As me and Nivlac are standing by the streetlight, we see a mass of glowing white goo covered in eyes, slithering towards us.
I wave at it.
“Sup? Right over here, asshole. You wanna kill me? Knock yourself out.”
The mass stops, and judging by the looks of annoyance on the Nerd Squad’s faces, it’s still out of the streetlight’s range.
“Very clever, Mr. Korkea. But not clever enough.”
“I’ve got all night to wait for you to do what we both know you want to do.”
“Yes, but do you have all DAY? All WEEK? All MONTH? Sooner or later, you will have to leave to nourish yourself, or to relieve yourself. Sooner or later, you will slip up, and your fate will be sealed. For I can outlast you, however long it takes.”
Nivlac rolls his eyes.
“Oh goody, another Mexican standoff. Look, whoever you really are, we all know how this is going to go, so why don’t you just get it over with already?”
We don’t know for sure who that thing really is, but we’ve got a working theory about how it got here, and did all of this.
And if we make it out of this, there’s a certain someone who has some ‘splainin’ to do.
Someone I met not that long ago.
“Perhaps I’m going about this the wrong way. I know how to resolve the matter.”
A tendril whips out, dragging Marley over to the mass by his tail, lifting him up.
A second tentril extends, aimed at Marley’s throat.
“Come over here, Mr. Korkea. Either I kill you, or I kill your pet. The choice is yours.”
I move to save Marley, but Nivlac places a hand on my chest, pushing me back, winking at me, mouthing the words “Stall it.”
He’s already got a plan figured out.
He still has the ability to figure things out before you do.
If you find a way to do this at will, Niv will lose one of his greatest weaknesses: only being able to know what YOU know.
True, but there’s probably a drawback to that too.
I don’t think that the universe likes something being too broken.
Alright, it’s stalling time.
Gonna be grasping at straws here, though. This won’t be my best work.
“Like you’re not just gonna kill Marley the moment I’m out of this thing’s range. You know something? You got lucky! You wouldn’t even be able to do this if the Gurus hadn’t made this thing!”
Then I briefly look up, seeing a plane up in the sky, getting closer.
We’re running out of time.
“You are wrong, Mr. Korkea. You are very wrong. I knew about the Gurus, and their Omega Siphon. And I gave things a nudge at exactly the right time.”
“THAT’S what this thing is–”
“Hold on, Niv. What do you mean you gave things a nudge? I’ve heard that before, I don’t like where this is going! How could you even do something like that if you needed Vincal to act here?”
“None of your business. Don’t forget, I still have your pet by the tail, so I am calling the shots here–”
A black tendril extends from Nivlac’s back, cutting the white tendril holding Marley prisoner before the mass can react.
You may think that there’s nothing faster than light.
But consider the following, dear readers:
Wherever the light goes…
The darkness is always there first, waiting for it.
Marley takes the opportunity to teleport back over to the Nerd Squad, summoning a force field bubble.
Marley’s are green. Mine are-- were-- are black. But if we’re using the white or gold flames, our force fields match the flames.
I smirk at the mass.
“Don’t try that again.”
“Or else what?”
“Or else me.”
“I’m not scared of you, Mr. Korkea.”
You should be, asshole.
“Then why don’t you come over here and kill me?”
Marley giggles, retracting his nano armor to stick his tongue out at the mass.
“Gu ahed, gib it a twy.”
“But that’s what you WANT. Maybe I should just go back and kill your friends. You want to stop me, you’re going to have to follow me.”
“We are NOT making any progress here.”
And that plane’s getting closer to the ground.
I look Nivlac in the eye, and he seems to know what I’m thinking.
There’s a way to end this standoff.
There’s something else I still have.
I’m still the Harbinger of Chaos. And Chaos chose me to be his Harbinger, not because of my power, but because I’m just as wily as him.
So I’m going to do the one thing a Harbinger of Chaos does.
Not the last thing they’d expect.
