[AUTHOR’S NOTE] This is a short set in the Unlucky Seven universe (or Uni7erse as was recently suggested to me). If you like what you read here and you’re not familiar with the source material, check the links on the sidebar to buy/borrow Unlucky Seven and the Obligatory Sequel. You won’t regret it!
[AUTHOR’S NOTE PART II] Sorry about the formatting. WordPress doesn’t like tabs and needs carriage returns to make this look less like a giant run-on sentence.
Justin slept on the couch in front of LENNY’s main screen.
He was sitting, slouched, his head back and his mouth open, snoring. A video game controller dangled in his hand, slipping ever so slowly toward its inevitable fall to the stone floor of the main chamber as his unconscious grip grew lighter.
On the screen, a wizard stood in the middle of a town. The character’s idle dialogue had been chastising the sleeping gamer every two minutes for around forty-five minutes now. Justin couldn’t even hear it and continued snoring.
The others had all gone to bed earlier. Justin had seized the opportunity to take over the screen for gaming purposes but didn’t last long before slipping into an exhausted and unprompted sleep.
His nose twitched with the smell of smoke. Strange for a person with smoke for hair – he smelled smoke all the time and had become mostly nose-deaf to it. This was different somehow; enough to cause him to snort loudly and wake up. The controller clattered to the ground as he sat up.
His eyes opened to smoke billowing around him. He panicked, stood up quickly, and started looking for its source. He checked himself over first to make sure that this wasn’t some kind of superpower malfunction. As far as he could tell, this was something external. His eyes darted around looking for flames and found nothing but the cloud of smoke itself that was largely obscuring his sight of anything.
Suddenly, the smoke moved away and became humanoid in form, standing a few feet away from him. With a quick burst of flames, the smoke solidified and Justin was face to face with a slightly familiar looking figure.
The person he looked at wore a black leather trench coat with red leather flames rising up from the bottom. His boots and pants matched the theme. On his chest was some sort of body armor with a stylized flaming skull on the chest. He wore a respirator decorated to match and a pair of heavy-duty welding goggles. His hair was a pillar of white and grey smoke. It became very clear to him quickly.
He was stunned for a moment as the person removed his identity-obscuring disguise revealing a face identical to his save for a few noticeable scars and a full beard rather than Justin’s typical goatee.
“Hello, Firestarter,” said Justin’s duplicate, smirking.
Justin’s face suddenly and almost violently clenched.
“Oh, shit,” Justin said, sighing, putting his hand up to his brow, “Please don’t tell me you’re me from the future. Please. We totally have enough problems here without having to deal with a time-travel story arc.”
“Story arc?” said the other Justin, “What do you mean?”
“What do you mean, ‘what do I mean?’” Justin asked, “You’re me. You should know exactly what I mean, right? Like, me from the future should totally remember this discussion happening. Not only that, me from the future should absolutely understand what I’m saying when I say I want to avoid a time travel story arc. You should hate them as much as I do. They’re unnecessary to a narrative. Most of the time it’s just showing off alternate costumes and alluding to things that have happened in the years since the time period the displaced character left. Seeing as you have a cool alternate costume, some scars that I don’t have, and a rockin’-ass beard, you’re really hitting on all the tropes. So tell me, Future-Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?”
“What the,” said the other Justin, shaking his head in confusion, “1985?”
“It’s a reference joke,” Justin said, “Please tell me that I still have my wits in the future.”
“Hang on a minute,” said the other Justin, “I’m not from the future.”
“Oh, God,” Justin said, “It’s even worse. You’re alternate dimension me.”
“Well, really,” said the other Justin, “I could argue that YOU are alternate dimension me seeing as I’m the one who traveled here from my home dimension to find you.”
“Wait, let me guess,” Justin said, “There’s some kind of inter-dimensional crisis and you’re running around collecting all the alternate dimension us-es to face some kind of gigantic threat the likes of which our worlds have never seen.”
Other Justin looked intently at his surroundings.
“Have I been to this one before?” Other Justin asked.
