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  The old radio factory Ryan called home was only half converted into apartments. The other half had been renovated and cleared of machinery but remained barren. It was an ideal location for an event such as a wedding or small concert, and Geoff boasted that that had been his intention for the place from the beginning.

 

  Ryan leaned against a steel structural support and watched Jack who was sat on his knees in the middle of the room. Jack was surrounded by complex and ornate runes that circled him and wound outwards.

  It was just the two of them there, and while Ryan had initially watched Jack draw his symbols with intense interest, once Jack had begun to meditate his fascination had quickly drained away.

  Jack had told him that communication with the creatures he summoned was key to maintaining a successful relationship, and that he wanted Ryan present to learn more about the art.

  Ryan had jumped at the opportunity, but now felt that if all he was going to do was watch Jack sit in silence, it wasn’t all that exciting, or educational. He slid down the steel support and sunk down to sit on the floor. How long was Jack planning to remain here like this?

 

  After what seemed like eons, Jack finally opened his eyes and spoke to Ryan, “Any interest in trying to contact an extra dimensional being?”

  Ryan perked up at that, “That’s something I could do?”

  Jack shrugged, “You could try it. And it’s better that I be present in case things get complicated.”

  Ryan stood and brushed off the seat of his pants, “Complicated how?”

  “Well there’s an infinite number of dimensions, so an infinite number of possibilities. You could contact something nice, or something significantly less nice.” He explained.

  “How comforting.” Ryan thought on it a bit, “Does that mean parallel dimensions exist? Could a summoner summon themselves?”

  “They do exist. But it’s more difficult to summon from parallel dimensions than an unrelated one.”

  “Shouldn’t it be easier?”

  Jack shook his head, “All dimensions exist in the same space, but those that lie parallel are the most tightly fused or intertwined. It’s like... hmm... “ He thought on it a moment, “Like layers of paint or something. You can’t just remove only the third layer of five, it’s an all or nothing deal and you end up getting a mixed chunk of paint, revealing the next material... That’s a terrible explanation.” He scolded himself and tried again, “You ever work with gold leaf?”

  “No...?” Ryan answered.

  “Darn. Gold makes a great example of dimensional fabric.” Jack exhaled and thought about it further, “Whatever. It just means it’s near impossible to ever get a specific parallel dimension twice; which is terrible for summoning as you probably want to know what it is you are bringing over. With non-parallel dimensions you can easily select which you connect to. Like dialling a phone.”

  Ryan nodded, “I can understand that.”

  “Good.” Jack gestured for Ryan to go to the centre of the circle, “I’ll talk you through, and we’ll see if anything comes of it.”

  Ryan hesitated, “You do know that me learning how to summon, is potentially just making me more dangerous?”

  Jack chuckled, “Oh trust me when I say that you won’t suddenly know how to summon. This is just an awareness exercise to help you start thinking about the universe and your place in it.”

  “Sounds enlightening.” Ryan muttered, but was actually eager to try. He walked over and sat down cross-legged in the centre.

  Jack followed him and sat down close in front of him, “Alright, get comfortable and close your eyes when you’re ready to start.”

  Ryan did as he was told, “OK.”

  Jack closed his eyes as well, “Ok. I want you to focus on your sense of touch. That is the most important sense in summoning. Feel every part of you; where the ground holds you up, your clothing against your skin. Feel the air move through and around you.”

  “Alright...”

  “If you don’t want to take it seriously–”

  “I’m doing it, I’m doing it.” Ryan replied.

  Jack sighed and continued, “Once you have your own body figured out, you want to start moving away, outwards. You feel the air around you, but there’s more, a weight, like a thick comforter. It keeps you rooted where you are, but moves with you.”

  “I don’t...” Ryan frowned.

  “It’s like it’s draped over you and shifts every time you move.” Jack was trying to explain the sensation, “That’s the dimensional fabric. It’s heavy but slippery and difficult to pin down.”

  Ryan opened his eyes, “I feel nothing.”

  Jack opened his own eyes, “You’re not going to feel it right away... you’ve been blind to it your whole life, and once you do start feeling it, it’s always going to be there.”

  “That sounds unpleasant.”

  “It’s just another thing you notice... like a background hum, but physical.” Jack thought about it, “Maybe I can... hmm.”

  “What?” Ryan wanted to know.

  “I can cause a distortion, maybe it will give you a better idea of some of the stuff I’m talking about.”

  “Is – Is that safe?”

  “It takes quite a bit of magic to hold stable, but I can do it without worry. It’s not like I use my magic much for anything else.” Jack shrugged, “I can afford the exercise.” He grinned.

  “If you’re confident about it, go for it.” Ryan told him.

  Jack closed his eyes again and slowed his breathing.

  It took a few moments until Ryan was able to see it, but when he did he became mesmerised.

 

  Behind and around Jack reality was shifting. It wavered and began to fold over itself. Ryan could only liken it to fighting a losing battle with saran wrap... underwater.

 

  “Can you see it?” Jack asked.

  “Oh yeah.” Ryan was in awe.

  “This is our side of the dimensional fabric. What you’re seeing is me bunching it up nice and tight. It’s really thin, and not really something physical, so unless it’s in a distressed state you can’t see it. It can only be felt.”

  “And you just tear through it to get to another dimension?”

  “Tear is the wrong word, but basically, yeah.” Jack opened his eyes.

  “Is it possible to see into other dimensions?”

  “If you pull the fabric thin enough, yeah. Or just open it up all together.” Jack stood up and faced the distortion, “I can show you.”

  Like removing a thin onion skin, suddenly before them was a wavering portal to another realm. Sunlight shone through as if through a window and showed them a simple urban park.

  Ryan stood close behind Jack and gaped at what he was seeing.

 

  It was another Austin, that much was clear from many of the same buildings being present in the background, but it appeared that the radio factory had been demolished and replaced with green space.

 

    Feeling bold and fuelled by Ryan’s genuine curiosity (one Geoff had never given him), Jack decided to go further.

 

  The image of another world began to superimpose itself in the centre of the greener Austin, pushing it off to the edges of the portal where portions of it remained visible.

  This new world also held a city, but the buildings were foreign. Large glass and steel skyscrapers ruled the skyline. The weather here was grey and threatening rain.

 

  Jack pushed further, and several more cities came and were move aside as he tried to find a parallel dimension where Austin – or a similar city – did not exist.

  Ryan watched in awe as these worlds were stacked up and layered around the edges of the portal, and he remembered Jack's comparison of going down through layers of paint. It really was like that, but instead of one solid colour it was the full spectrum.

  Some worlds were sunny, others rainy. In some it was midday, and other the deepest of night. Summer in one, and winter in another. The architecture varied in degrees of urbanisation, and Ryan noticed that the further Jack went, the greater the differences were.

 

  Straining, but proud, Jack finally stopped at a dimension where there was nothing but open field. In the far distance there were mountains covered in deep dark forest, but nearest to them was tall green grass about waist high.

  Something large, black, and low to the ground was moving through the grass.

  Ryan leaned forward and put his hand on Jack’s shoulder, “Is that a giant spider?” he asked as he noticed the many legs. If it was a spider, it was larger than a dog. It was quite frightening to believe spiders of that size existed somewhere.

 

  At Ryan’s touch Jack began struggling to safely contain the multiple dimensional gateways. Jack could feel his magic rapidly deteriorating at a frightening pace. Ryan was clueless as to his nullification and Jack didn’t have enough time to push him away, before his safety barrier maintaining the divisions between them and all their parallel dimensions suddenly snapped.

  Ryan was torn off of his feet and pulled forward into the dimensional rift. Jack managed to grab Ryan’s leg and drop himself to the ground, but the rift was still managing to pull him closer, inch by inch.

  Jack didn’t know what to do. To release Ryan would have him regain the use of his magic, which he could then use to seal the rift, but he would lose Ryan to an unknown dimension.

  So instead Jack decided to hold tight, it was better for them both to be pulled through. At least then there would be a chance of them finding their way back.

