"Sweater Late Than Never" by NobodyAtAll

Note: read “Things Can Only Get Sweater” and “Dragon Quest” Part XX first.

Hey there, it’s Jeff again. Y’know, Ugly Sweater Guy.

So, it’s been another week or so on the road, and me and Electra have gotten even closer to Detroit.

We’ve stopped occasionally, giving toys to fluffies, and restocking at any Flufftopias we pass, making good use of that discount card.

I used to be banned from Flufftopia before I played the game. You can probably guess why. And a ban from one Flufftopia is a ban from all Flufftopias.

But now, I’ve been cleared from their blacklist. That card wouldn’t be very useful otherwise.

We’ve already passed through Madison, Rockford and Chicago, stopping to see the sights and sample the local cuisine, so now we’re going through Indiana.

We’re pretty close to the south end of Lake Michigan.

And we’re almost in Michigan itself! We’re almost there!

Of course, Detroit isn’t the last stop of the journey. We’re staying long enough to take care of business, and then we’re hitting the road again, before I fall back into old habits and/or run into anyone who I don’t wanna run into.

Where exactly we go from there, we still haven’t decided.

But we’ll probably end up making our way back to Korkeaopolis sooner or later.

Call me crazy, but I’m actually starting to miss the place.

Speaking of crazy, I’ve been thinking about Chaos’ suggestion to take a detour through Flint, and I’ve been trying to figure out why he suggested that.

He said it was because of something we’d discussed in the past, but I just don’t know what. I’ve really been trying to remember all of my conversations with him, including the conversation I don’t want to remember, the one on Primal Earth.

But I’m, like… 99% sure that it’s not a dinosaur.

By the way, there’s something funny I’ve noticed during this little road trip.

We’ve passed a lot of Starbucks…es since we left Korkeaopolis. You know how it is. Sometimes, there’s a Starbucks right across the street from another Starbucks. If I wasn’t driving, I’d make a drinking game out of it.

But the funny thing is that every Starbucks we’ve passed has started giving away free fluffy toys with every purchase by customers with fluffies. They’ve got posters advertising it.

Naturally, I haven’t forgotten about my stint working for Starbucks, or the little loophole I employed to earn a few extra points during my shifts. I remember seeing people line up with their fluffies, sometimes even around the corner.

And I remember Erwin asking me if I could get a job at Subway instead if I ever return. Really, I think he’ll be happy as long as he doesn’t have to deal with those long lines again. Guy loves his java.

I wonder if that silver alien can drink coffee? It didn’t order any when I saw it.

Anyway, me and Electra easily figured out what’s going on. Clearly, word spread to corporate, all they saw was the correlation between the free fluffy toys and the sudden increase in customers, and now they’re trying to replicate that success for massive profit.

But of course, as corporate executives tend to do, being clueless, out of touch, and probably high off their fucking asses on Bolivian marching powder, they misunderstood why it was so successful, and something got lost in imitation.

They don’t seem to get that people weren’t going to that specific Starbucks for the free toys, they were going there to get a glimpse of a local celebrity.

I think the correct phrase is “lightning in a bottle”?

And I paid for those toys out of pocket, so it didn’t cost Starbucks anything when I did it. I’ve had toys donated to me, but I usually gave those ones to ferals. Didn’t seem like a good idea to give second-hand toys to paying customers. And the ferals don’t mind getting second-hand toys. It’s still better than no toys.

Or, as Electra once said, having only trash to play with.

Frankly, I’m just glad that Starbucks isn’t making the employees wear ugly sweaters too.

If I actually end up starting a fashion trend, I may literally die of embarrassment.

Right now, me and Electra are in the motel room we’ll be spending the night in. Great view of the lake from here during the day, apparently.

Fortunately, they accommodate fluffies. A lot of hotels and motels do, these days. Chaos has recommended a few good fluffy-friendly motels.

None of the places we’ve been staying at during this trip were as fancy as Faucheuse Hotel, but Chaos is generously paying for these motel stays on our behalf, and I’m not gonna look the flamboyant rainbow-colored gift horse in the mouth.

If he wasn’t doing that for us, I’d be bankrupt long before we reach the Michigan state border.

Or we’d be sleeping in the car every night. Hey, I’ve done it before.

Electra used to sleep in the alleys before we joined forces, so sleeping in a car would still be a step up from that.

At the very least, it would provide shelter from the rain.

And she’s slept under cars sometimes. If she was sure she wouldn’t wake up as roadkill the next morning, and the car’s owner didn’t mind.

You’ve seen how hugboxy they are in Korkeaopolis, right?

It’s been another long day of driving, but I didn’t need to haul all of my crap from the car to the motel room. Just one suitcase, and Electra’s carrier.

Nobody has messed with my car since we left Korkeaopolis behind. I can guess who I have to thank for that.

So everything in my car will be safe, and I won’t wake up to discover that my tires are missing.

That’s something you’ve really gotta worry about when you live in Detroit.

I’m lying on the bed, my shoes off, reading Who’s Who in the ChaotiX, and Electra is curled up next to me, watching TV.

It’s the Discovery Channel, an episode of How It’s Made, this episode being about how various common fluffy-related products are made.

The current segment is about fluffy beds, fittingly enough.

I’m wearing the sweater, because hey, it’s a lot comfier than when I was playing the game.

Not any less ugly, though. But once you’re used to it, it’s not that bad.

I turn a page of the book, seeing a photo of someone who appears to be an angel… but looks like a short-haired Cal with a beard.

“Huh. Is that his dad?”

My curiosity piqued, I read the page.

“No, wait, that’s his brother. Apparently he died, and came back with angel powers… on top of his Omega powers. Didn’t even know that Cal’s brother is an Omega too…”

“Am da fyoo-chuw Mawwey nu wike dat tuu, Jeff? Wut am it cawwed? A neff-uh-wim?”

“Huh. Oh yeah, that’s right. Still, when did this guy get Omega powers? Does it run in the family? And how many Omegas are there in total?

