"I hope you kids know that Master Fung doesn't appreciate all the broken pots." Despite keeping his eyes focused straight ahead, Dojo managed to give off the impression that he was giving them a disapproving glare.
"We needed them for training," Raimundo maintained. And it was true, at least technically.
"Yeah, well, try using something less fragile, hm?"
His large serpentine body twisted its way down to the ground and landed next to the familiar wall surrounding Jack's familiar house. The fact that it had become so familiar was bizarre to Dojo once he thought about it. They could have probably just rung the doorbell and Jack's mom would have let them in with offers of cookies or something. Except it was close to midnight, so instead of being greeted with cookies, they would probably be greeted with the police.
All four monks easily jumped the wall. "You sure you guys can handle this?" Dojo suddenly called out, tapping his claws together.
Clay glanced down from the top of the wall and met Dojo's bright eyes. They glowed with concern. He tried to shoot down a grin. "Don' worry, lil buddy. If we need some help, we'll give y'all a holler."
"Y-yeah, of course! Everything's gonna be fine!" Seeing that Dojo was really talking more to himself rather than giving encouraging support, the monks jumped down the other side of the wall. Even as they moved quietly towards the roof, they could still faintly hear Dojo's rambling platitudes, which finally ended when he figured out that they had already left.
There were Jack-bots patrolling the yard. Raimundo peered into the skylight and saw a Jack-bot roaming the hall as well. Didn't Jack's parents ever complain about the noise?
"Alright," he said in a low whisper, leaning towards the others. "Let's try to avoid fights if we can. Best case scenario, we're in and out before anybody finds out. It'd be nice if we got all our Wu back, but the Sun Chi Lantern's top priority so if we get caught, don't get greedy. If someone gets the Lantern and we're in a hard spot, we're leaving. We can get the rest later. Got it?"
The team responded with curt nods. Raimundo directed a particularly long stare at Omi, brow furrowed in a concerned squint, before turning back to the skylight. Usually, skylights didn't open. But usually, burglars weren't monks armed with freaky elemental powers and weird magical objects. "Omi, you think you can make, like, a welding torch kinda flame?"
"Thin and hot," Kimiko clarified. After a few tries, Omi got the idea. His finger engulfed in blue flame, he started heating up the edges of the window. In the meantime, Raimundo tossed the Lotus Twister to Clay.
"Window down that way," he said, jabbing a thumb towards the front of the Spicer manor. "It's small, but see if you can open it."
Clay's arm stretched over the side of the roof and felt its way down to the glass. When he stumbled, his balance failing him, Raimundo wrapped his arms around his waist and tried to hold him up. Clay's rubbery fingers squeezed under the window before sliding it up, and his arm continued up the wall and on the ceiling until it reached the skylight.
When Omi finally welded through the glass, it succumbed to the laws of gravity right into Clay's hand. He fumbled with the added weight, accidentally dropped it, and then caught it again. Kimiko let out the breath she had held in and as Clay's arm snapped back to normal length, she lightly slapped him on the shoulder. "Jeez, I almost had a heart attack."
"Sorry, 'catchin' things I can't see' ain't one of my strong suits," Clay replied, setting the pane of glass on the roof. Omi was already through the window and crawling on the ceiling. Kimiko and Raimundo, who never particularly wanted to learn how to crawl on walls (although they were certainly considering it now), just dropped lightly to the floor and followed the youngest monk down the stairs. Clay didn't trust himself to be able to land quietly, given his girth, and so instead used the Lotus Twister to stretch his feet down. He hastily made for the stairs, catching up to his friends just as a Jack-bot puttered by on its programmed patrol.
The journey to the basement was uneventful. Apparently, for all of Jack's bragging, he did not put much effort into the 'I' part of his robots' A.I. They ignored everything that wasn't in their field of vision. And their field of vision happened to be rather narrow. Even the guard stationed at the front of the basement door was easily circumvented by edging along the wall to the door behind it, as apparently Jack built his robots with no peripheral vision. It would have been funny if it wasn't so sad.
At the head of the stairs, Clay quietly shut the door at the still-oblivious guard's back and Kimiko reached a hand out to search for a light switch. She stopped herself. There was the faint, telltale hum in the air. She peered over the railing and under where the wall turned into ceiling and saw two pairs of red eyes. "Be right back," she whispered to the boys, and before anybody could protest, she was already creeping down the stairs.
Nobody could see anything in the dark stairwell; there hadn't been enough time for their eyes to adjust. Omi almost called out, but thought better of it, and the three boys were left in silence that was thick enough to choke on.
The silence was sliced apart by two sharp sounds of rending metal. A few seconds later, Kimiko called out, "Okay turn on the lights."
