Pacific Grimm

The Flea Market
Sea City, Locus Apepi
October 18, 2016
2:27 AM PST

“Apepi… Does she honestly think we’re too stupid to understand the stuff she isn’t telling us?” Alex asked, putting away his Dragon Gear Ultra. “Do we just sit here on our asses, waiting for something to happen?”

“We've tried being proactive, Alex! Nothing happened.” Gadgeteer complained. “The best we can do is just stay put and wait for Apepi to give us more orders.” That was when Feeney's phone started to ring. “You gonna get that?” Gadgeteer asked.

Feeney picked up the phone. “The Flea Market! Open 24 hours, Monday to Friday! Can I help you? Speakerphone? I'm using a rotary phone from the 60's right now, there's no speakerphone.”

“Allow me.” Ivee said, and began playing audio for the phone call.

“Hey, neighbours! This is Nathaniel Wills, over at Locus Laxara.” a voice said on the other end.

“Wait, what?” Gadgeteer asked.

“Locus Laxara, known internally as María de Lajara, is located in the Pacific ocean at 27 degrees North latitude and 140 West from Greenwich longitude.” Ivee quoted.

“Yup, that's our island. Anyway, we're hosting our Last Halloween goodbye party and all the Pacific Rim Chancels are invited.” Nathaniel explained.

“The Last Halloween?” Gadgeteer asked. “What happened to Halloween that it's the last one?”

“It slowly faded away after Jane Booth, Duchess of Halloween, was assassinated by the Cammora four years ago.” Nathaniel explained glumly. “Ever since, the holiday has lost steam. Most powers don't notice, but the mortals have noticed that less and less kids go trick-or-treating, and Halloween parties tend to be composed of people texting from two feet away instead of dancing and talking.”

“Did the Cammora ever say why they killed Jane Booth?” Alex said, nervously.

Nathaniel shrugged. “As far as I know, they were sworn to secrecy, like with most assassinations.”

Alex breathed out quietly. “So Halloween is gone. Never thought I'd see that happen.”

“Almost gone. Her Imperator Caviel managed to keep it going for a bit, but it had been permanently corrupted by an Excrucian and he was forced to abandon it before it corrupted him as well. Thus, the Last Halloween. Every Power is either hosting a party or going to one in honor of the Estate. Seriously, this is going to be awesome! Ever watched Godzilla?” Nathaniel asked.

“Alex and I have played the Rampage games.” Gadgeteer replied.

“Well, the theme is giant monsters and mecha, but make sure it's just a scale model costume. Dress yourself appropriately!” Nathaniel said cheerfully.

The Flea Market
Sea City, Locus Apepi
October 18, 2016
2:35 AM PST

“Giant robots and humongous mecha… Well, I'm not really a fan of either, so I'll just be George from Rampage.” Alex said, summoning up a cosplay costume.

“I think I have a Godzilla costume somewhere in the back…” Feeney said, venturing deeper into the store.

Gadgeteer was using his skill as a KidTech Gadgeteer to build a suit of armor resembling the BIGBOY (Boy In Giant Battlesuit Overprotects Yippers) robot from Kidpunk.

Ivee was observing Gadgeteer as he made the finishing touches on the costume. It was the real deal, and the KidTech components encased him as he stepped into it, like a childish version of the Power Armor in Fallout made from the contents of a model railroad. “Awesome.” Gadgeteer said. “I definitely dig giant robots.”

“Good job, Gadgeteer.” Ivee said reflexively.

“Thanks? What are you going to wear?” Gadgeteer asked her.

Ivee paused for a second. “I don't understand the question.”

“Well you are going with us.” Alex said, looking at his George costume in a mirror.

“I don't think I have the capability of making the decision. I was not built to be creative.” she responded.

“That's actually pretty sad…” Gadgeteer said with a look of compassion. “You know what? We're getting you a Halloween costume. Guys, when does the Sea City Mall open?”

“I think it closed for a while when Ha-Qadosch Berakha started trolling the customers.” Feeney responded.

Alex looked at the Dragon Gear Ultra's screen, looking at the Sea City Mall's webpage. “It should be open again on the 20th, according to their web page.”

Parking Garage, Sea City Mall
Sea City, Locus Apepi
October 20, 2016
3:10 AM PST

Alex's car, a black 2016 Cadillac convertible, pulled into the parking garage adjacent to the mall. The vehicle was probably one of the nicest cars on the streets within the area. It was clear he liked travelling in style.

