I open my eyes, gasping for breath.
I quickly realize that I’m lying on my back in Faucheuse Plaza. Everything hurts, but I’m just glad that there’s an everything to hurt. I thought I’d be waking up in little pieces.
Well, it does always happen here.
The spaceships are all gone.
I know what happened to the Couronne, but I don’t know where the rest went.
If they all exploded, there’d be a lot of wreckage.
I get up.
The alien corpses are being disposed of.
There’s a lot of them.
It’ll take a while.
My tribe is here, and Tommy is helping the wizards and witches heal the injured.
Thankfully, this time, there weren’t any losses.
Unless you’re counting me.
That’s what happens when you send your entire army to kill one person.
And when that person has an army of his own.
And when that person decides to stop playing by your rules.
Deston is the first to notice I’m standing.
He doesn’t even seem to be surprised that I’m not, y’know, dead.
Deston orders everyone to stay back and immediately teleports over to me, looking me in the eye.
“Where were you when you first met my brother, and what were you doing? Answer me, Cal.”
“I was at Flufftopia, buying some, er…”
“Just say it.”
“I was buying Special Huggie Friends for Marley and Piccolo! It’s me, Des! Go ask tall, dark and bony if you don’t believe me!”
We’ve gotten two more of those things for Dende and Wario. Ziggy doesn’t need one, because he gets plenty of action at his day job.
Deston pats me on the shoulder.
“Welcome back again, Cal.”
Pierre walks over. He looks like he’s been crying. I think I know why.
“Doc. I’m… I’m so sor–”
“It wasn’t your fault, Cal.”
At this point, that’s all we need to say about that.
“So… where are all the spaceships?”
Then I hear a vaguely familiar voice.
“They’re all still up there, except the throneship. The Couronne was obliterated, only a few chunks of scrap were left. There’s nothing left of Umbra Two. You were the biggest thing that survived, Cal, you’re one tough motherfucker. We cloaked the rest of the ships, so you guys can still enjoy the sun until we can move them. They’re evidence now, you see.”
Someone I don’t know walks over. He looks, well, completely average in every way. Too average. Wait a minute, I know who he is!
“Shush. I’m undercover. Deston?”
“Thank you. Cal, my name’s Gene Osborne. Or rather, that’s my codename. You can’t pronounce my real name, but I’m–”
“A space cop. Yeah, I figured it out when you told Bertrand he was under arrest. Plus the uniforms. And Pierre told me in private that there had been aliens undercover on Earth for a while.”
“Fucking Pierre. But yes. For the last ten years, I’ve been undercover, just studying your planet, and your culture. Many members of the Intergalactic Patrol have been doing so.”
“But why? Are you guys planning to invade too?”
“Cal, we’re policemen, not soldiers. We wanted to make sure that you’d behave if you were let in.”
“Let into what?”
“The intergalactic community. Humans have never been alone in the universe, you know. My race was colonizing our moons when your race had just figured out how to make fire. I’m the one who helped Pierre blip onto the ship. Bertrand never had the balls to steal tech from my planet. I couldn’t do so if I didn’t know where exactly the ship was, but then the idiot uncloaked it where everyone could see it.”
Pierre manages a smile.
“Yes, that was always Bertie’s problem. Well, one of them. He always wanted everyone to know that he had won. You saw it, Cal. Like Umbra, he just couldn’t resist your goading.”
“Did you know that he–”
“Yes. I knew. That he killed Isabella, my second wife. I had told you that, Cal. But what I didn’t tell you was that I also knew he arranged the car accident that killed Morte, my nephew, and Kelly, his wife. I knew he killed all three of them. I am fucking Pierre, after all.”
“And that’s why he left.”
Pierre nods solemnly.
“I told him if he didn’t turn himself in to the police, that I would bring him in, by force if necessary. So he ran. Cowardice has always been another of his problems. He ran all the way into space, with a blipper that, now that I’ve had the chance to look at it, was shoddily made, and I can honestly say that I have no idea why it didn’t instantly kill him.”
