While preparations for the 3V2R were going on, Megatron, Dr. Borg, and their respective organizations as well as Shocker Rift, had regrouped in Megatron’s universe, the Decepticon/Eggman moon base, to be exact. Megatron looked out the window of his office and saw the various ships hanging in the sky. His processor was stuck in a loop about what happened on Vorton. He snapped out of his thoughts when he heard the door chime. “Enter,” he rasped. A hefty-looking Decepticon stomped in as Dr. Borg flew past him and landed on Megatron’s desk.
“2nd Lieutenant Quake Hammer, reporting for duty,” boomed the new Decepticon.
“Welcome,” greeted Megatron. “I’ll make this brief; I need you for an exchange.”
“Sir?” asked Quake Hammer.
“One of our allies, Hiro,” explained Megatron, “is being held prisoner by the Autobots. You are on the DJD’s list for desertion under fire back in the first war, so we will have a prisoner exchange. You get to avoid a visit from the DJD and we get our ally back.”
“Understood, sir,” replied Quake Hammer.
“Dismissed,” directed Megatron. Quake Hammer saluted and left the office in crisp, military fashion.
“Hiro’s not going to like that the yes-man we promised,” mused Dr. Borg, “is used as a bargaining chip to secure his freedom.”
“Quake Hammer is not the yes-man I’m trying to get ahold of,” remarked Megatron. “What brings you here?”
“Fleet buildup is progressing as we expected,” replied Dr. Borg.
“Damn,” hissed Megatron.
“Where’s Dr. Eggman?” asked Dr. Borg. “He’s supposed to help me and make the work go faster!”
“One of the greatest mysteries of the ages,” snarled Megatron. The door chimed again. “Enter,” barked Megatron. Soundwave came in.
“Hey, Lord Megatron!” he called. “Guess who decided to grace us with his presence?” One of his tendrils then dropped the Egg-mobile with Eggman in it.
“Well, well, well,” snarked Dr. Borg. “Welcome back to your allies, Doctor, if that doctorate you’ve earned came from an accredited university!”
“What are you blathering about?!” snapped Eggman.
“Where have you been?” demanded Megatron.
“What do you mean?” asked Eggman.
“We’ve barely seen you these past few weeks,” elaborated Dr. Borg. “Where have you been?”
“I have a life outside of you lot, you know,” dismissed Eggman.
“A life that makes you undetectable?” accused Soundwave. Eggman said nothing. “I hope you’re up to date on what happened with Vorton.”
“Yes, I…I heard,” stammered Eggman.
“You HEARD!” roared Megatron. “How nice! A scientist with an i.q. of 300, a station with scientific marvels ripe for the taking, and you HEARD about it!”
“What crawled up your tailpipe and died?!” snapped Eggman.
“Oh, I don’t know,” growled Megatron, “maybe it’s because Soundwave and the cassettes have been unable to find you until YOU decide to make an appearance! In case you hadn’t HEARD, Soundwave is VERY thorough at surveillance! It seems a little odd that he can’t find YOU!”
“Don’t ask me!” snapped Eggman.
“But we ARE asking you!” replied Dr. Borg. “Sincerely! WHERE?! HAVE?! YOU?! BEEN?!”
“That’s none of your concern! All of you!” shouted Eggman.
“Funny, isn’t it?” asked Soundwave. “You always disappear whenever Caan skirts the edges of our sensors!”
“…All of you can just go straight to Hell!” Eggman finished as he got into his Egg-mobile and moved to the door.
“Doctor Eggman, you are NOT dismissed!” snarled Megatron. Eggman didn’t listen and just left the office. Megatron cycled air through his olfactory apparatus to try and steady his temper. “Soundwave, give Eggman top surveillance priority,” he ordered.
“As you command, Megatron,” replied Soundwave.
“And I’m saying it’s the flow regulator!” Lukas argued with Liam. “We’ve been over this!”
