quick way to fix everything in the world. Since the Perfect Book didn't work, I thought maybe I could fix everything – if I was in charge. My plans had virtually always succeeded…But I took too big a risk with the C-bomb. And it nearly destroyed everything that was worthwhile.
I was telling myself that the ends justified the means, and that it was okay if I hurt some people on my way, as long as in the end, I fixed the world. But…I never was really evil. A jerk, perhaps, but not evil. I was just comfortable making everyone think I was evil because it meant they were afraid enough of me to let me get my way – and do everything 'right'. I thought that if I was in control of everything, I'd be able to run it all smoothly…But if my master plan could backfire so badly, then how can I know that the world would have been better off under my rule?"
He looked sadly up to the Care Bears family: "I…I apologize for putting you through all of this. I don't know what else to say…"
True Heart interrupted him: "Warren, you saved the world! I know, you're thinking how the threat wouldn't have been there in the first place without your actions. That's true, and I won't deny it. But you have nevertheless gone to a lot of trouble, and even risked your life for the noblest of objectives.
You have good reasons to be upset with yourself. But you mustn't let that ruin your life. I believe I can speak for the entire family when I say – You're forgiven. We'll remember you as a good man, not as a villain." Several members of the family concurred.
Warren gave them a sad smile. "I doubt the rest of the world will be as forgiving as you people, but…I appreciate the support. I really do."
About then a crowd, led by the mayor, came from Rainbow City. The mayor addressed the family: "Excuse me, but…The last day has been highly confusing for us. Could you please explain the recent events?"
Three weeks later, in an as-good-as-new Care-a-Lot, the Care Bears family was getting a visit from Checkmate Warren.
"…so for a while, I thought I'd have to spend the rest of my life hiding. But with your recommendations, and the videos from what happened in the castle, they finally pardoned me. It doesn't mean that anybody out there trusts me, of course – and I can't blame them – but at least I'm not in jail, or on the run.
-About that…Where did you get the videos? All the machines in No Heart's castle burned.
-Yes, but there was a satellite connection to my home computer system. I remembered my days as a sysadmin, and all the data got copied there for backups – including the videos from the surveillance cameras. So they know about how I helped you fix the damage.
-You know, the last few months have been rather hectic…We wake up from temporal suspension, and then we suddenly have to face the greatest threat to the world we've ever seen. You don't waste any time, do you?
-At least some good came from it" noted Warren. "As you may have noticed, people too often don't value something until they've lost it. It would appear that losing their feelings for nearly a day has made some people in the world realize just how important their feelings are. Especially in Rainbow City. By the way…From what I've seen, the damage to Paradise Valley wasn't too horrible…
-It's okay" answered Love-a-Lot. "After Perfect and Polite came back, it all quickly came back to normal. And Good Luck even stayed there for a few days." The pink bear got a dreamy look in her eyes.
"Good. Then I haven't caused any irreversible damage.
-It sounds like you're still feeling guilty over what happened.
-Of course. I can't just pretend it never did. But I can hope to make amends.
-We should introduce you to a friend of ours, Dark…I mean, David Hall. He knows a thing or two about this kind of situation.
-I'll gladly meet him. By the way, where is Bright Heart? I wanted to show him some ideas…I think some of them could be useful for his own inventions.
-You'll find him easily when we'll all have our reunion in two hours at the Hall of Hearts.
-Fine. I'll have my own announcement to make…"
The entire family (unless you count the pandas, of course) and Warren were listening to Noble Heart's speech:
"During several years, we have been frozen. Although No Heart, Cold Heart and their associates were also frozen, and couldn't hurt the world during that time, the world situation has nevertheless gone downhill. It is not desperate, thankfully. And while it may have taken us some time, and we have had to face some tough challenges, I can now proudly say that the situation of the Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins has gone back to normal!"
True Heart then spoke: "And I would like to congratulate our newest friend, Checkmate Warren, for learning from his mistakes, and for proving that, all in all, he's a good person, no mater what his business card says."
Warren looked like he suddenly remembered something important, then said: "Uh…You still have the business card I gave you when we first met?
-I guess so." replied Tender Heart. "It's probably somewhere around here. Why do you ask?
-Ummm…I'll explain later. Anyway, I wanted to make a small announcement:
As you all know, my previous actions have caused quite some havoc. Nevertheless, I still hope I can do something for the Earth. Which is why I wanted to tell you this: I, Checkmate Warren, vow to find a way to make the world a better place without hurting people. That's all.
-A noble vow" replied True Heart. "Knowing you, I'm certain you'll succeed.
-Heh. I might have an idea already…"
The End (or is it?)