In an infinite multiverse, even the impossible becomes the simply unlikely. For instance, was it impossible that Quentin Beck, also known as Mysterio, could be a good guy? That he could have legitimate powers rather than hiding behind smoke and mirrors? That the Elementals were a legitimate threat, rather than an elaborate misdirection to allow one jilted ex-Stark Industries employee to get his hands on the most dangerous piece of technology in the world at the time?
Not impossible, but unlikely. And not the subject of this story, either. No, this story is a tale of what happens after the fact in one shard of possibility. This is the story of two Quentin Becks, both alike in dignity, in fair-
No, that's a different story entirely, but still serves to introduce our hero and villain. It should be easy to remember them, considering they share quite a bit in common.
The first, our villain, which we shall call Quentin Beck Prime, as he is both the original to this dimension and derivative in his methods, lies dying on the Tower Bridge in London, killed by his own mad scheme, which hasn’t quite yet reached its conclusion. Although Prime’s direct participation in this story may appear to have come to an end, the ramifications of his actions will cause no end of grief for our heroes.
Until, of course, the story comes to an end (as all stories must) and the grief does as well.
The other Quentin Beck, our hero, arrives one week later and lies, not dead but certainly not in prime condition (although much better than Prime’s condition), on the roof of a building in New York City. This Quentin Beck, unlike the one now dead in London, is a refugee from another dimension, a trained Sorcerer and veteran of the fight to save his world from the Elementals.
His battalion did, in fact, succeed, but he doesn’t know this yet, and won’t for some time.
For now, he lies, bruised and battered, his uniform dented and scratched and singed, helmet collapsed to reveal that this Quentin Beck is nearly identical to the one that has spent the last few days fooling the world into believing he was a hero.
And trying to kill Peter Parker and Co, of course. Can’t forget that little bit of villainy.
There are things that will differentiate him from Quentin Beck Prime that will become relevant in the days to come, but for now, one minute after his arrival, the only thing that differentiates Quentin Beck from Quentin Beck Prime is their relative states of being alive or not.
And although Quentin Beck, trained sorcerous soldier and dare I say it, Hero, may wish he were dead on that rooftop in New York City, his story on this stage is only just beginning.
Quentin Beck slept, uninterrupted, for nearly ten hours until someone noticed that he was on said roof, and woke him up with several nudges from a foot that began soft and tentative before metamorphosing into something just short of a proper kick meant to cause damage.
“Hey, man, like, wake up. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do when a hero ends up dead on your rooftop so maybe don’t be dead? A live hero on my rooftop I can maybe deal with because you guys are supposed to be able to take care of yourselves, right? I guess you did manage to get out alive from London, which like, good for you man I’m kind of impressed to be honest, I’ve seen Spider-Man fight a couple times – well, only once in person, my friend Sam showed me a video she took of him taking out some bad guys on her walk home from work and showed me that so I guess that’s more personal than the YouTube videos-”
Quentin opened one eye, looking up at the person who had interrupted the longest stretch of sleep he’d gotten in years, and answered the torrent of words gushing out of the young woman standing above him with one inarticulate syllable of his own.
The woman looked up from her phone and met his eyes in stunned silence for half a second before the gush of words continued. “Oh thank fuck you’re alive because if you’re running from Spider-Man New York City is about the worst place you can go, although being on a New York City rooftop probably makes it worse than hiding out in a sewer or a building or something you know? Honestly I’m surprised he hasn’t seen you yet considering the Spidey-Finder app just pinged him a couple blocks away but he probably has more things on his mind now than just swinging around after you exposed him. I’m Liz, by the way. It’s short for Lizard. Do you want to come inside? I just took a first aid course so I might be able to help a little with those gashes on your face. Dunno how you got them with that helmet of yours but-”
“What?” Quentin struggled from his prone position staring up at the tiny blonde woman who had put her phone away and was now offering him a hand to get up with. None of this made sense. He had met Spider-Man once, during a joint Sorcerer and Enhanced battalions operation while trying to prevent Fire from destroying New York City (they hadn’t entirely succeeded – Fire had been diminished enough for it to retreat until it popped up again in Prague a few days ago, but the city had all but been leveled), but he certainly didn’t know enough about the guy to expose anything about him. And New York had only recently begun rebuilding. A building like this definitely couldn’t have been built in that time.