Electra grins at me.

“Am yu a bitsie jeh-wus, Jeff? Du yu wan be a Oh-may-guh tuu?”

“What? No. Well, maybe, but that doesn’t leave this room! I just think it would be nice to be able to fly, like Cal can.”

Suddenly, the TV changes channels by itself, the harlequin face of a certain purple and yellow jester appears on the screen, static in the background, and you-know-damn-well-who speaks up in his usual cheerful, flamboyant voice, slightly distorted by the medium he’s chosen to manifest through.

“If you ask nicely, Cal might hook you two up with some flight packs. Pardon my bluntness, but I think he’d sooner trust you with one of those than the power of an Omega.”

I don’t look up from my book.

“Hi, Chaos.”

“Hewwo, mistah Kay-ohs.”

But he doesn’t seem to mind.

“Hi, Jeff. And hello to you too, Electra! Bona to vada you choosing to curl up with a good book instead of keeping your eyes glued to a screen, Jeff! That’s getting rare these days.”

“Very funny, Chaos.”

“An Ewectwa wuz wotch-in teebee bee-fowe yu came awong.”

Chaos chuckles.

“My apologies, Electra. I just like to mix things up when I make an entrance.”

Then he clambers out of the TV like that ghost girl from The Ring, changing the channel back to Discovery, and moving out of the way for Electra.

“They make flight packs for fluffies too, by the way.”

I mark my place and put the book down.

“I had almost forgotten to ask. What the hell is a flight pack?”

“Still getting all caught up, eh? You’re familiar with the Nerd Squad, right?”

“That’s the ChaotiX squad that does science-y stuff in Faucheuse Tower, isn’t it?”

Taking the “fiction” out of “science fiction”, they are.

Erwin’s a member, he’s the one who told me about the Nerd Squad.

I’ve seen some of their tech, too. Like that… Endo-Klyn Suit that Cal has, really wish I could afford one of those, and I’m pretty sure that sonic cannon Chaos loaned me was originally made by the Nerd Squad.

Chaos nods.

“Correct! They simply reverse engineered the flight tech ol’ Bertie’s forces were using during the Alien Invasion. Or did you think that all alien races have flight as an innate power?”

“Huh. Yeah, that makes more sense in hindsight. So flight packs are basically jetpacks…”

“Without the jets, yes. It’s less of a fire hazard. And you can see how jets miiiight be a problem for fluffies…”

“Yuh, fwuffies an buwnies nu weawwy gu tugeva dat weww.”

Most fluffies, at any rate.”

“Chaos, I can’t lie: when that whole Alien Invasion thing happened, I was rooting for the aliens. Even though that Bertram guy–”

“His name was Bertrand, actually. He hated being called Bertie, for the record.”

“Whatever, even though that guy said everyone on Earth would die if Cal did, I was still rooting for the aliens.”

“Mmm, yes, I can see why. You were a rather spiteful man yourself back then. You know, I was watching that too. When Cal sacrificed himself, I cried like a baby. And when he woke up, I cried even more, out of joy.

“Why didn’t you just save him yourself? I still remember you breaking my fall with a giant Jell-O pudding when I tried to kill myself.”

“Wen did Jeff du dat?

“Before we met, Electra. But, uh, Chaos, I asked you a question.”

Chaos chuckles.

“I was going to catch Cal when he fell, but Judy beat me to it. And I knew he’d probably survive. Azrael doesn’t give everyone a Get Out Of Death Free Card, but he had big plans for Cal. He still does, actually.”

“…Who’s Azrael?

“The Death of Universes, Jeff. The boss of all the other Deaths.”

“Is he your boss too?”

Chaos shakes his head, letting the bells jingle for once.

“Nope! We’re more like coworkers. Colleagues, rather. He and I have our own roles to play, to ensure that the universe continues to function as it’s supposed to.”

Suddenly, Chaos is wearing a black hooded cloak over his jester outfit and a cheap plastic skull mask over his harlequin mask, and he’s holding a scythe.

“Azrael oversees the passing of souls from Life to Death, creates new Deaths when a new species emerges, and makes sure that the Deaths carry out their duties professionally. And like I said, it’s not often that he gives you a do-over. Sure, the dead can reincarnate, or haunt the land of the living if they’ve got unfinished business here, but outright resurrection is something Azrael rarely allows the Deaths to do. That’s why certain people seek other means to resurrect the dead, I suppose. If anyone could just talk the Deaths into giving them a Get Out Of Death Free Card, the living world would be awful crowded.”

“…I’m not getting one of those Get Out Of Death Free Cards, am I?”

Just as suddenly, the cloak, mask and scythe vanish, and he shrugs.

“Probably not. So I wouldn’t take any stupid risks if I were you, but I’m me. No mortal alive or undead could kill an anthropomorphic personification by themself.”

“Yeah, I’m hardly omnipotent, a knife to the gut almost did me in. Omnipotent means all-powerful, Electra. I could see you gearing up to ask.”

Chaos chuckles again.

“Oh, I’m not omnipotent either. I’m only really omnipotent from a certain point of view. Like how humans are omnipotent from a fluffy’s point of view.”

“Ewectwa knu it nu weawwy am wike dat.”

I shrug, remembering all of the events of the game.

“You sure seem omnipotent, Chaos.”

Chaos holds up his hand, palm up, creating an image of something that looks like a small galaxy.

“As I said, from your point of view, I’m effectively omnipotent. Or maybe relatively omnipotent is more apt. But remember, I have a boss. Even with all of my power, there are beings out there with power that matches, or even exceeds my own.”

He wiggles his fingers, and the small galaxy is replaced with another image, of a guy in grey clothes who looks like a bureaucrat, sitting at a desk in a grey office and pruning some kind of multicolor bonsai tree.

Then Chaos uses his free hand to flick the small grey guy’s head.


