As I step up with Nivlac and Marley, I see the bits of Victor and Scarface, and turn to Konba.
“Gather them up, get them out of here.”
The white-haired demon hunter raises an eyebrow.
“…Aren’t they dead?”
I smirk at him, before reforming my nano suit’s helmet.
“You’d be surprised to see what they can live through.”
Which is pretty much anything.
Well, an Omega Class can kill them, but we don’t think the Dark Demon knows that.
As Konba retrieves our two immortals, I turn to the Dark Demon.
“I don’t need my powers to kick your ass, you know. This nano suit isn’t a bad substitute, and…”
I draw the Sword of Kings.
“I’ve got this.”
He spreads his wings.
“Believe me, Caaaaal. I would LOVE to tear you out of your shiny wrapper and kill you now, but I kinda promised my buddy that we’d kill you together. Hee hee. I’m a man of my word. You know how it is, right?”
“Bullshit. You’re just running away because you’re scared of us. Of me.”
He takes off.
“WE’LL MEET AGAIN, CAAAAAL!!! HAHAHAHA!!!”
“Nu su fasties, asshowe–”
“Let him run, Mar. We’ll deal with him later.”
I turn to the demon hunter, sheathing my sword.
“You’re still getting paid, even if you don’t finish him off.”
He pumps a fist, and I fiddle with my nano suit’s COMP.
Jack’s face appears on the screen.
“Jack. Did you get it?”
“Yup. I’m in Val’s lab right now, we’re calling the rest of the Nerd Squad in. Most of them were asleep. If you guys can stall Vincal for a bit longer, we can probably fix this thing, and find a way to fix you three.”
“Vincal is trying to kill me. He doesn’t want to be fixed.”
“Look… just… Val says that you and Niv will probably have to get up close to him to be reintegrated. So you have to go after him again.”
“Alright, let me just take care of things here. It’s kinda corpsey. The Cabal’s got a big mess to deal with here.”
“That reminds me, I know what Belthasar and Melchior’s powers are: Belthasar can drive people insane, and Melchior can drain life force.”
Konba shudders, gathering all the bits of Victor and Scarface in a sack.
“Am I glad we didn’t go after them. Now we know what they can do and we can plan around it.”
“We am gunna nee a gud mawks-mun, su huwwy, Konba.”
“The School’s Igor can probably patch them up. They’ve both been blown to bits before.”
“Take them to the School, Kon.”
Henry lands, carrying Carmilla.
“We saw. They got away.”
“I can guess where they’re going, Henry.”
“Whewe we am guin.”
“It’s all gonna come together there, I think. Carmilla, you gonna be good?”
Henry puts Carmilla down.
“Dewe bettah be a big boww of NuBwud at da end of dis, Caw.”
Konba uneasily picks Scarface’s head up, and it groans.
“Make dat a boww of teh-kee-yuh fow Scawface.”
The demon hunter jumps.
“Damn, he’s a resilient little guy. I thought fluffies were supposed to be comically fragile.”
Marley cracks a grin at him.
“Yu nu haf seen Mawwey in ack-shun.”
Back in Nevada, Kirk does battle with Vincal, unleashing the full power his father bestowed unto him, the rest of the squad backing him up.
Vincal dodges yet another blow.
“It doesn’t matter how strong you are. You are shackled by your flesh.”
His skin has gotten even paler, almost indistinguishable from his white hair, his white battle suit, and his white eyes, and his features are even more inhuman.
“And it doesn’t matter how strong you are. You’re falling apart, can’t you see? Without Cal giving you shape… what will you become?”
“Pure, unadulterated POWER WITHOUT LIMIT.”
Blueberry stomps up, his Blaukörper still golden.
“An den wut? Wut am yu gunna du wif dat powah?”
“Use it. Fight.”
“An den wut? Wut du yu du wen yu wun owt of pee-puw tu fite?”
Alpha steps up too, laughing merrily.
“Yeah, this is a blast from the past. I was programmed to kill, y’know. And if Cal hadn’t talked me out of the mission, well… I’d probably just be standing alone in a vacant cosmos, trying to figure out what to do when there’s nothing LEFT to do. Stuck with an urge to kill I can’t satisfy anymore. That’s what YOUR future looks like, if you don’t stand down.”
“I must fight.”
“Christ, I don’t know why we’re still trying to reason with you. Especially since it’s EXTREMELY apparent that you haven’t got any of Cal’s humanity.”
“You won’t keep me away from him forever. He must die so I can be free. If all of you must die too, so be it.”