“What we’ve been over, Laddie,” replied Liam, “is that the flow regulator has been replaced a dozen times and the problem STILL hasn’t been fixed! It’s the engines themselves that need fixing! The ash cloud Mt. Doom spewed is clogging the intake and they need cleaning!”
“Then why do my readings say that the engines are fine?!” protested Lukas.
“Why don’t you go inside the damn thing,” snapped Liam, “and then tell me the engines are fine?!”
“Liam, if Megumi’s going up against Ultragingana,” urged Lukas, “and she picks the fight terms, we’re gonna need the Virginia at top performance sooner rather than later!”
“Er, excuse me,” called Megumi’s voice. Liam and Lukas turned to face her. “Could you gentlemen take this somewhere else? I need to use the Chizaran frequency. I’m expecting a call.”
“Are the Chizarans contacting you?” asked Lukas.
“No, it’s for the other contestants,” explained Megumi. “After Arsha’s preliminary round with Priest 072486 and what Queen Phury nearly did in HER preliminary round, we’re all required to contact at least three other competitors just to do a little dialogue with each other in the interests of good sportsmanship. Arsha managed to talk to Buncho yesterday and said that she’s pretty insightful for a bunch of fruit.”
“All right, we’ll leave you to it,” declared Liam. “I’ll just detail a team to help me clean out the engines.”
“IT’S THE FLOW REGULATOR!” shouted Megumi and Lukas as the two men walked off.
“NOT YOU TOO, MEGUMI!” protested Liam’s voice. Once they were gone, Megumi keyed in a code on a computer terminal and a hologram of a cat appeared. It was a Maine Coon and wore a collar with a red tie on it. It had just finished grooming itself and looked up at Megumi.
“Hi, you’ve reached the Vortex Riders’ Spaceship Repair Shop where YOUR CHIEF ENGINEER IS RIGHT AND YOU KNOW IT, LIAM!” called Megumi. The Maine Coon’s ear twitched in confusion.
“What?” it asked.
“Nothing,” sighed Megumi. “Just a disagreement over something. I’m Megumi Hishikawa and you are…Mr. Flufferkins, right?”
“The 46th president of the United States, himself,” confirmed the Maine Coon. “…What’s the disagreement about?”
“It’s about our ship, the Virginia,” explained Megumi. “If we face Ultragingana, we need that thing up and running.”
“You’ll need it, yes,” remarked Mr. Flufferkins, “but not against Ultragingana.”
“Oh?” asked Megumi. “Why?”
“Because I’LL be fighting her in my giant robot!” explained Mr. Flufferkins. “After which, you can take me on in your little ship.”
“Feeling a little confident, are we?” chuckled Megumi. “Are you fighting her this round?”
“No, I’m going up against Beatrice,” replied Mr. Flufferkins. “As someone who’s read the visual novels about her, I’m a little worried.”
“Just be careful,” warned Megumi. “She’s crafty.”
“She’s catlike in her thinking,” remarked Mr. Flufferkins, “so I MAY have a chance there.”
“Who IS Ultragingana fighting against this round?” asked Megumi.
“They just announced it. That wizard, er, Grand Wizard Emirdo, I think,” mused Mr. Flufferkins. “He told me his magic plane will bring down any beast.”
“Really?” snarked Megumi. “He’s going to use his plane against Ultragingana? How original because Kaiju are ALWAYS weak to planes.”
“I know, right?!” laughed Mr. Flufferkins. “But, enough about her, let’s talk about you. How did you get to be Queen?”
“Originally, the Feudal Nerd Society,” explained Megumi, “was an activist group that dealt with all sorts of problems. The Vortech Wars then changed that and we became Kamen Riders. Soon, our titles became real and the F.N.S became universe hopping superheroes. Even after Vortech’s defeat, his old subordinate, Hiro, still gave us grief…until now.”
“I heard about Hiro losing his wife to the Daleks,” sympathized Mr. Flufferkins. “I can’t offer enough condolences.”
“He’s still grieving in solitary confinement,” relayed Megumi. “Physically, he’s all right. Mentally, we’re not sure.”