“Fate was just as powerful as me, and he still lost. The only thing that really held him back was the fact that he was so boring. He wasn’t really the imaginative type. He was too rigid, too inflexible, y’know? I mean, his Forces of Fate were just a big mashup of all the bad guys Cal and his friends had faced before! Not an ounce of originality! Not a crumb of creativity! Ahem.

So that’s what Fate looked like. Huh. Neat. I know that Cal vaporised the guy with something called the Triad of Force in Faucheuse Plaza.

I still don’t know where you can get a Triad of Force, but it’s not like I need one anymore.

Still don’t know what an Acedia is either, but I got a discount at Flufftopia anyway, I can’t complain.

Chaos wiggles his fingers again, and the image of the grey guy in the grey office is replaced with the small galaxy once more.

He creates two more, and starts juggling them.

“My point is, us anthropomorphic personifications are more powerful than any mere mortal, but we’re still not all-powerful. We’re not gods. Even though I’ve pretended to be pretty much every trickster god. And beings like Azrael, the Bosses Up There and Down There, and Yours Truly still have someone who we have to answer to, someone who makes sure that we do our jobs properly. So it may look that way to you, but I’m not the biggest fish in the pond. Even I can’t get away with everything.

Impressively, he doesn’t drop those galaxies at any point while he’s talking.

But he’s Chaos, and I’ve seen him do things that were even less possible.

As he dismisses the small galaxies with a wave of his gloved hand, I shudder.

“I don’t think I want to meet the biggest fish.”

“Mmm, he doesn’t get a lot of visitors anyway. Now, on a much more mundane note, it looks like you’ve been making a lot of progress on your journey back to Detroit. You’re almost there!”

I stroke Electra gently. Aw, she’s looking a bit sleepy.

“I think we might be able to get to Michigan tomorrow, Chaos. If traffic isn’t too bad, and we don’t stop to take too many breaks… we should be able to reach Detroit by tomorrow night. I hope.”

Chaos sits down on the end of the bed.

“And you’re not planning to stay in Detroit, are you?”

“Just long enough to pack up anything of sentimental value, sell the house… and probably trade my car in for something bigger. Then we’ll hit the road again. Everything after that is still TBD.”

“Have you remembered my little suggestion?”

“Oh yeah, of course. Going via Flint might delay us a bit, but hey, I’m in no rush.”

“Ewectwa haf -yawn- bin habin a wotta fun awn dis woad twip.”

“Yeah, me too. We might pass through Chicago again on our way out. Kinda missing that deep-dish pizza. Chaos, is something… bugging you? I can’t be sure, but it feels like something is bugging you.”

He turns to me, a painted smile on his porcelain face, but when he speaks, his cheerful, flamboyant voice is tinged with concern again.

“Oh, I’m fine. But about that advice I gave you, I think you should disregard it entirely.”

“Wha-- really? Why?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. However, I do have some other advice for you: while you’re in Detroit, try to avoid any… shady figures.”

“…It’s Detroit, damn near everyone there is up to something shady. So I don’t know who, specifically, you want me to avoid. Maybe narrow it down a tad?”

“Wunna Jeff owd -yawn- fwends?”

“I’ve already got a plan to avoid them.

It involves another baseball cap and pair of sunglasses, and these ones didn’t vanish the second I left the store.

“Plus, if I need any help, I can just call Cal, right?”

I’ve chatted with him over the phone a few times since we left Korkeaopolis. Just filling him in, letting him know how the trip’s going.

He still hasn’t mentioned that consultant job he offered, but I think he’s waiting for me to mention it.

“So you’re gonna have to be a bit more specific, Chaos. Otherwise, I’ll be looking over my shoulder every five seconds.”

Chaos pauses for a few moments, before he sighs, gazing out the window.

“I can’t really go into specifics, Jeff. I want to, but I’m under orders to keep mum.”

“And you’re not gonna defy those orders? Isn’t rulebreaking kind of your thing?

“Ha! You have no idea how funny it is you said that. The person I’m not talking about said something very much like it. But I don’t have to break the rules. There’s always a bit of Law in Chaos, and a bit of Chaos in Law. It’s a Yin-Yang kinda thing.”

“…So the gist is that you can’t tell me who I should be on guard for.”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Can you at least find a loophole?

“I can always find a loophole, Jeff. Alright, I can’t name names, and again, I can’t go into specifics, but… someone else is also making their way to Detroit as we speak. Someone… very bad. And they’ve come from very far away.”

How far away? Like, from somewhere not on Earth?

After a few seconds, Chaos nods.

“Yes. For the record, I told them to stay at home, but they foolishly disregarded my advice. You’re wiser than they are, and I say that with absolute sincerity.”

“Oh shit, it’s not Jaws, is it? Because Cal said he’d let me know if Jaws escapes from Hell.”

And offered me dibs on killing Jaws, but I don’t think I’d last five seconds against a demon.

I’m lucky I survived Jaws when he was still a living human.

Chaos shakes his jester head, the bells jingling again.

“…I can honestly say that it is not Jaws.”

Well, that’s a relief.

Speaking of, what’s he up to right now?

Meanwhile, in Hell’s tenth circle, Jaws, still wearing his pink fluffy costume, is being escorted through the tunnels by two elite demons, roughly holding him by either side.

Yellow sulphurous smoke hangs in the air, and the wails of the damned echo all around.

That’s usually the case Down Here.

Not the best plane of existence to vacation on…

Along the way, the demons and their charge pass another trio going in the other direction, two other elites dragging Ivan Bortsov to the Pit of Burning Demon Fluffy Sorry Poopies.

Yes, Ivan’s wearing a pink fluffy costume too. There’s a lot of damned souls wearing those costumes in this circle.

Any fashion designers who happen to find their way Down Here will usually end up being forced to stitch those fluffy costumes together as their punishment.

For someone who used to design haute couture, there can be no worse punishment.

And they’ve got company, in the form of damned sweatshop owners.

They’re pretty much guaranteed to end up Down Here.

The tenth circle of Hell is home to lots of people who abused fluffies in life. It was built specifically to house them, because that’s how many abusers end up Down Here.