“Listen to me, Vincal. Killing Cal won’t guarantee your freedom. The Gurus who unleashed you, they did that for a reason. They want to use your power for their own ends. They won’t let you be free either. So the freedom you want is impossible. To be honest, you’ve only got two prisons to choose between.”
“How can they use me if they can’t touch me?”
“They didn’t need to touch Cal to suck you out of him, did they? And that’s not all. The Gurus want to unmake this world, and everyone in it. If they win, none of us will be born. Including Cal. And if Cal is never born… what happens to you?”
“What is the point of this?”
Blueberry rolls his eyes.
“Dat yu best op-shun am suh-wen-duh-in tu us, cuz dat way, yu wiww stiww ecks-ist.”
“Big Blue is right. If the Gurus get their hands on you, if they rewrite history, you won’t be. You won’t get to fight EVER. But if you stand down, if you go back to being part of Cal, you’ll still get to fight SOMETIMES.”
“I just got word from Madam Valerie. They’re on their way. And they could probably build something to contain you on the way here. Assuming they haven’t already done that.”
“But there is a third option.”
Chris groans .
“Aw crap, here it comes…”
“Eliminate you AND these Gurus you speak of. Eliminate EVERYONE who could contain me. The Gurus are coming? LET them come. First you. Then them.”
Blueberry grits his teeth.
“Git weddy fow da next wound, bois an guwws.”
Kirk smiles proudly.
“It is only until Dr. Valentine and her squad find a solution, yes?”
“Quin’s gotta copy Spacecake’s teleportation too. What’d I miss?”
“Nothing worth mentioning.”
Miles and miles up in the sky, the Hungry Rider flies the stolen plane towards Nevada.
The dark powers he’s traded souls for are giving the plane a speed boost.
Meanwhile, as Belthasar bandages Melchior’s foot, Gaspar, a couple of bits of webbing still stuck to his face, debriefs the Dark Demon.
Getting him inside the plane was a trick.
“So you’ve lost Project McFly.”
“Hee hee! I didn’t really need it. Come to think of it…”
The Dark Demon takes his helmet off.
“I don’t think I need this asshole’s body anymore, either. What the point of hiding my demonic nature now?”
“Well, that’s your call to make. Belthasar, are you almost done? We need to make another Omega Siphon before we land.”
“I’m almost done, but I’m not sure we have the time.”
“That joke wasn’t funny the first time, Gaspar. Besides, we don’t need another Omega Siphon.”
Gaspar pulls a piece of webbing off his face.
“But Clockson stole the first one.”
“And even if we still had it, it’s broken. So let the ChaotiX repair it for us. We haven’t lost yet, Gaspar. We only lose if Korkea successfully puts himself back together. If we strike at the right time…”
Gaspar smiles wickedly.
“Belthasar, I like the way you think.”
I appear in the Nevada badlands with Marley, Nivlac, Henry, Carmilla and our hunter pal.
Konba’s back at the School, helping our Igor sort the pieces of Victor and Scarface apart. He brought the hoverboard with him too.
Not far in the distance, we see flashing lights of many colors, as the battle against Vincal keeps raging on.
The hunter smiles.
“Gotta say, those blipper things are pretty cool.”
“Daddeh can now-mah-wee tewuh-powt wif-owt wun.”
“Cal, maybe you should keep your distance until Val comes through. Remember, Vincal wants YOU dead. If you die before we can fix this shit–”
“I’m not going to sit on the sidelines. This is my fault too. I was so busy chasing Deedee and his bony pal, I forgot about that streetlight thing. I walked right into the trap.”
“Nu bwame yusewf, daddeh. Cuz if yu stawt–”
“I’m never gonna stop. But I still have a responsibility. I helped make this mess, I’ve gotta help clean it up. So let’s get moving.”
Vincal’s fist collides with Kirk’s, creating a massive shockwave that blows the others away.
“This is more like it. You are starting to put up an actual fight.”
“I thought you just wanted to shut up and fight, Herr Vincal? Yet you keep taunting us! Curious!”
“You are the ones who insist on wasting time on pointless prattle.”
Mileton flies up, kicking Vincal in the neck.
It doesn’t harm him.
“Damn, neck game strong as fuck. Have you been hitting neck press–”
Vincal grabs Mileton’s leg, and throws him over the horizon again.
Blueberry hits a certain button on his control panel.
The rest of the squad promptly moves out of the way, and Vincal turns to the Blaukörper.
And sees a laser cannon with a lot of barrels pointed at him.
“Bwuebewwy jus sed it! Wissen, dummeh!”
Blueberry pushes the button again.
In Valerie’s lab, the Nerd Squad works on repairing and studying the Omega Siphon recovered by Jack.