But the thing they never expect at all.
I bend down, grabbing a handful of dirt, or possibly sand with my left hand.
Then I stand up straight, take a deep breath, and start running towards the white mass.
It rears up to attack me, tendrils quivering with anticipation.
“Finally. Come to me, Mr. Korkea. Come and die.”
As I get close, the tendrils strike, slashing through my battle suit, tearing my flesh, shedding my blood.
I raise my right hand, gritting my teeth.
I punch the mass.
Then I smack it.
Then I poke two of the eyes as hard as I can.
Then I use my left hand to throw the dirt into more of the eyes, and the mass writhes and screams, the eyes blinking rapidly.
“Having all those eyes isn’t such a good idea anymore, is it?”
While it’s distracted, I reach out and grab a tendril, holding on with whatever strength I can muster.
“What are you doing now, you idi–”
I start swinging the tendril over my head like a lasso, the mass going along for the ride, much lighter than I expected it to be.
“I’M ENDING THIS, IS WHAT!!! NIV!!! INCOMING!!!”
“I’ve got it! Now, Cal!”
I let go, the mass flying towards Nivlac and the Omega Siphon, and Nivlac leaps to intercept it.
The mass slams into Nivlac’s chest, and he grabs on tight, grinning wildly as he falls to the ground.
“YES!!! See you on the other side, Cal–”
There’s a flash, and a sound that can’t be described.
When the light fades, Nivlac and the white mass are gone.
And the Omega Siphon is rattling as it rocks back and forth.
I walk up to the Omega Siphon, and after dismissing his force field, so does Marley.
“Am it oba, daddeh?”
“Not quite. But I think we’re in the home stretch.”
There’s two fireballs in the dome now.
A white one, bouncing back and forth, trying to break free but failing.
And a black and red one, bobbing in a manner that looks suspiciously like it’s laughing.
Now that I’ve got a chance to take a good look at this thing, I notice two buttons on it, just under the dome.
A red one and a blue one.
Wait, what do those do? Neither of them is the shrinking button, that’s lower down, on the pole.
Eh, Val’s right over there, I can just ask her.
“Now we just need to–”
The rest of my sentence is drowned out by the sound of a plane flying right over us.
Something humanoid, red and black, and winged bursts out of the plane.
“IT’S YA BOY!!! HAHAHAHA!!!”
Followed by someone on a motorbike.
And as the plane moves on, the motorbike falls right towards me and Marley.
Marley teleports me out of the way just in time, and the Hungry Rider lands, driving through where I was standing a second ago.
As the Rider turns around, the air fills with the stench of rotten eggs, and the Dark Demon lands, flying on bat-like wings.
“We just keep running into each other, don’t we? Hee hee heeeeeee.”
“Deedee. So you’re done playing human, are you? What happened to that soldier you were possessing?”
“I ATE him. The bones were nice and crunchy, but the muscle fibers were kinda tough and chewy. Hee hee.”
“Disgusting. I’ll be telling General Lucas about that. So why did you ditch the helmet? Did it not fit over those horns? Kinda fitting that you’ve got ram horns.”
Our four half-demons have the smaller horns. Like a cartoon devil’s. Yeah, not all demons have the same horns. And Slayer’s still got his unicorn horn in demon form.
The Dark Demon raises an eyebrow.
“I hate to say this, Caaaaal, but you’re gonna have to explain the joke.”
“Wow, you really are as stupid as Scotty was at his worst. Ram’s horns are a symbol of cuckoldry, you demonic dumbass.”
For the record, Bad Chris and James had ram horns too.
Make of that what you will.
“Hee hee! Not your best insult, Caaaaal. By the way, when I’m done with you, I’m gonna play What Can I Fit Up Her Ass with Gilda. I think her brats should WATCH.”
Valerie chuckles, pulling a flare gun out of her lab coat pocket.
“Have you forgotten that we’re here?”