Hell’s R&D department has been working hard on all kinds of ironic punishments for fluffy abusers, and Jaws is nowhere near the point that he’s experienced all of them.

He’s about to experience one more, of course.

That the elites are letting Jaws out of his Not-Safe-At-All Room is only a sign that they’ve got something special planned for him this time, not a brief reprieve from his punishment, something of which he is well aware by now.

“So, where are we going, anyway?”

The demon on his left sneers.

“You’ll see when we get there, Humphries.”

And the demon on his right snickers.

“The good news is, we’re almost there. The BAD news is… well, you’re gonna find out soon enough.”

The demons lead him through one entryway, into a vast cavern. The demons and their charge are on a raised platform, and down below, they can see something massive slithering around on the cave’s rocky, rough floor.

Something that looks like a collosal, monstrous, demonic snake.

If Jaws was still alive, he would have voided his bowels by now.

Which would be very unfortunate for him, because, as he’s pointed out before, that costume doesn’t have a crap flap.

“What… what are you guys gonna do to me?”

The left demon grins at him.

“You know how fluffies used to be sold as snake food?”


And the right demon grins too.

“Have you forgotten what you’re wearing?”

Jaws looks down at his costume’s front, and when he looks up again, the expression on his shark-like face says that he’s joined the dots, and he doesn’t like the picture.

“You’re gonna… y-you’re g-g-gonna… f-f-ffffeeee…”

The demons nod faux-solemnly.


“You bought a lotta snake food fluffies when you were alive, and again, this is HELL, we’re big on irony Down Here.”

And that’s why the costume doesn’t have a crap flap. Yes, that was a deliberate decision.

Jaws panics, futilely trying to break out of the demons’ grasp.

“But that’s gonna kill me!”

Both demons start laughing.

“No it isn’t, dipshit! You’re already dead!”

“You’re just gonna take the, ah, SCENIC ROUTE out, you’ll be FINE afterwards. Well, actually you WON’T be fine, you’ll be the exact OPPOSITE of fine, but the point is that it won’t kill you. Trust me, we’ve seen it a BAZILLION times. You might even make some new friends while you’re in there.”

“The trip is gonna suck HARD for you, and so is the cleanup. If you’re expecting bubble bath or soft, fluffy towels, you can STOP expecting that right now.”

“We WOULD hose you off with freezing cold water, but considering how hot it gets Down Here, that would just be a relief to you.”

“So when you’re done feeding the snake, we’re gonna stick you in the big washing machine we put damned money launderers in.”

“We like taking things overly literally too. Okay, on three.”

“On three. One… two…”

“No, wait, let’s talk about this–”

The demons cry out as one.


And they toss Jaws off the platform.



He lands on the hard ground below, and, while he’s already dead, that doesn’t mean he can’t feel pain.

If the damned couldn’t feel pain, a lot of things that happen Down Here would be completely pointless.

Jaws gets back up, groaning, and quickly realizes that the demon snake has noticed his presence.

The ground trembles slightly as the demon snake rapidly slithers towards him, flicking its forked tongue, hissing hellishly.

And hungrily.

He tries to run away, but the elites, watching from the platform, know exactly how this is going to go.

That fluffy costume isn’t something you’d wear when you go jogging.

Yes, that’s on purpose too.

“So, Chaos… what are you trying to tell me? Is whoever you’re talking about-- uh, not talking about going to Detroit to find me?

He’s still looking out the window. I don’t think he’s really looking at anything in particular.

“Don’t you remember what I said in San Francisco, Jeff? Not everything is about you.

“That doesn’t entirely sound like a no.

Chaos manages to tear his painted eyes away from the window.

“But it’s not a yes, either. Believe me, I want you to make it out of Detroit safe and sound. I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure you get there safely. I’ve grown to like you, Jeff. You’re not on my Top Ten list of favorite mortals yet, but keep up the good work, and you might make the list someday. And I dearly want to see you continue your journey to becoming your best self. But there are some things that you’re going to have to do without me constantly looking over your shoulder and lending you aid. You’re a grown man, Jeff. Why do you think I don’t just solve all of Cal’s problems for him? If I did that, he wouldn’t be the man he is today.”

“Hey, I appreciate everything you’ve been doing for me-- for us. But you need to relax, Chaos. I was born and raised in Detroit. And I’m still alive, aren’t I?”

“Jeff haf -yawn- towd Ewectwa a fing ow too abowt Dee-twoit. An Ewectwa am -yawn- gwad we nu am stayin dewe.”

D’aw, she can barely keep her eyes open.

“So I can take care of myself. Hey, I’ve still got Jaws’ knife, and my knuckledusters. But if I buy another gun, is that one going to shoot bubbles too? Or turn into a bag of Peppermint Patties?”

“No, because if you shoot someone who didn’t have it coming, I’m going to be very disappointed with you.”

“Look, it’ll just be for self-defence this time. I’ll get it from a legitimate gun store, not a guy who knows a guy who found it when it fell off the back of a truck. And if I get my way, I won’t have to use it. I’m not the man I was when we met, and that’s your doing.”

Chaos chuckles again in concession.

“Fair enough, Jeff. I can trust you enough to leave you to your own devices these days. So you know, I was watching you from a distance all throughout your night in San Francisco. You did superbly that night, I can’t stress that enough.”

I sigh as I remember that night, when a red Klyntar had infected a lot of fluffies and attacked San Francisco.

If you weren’t aware, Chaos roped me into lending a hand, dumping me in Chinatown with a sonic cannon he had painted in rainbow colors and modified to blast pop songs.

Turns out, those slimeballs are weak to sonics, and fire, but c’mon, there aren’t a lot of things that aren’t weak to fire.

Before that night, I didn’t actually know that much about the Klyntar, but I learned fast.

Out of necessity, you see.

And until Chaos informed me otherwise, I had begun to worry that the sweater was secretly a Klyntar. It sure did act like one when I was playing the game.

But since we left Korkeaopolis behind, I haven’t seen the sweater so much as twitch.