“Maybe it was the power of madness keeping him alive.”
“Maybe, Cal. I’ve never really understood Bertie’s mind. I knew there was something wrong with him, and, fool that I am, I thought love would save him. But then he started committing familicide, and I realized he was too far gone. I can relate to Leslie and Helen. I know how they felt when James…”
“That reminds me: I know who Number Two was.”
“Klaus Oldman. I ran a DNA test after we recovered his body from the roof. I never told Leslie. But I will soon.”
Pierre smiles again.
“Damn right. It was after that, that Bertie stole his and Umbra’s corpses from my lab.”
“And made a monster out of them.”
Gene cuts in.
“Yes, the tech he used to do that is highly illegal in most galaxies. It’s evil tech. Tech that steals souls right out of the afterlife. That rips the righteous out of Paradise, and the wicked out of the inferno they belong in.”
Deston looks horrified, but also impressed.
“Even magic can’t manage that. Magic can’t bring back the dead.”
“They weren’t really alive, though. Des, you know that zombies are basically brainless empty shells, and that means you can stick a soul in them to get them thinking again. And you also know that no wizard with a fraction of common sense and decency would do such a thing to someone’s soul. It’s exactly like that. That’s precisely why the tech is illegal.”
I’m confused, though.
“But didn’t Number Two die on the roof a year ago? I saw him, when I was, y’know, and that only just happened.”
Deston answers that.
“Time works differently on the Other Side, Cal.”
Gene cuts in again, shaking his head.
“That’s not it, Deston. Bertrand had been watching the Invasion last year. After you jumped off the roof, Cal, and after Victor had blipped down, Bertrand blipped onto the roof and used the same tech to capture Klaus’s soul. Nobody was paying attention to the roof after you jumped off it. He was in and out before anyone could notice.”
“And he didn’t just do the same thing to Umbra?”
Pierre answers that.
“No, because my son wasn’t completely stupid, Cal. Nobody paid Number Two much attention, but everyone on the Other Side would have noticed if Umbra had failed to make an appearance Down There. So Bertie waited until there were other events distracting everyone before he extracted Umbra’s soul from Hell. By the time everyone knew he was gone, it was too late.”
“Chris and James breaking out. The Forces of Nature.”
“Exactement. Once everyone in Hell was busy lining up to torture the Oldmans, Bertie made his move. Of course, when they noticed Umbra’s absence, they informed the Deaths immediately, who told Deston, who told me.”
“And the Death of Fluffies couldn’t just go get him back?”
“Not unless Umbra died again. That’s part of the Rules the Deaths obey.”
“But they were tearing through the aliens today. Wasn’t that breaking the Rules?”
THEY WERE ALL FATED TO DIE TODAY ANYWAY. YET ANOTHER OF BERTRAND’S MISTAKES WAS IMPLANTING THEM ALL WITH A DEAD MAN’S SWITCH. YOU HEARD UMBRA, CAL. WHEN BERTRAND DIED, HIS FORCES DIED WITH HIM.
I turn around.
“Don’t tell me you’re back to pick me up after all? What, are these guys going to talk me to death?”
Everyone in earshot laughs at that.
When we’re done laughing, the Death of Humans clarifies the matter for us.
NO, CAL. YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME. BUT I AM HERE ON AZRAEL’S BEHALF TO DELIVER A MESSAGE. MY APOLOGIES IF NOBODY UNDERSTANDS IT.
“Well, if Big A wants us to hear it, it’s gotta be important, right? Go ahead, dude.”
The Death of Humans clears his nonexistent throat for dramatic effect, and then drops the bomb on us.
THE LAST PROPHECY HAS BEEN FULFILLED. THE DAY OF FATE HAS ENDED. THE DAY OF CHAOS WILL SOON COMMENCE.