“Are you serious, dude?” Justin said, slapping himself in the forehead, then looking pleadingly at his well-equipped doppelganger, “Come on. This is a prank or something. Bad dream, right? I’m still passed out on the couch in the middle of playing video games.”
“Well, you were,” said other Justin, “I woke you up. Trust me, this is real.”
“No it’s not,” argued Justin, “Because there aren’t other dimension and crap like that. That stuff is all in the comics.”
“So are people with smoke for hair who can throw fireballs,” other Justin said, “What’s your point?”
Justin took a moment to think about it and sighed.
“I guess you’re right,” Justin said, sitting down on the couch, “This life has officially become a comic book hellscape. All of my dreams of having super powers and all of the nightmares of the tropes to go with it. Next thing you know we’ll be fighting mole people or planet-eating purple cosmic titans or some crap like that.”
“You didn’t meet the mole people yet?” asked other Justin.
Justin looked up at him from the couch, his face contorted in an expression usually reserved for people with bamboo shoots under their fingernails.
“Kidding, dude,” said other Justin, “Only kidding.”
Justin hung his head low and cradled his face in his hands.
“You’re the first of us I’ve talked to,” said other Justin, “The Firestarter of Earth-Two.”
“Earth-Two?” asked Justin, shifting his head slightly to look at him between the fingers covering his face, “Why are we Earth-Two? This is the only Earth I’ve ever known, so this is Earth-One or Earth-Prime or something else that sounds like the main Earth from a DC Crisis comic.”
“You’re Earth-Two,” said other Justin, “Because you’re the second Earth I came to.”
“So, you’re just blatantly colonizing us as ‘Two’ because you’re the first alternate dimension person to set foot here?” Justin asked, “No, that’s not right. This is Earth-One if anything.”
“Dude, look,” other Justin said, “It was really hard and dangerous to get here. Can’t I just call you the Firestarter of Earth-Two for the sake of setting us apart?”
“Why are you calling me Firestarter at all?” Justin asked.
“Well, that’s my superhero name,” said other Justin, “You’re the me from Earth-Two.”
“I never called myself that,” Justin said, insulted, “Firestarter? Really? Did you name yourself after the Stephen King book or the Prodigy song? How am I so lame on your Earth?”
“You never thought of calling yourself Firestarter?” asked other Justin.
Justin stared forward quietly for a moment before responding.
“Dude, you totally did,” said other Justin.
There was another moment.
“Ok, I did,” said Justin, “But I trashed it because I wanted to think of something that wasn’t already the title of two identifiable pop-culture properties. Can you please not call me ‘Earth-Two Firestarter’ or whatever, though? I’m not in love with either the superhero name or the colonization of my home dimension.”
“Fine,” said other Justin, sounding slightly frustrated, “Look, we need to talk business.”
“You’re forming a superteam,” Justin recapped, “Some interdimensional team of Justins to try to eliminate a huge reality-destroying threat.”
“Something like that, yeah,” said other Justin with an exasperated huff.
“Nope,” said Justin.
Other Justin stared at him, an incredulous look on his face.
“Nope?” he asked.
“Nope,” Justin stated plainly.
“You haven’t even heard about the danger we’re facing,” other Justin said, “This threat could destroy the multi-verse!”
“Multi-verse,” Justin scoffed, “Listen to yourself, man. You sound like a monthly one-sheet promo. Is the cover cool? Are we standing back-to-back facing the bad guy or is there an entire army of alternate costumed us-es standing behind us facing the camera and looking angry?”
“Be serious here, man,” said other Justin, “Like the term or not, the multi-verse is a real thing as witnessed by the fact that I am here. Also, it’s some pretty dire straits and we are the only ones who can help to save it.”
“By what?” Justin asked, “All throwing fireballs at the same place at the same time? Everyone going into our crazy super-saiyan state and mega-blasting a bad guy? Everyone turns into smoke and gives the supreme alien intelligence lung cancer? Why did they only send you? Did the rest of the team wuss out or something?”