Sometimes a sweater is just a sweater.

“I could have done without the part where I waded through raw sewage, but the rest was fun. I’m surprised I didn’t catch something in the sewers. I’m surprised I didn’t catch everything.

“Oh, I temporarily made you immune to all diseases before you went down that manhole. It lasted until I washed your clothes for you, and you had cleaned yourself up.”

“You sneaky–”

“Hey, you couldn’t play the game if you were in a sickbed. But I think it’s time for me to go. You’re going to want to put Electra in bed, and I’ve gotta go to a meeting with the other anthropomorphic personifications. Hopefully, I can get there before the Deaths call dibs on the best seats again. Last time, I was late, and the only seat left was between the Death of Tyrannosaurus Rexes and the Death of Giants. I almost became a Chaos sandwich!”

Heh. That’s actually kinda funny to imagine.

I probably shouldn’t laugh at him, though.

“So… what’s that meeting about?

“…I really can’t answer that question honestly. Sorry, Jeff. But don’t worry about it, let me worry about it. You worry about you and Electra. Wow, she’s kind of a snorer.”

Only now do I realize that Electra has fallen asleep.

zzzzzzzzzz-- gnh gnh gnh-- bloooorrrrrt

Yeah, she is a bit of a snorer. I told her that, but she doesn’t believe me. She insists that she doesn’t snore.

I can’t help but wonder if that’s why she was kicked out of her old herd. She doesn’t really like to talk about those days, before Chaos arranged our meeting.

One of these nights, I’m gonna get some hard proof of her snoring.

I gently stroke her again, not wanting to wake her up, lowering my voice.

“Yeah, okay, I won’t keep you. You’ve probably got a lot to do after that meeting.”

Chaos nods, likewise lowering his voice.

“Yes, but there’s a lot of me to do it. I’ll see you two around, Jeff. Remember…”

He vanishes, but his voice lingers for a few seconds.

“Stay away from any shady figures in Detroit…”

Once he’s gone, I carefully pick Electra up. The room has a saferoom, and I carry her in there, delicately placing her on the bed.

She mumbles incoherently in her sleep, hugging the plush Cal, her favorite toy.

You aren’t going to see me hugging the real Cal any time soon.

But it does genuinely warm my heart.

I slowly tiptoe out of the saferoom. I’m still shoeless, luckily, so my footsteps are muffled.

Then I close the door just as slowly, taking care not to wake her.

I gotta get one of those sound-blocking doohickeys the ChaotiX uses. Cal would probably give me one of those too, right?

After I turn the TV off, I sit on the bed, putting my sneakers back on.

“Alright, now that Electra’s in bed… let’s see what the nightlife around here is like. There’s gotta be a bar within walking distance, right?”

I get back up, walking over to the door.

Just as I grab the doorknob, I pause.

Then I pull the sweater off, revealing the T-shirt I have on underneath. It’s not the one I woke up in after Jaws stabbed me. I, ah, don’t wear that one often.

This T-shirt is just a regular black one, no print.

I ball the sweater up and toss it onto the bed.


You stay behind this time. I want people to see Jeff Robinson, not Ugly Sweater Guy, and you’re a total babe repellent.

I make my exit, again taking care not to close the door too hard.

Hey, what’s with that look?

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road, with my only regular female company being my fluffy. I may have developed a deep affection for Electra, but it’s an entirely platonic affection.

And a man has needs, y’know? Between playing the game and taking this road trip, there haven’t been a lot of opportunities for dating. Met a lot of interesting people, but of course, we didn’t stick around.

Also, it’s kinda hard to rub one out with your fluffy watching TV in the next room. Sorry, TMI, I know.

Really gotta get one of those sound-blocking doohickeys.

I’m not doing any more driving tonight, and I’ve learned a lot about self-control. I think I can trust myself to have a couple of drinks without getting into trouble.

Chaos trusts me, I’ve discovered. When I was playing the game, any alcoholic beverage I purchased turned into a non-alcoholic equivalent the moment it touched my lips.

Beer became root beer, cider became apple juice, wine became grape juice, coffee liqueur became just coffee.

It was like living in an anime dubbed by 4Kids.

I tried drinking a bottle of Bombastic Mead, and I wound up with a mouth full of honey.

I didn’t know whether to spit or swallow.

And if Chaos was feeling particularly mischievous, whatever container the beverage was in became a rainbow-colored sippy cup. Usually, when I was out in public.

When I tried drinking a can of Foster’s, it was transmuted into what I later learned was kangaroo urine.

I didn’t need to know what that tastes like.

And it was a wee bit on the nose.

That doesn’t happen anymore, though. Nuff said!

Foster’s still tastes like piss, mind you.

And hey, even if I don’t meet anyone tonight, there’s plenty of fish in the sea, like I’ve said before. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet the perfect woman when-- or if we return to Korkeaopolis.

I’m not dumb enough to try hitting on any of the women in the ChaotiX. Even though most of them are really hot… and there’s all kinds of creative ways they could use their powers in the bedroom… I think if I flirted with any of them, they’d laugh me out of the room.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure a lot of them are already spoken for, and the last time I fucked someone’s girlfriend, I wound up with a very embarrassing tattoo on my chest that I had to pay Chaos fifty points to remove.

And that was when I cucked someone who had no superpowers whatsoever.

I don’t wanna think about what would happen if Cal caught another man in bed with his wife, especially not if that man is me.

He mentioned something called Luminary Form during one of our calls, and I really don’t want to find out what that is the hard way!

On the other hand, I’ve heard some of the men in the ChaotiX say that Victor is the best wingman you could ask for.

I don’t know if he’s willing to be my wingman, but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

I’m not gonna sweat it.

This road trip has been a blast, and it’s not even over.

Because once we’re done in Detroit, we’re hitting the road again.

And from there…

Well, I haven’t always been the most optimistic person…

But I feel like things are just gonna keep getting better from there.