Clay covered his eyes before flicking the switch, and so was able to go down the stairs faster than the other two, who were left blinking in the brightness. He landed heavily at the foot of the stairs and stopped, tipping his hat upwards. Jack's basement had always been slightly cluttered, but now it was…slightly messier, he supposed. Kimiko stood in the middle of bits and pieces of robot parts, which were differentiated from all the other bits and pieces of robot parts only because they happened to be dented and sparking. Clay gave an appreciative whistle just as Raimundo and Omi stumbled down the stairs.
"Less whistling, more searching," Kimiko snapped, tiptoeing her way around disembodied robot parts to a cabinet in the corner. She found herself disappointed when she threw it open. "Does anybody know where Jack usually keeps his Wu?"
Omi hopped onto the drab table that sat in the middle of the room. "I often just find them lying out in the open. But it appears that Jack has put them away somewhere else."
"You'd think an evil boy genius would be more organized," Raimundo muttered as he trailed his way through the sea of metal.
"You're one to talk." Kimiko gave a teasing smirk before she started wandering the shelves. Raimundo responded by kicking away something with wires all over it as he rolled his eyes, but smiled in agreement with her.
Clay checked the cabinet again, as he was the type of person who needed to jiggle the doorknob three times himself before being convinced that the door was locked – and even then he'd fret about it for the rest of the day. "So I hate t' be a debbie downer, but d'ya reckon Jack's keepin' his stash someplace else?"
In the only open and relatively clear space, Omi popped out of a jet's cockpit. "He does have a safe…"
"Yeah, where is it?"
Omi shifted uncomfortably. "In his room."
As one, the four monks turned their heads to the ceiling. And as though they had rehearsed beforehand, they all let out a sigh thicker than Paradise Lost.
"Well," said Raimundo, leaning against a hanging torso, "maybe Jack's as heavy a sleeper as his junky robots are dumb."
And then the basement door slammed open. The voice of Jack Spicer soon followed. "If you're burglars," said the redhead, trying not to yawn, "could you not, uh, burgle? I don't want to vaporize you…or some – oh."
Jack's expression, once he had gone halfway down the stairs and could now clearly see the intruders, was not one of shock or fear but one of annoyance. And a hint of embarrassment at facing his archenemies in his pajamas. "Do you guys have to do this? At midnight?"
"Time zones, dude. It's lunchtime back in China."
"Speakin' of lunch, wouldja mind savin' us a buncha trouble an' tell us where y'all stashed th' Wu?"
Leaning over the railing, Jack rubbed at his forehead and moaned. "Do you really think I'd just leave them out in the open here? Of course they're in my safe. Wait." He tried to straighten up but only managed to lean his head in his arms. "I think I need coffee."
While Jack was distracted by his own sleep deprivation, Omi took the opportunity to jump and propel himself up the stairs, trailing flames in his wake. Jack, who wasn't quite used to the sight of small children flying straight at him despite everything he had experienced already, screeched and fell over. He recovered just in time for the other three monks to jump over him as they tried to keep up with Omi as best as they could. Jack, being the type to unironically hang up 'Keep Out' signs on his bedroom door, made a desperate pursuit, his socks scrabbling on the smooth stairs. But it was clear that he couldn't stop their ascent. Luckily, (or unluckily?) his Jack-bots were already swarming the head of the stairs.
"Jack-bots!" At last, he got to his feet. Jack took the opportunity to make a commanding gesture, although nobody was looking in the first place. "Uh, do the thing!"
To the monks' dismay, they did the thing. Omi was already at the top of the stairs when the Jack-bots started to assemble themselves, but he couldn't attack the whirling robots fast enough to do anything. When the rest of his friends joined him, the giant robot had set its feet on the floor. And its head through the ceiling.
Jack, still in the middle of the stairs, winced at the sound of a destroyed ceiling. He continued to wince when the weight collapsed the floor, mostly because everybody, including him, fell back down to the basement.
There was a momentary truce as everybody decided to not move for a while. Jack pricked his ears for a sound other than crumbling debris and heard nothing. Which meant that his mom was still asleep, phew. With a groan, Jack managed to find something to support him as he stood on shaky legs. "So…that's a bit of a flaw…"
To his consternation, the monks jumped onto their feet as though they didn't just fall down a floor and onto concrete and bits of wood. Jack fumbled around and found his heli-pack. Hopefully, his spine could handle a little flying. "Get them!" he shouted, making a few false starts into the air before finally managing to go up the non-existent stairs. "Without bringing my house down," he clarified.
