Fire whirled from Anger Heart’s hands as he guided the flames in an intricate dance around himself. He turned and shot out a stream of fire that struck the wall of the gym and left a scorch mark. He pulled his hands back and created a ring of fire that he compressed until it winked out. He exhaled softly then turned to watch Guidance Heart.
The blue raccoon was concentrating on a baseball sized sphere of water she had conjured, holding her hands up as if cradling it though she wasn’t touching it. She pulled her left hand away and took a deep breath as a small glow appeared and a sphere of light appeared above her left hand. Guidance Heart was sweating but she managed to shoot out a stream of water from the sphere, that fell short and left a trail of water that quickly disappeared. She turned her attention to the light sphere and shot out a beam of light that managed to reach the wall before it dissipated but didn’t leave a mark.
Love Heart nodded from where he watched Anger Heart and Guidance Heart with Defender Bear and Truth Bear, “Alright, that’s enough kinetic training for the day, time for weapon training.” Love Heart pointed to each in turn as he spoke, “Anger Heart you spar with Defender Bear, Guidance Heart you train with Truth Bear.”
Defender and Truth both stepped forwards and drew a blunted sword and guandao respectively, special training variants they had created for just this reason. Anger Heart bared his teeth and his two tails twitched as he conjured his sai and faced Defender Bear, who held his sword in both hands. Guidance created her dirk and shakily gripped the hilt in both hands as Truth Bear approached her and leveled his weapon at her.
Love Heart raised his hands then dropped them as he shouted, “Alright, go!”
Defender Bear charged and swung at Anger Heart, who managed to catch the blade in his left sai and swung at him with the one in his right hand, only to miss as Defender pulled his sword back and dodged back. He swung at Anger Heart’s legs which forced the fox to jump back.
Love Heart watched the duel go back and forth, “Getting better,” he said. He turned to watch Truth Bear and Guidance Heart. Guidance’s dirk still shook in her hands as she kept it pointed in Truth Bear’s direction while he kept a steady hand and occasionally struck out at her with the blade which Guidance either tried to block or, more often, stumbled and fell backwards.
“Get up and keep trying,” Love Heart said. The broom closet door opened behind Love Heart and he looked over his shoulder to see Flash Heart enter the gym.
Flash Heart smiled, “A productive session thus far I see, though it seems Guidance still needs practise.” Flash Heart winced as Guidance Heart fell to the ground again.
“Can we stop now?” Guidance’s legs shook as she stood up, her dirk still held in her right hand.
“If you want,” Truth lowered his guandao, “you’re getting better.”
“No, I’m not…” Guidance Heart sighed.
“Yes, you are,” Love Heart walked over to Guidance, “But Truth’s getting better too, if you weren’t improving you wouldn’t even have been able to stand up now.”
A clang from nearby diverted their attention. Anger Heart had caught Defender’s sword in his left hand sai and was trying to strike Defender across the head with his right weapon. Defender dodged backwards and forced his sword sideways which tore the weapon from the fox’s grip and sent it flying across the gym, where it struck the wall and evaporated. Anger Heart was stunned for a moment and fell backwards as Phoenix swung at his head.
Phoenix pointed the blunted sword at Anger Heart, “I win.”
“Not a chance!” Anger Heart swung a kick at Defender’s legs, it didn’t knock him down but it got Defender off balance enough for Anger Heart to roll out of the way and jump back to his feet. He spun around and struck Defender’ in the back with the side of his sai which sent him stumbling forwards. Anger Heart tried to kick at Defender but the white bear spun around and stuck Anger Heart in the side, which knocked him down. Anger Heart tried to stand only to find the blunt blade of Defender’s sword at his neck.
“Give up yet?” Defender asked.
Anger Heart growled and bared his teeth, “Fine, I give.” Defender Bear withdrew his sword and let Anger Heart stand up.
Love Heart walked over to Anger Heart and offered him a hand as the fox was on one knee, Anger Heart was about to smack it away, then stopped and took the offered hand to help him stand. “Alright, Anger Heart, I think you’re ready.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Anger Heart narrowed one of his eyes at Love Heart.
“I think you’re ready for active duty. You should still train but starting tomorrow you’re going to be on call for any emergencies we have to deal with and I’ll put you on the schedule for monitor duty,” Love Heart patted Anger Heart on the back.
Anger Heart grinned and pumped his fists, “Alright!”
“You can go get some rest now,” Love Heart ushered Anger Heart towards the door. The kitsune’s twin tails wagged happily as he practically skipped outside. Love Heart smiled then turned to Guidance Heart, who was standing in front of him with her head down, “Guidance Heart, you’re getting better but you still need more practise. Do you want to stay and practise some more today?” Love Heart put his hands on her shoulders.
“No,” Guidance Heart’s voice was barely a whisper.
“Alright, work on your kinetics while we spar.” Love Heart nodded to Guidance before he left to join Defender Bear, “Feel good enough to spar with me?” Love Heart asked.
Defender wiped his brow, “I am, let’s.” He held his sword forwards in both hands. Love Heart nodded then conjured one of his swords into each hand. Love Heart’s eyes narrowed and a moment later he charged and swung both her swords at Defender who blocked them with his own sword, but the force of the blow sent him back two steps.
Flash Heart watched Love Heart and Defender spar for a moment then turned to Truth Bear, “Shall we?”
“Sure, I could use some real practise.” Truth lifted his guandao back up and pointed the blunted blade towards Flash Heart.
Flash Heart grinned then put his hand over his tummy symbol and withdrew a rapier. He twirled the weapon experimentally before he pointed it towards Truth Bear, “I haven’t used a solid weapon in a while, I prefer to just create my weapons with photokinetics. En garde!” He lunged around Truth’s blade and thrust his weapon at the black bear. Truth felt the rapier pierce his left shoulder, which hurt but didn’t leave a mark, and he swung at Flash Heart, who ducked under the shaft then dodged aside and struck at Truth’s right shoulder then jumped back to avoid the backswing.