The parking lot was packed. As they drove around looking for a spot, one became apparent as a tiny Yugo pulled out of it. It was then that Alex locked eyes with Ha-Qadosch Berakha on the other end of the parking lot. The Imperator they had been forced into letting roam the Chancel was driving a solid gold Porsche and had his sights on the parking spot.

Alex narrowed his eyes. If there was something he didn't like, it was losing a valuable parking spot. He created a Miracle; a pocketwatch in his right hand as he drove with his left towards the parking spot. He pressed one of the buttons on the watch and allowed time to freeze for a few seconds, enough to allow him to try and slide right into the parking spot. The pocketwatch disappeared shortly thereafter.

Unfortunately, Ha-Qadosch Berakha was not easily beaten. He stepped on the gas and sped towards the spot. The two vehicles collided as they shoved into the space, ruining the paint job on the Caddy, the Porsha, and the Ford Focus and Toyota Prius on each side of the parking spot. Somehow, they did manage to fit. Getting the doors open would be another matter, however.

Ha-Qadosch Berakha simply put up the convertible roof of his roadster, and stepped over the Ford Focus to get to the concrete floor of the parking garage.

Gadgeteer shrugged and copied the Imperator's method, rising up into the air a few feet on his BAKPAK's blowdryer jets. "I'll fly next time, thanks." he said, annoyed.

"Well, I'd say that went well." Feeney hopped out of the vehicle and slid down the trunk onto the concrete floor of the parking lot. It was then that he realized that none of them had any idea where to find a costume shop.

Alex wasn't very happy at his ruined car and angrily got out of it. He hopped out of it and onto the concrete, examining the scratches on his car. "Frakking hell! What is this!?”

"I guess that's what happens when you jockey for a parking space with an Imperator." Gadgeteer said.

"If you wish, I can warn the rest of you in the future when an action is likely to end in negative consequences." Ivee stated.

"Right…" Alex nodded, still looking at his car with a moritified look on his face. Paint wasn't cheap, you know, even if you were the owner of a successful company.

"The MetroSys map says the costume shop is on the second floor." Gadgeteer told them. "Elevator's this way."

Mr. Cevedier's Amazing Costume Shop, Sea City Mall
Sea City, Locus Apepi
October 20, 2016
3:27 AM PST

They arrived in a fairly ordinary-looking costume shop without incident. The clerk, however, was not so normal. One would think he was a Power, except the aura that seemed to be emitted from him was indeterminite. Or at least it felt like that for a few seconds. Eventually the feeling subsided and the four powers came to the conclusion that the clerk was probably a mortal mage or a vampire or something.

Something caught Feeney's eye in one of the aisles. Or perhaps he was put off by the clerk somehow. Either way, he began shuffling off into some out-of-the-way corner of the store, running his hand through fabrics and fondling decorations as the fancy struck him.

Gadgeteer was equally unable to look at the clerk. Something about them was just so horribly boring. Every second he had watched them flip through the pages of a conspicuously color-faded edition of The New Yorker was like trying to listen to a teacher back when he was in school in Kidpunk. The Power of Play looked around, and spotted an old trunk in the corner. It seemed to be conspicuously placed, but not miraculously so. He walked over to it to look inside out of curiosity.

Alex looked around boredly, his eyes mostly on his phone as he looked around at a few costumes that mildly interested him. As he tilted his phone upwards to look at it better, it suddenly turned to stone! "…Eh!?"

Gadgeteer opened the chest, but found only a cheap detective costume, complete with Sherlock Holmes hat, fake pipe and a magnifying glass. He closed it again dismissively.

The clerk didn't seem to notice that Alex's phone had turned to stone. If he did, he probably didn't care. Alex went up to Gadgeteer and prodded him slightly with his elbow before showing him his stone phone.

"The crud? What did you do?!" Gadgeteer said, looking at the chunk of marble in the shape of a Pixel XL. "Wait, didn't you have the Dragon Gear Ultra for phone calls?"

"This is- er, was… a Galaxy Premiere I've had for a long while now, although it morphed into a newer phone about once a year. It's the first phone I remember having when I…don't know, just 'woke up' in my office of Drake Studios…" Alex explained. "I use it for personal stuff…and now the whole damn thing is gone! It has sentimental value, honestly, not sure why."