She aims up and pulls the trigger.
And another flare whistles up into the sky.
“There’s a ChaotiX squad a mile away with several Omegas’ worth of power. They are most likely preparing to move out.”
“And by the time they’re here, we’ll be gone. Hee hee!”
I reach for the Sword of Kings.
“You’re not going anywhere–”
The Dark Demon takes flight, towards the Omega Siphon.
He pulls it out of the ground without stopping, and ascends.
“H.R.!!! I’VE GOT IT!!! LET’S GO!!!”
The Hungry Rider speeds past, following his BFF.
I take my nano armor holder out of my bag again, putting it back on.
It’s got flight tech too. Remember who made it, and remember whose daughter she is.
“Mar! We need to get that back now!”
Marley reforms his nano armor.
“Mebbeh Mawwey shud heaw daddeh fiwst.”
“…Alright, but do it quickly!”
After Marley uses his healing hooves on me, we take off to pursue the Dark Demon and the Hungry Rider.
Those names really are atrocious.
Belthasar flies the plane away, dangerously close to the ground, and Belthasar is only really trying to keep the plane from getting any closer to the ground.
He’s not very familiar with the controls. He’s a scientist, not a pilot.
Meanwhile, Gaspar and Melchior stand next to the holes their allies made, holding on tight to a couch. The couches are bolted to the floor.
This private jet isn’t so private anymore.
The Dark Demon flies up close to the plane, madly flapping his wings, the Omega Siphon in his hands.
Down below, the Hungry Rider catches up on his motorbike.
“I’ve got it, I’ve got it!”
Gaspar smiles, shouting to be heard over the rushing air.
“Excellent! Come on, get in here, we need to go!”
“Now hold on a second! You haven’t told us what you’re going to DO with this thing! Hee hee!”
“We don’t have time for this! Just get in here!”
“Not until you tell me what you’re gonna do with this thing! Haha!”
“You’re not going to let the matter drop, are you?”
“Not the matter, no, but I’ll let your doohickey drop if you don’t spill it! Hee hee! You’ve got until three, Gaspy! One… two… th–”
“I’m going to enhance my own powers with it! So I can–”
“Enhance your own powers? You can DO that with this thing?”
“It is a conduit, designed to extract, contain, and harness the theoretically limitless power of an Omega Class!”
“Really? So how does it work? You just tap THIS button here?”
Gaspar interrupts, the Dark Demon’s claw an inch away from the red button.
“No, not the red one! The red one releases the occupants! Now get in here before Korkea catches up!”
“So it’s the BLUE button I need to press, then?”
“Wow, you’re a bad liar. Hee hee! Y’know what, Gaspy? It’s been fun, but I think our partnership has just ENDED! I’ve got unfinished business! And we don’t need YOU guys anymore! Have a nice flight, and good luck with… whatever you’re doing! I wasn’t really paying attention! Thanks for telling me how to use this thing, you stupid old man! Hahahahahahahaha!”
The Dark Demon brakes in midair, and Belthasar swerves up to avoid a particularly large rock structure.
Unfortunately, a wing is clipped by the rock structure, and gravity clears its throat, smugly saying “Forgot about me, did you?”
Belthasar calls from the cockpit, the door swinging on its hinges.
“I can’t keep this thing in the air any longer! Gaspar, do it quickly!”
As the plane screams back down to the ground, and Belthasar starts screaming too, Gaspar takes a deep breath.
“BY THE EMP–”
A second before the plane crashes into the ground, time stops.
And Gaspar smiles smugly.
“Looks like Clockson hasn’t recuperated from your draining yet, Melchior.”
Naturally, Melchior is still wearing his chronal equaliser.
“I almost soiled my robe, you know. Cutting it a bit close, is what I’m saying.”
“Let’s move quickly. Damn it, Belthasar forgot to put his equaliser on.”
As Gaspar carefully clambers down to the cockpit, Melchior follows him.