Love Heart let out a flurry of strikes against Defender Bear who was able to block all of his strikes. “You’ve gotten better,” Love Heart grinned.
“I’ve been practicing in my spare time.” Defender braced his arm then went on the offensive, for once actually driving Love Heart back with the ferocity of his assault. Love Heart grit his teeth as he deflected each shot and tried to strike back, but found himself hard pressed to stay upright. He saw the fierceness in Defender’s eyes and panic started to well up inside him.
He couldn’t hold him back and his arms started to go limp. He was helpless. No! “NO!” Love Heart’s shout caused Truth and Flash Heart to stop their duel and turn to watch as electricity lanced out from Love Heart’s swords, striking Defender in the chest. He was stunned for a moment and Love Heart went on the offensive, striking hard and fast and driving Defender Bear back again. Love Heart’s eyes were alight with rage and desperation as his body was engulfed in lightning which lent speed to his attacks and let him drive Defender back and back and back until with an audible *CLANG!* Love Heart knocked Defender’s sword from his grasp. Defender fell onto his back and wasn’t even able to push himself up as Love Heart raised his swords and stabbed towards his neck.
An instant later, Truth Bear was in front of his brother and was holding the middle of his guandao, both ends having been sheared off by Love Heart’s strike. Truth hadn’t been able deflect the attack completely and had a shallow cut above his right eye and on his left forearm. Flash Heart had used the chance to get behind Love Heart and grabbed hold of him. His fur stood on end as the electricity surrounding Love Heart made him tingle.
“Love Heart! Calm down!” Flash Heart shouted as Love Heart struggled in his grasp. The green bear thrashed, trying to get loose and get at Defender again, his eyes having misted over as he dropped his swords, which clattered to the ground.
Eventually, Love Heart calmed down, and slowly relaxed in Flash Heart’s grip. He looked up at a worried and scared Defender Bear, who had just gotten back to his feet with Truth’s help. “You’re doing well. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He finally wrenched free from Flash’s grip and turned to leave the gym.
“What the heck just happened?” Truth winced as he touched the wound on his arm then wiped the small trickle of blood from his eyebrow, “I thought your weapons couldn’t hurt anyone?”
“They can, if we genuinely wish to harm or kill someone,” Flash Heart bent down to pick up one of Love Heart’s swords only for both swords to dissolve as he touched the hilt..
Defender shuddered, “His eyes. I could see Love Heart’s eyes cloud over when I got the upper hand.”
“I need to go talk to him before my monitor shift,” Flash Heart stood up and headed for the door which left Defender and Truth to clean up the mess in the gym.
Love Heart Bear was forcefully marching towards his house when Flash Heart caught up to him. “Love Heart…wait…up!” He called out between heavy breathing. Love Heart only heard him running up behind him and, on reflex, conjured a sword and swung it with both hands as he spun around. It was only Flash Heart’s reflexes that saved his life as he jumped back and fell on his butt.
Love Heart’s fierce face changed immediately to fear and worry as his sword dissolved. He darted forwards and offered Flash Heart a hand, “Flash Heart! Are you alright?”
Flash Heart looked at Love Heart’s hand suspiciously, then up to Love Heart’s concerned face after which he allowed Love Heart to help him up. “A bit shaken but otherwise fine. Are you alright?”
Love Heart averted his eyes from Flash Heart and spoke in a subdued voice, “I’m fine.”
Flash Heart narrowed his eyes as his voice acquired a harsh edge, “You almost killed me just now and you almost killed Defender back in the gym! What’s going on?” Flash Heart had started to shout which made Love Heart tense up.
“Because I felt helpless.” Love Heart screwed up his face for a moment before he turned to meet Flash Heart’s gaze, “I felt like I did when Dusk Heart was chasing us and I panicked,” Love Heart shuddered and gripped his arms.
Flash Heart reached out for Love Heart but Love Heart looked up with a forced smile, “Want me to take your shift today?”
“I should be asking you that. You should spend some time with your fiancé, take some time and rest.” Flash Heart touched Love Heart’s left shoulder.
Love Heart pushed his arm off, “No, I need some time to think and be alone. You spend time with her and relax, I owe you for almost decapitating you.”
Flash Heart winced but Love Heart walked past him towards the Hall of Hearts. Flash wanted to stop him but he could see in Love Heart’s eyes that his mind was made up. He sighed and waited for Confidence Heart.
Confidence Heart was going through her stretching routine when Love Heart walked into the monitor room. She smiled as she stood up from touching her toes, “Love Heart!” She bounded over to him and gave Love Heart a big hug and kiss, which he reciprocated, “Did you come to pick me up?”
“No, I took Flash’s shift today. I decided to give him a break,” Love Heart let go of Confidence, “And I should take a turn at monitor duty.”
“Aww. Well have fun,” Confidence tweaked Love Heart’s nose and turned to leave the control room. Love Heart watched her go for a moment then walked over to sit in the second monitor chair.
A burst of giggles came from Playful Heart Monkey, who was seated in the adjacent chair. Love Heart grimaced then stood up and pulled a deflated whoopee cushion off his chair. He held up the object and glared at Playful, “Really?”
“Hey, can’t argue with the classics,” Playful Heart giggled then turned back to the monitors, “Gotta liven up monitor duty somehow.”
Love Heart sighed then turned to stare at the monitors, this was going to be a long day.
“Hey Flash, how’s it going?” Confidence Heart walked up alongside Flash Heart with a grin on her face.
“As well as it can be, sister.” Flash Heart kept his eyes on the Hall of Hearts, “I fear Love Heart may be in a bad way at the moment.”
Confidence stopped walking and frowned, “What?”
Flash Heart turned to his sister, his face grim, “He panicked during training today and almost killed Defender Bear and a moment ago he nearly took my head off with one of his swords.”
