"So many worlds; so many playgrounds.

"My name is Aaron Stack. Currently, I am the Watchman of Earth. I stand in an observatory on the moon, overlooking a world still recovering from the Celestial embryo that was once within it. I was prevously known as X-51. As the Machine Man. As the robotic creation of Able Stack."

"You are still a robot, X-51. It does not matter what name you give yourself."

"The charming, booming voice behind me is Uatu, the former Watcher. He enlisted me to take over his position after he was blinded years ago. It might not have been a bad job if he hadn't made my skin transparent to expose the metal frame beneath. And if he hadn't spent all his time attempting to convince me that mankind's very existence is futile."

"I said their actions were futile, robot. As are your continued attempts to emulate them."

"See what I mean? Pardon me, Uatu, but I aspire to loftier goals than being an unemotional calculator or surveillance camera. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm trying to record a log entry."


FANFIC X
Chapter 0
Wyzeguy

WATCHER'S OBSERVATORY -- EARTH'S MOON


"Yes. Your loftier goals. Which at this point involve scanning for other alternate Earths in an attempt to rid them of Celestial embryos in their cores."

"That's the general idea, yes."

"Yet you are well aware the removal of the Celestial from your own Earth has caused the planet's environmental decay. You would wish that on other worlds as well?"

"Not at all. I've been actively working with Reed Richards to devise ways to compensate for the removal of the embryos. The Earth's repolarization was caused by the loss of large amounts of vibranium from the core. Now that we know this, we can plan around it."

"This is the same Reed Richards who was largely helpless in devising a cure for his own people's transformations."

"Well, yes, but Uatu, ours is the only Earth I know of where the entire population has been mutated by the Cestial seeds within them. Perhaps by curing the alternate Earths before the worldwide-mutations have a chance to happen to them, we stand a better chance to saving them without dooming them."

"Wishful thinking, robot. Nothing more."

"Isn't everything?"

"I tire of this debate. If you must carry on with this foolish plan, then please do so."

"Thank you. Okay. Continuing with my entry: So far I have seen a multitude of worlds, each vastly different from the last. On one, Peter Parker's daughter May never bonded with the Venom symbiote, but she did carry on the Spider-Man family tradition -- as Spider-Girl, in her case -- much to the dismay of her father.

"On another -- and in fact, the first alternate world I had seen that led me to all this -- most of the X-Men were slain or apprehended by an army of Sentinels that rose to power and put the entire country in its grip. Concentration camps for mutants became numerous, and a small group of surviving former X-Men banded together in a suicide mission to overthrow the Sentinels. They failed.

"On another -- well, detailing all the worlds I have seen would take to long, so I will move onto the latest Earth, to see how things developed. Positioning scanning and recoding devices now. Zooming in on Western Hemisphere. I believe I'll start with New York. Westchester, to be exact.

". . . Wow. That's unfortunate."

"What is it? What do you see?"

"I see a funeral pyre . . . outside a badly-damaged Xavier mansion. It looks as if a war had just raged there recently. And now the survivors are burying the dead. Or cremating them, more accurately."

"That is to be expected, X-51. Charles Xavier's dream for peaceful coexistence between humanity and its mutant offspring has, on many worlds and over many years, led to the very bloodshed which he had hoped to stop."

"You make it sound like he fostered killing machines. From what I can tell, the mansion seemed to have been invaded, and the X-Men, as always, attempted to protect their own."

"Perhaps. But that does not change the fact that they failed. There are more dead than alive at this point, correct?"

"I don't know, Uatu. I can't tell at this point, because I'm not sure how many people actually lived at the mansion. But you're right: there are very few people still standing, and I definitely get the sense that there should be much more. This is probably an Earth where the mansion actively served as a school in function, not just in name."

"To answer those questions, X-51, all you need do is look. Who is there, and who should be there, but isn't?"

