It’s been a month since the success of Operation Rising Sun and the Liberation of Drakonia.
Another busy month.
Lorik is back on the throne, Nadia and Edgar by his side, Panthera is Royal Mage and Magicca’s Archmage again, Dharin is once again Captain of the Royal Guard, and Nocturne is pleased to be back in the castle.
The reconstruction of Drakonia is underway. A number of villages were obliterated under Dehak’s rule, so memorials have been raised at the site of each attack.
But other than that, spirits are high in Drakonia. The rightful rulers are back in charge, woollies are reuniting with their owners, and with the Adventurer’s Guild keeping the monster population under control, peace is returning to the kingdom.
The Dark Dragon cultists aren’t so happy, however. News of Erebus being slain again spread fast, and now those cultists are too depressed to attack anyone.
We consider that another win.
Those who survived their unjustly imprisonment under the usurper’s reign have been released. And the people who are supposed to be in those prisons are being hunted down. A lot of those guards fled the city when the Tower of Tyranny was obliterated.
And the wish that made all the guards obey any order Dehak gave them was undone too, so it’s going to be tricky figuring out who stayed in the city because they were never loyal to Dehak, and who stayed in the city because they voluntarily served him, and were under orders to stay in the city if Lorik reclaimed his throne.
But Dharin knows his boys.
So yeah, things are going to be confusing for a while. There’s a lot to sort out.
But we’re getting there. We will sort it out.
The hunt for Dehak and his remaining allies at large is on, and every Dehak loyalist we capture is a vital asset, because they might know where he is.
We don’t think they know where his phylactery is, but if we can put him down for a while, that buys us some Dehak-free time.
This isn’t the end of the war.
This is just the end of the beginning of the war.
Mr. Dragon-Soul has gone back to his world, but, being a good friend of Edward, is coming back to visit regularly.
They’re drinking buddies, remember.
Dude’s even thinking about getting a fluffy for his kids.
But considering how dangerous his homeland can be, it might not be the best place for a fluffy to live.
Dude had a hard enough time choosing a good place to start a family.
He, ah, owns a lot of properties across the province.
Hey, he needs places to put all the loot from his adventures.
He’s a bit of a kleptomaniac, but I can see where he gets it from.
He needed some time to mourn for all the loot in the Tower of Tyranny he didn’t get a chance to steal.
We still paid him for his time.
As for the three allies of Dehak in our custody, they’re all being contained on Earth, far away from Dehak.
Shaun, in Mervin’s tower. We were able to remove the Black Band with some brilliant surgery on Valerie’s part, and he seems to be genuinely remorseful.
Deedee, we injected with power dampening nanomachines, because he already got a collar off once.
He’s being contained in a cell under the School, next to Harvey.
Yeah, we have cells. Where did you think we keep Harvey? In the broom closet? We don’t really get a lot of chances to use the cells, and when we do use them, we try to treat the occupants humanely, even if we don’t think they deserve that.
The cells are mostly for people who we don’t trust to not break out of an ordinary prison, because they’re not ordinary themselves. We’ve got a row of cells designed specifically for containing undead too, or honorary undead like werebeasts.
No, it’s not just werewolves and werecats. Pretty sure werebears and wereboars are a thing too.
See, we shoulda put Garm in one of those cells.
His pack’s dead now anyway. So… eh.
What was left of Project Magnus Frater was returned to the military, along with both halves of Project McFly.
General Lucas wasn’t happy to see the state they were in, but he doesn’t blame us.
And then there’s Umbra, who is in the cell on the other side of Deedee, in an anti-magic field, and wearing a gold bracelet just in case.
The video of Slayer giving it to Umbra good has been getting millions of likes, which, of course, we made sure to tell Umbra about.
You should have seen the look on his face.
Several members of FauCorp’s FluffTube department lost loved ones in the Demonic Invasion, so they didn’t mind looking the other way for once.
We’ve been questioning our new “guests”, along with Harvey and Necrosis, regarding their ties to Dehak, but of the three new arrivals, Shaun’s been the easiest to get information out of, and the one with the least new information.
He’s been begging us to help him. He knows where he’ll go if he dies again, or rather, who he’ll go.
And we know that the same applies to Umbra, and possibly Deedee too.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a permanent solution to that problem, so right now, our priority is keeping the three of them alive, where we can keep an eye on them, until we do have a permanent solution.