“What, really?! Are you OK?” Confidence peered in close, trying to spot any cuts on Flash Heart’s neck.
Flash Heart sighed, “Physically yes. I managed to avoid his swing but I am disturbed by this. Have you noticed anything off with him lately?”
Confidence Heart hung her head, “He’s been having nightmares. He’s running from Dusk Heart before he gets overwhelmed and then he wakes up. I’ve been helping him sleep easier as best I can and I thought he was getting better.”
“I see.” Flash Heart shook his head, “We should try to help him if we can but for now, it’s been a while since we spent time together, sister dear. Shall we have lunch together.”
Confidence stuck out her tongue and playfully shoved him, “Knock it off with the suave accent, Flash.”
Flash stepped back, “And why ever should I abandon my effervescent mode of speech?”
Confidence growled, “That’s it, get over here ‘brother dear!’” Confidence pounced at him and Flash Heart dodged back.
“Then pray, attempt to apprehend me.” Flash Heart laughed as she chased him into the Forest of Feelings.
Anger Heart and Guidance Heart were nearly bowled over by Confidence Heart and Flash Heart, who were joined by Swift Heart shortly into the chase. Anger Heart growled and shouted, “HEY WATCH IT!” as he shook a fist after them.
Guidance Heart had to brace against a tree to avoid falling over, a hand on her chest to steady her breathing. Anger Heart turned to help her up and away from the tree, “Are you OK?”
Guidance nodded, “Just a little tired. I still can’t get the hang of kinetics.”
“You’re getting better,” Anger Heart gave her a kiss on the cheek, “So what do you want to do now?”
Guidance smiled, “Well, I’d like to go to Bright Heart’s and see if I can borrow or watch some of his sci-fi DVDs.”
Anger Heart sighed, “OK, let’s go.” Guidance smiled, despite the fox’s protests he usually enjoyed what she picked for them to watch.
Guidance Heart knocked on Bright Heart’s door. “Come in! I’m in the garage!” Bright Heart’s voice called from inside. Guidance Heart led Anger Heart through the front door then to Bright Heart’s garage.
Soulful Heart was standing some distance away from where Bright Heart sat on a stool at his work bench with what looked like a collection of radio parts, his laptop, his electronic tool kit, a pile of caring crystals, a large number of electronic components neither of the could identify and a powerful telescope set up with the observation end pointed up and out the window.
Anger Heart squinted at Bright Heart and the pile of equipment on his table, then turned to Soulful Heart and whispered, “What’s he doing?”
“Trying to communicate with aliens.” Soulful Heart’s voice was deadpan and he didn’t turn to look at the visitors.
“I see…” Anger Heart continued to stare at Bright Heart’s work.
“Did he invite you to help?” Guidance Heart whispered.
Soulful shook his head, “He invited me over for a movie day when Gentle Heart got called out for a caring mission, then we started talking and I idly commented that he should try to find real alien civilizations, and here we are.”
“I think I’m going to try near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy,” Bright Heart’s comment wasn’t directed at any of his observers.
“Bright Heart, have you even thought about how you’re going to get the signal to go that far or how anyone who might hear your signal is going to understand it?” Guidance Heart asked.
Soulful Heart snorted, “He need magic to get that to work.”
“That’s it!” Bright Heart pulled a rather large caring crystal out of the radio assembly he had been building then spun around on his stool and almost shoved it into Anger Heart’s hands, “Please charge this.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Anger Heart just stared, confused, at the chunk of crystal in the raccoon’s hand.
“You’re a gifted kineticist and a kitsune which means you have a natural talent for manipulating magical energy so can you please pour some into this crystal?” Bright Heart asked.
Anger Heart shared a confused look with Guidance Heart then turned to Soulful who just shrugged. “OK, here goes,” Anger Heart took the crystal from Bright Heart then stared at it. He focused his mana through his arm into the crystal he held and a moment later the rainbow shimmer of the crystal was overtaken by a bright blue light.
“Perfect!” Bright Heart snatched the crystal and turned back to his assembly then started to ramble. “It was just a hypothesis but this proves that the same magical energy used for spell magic and kinetics also is the source of our caring energy; our tummy symbols just naturally convert it for use. These caring crystals are natural magical conduits and batteries that store magical energy and usually convert it to caring energy, but when forcefully charged by raw magic they can become a potent power source for other devices that fulfill different purposes and the power they provide can work with the new designs for two-way long range communication.”
Anger Heart leaned sideways and whispered to Soulful, “Should we stop him before he hurts himself, or us?”
Soulful gave a slight smile, “No. His inventions typically don’t cause problems when he gets this into them. It’s only a problem if he gets so unfocused he just starts welding random parts together to see what sticks. But maybe we shouldn’t leave him alone, just in case.”
“Hold on a sec,” Anger Heart reached into his tummy symbol and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed Grumpy Bear and thankfully didn’t have to wait long for him to answer. “Hey Grumpy? It’s Anger Heart… I’m fine…I’m at Bright Heart’s…He’s working on some kind of new invention…Trying to talk to space aliens…yeah could you come over and help him or at least keep and eye on him?...Thanks, see you soon.” Anger Heart snapped the phone shut to hang up.
“That’s good. Can we watch a movie with you, Soulful?” Guidance Heart asked.
“Sure, better stick around just in case there’s an accident.” Soulful led the two magi back to the living room.
“Nothing like a family picnic right?” Chance Heart Liger flung out the massive picnic blanket and spread it out on the grass. They were in a massive national park and had found a clearing that was unoccupied by any humans or native wildlife.
“For a given definition of ‘family’,” Stellar Heart muttered as he set his basket down and glanced at Hugs, Tugs and Get Well Bear, who were lifting a large cooler out of the Cloud Car they had driven down along with them.