“Grief always leaves one irrational,” sighed Mr. Flufferkins. “I was that way when my human died. She was a good lady. After she got my predecessor’s assets, money, and all, she liquidated them and gave it all to the poor. She got the Presidential Medal of Freedom for that.”
“Good for her,” praised Megumi. “She sounds like a lovely lady.”
“She’d support the F.N.S, I can guarantee,” mused Mr. Flufferkins.
“Now, about how you secured eight terms,” ventured Megumi.
“Nine, now,” replied Mr. Flufferkins. “I just got reelected. How did I secure at least a third term?”
“I take it, you get asked that a lot,” muttered Megumi.
“Donald’s doing,” chuckled Mr. Flufferkins. “He removed the two-year limit in a bid to secure more power. Joke’s on him, I was his Democratic opponent. The American People would rather have a cat run the country than an orangutan like him.”
“Our universe’s Trump has been impeached by the House right now,” explained Megumi.
“Here’s hoping the Senate sees sense,” wished Mr. Flufferkins. “Good talking to you. I’m gonna run some drills.”
“See you soon!” cheered Megumi.
By the way, one last thing before I go,” warned Mr. Flufferkins, “Vortech had followers besides Hiro, people who agreed with his methods of uniting the multiverse. Watch your back.”
“Will do,” promised Megumi. The hologram then faded, leaving Megumi to her thoughts.
Flora approached an apartment complex in Beyond City. She hesitated ringing a buzzer, then summoned the willpower to go through with it. “Yes?” asked Swalmu’s voice over the intercom.
“I…It’s Flora,” stammered the girl. “May I come in?”
“Of course,” replied Swalmu. The door then opened and Flora stepped in. She then entered an elevator and rang for the 9th floor. It went up in a few seconds and chimed once at the correct floor. She then went down the hall to apartment 923 and rang the buzzer. “Coming!” called Swalmu. He opened the door and grinned when seeing Flora. “Welcome, welcome!” he bid. “Please, come in!” Flora stepped in and looked around. “What can I do for you?” asked Swalmu.
“It’s…er…” stammered Flora. “Well…it’s…can anyone wear…a cloud dress?”
“Why, yes,” replied Swalmu, “but it DOES require a day of training. After that, you can summon clouds at your leisure and shape them as you see fit. …Why do you ask?”
“Because I want to wear one and be safe, just like when I’m with you,” replied Flora. She then gasped and covered her mouth in surprise. “Er…that is…I mean…” She covered her face as she blushed like mad.
“…You feel safe when you’re with me?” asked Swalmu. He then smiled. “Oddly enough, I feel safe when I’m with you.” Flora looked up at him, still blushing. “Flora,” continued Swalmu, “I’ve never really had much in the way of friends. Even amongst my fellow Zephyrs, I felt like I was alone. I had a loving family, but one needs friends. With you around, I am always assured that I now have friends. Honestly, I want to spend more time with you.” Flora was smiling happily.
“I want to spend more time with you too!” she cheered as she hugged him. They then went for the kiss…nose-first. They massaged one another’s nose to get rid of the discomfort. “We both need practice,” mused Flora.
“Indeed,” replied Swalmu. “Now, how one obtains their cloud dress, well, it’s similar to how we Zephyrs get it when we’re babies. Our parents usually blanket us in theirs and teach us over time. For babies, it takes roughly 10 years. For adults like you and me, we get it on the first go around.”
“Do I…need to…?” Flora indicated the clothes she was wearing.
“Heights, no,” replied Swalmu. “Not until you’ve got your dress.” Flora breathed a sigh of relief. Swalmu’s clouds then wrapped around Flora and she sighed in happiness. “Now, I need to you to answer just three questions as you concentrate on the clouds surrounding you. No need to answer them aloud, just answer in your head.” Flora closed her eyes to first concentrate on the clouds touching her. “First,” began Swalmu, “what does the cloud mean to you? Second, who is benefitting from the cloud’s meaning? Third, how can the cloud help you achieve that meaning? Concentrate on those three questions while concentrating on the clouds surrounding you.” Flora kept her breathing steady as she considered her answers. In her mind, she was walking on the clouds.
