Megumi waited in front of the building with her old crown in her hand. Beatrice arrived at the building with a woman in a blue-green outfit. “I am Azevordem, the blue-green princess of Chizara and the water leader,” introduced the woman to a floating camera. “The combatants are ready for their next bout! Representing Universe U-M-1-N-3-K-0, we have Beatrice, the Golden and Endless Witch! Representing her new home of 8-3-Y-0-N-D-C-1-T-Y and a permanent student of the multiverse’s leading educational institute, After Academy, we have Megumi Hishikawa with home turf advantage! The fight will be a hunt. Beatrice must find Megumi’s old crown within the storage building, always stuffed with supplies for the campus. Now, Beatrice has an hour time limit and must find the crown without magic. No help is permitted as well. Beatrice, are you ready?”
“I’m always ready!” cackled Beatrice.
“Megumi Hishikawa, are you ready?” asked Azevordem.
“Just say the word,” answered Megumi.
“If you would kindly hide the crown,” directed Azevordem. Megumi ducked inside and found a good spot for the crown. After 30 seconds, she came out of the building. “The hunt begins in 3, 2, 1!” Beatrice ducked into the building and started looking first around the floor. She spent roughly 5 minutes on it before moving upwards.
“Don’t you dare find it!” hissed Richard as Megumi’s friends watched from the Gateway room.
“Beatrice IS crafty,” muttered Emily as she remembered Beatrice’s dossier. “She may try a new method.”
“Okay, normally, I’d agree with you,” mused Twaldar, “but this woman uses magic on a daily basis. She’s at a huge disadvantage.”
“Much like you when you can’t find your keys normally?” chuckled Swalmu.
“Go rain on someone else’s parade,” snarked Twaldar.
“No magic for Beatrice?” chuckled Optimus. “She’s gonna give up in 10 minutes.”
“Don’t be so sure,” countered Blackarachnia. “She’s already 15 minutes into her hunt. She doesn’t stop until she’s secured victory. The only time she’s ever lost is when other witches took control of the game. When she’s in control, the game is hers to command.”
“Hence why I don’t think we should be worried,” assured Optimus. “This is Megumi’s plan.”
“Beatrice let someone else set the rules of the game?” quizzed Blackarachnia. “That’s not like her. …Oh no.”
“‘Oh no’ what?” asked Optimus.
“Beatrice did some scouting of After Academy,” explained Blackarachnia.
“Oh no!” realized Optimus.
“She’s still at something of a disadvantage,” remarked Prowl. “Look at her face.” Optimus and Blackarachnia did as Prowl asked and could make out irritation.
“Funny,” muttered Blackarachnia, “she never wears that face unless…oh!”
“A theory, Legs?” asked Optimus.
“She didn’t get the full lay of the land,” chuckled Blackarachnia. “That building wasn’t scouted!”
“She’s still got a chance of losing!” realized Optimus.
“Man, Beatrice’s looking madder than a PO’d Fairy pollination squadron,” chuckled Malak.
“30 minutes into the contest and she’s not found it yet,” sniggered Arsha. “…Wait, I think it’s…oh, Megumi, that’s just mean!”
“Is that her crown above the exit?” asked Shalvey.
“It is,” confirmed Elmar.
“Okay, that’s a little cruel!” giggled Bashoon.
“She must have gotten that from Hiro,” joked Emily.
“Now, now, let’s not compare your sister-in-law to her hated enemy,” remarked Xiomara.
“She’s cultivated that brand of meanness on her own,” chuckled Richard.
“I suppose you would know,” conceded Emily. “Tell me, does that apply to your private chambers?”
“Hey, I don’t ask you what you and Joshua do in the bedroom!” snapped Richard. “Whatever sexy time happens between me and her STAYS between me and her!”
“It’s now 45 minutes into the contest,” announced Azevordem, “and Beatrice STILL hasn’t found the crown. The betting boards are saying she’ll find it within the last 10 minutes. Let’s see if they’re right. Of course, there IS one option that most competitors don’t like. Let’s see if she will take it. Beatrice, will you yield at this point in time?”
“NEVER!” snapped Beatrice. “I WILL find it!”
“Very well,” answered Azevordem. “Continue. You now have 13 minutes.” Before the communication channel closed, the furious tossing of items could be heard. “…Dang,” mused Azevordem, “she’s not messing around.”
“Primus,” swore Optimus when 10 minutes had passed, “she don’t look happy.”