"You just woke up one day in your office in Atlanta?" Gadgeteer asked. "Wait, what were you doing when it turned to stone?"

Ivee stood at the doorway to the store. Her programming was telling her it was perfectly safe, but the part of her that was a Power was screaming that there was somehing not quite right here.

"Hey is it just me, or are the costumes behind the clerk a lot more… uncreative… than the ones in the rest of the store?" Gadgeteer said, glancing at the clerk a few meters behind Alex.

That's when Ivee texted Alex on the Dragon Gear Ultra. 'Cevedier is an anagram!'

"Received?" Feeney chimed in, peering over Alex's shoulder. The clerk raised an eyebrow over in the corner at hearing it. "Wait, that's not right…" Feeney realized.

'You told me you read the Field Guide to Powers at some point, Feeney.' Ivee continued texting to them with her internet connection, but pretended to be looking at people eating at a nearby food court in curiosity. 'How much do you still remember?'

Feeney thought for a second. His eyes opened wide and he shuffled off around a corner, gesturing for the others to follow.

Gadgeteer and Alex looked at each other and followed Feeney behind a coat rack of costumes to get out of eyesight from the clerk. Meanwhile, Ivee began using MetroSys to put the mall on lockdown.

"I thought there was something weird about that clerk." Feeney said quietly. "Now I know what it is. Have any of you heard of a…" he put his head low and whispered. "…Deceiver?"

"Deciever? Didn't Stone Cold Eeyore mention that a few times? I know she did in 2015 during that issue with the first Splatfest." Gadgeteer pointed out, also keeping his voice low.

"Yeah, that's the one. They trick the universe into thinking they're something other than what they are. Normally I'd be all over that, but that clerk…" Feeney visibly shuddered.

'No, that's the second edition of a Field Guide to Powers.' Ivee texted them. 'It was mainly filled with lies told by the Excrucian Deciever Iolithae Septimian. That alone should be sufficient to demonstrate their danger.'

"Er…Deceiver…care to elaborate on them?" Alex asked, seemingly confused.

'According to The Third Edition of a Field Guide to Powers…' Ivee texted. She then sent a link to a file in the Chancel's ebook library.

The Deceivers live outside the world; they think that we have built the world out of lies. They think the whole of Creation is a jungle of deceit that we have put up to keep from seeing ourselves the way we really are.
They love us but they love not that lie.
They come to unmake the world for us. They come to help you forget the Eyes and Ears and Nose, the Work and Home and School, the Trees and Wind and Laughter and Hearts and Hope.
They come because they think us marvelous, whatever it is they think we are — whatever thing they imagine, that we cannot imagine ourselves, lives behind these purported lies.
And because they see us as such, we may see ourselves as such, in them. Their love is sneaky and dirty and beautiful and it makes us love ourselves. It is a gap of forgiveness and grace in the iron of the world. It is awful because they will not hesitate to hurt us, or lie to us, to open up that crack. They do not see the legitimacy of any of the things we believe in. They only see the soul.
In their eyes —
It is like looking into night, and seeing yourself on a field, in open space and cradled in the arms of the earth and sky; and the stars look down, and one by one begin to fall.
Sometimes that’s terrifying. Sometimes it’s loving, too. Sometimes it is a desecration of the sky and at other times a gift.
They are honest but they hate us in every particular; it is only the invisible essence that they love. They are the ones that tell us we need not judge ourselves forever for what we have done, but they are not approving of anything else that we may be.

"So, when are you idiots going to stop talking behind my back and try to fight me?" the Deceiver said from behind them.

Alex quickly reaches his hand out and creates a Miracle. McCree's gun from Overwatch appeared in his hand, pointed at the Deceiver's head. "How about right now?" He growled, not very fond of being spooked.

"Dude, chill. I've been Apepi's prisoner since before this Chancel was created. How do you think a hundred people died in sacrifice?" the Deceiver said.

"She did what?!" Gadgeteer said, horrified.

"Morals aren't my business, but they were all psychopaths anyway, kid. The 'victims' were imprisoned on the island by the mortal government as punishment for killing people for fun. Apepi asked me to off them specifically because she thought they deserved it."

"Then why are you running a costume shop?" Gadgeteer asked.