"Actually, that's what I've been determining this whole time. I see Scott Summers, Warren Worthington, Logan, Ororo Monroe . . . an Italian man with whom I'm not familiar, and some others, including a Rogue who appears to be a teenager.

"But I don't see Jean Grey, and I don't see Charles Xavier. In fact . . . judging by the solemn expressions on the faces of the survivors -- especially on Summers' face -- I think this may be Xavier's funeral."

"Then his dream has died, and not surprisingly, ended with his own death."

"You don't know anything about the X-Men, do you? Cyclops is still alive. So are some of his main followers. As long as a dream has people to back it up, it can't die. We've seen Cyclops rebuild the X-Men after Xavier's death on our own world, after all."

"Perhaps. Tell me, do you find anything on this world to be of use to you in your quest? You seem to be in the process of gathering allies. Would you pull them away from their own affairs so that you might put them to work on your own project?"

"Considering their worlds are in just as much danger from the Celestial egg as the ours, it might be in their best interests."

"And what of their current dillemas, the outcomes of which they play crucial parts? You propose to remove them from the equation, which would doubtless have no less dire consequences."

". . ."

"Are you so discontent with your regular interference into your own worlds' events that you would interrupt other--"

"Okay, you've made your point. But I've got a plan for all that. Now then, let's see what the rest of this world looks like. Focusing on Manhattan . . . for either Four Freedoms Plaza or the Baxter Building, whichever one houses the Fantas-- What in . . .?"

"Problems, robot?"

"According to these readings, there's something very odd about this Earth."

"Odd? Explain."

"Yes, this area is being diagnosed by the instruments as being in a state of temporal flux. One instant it's there; the next it isn't. But that can't be right."

"How much area does the distortion field cover?"

"According to the scanning instruments, this planet appears to be solid like any other world we've seen . . . but it seems to be composed of a very unique form of energy, almost like a distortion field given a planetary shape."

"That is curious."

"Tell me about it. Either the instruments are malfunctioning, or there is something--"

"The Watcher's sensors do not malfunction, robot."

* * *

LATVERIA - EARTH

"Do you have the malfunction fixed yet, dear?" Susan Richards asked, or rather shouted into the bathroom's intercom. "I'd like to finish my shower with hot water if it's not to much trouble."

"I'm working on it, Sue," her husband Reed's voice replied, a tinge of annoyince in it, but not directed at her. She recognized the tone of voice as one of frustration with not fixing whatever he was working on in his laboratory.

She was actually used to Reed's work interrupting basic household operations, as it was a necessary by-product of being married to perhaps the most brilliant scientist on Earth. Back when the two were members of the Fantastic Four, it was a daily occurance. Now that they were an old married couple, it was simply an inconvenience. Reed still had a habit of running around trying to solve the world's problems; she'd only been able to get him to slow down a small bit.

Sue shivered now that the remaining heat in the bathroom had dissipated and only wet cold remained. Whatever Reed was working on, she hoped it was worth drawing heat away from the water supply.

"Try it now," Reed's voice utered over the intercom, and Sue tentatively complied. She discovered to her amazement that the water was in fact warming up again, and informed Reed of this. She expected a typical long-winded, jargon-laden explanation of what he did to fix the problem, but instead he asked, "are you still taking the boys with you when you and Alicia go shopping in New York?"

Sue smiled. "Yes. They've been dying to see the Absorbing Man." She still had difficulty believing that a former supervillain had gained incredible mass months ago by merging with the entire Manhattan Island itself, then left a hollow shell of himself behind so that Manhattan would continue to look like an immense concrete human from the waist up. Her twin nephews, Chuck and Buzz Grimm, had wanted to see it for the longest time.

She realized she was used to experiencing things she had a hard time believing; it was par for the course with the lifestyle she led. Her very existence was proof: she had died once, and was recently returned to the land of the living by inhabiting her husband's stretched-and modled right arm, amputated at the shoulder. She touched the tiny gem on her forehead that housed her soul and consciousness as she showered. Yes, she'd learned long ago not to ask too many questions when it came to bizarre circumstances.