“I should say not,” remarked Blackarachnia. “She’s got three minutes left and she’s in an area where she can get a view…uh oh!”
“I see it too!” gulped Optimus as Beatrice could be seen going down the massive clutter pile. She then stopped halfway and picked up the shiny object that caught her eye. The Autobots sighed in relief when she stopped, tossed aside the trophy she saw, and resumed her search.
“That was too close!” breathed Xiomara.
“You ain’t kidding!” agreed Richard. “There’s still two minutes left! This could still go either way!”
“I just noticed, apropos of nothing,” mused Bashoon, “minutes of most universes are 60 seconds instead of 50 like us.”
“And hours are 60 minutes,” supplied Arsha. “I found that odd myself.”
“You’d be surprised to learn,” offered Elmar, “that only 24 of their hours make one day.”
“No kidding?” asked Arsha.
“Speaking of time, Captain, Ma’am,” interjected Bashoon, “30 seconds left!”
“Come on!” Arsha begged all of her home’s gods. “Let her win this one!”
“20 seconds!” gulped Emily.
“Don’t look at the door yet!” Richard begged Beatrice.
“10!” counted the Autobots.
“9!” continued Azevordem. “8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! TIME!” Beatrice howled in frustration when she heard it.
“WHERE IS IT?!” she demanded. Megumi then came in and whistled to get her attention. Beatrice then turned and followed Megumi’s finger to the top of the door. Her jaw dropped in surprise and frustration. “Are…you…KIDDING ME?!” she finally shouted when she found her voice.
“I DO have the cunning of a cat like you do,” chuckled Megumi. Beatrice’s face contorted in rage and she looked ready to throttle Megumi…then she took a deep breath, produced her pipe, then curtsied.
“Good game,” she bid. “Perhaps, next time, I should pick the contest if I ever face you again.”
“I look forward to it,” returned Megumi as she curtsied back.
“This contest is over!” cheered Azevordem. “The winner is Megumi Hishikawa! Beatrice, you will be returned to your home. Though you have suffered a defeat, know that it only brings as much dishonor as you feel necessary. Would you care for an interview with Blancalmarem and Nemengra?”
“I must respectfully decline,” answered Beatrice, “but thank you. Until we meet again.” She was then returned home in a flash of blue-green light.
“Congratulations, Megumi Hishikawa, on your victory,” praised Azevordem. She then vanished in blue-green light as Pestilence appeared.
“That was tense!” she wheezed happily. “How did you know she wouldn’t see it?”
“I didn’t,” replied Megumi as a rift opened, letting her husband, Optimus, and Arsha through. “I just showed her the wrong big picture.”
“Clever,” praised Optimus.
“I must extend my congratulations,” supplied Arsha.
“Thank you,” bid Megumi. “Now, forgive me if I don’t invite you all to a party just yet, but I need to check on how my house is doing.”
“I was about to suggest that,” offered Richard. “Shall we?”
“We’ll leave you to it,” declared Optimus.
“Ms. POmega, we’d like a rift back to Vorton,” called Arsha on the comms.
“On its way,” answered POmega. Optimus and Arsha then went through a rift as Richard and Megumi called for a cab. One arrived and the two got in.
“Where to?” asked the driver.
“2974 Angel Robe Drive, 960792,” replied Megumi.
“Right,” replied the driver. He then recalled something. “Wait, are YOU the people that asked those three to…?”
“I asked without looking up their pictures,” explained Richard. “Could you please hurry?”
“Got it, one Stooge Check-up package, 2 silver studs each,” answered the driver. Richard pulled out the amount and handed it over. “Fasten your seatbelts,” directed the driver. Once they were secure, the driver set his cab for the fastest air route and was cleared for take-off. His cab picked up speed and the wheels retracted into the undercarriage while the sides sprouted wings. The flight took two minutes. “Sir and Madam,” called the driver, “we’re making our approach to your home.” The cab then landed right in front of the house. Megumi and Richard dashed out of the cab and ran up the driveway to see that the house was built as they remembered it with only one exception, the exterior was bubblegum pink. Moe then came out of the front door to greet them.
“Ah, there you are!” he cheered. “Come in, come in!” Megumi and Richard then came in to see that the house on the inside was exactly as they left it, even to the colors. “As you can see,” continued Moe, “we’ve got the place all fixed up as you wanted it!” Richard turned the kitchen faucet and it worked exactly right.
“You’ll forgive us if we inspect the entire house,” muttered Megumi.