 

  No longer being stabilised, the dimensions flickered around them in a chaos of colour and light.

  Ryan looked down at Jack with absolute terror, “I thought you said this was safe!” he bellowed but most of his words were lost in the whirlwind.

  “Hold on!” Jack hollered. There was no point in further delaying their fate. He closed his eyes and stopped fighting the current.

  “JACK!” Ryan screamed as he saw him lose his ground.

 

  Everything disappeared in a sensory hurricane of hot, cold, bright, dark, impossibly loud, and then impossibly quiet. All occurring instantaneously.

  When it finally stopped, Ryan found himself in the dark, alone. His eyes took a moment to adjust and he saw that he appeared to be lying on the floor in the main entryway of a regular looking suburban home.

  The lights were off, and from the nearest window it appeared to be either late evening or early morning. The house was average, unassuming, and definitely no house that Ryan had ever been in before.

  He got himself back up on his feet and swallowed the urge to call out for Jack. If someone was home, they would hear him, and then God knows what this dimension would do to him. It could be inhabited by anything.

  Sore all over, he got himself to his feet and looked to the front door. He could always attempt to brave the world beyond.

  He noticed the home security keypad on the wall next to the door. It looked armed.

  Great, not only will that go off if we try and leave, but it means that in this universe they too require security. Ryan concluded. He was panicky about the situation, but was doing his best to remain calm.

 

  Ryan’s head snapped upwards towards the staircase as he heard the creak of wood. A few seconds later a light was flicked on upstairs and the resident of the house began to move about.

  “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Ryan barely breathed as he frantically searched for somewhere, anywhere, to hide. He was frozen in panic and indecision; what was he going to do? Run to the living room and hide behind a couch?

  Ultimately he decided it was better than doing nothing, so he did his best to quickly but silently get out of the direct line of sight from the stairs. This had him up against the wall in the living room.

 

  That’s when he heard a bark.

 

  The house had dogs.

 

  At least he hoped they were dogs.

 

  The upstairs resident hushed the dog and Ryan heard him make his way down. The hallway light turned on and Ryan peeked out to see the back of a very human looking man followed by two dogs.

  The resident made his way down the hall to the kitchen and the dogs broke away from him.

  They lifted their noses in excitement and made directly for Ryan.

  The resident didn’t seem to notice, or care, but Ryan was terrified.

  The two dogs surrounded him with their tails whipping back and forth in excitement. Tongues hung out of their mouths and they were looking at him expectantly.

  Ryan didn’t know what to do, but they were clearly very friendly. Not guard dogs at all. He let them sniff him and hoped they wouldn’t start barking.

  The resident suddenly exclaimed and was immediately silenced as if by force. The dogs ran to his aid and the hair on Ryan’s neck stood on end.

  “Who are you?! Who do you work for?! What are you doing in my house?!” An angry and authoritative voice demanded.

  Ryan went cold; he was found out. He opened his mouth to respond.

  Instead the same voice replied, “Your house?! I live here! Why do you look like me?!” his voice increased in pitch with confusion.

  “This is my house!” the first voice argued. There was the sound of minor struggle, “Now talk!”

  “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!” it was said with absolute terror, “Don’t hurt me! I swear this is my house: my name is James Ryan Haywood, and I work for a company called Rooster Teeth.”

  “That’s not possible because my name is James Ryan Haywood!”

  At that Ryan had to leave his hiding spot and see for himself what was going on.

 

  In the kitchen were two men. One had the other pinned against the wall with a kitchen knife to his throat.

  Both men appeared identical, and both looked exactly like Ryan. The only difference was that the knife wielding Ryan appeared as if he worked out considerably more than the other.

  Ryan had a thought, what if he hadn’t been the only Ryan to end up in this dimension? Was that possible? Or did this dimension have two of him; both a Demon and Rye as actual individuals?

 

  “Guys,” Ryan stepped out of hiding and raised his hands to show he wasn’t armed.

  The two immediately looked to him and while the one with a knife to his throat only appeared more frightened, the one wielding the knife seemed to get angry.

  “What is this shit?” the knife wielder asked with surprising calmness.

  “We're all Ryan.” Ryan tried to explain.

  “I knew I shouldn’t have eaten those nachos before going to bed. I’m going to wake up and this is just going to be a funny story to tell.” The victim Ryan muttered and closed his eyes.

  “Trust me when I say this isn’t a dream,” Ryan paused to gauge their reactions.

 

  The door to the house opened and another Ryan entered. He disarmed the alarm and removed his shoes with a sigh.

  The first three gaped at him. The newest Ryan had a large pair of mountain lion ears atop his head and a long tail to match.

  “Now there’s a furry me?!” Victim Ryan was in disbelief.

 

  Cat Ryan whipped around at the voice and stared at the three of them. His mouth dropped open and they could see massive canines.

  “What...?” Cat Ryan looked between them.

 

  There was the sound of shattering glass from outside.

  Instantly and in unison, Cat, Victim, and Knife Ryan shouted, “My car!” And ran outside.

  Ryan made sure to follow; he wasn’t about to leave himself... himselves? Behind. This was his doing, and now he would have to deal with a bunch of parallel versions of himself.

 

  He hoped they wouldn’t end up killing each other.

 

  On the driveway was their thief. Caught in the act he was frozen where he stood.

  His outfit was ridiculous, but it seemed to be having quite the effect on Cat and Victim Ryan.

  The thief was wearing a black leather jacket with blue shoulders, and plain looking jeans. On his head he had a black mask shaped like a skull.

  “That’s not possible.”  Victim Ryan stated, “How many ‘mes’ is there?! Where's the Mad King?!”

  “It’s a costume... right?” Cat Ryan looked to the thief.

  “What the fuck is going on?” The thief looked at all of them, and they all recognised the voice as belonging to yet another Ryan.

  Knife still in hand, Knife Ryan approached him cautiously, “Get the fuck away from my car.”

  Thief Ryan swiftly reached into his jacket and they all barely had a chance to see the gun before Knife Ryan was on top of him.

  It was pretty clear the two of them were evenly matched both in fighting skill and strength, and Knife Ryan succeeded in disarming Thief Ryan who then returned the favour. The two of them managed to get into a hold and it ended up a stalemate.

 

  The other Ryans crowded close but out of arms' reach.

  “Stop, holy shit!” Cat Ryan shouted at them. He had sharp claws extended from each fingertip.

  “Guys!” Ryan shouted for attention, “We’re parallel dimensional versions of each other! Please don’t kill us off!”

  They all looked at each other, and even the two fighters released each other.

  “What?!” Knife Ryan looked at him as if he were insane.

  “That’s the only thing that makes sense, but that's not something that’s possible... So how is it possible?” Victim Ryan asked, “Assuming of course that multiple dimensions exist and all. Which I’m not fully willing to accept yet... Although GTA me over there makes a compelling argument.”

  “This car isn’t valuable enough to be considered grand theft.” Knife Ryan informed them.

  “It’s a videogame...” Cat Ryan looked to Victim Ryan, then to Thief Ryan, “You probably have some nice face paint under there, don’t you?”

  Thief Ryan removed his mask revealing his face. He had long hair dyed black and tied back into a ponytail. His face confirmed he was indeed another Ryan and it was painted in red, white, and black to vaguely resemble a skull. This meant he was the very same resident from Los Santos.

  “I’m not from some fucking game.” GTA Ryan declared, “And I can prove just how fucking real I am.” He threatened but saw that Knife Ryan was watching him like a hawk.

  “We should probably discuss this inside where people can’t see us.” Knife Ryan suggested but didn’t take his eyes away from GTA Ryan.

  “I agree.” Ryan, Cat Ryan, and Victim Ryan said in unison.

  They exchanged an uncomfortable look, and headed inside.

  Knife Ryan came in last behind GTA Ryan and closed the door.

  Cat Ryan had his ears down flat and was looking down the hall, “Well there’s that question answered.” He said with hollow humour.

  “What – Oh fuck. Not him, too.” Victim Ryan followed where Cat Ryan was looking. Through a window that opened to the backyard, they could see another Ryan outside.