“Be nice, Stel, Connie invited them,” Regal lifted Patient Heart out of his car seat. The youngest liger was at the age where he would be considered a toddler by human standards, but so far he had avoided the “terrible” part of “terrible twos”; he was just barely able to walk but hadn’t spoken his first word yet.
“I know,” Stellar watched as Tugs sat down next to Contrary Heart while Hopeful Heart grabbed a can of orange juice from the cooler.
Regal just rolled her eyes as she set Pace’s diapered bottom on the picnic blanket, “Let’s eat lunch and enjoy ourselves.” She dug into the basket nearby and pulled out a plate of luncheon meats and cheese.
None of them noticed the small orb-shaped helicopter that looked like it was carved from ice watching them through a camera lens.
“At last my portable ice fortress generator is finished!” Professor Cold Heart, a tall spindly man dressed in thin winder garb with blue skin, white hair, and ice blue eyes, stared at the massive mechanical device in front of him. It was at least three times his height with a massive wide around base, a circular control station at the top and four arched doorways around the base.
A short fat man in winter clothing named Frostbite was in the process of loading what looked like a metal stick figure skeleton into one of the arches where it was set alongside dozens of similar machined.
“What’s this for?” Frostbite stared dumbly up at the huge machine.
“It’s my newest weapon to destroy those fuzzy-wuzzies with, dunderhead,” Cold Heart scowled, “With this I can create an ice fortress anywhere and those exoskeletons will be an army I can use to take over any part of the world, given enough water to freeze. Now I just need to find the ideal place to test it.”
Cold Heart marched over to a control station and started typing into his computer. The screens above the console lit up and displayed several landscapes. “No not the city, too much attention, that place is already cold, too hot, wait what’s this.” Cold Heart pressed a button and the screen zoomed in, “A whole family of fuzzies out on earth and… those two!” He zoomed in closer on Hugs and Tugs, “I remember you two! This time I’ll put you into an icy prison you will never escape from! Frostbite!”
“Yes?” The fat little man ran over to Cold Heart.
“Get the balloon and follow me, I’m going to test out my fortress on those fuzzies right now!” Cold Heart climbed up a ladder on the side up to the control station. He stared working the controls, six propeller driven engines extended from the sides and the roof of the castle opened. Frostbite ran to grab the hot air balloon as the propellers raised the mobile fortress up and out of the castle the towards the park.
The picnic basket and cooler were all but empty. Regal and Stellar watched Pace carefully eating the orange slices they’d brought for him. He was a careful child in all things it seemed.
“When do you think he’s going to speak, Regal?” Stellar Heart looked up at his wife.
“When he’s ready, don’t rush him.” Regal Heart leaned sideways then looked up at her older children. Despite being full grown they weren’t above indulging in kids’ games and the three of them along with Hugs, Tugs and Get Well were engaged in a game of tag. She sighed and lay down on the blanket, “We should have more days like this.”
Stellar nodded, “Yeah. Hmm?” Stellar looked up at a black speck in the middle of the sky. He squinted, trying to get a better look at it.
“Is something wrong, Stel?” Regal asked when she saw him staring up at the sky.
“Can you see that?” he pointed at the black speck which seemed to be getting bigger by the second.
Regal rubbed her eyes then stared back at the speck, “I can. What is it?”
“I’ll find out.” Stellar Heart got to his feet then created a pair of binoculars with his tummy symbol. He stared up at the speck as it started to descend, and then his tail frizzed out.
Regal Heart scooped up Patient Heart, who was starting to fidget where he sat, “Stellar Heart, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Cold Heart!”
Stellar’s shout caused everyone to stop dead in their tracks. “What’s Cold Heart doing here?” Hope looked up at the descending device which was a massive mechanical tower that all but crashed into the landscape a short distance away.
“Doesn’t matter,” Contrary Heart lit up her tummy symbol and fired off an alert beacon up to the Kingdom of Caring.
A moment later they heard Cold Heart’s voice, amplified through a megaphone. “ATTENTION FUZZY WUZZIES, YOU ARE ABOUT TO BECOME THE FIRST FROZEN VICTIMS OF MY MOBILE ICE FORTRESS!”
Connie’s tummy symbol set up an alert siren in the monitor room up in the Hall of Hearts. Playful Heart had spotted Cold Heart’s flying fortress on one of his screens and hit the alert button.
“Who’s that?!” Love Heart leaned over the console to look at the screen.
“Professor Cold Heart,” Playful Heart had become uncharacteristically serious, “We haven’t seen him since he sent those giant ice robots to us. Guess this is what he was working on. Oh no, that’s where Regal, Stellar and the cubs went down to Earth for the day!” Playful pointed to the tiny for of a checkered picnic blanket
“I’m going to get Anger Heart then head down there. Stay here and let everyone know!” Love Heart turned and ran out of the Hall of Hearts. His tummy symbol glowed and a pair of swords appeared in his hands, these ones encased in scabbards that he immediately strapped to his back. Love Heart pulled out his cell phone and dialed Anger Heart.
Anger Heart was partway through the movie when he heard his cell phone ring. He whispered and apology to Soulful and Guidance as he stepped into Bright Heart’s kitchen.
“It’s Love Heart! Cold Heart’s down on earth with a giant machine of some kind! I need you to come with me!” Love Heart shouted despite running down the road, “Meet me at the cloud car hanger in five minutes!”
“What?! I’ll be there!” Anger Heart snapped his phone shut and stowed it back inside his tummy symbol. “Gotta go! Emergency!” He shouted at Guidance and Soulful as she bolted out the front door, not stopping to hear them reply.
Anger Heart ran down the path all the way to Care-a-Lot and was breathing hard by the time he arrived. Love Heart was already in a cloud car and he made a ‘come here’ motion with his free hand, “Get in!”