"It would be nice to get them out of the castle for a day," Reed's voice agreed. "They've taken to playing football in my laboratory, due to the available space. Two identical preadolescents with their father's physical characteristics romping around sensitive equipment--"

"Is not a good thing, I know. Don't worry; you and Ben will be rid of us soon enough, and we'll be sure to bring something back for you."

The rough voice of Ben Grimm, Buzz and Chuck's father, came on the link. "Bring me a souenir baseball cap, Suzie," he requested. "Can never have too many of 'em."

"All right, Ben, I will." She turned off the intercom link and resumed her shower. She was definitely going to enjoy her day in New York.

* * *

WATCHER'S OBSERVATORY

"Something definitely odd is happening to that planet, Uatu, and its inhabitants are oblivious. Actually, if the scanners are right, the inhabitants themselves are also made of the same energy."

"Cross-reference this phenomenon with any in our archives for a match, X-51, and catalogue that reality's dimensional coordinates."

"Actually, Uatu, I'm already on both tasks. According to the monitor, this reality's coordinates are . . . ."

"Are what? Speak."

"They're in a section where we shouldn't be seeing alternate Earths, or any alternate planets of any kind."

"Intriguing."

"Ah. Turns out there's a record of this phenomenon in the database after all. The computer matched the energy signatures of the distortion field -- and the Earth itself -- with Asgard.

"I'll assume by your silence, Uatu, that you're as surprised about this as I am."

"Your assumption, X-51, is irrelevant. The computer's revelation, however, might suggest a logic behind what you are seeing.

"You know that the beings known to Earthlings as Asgardians are actually extraterrestrials who had reached their third stage of mutation, in which their identity is subject to outside influence."

"Yes, that's how the Norse human convinced them that they were Gods from Norse mythology, how he merged with them to set himself up as Odin, and . . . ."

"And how he created an entire plane of reality from them that is sustained by his will and the beliefs of normal humans. You are starting to see the connection."

"Yes. The very energy signatures which the beings exuded were synchronous with the energies that comprise entire planes of reality. So that would mean that if the scanners aren't detecting more beings like the Asgardians -- or at least, what they were like before they met a manipulative human --"

"Then the Earth at which you are gazing is a construct of those same energies, and subject to someone's control."

* * *

MIDWESTERN NORTH AMERICA

"To be controlled for so long by Odin," the Asgardian known as Thor seethed, "thinking he was my father, and I was a god . . . enrages me to my very core! For millennia have I been deceived!" He raised his heavy warhammer, Mjolnir, high above his head and brought it down against the earth with a thunderous tremor to punctuate his rant. The ground split beneath it.

"That's it, brother, let it all out," the former trickster Loki said with detached amusement as he perched atop a boulder in the canyon. Or at least, it was a canyon now. Before Thor had visited his frustration upon the place, it had been an empty plain in North America. Loki stood up and smoothed the dirt off of his black-and-white robes and regarded Thor with a featureless expression of boredom. "Though I'd have thought you'd have got all that rage out of your system, say . . . two months ago, when you learned the truth about yourself?"

Thor turned and glared up at Loki, heedless of the wild strands of blond hair that the cold night wind whipped across his face. "I have spent centuries of my existence believing myself to be the Odinson, and you expect me to come to terms with this new fact immediately?"

"Well, at least your dialogue has improved," Loki observed while stepping off the boulder and landing featherlight on the soil. "I never understood why Odin -- or the human who claimed to be him, anyway -- thought that we'd be considered more impressive by the mortals if we spouted Shakespearean jargon. We were Norse Gods. We sounded ridiculous." He walked toward the former thunder god and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I knew you weren't going to take the news easily, Thor, nor do I expect you to fully understand even now. You were always the most honest of us . . . and certainly the least subtle. But you're that way because that's what the legends demanded, the same way I was made a conniving liar. But we don't have to be that way now that we know the truth." He noticed Thor didn't flinch or retreat into hostility whenever Loki touched him, which was a good sign.