"Apepi got the idea from the way another Excrucian called Lambkins was captured a few years back. I'm bonded to the shop. Can't leave, and if it's destroyed I die." the Deceiver explained.

"Wow. I am getting really sick of Apepi's secrecy." Gadgeteer said, annoyed. "Why do you hate Creation as-is anyway? You say there's something there you like, but yet you don't have any proof that that thing exists."

"If you must know, Apepi is studying me for that exact reason. Why do you think there's a camera in this store I can't turn to stone?" he said, pointing at the MetroSys security camera in the corner of the room.

"Then wouldn't it just be easier to tell her?" Gadgeteer reasoned.

"That's not a good idea, Gadgeteer." Ivee warned. "Excrucian philosophy is not just mere words."

"Whatever, it's a slow day, I'll tell you. The Deceivers are the soldiers in the Excrucian forces. Warmains are our generals, Mimics our spies and Strategists our leaders. She wants to find a way to convince Deceivers to relent. To bargain with us or compromise, convince us of your 'worth' or whatever Imperators think we use as 'justification'." the Excrucian explained. "Doing that would cut the rest of the Excrucians off from the majority of the fighting force."

"How is that relevent?" Gadgeteer asked.

"Apepi wants Creation to win, and so does pretty much every other part of creation. I'll tell you how creation can 'win', but you have to disable that camera and swear yourself to secrecy." he finished.

Feeney only had to snap his fingers and the feed of the camera immediately cut out. "Done and done. You were saying?"

"The lie that Decievers are fighting against? It's a simple one. Which is why we don't explain it. It seems so simple, that Deceivers refuse to explain it like you're 5. The lie we fight is that 'You are what reality says you are.' Doesn't matter if you're on the Prosaic Earth, The Mythic Earth, a Chancel, the World Ash, another world on said tree, Heaven, Hell… Creation is a collar around your neck and the lie is the chain that binds you to your master Cneph. The only truth is that you are whatever you want to be. Realise that and you break that chain. The reason why my fellow Deceivers don't care that I'm stuck here is because they think I don't have the gonads to admit it. I've always been against creativity, its part of my pseudoestate. Just… not like this. At least in the Not if you are uncreative its because you want to be mundane and boring. Being stuck here made me realise what I've been fighting for."

Alex kept the gun pointed at the Deceiver's head, not lowering it until he was sure he could trust this man.

"These costumes are, though a part of the lie, a good example for your enslaved souls. When you are born, you walk into this shop. The shop has limited inventory. You have to pick a costume to wear. You can change costumes, but you're still wearing one." the Excrucian told them. "You're Powers, so you can create your own costumes based on your estates, but's that's the analogy's counterpart to being super rich enough to afford a custom costume, or a mage or the Power of Costumes just conjuring one up. An Imperator can order in costumes because they run the store, but they're still chained because the warehouse run by Cneph still limits them. Yet Cneph created this system as a lie. You don't need to be chained. You can sew your own costumes! A rock can be a Power! A Power can be a person! A person can be an animal! An animal can be a machine! And all of them can be nothing at all!" the Deceiver expounded. "That is the lesson we, the Deceivers, have taken to heart. It's why we fight you and fight for you. The Mimics are where we failed to teach that lesson to those we defeated before they died of their wounds. The Warmains and Strategists? They're not our friends, or our allies. They're just a bunch of assholes with a condescending view of reality, who we've been forced to work with to win this war in the same way that the Imperators of different songs have been forced to fight together to survive the war."

"That's it?" Gadgeteer asked, skeptical.

"That's why."

"So then other than enslaving us, why is Cneph so bad?" Gadgeteer questioned.

"Frankly? He owes us. And I don't mean that in a selfish way. He made a deal in order to afford Creation. Then when we held up our end of the deal, he spat in our faces and told us we could fuck off." the Deceiver said.

"That… is so… UN. FAIR." Gadgeteer said, gritting his teeth. Then he remembered who they were talking to. "…provided you weren't trying to screw him over."

"Are you kidding? We wanted him to create neighbours for us! Allies! Friends! Someone who was different than the Not, for the sake of variety, while still being Family! Or at least our closest equivalents beyond the Weirding Wall. Then he locks us out and turns you into his slave army!" the Excrucian revealed. "We killed him for that, but his machinations were too clever. Even in his death he is your master."