 

  This Ryan was dressed in full regalia and had a golden crown on his head. He was partly armoured and a large sword hung from his hip.  From the top of his head large bull-like horns curled upward. A crimson tartan kilt was worn instead of pants.

  King Ryan looked around in confusion. He drew his sword, and the steel had a blue-purple shimmer.

  “Why does he have fucking horns?” Knife Ryan exclaimed.

  “Nice.” GTA Ryan commented.

  King Ryan looked towards the sky and appeared to contemplate it. He leapt upwards into the air and flew away like a rocket.

  This immediately had everyone else freaking out.

  “WHY CAN HE FLY?!”

  “WHAT THE FUCK?!”

  “No fucking way.”

  “We're fucked.” Victim Ryan stated and the rest started to calm.

  “Ok so clearly this is one hell of a situation we’re in.” Knife Ryan decided to take control, “We need to figure things out and lay down some rules; first we need names. We can’t all be Ryan.”

  “Can I still be Ryan?” Victim Ryan asked.

  “That’s hardly fair.” Ryan replied, “You can call me Rye.” He told them before he could get stuck with something of their choice.

  “Can I be Vagabond?” GTA Ryan asked.

  “Vagabond is one of my codenames, so no, if anything I get that one.” Knife Ryan remarked.

  “Codename?” Cat Ryan asked, “What are you, a spy?”

  “He’s Spy Ryan then.” Victim Ryan decided, “And you’re staying GTA Ryan.” He looked to GTA Ryan.

  “And you?” Cat Ryan asked.

  “Ryan Prime.” Victim Ryan smiled.

  “That’s also not fair, it’s like saying you’re our original.” GTA Ryan crossed his arms.

  “We honestly don’t even know which dimension this is, I mean to me I think I’m home.” Cat Ryan explained.

  “Good point.” Victim Ryan nodded.

  “Well if this is another dimension, maybe our phones won’t work? Assuming you all have phones.” Spy Ryan suggested.

  “Good idea.” Rye agreed and he wasn’t the only one; they all immediately pulled out their phones.

  “No signal.” Spy Ryan sighed, “So this isn’t my house after all.”

  “None for me either.” GTA Ryan shrugged, “But I didn’t need that to know this isn’t Los Santos.”

  “Fuck.” Cat Ryan swore, “None for me either.”

  “I know this isn’t my dimension.” Rye stated.

  Victim Ryan smiled, “Full bars.” His smile suddenly left, “Oh fuck, that means...”

  “Yeah; the Mad King is about to fuck up your world.” Cat Ryan knew his concern.

  “This is really bad, guys.” Victim Ryan looked frightened.

  GTA Ryan laughed, “So this is pretty much a consequence free free-for-all for the rest of us, huh?”

  “Don’t fucking think about it!” Victim Ryan warned him.

  “I guess you get to be Ryan Prime after all.” GTA Ryan looked like it was Christmas morning and he'd just seen the pile of gifts beneath the tree.

  “Hey, he’s still us.” Rye told him, “And this is sorta my fault in the first place.”

  They all looked to him accusingly; some angrier than others.

  “So you going to undo it or...?” Ryan Prime prompted.

  “I can’t by myself; it was this guy I know. We find him and he can set this straight. He fell through the dimensional portal with me, so he’s probably somewhere in this dimension.” Rye explained to them.

  “Oh great. Somewhere.” Cat Ryan remarked.

  “Well he might be having the same situation we are now, so that might make it easier.” Rye tried to smooth things over.

  Spy Ryan was listening to him intently, “What’s his name? I might not have any of my equipment or contacts in this universe, but I can still do my best to track him down... or I guess this universe's version of him, and yours might be nearby.”

  “He's a summoner by the name of Jack Pattillo.” Rye informed him.

  “Jack?!” All of them gasped.

  “Honestly would have expected it to be a Gavin thing.” Ryan Prime muttered and was met with agreement from the rest.

  “Do we all have the same circle of friends?” Cat Ryan’s tail twitched in curiosity.

  “Jack, Gavin, Michael, Geoff, Jeremy, Matt, Lindsay, Kdin, Ray?” Spy Ryan listed off.

  “I don’t know a Kdin.” GTA Ryan shook his head.

  “And I don’t know a Ray. Not well at least.” Rye added, “But otherwise, yeah.”

  “Oh man, I need to know what they are in your universes.” Ryan Prime thought out loud and then shook his head, “But first we find Jack. I can call him. That should be the easiest way to find him.”

 

  There was quiet as Ryan Prime went through his phone.

 

  Cat Ryan spoke up, “We never decided on a name for me.”

  “Cat or Furry Ryan.” GTA Ryan suggested.

  “I’m a mountain lion hybrid!” Cat Ryan protested.

  “Puma or Cougar, then?” Spy Ryan proposed.

  “I'd rather Puma...” Cat Ryan replied.

  “Then you’re Puma Ryan.” Rye nodded.

  Puma Ryan nodded back.

 

  Ryan Prime put his phone down, “He’s not answering his phone or any texts.”

  “Shit.” Rye swore.

  Spy Ryan put up two fingers, “Ok so I see two main concerns here: Finding our flying bastard, and finding the right Jack to fix this.”

  “There’s a third problem,” Ryan Prime announced, “My wife and kids are coming home today. They spent the weekend with their grandparents, and will be here in the afternoon. I’m not letting any of you stay here for that.”

  Puma and Spy Ryan nodded in empathy. They too had families and wouldn’t want to expose them to such a mess.

  “You guys have kids?” GTA Ryan chuckled, “Fuck that.”

  “I'd like to have some... maybe, I don’t know... if I could offer them a safe home.” Rye didn’t see what was so funny.

  “Look, kids are great, but they are not for me.” GTA Ryan told them.

  “That’s honestly a good thing.” Puma Ryan shook his head.

  “Seriously.” Ryan Prime agreed, he then got back to the problem at hand, “I might be able to have you guys hang out at the office since it's a Sunday and pretty much no one will be there, but if we don’t get this sorted by tomorrow,”

  “Then your friends and co-workers will meet us.” Puma Ryan finished his sentence, “What do you do by the way?” he then turned to all of them, “What do you all do?”

  “I’m a part of Achievement Hunter and mostly work on let’s plays.” Ryan Prime told them and then seeing that no one but Puma Ryan knew what he meant he went through exactly what it meant.

 

  Puma Ryan had the same job so he was able to help him explain.

 

  “You play video games for a living?” Spy Ryan couldn’t believe it, “Fuck me.” He seemed upset.

  “I know we’re calling you Spy Ryan, but what do you do then?” Ryan Prime asked him after seeing his reaction.

  “I kill people for money.” Spy Ryan told them straight up, “Used to be a hitman until Geoff hired me. Since then it’s been ridiculous, but much better.”

  “I kill people for fun.” GTA Ryan smirked, “Make my money through my cut of The Fake AH Crew's take after any heist. Drugs, weapons, kidnapping, bank robbery, you name it.”

  “And here I was worried I was the most fucked up one.” Rye was wide-eyed. If two of his alternate selves were career murderers, what did that mean about who he was?

  “So what do you do then?” Ryan Prime asked him.

  Rye shrugged, “I work for Geoff who deals in black market relics. I’m just extra muscle.”

  “And your Jack is a summoner, huh? Does that mean magic is real in your world?” Spy Ryan raised an eyebrow.

  “Is it not for you?” Rye saw each one of them shake their heads no, “Oh... Well it’s a pain in the ass anyway.”

  “You’re not gonna rocket away like the guy with the sword and crown, are ya?” GTA Ryan cocked his head and raised an eyebrow.

  Rye shook his head, “I don’t know any magic.”

  “But your Jack does. And as much as I like my Jack and trust him, yours created this mess.” Ryan Prime pointed out.

  “It was an accident. Magic always acts weird around me, so maybe it was just that; but he definitely didn’t intend for all of this.” Rye explained. He thought about his power of magic negation and sincerely hoped he hadn’t been the cause of this mess.

