The rules were simple. No time manipulation, no transmutation, and no spell could be used twice.
Morden the Uneasy entered from the west quadrant of the arena on a massive floating bed attended by golem slaves made from flower petals. The metal caps on the stumps of her legs glimmered with diamonds in the sunlight.
I sat high up in the private viewing box with my client and tried to pay attention to the match. The arena floor was projected real-time on the table between my client and I in hard light. Whatever section of the fight I was paying attention to would come up picture-in-picture on a baseball card floating to the left of the action.
It was an expensive AV setup in the most expensive seat in the house. If this gross display of wealth was meant to impress me and keep me off-balance during the wage negotiations, it was working.
Khallista of the Red Flame entered from the east quadrant of the arena, wreathed in the red fire of her clan and already whimpering from the recent focal drugs that had turned her eyes completely black.
There were better skilled people on the craftlist above me that could have done the job that my client was asking me to do. I wasn’t cheap but this client could afford the best. I figured if he wanted a fall guy to use as bait for a trap, he would have sought out the cheapest loser he could find so I was curious why he picked me. Not the bottom and not the top and not a particularly fast riser.
I warily accepted his offer of more details over dinner at a Magic Pit Fight in the hopes of allaying my suspicion.
Rowst the Unbelieving staggered in from the ‘blue’ north quarter. He was blindfolded and dressed in nothing but a small toga, stained by the sores covering his body. A perfectly circular halo of small glowing fairies crowned his bald head.
My client sat across from me in the shadows. Whatever air of mystery he was trying to create for me was also working very well. I was very curious about his identity. Courtesy wouldn’t let me ask until he offered to talk to about it so I sat back in silence and continued to watch the players enter the arena.
Shorelocke the Dread Shadow entered from the south to complete the roster. He was cut from darkness. There was an absence of light around him. He was like a person-shaped hole cut in the fabric of reality. His glowing eyes stabbed out in twin beams of white, eager ferocity.
These fights were not to the death. They were for rights and rankings. This was a championship round, though, and sometimes accidents happened.
My client leaned forward into the light above the projection on the table. I looked up to meet his eyes and froze with the words I was planning to say dying in my throat.
A Fixer was staring back at me. I’d only heard legends. His pale face and dark eyes marked him out as a rare purebred human but that wasn’t the giveaway. He’d released the glamour for me to see in this moment so that I would be suitably awed.
He flickered with possibility.
He was staying close to the dimensions surrounding this one so his changes weren’t extreme. The different versions of himself were very similar to one in this quantum thread. His hair length varied a little from second to second. A scar would sometimes pop up on a cheek and then vanish. His eyes would go through a gradient of the colours he was born with as the moments went by. It made me slightly nauseous to look at, like I had motion sickness.
Very occasionally, a woman would flash through his features or he’d disappear for a millisecond as he passed through a universe where he’d died already.
He leaned back in the shadows.
I composed myself and asked him the question I’d been wanting to ask him since I’d been contacted.
“Why me?” I asked.
“Because”, The Fixer responded, “you are unique. You know what you’re talking to, yes? You realize what I mean?”
I nodded. As someone that could extend their sense of self across an almost infinite number of dimensions as easily as a bird could extend its wings, The Fixer had a very special definition of unique.
We all have a double in almost every other universe. However, if you picture all possible realities as a spectrum, the differences between our universe and the other possible universes get more and more pronounced the further away you get from your universe of origin.
There are universes where I have a different haircut and a different job. There are universes where I am married.
Go further and there are universes where I was hit by car when I was six, for example, or choked on a chicken bone when I was seven. There are universes where my parents never met and I never came to be.
What The Fixer meant by ‘unique’ was that he had spread his dimensional-self wings and hadn’t found me. What he meant was that there was only one of me. Here. Only in this space-time continuum and only on this Earth.
I reeled. This was the end of one life and the beginning of another.
“You realize how valuable that makes you to my kind, of course. I only offered you a job to get you here.” He said. Languidly, he motioned with his index finger and I heard the doors lock.
“You are going to be added to The Zoo.” He said.
On the table between us, the Magic Pit Fight began to the crowd’s deafening cheer.