Kewel Off

by lightning bird

A/N This was an idea that's been in the back of my mind for a while, though exposure to Deserthaze caused it to morph into an actual story. Most of the characters belong to Cartoon Network, Chip Morton's name was lifted straight from Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and the rest have the dubious honor of belonging to me, as does this FuFa AU.


One: Dex a la Mode

It was all Professor Utonium's fault. Of that there was no doubt. To his credit he never tried to deny the charge, but instead took smug pride in what he'd initiated.

It started innocently enough on Christmas morning almost four years prior. It was Dexter's first Christmas with the Utoniums and they all had a heightened sense of excitement with a new member of the family present. Utonium had been determined to make the holiday a memorable one for all the children and to include the boy genius in their traditions and maybe even to establish some new ones since Dexter was going to be a permanent member of the family in just two weeks' time.

With Dexter's newfound appreciation for gifts that carried genuine meaning and sentimental value, Utonium watched as the redhead carefully opened a small but heavy box that had been in his stocking. Sitting around the Christmas tree, they were taking turns opening the smaller presents, and the girls, catching on to their father's interest in this particular unveiling, were watching eagerly. Dexter's blue eyes grew wide as he opened the box to reveal an oddly-shaped scientific instrument made of copper and glass. It was a reproduction of a microscope made by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek in the 1670's – primitive by today's standards, but something the Professor was certain Dexter would value.

He was not disappointed. Dexter had looked thoroughly pleased and let out a little exclamation of delight as he lifted it from its bed of cotton.

"Ah! I've always wanted one of these!"

The Powerpuff Girls exchanged confused looks, and finally Buttercup demanded, "What the heck is it?"

Dexter was grinning, his eyes bright as he turned the microscope this way and that. "I have no idea, but it's kew-wel."

It took a moment for all the Utoniums to translate Dexter's meaning from kew-wel to cool. The girls pursed their lips, trying not to giggle. They adored the way he spoke, and never more than at this moment. They had known Dexter since June and they were for the most part used to his particular brand of pronunciation as he massacred the English language. He spoke, as General Shaan put it, like a refugee from the Soviet Bloc, with a thick accent best described as 'Russian but not quite.' He added syllables where they didn't belong and pronounced t's and d's at the end of words with sharp emphasis. Vowels didn't stand a chance against him and h's appeared where they just shouldn't. His inflection was off the wall and his vocabulary was nothing short of staggering – once you figured out what it was he was saying. The most amusing part of his accent, though, was the fact that he couldn't hear it and therefore had no reason to offer why he spoke in this distinct fashion in the first place.

Now and then, though, he came out with something new that would catch them completely off guard. This precise instant was a perfect example of Dexter's ability to throw them all for a loop.

Utonium fell back in his seat on the sofa, staring at the boy genius, hardly able to believe anyone, even Dexter, could wring multiple w's out of the word cool and get away with it. "It's what?"

"Kew-wel," Dexter repeated matter-of-factly, intent on figuring out what it was he held.

The Professor stared in speechless joy at this hitherto undiscovered source of entertainment. Without realizing it, Dexter had just given him another present in addition to the remarkable (and ridiculously rare and expensive) iron meteorite now perched atop the mantle. Patrick Lawrence Utonium had a new favorite word.

He had to hear it again, just to be sure. "It's . . ."

"Very kew-wel," confirmed Dexter, whipping off his glasses as he brought the lens into focus on a scrap of wrapping paper, completely ignorant of the happy epiphany occurring less than six feet away.

From that point on, Utonium smiled every time he heard Dexter declare something was kew-wel. It made no difference if he agreed or not, the pronunciation was enough in and of itself to charm him. The girls quickly caught on and so did Dexter's private tutors, though he himself remained blissfully ignorant of the effect the word had on people. As his fledgling company DexLabs began to take off like wildfire, Utonium's particular form of entertainment was picked up first by the development teams and then later by the production crews. It wasn't until their contractors and clients started keeping track of and expanding upon what was considered kew-wel and what was not that the Professor realized he'd created a monster (albeit a cute one).

Gradually Dexter's variation on cool became the ultimate compliment from the owner of DexCorp International, not to be confused with its milder form of kewel, which was for everyday use. Great store was set by their fiery little boss spontaneously declaring something to be kew-wel, and anyone that was awarded one had bragging rights throughout the corporation. It was the head of the aeronautics division of DexCorp who first started assigning different ratings to establish the Kewel Index. Geeks to the core, his team devised graphs and charts to justify and measure the value of one form of kewelness over another, a system that was quickly adopted throughout DexLabs as the interdepartmental battle to dominate that which was kewel raged. Dexter's mood was the determining factor in how high one's score went – the fouler his mood, the better the score. Thus a bit of praise from the boss when he was in his sweet Dextrose Mode or the relatively calm Red Menace Mode was not worth bragging about as much as a kew-wel when he was in the ruthless Dex Luthor Mode. The scale ranged all the way to the ultra-rare, completely enraged Tyrannosaurus Dex Mode kew-wel, of which to date only one had ever been (very grudgingly) granted and that to the aeronautics division at the unveiling of the X-1 August, prompting them to create the rating scale in order to protect their sovereignty.

When Army Major General Neelandu Shaan caught on to Professor Utonium's love of all things kew-wel, he very quickly found himself similarly amused. His fellow Plumber Max Tennyson was soon infected, though Shaan's aide, Colonel William Dearing, proved to be immune (which surprised no one, Dearing being completely resistant to fun and a certified wet blanket). DexLabs Security seemed to be among the departments worst afflicted by the kew-wel bug, with Sgt. Charles Morton emerging as the leader of the pack. At first the parties concerned were content simply to try to imitate Dexter's pronunciation of the word cool (Utonium being disqualified from competition because of his home field advantage and relegated to judging, with Shaan emerging as the dark horse winner), but when the aeronautics division claimed ultimate victory with their T-Dex kew-wel in an email that resonated around the world, the bar was raised and the gauntlet was thrown down by the flyboy geeks in DexCorp International.

It fell to the Plumbers to respond, and they rose to the deliberate taunting with their usual intrepid daring and love of over planning. They would not be out-keweled. Not by eggheads armed with calculators and pocket protectors. Emails abounded. A date was set. Rules were established. Worthy champions were chosen. The competitors schemed. It was the jocks against the nerds, soldiers against scientists, military personnel against civilians, with the unfortunate Sgt. Morton suck in the no man's land between the two factions. The rules, as established by Dexter's physics tutor Kilroy Green, were simple – by the end of the business day, the person who managed to generate the best 'kewel' out of Dexter could claim to be the Kewelest of Them All. Everyone got just one shot and the judges were the other participants.

They were sworn to absolute secrecy and honesty. They could not vote for themselves and anyone who tipped Dexter off would be disqualified and declared unkewel. Not that Dexter would take the least notice. His attention was evenly divided between his own science projects, financing a war, beating Ben Tennyson's Sumo Slammers Smashup Bashup IV score, and keeping the Department of Defense happy so that they'd leave him alone. The boy genius had not the least clue that he was the focal point and prize in a private war being fought across the board room table by his father, teacher, employee, client, and guest. He was intent on business, not the antics of a pack of bored adults. The very last thing on Dexter's mind was the first thing on theirs – namely, his accent.