As he glanced down the hole in the floor, partially to judge the fight, partially to judge all the damage he'd have to fix, he couldn't help but notice that there was one less loser monk than usual…
A large hole opened up underneath the feet of the Jack-bot conglomerate, from which Raimundo launched himself, the concrete floor twisting around him in a double helix. As the giant robot sank, the twisting concrete dug into its back, leaving some rather horrible gashes that made Jack squeak with concern. The squeak turned into a dismal sigh when the concrete pillars pierced the floor above it. He really should take these fights outside.
Before Raimundo even landed, Clay took the opportunity to engulf his arms in water and slam his hands on the ground. Jagged chunks of ice spread out from the point of impact, growing around the hole that the Jack-bot conglomerate now found itself stuck in. As it struggled, encased in an impromptu iceberg, the monks used it as a convenient platform to get to the first floor.
"Oh my gooooood." Jack's voice dug its heels everybody's ears, as though to make it known just how exasperated he was by being as drawn out as possible. He gestured at the new adornments to his house with an intense frown. "Can we not."
"What do you think we have to deal with, huh?" Kimiko shot back.
"Y'know, if you just hand over the Wu, we'll leave."
Jack put his hands to his cheeks with an exaggerated flair. His eyes sparkled with sarcastic wonder. "Oh gosh, really? Golly gee, how could I even think about denying this totally fair deal? My answer is…SNEAK ATTACK!"
The group barely had a few seconds to think before a giant robot hand broke through the floor beneath them. This time, Omi simply jetted for the stairs. Kimiko and Raimundo jumped to a more stable part of the floor, and Clay went for a running start and made a very ungraceful leap. The giant robot, seeing that it had failed to do much of anything, started to pull itself through the hole. This only served to make the hallway walls crack and shudder. Jack gave out another shriek and flew up to the robot's head, waving his arms frantically. "Okay, okay, unassemble! Unassemble!"
"Get to his room already!" Raimundo bellowed, sprinting for the stairs and gesturing for Omi to keep going.
Jack whirled around just in time to see Clay starting up the stairs. "Woah woah woah, hey, don't – " Of course, nobody listened. He wasn't sure why he even tried. Instead of pelting useless words at his enemies, Jack pursued them, hoping to beat them to his room, or at the least catch up.
Seeing Omi already kicking down his door, Jack made an unimpressive yelp and gave his heli-pack an extra burst of speed. He was able to pass Clay, but when he tried to overtake Kimiko, she launched balls of air at both spinning blades. Jack wobbled in the air before bouncing off the side of the wall. A few seconds later, Clay stumbled right into him, and the two tumbled to the floor, their momentum carrying them into both Kimiko and Raimundo. The mass of tangled people rolled right into Jack's room, trailing groans in its wake. All of them stopped just in time for Omi to crack Jack's safe (which was a generous way of putting it, as Jack still hadn't changed the combination) and hold aloft his prize.
"A-ha!" The large bag of Wu was almost bigger than him, but he was still able to hold it up with pride. It swayed with its weight. "I am victorious!"
Somewhere under the pile of monks, Jack extracted an arm and grabbed the bottom of the bag. "Not so fast, dweeb," he said, although because his head was somewhere under Clay's torso, it sounded more like "Nuffo fass, dwwb." The bag of Wu started to glow as Jack clawed at the floor in his attempts to pull himself out from under the human pile. He spat out carpet gunk and dust bunnies.
"Very well, Jack," said Omi, either not noticing Jack's humiliating position or simply ignoring it. "I challenge you to a Xiaolin – "
The challenge was quite jarringly interrupted by a giant head coming through the floor. It scattered the people in Jack's room, and scattered the Wu inside the bag as well. The giant robot watched impassively as several bodies landed in different places. Jack conveniently landed on his bed.
"I told you to disassemble!" he reprimanded as the Crystal Glasses hit him on the head. The Xiaolin monks, having been tossed around way too many times in one evening, struggled to their feet. The Silk Spitter knocked Clay in the face. "Was that really so much to ask for? Look at my room!"
"Does anybody see the Sun Chi Lantern?" Raimundo called out as Omi caught the Golden Tiger Claws and tossed them in the bag.
"Ugh. Whatever. While you're up here, just laser these guys…or something." With that lackluster order, Jack leapt off the bed and started picking up whatever he could carry.
The robot's head turned to aim at Clay, who immediately used to Silk Spitter to web up its eyes in an attempt to confuse it. He had been working under the assumption that by 'lasers,' Jack meant 'laser eyes.' As two panels on both sides of the head opened up to reveal laser guns, Clay realized that his assumption was wrong.
As the laser guns hummed, ready to fry him, the only thing Clay could think to say was, "Oh."
A few seconds later, Kimiko flipped into the air, using jets of air to propel herself into a faster spin, and drove an axe kick deep into the top of the robot's head, which gave in like aluminum foil. Landing off to the side, Kimiko sent another burst of wind that pushed the head off its shoulders and through the far wall, eliciting another pained scream from Jack as it fell two stories and landed in his mom's petunias.
