Warning: spoilers for the Spirits of Sin Saga.
A week after Operation Suburban Doxology, Dr. Erwin Stahlberg sits down in his familiar examination room.
Through the open door to the regeneration room, it can be seen that more than half of the vats are currently occupied.
A lot of fluffies were injured because of the Spirits of Sin’s attempts to corrupt mortalkind. Fortunately, there weren’t that many casualties.
To this date, the Demonic Invasion was still the biggest disaster that has befallen the city, going by the death toll.
Buildings can be rebuilt and repaired, but resurrection is rare. Not everyone gets a second chance.
So life must still be protected
It’s not like the ChaotiX can just wish people back to life constantly.
Erwin’s first patient of the day is brought in by Dr. Ulysses Phoric, psychologist, psion and purple lover.
He’s bringing his fluffy Asher in for another checkup. Asher, his tail wagging like a dog’s, is beaming at Erwin from inside his carrier, which is currently floating at around eye level.
“Hewwo, mistah dok-tow!”
That’s Ulysses’ doing. Just one of the many powers of a psion.
As he directs the purple carrier onto the table and opens it by hand, he notices Erwin watch him with an amused expression.
“Oh, I just thought you’d use telekinesis to open it too.”
Ulysses chuckles as he carefully lifts Asher out.
“I don’t have to use my psionic powers for every little thing.”
“Fair enough. Let’s get him on the scanner.”
The purple-clad psion places his purple fluffy on the Stahlskanner.
And the light turns green.
“Healthy as ever, Asher. Here, have a treat.”
Erwin takes a skettie treat out of a large jar, unwrapping it for Asher.
That jar was a gift from Chaos, and it refills itself when no one is looking.
“um num num num num”
As Asher happily nums the treat, Erwin leans toward Ulysses, lowering his voice.
“I don’t think I need to ask, but–”
“Still no signs of it, Erwin. Any luck finding his father and that big-brained Marley yet?”
“We haven’t heard anything from the O.M.A., and we’re not sure if those two are ever planning to return to this timeline. They definitely know they have enemies here. As do the Gurus. After everything they’ve done to Cal, they won’t want to see him again in a hurry.”
“On that note, Asher and I should probably be going. Dr. Valentine requested my presence at her lab, and Asher has a playdate with Ms. Pac-Man and Dig-Dug. Very unusual names for fluffies, I must say.”
A third man’s voice cuts in, from the direction of the examination room’s open door.
“I suggested those names, dude. You know how much I like retro games, right?”
Calvin walks into the examination room, carefully carrying a visibly pregnant (and visibly abused) mare, Marley following Calvin inside.
The look on the mare’s face is an utterly defeated one, and she’s not really paying attention to the conversation.
“I’d love to chat with you, Ulysses, but we both have shit to do.”
Ulysses nods, placing Asher in the carrier.
“I completely understand, Cal. Another time.”
“Am dat mawe gunna be otay, daddeh?”
“She’s in good hands, I think she’ll pull through.”
As Ulysses leaves, the carrier floating out behind him, Erwin presses a button on his COMP, the mechanical arms popping out of the ceiling to sterilise everything Asher touched.
While the mechanical arms do their thing, Erwin eyes the mare, tut-tutting at her condition.
“Another underground mill, Cal?”
“The start of one, at any rate. Some asshole trying to be a basement breeder.”
“But we nipt dat shit in da bud.”
“He had a warrant for his arrest on at least a dozen counts of fluffy abuse. So I figured it would be really ironic if I gave him a ride to the police station in a hard light construct of a human-sized sorry box.”
“It wuz weawwy funee.”
“That it was. There’s a stallion too, but he’s currently, uh, in a padded room at the School. The owner had him doped up on all kinds of aphrodisiacs, so we’re gonna have to wait until those wear off and he stops trying to rape everything he lays eyes on before you can examine him.”
“Well, let’s examine this poor girl for now.”
Calvin places the mare on the Stahlskanner.
Both men frown when they see the results on the screen.
