The absence of sound raised the intensity everywhere. There were no voices but the deep breaths made by Antauri and Mandarin, both exhausted by our attempt to suck the immorality out of our leader. Mandarin's breaths were the deepest, scariest I've ever heard, and those eyes... those glaring, flared up, vicious, murdering eyes....I felt like I had been pulled into hell.

"It... it didn't affect him," Gibson realized in horror.

"It's too far within him," Antauri mumbled, still looking at Mandarin. "Mandarin... in order to keep this team together... you must expel your dark desires..."

"Never," Mandarin whispered seethingly, clenching his fist.

"You do realize..." Antauri coughed, and then continued. "You do realize you're abondoning us..." Mandarin's eyes widened to full extent. "...Right?"

"No, Antauri," Mandarin growled, his eyes suddenly squinting long and hard. "You have turned this team against me. Your leader!"

"I haven't..." Antauri pushed Gibson gently away and stood up straight. "They have chosen to stay with me."

Before anyone, anyone, could think twice, Mandarin let out a screech so horrid and charged at Antauri. Antauri, I guess, saw this coming as he stuck out two fingers and aimed it at Mandarin. Before Mandarin could lay a finger on him, the fingers pressed his forehead by his own natural force.

The orange simian paused, his eyes wide with shock. He fell to his side, once again unconcious.

"I have caused trauma to his cranial cavity," Antauri murmured. "He will be down for now."

"So what do we do?" Otto asked, getting on his knees.

Antauri swallowed, allowing himself to concentrate. Without a tremor in his voice, he advised, "Otto. Relieve Mandarin of his metal parts."

"What?!" Otto cried, his hand flying to his chest. "Do you really mean it, Antauri?!"

"Yes," Antauri gulped again, turning away, as if he was afraid to face the team and make the ultimate decision. "It's... it's clear... he is in no position... to be our leader any longer."


Although everyone had the courage to watch Mandarin, covered in bandages, taken away, everyone went into a deep depression once in privacy.

Otto had put off all his inventions and had been mourning every night. I often heard him whimper, "Why... why did I...?" and sob silently in the lone darkness.

Gibson had stopped studying as well, and every now and then he'd glance up at a light and say some random things to himself. I even caught him say things like "Mandarin, what would you do if...."

Antauri was always on the top of the super robot, studying either a sun up or a sunset, his eyes fixed on the horizon. He began to meditate a lot, too, although I could tell he was always distracted by seeing his brow crease low above his eyes.

Sprx had stopped talking altogether. He never made anymore jokes or teases, and even when he did (which was very rare) no one ever listened.

And me? All I ever did was lay in my bed, blanket sitting atop my head, a blank expression in my eyes. Tears oozed in slowly, sliding down my cheek and swinging on the edge of my chin, eventually dripping down my sheet. I began to remember the good times; often reminding myself that it was just a couple months ago when we were playing around, the whole team, even Antauri, ganging up on Mandarin in an effort to making him laugh. And when we succeeded, the whole room itself began to explode into childish fits of cachinnation, that warm, satisifying feeling in our heart.

Albeit, years went by and everyone began picking each other up, regaining their regular personalities, smiling again. But, of course, nothing felt the same. There was always something missing....

When we met Chiro, we were determined to fix up the old relationshp we had with our previous leader using our new one. At some times, we were almost convinced we had achieved our goal. But it never, ever really felt the same...

And though Mandarin's evil cackle makes him show what he really is now, seeing his shoulders quiver, staring down at us with that lop-sided grin, I would always hold back a smile, no matter how bad things were getting...

.....Because I could always remember the sound of his laughter.