"So I can now be the liar, and you can be the honest one?"

"Not quite what I had in mind, but the problem with breaking away from our old identities is that we have no idea what we were before we came to Earth. We don't know how to be anything else but Thor and Loki." He paused in thought. "Well, you were Don Blake, Jake Olsen, and others when necessary . . . ."

"And you were always a shape-changer. So assuming new identities is not alien to your nature in the slightest."

"Okay, good point." Loki smoothed Thor's loose-hanging shirt, but stepped back when Thor's glare indicated Loki still needed to respect personal space. "Anyway, I know we don't technically need to think of each other as brothers, but--"

"You value our new alliance."

"Yeah, it's the first thing we've ever agreed on, so I'd like to hang onto that. Besides, we're brothers in that we come from the same race." More seriously, he looked up at the stars, at the expansive sky above them. "The rest of our kind is still up there, in Asgard. They compose Asgard, more accurately. We have to free them, Thor We have to show them that they don't need to be Norse gods and demons just because an old storyteller took advantage of them."

"But by revealing them the truth, do we not also take away their identities, just as Odin took theirs away. As you took mine away?"

Loki looked back at Thor for a moment, engulfed in silence disturbed only by the hiss of wind. "I never said it would be easy. And you can't break an omelet without breaking a few eggs, as the saying goes. Come on, Thor; we have a lot to do."

* * *

WATCHER'S OBSERVATORY

"Well, I have to say this is something I didn't anticipate stumbling upon when I started this project."

"That begs the question of how the instruments were reconfigured to detect this section of the cosmos in the first place, if you'd set it to detect something else entirely."

"Don't look at me, Uatu."

"I will ignore your comment about my blindness for the moment, robot. Meanwhile, I'd think it rather improbable that this newfound plane of reality is unique and isolated."

"Less probable things have happened, I'm sure; this is a big universe. But you do have a point. Now that I know what I'm looking for, I'm scanning for any other alternate Earths like this. Ah, yes. Found one. Again, I'm seeing Xavier's school--"

"Destroyed or intact?"

"Structurally intact. But what's going on inside is much more disturbing than a post-war funeral pyre."

"Go on."

"I see Charles Xavier -- very much alive -- maneuvering his way through the mansion halls without his wheelchair. Instead, he's using psionic energy to float. But there's obviously something not right with this Charles' mindset. He seems more . . . predatory now. More malevolent. He's making his way toward the main hall, toward the foot of the stairs. Storm is at the top of the stairs, and she's changed too. She's just as unbalanced as Xavier, and she seems to embody a weather goddess more than she ever has in the past. But certainly not a nice goddess."

"Your constant moral descriptions tire me, X-51. Morality is only a construct of humanity; you know this."

"Perhaps, but keep in mind that we study humans, Uatu. Their moral perceptions are not irrelevant to them. And what's more, I think 'evil' and 'malevolent' would actually be words this Xavier and Storm would use to describe themselves."

"Is this establishment a school as on other Earths?"

"Yes. I saw him pass by a group of adolescents -- prospective students, probably. Remy LeBeau is among them."

"Gambit?"

"Yes. But he seems to have a hidden agenda. Xavier is apparently aware of this, but he has elected to ignore this for now. Charles is heading up the stairs to Ororo. There's something about the way they're acting toward each other. Like two gods acting on a level above mere humans. Or more accurately, they're behaving like a mated pair."

"'Mated'?"

"If they haven't already, it looks like they're about to take that step now. How's that for a turn of events? I don't think this Ororo would be likely to marry the Black Panther as she did on our Earth."