“Oh, das ist ja furchtbar. Nicht schon wieder.”
“Another litter of stillbirths. Not really a surprise, I saw the conditions she was being kept in.”
This finally elicits a reaction from the mare, and she mumbles, her tone dull and hollow.
“Su… su babbehs haf gon foweba sweepies?”
Erwin strokes the mare.
“I’m afraid so, my dear. I’m sorry.”
“Nu be sowwy. Fwuffy nu wuz gunna keep dem babbehs ee-fuw way, daddeh sed dat.”
Erwin sees Calvin’s eyes flickering between blue and burning red, and as the Omega speaks up, his voice sounds strained, giving away the copious amounts of rage he feels towards the mare’s ex-owner, and the sorrow he feels towards the mare.
“You’re never going to see that asshole again, I promise. As for your special friend, hopefully he’ll be back to his normal self when those drugs wear–”
“Oh, dat nu am fwuffy speciaw fwend, dat am fwuffy bwuddah.”
Calvin, Erwin and Marley reply as one.
The mare sighs, and explains.
“Daddeh tuk fwuffy an bwuddah fwom da stweet, sed dat he wuz fwuffy an bwuddah nyu daddeh, an dat we wuz gunna make wots of babbehs, su daddeh cud make wots of muh-nees.”
Erwin finds himself drawing the metaphorical short straw, and asks the question no one in the room really wants to ask.
“You… you did point out that you are siblings, yes?”
The mare nods, continuing her explanation as Erwin dabs her wounds with regeneration gel.
“Daddeh sed dat daddeh nu cawe. Dem babbehs nu wuz gunna wib wong enuff fow dat tu be a pwob-wem, daddeh sed. Bwuddah nu wan-ed tu gib fwuffy enfies, but den daddeh…”
Erwin finishes the sentence for the mare.
“Doped him up with artificial lust.”
“Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. I’ve half a mind to pay that asshole a visit in his cell.”
“Daddeh, he nu am wowf da twubbuw.”
“…Yeah, you’re right. I’ll leave him for the courts to deal with, Mar. Unless he breaks out of the slammer, then his ass is mine.”
Erwin nods, capping the tube of gel.
“I’ll let Deston know about this situation, in case his talents are needed. That stallion will probably have a lot of memories that need burying. As for you, my dear, we need to get those foals out of you. Other than that, you’re healthy, if a bit malnourished. You’ll need the Standard Package.”
If you’ve forgotten: a meal, a bath, and lots of love. All in abundance at the Foundation.
Erwin calls Mark in to wheel the mare out, so that Merry can administer a Bye Bye Tummeh Babbehs Treat.
The sale of those to the public is heavily controlled, and you can thank abusers for that.
Some abusers think it’s hilarious to leave one of those miscarriage-inducing treats unwrapped where a passing dam will find it and unwittingly doom her unborn foals by eating it.
And it’s not just feral dams who have fallen victim to this warped prank.
However, FauCorp does not approve of its products being repurposed for abuse.
It’s such a blatant insult that the very idea makes Pierre grind his teeth and mutter profanities in French.
For this reason, the treats are now only sold at Flufftopia, and abusers are persona non grata at all Flufftopia stores by default.
Of course, Erwin could have administered the treat himself, but he wanted an excuse to get the mare out of earshot.
“I don’t think I need to ask who he was breeding those foals for.”
Calvin laughs humorlessly.
“Other abusers, duh. With the Syndicate gone, and the independent mills going down one by one, the abusers have lost their biggest sources of victims. On the other hand, more and more abusers are behind bars, so as the supply goes down, so does the demand.”
“Let’s not forget that many of those incarcerated abusers will be free again one day. Not all of them are doing life.”
“Even if they do get out, they’ve got a big stinking black mark on their records. Honestly, I wouldn’t complain if they were treated like child molesters after getting out. You heard Jeremy at the last Cabal meeting: if he becomes President, he’s starting a fluffy abuser registry. Get those pricks going from door to door like sex offenders have to, bar them from living near fluffies, the works.”