“We’ve got time now, Gaspar. So to speak.”
Once he’s dropped through the open cockpit door, Gaspar rummages in an inside pocket of Belthasar’s robe, Belthasar frozen mid-scream.
“Yes, but Clockson is most likely unfrozen too. That doesn’t require him to actively use his powers. Speaking from experience, here. And if he recuperates fully while time is stopped, he’ll be able to interfere again. What happens if he unstops time while we’re still in the plane, Melchior?”
Gaspar pulls a device identical to the one on Melchior’s wrist out of Belthasar’s pocket, placing it on his wrist.
“Yes, oh. Welcome back, Belthasar.”
“–EROR, WE’RE ALL GOING TO wait what? Oh, right. I knew I had forgotten something.”
The Gurus start awkwardly climbing out of the cockpit.
The plane is almost vertical, so it’s a bit of an ordeal.
As me and Marley are flying after the Dark Denim, we see a large explosion, and a smoke cloud rising up on the other side of a large rock structure.
When we pass the structure, we find a crashed plane burning. We land, but we don’t see any signs of survivors.
There’s a suspicious lack of blood and gore. Not even any charred bits of flesh, or a few smouldering scraps of beard.
It’s too optimistic to assume that the crash incinerated the Gurus entirely, isn’t it?
Considering what power Gaspar has? Yes, I’d say so.
This is one of the biggest rules of superheroics, dear readers:
They’re not dead until you see the body.
And sometimes, not even then.
I should have remembered that when I had Mr. Coffeebreak at my mercy. I’m gonna make up for that later, if I get my way.
I kinda thought that he’d get involved with this.
But maybe he just doesn’t want to share the credit.
Eh, not complaining, I’ve got enough psychotic assholes to deal with right now.
The Dark Demon lands, lifting the Omega Siphon with both hands like a club, and the Hungry Rider drives up.
“Hee hee! Those old fogeys have fallen and they can’t get up! AHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!”
“I don’t think they’re dead, friend. It would be too easy. But now it’s just the two of us, and the two of you.”
“Yeah, and the entire ChaotiX, who I can call here in a flash.”
“Yu gut anee udda fwends tu hewp yu?”
The Rider laughs.
“As a matter of fact, we DO. My master, ah, arranged a playmate just for YOU, Marley. Feel honored. And say thank you to my master when you meet them.”
“A nyu pwaymate?”
In a burst of black smoke, someone else appears.
It looks like a fluffy.
An earthie. Probably a stallion, but I can’t be sure. Red fluff, black mane and tail…
And pure green eyes, glowing in a very unsettling way, the same way as a green diamond-shaped gemstone, embedded in its forehead.
“Otay, hu da fuk am dat?”
The mystery fluffy points a hoof at Marley, and speaks.
In many, many, many echoing, ethereal fluffy voices.
“We am manee. Yu am but wun.”
Me and Marley both stare blankly at the new fluffy.
“What… what is that?”
“Mawwey haf seen sum stwange shit befowe, but dis am weawwy fukkin stwange.”
The Rider gestures at the fluffy.
“This… is the Many. A gestalt entity comprised of the souls of shitrats. We’ve fed a LOT of shitrats to my master, you see. All of those souls are now enslaved to my master’s will. And when the Many kills YOUR shitrat, he too will be enslaved. Not even in death are shitrats safe from us. Their existence is an error on the macro scale. They must be EXPUNGED.”
The Many floats up into the air, their body glowing with a sinister green aura.
They slam into Marley, sending him flying, and the Many goes after him.
The Dark Demon grins.
“Now that your shitrat is busy… it’s time for you to die. Hee hee heeeeeee.”
He presses the blue button near the top of the Omega Siphon.
Damnit, I should have asked Val what it does–
White electricity flows out of the dome, down the Siphon…
Into the Dark Demon’s body.
His eyes start glowing pure white, and he smiles insanely.