Anger Heart skidded around the car and jumped over the door into the seat; he barely had time to buckle up before they were in the air. Anger Heart held his chest to catch his breath, then looked over at Love Heart. “You have your swords out?”
“Better to have them on hand, easier than trying to conjure them in the heat of battle.” Love Heart made a quick glance to the right with his eyes, “you should get some of your sai out and stick them on a belt.”
“When I’m not tied down.” Anger Heart held his breath, trying to get his heartbeats to slow down. This was a time when having two tails was inconvenient since they were both pressed up against his back. “So what are we up against?”
“Huge flying machine, Playful said something about giant ice robots, that’s why I need you,” Love Heart turned the car as they broke through the cloud cover, “Be ready to fight as soon as we land!” He gunned the engine harder, pushing it past the safe natural cruising speed.
The flying fortress had spread a massive sheet of ice several hundred meters out from where it landed and the spindly little robots were stepping out. Each was two meters tall and ice formed on their bodies as soon as they were out in the now much colder air until they had changed into large walking ice sculptures.
Cold Heart watched with perverse glee until he spotted the approaching cloud car. He sneered then spoke into the microphone on his console. “Shoot down those fuzzies!” The robots turned to look up at the approaching car then reached down and grabbed chunks of ice that had formed on the landscape and hurled them upwards at the car.
Love Heart spotted the approaching ice boulders and set the car on cruise control. “Grab on! We’re bailing out!” Love Heart unbuckled himself from the car.
“What?!” Anger Heart’s mouth was agape.
“Unless you want to get hit by a boulder then grab on!” A boulder whirred past them and Anger Heart undid his seatbelt and grabbed Love Heart’s hand. With a burst of air, Love Heart leapt clear of the cloud car and pulled Anger Heart with him. A moment later an ice boulder obliterated the cloud car.
Love Heart and Anger Heart fell to earth as Love Heart gathered the air around him to slow their decent. “Hold on tight!” Love Heart shouted.
“You can fly?!” Anger Heart felt his heart leap up into his throat.
“No, but I’ll keep up from splattering on the ground, get ready!”
The hit the ground hard, the ice was rough enough to give them decent footing. Love Heart drew his swords and Anger Heart conjured a pair of sai into his hands as the ice robots turned their attention to them.
“Everything’s loaded!” Stellar Heart slammed the trunk of the cloud car shut. “How’s Pace.”
“Agitated, but he’s buckled in,” Regal Heart finished buckling Patient Heart into his car seat. The liger cub was fussing but Regal Heart stroked his short mane, “Just hold still, we’ll be home soon.”
“Everyone ready?!” Stellar shouted at the other six, who were standing by the other two cloud cars.
“We are. Chance what are you looking at?” Connie turned to where her younger brother was watching the landing site.
Chance grinned as they saw a gout of flame shoot out from the direction of the landing site. “Backup’s here! Looks like Love Heart and Anger Heart have this in hand.” He passed the binoculars to Connie who peered through them.
Anger Heart shot a stream out at one of the robots which melted all the ice off it’s upper body. Love Heart launched himself upwards and stabbed one of his swords into the robot’s thin head and sent an electrical current through its body; he jumped away as the robot’s body exploded and left the legs to fall to the ground.
Connie passed the binoculars to Hope then turned and whispered to Chance, who nodded in response. Connie turned and whispered the same thing in Hope’s ear as she lowered the binoculars and she nodded too.
“Mom! Dad! Get Pace home, we’re going to help Love Heart!” Connie shouted over her shoulder as she and her siblings took off towards the crash site.
“What?!” Stellar Heart’s gaze snapped towards the three as they ran, “Kids, get back here right now!” he shouted.
“Connie! Chance! Hope! Wait!” Regal Heart shouted and was about to run after them when Stellar grabbed her shoulder. “Stel! Let me go!”
“No, you have to get Pace home, I’ll go after them,” Stellar Heart argued back.
“I’ll go get them you both get him home!” Tugs took off after the liger siblings.
“Wait me for me, Tugs!” Hugs shouted and ran off after her brother.
Get Well didn’t run off, instead she dispersed one of the remaining cars, “We can’t stop them, let’s get home and get help.”
“At least one of the kids isn’t reckless,” Stellar got into the driver’s seat of the car as Get Well got into the second one and they drove back home.
A blast of fire from Anger Heart melted the ice off the arm, torso and head of a robot that was attempting to crush him. The robot’s spindly arm tries to skewer him but he dodged aside and jumped up to the robot’s head and stabbed one of his sai through the robot’s single red eye lens. The robot’s body went limp as Anger Heart jumped down from the machine. He growled, “How many more of these things are there?”
“I lost count!” Love Heart sheathed his left sword and fired off a bolt of lightning from his left hand that blew off a chunk of ice in front of the robot’s head. A second bolt fried the robot’s head and it fell over.
“Love Heart!” Love Heart turned to see Connie, Hope and Chance running towards him.
“What are you three doing here?!” Love Heart was forced to dodge aside as another robot as it tried to smash him into the ground. Love Heart sliced into the ice and took off one of the robot’s feet, knocking it lopsided but not down.
“Freeze!” Love Heart barely dodged aside and landed on his side as Connie’s symbol flashed and the robot froze in place. Love Heart took the chance and dropped his swords then charged up a purple ball of plasma lightning in his hands and shot it into the robot’s chest. It only animated for an instant before the plasma ball exploded and took the robot’s chest with it.
“We’re here to help you!” Chance ran over to Love Heart to help him up.
Love Heart all but pushed Chance off as he stood up and retrieved his swords, “Get out of here! It’s too dangerous!”
Chance glared at Love Heart, “No! Our parents and Pace need to get away and we’re not letting Cold Heart get to them.”
“What?!” Love Heart glanced back in the direction they had run from and spotted Hugs and Tugs running towards them.
“You can’t make us run, we’re staying!” Contrary Heart glared at Love Heart too.
