“That’s awesome, Steph,” Dahlia said. “I’m glad you got in,” Her response wasn’t as excitement filled as Stephanie hoped. Their friendship of several years made it easy for her to see that Dahlia was still bothered by her lack of doppelgangers. Stephanie felt a sting of regret for bragging about her invitation and tried to shift the focus to Dahlia.
“You still haven’t heard anything?” she asked. Dahlia shook her head.
“Maybe there aren’t any more of me out there,” she said. She hated the thought, but she knew she had to consider it. She hoped she’d get to meet at least one other version of herself. Stephanie met a whole guild comprised solely of her doppelgangers only a week after she applied to the Universal Match program. Two weeks after that, they invited her to join them. Stephanie suddenly had dozens of people that would understand her like no one else could. Dahlia hated to admit it, but jealousy blossomed in her.
“You want me to ask the Council?” Stephanie asked. “They’re goofs, but supposedly one of the smartest guilds there is.” Dahlia met Stephanie’s eyes through narrow slits.
“The Council of Steves is one of the smartest guilds there is?” she asked with more than a hint of sarcasm. Stephanie chuckled but nodded.
“We Steves do get around,” she said with a grin. Despite her sour mood, Dahlia couldn’t help but laugh. She knew Stephanie; if the rest of the council were as determined and curious as her, their reputation would make sense.
“Alright,” Dahlia nodded. “See if you can find out anything for me, please.”
“On it!” Stephanie said. She pulled her node out of her pocket and Dahlia’s envy stirred. The card-sized glass rectangle was only awarded to citizens with doppelgangers. The way Steph explained it to Dahlia was that it worked like a smartphone across universes. She could connect with any of her doppelgangers in the guild from her universe; at the moment she was asking for information.
“That was fast,” Steph said after a moment. She brought the node up and read the display. “Your favorite number’s still 52, right?” She asked as she typed on the node. Dahlia tilted her head.
“Yes. When did I get a favorite number, and how did you know?” She noticed Steph roll her eyes.
“Well, I’ve only known you for 15 years. You hadn’t noticed that any time we need random numbers for something, the first number out of your mouth is always 52? ALWAYS,” she emphasized.
“…hadn’t noticed…,” Dahlia said quietly. She started to wonder what other habits Steph noticed about her that she wasn’t aware of.
“Cool, problem solved.” Steph sat up with a smile. “The Council of Steves totally came through for you.”
“They found other versions of me!?” Dahlia perked up immediately; but, she was deflated when Stephanie shook her head.
“The bad news is there aren’t any other versions of you. Anywhere.”
“What?” Dahlia asked.
“The good news is, that means you’re something called a Unique Soul. You have powers. You, specifically, can talk to plants and see stats above people’s heads.”
“What kind of stats?” Dahlia asked. She focused on the empty space above Stephanie’s dark hair, but didn’t see anything.
“I don’t know, but you need to get a tattoo of the number 52 to activate your powers.”
“Yeah, like I have spare cash right now,” Dahlia sighed. “I guess it’s on the list.”
“Nah,” Stephanie grinned. “Council of Steves has you covered there too.” Before Dahlia could ask what she meant, a tall black hole appeared in the center of her room. A lean bald man covered in tattoos walked out carrying a leather backpack.
“Who’s the plant?” he asked. Dahlia turned to give Steph a confused look then noticed Stephanie was pointing at her. The tattooed stranger stepped up to Dahlia and looked down at her. “Where do you want it?” he grinned.