  “Alright, so all of you can go and get this figured out.” GTA Ryan pointed to them, “I have an un-pillaged and un-ravished world to loot.” He grinned, “You’ll know how to find me.” He headed for the door.

  Spy Ryan grabbed GTA Ryan tightly by the arm, “No.”

  GTA Ryan gave him a death glare, one that in his world would have even the bravest soul heading for the hills.

  Spy Ryan made his argument, “He has a family and kids; you can’t just go fucking up his world wearing his face! How would you feel?”

  GTA Ryan’s expression very clearly answered that he did not care.

  Spy Ryan changed his approach, “It’s not like you can take any of it back with you anyway; the money might not even be a valid currency if you could!”

  “I’ll give you that one.” GTA Ryan nodded, “But I can still kill people.”

  “Please don’t do that!” Ryan Prime begged of him.

  “If sword guy gets to do it, why can’t I?” GTA Ryan shrugged off Spy Ryan’s grip on his arm.

  “He’s the fucking Mad King!” Puma Ryan burst out as if it should have meaning.

  “That was also a name of mine.” Spy Ryan commented and then asked, “If you know him so well, what are we dealing with?”

  “Also a name of mine.” GTA Ryan interjected.

  “You don’t think he'd have full creative mode powers here, do you? If he’s from Minecraft like GTA Ryan is from GTA?” Ryan Prime looked frightened and turned to Puma Ryan.

  Puma Ryan shrugged, “I know as much as you do, apparently. But if he does, then we’re fucked. I mean what if he can control the weather too? Or spawn monsters?”

  “Shit. We need to find him.” Ryan Prime crossed his arms and shook his head, “And he might totally have gone invisible too.”

  “I have no idea what you’re talking about or how you know this, but it sounds really bad.” Rye stated.

  “Like GTA Ryan, King Ryan could be from a videogame as well.” Ryan Prime explained, “A game that exists in my dimension and Puma Ryan’s as well it seems.”

  “I’m very real, thank you.” GTA Ryan crossed his arms.

  “Which makes King Ryan very real too.” Spy Ryan seemed to be thinking something over, “We have the advantage of you two knowing him. Is there anything that would draw his attention, or have him find us so we don’t have to find him first?”

  “Do minotaurs exist in this dimension?” Puma Ryan looked to Ryan Prime.

  “Thankfully, no.” Ryan Prime replied, “I honestly don’t know how we could bait him. We would have to convey to him that we can help him get home. That’s the only way he would so much as listen to us.”

  “Not to mention everything in this world has to be freaking him the fuck out.” Puma Ryan added.

  “So he didn’t just look medieval.” Spy Ryan realised.

  “Then we have guns and shit. Show him the wonder of a cigarette lighter – I don’t fucking know. It can’t be too hard to track someone stuck in the twelfth century.” GTA Ryan suggested harshly.

  Ryan Prime seemed to have an idea, “Do all of you have computers in your world and know how to use them?”

  “Yeah.” They all answered in unison.

  “Ok. So if we can get ourselves to the office, we can each grab a workstation–” Ryan Prime began.

  “And start looking for anything unusual being reported.” Puma Ryan finished for him.

  “As well as hack local cams and try to spot him before anyone else does.” Spy Ryan nodded in approval.

  “That might just have to be you.” Rye told Spy Ryan, “Unless the rest of you are able to do that...?”

  “Nah.” It was once again said in unison, by everyone but Spy Ryan.

  “Ok, I guess that will be just me.” Spy Ryan looked a bit surprised and disappointed.

  “Alright, let me grab my keys.” Ryan Prime told them, “It will be a really tight fit for the five of us, but we’ll survive.” He paused and looked the group over, he turned to Puma Ryan, “You need a hat,” then he turned to GTA Ryan, “And you need to wash that off. We’ll be attracting enough attention as it is.” He pointed down the hall, “Bathroom is the first door on the right.”

 

  Ryan Prime left to get his keys from by the front door and GTA Ryan begrudgingly made his way to the bathroom.

  Puma Ryan went over to the coat closet and found an Achievement Hunter beanie identical to one he owned in his world. With a smile he pulled it down over his ears.

  “What about my tail?” Puma Ryan asked the room.

  “Unless you...” Ryan Prime was going to give a sarcastic remark but had an idea, “Could you fit it under a kilt?”

  “Are you fucking serious?” Puma Ryan replied, “Like that won’t attract more attention than a tail!”

  “Yeah, but I’ve worn kilts before, I haven’t ever had a tail.” Ryan Prime explained.

  Spy Ryan seemed to agree, “Our best bet is to have it so that we are all easily mistaken for Ryan Prime here. It would prevent panic if we are ever encountered alone and found out not to be the ‘correct' Ryan.”

  “Exactly.” Ryan Prime nodded, “You can all be me, but I can’t be all of you.”

 

  GTA Ryan returned with his face washed off. Without it, the only thing distinguishing him from the rest was his long black hair and distinctive clothing.

  “You’re going to need a new towel.” GTA Ryan informed Ryan Prime, “My paint stained.”

  “And a new driver's side window.” Ryan Prime added, “But I’ll worry about it later. Come on.”

  “The kilt's at the office isn’t it?” Puma Ryan asked.

  “Yeah.” Ryan Prime answered and opened the front door.

  They walked out onto the driveway and stood around the small sedan.

 

  It didn’t escape Spy Ryan’s notice when GTA Ryan quietly picked up his gun and stowed it away once more.

 

  “I call shotgun.” GTA Ryan declared and his expression showed that he dared any of them to disagree.

  “Ugh. Time to get cozy.” Spy Ryan pulled open the back driver's side door.

  “I could get us another car.” GTA Ryan suggested but was answered with a hard “NO.”

  “You have a tail, how is that going to work… with the seat?” Rye asked Puma Ryan.

  “Uncomfortably.” Puma Ryan looked hesitant to climb in.

  “You can take the edge seat then.” Spy Ryan offered.

  Puma Ryan accepted and this meant Spy Ryan was left sitting in the middle.

  “I don’t know how I feel about sitting in my own lap.” Spy Ryan was easily the bulkiest and heaviest of the Ryans and the middle seat was not serving him well.

  “Look I’m fine with it, just try not to cut off circulation.” Rye shifted over as far as he could. And Puma Ryan did the same.

  Spy Ryan wriggled into the seat as best he could and fished around beneath himself to stop the seat belt from jabbing him. His arm caught on something sharp and he yelped in surprise.

  Puma Ryan immediately began apologising, “Are you alright? You got hooked on a claw.”

  “Of course you have claws.” Spy Ryan replied, “I’m fine, don’t worry about it.”

  Puma Ryan looked worried, “You sure?”

  “Just let’s not add a bite to it.” Spy Ryan smiled.

  “Have you ever used those fangs of yours?” GTA Ryan turned around in his seat.

  Ryan Prime started the car and pulled out of the driveway.

  Imagine tearing someone’s throat out with your teeth… Rye pushed the vivid imagery away, “Hopefully not.” He said and shuddered.

  “No!” Puma Ryan looked upset by the suggestion, “I was normal too at some point... Normal like fully human, not this hybrid mess.”

  “Wait, so you didn’t start off with the ears and all?” Ryan Prime asked.

  “I didn’t.” Puma Ryan shook his head, “Last year a disease called Feral Fever hit Austin and everyone became part animal.”

  “That...” Rye didn’t know what to say.

  “Sucks.” Ryan Prime finished.

  “Thanks.” Puma Ryan was sarcastic, “At least I didn’t have it as hard as Geoff, his animal is a rattlesnake.”

  There was chuckling throughout the car.

  “So I guess his fear of snakes is pretty universal then, huh?” Puma Ryan smiled.

  “Uh huh.” GTA Ryan nodded, as did the others.

  “What animals did everyone else get?” Rye was curious and his interest was mirrored by the others.

 

  The ride was spent exchanging stories of their respective worlds, and by the time they reached Stage 5 the atmosphere between them had become far friendlier.