He swiped a hand over his face (how had he gotten gashes on his face when he was wearing his helmet? That was a good question), then took the woman’s – Liz? – hand and accepted her help in slowly and shakily getting to his feet.
Liz seemed to have misinterpreted his last confused word as a comment about her name and continued speaking, “I kid I kid, it’s short for Elizabeth but no one calls me that. My apartment’s two floors down. We can take it nice and slow down the stairs – the elevator doesn’t go all the way up to the roof level. Probably some sort of building violation but it’s never exactly been an issue before. Hey, buddy. Mysterio, right? You ok?”
It seemed at the moment that Quentin wasn’t quite capable of forming complete sentences (and to be fair, the guy’s been through a lot), but to his credit, he managed to get more than one syllable out this time. “Name’s Beck”
“Beck?” Liz paused for confirmation (the first time she had not said more than one syllable), then began leading him towards the door, “Alright, Beck. I’ve got a first aid kit in my kitchen waiting for you, and I’ll get the pull-out bed from the sofa for you to lie down on. And once you’re feeling a little better we’ll get that armor off of you and see if you’ve got anything nastier going on than a nice cluster of bruises, scrapes, and burns, alright?”
With that, the two of them made it through the door of the roof and painfully slowly down the stairs. Liz’s apartment was small, clearly made for single occupancy, and she guided him over to a pleather armchair set up next to the window. Beck sat- although it was more like letting his legs go boneless and allow himself to collapse – and Liz began rummaging her way through the lower cabinets of her kitchen, returning with a small, white plastic box with a red cross label emblazoned on it and a plastic cup of water.
“Ok, are you more of an acetaminophen or ibuprofen man, Mister Beck?”
Beck fumbled with something on the side of his gauntlet, glancing up at Liz for a moment before returning to whatever the hell he was doing. “Both, please. Strongest dose… you… have!”
With that last word, he managed to find the activation button on the gauntlet, and with a screeching sound the armor definitely wasn’t supposed to be making, the majority of it collapsed into a gold and green watch on one wrist, and a red metal bracelet on the other. Liz watched in amazement as the process happened, leaving Beck clad in a grey shirt and dark pants, both padded to help the armor be more comfortable, and a sturdy pair of dark boots.
“The normal release button got jammed. Had to pop it out in order to get the damn armor off. Yes, thank you.” Beck took the offered meds from Liz, who stood in stunned silence for the first time since she had found him on the roof.
This silence, of course, didn’t exactly last too long as Liz began circling the chair he was in, ostensibly to check to see if he had any other wounds that had been hidden by the armor. Apparently satisfied by the lack of obvious wounds, she quickly walked over to the kitchen again, dragged a metal chair from the table screeching across the floor, turned it so it was backwards to Beck and sat, leaning her elbows on the back and her head in her hands before continuing the never ending stream of words that seemed to be her trademark.
“Ok, so I have so many questions. Do you want me to try to go chronologically in order of the events that spurred on the questions or just go in order of importance because some of them are like really quick and kind of dumb but some are super important like how did you escape from London and was that actually Spider-Man in Prague or is there really a European version of him called Night Monkey and what did you mean by he’s trying to be the next Tony Stark and won’t let any new heroes rise up because I know the Avengers are all kind of AWOL right now but there are tons of threats that even he couldn’t handle on his own and it struck me as odd that a sixteen year old would try to take on that mantle all by himself but it was on the news and if it was on the news it has to be true, right?” She paused, and when Beck didn’t give any immediate responses to those questions, she continued, “Right?”
Quentin took a long sip of water from the cup she had given him, contemplating his options. His magic was tapped, opening the portal out of London had taken more out of him than he had expected, and wherever he was now, he was having trouble touching the other dimensions that would normally fuel his magic.