Sans Erwin, Miles and Prometheus, obviously, since they’re part of the squad sent after Vincal.
“We need to make this thing easier to carry, Val. And we’ll need to make the dome more durable.”
“I know, Jack. But I’m not sure if we can bait Vincal into getting close enough to it.”
“Vincal want kill Cal. We have bait.”
Alfred uses a cloth to wipe the sweat off Valerie’s forehead.
“Thank you, my dear. Dew, we’ll have to run that idea by Cal first.”
Alex stifles a yawn.
“We’re gonna need some coffee, too.”
Amy walks out of the room.
“We’ve got some of Vic’s coffee…”
We appear at the battlefield, seeing the rest of the squad, and a gigantic smoke cloud.
And Vincal marching out of the cloud, looking less human than ever. His nose is gone now. Not ripped off, it’s like how Krillin doesn’t have a nose.
“Finally, he’s keeping his mouth shut–”
Vincal suddenly lunges at me, and we scatter, just barely leaping out of the way in time.
Our hunter pal draws his black and white guns.
But Vincal doesn’t even notice the bullets.
So our hunter switches to his sword. It’s a big one with an unusual guard: looking like a human skull on one side, and a demon skull on the other.
Unfortunately, when he swings it, Vincal catches it with one hand, and pulls it out of the hunter’s grip.
Then the hunter is impaled with his own sword.
“I’m fine! Not the first time I’ve had a sword jammed through my torso!”
Vincal starts marching towards me again, but our golden robots stand between me and him.
He just backhands them away and continues his march.
Our four Omega Buster wearers try to do the same.
But they get backhanded away too.
Judy summons glowing chains, attempting to bind Vincal.
He just breaks through them.
Blueberry’s Blaukörper appears between me and Vincal, back to blue, spreading its arms.
Vincal just punches it, yanks an important-looking part out, tosses the part aside, and the Blaukörper shuts down.
Blueberry and the inert Blaukörper vanish.
Vincal finally approaches me, and Marley runs to my side.
“Stay away fwom–”
Vincal kicks him away.
“I’ll go get him, Cal!”
As Judy flies off after Marley, Henry and Carmilla fly in, both of them making eye contact with Vincal.
And they’re backhanded away too.
As Vincal closes in, raising a fist, his light casting unsettling shadows, Nivlac rises up out of my shadow, behind me, extending ten tendrils.
Two of them grab me.
And Nivlac pulls me into the darkness.
We exit the darkness in…
Well, it’s kind of cramped in here. What’s that poking me? Oh, it’s just a mop. Or maybe a broom.
We’re in a broom closet, I think.
“Sorry. I forgot that you can’t see in the dark.”
“Note to self: if we make it out of this, do something about that.”
Niv opens the door, and we see that we’re in Valerie’s lab, and most of the Nerd Squad is here, mugs of coffee in hand.
And we see the streetlight device on the table.
It’s been repaired, and it looks like it’s been reinforced with adamantium. The dome has been replaced. There’s a new button, and I don’t know what it does.
Jack taps the dome.
“Stahlglas. Erwin’s plexiglass. The domes of the Stahlkörpers are made of that, remember? The Gurus used conventional glass, stupidly enough.”
“So it works, Jack?”
“In theory. We won’t know until we try.”
Valerie turns to me.
“The fight is still ongoing, I presume?”
“I think so.”
“I got Cal out of there before he got pasted.”
Valerie pushes the button, and the streetlight shrinks, to the size of a sorry stick. So that’s what the button does.
“Then we just need a little more time to set this up, Cal. You may have to play bait.”
“I know. But can’t you guys just set it up in stopped time?”
Jack shakes his head, and I notice how tired he looks.
“After Melchior drained me, I’m gonna need to go lie down before I do any -yawn- time stuff again.”
“Are you gonna be alright, Jack?”
“He’ll need some rest, and probably a solid meal or two, but I think he should sit the rest of this out.”
Jack shakes his head again.
“No. Not while Gaspar’s still out there. I’ll get some rest while you guys set this up, and… hopefully I’ll see you all later.”
“Honestly, Jack, I just hope that there IS a later.”
Well, I’ve still got some tricks up my sleeve.
Like the Sword of Kings.
And my photonic blade.
I fear that the Sword of Kings may not be very effective against Vincal. It is a blade of evil’s bane, but… Vincal isn’t evil, per se.
He’s just pure power and fighting instinct. But… but he doesn’t have Cal’s SKILL.
Yup. He’s just a big stupid hammer.
There has to be a way to use that.
“Niv, we’ll figure something out.”