“Oh, YEAH! This feels even better! Hee hee hee hee heeeeeee!”
The white fireball in the dome is bouncing around even more frantically, possibly writhing, and the black and red fireball is huddled near the bottom.
“What the fuck?!?”
Holding the Siphon with one hand, the Dark Demon gives me a malicious look.
“Game over, Caaaaal. I’ve got all of my demon power, all of my Omega power, and now, all of YOUR Omega power too! Hee hee!”
The Hungry Rider steps up, spinning a black chain with a big curved blade on the end.
“The Many is fighting your shitrat. You are powerless and all alone.”
“No mother… no father… no mentor… no friends… no family. Hee hee.”
“You’re wrong. The ChaotiX is on their way!”
“Can your ChaotiX reach you before we kill you, Korkea?”
Maybe if you idiots don’t stop talking.
“Since you went to all that effort to seal that white-haired you in this thing for us… we’re gonna give you something in return: a head start.”
The Rider chuckles.
“You’ve got five minutes. Start running.”
Right now, running is better than dying!
I promptly fly away, hoping that Marley is doing better.
Marley, wreathed in gold flames, his nano armor glowing gold too, plows through a boulder, telekinetically flung at him by the Many, looking down at the Omega fluffy from a plateau.
“Su yu can du da fwoaty fing tuu, huh?”
“We can du su much. Wun fwuffy am week. Manee fwuffies am stwong. Wun fwuffy am dummeh. Manee fwuffies am smawt.”
Marley teleports onto the plateau.
“Yu am jus a Wee-gun wip-awf.”
He swings a burning armor-clad hoof.
But the Many explodes into a cloud of green mist, and Marley’s hoof goes through it.
Two glowing green eyes in the mist fixate upon Marley.
“Yu abee-wah-tees pawe befowe us. Jus sub-mit, an join da Manee.”
The Many reforms from the mist, raising a hoof, and Marley floats up into the air.
“Wet Mawwey down!”
When the Many swings the hoof down, Marley slams into the plateau so hard it leaves cracks.
“Dat nu am wut Mawwey ment!”
Marley lunges at the Many.
But they turn to mist again, and Marley goes careening off the plateau.
He flies back up, feeling extremely angry.
“Yu am awn da topsie of Mawwey shit-wist wite nao. Mawwey wan yu tu knu dat. An yu am gunna die fow dat.”
The Many reforms again, pointing a hoof at Marley.
“Yu nu can kiww wut am awweady ded.”
But Marley is prepared this time, countering the Many’s telekinesis with his own.
“Weawwy? Wow, mebbeh sumwun shudda towd Kushim dat. Ow Umbwa. Yu knu dat namesie?”
The Many smiles mysteriously.
“Oh, we knu wots abowt Umbwa. Mowe den yu wee-ah-wize. An soon, we wiww knu aww abowt Mawwey. We wiww be Mawwey, an Mawwey wiww be us.”
“Weww… dewe am sumfin abowt Mawwey yu gutta knu nao.”
Marley teleports up close to the Many, and giggles.
“Mawwey haf bin twain-in wif Bombew.”
Seeing a golden mushroom cloud rise up in the distance, I fly for my life over the badlands, pushing my armor’s flight tech as far as it can go, but the Dark Demon and the Hungry Rider are hot on my tail.
“YOU LYING ASSHOLES SAID FIVE MINUTES!!!”
“Five minutes, five seconds… you know how bad Scotty was at math, right? No WONDER the board wanted to steal his company from him! He was running it into the ground! Like we’re gonna run YOU into the ground! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
“You can’t run forever. You need to rest. We don’t.”
The Demon points his free hand at me.
And fires an energy beam.
I try to dodge, but I’m too slow, and it grazes my side, shedding more of my blood.
“HAHA!!! GOTCHA, BITCH!!!”
As I’m trying to recover, the Rider swings his chain at me, like a whip.
“Get over here!”