  Ryan Prime cautiously left to ensure the way to the Achievement Hunter office was clear before returning and ushering them all inside.

 

  “It’s Sunday, so even though one or two people might be in the office, no one from AH will be here.” Ryan Prime explained once again as he reached the door to his office.

  Stepping inside, the Ryans saw he was correct in his assumption, and the AH office was indeed empty.

  “This is your office?” Spy Ryan was trying to hide his disdain and failing.

  “Why does it smell?” Rye wrinkled his nose.

  “It’s six guys in one room, what do want?” Ryan Prime replied.

  GTA Ryan walked over to admire a skull bandana hanging from the wall, “You seem like my kind of people.” He turned around, “I mean if I didn’t live a luxurious life of crime... yeah.”

  “Everyone grab a computer.” Ryan Prime ordered, “The longer King Ryan has to himself, the bigger a disaster it will be.”

  “How big of a disaster are we talking about?” Spy Ryan sat himself down at Jeremy’s workstation.

  “New world order big.” Puma Ryan answered and took Jack's station. He pulled off his beanie and rubbed his ears.

  Ryan Prime took his usual station, while GTA Ryan took Gavin's and Rye took Geoff’s.

  They barely had time to boot up when a sixth Ryan walked into the office.

  He appeared identical to Ryan Prime... to everyone but Rye.

 

  Rye's eyes widened in horror and he frantically looked to his peers finding only surprise and no fear. Were they not seeing what he was? The newest Ryan had black eyes with white irises, and curving horns sprouted from the top of his head. His tongue was forked, his hands tipped with black claws, and a pointed tail swished through the air back and forth behind him.

  The new demonic Ryan looked around the room and sighed, “Ha ha.” He stated with no humour, “Real funny, assholes.”

  Demon Ryan walked further into the office, “I can’t believe you all came in early for this.”

  “What?” Ryan Prime was the first to speak.

  “You’re in my seat.” Demon Ryan approached him and made a shooing motion.

  “You’re not surprised by us?” Spy Ryan asked.

  “OK, I’ll admit the version of me with the ears is a cute twist – who is that? Gavin?” Demon Ryan raised an eyebrow.

  “We’re all Ryan.” Puma Ryan replied, “The question is which Ryan are you?”

  “Alright, drop the glamours and the act.” Demon Ryan put his hands on his hips.

  “Does he really look normal to you guys?!” Rye's voice increased in pitch near the end.

  Spy Ryan looked Demon Ryan over and then turned to Rye, “What are you seeing?”

  “He’s got horns! A forked tongue, and a tail!” Rye didn’t know why they couldn’t see it.

 

  Demon Ryan looked to Rye and cocked his head. His eyes widened, “You’re – you’re not a demon!” he seemed to take a second look at everyone there, “WHAT THE HELL?! WHO ARE YOU?!”

  All the Ryans but Rye shouted out and jumped back as Demon Ryan finally appeared to them as he did to Rye.

  “Demon!” GTA Ryan exclaimed in surprise and instinctively pulled out his gun.

  “Who the fuck are you guys?! Why are you like mostly human versions of me? This is way too elaborate for a prank.” Demon Ryan didn’t seem to care about the gun pointed at him in the slightest.

  Spy Ryan gestured for GTA Ryan to lower his gun, but he just looked at him like he was crazy.

  “Calm down, this isn’t your dimension. We’re all parallel dimensional versions of you and you’re trapped in this dimension with us until we find the guy that can get us home.” Rye gave him a Cole's notes version of the situation.

  Demon Ryan blinked and suddenly appeared human once more, “You’re going to have to explain that one again.”

 

  Rye could still see his true form, but nodded. He gave him a run down of the situation and the other Ryans confirmed his story.

 

  “I'd expect something like that to be Gavin's fault, not Jack's... Which honestly has me wanting to play along with what you’re saying.” Demon Ryan commented.

  “Why are you here on a Sunday, anyway?” Ryan Prime felt the need to ask.

  “It was a Wednesday for me.” Demon Ryan shrugged.

  “Oh great, so time isn’t consistent. Should have expected that, but this sucks.” Spy Ryan threw up his hands.

  Puma Ryan paled, “My family... What if I’m gone for years?!”

  “Fuck.” Was GTA Ryan's input regarding the possibility.

  Demon Ryan looked to Ryan Prime, “This is your dimension, right?”

  “Yeah.” Ryan Prime nodded.

  “Does demon magic work here?” Demon Ryan asked.

  “It’s worth a shot, honestly. We’ve confirmed that King Ryan’s magic works well enough.” Ryan Prime shrugged, “You think you can find Jack?”

  “I can try.” He shrugged, “We’ll need to go outside.”

  “I’ll be more useful here going through security cams.” Spy Ryan announced. The whole ‘magic' thing had him on edge.

  “I’ll go out with him. Keep an eye out for anyone else.” Rye volunteered, driven by curiosity. What could a real demon do?

  “Sweet. Let’s go.” Demon Ryan waved for him to follow him out.

 

  Rye was led out into the hall.

  “You think cat boy would go nuts if I tossed him some nip?” Demon Ryan looked at Rye with a smile.

  Rye shrugged but smiled back, “You’re free to test that as far as I care. But personally I don’t want to find out if he knows how to use those teeth and claws of his.”

  Demon Ryan shrugged and opened the door to the parking lot, “He probably wouldn’t be able to hurt me. I mean... I think; at least by the rules I know.”

  Rye scoped out the lot and seeing no one, he stepped out, “So are you going to perform some sort of spell?”

  “There’s lots of different ways to find someone, but I find using your plague is most effective.” Demon Ryan explained as he followed.

  “Plague...?” Rye was now nervous.

  “Yeah; every demon has their own plague. Mine's murder.” Demon Ryan grinned devilishly.

  Delightful, Rye thought. He was growing less and less surprised by his alternate selves.

  “Assuming it works, of course.” Demon Ryan shrugged again, “Give it a minute or two.”

 

  A coarse screech echoed across the parking lot. It was answered by a grating scream from the opposite direction. A third loud caw came from further out, and then a fourth, a fifth, and then the cacophony was too chaotic to count the number of voices.

  Rye was upset by the pun as ravens flew over the surrounding buildings and trees towards them.

 

  There was well over a hundred of the black feathered birds and they landed on every available surface around the two of them.

  “I was slightly worried that maybe they wouldn’t exist in this realm, or that I wouldn’t be able to call them, but it all works great!” Demon Ryan was smiling.

  “I can barely hear myself think over this noise!” Rye complained.

  “HEY!” Demon Ryan shouted at the birds. Like a crowd being told to listen, their chatter died down, “I don’t know if demons exist in this realm, so I get it if this is new and weird.”

  Rye was going to reply that demons did exist in his realm, but realised that Demon Ryan was addressing the ravens.

  Demon looked over to Rye, “So do you have a picture of the Jack we’re looking for, or...?”

  Rye realised he did not, and shook his head.

  Demon Ryan rolled his eyes, “Great.”

  Rye had an idea, “Ok, maybe we can’t find Jack right now, but we can find King Ryan. Apparently he's a magic user too. And since he’s one of us, we can use our face instead of a photo.”

  Demon Ryan crossed his arms and his tail flicked, “Yeah and if his magic makes him able to travel through dimensions, why would be still be here? If he hasn’t fucked off, it means he's just as stuck as us.” He assumed Rye wanted to use him instead of Jack.

  “Ryan Prime and Puma Ryan are terrified of him, and worried he's going to cause us serious trouble. I’m inclined to trust their judgment.” Rye knew what Demon Ryan had said was true, but still thought it would be best to have all the Ryans in one place.

  “Those stupid names again...” Demon Ryan shook his head and uncrossed his arms, “OK, I see where you’re coming from. And you never know if there might be even more of us out there. We should probably try and get everyone in one place.”

  Rye nodded.

  Demon Ryan turned back to the birds, “Hey, see this face?” he gestured to himself then grabbed Rye by the shoulder and pulled him close, “And this face?”