Ok, one thing at a time. Magic later. Figure out what the hell was going on and where he was was first priority. He was pretty sure that whoever this Liz woman was, she wasn’t going to be a threat to him even without his magic and while his armor was repairing himself, but if Spider-Man was a bad guy (and sixteen? What? He knew that towards the end of the war against the Elementals both the Enhanced and Sorcerer battalions had been pulling in anyone willing and capable of fighting to save the planet, but sixteen seemed a little young. Maybe it was different here?) if Spider-Man was a bad guy that definitely wasn’t a fight he was ready for, or anywhere sure he could win.
“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions first?” He shifted in the chair slightly, groaning as even more bruises made themselves known, but managed to make it to a more upright position. “I think there may be some confusion here.”
Liz seemed taken aback, her head cocking to the side in confusion. “Uh, yeah, sure.” She peered a little closer at him, keeping eye contact for slightly longer than Quentin was completely comfortable with. “Hey, uh, do you think you have a concussion? I lost the penlight out of the kit otherwise I’d check and I don’t have, you know, the,” she snapped her fingers a few times looking for the right word, “ImPACT baseline tests for you from beforehand – if you ever did any of them, I suppose. Do superheroes do concussion baseline testing? I figure you guys probably heal faster than most people but head injuries are still no joke and you looked pretty rough in that video from the Bridge…” She trailed off as she realized that Quentin was looking at her with an expression of somewhat resigned patience, “Sorry. Everyone tells me I talk too much but it’s just that I have trouble filtering words out sometimes and you’re like, super famous at the moment so I’m also excited and-” She cut herself off again, “Right, sorry, ask away.”
Quentin considered which question would be the least likely to make it obvious that he had no idea what was going on, then realized that since he had no idea what the hell was going on, it really didn’t matter where he started. “It’s fine. Look, I think there might…” He trailed off, deciding to play along with the concussion theory. Concussions can cause memory loss, right? If he played along and figured out what was going on maybe he’d be able to find someone that could help him out. “I think the concussion theory might have some merit. I’m having some trouble remembering details of what has happened over the past few days. Mind giving some context to your questions?”
“Oh, uh, yeah, sure. One sec-” Liz raised a finger at him before running into one of the other rooms in the apartment, bringing a laptop back with her, “No one really knows much about you, obviously, but the first time you popped up on YouTube was about a week and a half ago in Venice.”
Turning the laptop around, she waited while Quentin watched the few shaky cell-phone videos of the fight in Venice with water. Quentin frowned, his confusion growing. Water on his world had been defeated before he was recruited as a Sorcerer, and while it had attacked Venice, that was almost thirty years ago for him.
And there were other little things too that didn’t see quite right. The other Mysterio’s costume was close but not exactly right, Water looked similar to the archival footage he had seen on the news as a kid but not quite the same, and then there was the other Mysterio’s magic.
Namely, its color. Unless this Mysterio was the keeper of this world’s Time Stone (which he doubted, he had never been a strong enough of a Sorcerer for that kind of responsibility), there was no reason his magic should be green. His techniques were similar to what he had been taught, but there was none of Beck’s own practiced pragmatism in the battle. His movements were too wide, too showy.
Something was wrong.
Liz didn’t seem to be picking up on his confusion, though, and continued on, showing him the next video she had queued up. “Then a couple days later, you show up in Prague with Night Monkey – although I’d bet my laptop that that was actually Spider-Man.”
There were more things wrong in this video. Beck wasn’t sure what the other Mysterio had done to end the fight, he had never seen anyone wield magic like that before. And Fire itself – at that size, and after absorbing that much metal, it should have taken at least three, if not four other Sorcerers of Beck’s power level to take it down. It was smaller than the version of Fire that he had helped fight in New York City a few years ago, but even then he doubted that he could have taken it on with only an Enhanced for help.
Which did beg the question, “Where are the Sorcerers?”
Pulling the laptop away again and queuing up the final video from London, Liz looked up at him for a second before back at the screen. “The what?”
“You know, the…” Beck pulled at his last scraps of personal magic and conjured a small shield of glowing red-gold light. “People like me who do this. Why weren’t they fighting the Elementals. Why was I alone?” This video was certainly not how he remembered it. When he had fought it in Prague there had been him and a half dozen others by his side, and they had managed to contain it before it got out of hand. Something was very wrong here.