Meanwhile, in Flint, Michigan, the Octovirate’s camper van drives through the town, heading south, the curtains closed.

The Rider, as always, is at the wheel, wearing his helmet and gloves, masking his skeletal visage.

“So you’re sure about this, then?”

Dehak, however, isn’t riding shotgun this time. He’s sitting at the dining table with Varney, his back to the windshield.

Since they’re currently in a populated area, they’re trying to keep a low profile. The doors leading to the magical study, storeroom, and bathroom are closed, hiding some of the enchanted expansions this camper has developed by having wizards occupy it, and Shadow Calvin has been ordered to hide in the bathroom.

Hiding the luxury kitchen wasn’t as easy. This camper is a lot bigger on the inside now. The kitchenette it started off with is now the kind of kitchen you’d find in a five-star restaurant.

It’s not seeing much use. Eating isn’t really a necessity for anyone inside this camper, except Varney, whose food conveniently comes in cans these days.

No, not that kind of can. As the Rider noticed, Foal-In-A-Can machines are actually becoming something of a rarity, as fluffy abuse is being banned in more and more places on Earth, and Foal-In-A-Can machines quickly became little more than an easy source of victims for abusers.

Of course, there’s been a few notable fluffies who started their lives by being stuffed into a can, and still turned out to be perfectly happy and healthy fluffies indeed. Perhaps you’re familiar with a certain rambunctious green stallion, named after the oily fruit of Persea americana.

But they’re exceptions, not the rule.

They deliberately select the most fragile foals for those cans, you should know.

The point is that the fancy kitchen is going to waste.

So is the bathroom, because none of the Octovirate members present need to do that, either.

The camper looks the same as ever on the outside, and if no one gets too close, Dehak reckons that the camper’s unusual interior and even more unusual occupants will remain unnoticed.

“I’m sure. We’re not stopping here. We’ll just go straight to Detroit, and deploy our trap there. Preferably in Robinson’s house, or as close to it as possible. That’s what we should have been doing all along.”

“And once we’ve got Robinson, we can go hunt down whoever has that key.”

“Yes, I’ve got everything planned out. If we fail to recruit Robinson, we’ll just have to kill him and his shite-rodent, so they can’t alert the boy to our presence on Earth. The boy… how I hate him so… if I still slept, I would dream of killing him slowly every night.”

Dehak starts grinding his rotten teeth, muttering to himself, and the Rider glances at him.

“Really? I figured you wouldn’t be able to sleep as long as you share a universe with Korkea.”

“When you put it like that, Rider… really, how does the boy keep surviving me? Most of my enemies don’t live very long after earning my enmity… the boy will pay for every humiliation he’s inflicted upon Lord Dehak the Almighty…”

“Dehak, try to focus. Worry about Korkea LATER. Right now, Robinson is our priority, along with whoever has that key.”

Dehak stops grinding his teeth, taking a deep breath purely to calm himself. Breathing isn’t a necessity for anyone inside this camper either.

“You’re right, Rider. Besides, that Cunning Man you mentioned will keep the boy occupied while we’re taking care of business here. Their conflict is inevitable, and every outcome benefits us one way or another. So keep your eye sockets on the road and get us to Robinson’s hometown, Rider.”

Varney peeks out through a gap in the curtains, seeing a vampiric woman and her equally vampiric fluffy get a couple of cans of NuBlood from a vending machine.

“I could simply turn Robinson, you know. My kind doesn’t stand out on Earth as much as we used to. That way, Robinson could serve as our face. And I couldn’t get into his house uninvited, but I could still get into the garden…”

Dehak gives Varney an annoyed glance.

“And let the Seed go to waste, Varney?”

The Many is curled up in the cabin above the front, pretending to be just a fluffy.

“Dewe am pwent-ee of Seeds, Dehak. An pwent-ee of pee-puw tu yoos dem awn.”

“Well, yes, that’s true. But we’ve already got a plan ready for Robinson, and making changes to the plan now might ruin our chance. He’s getting close to home, and if we don’t get there before him, he’ll slip out of our grasp.”

“Look, even if we don’t get Robinson, we can still get that key. Either way, we won’t leave Detroit empty-handed.”

Dehak turns his frown upside down.

“So there’s that. With the key in our hands, we can start making real progress. We’ll be able to go anywhere.

Varney drums his fingers on the table out of boredom. Like most camper van dining tables, it can be folded out into another bed, but that hasn’t been seeing much use, because the Octovirate members present don’t even need to do that.

“So, if Korkea found us, could we simply flee to another timeline? Possibly one where he suffered a gruesome accident as a child, and never became a gigantic pain in the rear end?”

“Mmm, I think we should take things one universe at a time.”

The Rider keeps his eye sockets on the road as he laughs.

“Yeah, if you think ONE Korkea is enough trouble, apparently there’s a whole group of multiverse cops, ALL of whom are Korkeas. So we should take THAT one Korkea at a time, too.”

Dehak looks genuinely impressed, and a tad envious.

“You know, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet any of my alternate selves. Umbra did, though. It, ah… didn’t end well.”

If Dehak knew what has become of his counterpart from Timeline-444444, he wouldn’t be so envious.

Seeing as he doesn’t have a lot of blood in his body anymore, and his heart, if he ever had one, stopped beating centuries ago, he’s physically incapable of having an aneurysm or a heart attack out of sheer rage, but he’d be as close to that as the undead can get.

The Rider laughs again, remembering an event he saw on the news a couple of years ago, before his first untimely death.

“Ha! Yup, I know all about that. Fate should have known what would happen when he put two Umbras together. So should I keep driving, or do you need to scry on Robinson again?”

“Keep driving. Last time I checked, Robinson and his shite-rodent were further away from Detroit than we are. We should be there by morning, right? Once we’ve found a good place to hide, we can see how Robinson is doing.”

“And prepare our trap for him.”

“Among other things. We’ll have some time before he catches up. Once Robinson is recruited-- or dead-- we’ll need to go after the key immediately, before anyone discovers Robinson’s absence. Chaos is clearly protecting the fool for some reason, but that irritating clown is not allowed to harm us, or reveal our location to our enemies. There’s only so much he can do to delay us.”