We’ll put them on suicide watch if we have to. They’re already being guarded at all times.
As for Harvey and Necrosis, they’re both starting to fear Dehak less, now that they know that he can be beaten even with the Lamp of Desire in his rotten hands.
So they’re starting to talk.
They’re not as scared of the consequences anymore.
Back on Earth, things are going on as usual. We’re back to doing the things we usually do, our hearts fully in it.
You know. Train, save lives, do science, the whole thing.
Calvin Impact’s been repaired, and is standing by with Marley Impact at the Impact Site.
We’ve drained the power from that octavium shield. The Nerd Squad will be analyzing the power of those skull beams, so we can learn their exact composition.
And now that we can synthesize octavium, we’ll probably find another use for the stuff.
This whole thing didn’t really affect anyone on Earth, but the normos have noticed that we’re all a lot more cheerful than we were while Drakonia was under Dehak’s rule.
A lot of people in our city were annoyed, because they were anticipating another Invasion and had started packing for nothing. They’d made plans to stay with friends and family out of town.
Invasions are just a semi-regular annoyance in our city.
Well, there was an Invasion, technically.
But this time, we were doing the invading.
Come to think of it, I’m not really sure how many people on our side know about the other side.
I mean, anyone could go there via the Inn Between Worlds.
And the doors to the Inn in Drakonia are back up.
So Igor’s happy too.
There’s also been a few developments off Earth.
One development is that our ex-Ganglion buddies have renamed their reformed Ganglion.
They’re calling it the Intergalactic Faucheuse Foundation.
Their goal is basically to use their Ganglion resources to clean up their mess across the universe, and help the Federation deal with any unrepentant ex-Ganglion members.
Pierre completely approved of the name, because the Faucheuse family is always happy to help people redeem themselves.
The Trinity of Terra met Gooroo a few times during their tour of the universe. That’s a whole other story.
But then there’s another development, a very strange one.
Planet Tenneb seems to have disappeared entirely, taking most of the Tennebite race with it.
Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye!
Well, at least you don’t have to do that yourself, Cal.
Problem is, the Federation has no idea how it happened.
Or if it’s going to happen to another planet.
Tennebites hate leaving their home planet, so they don’t have much need for astronauts, but occasionally, they need something that can’t be found on Tenneb, and someone’s gotta pull the short straw.
Or they need to wage war against another planet, in which case there are plenty of volunteers lining up to enlist.
They hate krik (as they call anyone or anything not of Tenneb) being on their planet, and Tenneb isn’t in the Federation, so nobody’s ever taken a census.
Which means we don’t know exactly what percentage of the Tennebite race has been lost.
And if the survivors know what happened, they ain’t telling.
They hate and mistrust outsiders, how many times do I gotta say this? Hell, a lot of them think that the Federation or the ChaotiX did it.
The shitty thing is, they might actually be right.
A lot of people on our side of the universe see this as a good thing, except the surviving Tennebites, obviously.
But those of us in the ChaotiX, those of us who were there for Operation Rising Sun, we have more pieces of the puzzle.
It isn’t a coincidence that this happened after thwarting the Octovirate of Darkness.
And it definitely isn’t a coincidence that this happened after the Lamp of Desire was destroyed.
So we think we know what happened.
Edward’s moved back into Dragonheart Palace with Erdrick and the flooffies, meaning Cecil and Cid have the big house all to themselves again.
Ceec is kinda bummed about that, but he’s happy for Eddy, and it’s not like they can’t see each other whenever they want.
So Edward is keeping me updated on his and Erdrick’s training, and Erdrick is training very hard to hone his new dragon powers.
They’re both looking forward to working in the field together.
And he’s keeping the Star Chariot, sadly.
Well, you two almost have your driver’s licences. So you could probably have Valerie build you your own motorbikes.
They’ve gotta be able to fly, I’m insisting on that.
Honestly, flying vehicles can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
Think about it, dear readers.
You ever see someone who drives so bad it makes you think “Oh my God, how did that moron get a licence?”
Imagine that moron driving a flying car.
Yeah. Not a pretty picture.
We’ve also gotten a couple of new recruits, both of whom have been assigned to the IntergalactiX.
First up is J’enn J’onzz, Martian and niece of J’onn J’onzz, no relation.
What finally got her off the fence, you ask?
Well, I knew how to sweeten the pot.
Literally. She gets a free supply of Oreos, which, for some inexplicable reason, Martians can’t get enough of.