Liz tentatively reached out a finger and tapped the shield, and Beck let it collapse into sparkles. He really needed to figure out why he couldn’t tap into his normal source of magic. “Ok, that’s super cool, but I thought your magic was green?”
“No…” Beck shook his head as Liz turned the computer around one last time, revealing the video of London. “My magic isn’t green. And that…”
He trailed off as he watched the video, concern growing as the Elemental that had almost killed him less than a day before dissolved into holographic dust and revealed thousands of drones. “That’s definitely not what happened.”
With a shrug, Liz pulled back the laptop and began searching for one last video. “I mean, I guess you’d know better than anyone because you were there, but there’s tons of footage of the London attacks. I’m not saying I totally believe the ‘I sent the Elemental to another dimension,’ story for where it went because it pretty clearly wasn’t real there, but something definitely went weird there. And according to the internet Spider-Man and Iron Man were pretty close so it makes sense that if anyone would be able to get access to Stark tech Spider-Man would make sense… Hey man, you ok?”
Beck had stood up, almost in a daze, and began limping towards the door. “Thank you for your help but I need to go find Stark. He might know what’s going on…”
“That’s not funny.”
“What?” Beck turned back to see Liz had stood up, her arms crossed over her chest and a frown on her face.
“Are you from another dimension or do you just like being an asshole. No way a concussion scrambled your brains that badly.”
“Stark’s dead. Died saving the world. Come on, you’ve gotta know that? You said it yourself, Spider-Man wants to be the next Iron Man. Can’t be the next one if the first is still, you know, alive.” Her anger faded somewhat as she watched the growing confusion on Beck’s face, who limped back tp the chair and sat down.
“I don’t think this is a concussion. Another dimension…” Beck thought back to his last moments on the Tower Bridge, as the Elemental Fusion’s arm crashed through the structure and he hadn’t had time to focus on making a proper portal. “Anywhere but here…”
“Anywhere but here, that’s what I focused on when I made the portal off the bridge. Where’s my-” Beck checked his hands, then patted down his clothing. “Was there a ring on the roof where you found me?”
“A ring?” Liz paused for a moment – she had been somewhat preoccupied with the maybe dead superhero on her roof to be terribly observant up there, but she didn’t remember seeing anything. “What kind of ring?”
Beck gestured the vague size and shape of the ring as he continued, “Two finger ring, rectangular piece on the top holding the rings together, made of metal, kind of beat up looking?”
“I don’t remember seeing anything like that, sorry.” Liz shrugged. “Was it important?”
“Oh, you know, a little…” Beck sighed and sank back into the armchair further. “Only way I can think of to get home. I think your quip about being from another dimension might be right.”
Liz sat down, her eyes wide as she stared at him. “Wait, other dimensions. They’re real?”
“Yes, it’s a-”
“That’s so cool!” Furiously typing on her laptop, Liz continued, “Not really my area of expertise, I’m an engineer, but I have a friend who’s doing his doctorate in physics and he’s love to hear about this-”
“Wait!” Beck reached out and grabbed her hand. “If I am being hunted by a superhero, maybe broadcasting the fact that I survived isn’t the best plan?”
“Oh no, you’re right, you’re right…” Liz trailed off and closed out of the email she was sending sadly. “Wait hold on,” her enthusiasm returned, “Is that Mysterio – the one who died, that’s not you?”
Beck shook his head. “No. The magic is a dead giveaway. I don’t know if that Mysterio is a Sorcerer, like me, or an Enhanced who just happens to wield something that looks like magic or something else entirely, but I can say with some certainty that he is, in fact, not me.”
“Ok, cool. Cool cool cool…” Liz stood up quickly, making her way back over to the kitchen. “I have a guy from another dimension in my living room. Cool cool cool cool… Hey, you want some coffee? I need some coffee. Maybe order some pizza or something. Have you ever had pizza before? I don’t know if pizza is one of those things that every dimension has. I’ll order some pizza.”
Beck carefully got to his feet and limped across the room, sitting down at a chair at the kitchen table. “Yes, thank you. To both. I have had pizza before. May I borrow your laptop?”