“Please, go right ahead,” answered Moe. The inspection took about an hour before Megumi and Richard approached Moe as Larry and Curly joined them. “What did we tell you?” chuckled Moe. “Your house is perfect!”
“It’s sensational!” boasted Larry.
“It’s even mediocre!” supplied Curly. Moe then showed his open hand to Curly.
“Pick two,” he ordered. Curly picked Moe’s pointer and middle finger, then received an eyepoke. He yelped, then rubbed his eyes to clear his vision.
“It IS as we remember it,” Megumi interjected, “but there IS one flaw.”
“No!” the Stooges gasped.
“Oh, nothing major,” assured Megumi.
“It’s just that the original exterior was powder-blue,” continued Richard. Moe and Curly then turned to Larry.
“You were the one who said they needed it to be pink!” he protested to Moe.
“I said we needed them to be tickled pink when we’re done!” snarled Moe as he smacked Larry’s face.
“OW!” protested Larry as he shut his eyes. His eyes still stayed shut. “Moe! I can’t see! I CAN’T SEE!”
“What’s the matter?!” yelped his friends in concern.
“I got my eyes closed!” replied Larry with a grin. Moe then yanked out a bit of Larry’s hair and presented it to him.
“Go stuff a mattress with it!” he snarled. He then turned to Megumi and Richard. “Now, don’t you worry,” he assured, “we’ll get your house the right color.”
“How much would the job be?” asked Richard.
“No charge at all,” answered Moe.
“Oh, Moe-san, we couldn’t do that,” replied Megumi.
“Don’t worry, we’ve got enough money right now,” assured Moe. “We’ll have your house looking right in no time!”
“Thank you so much,” bid Richard as Moe got Larry and Curly moving. He then called up a rift and they returned to Vorton. “For a minute there,” he muttered to Megumi, “I thought we’d have to buy a new house.”
“It’s been a concern of mine too,” replied Megumi. “Well now, that’s two rounds in the bag for me, let’s see what catches our fancy next.”
Back in Megatron’s home universe, Eggman made his way to the moonbase’s command center. He had a tablet in his hands and read the contents of the document that was given to him. It was nothing important, just the usual reports of Energon production and troop drilling results. He then looked up to the main monitor. “Alchemax, activate a secure channel to…” he began.
“Eggman vocal test confirmed,” interrupted Alchemax. “All access revoked until further notice. All exits have been shielded. Eggman, you are wanted for questioning.”
“QUESTIONING?!” roared Eggman. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM, YOU OVERSIZED…!”
“That’s enough!” hissed Hiro’s voice as he, Dr. Borg, and Megatron stepped out of the shadows. “Where’s Caan?!”
“What are you talking about?!” demanded Eggman.
“We’ve been keeping tabs on you,” explained Megatron. “You gave Soundwave a challenge, but we have our proof that you’ve been working with Caan!”
“You left a security hole open to Soundwave,” continued Dr. Borg. “We intercepted your conversation with Caan.”
“Furthermore,” growled Hiro, “you’ve disappeared for weeks, made yourself invisible to Soundwave’s sensors, and, when you reappear, you carry a rift signature similar to the one Caan uses! Now, I will ask you one last time, WHERE IS CAAN?!”
“…I have nothing to say to you,” hissed Eggman.
“We’ll just see about that!” snarled Hiro. “My best interrogator will get you to talk! So, unless you want to feel the lash for two straight hours, start…!”
“Intruder alert!” warned Alchemax. “Caan is…” She went dead.
“…Caan’s where?!” demanded Megatron. “Alchemax, report!”
“She can’t,” replied Caan’s voice. Judging by the fact that it sounded like it was run through a ring modulator, it was safe to assume he was in his Rider persona of Kamen Rider Dal. Dal came out from behind a control console and fired over Hiro’s head. Hiro, Dr. Borg, and Megatron ducked behind consoles and fired at Dal’s position. Eggman then went to join Dal. “Metaltron, is the virus ready?” barked Dal into his communicator.
“Metaltron?” asked Megatron. “But that Dalek committed suicide!”
“The virus is ready,” reported Metaltron. The voice surprised Megatron further.
“Rose Tyler?!” he yelped.
“Activate emergency escape rift!” ordered Dal. “Eggman is returning with me!”
“I obey,” replied Metaltron. A rift opened and Dal and Eggman went through it. It closed before Hiro could follow them.
“DAMN YOU!” Hiro wailed uselessly.