“At least he’s not filling this thing with shitrat crap, eh?”

“I’m a literal walking corpse, and even I find the stench to be intolerably nauseating. Those shite-rodents really don’t have a lot going for them, do they?”


“Not counting you, Many. Or Umbra.”

Varney sighs, resting his bearded face on his pale palm.

“What are we going to do while the Rider drives? I’m so bored. Everything fun to do on Earth costs money we don’t have.”

“At least YOU’RE not the one who always has to drive, Varn. But you’re right. Even a portable DVD player and a few good DVDs would make a difference. I’ve been wanting to binge Breaking Bad again since we arrived in Siberia.”

Dehak raises a stringy eyebrow.

“I don’t believe we saw that one back when we were occupying Drakonia. What’s it about?”

As the camper reaches a red light, the Rider brakes, and explains while waiting for the light to turn green.

“Basically, a high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer, he decides to cook meth with one of his old students to make sure his family’s provided for when he’s dead, and shit escalates from there. In the early seasons, they’re cooking in a motorhome, kinda like this camper. Or like this camper WAS before we stole it. It’s called a rolling lab. So NOW do you see why I wanna watch that show again, Dehak?”

And as the light turns green and the Rider hits the gas pedal again, Dehak nods in understanding.

“I think I do. I hope you aren’t planning to… cook meff in here, though. We’re not really using the kitchen, but…”

Yes, they’ve been obeying traffic laws, because blatantly running red lights would draw attention they don’t want.

“You don’t LITERALLY cook meth, Dehak. It’s a drug, cooking is just slang for synthesizing methamphetamine, and THAT’S what meth is short for.”

“Ah, I see. I’m not too familiar with Earth’s intoxicants, naturally. I know mellowbud exists here–”

That’s what marijuana is called on Magicca, Dehak’s homeworld, existing on the universe’s B-side, where magic is so much more abundant, and technology is… not as advanced.

There, a magic mushroom is often literally magical.

And there, one will find not fluffies, but woollies, created with magic instead of science.

A similar chain of events unfolded on both worlds around the same time.

“–but I don’t think meff is found back home. How exactly does one… synthesize it?”

“If you knew, you wouldn’t want to touch the stuff. Unless you’re DESPERATE to not be sober.”

Varney interrupts, looking annoyed.

“I don’t think that stuff would even do anything for me, unless I feed on someone who’s got it in their system. And I’m still bored. There has to be some way to pass the time that won’t cost us any money.”

Dehak pulls a pack of cards out of his robe. The cards are very unusual, with eight suits instead of four.

“We could play another round of Cripple Mr. Onion.”

And that’s a very common card game on Magicca.

It cost Dehak and the remaining free members of the Octovirate of Darkness a considerable amount of effort to cross over to Earth and make it to America unnoticed, after the Liberation of Drakonia.

Really, it’s nothing less than a miracle that they haven’t been caught yet.

But in a world as strange as this one, unlikely things happen all the time.

The Many cracks a grin as they chime in.

“Ow we cud make anudda housie of cawds.”

Dehak shakes his rotten head.

“We’re in a moving vehicle, Many.”

“Oh, wite. Dat wud make it a bitsie twick-ee, yuh.”

“And Varney, you should keep in mind that boredom is the least of our problems. In our current precarious position, I’ll take being bored over being caught. Do not forget that I spent three hundred years trapped in my phylactery thanks to Auldryn, you shouldn’t whine to me about boredom! You don’t know what true boredom is until you’ve done that! But once we build up a power base on this side, we’ll get to the fun part.”

Varney sighs.

“I suppose you’re right, Dehak.”

“I am always right, Varney. So don’t worry. Once we have the key, everything will get so much simpler. And with luck, when we’re done in Detroit, we’ll be another step closer to completing the Octovirate once more. Honestly, I’m excited to see what a Seed of Darkness can do with that Robinson buffoon. With all the darkness buried deep in his heart… he could become a very powerful Darksyde.”

The Many giggles.

“As stwong as Dawk-Syde Konba wuz?”

“…Well, maybe not that strong. But stronger than he is now, at any rate. And hopefully, not as defiant as Darksyde Konba was. That orange moron barely lasted five minutes before the boy somehow purged him of darkness! Umbra and the Demon were right, it is frustrating how the boy keeps pulling new tricks out of his rear end!”

The Many shrugs.

“As wong as Wobin-sun can puww him own wait. We nu wud send him tu fite Kaw-keeyah, if we wuz yu.”

“Oh, I wasn’t planning to. I’ll be sending my beautiful creation after the boy instead, in due time. If something happens to Shadow Calvin… well, I’ve got a few more of the boy’s hairs and I can summon all the Seeds I want, I could replace Shadow Calvin if he falls in battle.”

“An dis time, yu nu wud be duin it fwom scwatch.”

“That’s right! Shadow Calvin is completely unprecedented, and I was making up a lot as I went along when I created him, but now that I know how to do it, I could do it faster next time.”

“Mebbeh yu shudda gwabbed sum of Mawwey fwuff tuu. Den yu cud make a Shadow Mawwey, wite?”

“Damn, that’s not a bad idea… but I didn’t really have the opportunity during that whole fiasco… well, we’ll probably run into those two again eventually, I’ll keep that one in the back pocket. As the Rider said, let’s focus on Robinson for now. First him and his shite-rodent, then the boy and his shite-rodent.”

Varney clears his throat, purely to get Dehak’s attention.

“Do you think it would take Robinson long enough to reach Detroit that we could just go get the key before he even arrives?”

Dehak strokes his stringy beard in a contemplative manner as he ponders the matter.

“A tricky question. It depends on how many times he stops to rest, eat, refuel, give playthings to feral shite-rodents, or gawk at tourist attractions. Robinson and his shite-rodent both have to eat and sleep, but we can drive all night long, this vehicle is fueled by our employer’s dark powers instead of that gasso-lean liquid that smells like dragon urine, and only you strictly require sustenance.”

