I fly back down the tunnel, returning to the Strip, the tunnels filling with fire and lava-- or magma, I’m not sure what the difference is.
Lava is above ground.
Okay, now I definitely think he’s able to track us. That lava spout erupted right in front of us.
So what are we supposed to do?!? There’s no point running ANYWHERE in the city! He’ll know!
We’re TRAPPED in this city with him!
Just don’t panic, Niv. That’s what he wants. He wants us to panic and slip up.
Lord knows it’s taking everything I have to not freak the fuck out too. So I get what you’re going through.
Cal, I think it’s time we bail. He’s blatantly burning Vegas, and keeping him from doing that was the only reason we were bothering to stay here!
Yes, but as long as Vulcanus is burning this empty city, he’s not burning anything else.
Yeah, he’s burned enough.
Niv, get us out of these tunnels!
Not a lot of darkness down here right now, Cal!
Then fly up, Niv! You can use my intangibility, right?
So, turning invisible and intangible, I fly up out of the tunnels, back onto the surface.
There’s more lava flooding through what’s left of the streets, and the tunnels are collapsing as the bubbly hot brew courses through them.
Cal, level with me. Do you think we’re gonna be able to rebuild this place?
I’m not sure, Niv. The damage is way worse than anything our city tanked, even when Legion trashed the place.
We don’t have the Staff of Chaos anymore.
I think this might actually be the end of Las Vegas.
Hoo boy. Sinatra would be PISSED.
But it’s not the FIRST time a city was scorched off the map, eh? At least THIS time, fluffies weren’t involved.
And everybody got out beforehand this time.
Well, except that old lady, but she just needed a bit of prodding.
But they left everything behind. Their lives are ruined.
And that’s our fault.
No, Cal. That’s HIS fault. HE put us in this shitty situation with his ultimatum. HE chose to burn this city. Not us.
And his avatars have been wreaking havoc across the cosmos for eons. The drought on Arkay? His fault too. And how many other planets has he destroyed?
And yes, dear readers, I said AVATARS, as in plural.
I figured it out the moment I realized we’re dealing with an avatar, even if I didn’t know the words.
So I hope you guys figured it out too. But in case you haven’t…
That’s how he came back every time he was killed. Because he wasn’t really killed.
Plus, I hang out with a guy who pulled that trick a lot.
But you’re right, Niv.
We just have to hold out a bit longer, and then, hopefully we can end that son of a bitch once and for all.
How much time left?
According to the COMP, it’s been thirty-five minutes. I kinda lost track of time while I was flying for my life.
So we keep stalling for twenty-five more minutes.
Then the easy part’s over.
And the hard part starts.
But we’re running out of places to hide, and hiding doesn’t even work.
I know, Niv. But we need to run out the clock.
And the only way to do that is to keep the bastard away from us, one way or another.
So keep moving, Niv.
Actually, Cal… I think it’s time you took over. Look around. The city’s burning so much, there’s not a lot of shadows. I don’t know what else I can do.
After taking the wheel, I descend towards one of the few parts Vegas not yet ablaze.
Looks like a golf course.
As I land on the green and turn visible, Marley pops his head out of the bag.
“Daddeh? Yu am back?”
“Yeah, Mar, it’s me. So, uh, whaddya think of Niv?”
“Am nice. Nice-uw den Mawwey fowt dat daddeh dawk side wud be.”
“Well, you heard Soc. Light ain’t necessarily good, and dark ain’t necessarily evil. You need both. Yin and Yang, in balance.”
“Wike Bwuebewwy head tuffy?”
I quickly duck into a shed, seeing golf carts.
“What do you think Yin-Yang is named after, Mar? You’ve seen that pendant Tommy wears all the time.”
“Wif da bwak an wite fingies? An da dotsies?”
“Yeah. Tommy told me that it represents how light and darkness aren’t opposites, but rather, two halves of one whole. Remember what the Death of Humans said last year, after the World Revolution? Light and dark, life and death, creation and destruction, law and chaos… they’re all like that. One can’t function without the other. They need to be balanced.”
We peek outside, seeing the spreading flames.
This golf course won’t stay intact for long.
We’re probably gonna have to move soon.