I don’t know why they aren’t all morbidly obese by now.
And Inyako the Nyah joined too. He didn’t know that Iku is a member, and Iku didn’t know that I invited Inyako.
Until I called them both into my office at the same time.
They weren’t happy to find out that they’d been tricked into working together, but they both respect me, so they’re begrudgingly attempting to cooperate.
That, and they both know that I’m a wily bastard, so in hindsight, they both realized that they should have seen it coming.
But I’m not sure that they won’t start arguing if nobody’s around to keep an eye on them.
Which is why my cunning plan to teach them both a lesson about tolerance doesn’t involve them doing anything too vital.
I wouldn’t want a Stone of Octavo being stolen because they were too busy arguing to guard it, for example.
And they’re both in the IntergalactiX, so I plan to have a third squad member assigned with them on all assignments.
Iyatagg volunteered to keep an eye on those two.
Peeta said that him volunteering would just make things worse.
Puppupians don’t really get along with Nyah either.
Do I have to explain why?
Mal’s team is done with Faucheuse Tower’s rooftop garden, which looks gorgeous.
The roof is now surrounded by a fence of Stahlglas, which prevents anyone from falling off without obstructing the spectacular view of the city below. And isn’t so tall that birds crash into it.
Just to be sure, Valerie set up an anti-gravity safety net. Very common on Lumix. You ever play Super Mario Galaxy and jump off the Comet Observatory, dear readers? It works kinda like that.
It’s, ah, starting to become common in Japan, too. Again, I hope I don’t have to explain why.
But the rooftop garden isn’t open to the public yet. The Tower’s warded to keep unwanted visitors out, so we need to figure out how we’ll deal with that before we let just anyone enjoy the garden.
Worst case scenario, we build more rooftop gardens.
That big tree makes the already impressive one hundred and twenty floor Faucheuse Tower look even more impressive. Everyone loves the addition to our city’s skyline. You can see the Tower from pretty much anywhere in or around the city.
It’s better than a big skull blasting death beams everywhere.
A symbol of life, instead of a symbol of death. How strangely fitting.
Mal regrets not getting a chance to see the Tower of Tyranny for himself. When he saw the glimpses of it we got via the drones, he fell head over heels in love, and told blondie to draw up a blueprint.
But they won’t be building any skull towers here, because they’re helping rebuild Drakonia, and Korkea Bros. Construction is helping with that.
Still gotta ask blondie to build me a vacation home.
Harry’s training hard, but he’s still undecided on the hang glider lessons.
And Fireball is training hard too.
He’ll be getting a partner in the field, in the form of Frost, who turned out to be X-Positive after all.
Yeah, Frost has pyrokinesis. So me and Marley will be training him.
Marley wants to train with Mallow too, but I’m still undecided on that.
I mean, weather control can be a dangerous power in an Omega’s hands, and we can’t un-copy powers.
So we gotta be sure that copying it is a good idea before we do so.
To be safe, Mallow’s wearing a bracelet like the one Jack wears to keep us from copying his powers.
You forgot about that, didn’t you?
We call them Copy-Blockers, by the way.
Right now, me and Marley are in Massachusetts, having been invited to an event with Victor, Scarface, Pierre and Deston.
Or rather, with Fenrir Houndstooth, Reaper and Magus, the Trinity of Terra.
Yeah, we’re at that event. The annual barbecue on the former site of the Eternal Gentlemen’s Club.
I’ve already met Vernon Hodge, retired butler, Bo Jackson, who wanted to teach me a horse-taming trick, but Mel already taught me that, and Burgundy, whose herd has their own wing at the Faucheuse Foundation branch here.
Their wing’s got an outside door, they’re not obligated to stay inside the Foundation.
“Reaper” and “Magus” are talking to Glen Sugarbean, a name I know, because he opened a second Sugarbean’s restaurant near my apartment building.
Dude’s the best chef I know of who isn’t immortal, a witch, or an alien.
He’s here with his wife and kids, including his eldest son, whose name is Victor.
Maaaan, what were WE doing when shit went down here?
If I remember correctly, I was at Dave’s place, getting high with him, Seth and Andre, watching Ant-Man.
Those shrinking scenes are mind-blowing when you’re baked.
And I was still waiting for Cal in Fairy Hollow.
And you didn’t have an independent existence at the time, Niv, but you remember that day too.
