In their dark, musty tomb the Crustaceans rearranged the figurines on their table over and over again, plotting their final battle with the Beetleborgs, or so they hoped.
'We need cover,' Meganukus suggested, 'in case they summon Roboborg again. Perhaps here, the east? There's a lot of buildings there.'
'The east? Hah!' Horribelle screamed out. 'They'll still crush us with Roboborg by overthrowing the damn building!' With a rapid wave of her arm she wiped the board clean, the figurines hitting the ground one by one. She didn't bother to pick them up this time.
'Let's face it. They've got a huge advantage over us,' Nukus summarized. 'They have the sword, the coins and the axe.'
'We're left empty-handed and with nothing but bad ideas,' Horribelle added. 'Hours of tactical drills and what have we got? Let's see, Vilor mentioned a battle in the water near the lake. I said we should burn Hillhurst. Meganukus, you suggested that we kidnap Art Fortunes and make him draw for us. Which is still the best idea we have so far.'
'I'm actually beginning to miss our own cartoonist," Vilor said, while staring at the drawing table. For a fish, he seemed awfully melancholic.
'He was worthless,' spoke Nukus with heavy voice, 'the only advantage we have is that we lack the cartoonist.' The trio laughed heartily.
'Perhaps it all comes down to a truce then, I don't even know why we are fighting these Beetlebrats anyway,' mumbled Vilor. Nukus and Horribelle raised their eyebrows.
'Have you gone soft too, Vilor?! Do you want to leave and go to prison as well, maybe?'
'He wants to pay a visit to his beloved cartoonist,' Horribelle laughed, nudging Nukus softly.
'Bring him a rasp baked into a lovely pink-sugared cake.'
'I'm sick of you two constantly mocking me,' Vilor cried out. 'And now that the cartoonist's gone, it's definitely gotten worse. Maybe I'll rebel, just like Horribelle did, and then you're stuck with no one but that treacherous mantis here.'
'Who are you calling treacherous, fish man?!' Horribelle pushed against his chest, provokingly. 'At least I stand up for myself. As you might recall, you got mega powers out of your own stupidity and disobedience. While I - Nukus most loyal aid - got squad! And yet here you stand before us, in your normal form, because you can't get mega anymore. And why is that? It's because you are nothing but an overgrown gold fish!'
'Would you two stop it already?!' Meganukus slammed on the table with his fist, intimidating his henchmen. 'What we need is a creative solution. Not a drawing, really. Something else, come on, we have to think here.'
'A drawing?!' Vilor repeated. 'You know what will happen if we fight these three in our current state? We get turned back into our drawings or dust!'
'As you may have forgotten, my fish-brained friend,' replied Nukus, irritated, 'we can't become drawings again. I destroyed the paper from which we three came forth.'
'He's not as stupid as you, Vilor,' hissed Horribelle.
'Oh yeah?!' Vilor seemed just about ready to slap her, if only Nukus wasn't eyeing him as if he was a sushi bar ready to be served as lunch. Vilor decided to stay as calm as he could and let out his frustration by stepping on the figurines on the ground. The purple Beetleborg's weapon got into his heel, leading him to scream out.
'Those are handcrafted by the cartoonist, you know,' Nukus remarked.
'And quite solid,' added Horribelle.
'Now, back to business - creative ideas.'
'I can disguise myself as a lady again,' suggested Horribelle.
Nukus smiled a bit. 'The last time you did that wasn't such a success.'
'Crush their alter egos when they least expect it,' thought Vilor. 'At school or elsewhere.'
'They always morph right on time anyway,' said Nukus. 'It's not handy and it is not an honourable thing for a warrior to do.'
'Suppose we find out what their actual lives are like and kidnap a family member?' said Vilor.
'Yeah, just like the last time we kidnapped Flabber and he escaped,' Nukus referred.
'We can try and bring something to life aside from drawings?' Horribelle stared at the toxic waste they had lately used to revive Les' creations with an extra boost. 'Maybe we can find other pictures, other things.'
'It should be our creator, Les. I can only imagine that Art would work as well, because we managed to use the coins which both of them created, for instance.'
'You are right, Nukus. There isn't much we can do,' sighed Horribelle. 'Come up with another plan, be defeated, run away.'
'Perhaps we have grown weak after all,' Nukus said. 'A frightening thought, especially if our enemies find that out.'
'No,' Horribelle replied. 'We care about life too much. It's special. It's better than being on paper, than being dead. Now that we have tasted it, we are even afraid to do dirty work. To get down into an actual battle.'
'Good that you mention it, I was always surprised about how quickly you two would retreat from combat,' Vilor laughed. 'This explains a lot. You have grown soft, sappy!'
'You withdraw even quicker than us, Vilor!' Horribelle snapped.
'I think Horribelle's right, though,' Meganukus replied. 'Now that we got life, destruction feels odd. But we are designed to fight, to defeat, to conquer as ambitious warriors. Our design and the sensation of actually being alive have started to exclude one another.'
'Then the only thing we can do, is either perish or retreat,' Horribelle said, while Nukus put a hand on her arm to ease her. 'I don't think either is actually an option here.'
Vilor suddenly spoke up. 'I know what I'm going to do. And that's leave you two and this tomb! I've grown sick off it! Nukus, if you really need me, I'm going to stay, but frankly, the both of you have made it perfectly clear that you don't want me around, and that you've become accustomed to losing. I'm going to fight the Beetlebrats on my own. Vilor-Vilor-Vilor: a healthier combination than Nukus-Horribelle-Vilor, where I'm always the third wheel. I quit, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!'
'You are my henchman, you can't rebel! You are created by Les and I that way!'
'And so was Horribelle, but there's the catch. We have grown into autonomous characters. We are not artworks any longer. We were given life! Horribelle just explained it. We have choices, we have needs now. We have a free will.'
'That's the smartest thing he's said since… ever!' Horribelle laughed.
'I'm serious, you two. I'm leaving. I'll finish those brats on my own. Maybe somewhere in the process my mega powers return, maybe they won't. But I'm sick of it. I might even ask Les to join me. We'll be a better team than you two.'
Nukus and Horribelle laughed. 'All right then, go, we can really do without you,' Nukus commanded. 'And if you ever return here, you'll be turned into more than an icicle.'
Horribelle shivered, reminded of her rebelling against Nukus.
'It's not that recommendable, fishy!' she called out.
'Believe me, I'd rather perish in a good battle than stay here in a tomb, already dead! You can say all you want about living, but I'm pretty sure you two haven't gotten the hang of it two. By staying here we're already signing our death warrant. At least maybe I can get some dignity before ending up in a grave!' With a blue flash he left, leaving the two other Crustaceans behind.
'It sure has gotten quiet here,' Horribelle whispered.