I dodge, but again, I’m too slow, and as the blade slashes my other side, I fall to the ground.
I get back up, seeing stars, aching all over, clutching my sides, my armor splattered with my own blood.
“Knock me down… all you want… I will always get back up.”
The Demon lands, and the Rider pulls up.
“Not THIS time, Caaaaal. Hahahaha.”
“Aren’t you getting TIRED, Korkea? That armor can only keep you going for so long.”
“Yup, I can verify that. Underneath your shiny wrapper… you’re just HUMAN. Hee hee hee.”
The Demon points at me.
And blasts me back with a lightning bolt.
Before I can get back up, he plants a foot on my chest.
“It’s over, Caaaaal. You’ve lost. You’re gonna die like Scotty did. Say hi to him for me, will ya? And tell him that he’ll be seeing me again soon. When I lay waste to Heaven. It’ll be an EXTREMELY hostile takeover. Hahahaha.”
The Rider nods.
“We’ll use your power to deliver a feast like no other to my master. Not even the afterlife will be safe from their hunger. After all, there’s so many souls to eat on the Other Side. And you, Mr. Korkea, you and your ChaotiX will be the appetiser.”
They both point a hand at me, the Demon charging a burning energy blast, the Rider charging a blast of black fire.
Welp. Guess this is the end for me.
For all of us.
None of this would have happened if I had been a bit more careful.
I’m sorry, everyone.
Don’t blame yourself, Cal. There has to be a way out of this.
I got nothing. I’m out of tricks.
If I try to blip away, they’ll kill me before I reach the second syllable of “bodyslide”.
If I try to grab my sword, or reach into my bag, they’ll kill me.
If I try to do anything, they’ll kill me.
And they’re expecting the ChaotiX, so if they hear blipping or popping… they’ll kill me.
Can’t expect Marley to get me out of this, because he’s fighting the Many.
Can’t expect Niv to get me out of this, either. If that white flame can’t break out of a Stahlglas dome, Niv certainly can’t.
I never did ask Erwin how he makes that stuff so durable.
So how do I get out of this?
I don’t see a way out. Only several ways to lose.
Here’s what I can do, however:
I can not give them the satisfaction of hearing me scream, or beg for mercy, or curse them with my dying breath.
I can resist the urge to be petty, and not spend my last moments mocking their ridiculous names.
I can accept the fact that I lost.
I can try to go out with a bit of dignity.
And I can hope that my friends can take these guys out without me.
I mean, if they can just get him to drop that thing… if Valerie doesn’t already know, I’ll be very surprised.
Yeah. I lost.
But that doesn’t mean that these two assholes win.
This ain’t chess. Taking the king out doesn’t win the game.
I look up, seeing the beautiful stars for the last time.
Then I notice that one of those stars is…
No, that’s not it.
The “falling star” lands nearby, surprising my would-be killers when it turns out to be a person.
When the newcomer’s feet touch the ground, a pleasantly warm wind extinguishes the blasts meant to kill me, and I feel my pain diminish.
“What the-- YOU?!?”
“Goddamnit, we had Korkea on the ropes!”
Because I’m still on the ground, with a foot on my chest, I’m struggling to turn my head to get a good look, but I just about manage it.
It’s someone wearing white armor, radiating a light as pleasantly warm as the wind.
Someone with white feathery wings, and a halo.
Someone tall, with blue eyes and brown hair, both the same shade as mine, and a beard.
My jaw drops, my mind overwhelmed with shock, disbelief…
Scott smiles at me, now a goddamn nephilim.
“Hey, Cal. It’s good to see you again.”
At the last fucking minute, he scores a field goal!
We’re headed to overtime!
I look up at the Dark Demon, collapsing my helmet so he can see me laughing at him.
“Hahahaha! You guys are so screwed!”
Scott manifests a heavenly sword, glaring at the Demon so hard that the asshole actually steps back.
“Get away from my little brother, DEEDEE.”