Yeah, it’s not like I could have wandered off or anything…
Speaking of wandering off, “Fenrir” and “Montana” have done precisely that, going behind an old stable, and I can guess why, so I’m not going to follow them, and I had to tell Marley not to follow them either.
It’s a private moment.
They only get to do this once a year.
At the moment, I’m signing a poster of myself for a gangly, redheaded man in overalls, as he holds the poster still on an empty table.
Like Pierre, I’ve always got a pen on me.
And a holo-pen too.
“Okay, it’s W-A-T-T-S, right?”
“Barry Watts, that’s right! As of a few months ago, founder and owner of Mjölnir Electric! This is my fiancée, Melissa.”
“Dat wee-mine Mawwey, we stiww gutta tawk tu Vih-dun-duw.”
I cap the pen, another autograph successfully signed, and shrug.
“Tomorrow, Mar. Alright, dude, I hope you like it.”
“An we bettah nu see dis post-uh awn Eee-Bay.”
“Hell no, this is staying on the wall for life! Mr. Korkea, if you ever need a good electrician, you give me a call! No charge, and yes, that was on purpose!”
“And if you ever need another wizard in the ChaotiX, you give me a call.”
I smirk at them.
“I’ll keep it in mind. We’ve already got a couple of plumbers. Barry, you any good in a fight?”
Barry grins at me.
“I’ve been hoping I’ll cross Threshold X. I mean, come on, if I do, it’s easy to guess what power I’d get!”
And I laugh, thinking about Fireball and Frost.
“Barry, my man… you’d be surprised.”
Meanwhile, in New York City, a fluffy waddles through Central Park, calling out for his owner.
“Mummah! Whewe am mummah?!?”
His owner was here from upstate for a shopping trip, and is currently driving home with her kids. She hasn’t noticed that they forgot their fluffy, as she is trying to keep the kids from arguing while also keeping her eyes on the road.
“Huu… huu huu huu…”
When he passes a bench, the person sitting on it speaks up, in a deep, calm voice with an ambiguous accent.
“Poor thing… are you lost?”
The fluffy turns, seeing Father Lucian Pax sitting on the bench, looking at the lost fluffy with a sympathetic expression.
“Perhaps I can show you the Way.”
In truth, that’s not an accent at all.
That’s the voice of an incomprehensible being attempting to sound human.
And not quite nailing it.
Meanwhile, on the B-side of the universe, in Dragon Roost Mountain, Edward and Erdrick train with Chrysus, the rest of the mountain’s dragonic residents watching from above, Nadia and Aurelia watching from nearby.
The half-dragon hero’s beard is coming along nicely. Fortunately, he inherited the genes for good facial hair from Cecil, so he’s got plenty of options.
Nadia certainly approves of it. Lorik and Nadia were allowed to keep the battle suits they were given, and the weapons too.
So she’s wearing that right now. She finds it so fascinating. ReaperCloth is completely unheard of on Magicca.
Edward’s legs and arms are both covered in golden scales, his hands and feet both claws, and Chrysus gestures at him, smiling at Erdrick.
“Eddy’s a lot closer to a complete transformation than you are, Erdrick. So he’s agreed to slow his training down, so you can catch up with him.”
“Ewdwick knu, gwate-gwampa. Ewdwick onwy bin duin dis fow a munf.”
Edward’s limbs revert to normal, revealing the mark of the Friend to Cats on the back of his left hand, his battle suit’s nanomachines covering his limbs once more as he kneels down and strokes Erdrick.
“But from now on, we’ll be doing this together. It’s gonna be fun. We can be just like Cal and Marley now!”
“Yuh, Ewdwick wuz gittin sickies of stayin in da baggie.”
“And when you’re ready, we’ll show you how to copy the powers of other dragons.”
“Huh. Ewdwick had fow-guttun abowt dat. Ooh, dis am gunna be gud…”
Elsewhere on Magicca, deep in a crypt underground in an unknown location, Dehak, having unhealed his wounds and repaired his clothes, sits cross-legged on the floor, in front of a Circle of the Devourer.
“My apologies, master. But I fear that the Lamp of Desire has been lost to me.”
A horrid voice replies from the arcane circle, the voice of an incomprehensible being that isn’t even trying to sound human.
