After showering and putting on my spare battle suit, I pocket the card CQK-9891 somehow sent me.
I’m showing it to CQK-1 later. The One Man Army has technology that rivals Lumix’s, maybe they can figure out which timeline CQK-9891 sent it from.
That would get all of us good Calvins a step closer to finding the bastard.
I’ve still got my nano suit. But I’m not sure if it’s allowed, so I’ll stick to regular battle suits for this.
After walking out of the bathroom, I see Miles has returned, with a generous amount of fried chicken.
“Thanks, Miles. Let’s go back to the quarters, you can fill me in while I fill my belly.”
The doctor chuckles.
“I would object to you consuming so much unhealthy food, but I know it’s not exactly unhealthy for you, Mr. Korkea. Good luck tomorrow.”
“Thanks. Okay, let’s vamoose.”
So, back at the living quarters, my group recaps Duwen’s fight with Luxi for me, and I scarf down several Boneless Buckets.
I only now realize that Luxi’s students were at the medbay too, so they probably saw me naked as well.
Eh. Not the most important thing right now.
When they’re done talking, and I’m done eating, I get up.
“Okay. Here’s the plan. I’ll be spending as much of the time I’ve got left training. Mar, Quin, Miles, I’d like you all to join me.”
“Wut am daddeh gunna be twain-in fow?”
“A little bit of everything, Mar.”
Miles gives me a concerned look.
“Cal, are you gonna be using Gemini Burst again?”
“Miles, I might need it tomorrow.”
Then Quin gives me the same look.
“Dad, maybe you should be focusing on Mindless Mind instead. That wouldn’t tax your body like Gemini Burst does, right?”
“I’ve been trying. But I’ve reached the conclusion that Mindless Mind comes in response to a need, not a desire. I don’t think I can force it. It’ll come when it comes. Until then, I need a way to withstand Duwen.”
It’s just like I said, Cal. You gotta go with the flow.
There has to be another way. Perhaps you could develop a different version of your power to turn into steel? So you can turn into a different metal instead, one even Duwen can’t harm? Miles and Quin can turn to silver. Maybe you could turn to multidimensional metal?
Fi, I think we’ve already pushed the readers’ tolerance for bullshit as far as it can go. Cal can’t pull a new power out of his ass EVERY time he needs one, you heard him, that’s MILES’ thing. But Cal could always SHOOT powers out of his ass. That’s still an option! It wouldn’t have to be just energy blasts or fire, think of all the OTHER powers Cal’s copied! Webs, icicles, lightning, the sky’s the limit!
I am not going to crap icicles, Niv.
What if we found an X-Positive who has the power to shoot ice CREAM? You could CRAP ICE CREAM, Cal!
Yeah, but would anyone eat it?
Yeah, they would.
Look, the point is, I gotta work with what I got. It’s Gemini Burst or the golden flames, and both of those take a toll on me.
I was bluffing when I told Iyatagg I could stack them together. I think if I actually did that, I’d spontaneously explode on the spot.
I’m not even gonna try that unless I run out of options.
“Dad? You’re zoning out again.”
Judy smiles at Quin.
“He’s just, ah, having an internal debate, Quin.”
“If daddeh zone owt wike dis in daddeh fite wif Duwen, it am gunna be a pwob-wem.”
I kneel down, stroking Marley.
“I’ve got it under control, Mar. Jude, you mind keeping an eye on the kids? Remember, I’ll be making it up to you after tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry, Cal. Right now, the priority is defeating Duwen. I know how high the stakes are. What kind of partner would I be if I demanded that you put saving the world aside to spend more time with me?”
“I really, really don’t deserve you.”
Meanwhile, at the first KFC on Lumix, Duwen and Scha sit together, eating quickly, as Tennebites always do when they are in the undesirable situation of having to eat non-Tennebite cuisine.
Some Tennebites in this situation will coat their tongues with a chemical that temporarily nullifies their sense of taste beforehand, although the long-term effects of that chemical are extremely unpleasant.
Some Tennebites have been using that chemical for so long that their tongues have eroded.
Well, at least those Tennebites don’t have to worry about tasting non-Tennebite food anymore.
In the stadium’s medbay, Iyatagg exits his healing vat.
After rinsing off the fluid, he conjures a new outfit, identical to his old one.
With the addition of a white turban.
He saw Amitsu’s turban, and thought he’d try it out himself.
He sees Luxi’s students, still dutifully waiting for their master to awaken.
“So Duwen beat him?”
The young Saingan and Lumixian nod.
“Then it’s all up to Calvin now.”
In a training room, my red and blue aura flares up.
“Su how hai am dis, daddeh?”
“Times two, Mar. And I’m not sure what the upper limit is yet.”
My aura fades.
“Honestly, I don’t want to find out. I think if I took it above times four, I’d be dead in minutes. And this is me I’m talking about. My endurance is legendary. You saw it, times four burned through all my stamina in a few minutes.”
Miles thinks about this.
“Then what we need to do, Cal, is work on your stamina. Even if you can only squeeze another minute out of it, that minute might make all the difference.”
“Miles, I don’t know if we’ve got enough time.”
Something seems to have occurred to Quin.
“Our training rooms back home have time dilation tech, right?”
“Yeah, one hour on the outside equals two hours on the inside. But that’s as much as we can stretch that hour without breaking time. Jack took a look at our time dilation tech, and even he couldn’t stretch it further. And he knows Lady Time in a way few people in this universe do.”
“Yeah, but Dad, these training rooms use Lumixian technology. So they might be able to stretch that hour further.”
“Let’s go find out.”
So we examine the training room’s control panel, next to the door.
We already turned the gravity up, Miles figured it out.
He nods, as he examines the panel.