“And some of those abusers are sex offenders.”
“Christ, even Vic wouldn’t screw a fluffy. I dunno what someone has to go through to be into that shit, and I don’t want to know.”
“Bas-tuwds wike dat nu weawwy am much bettah den peh-doh-fiwes.”
“Ha. Tru dat, Mar. Erwin, we’ve gotta get back to the School. We need to see if that stallion has sobered up yet, and Symona’s got another training session, so I wanna know how close we are to click time.”
“An we gutta see how da nyu caw am come-in awong.”
“Jack’s been working non-stop on downsizing his time travel tech. I don’t think he’s gonna stop with the car. I’m pretty sure he’s going to go for something handheld.”
“I know, I suggested something like a wristwatch. Naturally, he loved it, but it’ll have to wait. The car comes first.”
“Hey, here’s a thought. Have you ever considered making your Stahlkörper 2.0 turn into a car?”
“…I am now.”
Calvin and Marley take their leave, and Erwin gets his examination room ready for his next patient.
He’d love to rush out and begin working on Calvin’s suggestion immediately, but he’s still got work to do.
Fortunately, it’s not long before the next patient is brought in.
Chaos suddenly appears in the examination room with his rainbow fluffies, Loki and Eris.
He’s in milkman form today. It just felt like a milkman kind of day to Chaos.
“Here we are, my dears! Bona to vada your dolly old eek, Erwin!”
Erwin smiles as Chaos greets him with a hug. He’s one of Chaos’ favorite mortals, along with Loki and Eris. But Calvin, as the Harbinger of Chaos, is at the top of that list.
“It’s good to see you too, Chaos. Another routine checkup, I assume?”
“You know it! You’re the best fluffy doctor I know of, Erwin. Who better to trust with the health of my cherished fluffies?”
Erwin blushes a bit, genuinely touched by the compliment.
“Well, let’s just get them on the scanner. Who wants to go first this time?”
“Woki went fiwst wast time.”
Erwin kneels down, and Eris makes no effort to defy the upsies pose instinct.
Fluffies can ignore that urge if they try. Ferals are more likely to do so. But many fluffies love to be held by humans. Or by humanoids, they’re not picky.
That is, with the caveat that they’re being held properly.
You’d be hard pressed to find any fluffies in the multiverse who like being held by the tail, or the scruff of their neck.
As Erwin places Eris on the Stahlskanner, the light flashes green.
“You’re fit as a fiddle, Eris. Your turn, Loki.”
Handing Eris over to Chaos, Erwin places Loki on the scanner next.
“And you’re healthy too. Chaos has been taking excellent care of you, I see.”
“Of course I have! I know I’m nuttier than squirrel dookie, but I’d never even dream of mistreating a fluffy.”
“Daddeh, wut am doo-kee?”
As he caresses Loki’s colorful cranium, Chaos chuckles again.
“It means poo, dear Loki. And on that note, we should probably vamoose. I’ve gotta get you two home, before I go deal with a lady who is either too stupid to do something as simple as toilet training a fluffy, or deliberately letting her fluffy drop deuces on the floor so she has an excuse.”
“A ecks-koos fow wut?”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it, Eris, because I’m going to teach her a lesson either way.”
Erwin unwraps a couple of skettie treats for the rainbow fluffies.
“If I ask you what you’re going to do to her, will you be honest?”
Chaos shrugs, watching his fluffies happily num the treats.
“To be frank, dear Erwin, I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do to her yet. I think I’ll just play it by ear, do some improv, make it up as I go along.”
“Dat am um num fwee ways tu say num num da same fing, Ewis fink.”
“Well, yeah. Any suggestions, Erwin? Nothing poop-related, though. I know it would be delightfully ironic, but burying people in feces is starting to get a bit dull.”
“I was just about to suggest that.”
“Hey, I’ve gotta keep it interesting. I wouldn’t be Chaos if I was predictable. Any other ideas?”
“I can’t think of anything on the spot.”