"What else can you determine about that world? There must be some information--"

"You mean such as, 'an epidemic called the Legend Virus has affected the world's population, killing off humans and mutants alike, and drastically altering the survivors'? That's what the instruments have just picked up from various news sources. And I'm currently reading over the shoulder of a strangely-untouched Henry McCoy. Though why the Beast would beunaffected when the rest of the mansion is either dead or disturbed . . . well, it looks like not even he knows."

"This Legend Virus hasn't altered its victims the same way the Terrigen Mists have on the Earth we know, have they?"

"No. It hasn't activated anyone's dormant mutancy. It boosts the victims' power potential to a level which they can't handle. They either die -- in the cases of Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and soon Scott Summers -- or they go mad, in the cases of Xavier, Storm, and Jean Grey. I don't think you want to know what Jean's up to with Logan right now."

"Whether I want to know is immaterial. All the information we can uncover about this reality will--"

"Will what? Give us a clue why certain planes of reality contain anomalous Earths and altered X-Men when they shouldn't have either? If our theory that these planes of reality are in fact the creation of some outside psyche, then it seems to me we have the wrong subject under the microscope."

"You wish to study the creator itself? Tell me, can your sensors home in on it?"

"I'm not sure -- no. These instruments demand that I have a direction in which to point them."

"And it's possible that it exists beyond the reach of our sensors."

"That's a first: you freely admitting that your technology has limitations."

"'Less probable things have happened.' I believe those were your words."

* * *

CHICAGO

Words failed Bruce Banner at a time like this.

The scene that met his eyes was one of pure cruelty, with three thrill-seeking punks using their plague-born powers to brutalize a weaker passerby, just for fun.

Rather, the scene met the eyes of his traveling companion, the Hulk, with whom Banner shared a telepathic link. Banner was blind otherwise, and thanks to the same plague that split him off from the Hulk and devolved the jade giant into a gigantic gorilla, he appeared to be a bespectacled eleven-year-old boy. In truth, he was in his sixties, and was used to seeing acts of savagery.

The punks' reason for the antagonism was a new one, however. Following the demise of the entity known as Death months ago, living organisms could no longer die. They could be injured, mangled, and mutilated beyond recognition, but they could not succumb to the damage. They could only live in agony, and with the world a more dangerous place now that the entire world's population had been endowed with superhuman powers, it was both easier and harder for people to be damaged beyond repair. Hospitals around the world were filled beyond capacity with the gravely injured. Banner vowed to do something about that, since he aided the group of heroes who eventually put an end to Death herself.

But first, he was going to put a stop to these punks who took pleasure in seeing how badly they could wound and torture their victims. Killing had lost its sting, but violence had not. And inhumanity was everywhere now that humanity no longer existed.

Banner sized up the three hoodlums who were unaware of his presence. One was enormous, with a body like hard concrete and fists like piledrivers. Another could fly, and was skilled at divebombing his victims, crowbar in hand. The third could project burst of intense flame, and apparently enjoyed the smell of scorched flesh. Their screaming victim was beyond the point of recognition, and Banner couldn't even determine the gender.

The Hulk galloped toward the alley in which the violence was taking place, its master holding onto tight to its thick hairy neck. As the Hulk grabbed the cement thug and tossed him upward into the very surprised flier, Banner announced his presence by commenting, "if there's anything I can't stand, it's a bully, much less three of them."

The pyrokinetic yelped and stepped backward several fearful paces at the sight of the giant green ape. Banner expected that, as the Hulk was infamous the world over. Hulk was one of the first known superhumans, and still one of the most dangerous. "Now apologize," Bruce ordered. Having long ago found peace with his Hulk half, he wasn't above enjoying the power he had over bullies.

Sadly, the pyro refused to cooperate. "Get away!" he shouted, unleashing a massive barrage of flame at the Hulk, which caused the ape to recoil in pain and knock Banner protectively away from the fire's reach. The problem was, Banner was sent sailing a lot further than was healthy. He rolled into the empty city street and looked around in panic. He could only see through the Hulk's eyes, and the Hulk was preoccupied with pounding the pyrokinetic into the wall.