  Rye couldn’t help but eye the black claws on his shoulder with concern.

  “There’s at least one more of us out there. Find as many as you can and let me know where they are.

  Oh! And ignore the–” Demon Ryan took his hand off of Rye's shoulder and counted on his fingers, “Ignore the six of us in this immediate area. We know about each other.”

 

  The ravens began cawing and protesting loudly.

  “What's going on?” Rye leaned in towards Demon Ryan with apprehension towards the birds.

  “Fuckers aren’t used to taking orders... dammit. Do you think this realm has ham, or bread? Or something?” Demon Ryan asked.

  Rye shrugged, “I’m going to assume so, but I have no clue.”

  “Uh, I’ll give food to those who find me good info?” Demon Ryan tried.

 

  The caws turned into a murmur as the ravens conferred among themselves. They went quiet and all eyes focused once more Demon Ryan.

  “Ok cool.” Demon Ryan nodded. He then instructed Rye, “Sit down with me so that they can get a better look at us.” He lowered himself to the ground.

  Rye hesitated but Demon Ryan waved him down, “Can’t they see us well en– Fuck!” Rye was startled as a raven hopped up onto his leg.

  The bird flew away with a loud complaint.

  “They’re not going to hurt you. And the better look at us they get the more likely they’re to find the other ‘us-s' otherwise they’ll go after anyone with the same haircut.” Demon Ryan chuckled, “They’re only birds.”

 

  Rye went stiff as another raven took advantage of his inattention and landed on his shoulder.

  “Y-you did call them a plague.” Rye pointed out and tried not to spook the bird that was now so close to his face.

  “Every demon has a plague. Mine's just not your traditional vermin. Gavin's got mice, and Jack has frogs, which are closer to the stereotypical ‘plague' in the biblical sense.” Demon Ryan explained, “Really anything can be a plague in large enough numbers.”

 

  The ravens were taking turns inspecting them. When each individual finished they leapt into the air and flew away, making room for the next bird.

  “So are you possessing a version of me, or are you a version of me?” Rye asked.

  Demon Ryan cocked his head in curiosity, “Why do you ask? Not comfortable knowing a version of you is demonic?”

  Rye shook his head, “No, nothing like that. It’s just that in my dimension demons don’t have physical form unless they possess someone. So I’m trying to figure you out.” He smiled sheepishly.

  Demon Ryan chuckled, “Fair enough.” He nodded, “I’m all demon. We’re physical entities in this – my – dimension. Can still totally possess people, though. It’s just a pain in the ass to do.”

  “What would happen if–” Rye began.

  Demon Ryan finished his question, “I were to possess you or another Ryan? I have no fucking clue. It might not even be possible; we have to overcome the will of our target in order to control them... so unless one of you wants to be possessed, I assume we'd be evenly matched?”

  “I don’t need another voice in my head, again.” Rye grumbled.

  “Another voice?” Demon Ryan picked up on it immediately, “We’ve got Cat Ryan, Psycho Ryan One, Slightly less Psycho Ryan Two, and Boring Ryan: so what’s your thing?”

  Rye looked uncomfortable and reluctant to share.

  “Dude, I’m a fuckin’ demon. Try me.” Demon Ryan urged.

  “Well none of the others know, and I’d like it to remain that way.” Rye shrugged.

  “How dark of a secret could it possibly be? I’m pretty sure at least two of the others kill people for a living. At least two. And I’m the demon!” Demon Ryan grinned.

   “So do you kill people?” Rye deflected.

  Demon Ryan shrugged, “I mean, I have. But these days you really have to tone the whole murder thing down if you want to continue living like you’re used to. Also, it’s sort of company policy not to: we get enough souls as it is.” Demon Ryan smiled proudly, “And I’m one of the highest earners in the company when it comes to number of souls taken. People just adore me.”

  “Oh. Um, congrats.” Rye wasn’t sure what to say.

  “So what’s your deep dark secret?” Demon Ryan urged with a smile.

  “It’s hardly something that you would consider bad.” Rye began, “But I do kill people... Not often, but–”

  “But?”

  “It’s complicated. I’m not human – I’m a creature that eats human meat.

  For the longest time I also had this multiple personality thing going on, and one was named Demon.” Rye tried to explain.

  “I can tell you right now that there’s nothing demonic about you.”

  “It’s just a name that stuck.”

 

  Demon Ryan was silent for a second, then spoke, “So you’re a monster. I don’t see why that was so hard to admit.”

  “But when– it feels right; I enjoy it.” Those were words Rye had never spoken out loud, and now that he had it kept coming, “The blood lust, the power ... I look forward to it. And I know that makes me a terrible person, and I don’t want to hurt people –  I don’t want to enjoy hurting people – but I do, and I hate it.”

  “I’m a demon; we don’t exactly ‘do’ guilt.” Demon Ryan replied and his last raven flew away, “So my advice would be to just let yourself enjoy it. Seek it out if you have to. Besides, you can’t be a bad person if you ain’t a person. Sounds like it’s just as natural for you to kill as it is for me to take souls, don’t bother fighting it.”

  “That’s terrible advice.” Rye stood and wiped off his pants, “You’re telling me to torture and kill people.”

  Demon Ryan stood as well, “I’m still a demon; figure at least one version of myself should be allowed some fun. Eat all you want!”

 

  Rye decided to change the topic, “How long until your birds find someone?”

  Demon Ryan decided to humour Rye's change of topic, “Depends how often they go outside. Looking through windows is harder when you’re a bird. Mostly because they have difficulty seeing glass, but also because line of sight gets limiting.”

  “Let’s hope that the Royal Ryan is either outside or next to a window, then.” Rye commented and began to head back into the office.

  Demon Ryan chuckled, following him. As they entered he asked, “So how are you seeing through my glamour?” It worried him slightly that others might end up being able to do so as well.

  “It’s not something I’m actively doing. In my dimension I can also see those astral projecting – I don’t know if it’s similar…” Rye faced his palms upwards at the lack of knowledge on the subject, “But my species also has a magic nullifying ability, so it could be related to that.”

  Demon Ryan’s eyebrows rose, “Really? That sounds incredibly useful.”

  Rye laughed, “I bet it would be, if I knew how to control it.”

  “Well, either way, pretty much pointless in this world if magic doesn’t exist outside of us.” Demon Ryan spoke the realisation as he made it.

 

  They re-entered the office to shouting.

  “This isn’t going to work!” Puma Ryan was wearing a kilt. His tail hung down and twitched in agitation.

  GTA Ryan had draped himself across the black couch along the wall and was watching with amusement, “I say we just cut the tail off.” He suggested with a smirk.

  Puma Ryan’s ears went flat and he glared daggers at GTA Ryan.

  “You sure you can’t just keep it wrapped around yourself?” Spy Ryan was still at a workstation, but his attention was on Puma Ryan.

  “I just said I can’t do that indefinitely!” Puma Ryan argued.

  “Then we bind it to your leg somehow!” Ryan prime gestured angrily with his arms.

  “You suggested that already! I told you it hurts too much!” Puma Ryan gave a growl of frustration.

  Demon Ryan tilted his head and spoke up, “Is this about trying to conceal all his furry bits?” he snapped his fingers.

  Puma Ryan’s cat-like features disappeared, making him appear identical to Ryan Prime.

  “Does that work?” Demon Ryan smirked.

  Rye didn’t see any change in Puma Ryan, “What–?”

  The other Ryans drowned him out with their astonishment.

  “Why didn’t you mention you could do that?!” Puma Ryan felt around for his missing ears and tail before inspecting his human nails.

  Demon Ryan shrugged, “You didn’t ask.” He moved to seat himself on the wooden throne made out of Minecraft swords, “It’s not permanent… unless you want it to be, but then I’d need your soul in exchange.”

  “Could you even take your own soul?” GTA Ryan asked him.

  “Wouldn’t know until I tried.” Demon Ryan replied.

  “I’m fine the way I am. If I go back to purely human, it would make me the odd man out.” Puma Ryan ran his tongue over his human teeth.