Varney grins, like a schoolboy getting up to mischief.

“And they literally give it away for free to anyone who needs it, no questions asked.”

“Precisely. You can just grab a few cans from one of those wonderful vending machines and go before anyone gets a close look at you. But I think it’s best to stick to the plan as is. We get Robinson, we get the key, and then we get out of Detroit. Even if our enemies discover what’s happened, they’ll have no way of finding us.”

Dehak grins maliciously, as he is wont to do.

“And thanks to our employer… I know who has the key.”

Meanwhile, in the Detroit of another timeline, Anti-Calvin, masked as always, stands over the corpses of the native Jeff and Jaws in an alleyway.

Both of the corpses have A.S. tattoos on their arms, lying in a pool of their blood.

Even more blood is splattered on the wall behind the corpses.

That’s how hard he punched them.

This Jeff never crossed paths with Chaos, never played the game, never adopted Electra, never stopped abusing fluffies, and never cut ties with Jaws.

So don’t shed too many tears over his passing.

In this timeline, Jeff only became worse.

It’s likely that this Jeff and Jaws will be sharing a Not-Safe-At-All Room.

And it should go without saying that this Jeff’s not wearing a sweater, either.

Anti-Calvin looks dismissively at his blood-soaked fists, and then at the holes he put through Jeff and Jaws’ torsos.

“Man, these guys were losers, am I right?”

The mask speaks, and only its warped wearer hears it.

Recruiting a Jeff? Uh, first of all, my twin hasn’t recruited his Jeff. Not yet, at any rate. And second, again, he’s a loser. What could he offer us?”

The smarty of the street herd that Jeff and Jaws were in the middle of genociding when Anti-Calvin showed up cautiously waddles up to the herd’s unintentional savior.

“Um, mistah? Fank yu fow sabin da hewd fwom–”



Anti-Calvin casually punts the smarty into a brick wall, splattering that one with blood and gore too, and then he giggles, as he is wont to do.

“Oh, I didn’t save you shitbags. I just called dibs.

As the rest of the herd flees, Anti-Calvin strolls after them, easily catching up, and he finishes the job the native Jeff and Jaws started, continuing his conversation with his mask, barely even paying attention to what he’s doing.



“If we wanted just another abuser, we could recruit literally any abuser. Even the worst versions of Jeff are nothing special, compared to my crew.”



“But we could kill a version of him that’s still playing that dumb game with Chaos, take his sweater, and make Anti-Des wear it.”



“Ah, Chaos. If he wasn’t such a pussy, I might actually like the guy.”

It doesn’t take long until the rest of the herd is dead.

The psychotic masked Omega laughs as he prepares to snap his fingers.

“When I’m done with Chaos, he’ll be just another body on the pile. I don’t need any fancy gizmos to kill an anthropomorphic personification. I’ll kill that clown just to prove that I can.

He tries to snap his fingers, but his fingers are too slippery on account of all of the blood on his hands.

“Ah, damnit. Hold on.”

He walks back over to the corpses of Jeff and Jaws, wiping his hands on their clothes.

It’s not getting all of the blood off, but they’re clean enough for him to get out and go wash his hands properly.

Anti-Calvin doesn’t care if he leaves any DNA evidence behind. Most likely, the cops who examine the bodies will conclude that this timeline’s Calvin committed these crimes.

It won’t be the first time he’s framed one of his own counterparts.

“There we go. Much better.”



Anti-Calvin vanishes with a fingersnap.


when i tell you i CACKLED

im imagining his little hat jingles and covers his face to match the part too

oh poor Electra, poor Jeff, the game probably still leaves some marks on his mind, like talking to shampoo bottles for no sweater time, then seeing he dosnt even have it on and gets in the shower

ohhhh i love the jingleys

i love him he 100% is mine, mine mine mine

i love how much Chaos has grown to care for Jeff, ohhh i love this pair-

i wonder if they’ve ever had someone break and dead ass think they are a fluffy, begging to not be hurt, trying to do dancies to please the demons, and freaking out when their suit or ‘fluff’ is taken.

jeff’s little adored comments about his baby! ahhhh so so so cute!

i love chaos being like “oh yeah you were immune to mortal diseases temporarily, oopsies~”

a year ago he hated em all, and now he’s crushing on them x3

yeaaah but your just as likely to get boned by him as you are by any chicks he introduces you too

imagine getting grounded to the magic bathroom- x3

black text on black background is hell. though makes them seem really quiet in my head, like you can barley hear em

if he gets powers and then turns on them and gets the power of flight ima laugh my ass off

it do smell like dragon piss though. damn wish i could drive off dark powers, it’d save a lot of cash these days

this poor poor jeff, never got to become his best self…

DONT TALK BOUT HIM LIKE THAT! ohhhh thems are fighten words! oh ima smack em! lemme at em LEMME AT EM!!

ok thats funny as fuck


Well, their employer doesn’t even try to sound like something that would be tolerable to a human mind, that’s more what I was going for.

I think you’ve got some more catching up to do before you see their employer, but that will explain a lot.

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i probably do but i got to the dragon story and the ‘did cal do it? ohhh nuuu’ saga and lost my mind a bit
i just- hate ‘did they do it’ storys-

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Yeah, in hindsight, the Abuse Syndicate Saga isn’t one of my favorite Sagas, but it’s kind of an important one. And it introduces one of my favorite characters.

You were actually pretty close to the end of the “Cal being framed” plot thread, though.

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alright, i’ll hop back on it when i get the chance. recently ive been ill as hell, but sweater guy storys i kinda stop everything for to read.

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Well, I dunno if you’ve read the one before this one yet, but I’ll try to keep my tempo slow while you get caught up. As I’ve said before, there’s no rush, take it at your own pace.

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I cant really judge him, id be a bit jealous too

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Its called doing it in the bathroom with the shower running goofball

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