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Ryu and the Multiverse of Madness

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             Ryu shifted uncomfortably, glancing for seemingly the millionth time around Master Hand’s office. The oaken, impossibly clean office reminded him of a time when he visited a university in the United States with Ken as part of an exhibition fight to rally the school’s karate team. But, instead of having coffee and making small talk with a college dean who had his nose turned all the way up at his ragged self, behind this mahogany desk sat a giant hand, typing away at a human-sized computer. Ryu had pondered initially how a giant hand could type efficiently at a computer that small, but time was moving so slowly that it had melded into the background, plain as day. The Hand had called him for a meeting but didn’t seem prepared when he arrived, hastily greeting him and continuing to type away. Just when he thought now might be an appropriate time to alert him to what was going on, Master Hand spoke up, “Thank you for coming Ryu. I apologize for the delay, I’ve been feeling unwell, and as a result, quite behind on work!” the glove’s posh English accent rang from nowhere.

            Ryu’s brow furrowed. Rumors had floated around that something was wrong with both Hands, sounding and looking uncharacteristically drained, but as this was his first experience with them, he thought it best not to bring it up.

            “I see you have heard the rumors as well,” Master Hand said mournfully, “I do not blame them for bandying about my name so, as our motives have been nefarious in the past. But no more…no more.”

            Again, a furrowed brow befell the Japanese man. That declaration at the end sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than he was trying to convince him. Master Hand didn’t bring it up this time, only sighing. Master Hand shut down his computer and turned to face his guest.

         “So, as to why you are here,” Master Hand began, “Doctor Mario has reported to me that you have required multiple dosages of Dimensional Distortion Headache medicine. This is...quite abnormal.”

          Ryu’s normally stiff posture slumped. He had hoped the good doctor would’ve kept that in confidence.

         “I apologize,” Ryu began, “I am normally not a sickly man. If you have reservations about me competing as a result of what the doctor has told you, I completely understand and will draft a. resignation immediately.”

          “It would be hypocritical of me to banish someone for being unwell. No, your body’s hostile reaction isn’t concerning, but enlightening.”

           “How could…” Ryu paused, gathering himself, “How could headaches be enlightening?”

           “As I’m sure Doctor Mario told you when you moved in, Dimensional Distortion Headache occurs when someone becomes aware of adjacent realities to their own, or sometimes the future. It happened first with Link, as he had traveled to another universe  It happened again with one of your predecessors, Snake who saw not only an adjacent universe but his future. Then, Megaman began to experience them, and with Doctor Light’s assistance we were able to view the young boy’s black box, and we saw…you.”

            Ryu let out a confused grunt.

            “You  wonder what this has to do with you, yes?”

              The stunned warrior simply nodded.

             “As you can tell by the limited number of cases, the cluster in which most of the fighters reside is a protected one for the most part. Your dimension, the Capcom dimension, is in flux, which has affected your journey most of all. That said, a greater understanding of your journey would help me solve a pesky problem in the Nintendo Dimension.”

                 “Which is?” Ryu asked, arms crossed.

             "I have been keeping an eye on a specific recruit I intend to enlist for the next tournament. The trouble is, his dimension has since…moved.”

            “Moved?” asked Ryu.

            “Yes. A calamity that I had a pivotal role in causing displaced many beings, but this recruit most importantly. Following the interdimensional map of your journey, and then mapping the journey of others will make a map of the multiverse that is…most complete. This will then allow us to prevent lives lost in many wars to come.

“If beings are displaced, then I must help.”

            Just as he said that Crazy Hand popped into the room, carrying what looked to be the metallic components of an electric chair.

            “Sorry I’m late bro,” cackled Crazy, “The kids wanted me to play a game of Guess Who, and I couldn’t say no!”

            “Playing yourself in board games are we Crazy Hand?”

            “WHAT? NO!” guffawed the Hand, spasming so violently that the strainer-like device and the bevy of wires came crashing to the floor.

            “That aside,” Master Hand growled, causing the other Hand to sink the floor in shame, “We’re going to chronicle your journey, making dimensional linkages of everyone you’ve ever met. In truth, we should have done this when that rap group played basketball with Mario and friends, but…”

            “AW, MOM YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS IT’S THE BEA-STIE-BOYS!” Crazy Hand shouted, nearly bursting through the ceiling as he leaped up in jubilee.

            “…But we did not know how important this would be to the continued health of the multiverse.”

“Rumor has it that Cloud’s had some adventures similar to mine. Something about a mouse?” Ryu interjected.

“ I do not wish to work with the ingrate,” Master growled,
“Pettiness is not the way of the warrior,” Ryu growled.

“And what is a warrior’s code to a god, if I may continue?” snapped Master Hand, “The footage we were able to glean from Megaman was most intriguing. Costumed heroes, seemingly hated by the world.”

            Ryu’s eyes lit up, “Yes! The X-Men! Though, it goes back a bit further than that.”

            Crazy Hand slapped the strainer onto Ryu’s head without so much as a warning. Before the grunt of disapproval could even escape him, Crazy had zipped around him, connecting the wires to seemingly every major organ and artery. Ryu wasn’t strapped to the chair, but the number of wires meant he was strung up, and unable to leave.

            “I’m sorry for this,” Master Hand spoke, sadness in his voice, “But this is my life’s work, the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

            The machine began to whir. At its apex, a diagram of what looked like millions of small galactic clusters projected from Ryu’s head.

            “This,” began Master Hand, as a snap of his fingers turned off the lights, “Is a map of the multiverse as I know it. The universe of Nintendo, as the Earth 1ers call it?”

            “Earth 1?” asked Ryu.

            “The beings that created us and the gods you worship. Not a lot of people know this, but please keep that information to yourself, if you please.”

            “You have my word,”

            Master Hand’s knuckles moved up and down to simulate a nod, “As you begin to tell your tale, the events will play out on this hologram. I will then be able to draw a more expanded map based on the people you’ve met.”

            “Makes sense to me,” came the nonchalant voice of Ryu as the man stared straight ahead.

            “Good. Now, when did this all begin?”

             “In 1988. We were there under the guise of the Alpha tournament.”

            “So you could stop Bison’s Psycho Drive right?” Crazy Hand cackled

            “That was the story that was fed to the press. In reality, Bison had multi-dimensional goals in mind. Charlie Nash, with full cooperation from Interpol, dropped bombs on Shadaloo’s headquarters. The merge wasn’t immediate. In fact, it wasn’t until the next morning Ken and I learned that half the population was gone.”