“Oh yeah, sure.” Liz flicked a distracted finger towards him as she poured coffee grounds into the machine. “The password is password. I know I should change it but…” She trailed off with a srug, setting the machine to run as she pulled out her phone and started ordering pizza.
Quentin logged in and ignored the final video that Liz had pulled up, opening a new tab and a word document to take notes in. It didn’t take him terribly long to start compiling a list of people on this world who might believe his story and be able to help.
Unfortunately, this two columned list of Good Choice to Contact vs Bad Choice/Dead/Can’t Find grew extremely unbalanced fairly quickly, and by the time Liz paid the delivery boy who dropped off the pizza a half hour later, the first column had one name in it: Clint Barton.
“You know Hawkeye?” Liz exclaimed, although with a mouth full of pizza it came out as sort of impossible to understand gibberish. Beck watched her for a moment as she swallowed and repeated herself before returning to his list.
“Is that what they call him here?” He gestured towards the second column, “Most of the people I knew on my Earth – knew well, that is – were sorcerers. And it seems like they keep a much lower profile here than back home. The only one I could confirm exists was Stephen Strange-”
“You know Doctor Strange?” Liz couldn’t help herself, although she winced slightly at Beck’s expression. “Sorry, sorry, continue.”
“As I was saying, the only sorcerer I could confirm that exists as a sorcerer on your Earth was Strange, but I’m not willing to go before the Sorcerer Supreme and ask for help. Not yet.” He continued tracing a finger down the second column. “Most of the other high-profile Enhanced I knew are either dead or haven’t been sighted in months, and the main compound is destroyed, so I can’t just show up there and hope there’s someone there who can help. The best option would have been Stark – he built the current model armor that my battalion wore, and that might convince him I’m from another dimension. But he is, as you said-”
“Dead.” Liz finished the sentence flatly and took another bite of pizza before shifting the box towards him. “Half sausage, half plain. Wasn’t sure what your type was, figured plain was safe but sausage is good.’
Beck carefully took a slice of plain, taking a few bites (god, he hadn’t had pizza in years, and hadn’t eaten in probably close to a day, this was amazing) before continuing. “Barton, on the other hand. He was one of the best lookouts I ever worked with before he retired to settle down with his family. I went to his farm, once, when I had some time off. And while I have no proof that he’s in the same place…” He shrugged and trailed off as he finished his slice of pizza. “Barton was one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met. If anyone would be willing to give me a chance to explain myself before shooting, it would be him.”
“One problem.” Liz said, gesturing to the map that Beck had brought up. “That’s in Missouri. I’m happy to give you a place to stay to recuperate for a couple days, but how are you going to get out there.”
“Easy, I’ll…” Beck reached out a hand to begin conjuring a portal to the last location he knew Barton’s farm was on his own Earth before the issues in the plan made themselves known.
First was the absence of a sling ring from his left hand. The second was his still tapped magical energy.
“Ok, maybe not so easy.” He carefully got to his feet and started to make his way to the door. “Which way to the stairs?”
“Ok, hold on.” Liz put her food down and walked over to him, leaning against the door to block his way. “You’re in no condition to be going anywhere right now. Where are you going anyway?”
Beck winced as bruised ribs made themselves known. “The ring I described to you. It has to be on the roof somewhere. I can’t make portals without it.”
“Ok then.” Liz have Beck a slight push on the chest and guided him back to the table, where she supplied him a pad of paper and a pencil. “Sketch out what you’re looking for and I’ll see if I can find it, ok?”
The drawing wasn’t very good in the end, but in Beck’s defense he really wasn’t much of an artist. Nevertheless, by the time he had finished his third slice of pizza and second glass of water, Liz returned from the roof with the sling ring.
“Must’ve fallen off your hand when you arrived.” She placed it down on the table next to him, waiting as he shakily tucked it into a pocket. “No wonder I didn’t see it, though, it was under Mrs. O’Brian’s sunflower planter. Glad I found it, though. She’s pretty particular about people going near her plants.”
She leaned over, checking the status of the few visible wounds that Beck still sported. “Look, why don’t you at least say overnight. Whether you think Hawkeye will help you or not, going to meet him when you can barely stand isn’t going to help if it turns into a fight. I have a thing so I won’t be back until late, but you can sleep on the couch, recharge your batteries, and go in the morning.”