“If you must know,” other Justin said, holding his wrist up to show Justin a device of blinking lights and buttons which very much bore Kurt’s signature kludge, “This device creates a crack in the fabric between realities which is too small for anyone to get through unless they can change into…”
“You know what?” Justin interrupted, “Forget I asked. Too much explanation of the how and the why is going to take all the comedy right out of this situation.”
“This isn’t supposed to be funny,” said other Justin, “I risked my life crossing dimensions to come here and get your help.”
“Look, I love a good alternate reality story as much as anyone else,” said Justin, “And I really do love all of the alternate costumes. And yes, yours looks super bad-ass and cool and I’d love to know where you got some of those scars. And I’d also like to know why you don’t seem to see the narrative the same way I do and why you don’t understand reference humor. But, at the same time… nope. Nope to all. Don’t want anything to do with it.”
“Why not?” plead other Justin.
“I have my own corner of the apparent multi-verse to take care of,” Justin said, “If there is really a multi-verse out there, go pick up the next couple of dudes down the line. To be honest, I’m kinda sick of all the action and could use a break. I’ve been through a lot since the accident and all and I really haven’t had any time to let that stuff sink in. Plus, I kinda have this thing with Zoey going on and I don’t really want to die before I see that through. Do you have a Zoey in your reality?”
“Zoey?” asked other Justin.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Justin said, “Yeah, I’m out. I don’t want to disappear on some adventure I might not come back from right now. I’d really rather sit here and veg out and pray there aren’t any robot ninja attacks in the near future.”
“You’re going to put your head in the sand and play video games because you’re lazy,” said other Justin.
“Yep,” said Justin, “Not having it, not going, good luck. Get the guy the next universe over. You can colonize that one Earth-Three. Think of how cool that will be.”
“Do you have no responsibility in this dimension?” other Justin asked, “These scars you’re so fond of? I earned them. I fought to def…”
“Yeah,” Justin interrupted, “Not really interested anymore. They’re an aesthetic thing and they kinda look cool with the whole get up but if you’re going to sit there and tell me about your scars to try and gain some sympathetic leg up on me so I come with you, you’ve got another thing coming. Blah, blah, whine, whine, all my friends are dead and these scars represent them or some gung-ho garbage like that. It’s all very pedestrian as far as alt universe stuff goes. It actually goes further to prove that yours is Earth-Two because all the people on Earth-Prime or whatever are the ones who are all still alive. This story should be about me falling into your bizzaro world and trying work my way back to where things are normal.”
“You know,” other Justin said after a minute, “I don’t remember being this much of an asshole.”
“Oh, if you don’t think you are now, you probably were before,” said Justin, “I’m sure your tragic backstory made you hardened and jaded. Maybe your Earth-Two is the gritty reboot we’ll get when things finally wear out here. Until then, happy hunting out in the multi-verse. I hope you find a bunch more us-es to rally to your cause and I hope they all have scars as cool as you.”
Justin picked up his controller and continued playing his game from where he had left off before falling asleep.
The other Justin sat watching for a moment, quietly.
Justin huffed and paused.
“Dude, seriously,” Justin said, “You’re really bringing the room down here. Can you just go find Earth-Three or –Four us and see if he’s interested instead?”
“The multi-verse needs you,” other Justin muttered.
“If the multi-verse is as big as the comics says it is,” Justin said, “Then there is a lot of me to go around. I’m sure one or two of us will gladly join your cause. Go mope on their couches. I’m trying to forget that I have to sort my life out here.”
“Whatever,” other Justin said with a sigh, “Why bother.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Justin, “Let the whole multi-verse perish in flames because you came to me first; the lazy one with his head in the sand, right?”
“Man,” other Justin said, “I’m a real dick.”
“You certainly are,” Justin said, “Have fun storming the castle.”
Other Justin stood and, after pressing a button on his wrist device, turned into smoke and vanished through a microscopic crack in the universe.
The Firestarter of Earth-Two continued playing video games for another fifteen minutes before passing out again.