"Why do you want this kept a secret?" Ivee asked.

"Because Lord Entropy is… was… a Strategist. The first Strategist. He betrayed us when he realized that there was a lot to be gained by protecting Cneph's legacy. Lord Entropy was dying from Corruption. That corruption destroyed his soul, destroyed his ideals that Creation is a lie, but not before he made sure all Strategists after him would be corrupt, and corrupted the system so that the Not was divided in our ideals. Beware, someday he will be so corrupted that once again he will betray his people. Only this time, those people will be you."

Alex slowly lowered his gun, yet still kept it in his hand. He looked at Gadgeteer and Feeney before looking back at the Deciever. "Then what are we to do?" He was ready to fire if necessary, not completely trusting of the man for namesake reasons.

"I let myself be captured. Sort of. Apepi and I fell in love, or so I thought. Keep in mind, a Deceiver is capable of making themself fall in love with someone. Under those circumstances, love is really just a tool, but it does still have a meaning. When I offered her my love, it was a tool like a pen is a tool, and the letter of actions I took was trying to tell her to defect for her own good, that I wanted her to be free with me. Love is a double-edged sword, unfortunately. She seduced me, then entrapped me. It was not until after I had been captured that I realized that she had a point. Creation is a lie, but it's a comforting lie. Then, looking at the various Estates of this world, I realised that Creation had lies within the lie. Lies themselves, the value of money, the validity of rules, the worlds of imagination and fiction, the Prosaic Earth generated by Science… I do not know the details, but I have an idea. If you can make one of those lies so big, that it overtakes Creation itself, then you can overload the lie of Cneph and let anyone be anything." the Deceiver said. "There's only one problem… This won't work with just any old lie. If you were to make money so big it became everything, it would kill Creation, not free it. The same is true of nearly every other lie. I know this because it is a weapon we sometimes use, called a Welkin-Rite. It increases the power of an Estate so much that it begins to devour others. That isn't what either of us truly want. Unfortunately, I don't know what estate will be a suitable lie. It would require a lie that is perfectly aligned to the truth of the Not. Everyone can be anything, but nobody can force anyone else to be something. Otherwise you have either too much order, too much chaos, or a mixture of both which perpetuates Creation as it is now."

"What you say is ironic, coming from what you are…yet you do make a valid point." Alex speaks up, looking at the Deciever straight in the eye. "Too much chaos…too much order…or a mixture of both…then what would be the right balance? More chaos than order?"

"That is something which Powers will, as slaves of creation, find hard to perceive. You need a near complete lack of both. A lie so untrue, that the world it generates cannot truly contain either, only the illusion of them." the Deceiver told them. "Unfortunately, I have yet to see a lie in Creation capable of fitting those needs. I've searched high and low for a fitting Estate, but with my limited resources…" he said, looking at the computer on the desk. "…that isn't exactly easy. I can already tell, you're not going to let me go, or tell me anything you find from now on, and I don't blame you, but you must have more resources than I do. Find a way to do what I couldn't. I've seen the light, so to speak. You can't just give up on a comforting lie. So create an even more comforting one, and instead of Creation dying or the Deceivers freeing you from something you don't want to be freed from, you can remake Creation so both Creation and the Deceivers get a Win-Win. Screw the others, the Strategists barely care about us and hate you as it is."

"…What about writing?" Alex spoke up.

The Deceiver thought for a moment. "Words on a paper are not real enough to work. I'm afraid that's not-"

"Stop." a voice said from nearby. Apepi was standing beside Ivee, and she was not happy. "I don't know what he told you, but you'd better think long and hard about whether you are stupid and/or brave enough to trust him. Get out of this store, and if you ever meet with Gavius Paramel here again, I will send you to Lord Entropy myself and have you charged with TREASON."

"That's a high horse for someone who's been keeping secrets from us since we were nobilized." Gadgeteer said. "I'm getting out of here, but don't you think for one second that I'm going to tell you what he said or not take it into account every time you tell us the way things 'are'."

"It's quite a hypocritical and ironic situation, no?" Alex shrugged in a nonchalant manner, looking at Apepi.

"I said OUT." she repeated.

Feeney adjusted his suit, cracked his neck (somehow) and headed for the door. "Let's go. Ivee still needs a costume, and I doubt we're going to find the right one here."

Alex sighed and made the gun in his hand disappear before following Feeney out the door.