“Which is entirely YOUR fault, Dehak! Our instructions were simple! Recover the Lamp! Deliver it to us! That was it! That you used it to repair your phylactery and restore your body, we can understand! But after that, you should have delivered it IMMEDIATELY!!! Instead, you used it to play king, and got it destroyed! And now we’ve lost six of our most valued souls! The hatred Umbra feels for Korkea is no longer OUR hatred!”
“So you no longer care for the boy?”
“We didn’t say THAT, Dehak. We recently devoured an entire PLANET of people who despise Korkea. Our hatred for him is stronger than ever. But that rift has closed. There are forces working against us, powerful forces, it’s not just the Light That Burns The Sky trying to keep us out…”
“There are still three members of the Octovirate out there. And the other three are–”
“Beyond your reach, so they might as well be dead to you. Did you seriously never think of wishing for some means to travel to the other side?”
“Well, no, because–”
“The Lamp WAS the means. You didn’t see the need for redundancies.”
“I had redundancies–”
“Not ENOUGH, or you would have won! You are lucky that you got out with your unlife, let alone your body! You are lucky you did not end up right where you started, stuck in your phylactery! You are still in the game, but it is still all too easy for you to lose! See that you don’t forget that, Dehak! For you know the price of failure!”
Dehak nods, remembering the hiding place of his most valuable asset, in a place very difficult to reach without the Lamp of Desire.
“Yes. I do know.”
Meanwhile, in a distant timeline, five people walk to Dragonheart City, passing the rotting corpses of the entire ChaotiX, most of them impaled on spikes, the Tower of Tyranny standing tall and proud, dark clouds covering the kingdom.
First, the notorious multiversal criminal known as Anti-Calvin, the psychotic Calvin of Timeline-9891, wearing his purple heart-shaped mask as always.
“Are you two feeling nostalgic?”
Second, the alternate Dehak, who stole his Deston’s body and turned both sides of his universe into worlds of the unliving dead, seeing the corpses of this timeline’s Calvin and Marley, both still dangling from the tree that was used to hang them.
“Oh, that’s a good idea. But no, boy. I have no attachment to any version of this putrid kingdom.”
“That’s too bad, Des. What about you, Anti-Eddy?”
Third, the alternate Edward, still clean-shaven, the scarred king who took the throne of his timeline’s Drakonia by force, with two Dragonbanes strapped to his back, both acquired from other timelines.
“Is the native Nadia still alive?”
“Don’t think so. Sorry, Anti-Eddy.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’ll find my perfect queen in one timeline or another.”
“ETvD-1989’s Nadia is still alive. I recommend her.”
“What about you two? What do you think of-- snrk– Dehakonia?”
Fourth and fifth, the newest recruits, alternate versions of Lou and Tony, the Super Hoskins Brothers.
The alternate Lou’s overalls are purple, his shirt and cap yellow, the L embroidered on his cap upside down.
“Is it like this in every timeline?”
And the alternate Tony’s overalls are black, his shirt and cap a darker purple, the T on his cap likewise upside down.
“It’s gotta still be Drakonia in a lot of timelines, right?”
And both of them are wearing black Power Gloves and High-Jump Boots, their mustaches both wild.
“Yup. In the pussy timelines where,” finger quotes, “the good guys win. See, Anti-Lou, Anti-Tony, from my point of view, prolonging the suffering of existence isn’t good at all.”
The alternate Dehak raises an eyebrow.
“Why don’t you call me Anti-Des?”
“I thought that you hate it when I call you Des. You know, because you aren’t actually Des.”
“I do, Boss, I’m just curious.”
“The answer is because fuck you, that’s why. You’re my least favorite team member, because you remind me of U-1999. I could always call you Dehstuonn instead. Or, y’know, your birth name.”
“How would you even–”
“I’m sure there’s a version of your brother who would tell me. Especially if I tell him that you stole a version of his son’s body and murdered his other son. Uncle of the Millennium, you are. Don’t forget, Des: you’re only in the Anti-ChaotiX as long as your usefulness outweighs your pissing-me-offitude.”
“That’s not even a word!”
“It is now, and your pissing-me-offitude just went up a bit, so watch it.”
“Fine. So who are we here to recruit? If it’s not a version of me–”
“One of you is already one too many.”
“–or a version of the dragon-boy, who is it?”
The quintet crosses the bridge, two guards with eyes glowing octarine guarding the portcullis.
Anti-Calvin snaps his fingers.
The guards are turned into fluffies.
Another fingersnap lights them both on fire.
And a third fingersnap turns the portcullis into sand, the sand falling away.
