Chapter one "House of stories"

In every given multiverse there are clusters of similar universes. Similar realities can be charted into a finite set and plotted into a curve based on their relation to any given prime reality. Those closer to the prime reality and most similar, and those furthest the most different.

Beyond the edges of that curve is nothing but malformed realms too twisted for life to survive. In our central finite curve, there exists a reality that defies this pattern. A world near the prime reality not twisted by fate but by choices made and futures decided. Where would-be heroes failed, and would-be conquerors along with them. Those that brave the dangers of the omniverse know this place as "Dimension 12". A far too simple name for a dreadfully complicated realm. Now it is a warped place where killer machine gods roam, and time itself ticks sideways.

It was here I came to build my crooked home with its limitless rooms and shadowed halls.

Its backyard forever in sunlight and summer's warmth looking out into a forest that knows no end. Its front yard is shadowed in the darkest night and is battered by the worst of winter's ice and snow. To its sides are alleyways where the light won't find you, and silent things walk. Never go there my children for the silent things prefer to walk alone. Those that try to walk with them are never seen again. Though they are heard from time to time on rare nights in the front yard when the wind is silent. Beyond that is a sea of floating islands, machine gods, and more terrors subtle and gross. Also from time to time one of my children off on an errand, or off misbehaving.

Walk with me my dear as I return home. Meet a few of the lost souls I have given shelter, and see how I treat those in my care.

I return home through the front yard watchful for silent things that may have walked further than most. The door opens with a creek as always it is crooked after all, but never-ever locked, my children. All are welcome, and not one of the terrors outside dare enter this humble abode.

There in the front room, I find the first of my children. Once a little girl lost, and now a relatively happy member of the family. Relatively because her little crush has gone causing trouble. Not for us mind you, but for himself. He thinks he can just return to the world. Go back to the bright shiny places in the omniverse and just step back into his life like nothing's changed. We've all changed inside and we all know it each and every one.

I see her there kneeling by the fireplace reading her favorite book over and over. Poor thing she's not yet given up on returning to the light. Probably dear Williams influence. She turns her head to look at me over her shoulder. Right away I see her pretty red hair is draped over her face.

Gwendolynne looks up at me with big red glowing irises, and eyes black with spreading cracks extending out onto her adorable face. Those eyes are so sad, and tears stain her favorite red and white shirt down to its cartoon mushroom logo at its center. I hug her while speaking softly.

"You shouldn't hide from it my little one. Here in this house, it can not grow inside you. Stop running from it my little one. Stop running, turn and face it."

For a moment I just hold the child while she shivers. After a while, it ends and she speaks this first of my lost little ones does. I hear in her voice an echo of that power inside her. Gwen's like her have moved worlds, and I know my little Gwendolynne might too one day.

"I will. I promise I will. It keeps trying to bite me, but I won't let it!"

Putting my hand on my shoulder I put my helmeted head to her face.

"Oh, my child do more than that. Take a bite of your own."

I leave her to her book, and her inner ghostfreak infection knowing my little one will be OK in the end.

Moving deeper into my home I hear the sound of skittering legs and smell chilled air in my warm home. For a moment I fear someone's foolish enough to have opened a side window! Then I realize where I am and whose room I'm passing. Pausing for a moment I wish I had time to get more comfortable. This room doesn't house my most troubled child but he's close.

I knock on the door as anyone should. It's my house, but I give the rooms to the children.

At the sound of my knocking the skittering gets worse for just a moment as does the cold. Then everything goes far-far too silent for my liking. I open the door oh so slowly. Inside I find a Lufferlang spider the size of a small dog. It's bloated with offspring and its eight double-jointed legs struggled to make it skitter around. It was looking to the center of the room where my Zak is sitting cross-legged on the floor his eyes afire with power so ancient it almost defies understanding. The beast's many eyes turn from the boy to me and true to its legendary reputation it image is terrifying even to me. It leaps at my head peeking into the room just enough to give it a target. My armor thankfully has defenses both active and passive. It freezes in the air and I take a moment to recover my witts silently. It wouldn't do to have the children see me out of sorts dressed like this.

I step into a room that's a mess of webbing and broken furniture. I speak keeping my voice a soft thing without anger the boy looks exhausted. He speaks before I can his voice a distant thing full of false enthusiasm.

"Greetings and Bienvenue dear …."

I cut him off some things you just have to be firm on the power in names is one of them.

"Eon Prime in this armor son, and nothing else. Zak, you know my rule about pets."

He slumps over the ancient light of KUR gone from his eyes. Something else even older and stronger is there now fear.

