Masters of the Multiverse
Author's note: No offense meant to geeks. I am a geek. Mike, Steve, and Frank are exaggerated characters. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. THIS IS NOT A REAL PERSON FIC.
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"Is it working?"
The rainbow swirl of painfully bright, manic color, which brought to mind nothing less than the remains of a twelve year old girl's personal website regurgitated by a projectile-vomiting, high resolution computer monitor, faded until it left only a disturbing afterimage across Xander's eye. He sat up slowly, holding the side of his head.
He was so not on the "bus out of hell" anymore.
"Dude! It worked! You rock the hardcore tech-magic like it's a goddamned granny-chair!"
Xander blinked in the dim light of the wood-paneled room. He could just make out three male forms clustered around him, and a scrolling text screen-saver on a monitor behind them.
"Masters of the Multi-verse! Masters of the Multi-verse! Masters of the Multi-verse!"
"God, Andrew," Xander leaned forward, still cradling his head. "I know you want to relive your ‘glory days' but remaking Warren's basement is NOT the way to do it."
"Holy crap, dude, he just compared us to the Trio! We RULE!"
"Quiet, Steve." The guy-shape on Xander's right leaned into his personal space, and Xander leaned back instinctively. "We come in peace."
"You be quiet, Frank!"
"Shut up! This was my goddamned idea!" The center guy-shape shoved the right guy-shape, only to get shoved back. Xander swung his head around to peer at the left guy-shape, hoping for something resembling normality.
"What the hell is going on?"
"Steve, Frank, dude, you're freakin' him out! Stop flirting and chill. The fuck. Out!"
Xander shook his head. Left guy-shape wasn't going to help matters, after all.
Center guy-shape and right guy-shape snapped apart abruptly, wearing matching manly sneers of non- attraction. Right guy-shape poked Xander in the shoulder.
"Yeah." Xander scooted further back on the grimy, seventies-brown carpet, only to run into a beanbag chair. "And you are hopefully a freakish hallucination brought on by lack of sleep and bad pizza."
"Naw, dude," Right guy-shape puffed up his narrow, geekish chest. "We're totally real. Way realer than you, even. I'm Steve."
"Frank." Offered center guy-shape, tossing long, thin hair over his shoulder the same way Xander had seen Willow and Buffy do it over the years. Xander turned a suspicious eye to left guy-shape.
"Mike." Left guy-shape gestured to the still dim, but gradually coming into focus room. "This is my place. We're in RL. And now, so are you!" Mike leaned back dramatically, as if this statement should make some sort of sense to Xander, perhaps even to the point of impressing him.
Xander shut his eye. He could feel a headache building, though whether it was an aftereffect of whatever the hell kind of cracked-out spell had been used to bring him here, or the close proximity to geeks that seemed to rival even Warren and his crew at their peak, he wasn't sure.
"Dude," Steve whispered to Frank. "If we're the trio, I'm so totally Warren."
"Are not," Frank hissed back. "I'm Warren. Mike's the mage, so he's Jonathan."
"Not even! That'd make me--"
Xander opened his eye and watched the pair bicker curiously. "Andrew," he offered.
"I'm so totally not Andrew!"
"S'not so bad, Steve," Mike grinned. "At least that'd mean you survive."
"No way, Andrew's totally gay! And annoying. He thought Timothy Dalton was the best Bond!"
"And this conversation will begin making sense . . . when?" Xander leaned back against the beanbag, eyeing Steve and Frank suspiciously. "How the hell do you know who the Trio were?"
All three shared a glance. Mike shrugged. Steve grinned.
"Dude, we're like the biggest fans of BtVS EVAH!"
Steve rolled his eyes. "Duh, Buffy the Vampire Slayer?"
Xander shut his eye again. "Oh no. Nononono. Don't ever tell Buffy she has geek-boy fans. We'll never hear the end of it."
"Dude," Frank peered at Xander, his expression clearly showing that he thought the one-eyed man had to be the biggest dork in the world. "The show?"
"Buffy has a tv show now?" Xander shook his head. "There's no way I could have missed that."
"Steve, shut up!" Mike smacked Steve upside the head. Mike was suddenly Xander's new best friend. "To him it's REAL."
Scratch that. Mike had to die. "What do you mean, to ME it's real?"
"I told you, man, you're in RL now. Real life?" Mike placed what was supposed to be a calming hand on Xander's knee, completely ignoring Xander's eyeball of doom message that he would lose it if he didn't remove it again. "Out here, you're just a character in a tv show, called Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Xander nodded slowly. "Okay, I get it . . . ." He peered around the room. "This is the real world."
Mike, Steve, and Frank all nodded.
"And my life is a tv show."
They nodded more swiftly now, excitement shining in their eyes.
"And Buffy has top billing. I'm, what, her wacky side kick?"
"Um, yeah." Frank looked a little embarrassed. Xander just nodded.
"Okay. Can I have some of whatever you guys are smoking? Because I'm thinking it's damn good stuff."
Steve giggled, patting a small cloth bag at his side. "That's not such a bad idea."
"Dude, we're not high." Mike shot a glare at Steve. "Okay, not all of us are high. We're talking true, man. We brought you here, from the creative ether."
Steve raised his eyebrows and nodded excitedly. Frank looked slightly bored.
