It’s Cal again.
It’s been an hour.
And I’ve got bad news.
Just as I was talking with Marley and Piccolo about the mysterious fluffy in Norway with the power of the Norse gods, Deston called me.
Vanessa Valentine has somehow escaped from prison.
The guards at the prison are at a loss regarding how she did it.
But they were searching the premises for an intruder at the time it happened.
An intruder who, according to one of the guards, looked like “silver slime”.
We connected the dots immediately. Argyrum was involved in Vanessa’s breakout.
But we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle yet.
Do you remember what I said to Vanessa on the Snowflake, dear readers?
If I ever catch her outside prison again…
And she didn’t get out by being a good inmate and waiting out her sentence…
I will kill her.
And I’m a man of my word.
Remember, this is the bitch who orchestrated the deaths of countless fluffies and attempted to have my infant son assassinated.
I gave her one chance.
And the bitch just went and wasted it.
She’s not getting a second chance.
I’d like to point out that we’ve got a pretty good track record when it comes to this kind of thing. It’s only the second time that one of our enemies escaped from prison.
True, but that’s mostly because most of our enemies died.
And even then, all the enemies we killed escaped from Hell.
So when you look at it like that, we don’t have a good track record.
It was Fate who summoned them all from Hell, Cal. They wouldn’t have broken out on their own.
Actually, Bad Chris and James managed it on their own. And that wasn’t even thanks to teamwork, because they HATED each other.
Yeah, I’m guessing Bad Chris wasn’t happy to see Bad James when they reunited Down There.
Bad James framed Bad Chris for his antics in the old barn, after all.
Leslie finally got around to renovating that barn, by the way.
He’s turning it into a big indoor play area for the Oldman fluffies. There’s gonna be a ball pit. Not a deep one, obviously.
Definitely bringing my fluffies over when it’s done.
Right now, me, Marley, Deston, Victor and Scarface are at the prison, standing outside the empty cell, the door open.
Well, Deston’s inside the cell, waving his thaumometer around.
But it’s not reacting at all.
“Ce n’est pas de la magie.”
The guard raises an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”
“He said that this wasn’t magic, buddy.”
“Then he could just say that!”
Marley looks up at a security camera in the hallway, sticking his tongue out at it.
“Mar, why did you just do that?”
“Tu gib hu-eba am awn da udda side a gud waff, daddeh.”
“Fair enough. That camera wouldn’t have recorded what happened, would it?”
The guard shakes his head.
“Nope. So that’s not an option, Mr. Korkea.”
“Damn it. I feel like we’re missing a big clue, and if we could just find it…”
“Mebbeh daddeh can awsk Jack tu gu back an–”
“We shouldn’t be solving all of our problems with time travel, Mar. Hasn’t Jack said that before? It can become a bad habit. A slippery slope. It starts with preventing crimes before they happen, and ends with trying to eliminate the very concepts of evil and free will. Jack really doesn’t want to go down that path.”
“Nee-fuw du daddeh, wite?”
“Yeah, with me, the worst case scenario is me deciding that Anti-Calvin’s got the right idea after all.”
“You mean that guy who tried to frame you last year? With the creepy mask? He’s you from another universe or something, right?”
I nod at the guard.
“The very same. And yes, he is my counterpart. He’s completely insane. He worked with Vanessa too, under the name of Erick Van Loka.”
“Are any of Valentine’s other allies still at large?”
I count them off on my fingers.
“Well, Hans is super dead, and Garm is just dead, as is Karan-di, and Ivan too. Necrosis is in Deston’s custody, and being deprived of his magic. Mhortur is in space prison, and the Nose is in Earth prison. Amanda and Konba are both on our side now, they weren’t really on Vanessa’s side in the first place. Gooroo’s dead, and Voilet and Bleu are in space prison too, and the rest of the Ganglion is currently destroying itself via gang war. Most of the Abuse Syndicate’s lower ranks are either dead, in prison, or on the run. So unless Anti-Calvin recruited her, I don’t know who could have helped Argyrum bust Vanessa out. And Anti-Calvin is unlikely. He could recruit a Vanessa from any other timeline without drawing my attention.”
And it doesn’t fit his M.O., he’s recruiting versions of my friends.
“Did mistah gauwd see ow heaw aneefing un-yoo-soo-waww wen it happund?”
“Well, I heard a beeping sound, but I assumed that it was just a camera or a smoke detector.”
Victor turns to the guard, a serious look suddenly on his scarred face.
“You didn’t mention that before.”
The guard is unnerved, because Vic’s kinda intimidating with that look.
“W-well, like I said, I thought it was just a camera or something!”
“Yu fukkin dummeh! It cud be a cwoo! Gawddam, wai yu nu say dat soonew?!?”
The guard looks down at Scarface with a slightly amused expression.