“What does the cloud mean to you?” asked a voice. Flora sat down and thought before answering.
“It means protection,” she answered. “It means that a person can feel so happy and protected. Soft, but a well-established barrier.”
“Who is benefitting from this protection?” asked the voice.
“Well…if I may be a little selfish…me,” replied Flora. “Of course, I want to share that safe feeling with those I care about. I want my friends to share in my feeling of safety.”
“How can the cloud help you achieve protection for yourself and those you bring into protection?” quizzed the voice.
“…I want to be able to have my hand free,” declared Flora. “I want it to surround me and keep me safe, but I want to bring others into my safe place too.”
“…Open and revel in your cloud,” declared the voice. Flora opened her eyes and looked around. Swalmu had moved away from her, leaving her slightly confused. She could still feel a cloud enveloping her body, aside from her left hand and right arm. She then looked down in hope. Her hope paid off as she was wearing a cloud dress.
“I think I’m gonna cry,” she whimpered happily. She then tackled-hugged Swalmu and smothered him with kisses. Swalmu offered feeble resistance.
The first fight of Round 1 had completed and Blancalmarem and Nemengra were beginning their broadcast. “I am Blancalmarem, the white princess of Chizara and the life leader,” began Blancalmarem.
“I am Nemengra, the black princess of Chizara and the death leader,” finished Nemengra.
“And the first round is underway as Returning Fighter and Crowd Favorite, Buncho, has claimed victory over Supremo the Terrible!” cheered Blancalmarem. A picture of Buncho sitting on a pile of rocks was displayed
“Buncho, as shown here in her victory against a fighter of the Temlins’ Contest of Champions, Pilo,” continued Nemengra, “has made it to Second Place a couple of times. Defeating someone like Supremo, the Ruler of the Chaos Reality, this early in the tournament was certainly a feather in her cap.”
“While he HAS been infamous for refusing previous interviews,” supplied Blancalmarem, “Nemengra and I finally managed to gain one for this tournament.”
“Here is the footage of the interview,” Nemengra went on as a screen came on. “Perhaps those at home will gain insight on this powerful warrior.” The screen then displayed the two Chizaran princesses talking to a muscular man dressed in a stereotypical evil overlord outfit and an electronic mouthpiece over his mouth and jaw.
“There was a brief moment in the fight,” mused Blancalmarem during the interview, “where you appeared to have turned the tables on Buncho by unleashing your Sword of Infinite Power on her. Care to tell us what happened?” Supremo’s mouthpiece replied in harsh beeps, clicks, and whirs.
“If you had to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?” asked Nemengra. More beeps, clicks, and whirs answered her question.
“So, you think Buncho has the power of a despot like yourself, just not the will of one?” inquired Blancalmarem for clarification. A longer string of beeps, clicks, and whirs were her answer, along with a few censoring bleeps as Supremo slammed his fist on the armrest of his chair.
“Any particular last thoughts on Buncho?” quizzed Nemengra. Supremo appeared to be calming himself before he replied in his usual beeps, clicks, and whirs.
“Well, thank you for your time,” bid Blancalmarem. “We know you have a very busy schedule putting down the Orderly Resistance.”
“May we see you in the next tournament, oh Destroyer of Hope,” Supremo gave his thanks in two clicks and bowed as he stood up, not wanting to seem rude. God-like beings are, after all, god-like. The screen then went black as Blancalmarem and Nemengra returned to their audience.
“For someone who conquers and enslaves, he’s surprisingly friendly to talk to,” chuckled Blancalmarem.
“We’ll be covering the next fight with two first-time fighters, Megumi Hishikawa and Uber_g4m3r_likesjak21999,” revealed Nemengra. “But first, a word from one of our sponsors, Trooga Soda!”
“Trooga Soda!” called the announcer. “Enjoy a nice meal with the nectar of the gods!”