"Okay." Xander shook his head. "Assuming that what you say IS true, why the hell would you bring me here? What, is this just a sick joke, or something?"
"Nope!" Steve was practically bouncing, until his eyes caught something over Xander's left shoulder, and he abruptly stopped, seeming to drift in his own little world for a moment. Xander assumed he'd spotted something shiny. The boy was like a ferret, completely with the lanky, boneless body. Steve shook his head, snapping back into focus. "You're gonna be our champion!"
"Your champion. You have, what, a demon after you that you need me to be eaten by?"
"Pfft." Frank snorted. "Demons aren't REAL."
"Yeah." Xander dead panned at him. "Neither is magic."
Frank, Mike, and Steve all blinked at him. Xander sighed.
"In the Masters of the Multi-verse competition." Frank got to his feet, a process which involved a lot of grunting and puffs of breath as his large belly jiggled slightly. He pushed at something on the table the monitor was on, and the screen lit up. A website was open, bearing a large, overly cheerful insignia that seemed to combine the X-men logo, the Batman symbol, the Superman S, and a number of other icons that Xander couldn't immediately recognize. Xander scooted forward.
"Masters of the Multi-verse online application form." He frowned. "Huh." He scanned the page, reaching out blindly for the mouse, which Frank relinquished with no little irritation. He scrolled down. The entry form was pretty basic, asking for names of team members--Frank Jones, Steve Smith, and Mike Dominguez-Polinsiak--the team name--"SMG Teacozy", whatever that meant--and character-- Alexander Lavelle Harris. He winced. How the hell did these guys know his middle name? The webpage went on to describe an elaborate ritual with which to bring the chosen character "into game play", some of the ingredients of which he could see scattered about in a small circle around where he'd been sitting. Xander sat back. "You guys know you're COMPLETELY insane, right?"
"No way, man, we're totally going to win." Steve bounced up to Xander's left side, and Xander winced. "Eesh, sorry, dude. It's real simple, see? Buncha teams, anyone who can cough up the dough to enter, pick a champion. The champions duke it out in the arena in a full-on, no-holds-barred, knock-down, drag-out, ultimate ‘who would win' game, until one is named the winner."
"Right. And that includes, what, any tv show character?"
"Pfft." Frank snorted again. "That would be way too lame. This is any comic, tv, movie, or book character you can bring across."
Xander nodded. "Superman?"
"Megan's team already got him."
"Reservoir Dogs. Niiiiice."
"Dude," Frank rolled his eyes. "I said ANY character."
"Uh-huh. And you chose me."
"You're sitting here, aren't you?"
"Yeah. About that." Xander shook his head. "I'm not playing."
All three geeks spoke at once.
"Aw, come ON!"
"This is your CHANCE, man!"
"You have to."
"No I don't. I refuse."
"Can't." Frank had returned to the computer, clicking a link on the website. Seventeen pop up windows advertising every possible human sexual depravity in full technicolor pictures flashed and squealed onto the screen. Frank stared at them each for a long moment as he closed them. He licked his lips. Finally, the website was revealed. "Says right here. Once a champion has been chosen and summoned, it cannot be returned to the creative ether until the Master of the Multi-verse is chosen. You have to fight."
"I'll live here."
"No can do." Mike leaned back against the desk. "Characters aren't meant to live in RL. You stay here too long, you'll fade away."
"Like Yoda in Empire!" Steve pulled out a lighter and a glass pipe. "Only you don't get to come back all spectral-y. You'd just be, you know, gone."
"Gone, how, exactly?"
"Totally gone. You wouldn't even be a character, any more. The whole history of your show would be rewritten, without you in it. Gone-gone."
Xander paled. Then he clenched his jaw. "What the hell kind of sick freaks ARE you people?"
"Not freaks, dude." Steve lit his pipe, taking a long hit. "GEEKS."
"I'll throw the fight!"
"You wanna die?" Frank cocked his head to one side, as though the idea intrigued him. "‘Cause, you'll go back to the ether that way, but you'll totally feel it. I imagine it'd be really painful."
Xander stared at him for a long moment, then glanced at the two others. "What makes you people think I can win? I mean, Spongebob, yeah, I could probably take him. But Superman? Spiderman? Mr. Pink would have me full of holes faster than you can say ‘cannon fodder'. I can't win this,"
"That's where we come in." Mike picked up a drawing tablet. "We can give you any weapon, device, tool, whatever, you can think of. All you gotta do is use it."
"Anything?" Xander perked up. "Can you make me know kung-fu?"
Steve looked confused. "You don't know kung-fu?"
Xander ignored him. It seemed the best way to handle the idiot. Mike shook his head.
"Um, no, I could make you a gi, and some ninja weapons, but you have to know how to use them. We can give you weapons, not skills."
"And again, I ask, what makes you think I can win this? You know, assuming this is actually happening, and not just the result of Dawn's anchovy and marmalade pizza?"
Mike, Frank, and Steve blinked at him. "You know, soldier stuff."
"Guns. Grenades. Green beret tactics. Guerilla warfare. I bet the hyena'll help you out, too."
"Hyena?" Xander could feel bile rising in his throat. The room spun.
"Well, yeah. You still remember that stuff, right?"
Xander very slowly shook his head. The geeks exchanged looks again.
"But," Steve sounded as though he might burst into tears at any moment. "You can use a rocket launcher, right?"