Beck considered arguing for a moment, but the dull ache of several dozen bruises spread out over his body convinced him otherwise, and he nodded. “Thank you.”
“Ah, it’s not problem. I’ve always wanted to meet a real superhero.” She gestured to the places he listed off, “My cell number is written on that pad on the fridge, the home phone is around here somewhere. Remote’s on top of the TV if you want to watch something, I don’t know what kind of entertainment you have on your world so there might be something interesting? Meds are still out on the counter, take what you need but don’t overdose, ok? I put in all this effort and I’d rather not come back to see you dead.” She checked her phone, frowned, and hurried back to the door. “I’ve gotta go, but I’ll be back around midnight, ok?”
Beck nodded, looking back at the computer screen. There were several other things that he wanted to figure out about this world.
Within an hour, Beck was pretty sure he had a handle on what had happened over the past few days on this Earth. That didn’t mean he was happy about it. When he had finally started watching the final video that Liz had queued, it took him far longer than it should have to get through it. There was something deeply unnerving about watching someone with his face and his voice say things on camera that he had never said.
There was also the fact that Beck was fairly certain this other Mysterio wasn’t what he claimed to be. The combination of the videos from London showing the Elemental dissolving into holograms and the way the other Beck acted – his movements chosen for flash and drama rather than the pragmatism Beck was used to fighting with – made Beck wonder if this other Mysterio wasn’t behind everything.
With that realization things started to fall into place. The wrong color of magic. The minimal forces it took to take out the Elementals. Even the final video – Beck wasn’t exactly sure what the other Mysterio’s endgame was, but it made sense that he would have contingencies to shift the blame off of himself and onto another easy target.
Although Beck was a little disgusted that a version of himself would be capable of doing such a shitty thing to a sixteen-year-old. He was sixteen himself when he was chosen to study as a Sorcerer. Honestly, he was impressed that this Peter Parker had accomplished as much as he had at such a young age.
But if Beck could figure out what was really going on, it wouldn’t be long until others did as well. That meant it was imperative that he got to Barton and explained himself before the news came out of what the other Mysterio had done.
Quentin Beck sat on the couch cross-legged, taking deep, steady breaths. He couldn’t go anywhere until he fixed his issues with drawing power from this dimension, but if he could get himself onto the astral plane, that might help.
And while Beck’s physical body slumped into the couch, his astral form slowly stood up and took stock of his options. Here, the pain of the battle he had gone through faded away, and he could focus on feeling the threads of energy that filled the world around him.
Deep breath in, deep breath out.
Quentin Beck reached out for the thread of energy that would give him the magic he needed to refill his personal store, and it filled him with all the light and joy that magic should be, almost untouched by the pain that the Elementals had tainted his own dimension’s magic with.
There was the proof that the other Mysterio was full of shit, at least. This dimension’s magic was still colored by the pain of its users (something terrible had happened here, he realized, just not the Elementals), but it was a different color, a different shade of grief and loss on a different, sudden scale, not the decades of misery and fear that had colored his own world’s magic.
And then he was back in his physical form, the pain of his injuries tamped down under the magic that buzzed through his veins like lightning. Beck carefully stood up – the injuries were still there, he knew, even if he was tapping into his own magic to hide the pain – and made his way over to the pad of paper Liz had left on the table.
Liz, thank you for your help. I realized some things soon after you left that mean it may not be terribly safe for you to be harboring me. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. -Beck
After a few moments, Beck added one more line. Liz seemed the type of person who’d want a hero’s autograph, even if the hero in question wasn’t actually a hero (or the same person she even thought he was).
On the next page, he added his signature in careful looping letters, followed by his old callsign, and the name this world knew him by.
With that done, Beck pulled on his sling ring and activated the armor. The nanites screeched in protest, but his armor seemed to be mostly intact, barring a few slashes in the cape and burn marks on the chest piece.
Eh, he’d had worse.
With the image of a farm in Missouri, Quentin Beck grasped the threads of magic and twisted.
The portal formed.
And Quentin Beck, not of this Earth and hoping for the best, stepped through.