Anti-Calvin giggles one more time.
“You’ll see why we’re here soon.”
Meanwhile, even further beyond the multiverse, on a planet that looks like a desolate version of Earth, the sky pitch black, a giant slimy green portal opens.
And an equally giant vessel enters through it.
A vessel that looks a bit like a futuristic submarine, and also a bit like a spaceship.
And in the command center of this multiverse-traversing vessel, M-62, Zebediah and the Gurus are seated.
M-62, the big-brained Marley of Timeline-62, smiles, wearing a silver helmet on his bulbous head, which allows him to steer the vessel with thought alone.
It’s very strenuous, which is why he doesn’t do it all the time. But a mission to a place like this can allow no room for error, and he’s taken pains to ensure that he is the smartest person aboard the vessel.
He prefers his minions smart enough to follow orders, but not smart enough to question orders.
“Here we are, gentlemen. The realm of the Never-Was and Could-Have-Been. The cosmic garbage dump for the multiverse’s rejected ideas. The Graveyard of Universes, Time’s Eclipse, the Edge of Eternity. Now we have gone beyond the gutters between the panels, and have fallen out of the comic book entirely. If anyone can go further out than this, they never returned to tell the tale. This is, as they say, the end of the line.”
In the distance, the group sees a glowing bubble, a floating continent inside it, and looks of longing appear on the Gurus’ wrinkly faces.
M-62 looks up at them.
“We’re not going there yet. This is just another salvaging mission. We still have a lot of work to do before we even think of that.”
“An we gut da Fings tu woh-wee abowt.”
“Exactly, Zebby. As long as we remain inside the Gilgamesh, we’ll be safe from the Things. And as long as Ad Laun Dyz remains inside that bubble, it will be safe.”
“Wut am dat bubbuw, aneeway?”
“A pocket of non-time, Zebby. Ad Laun Dyz is frozen at the moment of its end, all but five of its occupants frozen with it. Two of those people are dead. Very dead. There aren’t any timelines where they win, because if they did win, that bubble wouldn’t be Out Here, and the timelines where they lost wouldn’t exist anymore. And the other three? Are sitting right behind us, Zebby.”
“Su dewe nu am anee udda vuw-shuns of Adam an Kushim?”
“None who are still alive. Again, if they survive, it means they defeated the ChaotiX, and our sub-branch of the multiverse as we know it wouldn’t exist. Only one version of Adam would have to succeed, and his victory would affect every timeline that exists due to Ad Laun Dyz being removed from the timestream.”
“Su, a wotta da timewines wif fwuffies in dem.”
“Yes, they’d be replaced by the scalies as Earth’s dominant biotoy.”
“But wut abowt deez fwee?”
Zebediah points a marshmallow hoof at the Gurus.
“Am dewe udda vuw-shuns of dem?”
“Probably not any versions who win. It would lead to the same outcome as Adam winning, more or less.”
“I don’t like what that implies about our odds.”
“There’s been three attempts so far. Our Emperor’s attempt, and our two attempts. And the Emperor got a lot closer than we have.”
“But then he tripped at the finish line. He didn’t anticipate that merger, creating a being who could match his Omega-fueled temporal powers.”
“If I had just let the Emperor copy my powers, he wouldn’t have needed Clockson in the first place. He could have restored Ad Laun Dyz, and the ChaotiX would have had no clue until it was too late. I should have let him.”
“Maybe you can make a nice lanyard at Camp Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda.”
“Am dat anudda namesie fow dis nu-pwace, Mawwey?”
“Well, this place is full of shouldas, wouldas, and couldas. Like I’ve explained before, it’s a dumping ground for the multiverse’s trash. Pieces of destroyed universes and unmade or pruned timelines. The ideas that weren’t good enough. That planet down there? That’s not one Earth. It’s a patchwork planet, comprised of fragments of Earths that no longer exist, home only to the Things. There’s enough pieces of alternate New York Cities for at least three Manhattans. You know how Timeline-0 is the source of all other timelines. Each timeline starts as a spark of possibility, surging all the way up from the roots of the fractal tree, into a branch, splitting it. And again the branches split, and again, with spark after spark after spark spawning world after world after world. The branches and sub-branches and sub-sub-branches can’t be counted by even the smartest mortal. But the roots? I can give you a rough estimate of how many there are.”
“An how manee am dat, Mawwey?”
“Oh, about eight billion.”