"Hulk!" Banner shouted, trying to get his pet's attention. He could hear his environment, but couldn't see it unless he could get the Hulk to look in his direction. He'd become adept at discerning his location in relationship to the Hulk's vision, but that wasn't doing him a lot of good right now. Finally, Hulk's vision panned over to the street where Banner sat . . . and Banner realized the cement hoodlum was behind him right before the thug picked him up.

"C'mere, monkey," the thug told Hulk. "If you want a piece of me, you gotta go through the little brat first. He'll live of course -- nobody dies anymore -- but what happens to you if I rip 'im to pieces?" Hulk stalked forward, furious.

"No, Hulk! Stay right there! Please," Banner shouted, trying to calm the part of himself that manifested his rage.

Hulk didn't listen, and threw a punch at the cement cretin, who raised Banner up like a human shield. But Banner had enough mental control of the Hulk's actions to cause Hulk to curve the path of its fist enough to miss its master. The fist, which could easy crumble stone and concrete, did just that to the hoodlum's upper body. Banner was thankfully dropped in the process.

Banner sat up and dusted himself off while his simian counterpart checked to see if he was all right. Then, through Hulk's eyes, Banner gazed remorsefully at the ravaged victim, the crushed flier, the smeared pyrokinetic, and the crumbled cement-being. "If this keeps up," he commented to Hulk as he stood up, "everyone on the planet will look like this."

The Hulk grunted its agreement.

* * *

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK

The two heads of the young X-Man aptly known as Double-Header never seemed to agree on anything. One was a serious, dedicated student and natural leader, while the other was an irreverant, lazt slacker with authority issues. With the two heads controlling the same body, it was a wonder Double-Header ever got anything done.

Scott Summers mused on this as he watched DH try to shout directions to his teammate Tower as the latter put in a new structural support and attempted to stand it straight up. The heads were arguing with each other about what signals to give Tower, and the twenty-foot mutant was growing impatient with the conflicting signals.

"A litte to the left!"

"No, he's just fine the way he is."

"He needs to tilt it to the left or it'll be crooked."

"You're the one who's crooked. Now will you back up and let me do this?"

"I'm the one who's supposed to be directing him, not you."

Tower looked over to Mr. S pleadingly while Double-Header continued to give a split-personality rendition of "Dueling Banjos".

Summers smiled and decided enough was enough. "Just tilt it an inch to the left, Tower, and you'll be fine. Double-Header, help Mermaid and Dogface carry the rest of the boxes in. I think you're about to drive Tower crazy." He watched Double-Header reluctantly comply and walk off, then looked up and around at the mansion itself and the surrounding grounds, the Xavier Estate. This had been his home many years ago, but he was only recently setting about its restoration after it had been abandoned following the death of Charles Xavier. He was the estate's legal heir, but shortly after his mentor's death, he couldn't stand to live there when his friends had moved out and the place brought back too many memories. So he let the state claim it and lived elsewhere for a decade until meeting the troupe of young circus performers who became his new X-Men.

Even then, he felt badly about returning to the mansion, and took up residence in the Savage Land with Magneto more recently. But now he felt it was time to dust off Xavier's dream and return to his home. That involved a complicated legal struggle to reclaim the rights, but he was glad that was over.

He heard the sound of tall grass under footsteps behind him, and he turned to see Tower's sister, Charmer. "You like this place, don't you?" she asked, looking up at him with brown eyes and tugging at her facemask. She seemed to have difficulty seeing why, with all the weeds and damage to the estate.

He nodded. "It doesn't look like much now, but it used to be a great place to live. This was the first place I'd called a home after my parents died. I decided it was time to reopen it as a school."

"But . . . why? I mean, you were doin' just fine without this place. Dogface thinks you had a falling out with Magneto."