Pacific Ocean
October 31, 2016
6:30 PM HAST

It had been several days since they had met Gavius Paramel and had doubts cast in their mind about the true nature of the war. All of them still had it weighing so heavy on their thoughts that they simply watched the ocean go by for most of the trip. Even Ivee could not help but wonder if she'd made the right decision alerting Apepi, after what the Power of Singularity had heard.

“I don't get it. Why the hell would they insist that we come by boat?!” Alex said, watching the waves go by and sweating in his costume under the sun as he captained the vessel. They were aboard a small yacht rented from a company in L.A.

“The instructions were clear. Wear the costumes and approach by ship. Only watercraft can be used to enter the Chancel.” Ivee repeated. She was wearing a coat of silver latex paint, and had glowing LEDs secured to her, evoking the appearance of a retrofutristic robot like Maria from Metropolis or the Martian Tripods from War of the Worlds.

“Do we know the properties of Locus Laxara? I just want to make sure this isn't a trap by Lord Entropy or Excrucians.” Alex asked.

“Estate properties of Locus Laxara are… You are a giant. Only other giants can hurt you. The city will rebuild.” Ivee explained.

“That's a weird set of properties…” Gadgeteer said. “It mentioned a city. Are we talking something similar to our own Chancel?”

“Maybe. Who knows with Imperators?” Feeney said, wearing a Godzilla costume from 1960-something.

“Warning! We are now crossing the Chancel boundary!” Ivee shouted.

Pacific Ocean
María de Lajara, Locus Laxara
October 31, 2016
6:37 PM HAST

The four Powers of Apepi found themselves clinging to a strange floating object of vaguely familiar shape, lit up by electric lights somehow. In the distance, an island could be seen as the sun set on the horizon behind it, providing a bright backdrop for the dark silhouette of a skyline.

“What the- What just happened?” Alex asked. “What is this thing?” He took a closer look at the well-lit sections of the floating object they were now standing on. “No fucking way. It's a miniature cruise ship!”

“A what?!” Gadgeteer said, looking at the vessel to confirm it was, indeed, a miniature cruise liner. “Whoa.”

That was not all that had changed. “Mr. Chaser… Do you prefer Alex? You appear to have become a gorilla.” Ivee pointed out.

Gadgeteer looked at his hand and realized he now was the BIGBOY battle mech. Normally his hand sat inside a special control interface in the arm, but now he could feel the entirety of the KidTech machinery as his own body. “Whoa. That's new.”

In the distance, a futuristic city lit up in neon and spotlights stood on an island before them. The Nobles wandering around amongst the cityscape was the most striking part of the equation, as they had been altered by the chancel's properties to be the costumes they had worn upon entry, and towered over the buildings like Kaiju and Giant Mecha. Loud techno music played from somewhere, as spotlights panned back and forth to create a rave-like atmosphere.

Unit 196-89, Floor 196, Sky City 1000
Sea City, Locus Apepi
November 13, 2016
7:00 AM PST

“Ugh… my head…” Alex said, reaching for his phone to turn off its alarm. He knew a hangover when he felt it. After grasping the device and checking the time, he realised this was not his home in Atlanta. “What the hell?!”

A knock immediately wrapped on the door of the bedroom. “Alex, get your butt out here!” Gadgeteer's voice said through the sliding futuristic door.

Alex got dressed and opened the door to see Gadgeteer, Feeney, Ivee and even Apepi all standing there with a worried look on their faces.

“Do you know what day it is?” Apepi asked Alex.

“November 1st?” Alex said, oblivious.

“Not anymore. We aren't sure of the details, but apparently…” Feeney said, trailing off, then sighing. “You sold 12 days to the Excrucians on Halloween in order to get the Estate of Halloween back. The current day is November 13th, 2016.”

“Oh, fuck. I'm in deep shit, aren't I?” Alex cringed, the hangover giving him a throbbing headache.

“No. According to the The Rule of War…" Ivee quoted. "…serve your Imperator before the War, and the War before yourself. Apepi had no request of us, and by rescuing Halloween you've served the war greatly."

"There's just one problem." Gadgeteer said. "Well two, but one's not urgent." He cleared his throat, and then yelled at the top of his lungs. "SOMEHOW THEY CHANGED HISTORY YEARS PRIOR WITHOUT ANY PARADOXES!"