Valerie smiles mysteriously.
“I’ve got something that might even the odds. Niv, this is for you.”
Valerie opens a drawer, and pulls out…
A nano armor holder, glowing in rainbow colors, and a photonic blade, currently turned off.
I see a big shit-eating grin appear on Nivlac’s face.
“…Yes. Those will help. Cal, don’t you worry…”
Nivlac puts the holder on, and it forms into a black and red nano armor.
“…I’ve GOT this one.”
Meanwhile, the Hungry Rider keeps flying, having turned the radio on out of boredom.
“'Cause I’m as free as a bird now, and this bird you’ll never change!”
The Dark Demon strolls into the cockpit, having shed his former vessel, wearing the bottom half of Magnus Frater, idly eating a bag of peanuts.
“So what’s the deal with airline food? Hee hee hee!”
“Come on, airline food jokes are SO old. Wait, hold on. I thought that demons couldn’t eat ordinary food without possessing someone.”
“The elites have a trick. Their Boss loves his fine wine and filet mignon. Hey, he IS a man of wealth and taste. Hee hee! And he has it well done, of course. You can’t really have meat any other way Down There. It’s too warm. That’s UNBEARABLE for the food critics who go Down There. Saves the demons the effort of torturing them! Hahahaha!”
“So how did YOU learn that trick?”
“My buddies who empowered me taught me. They USED to be elites, y’know. In exchange, I promised that I would use it to eat at least ONE of Caaaaal’s eyes. Hee hee, I bet they’re really juicy. So save those for me, alright?”
“Alright. Don’t fill up on peanuts, then. We’re almost there, you don’t want to spoil your appetite.”
“I won’t, MOM. Hee hee. I gotta say, this has been one HELL of a ride together. Pun DEFINITELY intended! Hee heeeeeee!”
“I could do without the puns, but I agree. And this is just the beginning. Without Korkea, there won’t be anyone standing in our way. Together, we’ll deliver unto my master a feast like no other.”
“Weeeellllllllll, YOU’LL be doing the delivering. I’ll just be your little helper. Hee.”
The Dark Demon closes the cockpit door.
“But we’re gonna need to ditch the old farts sooner or later. I think they want to capture that white-haired Caaaaal. Use his power for their own ends.”
“Which is unacceptable. My master desires Korkea’s soul AND his power. …The Gurus can have the other one.”
“What, Niiiiiv? I was hoping he’d join me. We’re technically brothers, after all. But he’s loyal to Caaaaal. Licking the boot that stomps on his face. Makes me want to PUKE! Hee hee heeeeeee!”
“Wait, can demons do THAT?”
“Yup. And if I actually puked, it would probably burn through the floor. Ain’t no barf bag gonna stop that! Hahahaha!”
“If you’ve gotta puke, try to hold it in until we land.”
“We can both survive that fall, and we both KNOW it. You don’t think they’re gonna try to shoot us out of the sky, are you? Shit, we shoulda taken some hostages! Hee hee!”
“I’d wager that Korkea is telling the military to hold their fire. I understand that he has friends in the military.”
“He does. You know that asshole soldier whose soul I ate? He’s got memories of a general who WASN’T in that base when we were tearing it apart. General Lucas, he’s called. Soldier Boy was there when everyone snapped out of that trance, too. Lucas probably warned Korkea about us. See, I TOLD you that leaving that one guy to die slowly was a bad idea! Hee hee!”
“My master got his soul anyway. The black flames killed him, and that he died slowly didn’t save him from being devoured.”
“I’ve eaten a bunch of souls by now. That rich guy who owned this plane was tastier than he looked. Hee. And now I know everything about the wonderful world of scamming people with NFTs. Damn, the boys Down There could have LEARNED a thing or two from that guy! I was doing a public service when I ate his soul! He’d be a terror to behold as a demon! Hee hee hee! But my point is… your master wouldn’t be willing to do business with ME, would they?”
“I could always ask them. They can’t afford to be picky when it comes to customers. Not many people come calling, you see. Despite my master’s best efforts to advertise on the Prime Material Plane, via their servants. So many of their writings have been lost. Destroyed by well-intentioned fools, who didn’t know the truth. And I don’t know what happened to MY book after my house burned down.”
“Back up, H.R.! Hee! What do you mean, they didn’t know the truth?”
“Do you truly not see it, friend? There is someone else involved in this. Someone who is the sworn enemy of my master. And they’ve interfered. Korkea has no idea that his situation is but a microcosm of a much bigger conflict, one that has been raging for EONS.”
The Hungry Rider chuckles.
“Light warring with darkness, and humanity caught in the middle.”