Guess who, dear readers?
It’s been a few days since me and Marley went to the Vatican.
Fortunately, they found the information we needed: how to reseal the Spirits of Sin.
I asked Fi, and she did briefly have a Champion around that time, but it was the Champion who thought she was evil, and he put the Sword of Kings back not long after drawing it.
The Seals, of course, are the key. I thought that we’d have to recite scripture at the Spirits or something, and it’s been a while since I last checked how many members of the ChaotiX are Christians.
We’ve got a whole database: where each member lives, what powers they have, all kinds of information, behind a very secure firewall so our enemies can’t get their hands on it.
We have Muslim members, like Achmed, we have Jewish members, like Xavier, and we have Tommy, who defies any attempts to label his beliefs, or pretty much any part of his identity.
We have Saingan members, who worship the Great Ape, we have an Arachnoid member, they worship a god called the Master Weaver, and we have an Arkaydian member, and they have a god for every kind of crop grown on Arkay, including wahuni, which are like durians, but taste better and smell worse.
And, of course, we have plenty o’ fluffy members, and they worship…
I’m still not comfortable with being worshipped, because that’s an express train to Corruption City.
I’m not a god. I don’t think I’ll ever be a god.
And I don’t want people to do the right thing just because I’m telling them to do it. Preferably, they would choose to do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do.
As Annette once told me: if you know right from wrong, you can’t choose wrong.
As for the Seals, it’s actually surprisingly easy to use them, if you know how.
According to our contacts in the Vatican, the Spirits are going to seek out hosts who are particularly sinful.
They can possess pretty much anyone who has the potential to sin, so anyone with free will, but the more sinful someone is, the better.
How do you think they measure sinfulness? Sin Points?
…I’m probably going to regret it, but tell me more. How would this work, Niv?
I’m glad you asked, MIKA. It’s simple, really. Covet your neighbor’s wife? One Sin Point. Kill a guy who donates to charities? Sixteen Sin Points. Sell someone an NFT? One MILLION Sin Points.
One million, Niv? Are you sure about that?
You’re right, Fi. What was I THINKING? Make it a BILLION Sin Points instead.
What would you even DO with Sin Points?
If you earn enough of them, they make you a middle manager in Hell. True story.
And it’s HELL, so it’s ALL middle management. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been taking notes from the living. And if you told me that there’s a portal to Hell in the DMV, I would BELIEVE you.
Yeah, I don’t wanna repeat that in a hurry. Next time we gotta go to the DMV, Niv, we’re taking turns. We can’t use Gemini’s power normally when you’re out of the Calvin closet, so we can’t use the ol’ “stand in line while also not standing in line” trick.
I’ve used that trick a lot since I copied Gemini’s power, dear readers.
Getting back to the main topic of discussion…
You know, the literal embodiments of sin…
We’ve assumed that the Spirits snagged hosts from that feral herd, and that the rest of the herd was killed simply so there wouldn’t be any witnesses.
Fluffies being harmed in general is one of my buttons, but I think that if they had to possess fluffies, they could at least possess house fluffies, because those fluffies tend to be chipped, which would make finding the Spirits a snap.
Yeah, how inconsiderate of them!
Considering the fact that their last rampage was before the creation of fluffies, they probably don’t even know about the chips.
Or that they avoided detection by dumb luck. And they don’t know about US, either. They probably think the Catholic Church is hunting them down, but they don’t know about the ChaotiX.
Indeed, Niv. We know more about them than they know about us.
And we know their weakness.
See, possessing hosts gives them power to act on the physical plane. Without bodies, all they can really do is whisper in people’s ears and try to convince them to do sin.
But it also makes them vulnerable to anything that is, y’know, solid.
Killing the host will just set the Spirit free, and they can go find another host.
However, if we can get a Spirit’s host to touch their corresponding Seal?
Well, guess what happens then.
Most importantly, the host won’t be harmed by it.
We can’t save the rest of the herd, but there’s still seven fluffies currently being used as meat suits, and we’re going to try to save them.
Hopefully, before the Spirits find better hosts.
We have the Seals, so if we can find the Spirits before they find more dangerous bodies, we can put them back in their box, Bob’s your uncle. Miles taught me that one, dunno if I’m using it correctly.
If we can find the Spirits. We’re guessing that they’re somewhere in Italy.
They’re possessing fluffies, so it’s safe to assume that they’re traveling by land.
You should be aware of what happens when regular fluffies and water mix, dear readers.
But there’s a lot of aquafluffies in Italy, especially in Venice, so we haven’t ruled out that possibility.
We told the Italian government to be on the lookout for seven unusual fluffies traveling together, but we don’t know what the fluffies look like, or what distinguishing characteristics being possessed by the Spirits gives them, so I don’t think that’ll help much.
It’s gonna be up to us to clean this shit up, I know that.
Right now, me and Marley are at Valerie’s lab, again.
I did say that we spend a lot of time here. I’ve said that more than once.
They’re usually working on new gadgets to make what we do easier to do, and as the leader of the ChaotiX, it’s my obligation to stay updated on any ongoing projects.
MIKA is currently my usual battle suit, but I’ve been experimenting with a few new designs.
We’re a few floors down from the usual floor, in a room that looks a bit like a futuristic garage, with Valerie, who is standing next to a car.
A rather unusual car. It looks a bit like Pierre’s car, but is painted black and blue, with the ChaotiX logo on the hood.
Since news broke out that me and Niv got our driver’s licences, we can’t go near a car dealership without being swarmed, because being the salesman who sold me a car would make any salesman a living legend among car dealers.
Unfortunately for them, we didn’t need to buy any cars.
Valerie gestures at the car.
“It’s almost finished, Cal. Well, it’s fully functional, and MIKA will be able to serve as your on-board AI, but there’s just one last thing that needs to be done. You know what, you’re the one who requested it, and Jack’s working on it as we speak. It’s going to be tricky. We haven’t scaled the tech that far down yet, so, to be frank, we’re doing it for the challenge. Promise me you’ll use it responsibly.”
I laugh, my eyes practically glued to the car.
“Have I ever not used Nerd Squad tech responsibly? It’s more about having it than using it, anyway. I’ll be able to cross another entry off my bucket list. Two, in fact.”
“Oh, by the way, your new hoverboard is ready, you can pick it up on your way out.”
“Sweet, make that three.”
Marley rolls his eyes.
“Wai du daddeh eben nee a hubbew-boawd? Daddeh can awweady fwy.”
I tear my eyes away from the car, giving Marley an audacious smirk.
“I don’t need one, Mar, I want one, and I’ve wanted one since the first time I saw Back to the Future Part II. Now I can actually have one, so why wouldn’t I have one? I’m fulfilling a childhood dream, here.”
Then I pat the hood of my new ride.
“And I’ve wanted a flying DeLorean time machine, too. Val, if I strand myself in the past, look for old newspaper articles with the name Marty McFly. If the article’s from before 1985, then that’ll be me, and you’ll know where and when Jack has to pick me up.”
“Ass-yoo-min dat daddeh nu wun intu Victow in da past, den he cud teww Vaw.”
“I don’t think he’d forget something that important, even if he doesn’t know who I am yet. He’s been stranded in the past, he knows how it is.”
Valerie nods, tapping on her COMP.
“I’ll make a note. But it’s not a time machine yet, Cal. We actually used a real DeLorean as a base. See, I knew you’d like that, that’s why we did it. The DMC DeLorean had a myriad of issues, mind you. We had to do something about all of those before we could really get started.”
“Yeah, the engine refusing to start and the doors jamming, I know, I’ve seen those movies a million times. Christ, that scene at the end of the third one, when the doors jam and trap Marty inside, that’s a scary scene. Like the DeLorean knows that its end is coming, and it doesn’t want to die alone.”
“Ev-wee time Mawwey see da end of da fiwst wun, when dey am sen-din Maw-tee back tu da fyoo-chuw, Mawwey git nuw-vus dat Maw-tee nu am gunna make it in time.”
“Another really tense scene. Phenomenal filmmaking, all three of 'em. If they ever do a reboot, I’m going to Hollywood and Caling on whoever’s responsible.”
I hope Cal as a verb catches on.
I hope it doesn’t.
Agree to disagree. But I’ve gotta ask: dude, where’s MY car?
I assume that Val will start working on it when mine’s done.
Fine, but I call indefinite shotgun until mine’s ready! Or until we get Fred’s bike back, because I called dibs, and damnit, I still GOT dibs! Freddy basically said that I could have it!
Sorry, Niv. I already promised Jude shotgun.
But she’s already got a driver’s licence! She doesn’t have a car anymore, but maybe Val could build a MAGITEK car for her.
If it’s not a Ford Anglia, I think Des would be happy to help his niece do that.
So have you considered the name I suggested for your new wheels?
Sorry, but “the Calvinmobile” is too silly.
Cal, you and I both know that when Cecil hears about this, Omega Man is getting an Omegamobile in the next episode.
I’m not gonna lie, the second season of The Adventures of Omega Man is pretty good so far. I think I heard Xav say something about a crossover with Captain Fluffy To The Rescue!, can’t wait to see it.
People on the internet are already arguing about who’s stronger, Omega Fluffy or Supah Fwuff.
At least it’s not the tired old “Goku or Superman” debate.
Superman, but it’s not really a contest because he can just get as strong as he needs to be by slurping up sunlight.
I kinda wish that it was that easy for US.
Remind me, how did you get your darkness powers?
Point taken. But that stuff DID taste terrible.
I’m the one who had to drink it, Niv.
For the record, Marley thinks that Omega Fluffy could whoop Supah Fwuff’s ass.
I think that he might be a bit biased.
And a lot of our younger fans have started calling us Omega Man and Omega Fluffy, but we’re not heartless enough to correct them, so we play along.
I mean, yeah, Omega Man and Omega Fluffy may be just cartoon characters, and we don’t even voice them, but unlike, say, anyone who has played Superman, we do actually have superpowers, we don’t mind showing off a bit for the kiddies.
I have had to make it clear that they shouldn’t put themselves in danger so we can save them. We’re not omnipotent, or omnipresent, and we don’t want a kid to get himself hurt because he wanted to brag to his classmates about being saved by “Omega Man”.
Hey, I’ve always had a soft spot for kids. I know I’m not the best role model, but I try to watch what I do and say when children are present.
Fluffywood’s also working on a more accurate animated series based on our adventures, and this one will be adult-oriented. I think they’re in talks to put it on Adult Swim. And there’s plans for a documentary, too.
A lot had to be sanitised to make our adventures kid-friendly. Gigantic chunks of my witty banter with my enemies had to be deprofanitised.
Yes, I just made that word up on the spot, deal with it.
It’s a perfectly cromulent word!
And of course, our fights tend to get a bit bloody, if not outright gory, so that had to be changed too.
When Omega Man jumped off Faucheuse Tower with Umbra, there just happened to be a bouncy castle at the bottom.
And I don’t remember the fall being that long, but it is a cartoon. They actually had time to stop for a brief tea break halfway down–
“Daddeh? Am yu habin anudda in-tew-naw monnoh-wog?”
“Huh? Oh, right. What were we talking about?”
“Well, as I was about to tell you before you zoned out, that other project is nearing completion too. Mervin’s been working so hard to help us with this, I think it wouldn’t be amiss to offer him a membership.”
“Yeah, he’s helped us so much, I don’t know why he isn’t already an official member. I’ll ask him when I see him.”
“Wait, wut udda pwoh-jekt, an wut du Mewv haf tu du with it? Am Vaw makin nyu Bands of Mew-jin ow sumfin?”
Again, Valerie chuckles, pushing her glasses up with her finger.
“Something along those lines, Marley. It’s essentially an integration of technology and magic, and we’ve done that before. Like when Uncle Des and I invented the Clarke Engine that allows Prometheus and Beta to run spell-programs.”
I nod, as I’ve remembered another example.
“Or the Tower of Tyranny, those beams were magically enhanced lasers.”
“Exactly, Cal. Magic and science are just two sides of one coin. Intertwined, like life and death, or light and darkness.”
“Ow fwuffies an hoomins.”
“Precisely, Marley. They aren’t opposites, they can strengthen each other. If you know what you’re doing, that is. Otherwise, like many alchemists, you end up with a nonfunctional, incoherent mishmash, and you’re lucky if you don’t pay with your life.”
“Su wut am da fing yu am makin wif Mewv?”
I smirk down at Marley.
“Something that will hopefully solve one of our ongoing problems, Mar. Not the Spirits of Sin. Something currently in a cell beneath the School.”
You can probably guess what, dear readers.
Or rather, who.
But can you guess which who?
Here’s a hint:
We’ve upped security around our, ah, “guests” since we learned about the Spirits.
It was another no-brainer: the Spirits are looking for sinful hosts, and we have several perfect hosts in our custody.
I mean, Umbra alone is prideful, envious, greedy, wrathful, he lusts for power, he’s too slothful to earn it, and he’s a glutton for punishment.
The Spirits might end up fighting over who gets to possess him.
Or they might share him.
Umbra empowered by all seven Spirits of Sin is another unpleasant mental image.
Worst case scenario, we set up a temporary prison away from Earth, and move our “guests” there until this situation has been resolved.
But right now, it’s not necessary. We have a rough idea of where the Spirits are: Italy. And we have a rough idea of how fast they can move: as fast as the average fluffy.
So we don’t know which direction they’re moving, or what their destination is, but we’ve got an estimate of how much ground they could have covered since being freed, if they haven’t already traded up for better bodies, and if they haven’t stowed away on some kind of vehicle.
So all we need to do is narrow it down from there.
And we’ll know if they have traded up, because, if they do, we’ll find seven dead fluffies around the same time and place that seven humans go missing.
If Val’s math is correct, and it usually is, they won’t have made it out of Italy yet.
They might have made it to Rome, though.
Yeah, that seems like the OBVIOUS destination. Their last sinning spree was cut short by the Catholics, those ephemeral bastards are probably nursing a grudge like François did. So they’ll probably want to eliminate the Church before they get started.
Which is why we’ve got our silver-clad members guarding the Pope, Niv. We need the Seals to put the Spirits back in their box, but silver in general repels them, like the Pope said.
Here’s a thought, Cal. Anti-magical rays and fields use gold, right? Couldn’t Val make something like that with SILVER, instead? Like an anti-Spirits of Sin ray?
Huh. That’s not a bad idea. It would be more economical than casting Ghent, that demon-repelling ward. That consumes silver every time it’s cast.
Well, it doesn’t just repel demons, but it’s still kinda wasteful.
We could get a lot of use out of this, actually.
“Hey, Val? Niv just gave me a really good idea…”
Meanwhile, in Rome, Italy, six of the Spirits of Sin wait in an alleyway, around the corner from the local Tele-Port.
Invidia is currently absent, and his whereabouts will soon be revealed.
Superbia turns towards the street beyond the alleyway, seeing Invidia waddle in.
He addresses him in hushed tones.
Invidia replies, just as hushed.
“Before I say anything, I have to ask: why did I have to be the scout?”
Superbia gestures with a marshmallow hoof at the others.
“Because Gula, Avaritia and Luxuria couldn’t be trusted to do so without getting distracted, Ira would probably throw a tantrum without me keeping an eye on him, and Acedia would give up and come back five steps out of the alleyway. That strange silver building, Invidia. What is it?”
“I don’t think it’s silver, it doesn’t affect us. I just walked inside, it’s full of portals as far as the eye can see.”
“Portals? These humans deserve a bit more credit. Assuming that they invented them. Where do the portals go, though?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t go through any of them. But from the look of it, I think they lead all across the universe.”
“Ohoho, I’m liking the sound of this. But first, we focus on giving Earth our special treatment. When we’re strong enough, we’ll take on the universe, one planet at a time. We won’t make any progress in these bodies.”
Acedia shrugs, curled up on a cushion from a couch someone left here.
“Sounds like a lot of work. Can’t we just stay on Earth?”
Avaritia scoffs. He’s in a bad mood, because he lost a fight with Gula over a discarded banana peel.
He didn’t even want to eat the peel, he just wanted it so Gula couldn’t have it.
“I want all of the planets. Even the ones that don’t have any life on them. That just means there’s more room to put my stuff.”
Gula happily gobbles up the banana peel.
“More planets om nom nom means more nom nom food.”
Superbia sighs at his corpulent comrade.
“Gula, don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“But if I om nom do that, I nom nom won’t do a lot of nom talking.”
“Yes, that’s the idea. The point is, we’ve got our way to the promised land.”
Invidia raises an eyebrow.
“So what’s the game plan? How are we doing this?”
“Listen closely, I shall say this only once. Step One: follow me. Step Two: there is no Step Two.”
He promptly waddles out of the alleyway, and it takes the others a couple of seconds to realize what he’s doing and go after him.
Naturally, Acedia is the last to follow, sighing in resignation.
“But I just got comfy.”
The Spirits follow their leader, around the corner, into the Tele-Port, feeling amazed when they see all of the portals in the vast chrome building.
Above each portal, there is an electronic sign, proclaiming the portal’s destination in multiple languages, terrestrial or not. On the floors, glowing colored lines, leading to each section. The portals are grouped by planet. A cyan line leads to the portals to Lumix, and a red line leads to the portals to Arkay. Orange to Vajarsi, blue to Hydrox, green to Tussor, purple to Dunna, pink to Goomi, yellow to Rai, gold to Vyse, silver to Mechaworld, and so on, and on. There’s a map at the entrance, with a touchscreen, allowing one to easily find the quickest route to their destination.