“Ah, that’s fine. I’ve got a vivid imagination, I’m sure I’ll think of something good on the way. Ta-ta for now!”
Just as suddenly, Chaos and his rainbow fluffies vanish.
Chaos sterilizes the room for Erwin on the way out.
From there on out, the day is uneventful for Erwin.
But that evening, as Erwin makes his way home, he stops by Faucheuse Tower, heading up to Valerie’s lab.
As a member of the ChaotiX’s Nerd Squad, Erwin is free to come and go as he pleases.
On more than one occasion, the Nerd Squad has been called together for a late night session of vigorous scienceing.
Erwin finds Valerie in the lab, wearing dark goggles and working on a strange device. It’s silver, spherical, and round, about the size of a baseball, covered with black lines. And it’s currently split into two halves, the halves being held by two of Alfred’s metal tendrils.
Another of Alfred’s tentrils is delicately pinching an equally strange object. It looks like an eight-sided die, made of a colorless, crystalline substance, and Alfred is holding it between the halves of the device.
As Erwin opens his mouth to ask a question, Valerie raises a finger, and Erwin bites his tongue.
He watches the tendrils move the two halves together and enclose the crystalline object, turning them clockwise and counterclockwise.
When the two halves seal shut, the spherical device begins emitting a pleasant hum, and the black lines start glowing white.
Then Valerie beats Erwin to the punch, answering his question before he even gets to ask it.
“It’s a new FauCore, Erwin.”
“Was that octavium?”
“That’s right. Hopefully, we’ll be able to achieve an even higher output than before. A few of these, and we could light up the entire planet with clean, free electricity.”
Alfred holds up the FauCore with one tendril, in a Yorickesque manner, and Valerie marvels at her creation, another tendril pulling her goggles off.
“Just imagine it, Erwin: the power of the sun, in the palm of your hand.”
“I’d say it’s more powerful than the sun, considering that octavium is what the Stones of Octavo are made of. But we should probably make sure that this thing works before you make more of them. We don’t want them to go critical or something.”
“Jack will be helping me with that tomorrow morning. Don’t worry, Erwin. You know I’m not a hack like Hans was. And speaking of Hans…”
After Alfred places the FauCorp back on the table, Valerie leads Erwin out of the room.
“I know why you’re really here…”
One floor down, the two scientists enter a smaller room.
At the center of this room, there’s a large glass tube, filled with clear liquid, and surrounding the top of the tube, there’s screens displaying all kinds of information that would be incomprehensible to the average person.
Suspended in the liquid, there’s a large mass of something that looks a lot like mercury.
And it seems to be sentient, because it reacts to the scientists entering the room, rippling and shifting.
Changing into letters.
Erwin smiles, placing a hand on the tube.
“Hello, Argyrum. You’re looking better by the day.”
As he does so, Argyrum shifts into a silver hand, placing it on the tube too, separated only by a thin layer of glass.
Well, it’s actually Stahlglas, but that’s a small detail.
Then the Hig shifts into letters again, spelling out three words at a time.
YES, I CAN
SAY MORE THAN
JUST “HI ER”
“There must be a better way for Argyrum to talk to us, Val.”
“I’m working on it with Prometheus. Argyrum can’t communicate with speech, so a universal translator wouldn’t do. We’re lucky Hans taught Argyrum letters and numbers.”
The moment Valerie says Hans’ name, Argyrum starts spelling out profanities.
They aren’t very fond of Hans anymore. Not after Hans stabbed them in the back too.
As for Kirk, after he apologized for how he treated Argyrum during their time in the MetalliX, they eventually forgave him.
And apologized for how they treated him.
When Argyrum is fully regenerated, Erwin may very well be getting another housemate.
He has no complaints about how crowded his house has gotten, and doesn’t miss the days he had it all to himself.
The house always felt just a bit too big for only one person.
Erwin reassuringly pats the tube.
“Hans can’t hurt you anymore, Argyrum. We’ve made sure of that.”
It seems to calm the Hig down.