“What the hell?!” Anger Heart ran over to the group, “What are you five doing?” he fired off a stream of fire at a robot as it came near which Love Heart blasted with lightning when the ice melted to finish it off.
“Five?” Hope blinked then saw Hugs and Tugs run up to them. She shared a worried look with Connie and Chance, they couldn’t use their powers as long as those three were nearby.
Love Heart saw the look and growled before he started barking orders. “Anger Heart, take Hugs and Tugs and keep these robots contained and away from any humans, try using your stares to see if you can melt the ice. Connie, Hope, Chance, come with me. We’re going to cut through to Cold Heart’s control tower. Move!” His last word made them all jump. But Connie, Hope and Chance followed after Love Heart as he charged towards Cold Heart.
“You heard him, stick with me!” Anger Heart shouted to Hugs and Tugs. The twin bears hurried to follow Anger Heart as he plowed through another robot with his fire before hew tore its head off by locking one of his sai around its neck and snapped it off.
“Ready?” Tugs took his sister’s hand.
“Yes.” Hugs took a deep breath as they spoke together.
“Care Bears Countdown! Four! Three! Two! One! Care Bear Stare!” Blue and pink beams of light fired out of their tummy symbols. The beams struck one of the robots and melted the ice off of them. A blast of fire from Anger Heart melted the robots head, making it fall over.
“Try that on the ice on the ground!” Anger Heart shouted as he jumped away from another robot’s attempt to smash him. He shot a blast of fire at the robot’s body then jumped up and blasted it again, melting the middle into a twisted mess of slag and paralysing the machine.
Love Heart’s swords coursed with lightning and he swung both swords into the leg of a robot, slicing it off with some effort and knocking it down. “Connie try to freeze as many as you can, Hope stay close and use your bubble if any get too close, Chance if you can try to use your fire to destroy some of the machines Connie freezes and stay close to each other.”
“Freeze!” Connie’s symbol flashed and one of the robots froze in place as it was about to swing it’s arm down and crush Chance.
Chance jumped on the robot that Love Heart had knocked over and grit his teeth, trying to safely call of the feelings of anger he needed. “You ruined our picnic!” he shouted. His symbol glowed read and a small gout of magma shot form his symbol, smaller than he had created the first time he tried but it was enough to melt through the ice and into the robot’s body, completely frying it.
“Look out!” Hope ran over to Connie who had noticed another machine coming up behind her. Her bubble shield popped up around them and stopped the robot’s fists. It tried to slam down on the shield again but a string of plasma danced out from Love Heart’s hand and completely fried the robot’s head.
“Keep moving! We have to get to Cold Heart!” Love Heart shouted. Hope’s bubble vanished and the three of them took off after Love Heart.
Contrary Heart’s “Freeze Frame” proved to be the most useful, she let off several flashes that paralyzed the robots as they tried to attack them. Eventually Love Heart decided to just leave the frozen robots where they stood as they charged directly towards Cold Heart’s metal fortress.
Hope chanced a look over her shoulder as one of the robots approached one Connie had frozen and tapped its arm which unfroze it. “Looks like they figured it out!” She shouted.
“Darnit!” Connie swore and turned around, “Freeze!” her symbol flashed and the two robots froze in place.
“How do we stop this!?” Chance turned to face a robot in their way, “Call!” the musical blast sheared off the ice from the robot.
“We stop Cold Heart!” Love Heart leapt up and swung at the de-iced robot’s head with his swords wreathed in lightning, decapitating it. “Stay close, we’re going in!” Love Heart jumped off the headless robot which fell backwards and would have fallen on top of him if he hadn’t taken off the instant he hit the ground. Connie, Hope and Chance took off after Love Heart.
Cold Heart bent over the edge of his control platform and stared at the four who approached him. “And just who are you? I’ve never see you fuzzy wuzzies before!” Cold Heart pointed his bony index finger at Love Heart.
Love Heart glared back up at him and pointed his right handed sword up at him. “I’m Love Heart Bear, leader of the Care Bear Magi! We’re here to destroy your machine and end your attack!”
“HA! End my attack? I think you’ll find my mobile ice fortress is indestructible!” Cold Heart laughed.
Connie, Hope and Chance stood side by side as Love Heart and Cold Heart exchanged words. “Ready!” Connie said, “Care Bear Cousins Countdown! Four! Three! Two! One! Care Bear Cousins Call!” Three bright blue music note filled beams fired off from the siblings’ tummy symbols and crashed into the machine. The three of them kept up the force of the beams for nearly a full minute before they felt overwhelmed from maintaining it and had to stop. The mobile fortress wasn’t even dented.
Cold Heart gave out a sinister chuckle, “Heheheheh I’ve found a way to stare and call proof my machine and-“ he was cut off as Love Heart charged at the machine and began hacking away at the structure with his swords, lightning sparking off the blades as he flailed at the monstrous machine. “Oh really, trying swords? Well you can’t even scratch the paint on this and what’s more,” Cold Heart pressed several buttons on the console, “I still have an army of ice robots!” The four ports on the sides of the machine opened again and more spindly robot skeletons started to walk out, ice quickly forming on their bodies.
Love Heart was forced to turn his attention to the new robots as they exited. “Hope put your bubble around the three of you and stay there!” Love Heart sliced through one of the robot’s legs before it could form its ice armor.
Hope grabbed Connie and Chance’s shoulders then concentrated on her tummy symbol as her bubble shield surrounded the three of them, and none too soon as five robots reached them, three of whom had been paralyzed by Connie but had been freed by the others. They spotted the ligers and, ignoring the shield started trying to pound them.
“They won’t get through,” Hope reassured Connie and Chance.
“Yeah, but now we’re trapped in here,” Connie winced as one of the ice fists struck the barrier then turned to watch Love Heart as he held back the tide of new robots coming out of the fortress.