  “And probably generate too many awkward questions.” Spy Ryan added.

  GTA Ryan shifted his position to be closer to Demon Ryan, “Any chance you could teach me some of that?”

  “No! Do not!” Ryan Prime warned.

  Demon Ryan appeared neutral to the ask, “Don’t know if you can do magic. But I could definitely make you capable of it for the right price.”

  GTA Ryan grinned, “My soul?” Oh what great chaos he could cause with magic at his command! The law would be his, “What if I just get you like five other people’s souls instead?”

  “What the fuck?!” Puma Ryan exclaimed.

  Demon Ryan laughed, “Oh I wish you could. Trouble is, souls have to be given, not taken. So unless you can convince five people to give me their souls on your behalf…”

  “This is my dimension, remember?!” Ryan Prime would not allow it if he could.

  GTA Ryan ignored the protests, “Does it have to be willingly given, or could I threaten them into it?” he asked as he began to formulate the feasibility.

  Demon Ryan gave him a large toothy grin, his tail swishing by his feet, “It’s frowned upon, but my boss isn’t exactly here now, is he?”

  GTA Ryan mirrored his grin.

  Ryan Prime and Puma Ryan jumped in between them, “NO!” They screamed in unison.

  Spy Ryan shook his head at the exchange and continued his search of local police records and traffic cams. This would all be over soon. Hopefully.

 

  Now without a tail, Puma Ryan wanted to change back into his pants. Lifting them up, he realised a fatal flaw.

  GTA Ryan saw the flaw, and broke into laughter making the same realisation.

  “What’s goin’ on?” Demon Ryan asked.

  Puma Ryan blushed and hastily bundled up his pants against his chest, “Nothing!”

  Seeing the blush, GTA Ryan only began to laugh harder.

  Rye pulled the evidence together, “There’s a hole in your pants for your tail, isn’t there?”

  Ryan Prime mouthed “Oh.” As he made the realisation as well.

  It was Demon Ryan’s turn to join in on the cackling, “Which means your underwear has a hole as well! I guess you’re staying in the kilt!”

  “Unless you want to flash the world…” Rye crossed his arms and frowned. Demon Ryan and GTA Ryan didn’t have to be so mean about it. Although, he couldn’t say he was surprised by their reactions.

  GTA Ryan cut off his own laughter and suddenly his expression went serious, “Oh my god. You don’t have a barbed dick do you?”

  Puma Ryan’s face deepened its shade of red.

  Ryan Prime took a step away from him, and gave him an evaluating look, “Because cats–”

  “I DON’T HAVE A BARBED PENIS!” Puma Ryan burst out.

  Demon Ryan turned his gaze to Rye with a sly smile, “What about you? Got some kind of weird monster dick?”

  Rye jumped at that question and opened his mouth to angrily reply that he had told Demon Ryan what he was in confidence. As if the Demon had any right to ask!

  Spy Ryan interrupted them all brusquely, “Hey, we can compare dicks later. Right now you might rather see what I found.”

  They all crowded around Jeremy’s workstation. Spy Ryan pulled up a series of mugshots showing their face. Not their faces specifically, but the face of yet another Ryan.

  This Ryan had a crazed look in his eyes and was giving the camera a death glare. His lip was bruising and he wore a dark green suit with a black bowtie. Clicking through to a full body shot, it was clear he was wearing a kilt as well.

  The board they had forced him to hold up for the photos named him “Mad King.”

  “Oh fuck this shit. Really?!” Ryan Prime slapped his hands across his thighs.

  “You know him?” Rye asked.

  “He’s a cartoon character based on a persona!” Ryan Prime told them.

  Spy Ryan scanned the info the cops had entered, “Well they arrested him for being a public disturbance about an hour ago. Said he was wearing a crown and threatening passers-by. He was demanding to be told where he was, and they have him marked down as a mental case. That bruise would be from resisting arrest.”

  GTA Ryan snorted in amusement – he wouldn’t have gotten caught.

  “Any magic or such we should worry about? The records say all his ID’s were fake and they can’t get a real name out of him.” Spy Ryan continued.

  Ryan Prime shook his head, “He’s more the eccentric billionaire type with a strong helping of mad scientist. Also his name really is just ‘Mad King’. His ID’s are probably real in his universe.”

  Puma Ryan had let Ryan Prime explain everything, preferring to remain quiet in his anger. He too knew about the X-Ray and Vav cartoon.

  Demon Ryan spoke to Puma Ryan, “He has a kilt too.” He tapped Puma Ryan on the arm with the back of his hand, “You can match.”

  Puma Ryan rolled his eyes.

  “So, prison break?” GTA Ryan grinned. Maybe he could convince these sorry saps into letting him have some fun.

  Rye reluctantly looked at Demon Ryan, “We can’t just have one of us walk in and pay bail. Do you think you could disguise yourself as someone else?”

  “Or we can let him stay behind bars. It’s not like he’s going anywhere.” Demon Ryan countered, “I’ve done enough favours for you all.”

  “Technically, you’d only be helping yourself.” Spy Ryan smiled.

  “I still don’t like that they have what is basically my mug shot in their records now.” Ryan Prime complained.

  Spy Ryan waved a hand dismissively, “Once we get him out, I can deal with all that.”

  “Actually?” Ryan Prime was both surprised and apprehensive.

  “Security at a local PD is nothing compared to what I do on a daily basis.” Spy Ryan explained without explaining.

  GTA Ryan snorted again, “Way to boast. My records have their own section.” He chuckled, “They have no hope of ever doing anything about it though.”

  Spy Ryan sighed, “Staying invisible is far better.”

  “But it’s not nearly as exciting.” GTA Ryan retorted.

  “I’m picking up that the two of you might be more similar than you’d like to admit.” Demon Ryan smirked knowing the comparison would irk them.

  “We ARE the same person.” Spy Ryan turned in his seat to stare Demon Ryan down. He wasn’t going to be baited so easily, “And so are you.”

  Ryan Prime decided to take control of the conversation, “As uncomfortable as having a version of myself in prison is, I think we should keep him there for now. He would be a serious handful, and we still haven’t located the other King Ryan.”

  “More of a handful than any of us?” Rye was finding that difficult to believe.

  Ryan Prime and Puma Ryan slowly nodded in unison.

  “Alright, then we leave him until we have a way home.” Spy Ryan closed out of the police department records and went back to traffic cams. Having no address or exact timeframe meant the search was basically futile, but it was better than nothing.

  “So now what?” GTA Ryan left the group, returning to the black couch. He kicked up his legs and began to toy with his ‘zippi’ brand lighter, “This is growing sadder by the minute.”

  “Sorry that the real world can’t live up to that of a videogame!” Puma Ryan snapped.

  GTA Ryan folded his hands behind his head and refused to look towards Puma Ryan, “Keep it up and I’ll turn you into a rug.”

  Puma Ryan’s mouth twisted into a silent snarl.

  Rye did not like the atmosphere growing between them. He clapped his hands together, “Why don’t we order some food? If we’re gonna be hanging out here for a while, we may as well make it pleasant.”

  Ryan Prime crossed his arms, “I’m the one who’s gonna have to pay, aren’t I?”

  Rye pulled out his wallet and found some cash, “Does this match your tender?” he handed thirty dollars over.

  Puma Ryan peered towards it with curiosity, “It looks like regular money.” He drew out his own wallet and pulled out a tenner.

  “Could I see?” Spy Ryan held out his hand.

  Ryan Prime, Rye, and Puma Ryan all handed him a bill from their own wallets.

  Spy Ryan pulled out a twenty of his own and began to compare them all.

  With money being thrown around, GTA Ryan’s interest was caught again. He sat up and looked towards the group. Pulling out a hundred dollar bill, he crumpled it up and tossed it towards them, “Is my currency the same?”

  The hundred hit Spy Ryan in the chest. He frowned but straightened out the bill so he could better compare it to the others.

  “Tossing hundreds, huh?” Demon Ryan raised a brow.

