Zero to 46

“83 years, not bad, but it isn’t the record,” the young Ellis said. The elderly man nodded and grinned.

“Better’n you by the looks of things. What were you? 20? 21?” Old Ellis glanced around the larger than usual room. It resembled a cafeteria. Both men, young and old, sat one of the dozens of round tables. Normally he woke up in a small office while he waited for his case worker. “Where’s Ezey?”

“20,” the young man replied. “I dunno. He told me to wait here.” The old man nodded.

“So, then who’s got the record right now?”

“One of us hit 103 and is still down there,” the young one replied. Before he said anything else the sound of footsteps drew their attention. A lean, clean shaved man in a black suit walked in and smiled at both of them.

“Hey Ezey, what’s going on?” Old Ellis asked. The well-dressed man smiled when he reached the table, but he did not sit with them.

“Congratulations guys. You’ve made it to the final round. The highest score, neither of you guys…,” Ezey smiled at the pair. “…gets the final say. But you can start thinking about what Unique you want to be.” Elderly Ellis nodded at Ezey.

“How many points do we have?” The wrinkled man asked.

“Enough for the Celestial tier,” Ezey replied. “I just wanted to give you a heads up, I’ve gotta get back to work. Keep hanging out here until the rest of you show up.” The lean man waved, then walked out of the room.

“How’d you die so young?” the old man asked once Ezey was gone.

“Stupid stunt,” Young Ellis chuckled. “Trying to impress a girl.”  The old man burst into heavy, wheezing laughter.

“Was it the Ferris Wheel proposal?” he asked with glee in his eyes. Young Ellis nodded and the old man laughed harder. “Cheer up kid. If you lived through it, it would’ve worked out great.”

“Did you…?” Young Ellis began to ask, and the old man nodded.

“I died in a hospital bed,” he smiled. “With my first and only wife by my side.”

“Awesome,” the young Ellis grinned. He felt glad knowing it worked out like he wanted for someone. “So what Unique would you prefer?” The old man shrugged.

“I just assumed we’d go for #46.” Young Ellis nodded.

“Yeah, same.”

“Where’s Ezey?” a new voice said. Neither of the two men saw the third man appear. It was as if he silently popped into existence in the chair next to them. One second the chair was empty, the next second a bearded man asked about their caseworker. The number ‘103’ hovered above the man’s bald head in gold numbers for a moment before it disappeared.

“Hey, 103!” Young Ellis smiled. Despite being over 20 years older, 103 somehow looked younger than 83-year-old Elderly Ellis. He had silver eyebrows, but his face held fewer wrinkles and his eyes appeared less tired. “He’ll be back later, but we’re done.”

“We made it to the final round?!” 103 asked. Both the other men nodded their heads. “Awesome! Do you know what we’re gonna be yet?”

“#46,” both men answered. They knew 103 would have the final say, but he himself did not know. They hoped he’d repeat the answer when asked.

“Nice,” 103 replied.

“How do you look so young?” Old Ellis asked 103. “I’m only 83, but you look like you’re in our 50s.” 103 nodded.

“My Earth had magic. I got pretty good at it, and I used it to keep me young. I would’ve lived longer but some rampaging Unique conquered my Earth. Even with all my magic, I couldn’t do a thing to her.”

“A single Unique conquered your Earth? I didn’t know they could get that strong,” the young Ellis said.

“That means we can get that strong,” elder Ellis said with a smile. 103 shook his head.

“I don’t know. I’ve fought Uniques before, but she was on another level entirely.” 103 shook his head and looked at the other two versions of himself. “She used Void magic as easily as I breathe.”

“That would be Ballisea,” Ezey’s voice came from the entrance to the room. He was approaching the table. “Around here we recommend that everyone stay out of her way.”

“Is she that powerful?” Young Ellis asked. Ezey nodded.

“You guys are gonna forget anyway, I can tell you about her.” Ezey sat at the table with the three men. “She escaped,” he grinned.

“Escaped? From where?” Young Ellis asked.

“From here, the afterlife. We do things a certain way when we birth a new Unique into the multiverse, and sometimes that process involves creating a brand new universe. Without giving away too much about what goes on behind the curtain,” Ezey grinned. “Ballisea escaped in such a way that she was able to pick which universe she wanted to be born in.”

“Whooaa,” Young Ellis said. “I guess she picked one with lots of powerful Uniques then, right? That’s how she got so strong!” Ezey shook his head.

“I wasn’t here when it happened so even I don’t know the details,” Ezey said. “The easiest way to create a universe is an explosion of energy. If we’re going to put a new Unique into a brand new universe, we like to let it cool down for a few millennia first. Ballisea, somehow, got born into a universe instead of a Big Bang.”

“You mean the Big Bang happened when she was already in the universe? That’s.. wow…” Young Ellis asked. Ezey shook his head.

“I said ‘instead’ of it. All the energy that we put into a big bang… that’s Ballisea.” All three Ellis’ eyes went wide.

“No wonder she wiped the floor with me,” 103 said. Again, Ezey shook his head.

“That’s only half of it. Because there was no Big Bang she was born into the Void between universes. Her Unique ability manifested the only way it could: Void magic.”

“Why aren’t you guys doing anything? She’s wreaking havoc down there!” 103 growled the question at Ezey. The clean-shaven man shrugged.

“As far as we’re concerned she’s a force of nature like hurricanes and earthquakes. It’s a bit busier around here because of her, but it’s not too bad.” Then he looked at all three men and sighed. “And we’re no match for her anyway.”

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