“How many of those things does he have?” Chance wondered. He looked upwards through one of the sides of the bubble not being pounded on and spotted something. “What’s that?” he created a pair of binoculars with his tummy symbol and looked again, then he started grinning.
“What are you smiling about, Chance?” Connie asked, curious rather than annoyed.
“Looks like mom and dad got us some help, look!” he pointed but kept his grip on the binoculars.
“I sent up the alert signal, Chance,” Connie created her own pair of binoculars and looked where Chance had pointed.
Confidence Heart Fennec had jumped out of her cloud car as soon as she saw the battle zone and dove right at the ground. With a blast of air she cannoned into the nearest robot and smashed it into the ground which shattered the ice around its body and gave her plenty of time to smash its head in with her fist.
Flash Heart and Independent Bear landed nearby in their own cloud car. Indy drew his katana and immediately charged at a nearby robot. He nimbly dodged around the robot’s fist and swung at it’s leg with both hands, slicing it off halfway up the shin. The robot fell to one knee and Indy jumped up and sliced into the ice, just managing to get his sword blade through the robot’s head.
“It seems we have a big mess on our hands.” Flash Heart glowered at a robot that bore down on him and pointed his left hand at it, middle and index fingers extended. A beam of yellow light fired off from his fingertips and lanced through the machine’s icy armor which deflected it into an aurora out the other side. “Crap!” Flash Heart swore and dodged aside as it swung its fists at him. A light sword formed in his right hand and he hacked at the robot’s arm and thankfully managed to slice it off at the elbow joint, albeit with a more jagged cut that he would have preferred.
Connie turned to watch where Anger Heart, Hugs and Tugs were. The ice on the ground near them had been melted by a combination of the kitsune’s fire and the twins’ stares and they had started to make their way towards the machine as well.
Chance watched as Confidence, Indy and Flash tore through the robots whose attention had been diverted towards the trio. “Hey Love Heart! Help’s here and they’re shredding them! Whoo!” he whooped as he watched the fight going on.
Love Heart sliced up one more robot, which added to a pile of ice and robotic frames in front of his side of the machine. “Great! But still how to I destroy this thing?” Love Heart sheathed his swords. “Let’s try overloading it!” He charged up a blue ball of lightning in his hands and hurled it at the side of the machine. The ball exploded into a barrage of small lightning bolts that only scorched the side.
“HA! I’m not so stupid to let a little lightning ruin my new machine! If that’s all you can do then you might as well give up!” Cold Heart had actually begun to enjoy himself as he watched what he saw as a futile effort.
“I’m not giving up!” Love Heart drew one of his swords. Already more robots were emerging so he had to do this fast. He poured more mana into the sword which made it thrum with magic then with a loud cry he stabbed it into the side of the machine.
“That’s not going to do anything, fuzzy, now finish him!” he gave the order to his robots.
Love Heart ignored Cold Heart as he gathered up all his reserves of mana. Hs body began to spark with purple strings of plasma lightning, several dancing out and frying a pair of robots that had come too close. Another string passed by Hope’s bubble but only passed over it without causing any damage, though it did fry one of the robots that had been pounding on her barrier. Love Heart growled and focused all the plasma into his sword, then into the machine.
The fortress started to go haywire as the overly potent plasma lightning overloaded its systems. “What! Stop that right now, Fuzzy, I won’t let you destroy my fortress!”
“RAAAAAH!” Love Heart forced the last of his energy into the sword as the machine began to shudder and spark as it started to come apart.
“NO! My fortress!” Cold Heart hit several buttons on the control station and a metal dome closed over him before the station launched out and landed some distance away.
Hope could see the machine about to go critical and poured all of her focus and energy into her shield, which made it become nearly opaque around them. Then the machine exploded.
Anger Heart was close enough to see the whole event and he shouted “GET BEHIND ME!” he shouted to Hugs and Tugs then flung his arm upwards to raise a wall of fire in front of him. There was a shudder followed by a massive explosion. The wall of fire held for a moment before the ice blasted through it, instantly melting and extinguishing the wall of fire but thankfully only leaving Anger Heart, Hugs and Tugs soaked instead of frozen or impaled.
Hope’s bubble had held firm but most of it had been covered by a solid wall of ice that looked like one of the roof portions of the Sidney opera house. Hope finally let her bubble shield fall and dropped to her knees.
“Hey Hopie, are you alright?” Connie helped her sister to stand.
Hope nodded, “Just tired and scared. Chance?” She looked up at her brother, who supported her on the other side.
Chance grinned, “Looks like we won.” The ligers all stepped out of what was once their shield and just stared at the sight in front of them.
The spot where the machine had been replaced by what looked like an explosion perfectly frozen in place, made almost entirely of ice with chunks of the former fortress stuck inside of it. The robots near the station had been blasted back and into pieces or impaled by ice shards from the explosion itself. Right beside the explosion they could all see Love Heart, his sword still stuck into where the machine had once been, and completely frozen in ice.
“Love Heart!” Anger Heart was the first to shout as he ran towards the frozen bear. “Hold on, I’ll get you out.” His body seemed to immolate as he reached into the ice which melted at his touch. He reached in farther until he felt the warmth of Love Heart’s fur and used a single short burst of fired to melt the ice surrounding him.
Love Heart gasped for air as Anger Heart pulled him free. He was soaked, freezing and tired but otherwise none the worse for wear. He gave a relieved smile to Anger Heart, “Thanks.”
“No problem,” Anger Heart smiled back and let Love Heart stand on his own.
“Ruined! Everything is ruined!” Cold Heart had exited his escape pod and was stomping his foot on the rapidly thawing ice. He pointed an accusing finger at Love Heart, “You, green fuzzy, I wont forget this and next time I’ll make sure you pay!” Cold Heart glanced up briefly to see that Frostbite had finally managed to bring the hot air balloon in range, about time too.