"Thanks," said Clay, sending an apologetic grin her way.
"You really should start dodging these lasers," Kimiko replied with a well-meaning smirk.
In the meantime, Jack had started berating his Jack-bots once more, and they finally followed his orders to disassemble. Jack-bots were now pouring through the hole in the floor in droves, flooding the room. It was starting to get uncomfortably crowded. Clay found that the Jack-bots weren't really attacking him, rather, they were pressing him against the wall. And there were still more coming. As he braced himself against the wall and pushed against the crush in an attempt to get enough room to breathe, he couldn't help but notice that his friends were nowhere in sight. They were all of smaller stature, so maybe they were fine, able to crawl below the crowd. He certainly hoped so.
Jack scrabbled his way up and out of his room and turned to observe the chaos from the hole in the wall. "Okay. I might have not thought this out very well either."
Somewhere in a corner of the room, Kimiko held up the Sun Chi Lantern. "I got it, I got it!"
"Great," said Raimundo, sounding rather strained. He managed to shove his head above the crowd for at least a moment, arms pressed against Jack-bots in awkward positions. "I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to get outta here."
"But I have not yet gathered very many Wu," Omi protested, muffled by thrumming metal.
"We gotta go now," Raimundo shot back, before finally going under again.
"Hold on," Kimiko said, in a tone that worried Clay. His fear only grew when he suddenly saw a thick wall of wind burst forward and sweep across the room, impassively shoving robots – and monks – out the non-existent wall. Now free from any restrictive Jack-bots, Kimiko stood and realized that maybe she should have thought this through a little more.
For the boys, there was a brief feeling of weightlessness before the heavy pressure of gravity and panic set in. Clay found himself accidentally locking eyes with the hovering Jack, who wore an expression of shock and worry. It was oddly soothing. A few seconds into the fall, before anybody really had time to scream, Clay bellowed out, "Dojo!" And then time seemed to speed up the closer they got to the ground, until Clay could almost swear he saw their battered bodies land before it happened.
And then he smacked his face into the comforting, soft body of Dojo. As the dragon shot upwards to avoid crashing into Jack's house, Kimiko leapt onto him as well and the whole group left Jack behind to bemoan his broken robots. Or his mother's garden. Or both.
They were soon high in the sky and already on their way back to the temple. The four monks relaxed as one. No more threats now, beside the threat of possibly falling off Dojo, but at this point all of them were well-versed in dragon-riding. Not to mention that you could say very many things about Dojo, but one thing he was reliable about was his flying abilities. With confidence that nothing would fly into his mouth at this altitude, Dojo said, "You got it?"
"Mission accomplished," Kimiko replied, sitting up again with the Lantern in her hands. Behind her, Raimundo raised an arm for a high-five and she reciprocated without looking. Omi, however, didn't look to be in the mood for high-fives. He cradled his bag of Wu morosely.
"I had intended to come out with more Wu," he said. "This is a rather small fraction of what we had lost…"
Raimundo twisted to look back at Omi and gave a slight shrug. "Hey man, it's no big deal. Like I said, we can get the rest of 'em later."
"I'm more worried 'bout that Hippa Hoppa. Jack only roped it fer a few days an' he was able t' bolster his 'bots somethin' fierce. What's our next fight gonna look like?"
At this, a sly smile crept its way onto Omi's face despite his previous pessimism and he said, "I believe we do not have to worry so much about that." And as everybody watched, he took out Da Hippa Hoppa from the bag.
"Aw yes," said Raimundo, clapping Omi on the shoulder. "Never listening to Jack's poetry again? Now I call that a victory!"
After the brief celebration over Jack's failed career, Kimiko spun herself around to talk to the others more easily.
"Y'know something? It's strange. I almost wish it wasn't over." Her thin fingers tapped lightly on the Sun Chi Lantern, dancing out a distracted tune. "Like…it was exciting. And nostalgic. Or something."
Raimundo leaned back on one arm and pursed his lips in thought. "Well, the world wasn't at stake or anything. That was nice. Just an old-fashioned Wu grab."
"An' we had t' try new things, so…it weren't like our usual scraps with Spicer. Was actually a bit of a challenge, right?"
"It was as though we were novices again, perhaps," said Omi. "Learning our skills for the first time. Being caught up in novel situations without the certainty that mastery would bring."
"Sounds like you kids had fun," Dojo added, breaking the nostalgic introspection with his usual pep. "Does this mean you wanna keep your chi swapped for a while?"
None of the monks even had to think about it. At the same time, with the same tone and the same serious expression, they firmly said: