Note: apologies if the Ukrainian later on is inaccurate. I had to use a translator again.
It’s Cal again, been another few days.
The Nerd Squad has started working on that anti-Spirits of Sin ray Niv suggested. If they can pull it off, it’ll be a big help to us.
Not just with this. We deal with a lot of beings who are vulnerable to silver. At least one of our other enemies at large is weak to the stuff.
You know, Varney, and anyone he’s turned.
A number of his thralls have been sighted and slain across Drakonia since Operation Rising Sun, but their sire seems to be in hiding.
Makes sense, from a strategic perspective. If Varney dies, everyone he’s turned regains their free will, and there’s no telling how many of them will remain loyal to his cause.
Remember, dear readers, we’re talking about the asshole who turned Ianos. And Ianos’ children remained loyal to THAT asshole’s cause after he died. Except Jackie, Harley and Alfador, of course.
Honestly, I kinda wish that Dehak had brought Ianos back instead of Varney. I’d like to have a WORD with Ianos…
And I’d like to see the look on his face when he meets you, but we can’t always get what we want.
Enough of our old enemies have returned from the dead.
Keep in mind, the people turned by Varney have turned other people, who are enthralled to their sires. And those vampires have probably turned more. As long as Varney unlives, they’re all effectively enthralled to him.
It’s like a chain of command. Or a pyramid. Or multi-level marketing.
Yeah, but MLM schemes just drain your wallet dry, not your veins.
Varney is obviously aware of how fragile his new clan might be. And we haven’t been able to discern his location with magic. He’s learned from his mistakes, gentlemen.
Last time he was unalive, he lasted ten years before he was killed, according to Van Helsing family records. They’ve got a whole vault/museum/library dedicated to the family trade, it’s called the Van Helsing Hold.
The Morris Clan was offered a tour, but left after five minutes.
It was a wee bit too disturbing for them.
There were skulls.
As for the Spirits, they haven’t revealed themselves yet. We haven’t found seven dead fluffies, and we haven’t had seven reports of missing people around the same place and time, so it’s likely that they’re still using their fluffy hosts.
We’re like, 99% sure that they’re in Rome, and it’s been a while since they were last there, so they’re probably still trying to get their bearings.
I mean, compare their situation to that of Adam, Kushim and the Gurus. Those fucks hailed from fourteen thousand years in the past, and it was a past that, technically speaking, never was.
I’ve never been to Ad Laun Dyz, even though exploring Atlantis is on my bucket list too, but I’ve heard a thing or two about what it was like, and yeah, suddenly finding yourself in this world would be extremely disorientating for someone born and raised in Ad Laun Dyz.
And then there’s François, who left a world of magic and found himself in a world where magic was, at the time, hated by most. And Kirk, who was cryogenically frozen in Nazi Germany, and woke up in a world where Hitler lost, the Nazis are a thing of the past and all of the people he was conditioned to hate are still thriving.
For the record, we avoided telling him that Israel is a thing now until after he was deprogrammed. We kept him away from any places that might trigger the conditioning, which was a lot of places, not just places connected to the Jewish.
Fortunately, Kirk didn’t have a trigger phrase. If Hans and Gerald had a way to control him, he wouldn’t have been frozen, and everyone would be speaking German now.
And Kirk doesn’t have a metal arm either.
My point is, even though it hasn’t happened to me, I have an understanding of what it feels like to have been gone for a very long time, and to discover upon one’s return that the world has changed drastically.
It can be extremely overwhelming. And that’s without taking the whole fluffy situation into account. When fluffies emerged, things started getting really weird.
So the Spirits of Sin are probably dealing with this too.
The last time they were free was probably before America was colonised. Back when the Native Americans had the continent all to themselves, completely unaware of the horrors that awaited them in the future. Hoo boy, you think the Spirits have learned about America yet?
If they had, they’d probably abandon their fluffy hosts and fly straight across the Atlantic Ocean.
Yeah, this is a pretty sinful country. It would be an all-you-can-eat buffet for the Spirits.
It’s not ALL bad, Cal. And I’d bet that even the shittiest country on Earth has at least ONE redeeming quality, even if it’s a small one.
Niv, according to a lot of other countries, America is the shittiest country.
We’ve got a rep for shitty healthcare, that’s for sure.
Y’know, our healthcare situation is getting better. With all the magic and alien tech we have access to these days, many injuries can be healed with ease.
Did you think us superheroes would hoard all of that tech and magic for ourselves, dear readers? Reed Richards might be useless, but we’re not. We still don’t sell blippers to the public, but lots of other Nerd Squad inventions make it onto store shelves.
If they’re not dangerous, that is. We don’t sell capsules to the public either. They can’t store anything alive, not without keeping it alive, so in the wrong hands, they’re the perfect murder weapon. You could hide the body in your pocket, and it wouldn’t leave a trace of evidence. Like the victim just evaporated.
The Nerd Squad is working on that. If they can’t make the capsules safely store living things, they can at least make capsules that don’t work on living things.
That way, they can’t be used to kidnap people either.
And of course, every branch of the Faucheuse Foundation has regeneration vats, which have saved countless fluffies from sad lives as pillowfluffs, and regen tech for humans is becoming widespread too.
And there’s all kinds of magical potions and spells for healing injuries. I think there’s a wizard on Magicca who grows magic healing beans. I’ve been meaning to ask Panthera if a meeting could be arranged.
So getting bankrupted by an ambulance ride is going the way of the dinosaur.
To Primal Earth?
I haven’t been to Primal Earth yet, but I’ve got files on your adventures there. Why is File #20271 so heavily encrypted?
Because we don’t talk about The Feast anymore, MIKA.
Again, point is, if the Spirits of Sin knew about America, they would already be on their way here. Possibly salivating the whole way.
Wait, hold on. There’s a Tele-Port in Rome, right?
Yeah, Dave takes his family there to check out art all the-- oh shit. I see what you’re getting at.
The Intergalactic Patrol usually has a few Patrolmen stationed at each Tele-Port, in case any space criminals on the run think they’re Mr. Clever Dick…
But they weren’t on the lookout for the Spirits.
And if the Spirits have used Rome’s Tele-Port…
They could be anywhere.
Well, anywhere those portals go. So we can rule out New Tenneb and Shroob, for starters.
I don’t think they’ve left Earth, gentlemen. They’ve only been free for a couple of weeks at most. And remember, it’s highly probable that they’re still in their fluffy bodies. They won’t leave Earth until they have more powerful hosts.
…Oh fuck, I think I know where they’re headed.
Well, I can think of one city in particular that is home to a VERY powerful potential host. One who is, if I must be frank, not exactly devoid of sin.
Yeah, I figured that out.
But if they were hiding in practically our back yard, wouldn’t we have found them by now?
Do YOU know how to recognize the signs of possession by a Spirit of Sin? Because I don’t. If someone is possessed by a DEMON, yeah, their eyes burn and they stink of rancid farts, it’s easy to suss them out, but we’ve never seen someone possessed by the Spirits of Sin. We might have already crossed paths with them, without knowing it.
So what are we supposed to do, Niv? Walk up to every fluffy in the city and see if your…
Sussy baka sense.
…if that goes off? How many fluffies live in our city alone?
You could lure them all to you with a gigantic bowl of spaghetti.
No, wait! You’ve copied Shazi’s power, right? Fly above the streets while using it to SMELL like spaghetti!
Accessing files on Shazi… ah, she can… emit any scent she’s smelled before? That’s a weird power.
Said the guy who essentially has the power to turn into pants.
Hey, Shazi’s power has its uses. I’ve saved a fortune on Irish Spring since I copied that power.
And I happen to have smelled a lot of gross things in my life. Dinosaur shit, rotting fluffy corpses, Dave and Slayer’s chili farts, Gaspode’s owners…
If Umbra gets a bit too Umbra-ish during our little chats, I let him have some of the last one. One of those hobos has a stench so powerful that you don’t so much smell it as you feel it. It’s so powerful, your nose shuts down out of self-preservation instinct. You can tell he’s near you when the earwax starts melting out of your ears.
It’s a stench with a mind of its own. It’s a stench with a goddamn power level, and I can sense power levels, so I know what I’m talking about. If that foul ol’ hobo becomes any more pungent, his stench will take on an entirely independent existence, like a smelly Niv.
Now I see where Gaspode learned so much about stinkology.
That’s what he insists on calling it.
So, to steer the conversation back on topic for the millionth time, I don’t know if you’re right, Niv.
I’ve been right a lot in the past.
Niv does have a decent track record, Cal. He was right about Coffeebreak, and Pax too.
I know, and I didn’t make it this far by being stupid, so I’m going to spread the word among the ChaotiX just in case, and have every member in the city keep an eye out.
We’ll need a way to check every fluffy in the city for signs of possession, and everyone else, too. Zapping them with that silver ray might work, but it’s not done yet.
And more importantly, we’ll need to know what we’re looking for. How does a possession victim look, and sound? Is it immediately apparent, or are the Sins better at hiding it than demons are?
What’s the connection between the Spirits and the boys Down There, anyway? Surely, there’s a connection.
I think we’re looking at another trip to Vatican City, at any rate.
But that’ll have to wait, because right now, me and Marley have business.
Not at Val’s lab this time.
We’re at the School, on our way to the training facility, to meet with Danny, Ghost, Phantasm and Symona.
She’s about fifteen, light brown hair, and according to Young Dave, she’s very pretty. Little tyke already has a precocious crush on her, bless him.
It’s always cute when a kid gets a crush on someone significantly older. The kids get so embarrassed. Like how Branca couldn’t stop blushing around Miles.
They’re good friends these days, though. In a few years, they’ll both be of age, and who knows?
I think there’s a lot of teenage girls with a crush on YOU, Cal. Hasn’t Suzy said that girls between ages thirteen and eighteen buy the most of your posters?
But even if I wasn’t happily married, they’re too young for my liking. Sorry, girls.
It’s not JUST teenagers who want a dose of Cal-cium. If it wasn’t public knowledge that Judy is a wizard, she’d probably be dealing with angry, jealous women all the time.
Yeah, if they send her hatemail, she could mail something much worse back. Like, say, explosive runes.
And it’s not just women either, there’s a lot of gay men who are disappointed that I don’t swing that way. Sorry, boys.
But then there’s Jack, who is gay, and he’s got his own admirers. He’s become something of an icon in the LGBT community, and so has Rex, and Amy the Ant-Woman.
Hey, the ChaotiX has become very diverse, both mundanely and fantastically.
We don’t have any asexual members yet, do we?
We don’t have any trans members yet either, Niv. Give it time.
Again, these days, with all the magic and advanced technology, transitioning isn’t as big of an ordeal as it used to be.
On Lumix, body modification often involves gene modification.
And altering someone’s biological sex with magic isn’t really much harder than altering their species.
Although, according to Annette, changing someone into a frog isn’t as economical as making them think they’ve been turned into a frog.
The latter is also funnier, she claims. She’s got a good understanding of how people’s minds work, and her own home-grown brand of psychology, which she calls headology.
Apparently, showmanship is a big part of witchcraft.
As we enter the training room, we find Danny and his charges waiting for us, with a hard light hologram of Anti-Calvin in his red Klyntar standing by.
Presumably, that’s their training dummy. Remember me and Mar stomping on those tiny Vulcanuses? Extremely cathartic.
Marley scurries over to hug Ghost and Phantasm, the latter currently in a clone body.
He usually goes with clone bodies whose fluff has a similar silvery hue as his ghostly form. Hey, they’re his clone bodies, so he gets to decide what they look like, same as our draak members.
And I share a fist bump with Danny.
“So how are things going, guys?”
Symona grins at me, and speaks up.
“Дуже добре, пане Коркеа. Ось, подивіться.”
The rest of us are wearing universal translators, so we can understand her.
We’re planning to install a translation field across the School’s grounds, like the one in the Intergalactic Tournament stadium. The Tele-Ports use it too.
She gestures for us to get out of the way.
“Можливо, ви захочете закрити вуха…”
After we do so, she takes a deep breath.
And as she does, she unleashes a burst of powerful, rippling soundwaves at the training dummy.
The holographic Anti-Calvin clutches his head, his equally holographic Klyntar bubbling and shrieking.
We can hear it, even with our hands and hooves over our ears, and I feel my teeth rattle.
It actually makes the place shake a tiny bit, and this facility is very sturdily built.
Fortunately, I’m not weak to sonics like Klyntar are. Madam Valerie isn’t a hack.
As Symona catches her breath, Danny checks his COMP.
“Ninety decibels, Symona. Not bad, you’re improving fast. Our ghostly wail is about one hundred and twenty decibels, so you’re almost on our level.”
“Fan-tas-um nu can du dat.”
“Eh, but Fan-tas-um gut udda powahs.”
Ghost grins at him.
“Wite nao, yu gut nun of yu powahs. Mebbeh dey shudda cwoned Ghost fow yu. Ow Mawwey.”
Marley grimaces, frantically shaking his head.
“Nup, nup, we nu am duin dat, nupnupnup. Daddeh, yu haf bin cwoned a wot, back Mawwey up awn dis.”
I can’t help but laugh.
“It’s not as bad as putting a demon in a clone body, Mar. Although, I wouldn’t mind putting Dave in a clone of me, if we really had to.”
“Mebbeh daddeh cud mewge wif Dave.”
“…Huh. I’ve never really thought of that, Mar. Good idea, I’ll run it by him later, and remind me to give you a skettie treat for that. What would we call ourselves, though? Eh, work it out later.”
“We stiww nu gutta namesie fow Fyoo-chuw Mawwey an Swayew mew-juw yet, ee-fuw.”
“They haven’t had to merge again since the whole thing with Shaun.”
“Mawwey stiww wan mewge wif Ewdwick.”
“Come to think of it, there’s a lot of fluffies in the ChaotiX who could get a lot of use out of the Bands of Merging. We did just find another chivalrium cache, and I need to talk to Merv anyway…”
Danny cracks a grin, gesturing at Symona.
“Not just fluffies, Cal. Maybe Symona and Branca could merge?”
Symona raises an eyebrow.
“Не думаю, що я до цього готовий…”
“Keep it in mind, Sym. You’re still in training, and I think these two will be training with you when you’re done.”
I nod, completely unable to deny it.
“Imagine how loud we could go with your power, Symona. It’ll come in handy, if we deal with any evil Klyntar again.”
“Mawwey wish dat we had met See-mone-uh bee-fowe da Sitta-dew.”
“Wong stowy, See-mone-uh. Wong stowy. Da showt vuw-shun am…”
Marley gestures at me with a marshmallow hoof.
“Nu aww vuw-shuns of daddeh am dis nice.”
Then he gestures at the training dummy with the other hoof.
“Haf Danee towd yu aneefing abowt dat vuw-shun?”
I laugh again, walking over to the training dummy and casually flicking its slimy red forehead with my finger.
“Yeah, that one in particular is a real heel. But if you run into any mes from the One Man Army, know that you can trust those mes. Don’t be surprised when you meet CQK-1, his timeline’s a few decades ahead of most. Hopefully, I’ll age as gracefully as he did.”
“Daddeh am gunna be wucky if daddeh git dat owd.”
“It’s a dangerous life we live, Mar. But we do it, so no one else has to. That’s what the ChaotiX is all about, Symona. Fighting the battles that others can’t. Protecting those who can’t protect themselves. We don’t think that the weak should fear the strong, and we’ve dealt with a lot of people who disagreed.”
“An we am stiww hewe, an dey nu am hewe. Du da maff.”
If you thought like those morons, you’d be dead by now. Because you would have gotten lazy, you would have taken it for granted that you’d always be the strongest man alive.
Niv is right. Sloth has doomed many people who believed that they would be done fighting once they reached the top. They forget that there are always others who wish to be at the top, and are willing to fight their way there. Many rulers lost their jobs the same way they acquired them, the only difference being which side of the equation they were on.
Because EVERYONE wants to be the Guy, but there can only ever be ONE Guy at a time, so if you wanna BE the Guy, you’ve gotta BEAT the Guy.
At least we’ve never had to deal with giant killer apples.
They’re more like giant CHERRIES…
“Anyway, you’re too young to join us now, Symona. We don’t send kids into the battlefield if we can help it. Right now, you should just focus on mastering your powers, and focus on your regular lessons too. You’ve got plenty of time to think about whether you want to join the team. We’re not the fu-- freaking X-Men, kid. Or Ultimate Marvel SHIELD…”
“Але я бачив Росомаху по дорозі сюди.”
“That was just Victor messing with you. He likes to have a bit of fun with the newbies, but he’s going easy on you 'cause you’re a kid.”
“Dem cwaws nu am a pawt of him bodee.”
“He tried having claws implanted once. His body just rejected 'em. It was a real mess, he said. We’ve gotta get going, got a lot to do today.”
Marley hugs Ghost and Phantasm goodbye, and lets Symona pat him on the head.
“We wiww be seein yu watew. Gud wuck wif da twain-in.”
After sharing fist bumps with Danny and Symona, and after I give Ghost and Phantasm headpats, me and Marley take our leave.
Now we’re going to Val’s lab.
But first, we’re going to stop for lunch, and make some calls on the way.
And I know a good place to go…
Meanwhile, several blocks away, in an alleyway behind Sugarbean’s, six of the Spirits of Sin wait for Invidia to return from scouting again.
Ira scowls, something he is rarely not doing, grinding his teeth so much it’s a wonder they haven’t worn down completely.
“I hate waiting.”
Superbia nods sympathetically.
“I don’t enjoy it either, but we still need to keep a low profile, and scouting as a group will draw attention.”
Gula is helping himself to the contents of a knocked over trash can. Week-old leftovers, that is.
“om nom nom I’ll be sad when we have to nom nom nom move on to another nom nom alley.”
“What did I tell you about talking with your mouth full, Gula?”
“I can’t om nom stop eating this, it’s so nom nom good.”
Acedia sighs, curled up on a trash can.
“You know that we need to feed our hosts too, right?”
“If you aren’t om nom nom quick enough, that’s nom nom your problem, not nom mine.”
Avaritia nods, sitting on a pile of whatever shiny pieces of junk he’s been able to scavenge in the alley.
“Gula gets it.”
Invidia waddles into the alleyway, and Superbia turns to him.
“What did you find?”
“Well, I think I know who that powerful host is. Everyone keeps mentioning this person called Calvin Korkea, he lives in this city. And everyone calls it Korkeaopolis, so he might rule over this city. But that’s not all. He’s not the only one with that power, Superbia.”
“Oh? Do tell more.”
Invidia hesitates, and Superbia nudges him.
“Oh, alright, but I don’t think you’ll like it. See, he’s got some of these pig-horses too, and one of them is, apparently, almost as strong as him. Completely absurd, I know. But if what I’ve heard is true, that thing can turn human, so it might not be entirely useless to us.”
“I’ll believe it when I see it. As for… Korkea? Odd name. Anyway, I think he’ll make an excellent host for me. People as powerful as him tend to be very prideful. Ira could probably work with him too.”
Ira opens his mouth, but then pauses.
“I… don’t hate the sound of that.”
Invidia continues, recapping what he’s eavesdropped on the streets.
“It appears that Korkea has something of a compulsion to collect. He scoops up people with powers across the world, and brings them to some kind of school here, to join a team of… I think they’re called superb-heroes? These superb-heroes seem to have replaced the mythological gods and heroes of old in the public consciousness. Things have changed a lot while we were away.”
“But some things never change. And it’s actually to our benefit that Korkea has this little habit. You’re telling me that there’s a building full of powerful mortals, right in this very city? It almost sounds too convenient. Is this a trick, Invidia?”
“It’s what I’ve heard, I’m just repeating it.”
Acedia raises a hoof, his face bearing the expression of someone who has just realised something unpleasant.
Superbia turns to his lazy lackey.
“Yes? What is it?”
“That Korkea guy is probably looking for us too. Now, I’m not really a big fan of running, but shouldn’t we be doing it? Like, five minutes ago?”
Then the arrogant possessed smarty grins wildly.
“Don’t you see, Acedia? If he comes after us, he’ll practically be giving his body to us.”
“But he might have the Seals. We couldn’t take them, we had to leave them behind. Even if we could touch silver, these bodies don’t have hands, and aren’t strong enough to push or carry the box. Not complaining, mind, I’m not a fan of heavy labor either, but we could have at least tried to hide them…”
“…Damn. You may be right. Alright, new plan. We need to learn as much as possible about this Korkea fellow and his cohorts, and we need to ascertain the location of those damn Seals. Most importantly, we need to do so without Korkea noticing our presence in his city. If he has the Seals, and he learns that we’re here before we can get out of these pig-horses, we’re done for.”
“Or we could just leave through that big shiny building with the portals. We could go to Paris. Or Amsterdam, I can feel the perversion of the Red Light District from here. Oh, they’ve gotten even dirtier since my last visit there…”
Superbia shakes his head.
“No. We’re so close to the prize. All we need to do is catch Korkea when he doesn’t have the Seals on him. Or at least when he doesn’t have my Seal on him.”
“What was that last part? I wasn’t paying attention, I was thinking about prostitutes.”
“Nothing you need to worry about, Luxuria, you pillar of perversion. I’ve already got the foundation of a plan. But before we work on that, we should probably move. Yes, Gula, you too. And you, Acedia, don’t get too comfortable.”
“I saw a pretty big group of these creatures living in another alley, but they certainly know how their kind is supposed to sound, so we wouldn’t be able to blend in for very long.”
Superbia forlornly examines his reflection in a shard of a broken mirror, as the Spirits waddle deeper into the alleyways.
“Looking like one of these things is humiliation enough, Invidia. I refuse to talk like one, or act like one. Why did the humans make them sound so infantile? How does it not drive all of the humans insane?”
Unbeknownst to the Spirits, Calvin and Marley have just arrived at Sugarbean’s, and narrowly missed them.
“It does drive some of them to violence, Superbia. Someone on the street mentioned that hurting these creatures is actually against the law around here.”
“Ridiculous. The sooner we can ditch these bodies, the better. A body like this just doesn’t flatter me. Nice coloring, but that’s about it. And that’s another thing that bugs me about these creatures, Invidia. Why do they have such bright, unnatural colors? Just looking at Gula makes my eyes sore. Surely more natural earth tones would be better for the ones living in the wild? They could blend in.”
“I hate blending in.”
“You and me both, Ira. I prefer to stand out, and if I had my way, I would always be the center of attention.”
“I deserve the attention more than you do.”
“Maybe if you outlast me this time. But I doubt that, for I am second to no one.”
“This time, things will go differently. I’m sick of you always calling the shots.”
“I didn’t choose leadership, I just naturally gravitate towards it. I think my host is the same way. According to his memories, these creatures appoint their leaders based on intelligence.”
“Are you sure about that? Even the smartest of these creatures must be rather stupid.”
“Why else would their leaders be called smarties, Invidia? These creatures have their own social structure, haven’t you seen that in your host’s memories? If I’m not mistaken, and I am never mistaken, Ira’s host was an enforcer, a protector of the… the herd. See, we’re learning the lingo, bit by bit. We’re in terra incognita, but we’ve been there before. Our previous spree wasn’t the first time we’ve been freed, and we were sealed for a lot longer last time. But we adapted to the world then, and we can do it again now.”
The group turns around a corner, passing a mare feeding her foals in a cardboard box, an X in an octagon spray painted on the wall above the box.
Superbia glances at the symbol, and when the mare is out of earshot, turns to Invidia.
“We’ve seen that symbol all over the place. Do you know what it means?”
“I think it’s Korkea’s mark. Anyone wearing it is an ally of his, and any place with the mark is under his protection. Something like that.”
“You don’t think he’s watching us right now, do you?”
“He’s not a god, just a very powerful human. Unless I misheard something, he calls his team the Chaotics.”
“The Chaotics? Don’t tell me Chaos is a friend of Korkea, Invidia. I’ve never liked that trickster.”
“I hope not, Superbia.”