"What?" Alex said, confused. "What about Actuals?"

"So far there are none. However, the Excrucians took full advantage of the days that you sold them." Apepi said, conspicuously not eating her Chinese takeout. "Among other events, the Excrucians appear to have tampered with American politics."

"I still don't follow." Alex said, his head feeling like it had an axe splitting his skull.

Ivee produced a small sphere from nothing using a miracle of her estate. The sphere levitated out of her hand, and a 2D image appeared as a hologram in midair above it.

"Final voting has confirmed that Donald Trump has won the Presidency." a news anchor said.

"Wait, Trump? The guy from The Apprentice?" Alex asked. "What is this?! I don't even-"

"Hillary Clinton has apparently lost to Donald Trump in a very close election which was nevertheless rather pointless." Apepi said, looking like she was more concerned than she ought to be about the fate of one nation.

"Long story short, Hillary was a bitch who was set to rob the country blind. Trump was a bigot and an arrogant bastard who stole the election because of a fluke in the American electoral system." Feeney explained. "The Cammora are furious about it because they had set up Hillary to win."

"Apepi, for once, please be honest with me. Why was that election so important?" Alex said, needing a cup of coffee badly.

"Did you know that the original candidates for the presidency were Selma Parson and Donner Butch, who are now merely small-time lawyers? The Excrucians didn't merely steer the world to the results they got. Instead, they apparently tried to change history itself, nearly destroyed Creation in the process, and then reset everything and tried to reproduce the original results as closely as possible when they realized that for whatever reason they couldn't get what they wanted. The Decievers and Warmains were unwilling to destroy creation if it meant losing what they wanted from the war, despite the Strategists simply wanting our destruction." Apepi explained. "I had plans for both Selma and Donner to be assassinated. With those two out of the way, the whole situation is no longer relevant to the original problem. Trump isn't an issue, just a fool who will fall in line when the Cammorae show him who actually calls the shots. I will handle the thorough inspection of time along with several other Imperators, right now you have a more pressing issue."

"It's fine! You said so yourself!" Gadgeteer complained to Apepi. Just then, an adorable rabbit poked its head around the corner of the couch in the room behind the group of Nobles and their Imperator. It hopped over to them and stopped at Gadgeteer's undone shoelaces. Then it proceeded to tie them quickly and with expert precision.

"What's with the rabbit?" Alex asked.

"That's exactly it!" Gadgeteer told him. "The Power of History, Nathaniel Wills, who invited us to that thing on Halloween? He said that an Excrucian poisoned my drink at the party. Since I'm not dead, we figure my Active Immortality and my Affliction that I can't get hurt in child-unfriendly ways mean that it barely did anything to me.”

“I repeat. What's with the rabbit?!” Alex said, watching with curiosity as the critter fetched Gadgeteer a chocolate chip cookie from a jar on the counter.

“The poison from a wood-witch sting is typically debilitating within 72 hours and fatal within a week; however, cheerful woodland creatures will cluster about you and help you with both your chores and finding love (until you die.)” Ivee quoted from Nobilis: A Field Guide to Powers, 3rd Edition readily.

“If it wouldn't kill you, why would they do that?” Alex asked.

“They probably figured it would?” Gadgeteer answered. “It's not like I've ever come close to death before.”

“Okay, so you're a Disney princess now. Fair enough.” Alex said, snickering despite his awful headache.

“Are you kidding me?! I can't afford to have them trying to make me fall in love!” Gadgeteer complained.

“Have you tried telling them you're actually Jewish?” Alex joked.

“But I'm not Jewish!” Gadgeteer said, comically missing the point. Suddenly a thump was heard at the front door of the apartment. “Oh crud! They're here!”

“Who's here?!” Alex asked. The door then burst open from the sheer weight on it, and a flock of cutesy cartoon animals entered the apartment and began doing the dishes, sweeping the floors and dusting things, along with any other chore they could get their hands on. “Oh, god. You're right, Apepi. We need to fix this pronto.”

“Who's we? This is your mess to fix.” Apepi told them, and took out a smoke bomb, then threw it on the ground. When the smoke cleared, she was gone.

“Where the fuck did she get a ninja smoke bomb?!” Alex said, heading to the kitchen and brushing a hummingbird away from the coffee machine. “Out of the way, I need a hangover cure.”

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