"He and I didn't exactly get along too well, he admitted. "But that wasn't why I left. I deided to leave the Savage Land because Magneto and I were seeing eye-too-eye entirely too much. We've always been leaders, but the two of us under the same roof was never intended to last."

"Because you used to fight him."

"Yes. If we stayed together too much longer, we would have started fighting again, so it's best if we went our separate ways."

Charmer nodded, then looked thoughtful. But if you two developed your game plans separately, wouldn't that mean you two are going to end up opposing each other philosophically soon?"

Summers had to smile. Charmer was the most reluctant X-Man at first, but she was evidencing a knack for strategy and group dynamics. He guessed it had something to do with crush she had on him. "Yeah, I guess Iit would at that. We'll burn that bridge when we come to it. Now the others need help with the boxes."

Charmer nodded and started to walk toward the house. She passed by Tower and observed the structural support that Tower had moved an inch to the left as per Scott's orders. "It looks crooked. You need to tilt it to the right a little bit."

Tower scowled at his sister. "Will you go away, before I drop-kick you?"

The black girl conjured a psionic projection of a cobra to hiss at Tower's eye-level. "Talk to the snake."

Summers chuckled and headed back into the mansion, making his way through the giant hall to the professor's study. He stood in the doorway of the messy room, dreading the daywhen they'd have to clean that room up. Papers and books were scattered everywhere, and a tree had fallen in through the window.

Then he noticed something disturbing and stepped into the room. Just as he thought, the professor's Cerebro helmet was gone. Someone had stolen it.


* * *

WATCHER'S OBSERVATORY

"All right. Then while we're on the subject of probabilities and limitations, Uatu, how do we know that there is a single entity behind this? How do we know that we're dealing with the work of entitIES, plural?"

"More than one? Your question has merit, X-51. And if more than one entity exists, then it follows that more than one of their 'works', as you put it, exist."

"That brings us right back to the questions: why Earth? These beings must have the entire universe open to them. Could it be that they, like Watcher technology, have inherent limitations?"

"Those are questions we must explore."

"It's kind of nice to finally find a section of the cosmos on which you're not a fountain of conceited knowledge."

"Enjoy this hollow victory of yours while it lasts. In the meantime, as Watchman, how do you intend to explore this 'section of the cosmos'?"

"You mean where do I start? I already have a few strategies in mind. Two clear ones, in fact."

"Such as?"

"First, I'm going to give these entities a name, because 'entities' is vague and repetitious."

"But by imposing a moniker on a new discovery, you impose your will and a set of narrow limitations."

"Maybe, but by naming something, I can begin to perceive it. Plus, I noticed something about the energy that composes the Earths I just saw: the distortion is somewhat similar to the static on a radio or television with bad reception. But it was clearest, most coherent, at the specific points I was watching. It was almost as if the mansion seemed to get the best 'reception'. Not only that, but the coherence seemed to follow the people around, as if the focus were on them like a camera. I'm sure in this case, I'm sure that 'camera' is the entity's mind's eye."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying both realities almost seem to be following a narrative. The people and events that receive the clearest focus are the most important toward following the chain of events. It's like watching a story unfold, and even more so than our normal variety of Watching. In fact, I'm certain that's the reason these realities exist in the first place."

"So these entities are actually telling stories that manifest in the physical form of these realities?"

"That's my hypothesis, anyway. I think I'm going to call these beings the Authors."

"A rather pretentious moniker."

"I know. Just like 'Watcher'."

"You said you had two opening strategies. What is the second?"

"Oh, right. I'm going to see if I can overcome the sensors' limitations by enlisting some help, so we can see more of the big picture. I'm going to get Reed Richards to help me upgrade the software."


TO BE CONTINUED IN FANFIC X #1

Fanfiction Referenced:
"Climb the Wind: Epilogue" by Minisinoo
"Dark Legend" by Tarchannon, et. al