"Just ask first. I know I just … the Lufferlang are scary I knew it would be tough to handle. I wanted to get better that's all. Then I found out it had babies so it was that much harder. I had the house make it cold thinking it was cold-blooded. It should have gotten sleepy."

Putting my hand on his shoulder I try to reassure him.

"It went looking for hot blood to banish the cold you know better. This isn't the house of horrors you grew up in dear Zachary. I'm not angry I'm not casting anyone out. I am simply worried about my chargers ALL of them. This pet of yours could have caused a stir if it let it's hundred or so offspring loose in our home."

He's still so afraid, this young one. It was such a horrible thing, a Saturday lost in Weird World. I think my home reminds him of that awful place and that makes me sad. I wait with the boy until I'm sure he hasn't hurt himself or worse been bitten by this bloated monster. The heat goes back to normal over time. The room responding to the will of the occupant.

When I'm sure all is well I leave him to clean up the mess and take the beast out to the backyard intending to release it into the woods where it can play with the other things that skitter and jump stalk and bit that dwell therein.

Walking back to the house I find more of my children playing in the yard. The newest and yet oldest of my poor lost children. Lyn and Kirby sit in the green summer grass. The rarest of finds in the omniverse a, Benjamin " Kirby " and Gwendolyn "Lyn" Tennyson that have become as mutually codependent as they are mutually sociopathic. It warms my heart to see cousins close as siblings. At 17 they are the oldest of my charges and the most recent I've taken in. As such I've had the least time to help them so sad. They are yet to feel at home in my crooked house. They insist on sleeping in the same room for instance.

Get your mind out of the gutter dears. They sleep in shifts, taking turns guarding the door as if It was not safe here in my home for any all within its walls. Even with all the safety, my yard can provide they sit back to back protecting one another. I hear them speaking as I approach. My hearing is sharper than most think in this armor.

" Lyn I know, I feel it too, but if we go back pretty much everyone that used to be on our side is out to get us. Oh great its . . ."

She silenced him by squeezing his hand just a bit.

"Shh Kirby not with the armor on. "

He scoffs.

"We need a safe place I know that, but after Vilgax and Diagon you're afraid of Darth Vader over there?"

She uses that same strong clear voice Gwen's always do when talking sense.

"The Magics my thing REMEMBER? There is power in names. Being so famous everyone and everything knows who you are. The flipside of that is true too. No one and nothing knows who you are. At the very least you get a hell of a cheap shot before whoever you throw down with."

Kirby sounds defeated, sick, and my heart breaks just a bit it truly does. This one will do anything to get back what he once had. That will destroy them both if I can't reach them. It is all or nothing with these two, I can respect even admire that.

I step closer at last.

"Hello, my dears, enjoying the sweet spring day in the yard? Careful mind you dear Zachary was making mischief and I had to return a terrible creepy-crawly to the forest. Who knows if anything followed me back."

I'm jesting of course. Nothing in those woods no matter how terrible would follow ME home.

Lyn smiles and I can tell it's a well-practiced smile. That face used to be the idol of millions after all.

"We'll keep that in mind Prime. Kirby and I just needed some fresh air, and sunlight that's all."

Kirby is silent, it's never a good thing when a Ben is silent no matter what they call themselves.

"I leave you both to the sun and a moment of peace then. Rest young ones here in our happy home."

Those were the wrong words to say to the wrong children at the wrong moment in their lives. I know even as I speak them. This armor exacts a heavy toll my dears.

They are silent as I walk back inside and I know their story is not going to be a pleasant one if I can't reach them.

I am a monster I know this but I am not the kind of monster that harms or abandons children. I know that monster well and have paid the highest of prices to walk in eternity unseen in his shadow.

At long last, I reach my own chambers. My own private space in these limitless halls. The cape falls to the floor and I stand on the armor maintenance station. Redundant power systems begin to drain, and internal drives spin down. Smart cored vacuum tubes and organic microchips go silent. I am integrated into current time\space and at long last can think clearly without pain. The flexible alloy in the armor opens and I step naked into one moment in time again.

I step to Tatiana's mirror as my personal perspective readjusts to existing in just one moment in time. Just to remember who I am and what I'm supposed to be I look myself over.

Dishwater blond hair I got from dear mother. Green eyes like my brother. We get them from our feisty grandmother yes we do. A scar with ugly stitch marks over my heart from the day the monster came for me.

I'm done for now my dears. Next time I think I'll spend some time by the fire and tell a few stores. Come back next time to hear tales from the lives of my lost children here in my crooked house and how they came to be here.

Next: "Fallen Heros"