Shoot, and I was just about to dig those imaginary golf clubs Fi got for me last Christmas out of the imaginary closet.
We don’t have the time for a round of imaginary golf, Niv.
Hey, I can play REAL golf now. Maybe just nine holes instead of eighteen?
“But du Vuw-cah-nus knu dat, daddeh?”
Marley rolls his eyes at me.
“Dat whowe fing abowt wite an dawkies an bawance an stuff. Du Vuw-cah-nus knu dat?”
“Huh. I don’t think he does, Mar. Okay, let’s think. What options do we have?”
“Nu a wot.”
“Yeah, those tunnels are probably all filled with lava by now. Well, magma, it is still technically underground. We can assume anything above the tunnels is on fire, collapsed, or both. I think there’s a few other places on the outskirts of the city that aren’t on fire, but getting there unnoticed isn’t gonna be easy. With all the fire, there’s not a lot of places to travel through darkness.”
“An we nu can jus fwy dewe?”
“We’d be right out in the open. And I don’t know if we can tank those flames, so going on foot isn’t an option either.”
“Yu knu wut we nee, daddeh?”
“We nee a diss-twak-shun.”
As Vulcanus marches towards the golf course, he spots something, flying towards him up above.
A man in black armor, on a hoverboard.
Scott comes to a stop, peering down at Vulcanus, waving at him to get his attention.
“Uh, hi? Vulcanus, right? I saw you on the news.”
Vulcanus looks up at Scott with confusion on his face. He’s not used to being addressed so nonchalantly.
But he recognises Scott, as Calvin’s brother, and as another of his Children.
Even though he’s a very recent addition to the family.
“Scott Korkea, I don’t know what you’re DOING here, but now is not the time. Go away before I MAKE you go away, or just blast you out of the sky. I’ll have time for you later.”
“Um, I can’t really do that. I think you’re trying to kill my brother, and… well, I’ve gotta make up for all the times I hurt him.”
“A touching sentiment.”
Vulcanus points a finger up at Scott, preparing to blow him to kingdom come.
“But I don’t care. Last warning: leave now or DIE.”
“Look, can I just ask you a question?”
Vulcanus sighs wearily.
“Fine. I permit you to ask me ONE question, then you leave this city one way or another.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean all of this.”
Scott gestures around the city.
“Why are you burning Las Vegas? Why are you trying to kill Cal? What’s Cal done to you?”
“I specifically said that you get ONE question, Scott.”
“It’s all the same question, Mr. Vulcanus.”
“MR. Vulcanus? That’s a new one. Alright, I’ll oblige you, because you’ve given me a good laugh. I suppose the answer to your question regarding the city is: FIRE DOESN’T NEED A REASON TO BURN, STUPID. As for your brother… he refuses to play his part in the grand design, and insists on playing asinine games with me. If he won’t be a good little pawn, he’s useless to me, just like the rest of your filthy monkey race. So unless you’re here to do my bidding, Scott Korkea, the interview is over, and it’s time for you to go. Go on. Shoo. Or I’ll bake you alive in that tin can you’re wearing. You DO know that metal conducts heat, yes? Or did you bribe your way through THAT class too?”
“How do you know about that–”
“BECAUSE I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOUR PUTRID RACE, FOOL!!! NOW LEAVE!!! YOUR MASTER, VULCANUS THE INCINERATOR, ORDERS YOU TO LEAVE THE CITY!!!”
Scott immediately turns tail and flees.
Almost as if something is forcing him to flee.
“Alright. Now back to the matter at hand.”
Vulcanus moves on.
“Not at the golf course anymore, Calvin? Where ARE you going now?”
As Scott keeps flying out of the city, his body not moving an inch on the hoverboard, he suddenly clenches his fist.
“Hee hee! I’m baaaaaaaaack~!”
He immediately turns around, heading back towards Vulcanus.
“See, Scotty? I told you it wasn’t over! Hee hee! Hahahaha!”
I leap over the flames, using any pieces of buildings not on fire yet as stepping stones.
Marley’s back in my bag, and judging by the complaints I hear coming out of it, he’s having a bumpy ride in there.
Most of the buildings have crumbled. The famous “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign has sunk halfway into a river of molten rock. The Strip is in ruins, I can’t even see the remains of the Vulcan Cannon anymore.