Love Heart bared his teeth as he felt a massive rage build up inside of him. Before anyone could stop him, Love Heart had charged at Cold Heart and grabbed him by his coat collar with his left hand.
“Ack! What are you doing?!” Cold Heart demanded as Love Heart managed to lift him off his feet, no small task as Cold Heart was a head taller than him.
“There will be no next time.” Love Heart growled. He still had his sword gripped in his right hand and he raised it up to hold the point at Cold Heart’s throat.
“What? No you can’t do this!” Cold Heart struggled to get free but found Love Heart’s grip too tight to loosen.
Love Heart narrowed his eyes, “Yes I can. This is the end of you!” He prepared to stab his sword into Cold Heart’s neck.
“LOVE HEART, STOP!” The cry came from Hugs Bear. She had seen what Love Heart was about to do and ran towards him. Before anyone could stop her, Hugs had grabbed Love Heart in a tight hug from behind.
The world stood still and Hugs’ tummy symbol glowed.
The red mist left Love Heart’s vision as his grips loosened. His sword dropped from his hand and clattered to the ground and he dropped Cold Heart, who stumble and fell to his rear. The professor wasted no time and bolted for the just landed hot air balloon. No taunts, no swearing revenge, he just fled for his life. Love Heart’s hands came down to his sides as his breathing became normal. Everyone just stood there and watched as Hugs released him.
“Love Heart. What did you just try to do?” Tugs asked, though he had a gut feeling he knew what the answer was.
Love Heart swallowed hard, “I…was going to kill him”
The clean up was surprisingly easy. While the fortress’ destruction didn’t shut down all the robots, Confidence Heart Fennec, Flash Heart Bear and Independent Bear were able to make short work of those that remained now that they weren’t being commanded directly by Cold Heart. As for the ice covering the landscape without the fortress artificially lowering the temperature it melted before too long and thankfully left no major long-term damage.
“So he almost killed Cold Heart?!” Brave Heart was stunned as he listened to what Anger Heart was said.
Anger Heart nodded, “He had his sword up to his throat, then Hugs hugged him and he stopped.”
“I see…” Brave Heart put a hand to his forehead, “You can go now, Anger Heart.” Anger Heart nodded then left.
Brave Heart put his hand on meeting room’s table, “What do we do about this, Tenderheart, Take Care?” Brave Heart turned to the other two seated with him.
Tenderheart sighed, “I don’t know. He stopped but, what if this happens again?”
“He needs therapy,” Take Care said. “After the incident in training this morning and now this, Love Heart needs therapy.”
Brave Heart nodded, “I agree, can you take care of that, please?”
Take Care stood up, “I will. I’ll go see him, if you don’t need me here.”
“We can finish the paperwork without you,” Tenderheart picked up a pen and pulled the report sheet over. Brave Heart groaned as Take Care left and he pulled over the second page of the report sheet.
Love Heart stood in front of the broom closet that led to Defender Bear’s training gym. He wanted to enter but found himself losing her nerve each time he reached out for the door.
“Love Heart Bear!”
Love Heart turned to the voice and saw Take Care Bear approach him. “Hi, Take Care,” He almost mumbled, “Did you need something?”
Take Care stopped in front of him, a look of concern on her face, “I heard what happened today, the incident in the training room and how you almost killed Cold Heart.”
Love Heart averted his eyes from her, “I figured you would. It was just adrenaline, I’m fine now.”
“No you’re not!” Take Care’s sharp voice caused Love Heart to jump, “Ever since that fight you had with No-Heart you’ve been pushing yourself and everyone around you too hard, today was just you finally losing control of that.”
“I’ll be fine!” Love Heart snapped back, “I just need some time-,”
“No,” Take Care folded her arms, “You need help, therapy specifically. You need to come and see me every day so we can talk about this and help you.”
Love Heart turned away, “Take Care, just let me handle this. I need to get home.”
“Love Heart!” Take Care shouted this time but Love Heart ignored her, “I don’t like to do this but if you walk away now I’m taking you off active duty!”
That made Love Heart stop and turn around, his face livid, “What?!”
Take Care didn’t back down, “Technically I outrank you, Tenderheart and Brave Heart and if I think you are unfit for your duties then I can put you on medical leave for as long as I say is necessary.” Take Care gave a smirk as Love Heart processed what she had said. She walked up to him, “But I you agree to come to my therapy sessions then I won’t take you off the roster. So do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?”
Love Heart groaned, “Fine, I’ll come to therapy. When?”
“Every day after lunch, starting tomorrow.” Take Care stopped in front of him and her expression became one of concern, “I’m trying to help, so please just let me.”
Love Heart sighed again, “OK. Can I go home now?”
“Yes, go home and get some rest,” Take Care pointed to the entrance to the Hall of Hearts. Love Heart turned and trudged out of the hall.
“You saw that too right?” Connie stood with Hope and Chance in one of their secret training spots, “Hugs’ symbol was glowing when she hugged Love Heart.”
Chance nodded, “Yeah, I actually thought Love Heart was going to do it too.” He shuddered at the memory.
“So Hugs has a special power too? Like a cooldown hug?” Hope asked.
Connie nodded, “Looks like it, but I don’t think she knows it yet. Problem is, how do we tell her?”
“Not to mention Tugs, right?” Chance wiggled his eyebrows at Connie, who blushed.
“Yeah well… we don’t know what he can do or how to find out,” She averted her gaze from Chance, who was still grinning at her.
“But we should still tell him, if we tell Hugs we can’t leave Tugs out,” Hope said.
“Yep. So let’s go grab them and bring them here,” Chance was about to leave when Connie grabbed his tail. “YOW! Connie…” Chance’s eye teared up as she tugged again.
“We can tell them, but not right now. Let everyone cool off after what happened today and then we can tell them,” Connie released his tail.
“Alright, besides I bet you’re going to tell him personally,” Chance grinned again.