There’s travellers from across the universe coming and going, people waiting for travellers to arrive, and employees going about their business.
It’s several floors tall, with elevators, escalators, and gold cables leading up.
The last one are for Raimen, beings of living electricity from Rai. For them, gold cables are a standard method of transportation. Gold is so good at conducting electricity, after all.
Since Rai joined the Federation, the Raimen have learned a lot about insulation.
It’s especially important when they interact with the Hydroxians. A lot of the Raimen passing through are wearing rubber suits, made of top quality rubber from the rubber mines of Goomi.
Yes, you read that correctly: rubber mines.
There’s a pool with a big fountain on the ground floor, several Hydroxians swimming, reclining, or playing in the water.
One Hydroxian man is lying down at the bottom of the pool, his webbed hands behind his scaly head, relaxing with a look of utter contentment on his face, his aquafluffy curled up on his chest.
There’s shops and restaurants, allowing travellers to sample wares from across the universe without even leaving the planet. And a spacesuit store, where virtually anyone, no matter the size or shape of their body, can have a custom spacesuit made and fitted in a flash.
As one young Arkaydian woman, waiting at a Hydroxian restaurant with her fluffy, sees her family walk over from the portals to Arkay, she happily waves at them with one of her four arms.
And there’s Intergalactic Patrolmen present, keeping their eyes out for intergalactic criminals on the run.
Unfortunately, they didn’t notice that a greater threat than a Ganglion member on the space lam just entered the building.
Perhaps they should look down.
The Spirits were surprised to see so many aliens living on Earth nowadays. The last time the seven were free, most humans thought that they had the whole universe to themselves.
Superbia’s eyes hungrily rake the portals, as he leads the way to the section with the portals leading elsewhere on Earth.
That glowing line is blue and green. They’re not all only one color. The ones to Mars are red and green, and the ones to Virm are yellow and purple.
Superbia does a double take when he sees two Martians walk to the Mars section, carefully carrying either end of a big box of Oreos, and is relieved that Gula didn’t notice those two.
He picks a portal to Paris, France at random, and the Spirits waddle through it.
Ten minutes later, they waddle back into Rome, Superbia shaking his head, whispering to the others.
He doesn’t like whispering, and is going to compensate for it later.
“Nope, that’s not it. Close, though.”
Luxuria leers as he whispers back.
“I’ve always liked France, you know. The French are just as horny as the Italians.”
Superbia tries again, choosing more carefully, settling on a portal to Sydney, Australia.
Now that’s an unfamiliar land to the Spirits. Their last spree was before the colonization of Australia and the Americas.
Each Spirit has a deep innate knowledge of things pertaining to his respective sinful portfolio. Gula, for example, knows about every kind of food there is, even if he was sealed away when it was invented. And Luxuria knows of the Asshole Event Horizon, the sex move invented by Victor, and can’t wait to try it out.
(Before you ask: now banned in fifteen states and counting, yes, Victor threw another party to celebrate, and yes, he baked another Goatse cake. This time, he went with cherry jam.)
When it comes to knowledge outside their portfolios, however, the Spirits have to learn like everyone else does.
The Spirits waddle through, and this time, they come back five minutes later, already panting and sweating.
Yes, fluffies can sweat, and their fluff tends to soak it up. A fluffy’s fluff can be depressingly absorbent, as many fluffies have learned the hard way, shortly before their untimely deaths.
Superbia shakes his head again.
“I thought we’d gone Down There for a moment. Far too warm for these bodies.”
Ira scowls, but doesn’t say anything, because it’s taking him a considerable amount of effort to stay quiet.
He hates whispering, and he hates being quiet.
He’s going to compensate later too.
Guess how he feels about being too warm.
Gula smiles, bits of peel still stuck around his mouth.
“We’re definitely going back there when we find bodies that can take the heat. I smelled barbecue, and damnit, I want some.”
Superbia looks around, and his eyes linger on one portal in particular.
He can’t see what city it leads to. The sign above the portal is currently malfunctioning, and being repaired by a couple of Lumixian handymen, hovering in midair via flight tech.
For some strange reason, the signs above portals leading to that city malfunction most often.
But perhaps you can guess which city it leads to.
Superbia nudges Invidia, grinning at him.
“Are you feeling lucky? Because I am.”
As he leads the way into the portal, he smiles victoriously.
“Third time’s the charm.”