“…You’ve got a foul mouth for a fluffy.”
Deston walks out of the cell, putting his thaumometer in his bag of holding. His bag is purple.
“Sir, I must ask you something. Are you sure that the sound was a beep?”
The guard scratches the back of his head as he ponders the question.
“Now that I think about it… it could have been… a blip.”
Elsewhere in America, in one of many identical houses in a suburb, in a bathroom, Vanessa spits a mouthful of mouthwash into the sink.
She breathes onto her hand.
“Hmm. Still smells a bit like shit. Oh well.”
She’s combed her hair, and changed out of her prison uniform, “borrowing” some clothes from the house’s rightful residents.
They’re currently on vacation.
Vanessa exits the bathroom, walking into a bedroom, the curtains closed.
On a double bed, a basketball-sized drone, a mass of silver slime, and a blipper made of junk rest.
“Ah, good, you’re all done.”
Vanessa eyes the drone.
“For the record, Hans, I don’t trust you. I’m grateful that you helped Argyrum get me out of prison, but that doesn’t change the fact that you betrayed me.”
“The Hans who did that to you is literally dead and gone, Vanessa. I am innocent of any crimes he committed after creating me.”
A silver head rises up out of the mass, turning to the drone with a silver grin on the otherwise featureless face.
“Technically, I am also innocent of any crimes he committed before creating me. I have the memories of those crimes, true, but–”
“I hate to interrupt, but I don’t think we’ve got time for this. What’s next?”
“Well, with your funding, the possibilities have increased.”
“What funding? Hans, most of my assets are frozen. I couldn’t buy you a cup of coffee.”
“Really, Vanessa? Are you sure you don’t have a secret offshore bank account or two under a false identity?”
“…How did you–”
“I have my ways. This drone may not be able to access the inter-net, but with Argyrum’s help, I can still work my magic. How do you think we found you? We simply looked up which prison you were in. And I happen to know, via Argyrum, that the old Hans managed to surreptitiously transfer a generous sum of your money to his own accounts, but didn’t spend much of it. I am relatively certain that those accounts have remained untouched by the ChaotiX.”
“That sneaky son of a–”
“You can’t really complain, Vanessa. That money would have been part of your frozen assets otherwise.”
“Okay, fair enough. And yes, I’ve still got some money squirrelled away for a rainy day. So what did you have in mind? Building a Caldroid 3.0?”
“Absolutely not. Something like that could really anger Korkea. I’d prefer to avoid that if possible. Besides, I don’t have the means to create more Omega Drives, or another Omega Core. It wouldn’t be powerful enough to kill Korkea as he is now.”
“You really aren’t the Hans I knew. But I remember something he once told me. That his first Caldroid could kill the entire ChaotiX without any Omega Drives. If we could build a few of those, even fucking Korkea couldn’t win, despite those gaudy golden flames.”
Vanessa is not aware of how powerful Calvin has grown since their encounter upon the Snowflake.
In her defence, people in prison generally don’t know a lot about developments on the outside, and Hans and Argyrum have not yet had time to fill her in.
“Vanessa, why do you refuse to cut your losses?”
“Because I can’t just walk away, Hans. Do you really think that fucking Korkea and his hugboxing freakshow aren’t looking for me as we speak? They’re going to come for us sooner or later. You’ve only ensured it by busting me out.”
“…You have a point. And I will make enemies of the ChaotiX sooner or later, if I pursue my dream.”
“You know, you never actually told me what your dream is. I thought you just wanted revenge on Korkea.”
The drone chuckles.
“Don’t worry about it, Vanessa. But I think one of our first priorities should be establishing a proper headquarters. This sleepy little suburb won’t do for long. We’ll need a laboratory, and adequate resources. And I’d like to build myself a new Stahlkörper. I miss having hands.”
“And we’ll need more money.”
Argyrum briefly alters their silver head to resemble Calvin’s head.
“…You’re right, old friend. We’ll need something to distract Korkea, too. I don’t want him getting wind of what’s really going on until it’s too late.”
Vanessa thinks, sitting on the bed next to the drone.
“Hmm. I might know someone who could possibly be able to help us with this. It’s risky. The guy’s a complete lunatic, and this is coming from a woman who spent an extensive period of time in a nuthouse, eating her own excrement.”
“The smell really doesn’t bother either of us. But who are you talking about, Vanessa?”
“Someone I almost hired instead of the Nose. The Nose was more discreet, you see. The guy I’m talking about would have nailed Logan’s… F-word to the ceiling in the process of assassinating him.”
Even the word “fluffy” makes Vanessa uneasy. That’s how powerful her fear of fluffies is now.
“And just who is this assassin you speak of, Vanessa?”
Vanessa grins at the drone.
“They call him Mr. Coffeebreak.”