God, I don’t know how we’re gonna fix this.
Maybe if we had just stuck Scott in a padded room, we’d have had more time to prepare for this, and things wouldn’t have gotten this bad.
But this ain’t his fault.
It’s not even our fault.
It’s Vulcanus’ fault.
COMP says twenty minutes left.
So we’re two thirds of the way there! Just hang in there, Cal!
Have you got a plan for after we survive this, Cal?
I’ve got like… 12% of a plan, Fi.
But right now, just getting to the end of the hour is my priority.
Doesn’t matter if I’ve got a plan ready if I slip up and die now.
I still think you should just run. Just go get that other Vulcan Cannon, come back, and FRAG his ass.
Honestly, Niv, if we run out of options, I might just do that.
But here’s the thing: right now, Vulcanus is pretending that the bet actually matters, because we’re still pretending that the bet matters.
If I break the terms, he’ll probably respond in kind. Times a thousand.
We might come back to find nothing but one great big smoking crater where Nevada used to be.
Yes, Vegas is in flames, but right now, the flames are contained to Vegas, and we’re the only living things in the city.
He must have crazy control over his flames to keep them from leaving the city.
Probably. He usually doesn’t have any reason to exert that kind of control, I’m guessing.
I think he’s got shit we’ve never seen.
I think we haven’t even gotten close to seeing everything he can do. Keep in mind, this is the same asshole who destroyed multiple planets, burned another planet to a blackened crisp, and inflicted a planet-wide drought on Arkay.
If the power of an Omega Class is theoretically limitless…
What’s his limit?
It’s horrifying, isn’t it? Realising how low on the food chain we really are? I’m not just talking about Omega Classes, I mean humanity in general! Remember when it was just ordinary humans and fluffies, Cal? Wasn’t that nice and relaxing?
It was never just humans and fluffies, Niv. Everyone else was just good at hiding.
Maybe we should have asked some of our nonhuman team members for pointers. Hey, that reminds me, Cal.
If we make it out of this… hoo boy, this is a bit awkward… can I… um… can I join the ChaotiX?
Technically, you are already a member.
Technically isn’t good enough this time. I wanna make it OFFICIAL, Cal. With one of those laminated ID cards and everything.
Well, I can’t really say no, can I?
But we’re probably gonna have to let everyone know about you first. Y’know, make sure nobody freaks out.
I mean, the ChaotiX knows about you, but the rest don’t.
Oh God, I can see the tabloid headlines now. “CHAOTIX LEADER HEARS VOICES: THE SHOCKING TALE OF CALVIN KORKEA’S SPLIT PERSONALITY”, something like that.
Whenever there’s a really funny article about us in a tabloid, we have it framed. Got them all on a wall in the rec room.
The one about Victor being a secret werewolf is his favorite. He laughed his ass off at the shitty Photoshop job.
For the record, he’s not a werewolf.
But the one about Judy having a secret affair with Victor pissed both of them off, and I had to talk Judy out of turning everyone running that tabloid into various small, slimy creatures.
Then I had to talk Victor out of masking up and going… well, going Victor on the tabloid.
Victor may be a cad, he may have slept with plenty of married women (and men), but he won’t cuck his friends.
According to the parts of the ChaotiX that are single, he’s the best wingman you could ask for.
Obviously, he never got a chance to be my wingman.
And he’s lamented that on more than one occasion.
Usually when Judy isn’t in earshot.
This is fascinating and all, but, uh… where exactly are we going?
At this point, Niv, we’re going wherever there’s something to stand on.
The time for stealth has passed. Remember the terms of the bet:
We just have to be alive at the end of the hour. We didn’t say anything about remaining unfound.
But if he finds us, he’ll try to KILL us.
Keyword here being try.
Plus, we can fly, so if he sees us, we can just take to the air.
I’m starting to run out of stepping stones, here.
Just as I land on the roof of a mostly-intact hotel, slowly sinking into the fire below, I hear someone.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spot something glowing red coming at me.
I backflip into the air on pure instinct, seeing a red energy blast whizzing through where I was a second ago.
And as I land, I see who fired it descend.
“Hee hee hee! Hello again, Caaaaal…”