“Look at that. We can squeeze up to four hours out of one. Knowing the Lumixians, that’s probably the absolute limit.”
Would have been real handy if we took a closer look at that panel sooner.
Fi, do you wanna say it, or can I say it?
Go ahead, Niv.
Thanks, doll. Ah-he-hem!
WELCOME… TO THE ROOM OF INFINITE BULLSHIIIIIIIIIIT!
Somewhere else in the universe, Konba and the hooded Ganglion member walk down a long, dark corridor.
“You made the right choice, Konba. Serve the Boss well, and he’ll be happy to help you achieve your desires. Your fight with Korkea, your revenge on his friends, the throne of Vajarsi, it will all be yours.”
“I like the sound of that.”
Several hours later, on the outside that is, we exit the training room.
It was a lot longer for us, so we’re all very hungry and in need of a shower.
We ran out of V For Victory bars in there. Fortunately, they’re sold on Lumix.
I think I saw a bulk store on the way to the stadium.
We head back to our quarters, shower, change, get some more protein bars, and go back in for another go.
Right now, every second counts.
Meanwhile, in the plaza outside the stadium, Eira chats with Zhala Jr. and Rhez, introducing them to Ronnie.
“So, I have to ask, Eira: who’s the father?”
“Cal. Yes, really.”
“I thought he was with Judy.”
“It am long story, and Cal no like talk about it.”
“Human babies look kind of ugly to me, Sire.”
Zhala Jr. smacks Rhez on the back of the head.
“What he say?”
“Something very rude, so I’m happy you don’t have one of those translators on right now, Eira.”
“How Zhala Jr. learn talk like human, anyway?”
“That’s also a long story.”
That… evening, after what was a good day or two of training for me, I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling once again.
“I think I’ve done all I can, Jude. Tomorrow, we see if it’s enough.”
Judy gets into bed next to me.
“I believe in you, Cal. The whole ChaotiX does, not just the ones here. Remember, you won’t be going into the ring alone. You’ve got Niv, and the Memories of all of us. And the real us will keep Fi company.”
That’s gonna take some getting used to, Judy knowing about us.
On the bright side, she doesn’t think Cal is crazy.
“Try to get some sleep, Cal. You need to be fresh tomorrow.”
“I’m gonna… make this up to… you…”
I drift off to sleep.
That night, so to speak, I have a bad dream.
The stadium is in ruins. My body is beaten and broken.
Duwen lifts me up by the throat.
“You failed. Your best wasn’t enough. And now, the wish is mine.”
Amitsu screams at me.
So does Iyatagg.
“YOU’VE DOOMED US ALL!!!”
And Scha laughs.
“Thanks, Korkea! You made it real easy for us!”
The Grand Judge nods, and reaches out with his arm.
He points his thumb down.
Oh shit, I know what that means–
Duwen snaps my neck.
Everything goes dark.
And then I wake up screaming.
The next morning, I’m feeling a bit shaken up.
Oh come on, I’m being silly. It was a dream. I’m pretty sure the Grand Judge won’t order my execution if I lose.
Of course, I’m also pretty sure that everyone dies if I lose, so he won’t need to order my execution.
Please, Duwen, please just wish for a boat or something.
Me and Judy are the first ones up. My screaming woke her. Good thing those walls are soundproofed, huh?
So we get started on breakfast together.
Marley waddles into the kitchen.
“Su, how did daddeh sweep? Cuz Mawwey swept wike a wockie.”
Me and Judy look at each other.
Then we both start laughing.
Later, when everyone’s up and ready, we head to our area, the tension thick enough to cut with a knife.
I make a detour to Duwen’s area first.
“Hello, Duwen. I think this is the first time we’ve actually spoken to each other.”
He just scoffs at me.
“Talk is cheap. I’ll see you in the ring.”
“What do you want, Duwen? Why are you here?”
“You’ll find out after I defeat you. Begone, krik. I’ll deal with you soon enough.”
The tone of Duwen’s statement indicates that the interview is over.
I turn to Scha.
“Have you got anything to say, Scha? Or are you just as taciturn as your brother?”
They’re both visibly surprised that I know Scha’s name and relation to Duwen.
Even though that hood obscures Scha’s face, I can tell he’s surprised.
But he tries to play it cool, and pretend he didn’t just tip his hand.
“Are you deaf, krik? Duwen said begone!”
“Fine, have it your way.”
I return to my area, making a mental note to ask Pierre what krik means. I remember how poorly Zardor reacted to it, it can’t be a nice word.
Just as Pierre’s done explaining, and I’m right, it’s not a nice word at all, Mr. Announcer speaks up, the stadium packed.
Lots of people from many different races have procured signs, T-shirts and big foam fingers with various slogans supporting me.
“Cal’s Our Pal” is catching on, and I swear I had nothing to do with it.
“Today’s the day, folks! Today, the finals of the Intergalactic Tournament begin! Calvin Korkea, representing Earth, versus Duwen, representing Tenneb! And you know, folks, that only one of them can be crowned Champion of the Universe, and claim the Cosmic Dragon’s blessing! Who! Will! It! Be? We shall soon see! Here goes, one last time: calling Calvin Korkea and Duwen to the ring!”
“Welp, this is it. It’s do or die.”
“Kik Duwen poopie pwace tu da moon an back.”
“Which one? Lumix has a few moons.”
“Duz it matt-uh, daddeh?”
“…No. No, it doesn’t.”
After everyone hugs me and wishes me luck, Judy plants a big wet one on my face.
“You’ve got this. Remember: all he has is hate.”
Oh boy, Duwen probably doesn’t know I’ve figured out the source of his power.
So there’s that.
“Thanks, Jude. See you guys soon. Hopefully, I won’t be naked the next time I see you.”
As Andre cackles his ass off, I enter the ring.
No turning back now.