An esteemed friend returns.
If there was an auditorium in the Userpedia refugee cave, Ruby would have used it. But, as everyone crowded around to hear what he had to say, he decided it would do.
“People of Userpedia!” he called out, hoping everyone would hear him. “In the midst of these events that have befallen us, your fellow peers need you! Some of our number have proven that they will assist you, come what may.”
Ruby paused. He thought to himself for a moment. Was he hitting home the patriotism point too much? Hmm... perhaps, he decided, but the situation called for it. “But I believe that there are still some people studying the arcane arts: healers; elementals; even those possibly dealing in the art of necromancy.” He noted some people were nervously looking around at the mention of the dark art.
“If you can assist us in any way, then please, come and see us. With our combined might and power...” He extended an arm to the crowd slowly, fist clenched. He didn't know why, he just hoped it would get the point across. “... then we will be able to make it through this troubling time.”
Ruby smiled. He was sure that he had gotten the point across. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. You may be at ease.”
He turned and left to go speak with one of the fellow Heroes.
Plums found Bean a few minutes later, having squeezed herself into a corner as if trying to hide. “What are you doing, sis?”
“I know what you’re going to say, and I don’t want to do it. I’ll die out there.”
“Huh? Why do you say that?”
Bean looked worryingly toward the cave mouth. “It’s dangerous out there. Everything’s on fire. I’m going to burn to death.” She sniffled.
“No you aren't. Come on... you have that water ability, remember?” Plum reached a hand out for her. “Come on up to the outside with me. I’ll show you what it’s like.”
It was only after a few minutes of consoling that Bean was found just under the shadow of the cave mouth, looking out into the dead land. Most things having been burned away or blackened, the fires were starting to go out.
Bean stared. This was proof that her old life was gone. “Oh my god...”
Plum rested a hand on her shoulder. “Just think... keep practicing with your water ability, and maybe you could help rebuild this.”
“You could help the trees and grass to regrow by giving them water... and you could stop the rest of the fires. Right now, the Userpedians depend on you to help put out the fires. Then we could move somewhere where things could go back to how they used to be. ‘’You could be our saviour, Bean.’’”
Bean blinked, suddenly feeling scared. Savior? Now that was too much. “I’ll... have to think about it. I really want to see us away from this place too, bro, but I’m not sure I could handle the responsibility.”
Plum simply nodded. Perhaps when she was like this, this was the best result he could get. “Alright. Let’s go back inside.”
Inside the underground camp was madness, the crowd of Userpedians loud as they talked to friends who were signing up for Defender duties. Ruby had his hands full. He didn't need so many recruits! What use was a warrior when they would still burn going through the flames? And where was that mysterious water elemental?
The last of the recruits went back to doing their own thing and Ruby let out a sigh of relief, making his way over to the Heroes’ private tent. Valentin looked up as the dark-clothed leader made his way over to a seat near him. “Five bucks they won’t help until it suits them.”
“I’m sure some of them have good intentions.”
“They will have to prove that for themselves.” Valen sighed and closed his eyes. “We’re just fine as we are. How are you going to find this person anyway? IF they exist?”
“I don’t know, I’ll admit... I just have this gut feeling. They've got to be around, I tell you, they've got to.”
It was at that time that Guy appeared at the tent flap. He wore a red hood, and a maroon full-body robe. Apparently it wasn't uncomfortable to walk in. He too was a Hero, but had earned that rank without combat. He was loyal to Userpedia, and had surpassed expectation. Lack of combat aside, his prized weapon was still his scythe.
He looked worried, and Ruby and Valentin could hear a commotion outside. “Gentlemen,” Guy began. “Ruby, you won’t believe who just turned up.”
“Who?” The Hero stood up and made for the door, only to step back when the man in the immaculate black suit, ginger hair, and green tie stepped into the tent. He was supposed to be dead, but here he was in front of them; Steve, the successful leader of the Grand Mario Wiki Library. One leg of his formal pants was rolled up, revealing a basic splint as it became obvious that leg was broken. His face was bruised, and it seemed he had definitely been bleeding at some point. Other than that, there was no telling what other injuries he had sustained.
Steve made his way over to the table and sat, dismissing Guy. Yes, despite the two community’s rivalries, the Userpedians still held some respect for Steve, being the father of the community that spawned them. He had, in the past, appointed Ruby as a liaison to the Userpedians back in the past, but he continued to serve both communities... until the Library’s destruction.
And so, Steve began to talk. “Ruby Doo! Rooben! Rodney Rube! The Ruby Cube! Rubyrules!”
Valentin was confused.
Ruby said to him, “Don’t worry, it’s standard procedure.” To Steve he said, “Nice to see you again Steve. How on earth did you escape?”
“I didn't, I was launched from my office from the force of the impact.”
Same old Steve, Ruby thought. No adventure would be complete without him.
“It’s a nice operation you got here, Stoob,” Steve said. Ruby smiled at the mention of the old name. “I see you have a guild of fighters too. Listen, Rubyx, I think there are people still in the Library’s ruins. Also I need my music collection back from the announcer system. And you’re going to help.”
Valentin chipped in. “We’re going to Hell? I know I’m not that high on God’s list, but...”
“No, help. Assist, aid...”
“Oh, okay then.”
“...work with, be of service to, give assistance...”
“...save the bacon, get out of a tight spot...”
“Steve, we get it,” Ruby said with a chuckle.
“Great. How many capable people do you have around here?”
“How many can withstand fire?”
Steve shifted a bit in his seat, and produced a small pile of cold ashes from his pocket. “Stooby, do you know what happens when a building full of flammable material catches fire?”
“What is that...?”
“This? This is all that’s left of my desk.”
Ruby simply stared. He had only been called to Steve’s office once in the past, but he definitely remembered the huge work desk that took up a wall of his office. “My god...”
“Exactly. When that meteor landed, you can sure as hell bet it set the whole place alight.”
Ruby sighed. “We’ll put together some kind of search and rescue team and do what we can.” He paused. “I should tell you though, we are planning to move away from this place soon, after the fires stop. That said, if anybody’s still alive in there, they are welcome to come join us.”
“Thanks, Roob. I knew I could count on you.” Steve stood up, on his good foot, and made to leave. He turned around. “Oh, Ruby?”
“If at all you can find ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’, that would be awesome.” He grinned, and disappeared behind the tent flap.
It was just after midday when Ruby assembled the Search and Rescue team. It consisted of Guy, having been a liaison between communities in the past; Steve, wondering why there were not other people willing to go into burning buildings; and Ruby himself, partly because he felt it was his duty to.
Ruby pulled the healing staff from its position in the Heroes’ tent and held it in his hands, feeling its mystical energies fill him. He smiled, and held it in his hand. He would need to tap into those energies, to make sure they would come to no harm. There was no weapon for Steve, but it didn't seem right for him to own one.
They double-, then triple-checked they had the necessary equipment (though they had no proper armor to protect themselves from the elements), and then set off, the Defenders watching silently.
Near the mouth of the cave, Plum and Bean watched them leave. Plum looked over at his sister. “You should probably go with them... They will need you.”
“But I’m scared...”
“I know... but you need to face that fear. Ruby can protect you. But... you do need to tell them.”
Bean looked up into her brother’s eyes. They were warm, ablaze with hope for his sister. He honestly believed she could do this.
She sighed. “...Alright. But if I die, I swear I’m going to haunt you.” She stuck her tongue out at him, she wasn't sure why, and took a few steps forward. “Take care, bro!” She yelled, and ran off in the direction of Ruby’s group.
Plum smiled. He hoped that she would realize that she could overcome her worries.
Then he prayed for her safety, and walked back into the cave.