  GTA Ryan answered with a shrug.

 

  Spy Ryan started to scrutinise the money. All of the bills matched what he would have expected, except GTA Ryan’s. His hundred was something impressive. While still clearly recognizable as an American dollar, it had several additional anti-forgery elements added to the design.

  “What’s the verdict?” Rye asked, seeing Spy Ryan’s furrowed brow.

  Spy Ryan lowered the hundred, “Well, the only odd man out is GTA. His money could potentially pass for ours, but it’s actually far better protected against forgery.”

  “Damn, I was hoping I could shake up a convenience store for some extra cash.” GTA Ryan sighed in disappointment, “Give me my hundred back.”

  Spy Ryan crumpled the bill up and threw it as hard as he could into the side of GTA Ryan’s face.

  “HEY!” GTA Ryan exclaimed and threw an angry glare.

  “You know, seeing how much crime happens in the GTA series, I’m not surprised that their money was made harder to fake.” Ryan Prime stated.

  Rye crossed his arms and looked to Demon Ryan, “And what about you?”

  “Demons don’t need money.” Demon Ryan replied nonchalantly, “Our currency is souls. If we ever need human money, we just conjure it. It’s only paper.”

  “So are you going to pitch in for food, or not?” Ryan Prime asked annoyed.

  Demon Ryan sighed and with a slight flick of his wrist, he materialised a twenty, “What are we even getting?”

  “I’ll probably eat the most, so as long as we get a lot, I don’t really care.” Rye informed them.

  Ryan pulled out his phone, “There’s a few places Steffie usually orders from, but the better places tend to be pick up only.” He began to search google, “I can pick up the food and be back soon enough… Would you guys all be fine with barbeque?”

  Various forms of agreement came from all the Ryans.

  “Take whatever you would normally order and multiply it by six.” Puma Ryan suggested, “Unless someone has some kind of dietary thing?” he looked around at them for any kind of protest.

  Rye made a noise of hesitation, “Nothing that should matter.”

  Demon Ryan grinned, “Unless you get a little too hungry.” He lightly teased.

  Rye frowned but said nothing. Telling the demon he wasn’t human had been a mistake.

  Spy Ryan looked to Rye with suspicion, “What’s the demon talking about?”

  Rye waved his hand dismissively and shook his head, “It’s nothing important.”

  That made all the Ryans suddenly interested.

  Rye felt self-conscious like never before with five versions of his own face staring him down.

  “Half of us here are basically murderers. You can’t be worse than Beelzebub.” GTA Ryan pointed a thumb at Demon Ryan.

  Demon Ryan’s forked tongue flicked out, “That’s racist.”

  Rye sighed, he had wanted to avoid this mostly so that he wouldn’t have to explain what a Smiling Stranger was, “Well, I mean, I also sometimes kill people. But like, I’m not human.”

  “Oh come on…” Spy Ryan leaned back and ran his fingers through his hair. He was starting to get sick of all this weird shit.

  “Then what are you?” Puma Ryan asked on behalf of everyone else.

  “My species is called a Smiling Stranger – we’re kinda like the anti-fae… Look it’s a long explanation, but the main points are that my natural prey is human, and I can nullify magic. So Demon Ryan over there is implying I’d try to eat one of you. Which I definitely would not.” Rye tried to run through it as quick as possible.

 

  A pensive silence passed among them.

  GTA Ryan broke it with a smirk and chuckle, “So you’re not too boring either.”

  “When you said that you could eat a lot…” Ryan Prime wanted to clarify.

  “I’m assuming I eat more than a human would. I’ve always gotten comments on how much and how often I eat.” Rye admitted, “But really it’s more that if there’s food in front of me, I can’t say no.”

  Ryan Prime and Puma Ryan laughed.

  “I’m the same with sweets.” Ryan Prime told him.

  Puma Ryan nodded, “Michael keeps on trying to sneak food onto my desk just so that I end up eating it.”

  Ryan Prime’s phone began to ring in his hand. Seeing who it was, he swore, “Guys, it’s my wife.” He quickly answered it with fake cheer, “Hi dear.”

  “She’s back home isn’t she?” Puma Ryan asked quietly.

  Ryan Prime nodded and continued the conversation, “Yeah – no, something just came up at work… Yeah they needed me to come in on short notice, sorry I didn’t let you know… How are the kids?” he looked at the Ryans watching him and started to move away from the group and towards the door, “No it’s nothing big; I’ll be home tonight… Yes, dear… I love you… Yep…” he reached the door and hurried into the relative privacy of the hallway.

  Spy Ryan snorted as he kept a burst of laughter down, “As if we wouldn’t know how soft we are for our family.”

  Puma Ryan was smiling, “Did you see how red he was getting?”

  “Almost as red as you.” Demon Ryan pointed out, “As if any of us would judge him for it.”

  GTA Ryan raised a hand, “I would, and I am.”

  “Oh come on, you don’t have someone?” Spy Ryan had to ask.

  “Nah.” GTA Ryan answered indifferently and pulled out a throwing knife to toy with.

  “Well, I don’t either, but I think it’s cute.” Rye interjected, “You can drop the ‘aloof mysterious guy’ act around us, of all people.”

  “What? Gonna turn this into some kind of twisted therapy session?” GTA Ryan barked out a laugh, “You just told us that you literally eat people! One of us is a fucking demon, and another one has fucked off into the stratosphere!”

  “Ok, I’m feeling attacked.” Demon Ryan then pointed to Rye, “Are you feeling attacked too? Us non-humans need to think about sticking together.”

  Rye looked down and sighed.

  “Wait – What would I count as then?” Puma Ryan brought it up to Demon Ryan.

  Demon Ryan shrugged, “You seem most similar to the Ryan this dimension belongs to… and right now, you may as well be full human.”

  “Yeah, but I’m not. I’m a hybrid. This is just your magic, right?” Puma Ryan said.

  “Yeah, but…” Demon Ryan didn’t have an argument, “Well if you want in on the club: consider yourself a member.”

  “The King Ryan we’re trying to find has Horns as well. Do you think he’d be a hybrid, demon, or something else altogether?” Spy Ryan asked.

  “He has horns too?” Demon Ryan sat up straighter, “Are they like mine?”

  “We only got a short look at him from a distance, but yeah, I’d say they were.” Puma Ryan told him.

  “Yeah, pretty similar.” Rye agreed, “Kinda happy that I won out in that regard. No weird features despite my being of another species.” He huffed out a chuckle.

 

  Ryan Prime pulled open the door into the Achievement Hunter office. He was finished with his call, “I’m fine taking care of you guys until the evening, but then I’m going to have to go home and pretend everything is normal.”

  “And we can’t just stay here, since come tomorrow morning, everyone else will be showing up.” Demon Ryan knew it would be a problem.

  Spy Ryan crossed his arms, “And good luck checking into a motel as five versions of the same guy…”

  “No one would believe us to be quintuplets, would they?” Puma Ryan asked the room, but knew it was unlikely.

  Ryan Prime ran his fingers through his hair, “Alright, we need to figure this out. In the meantime, let me go and grab some food for us. Cool?”

  “Yeah.” The others responded in creepy unison. They exchanged surprised and impressed looks.

  “…Right… Cool.” Ryan Prime slipped back into the hall and left them.

 

  "Do you think that with enough practice we could do some creepy twins shit, and freak the fuck out of Geoff or Gavin?” Demon Ryan mused.

  GTA Ryan laughed, “I’m in.”

  Demon Ryan smiled.

  “Ideally we won’t be meeting his Geoff or Gavin, or anyone else.” Puma Ryan finally let himself sit down. He lowered onto the white couch, careful to keep his legs together.

  “I want to know why we haven’t yet seen a Jack.” Rye made a good point, “There’s at least, what? Eight Ryans we know of, so shouldn’t there be several Jacks? We’ve done a good job of encountering each other so far.”

  Spy Ryan leaned back pensively, “Look, I know nothing about magic, but maybe since we are all technically the same person, there’s a pull towards each other. And if that’s the case, then when we find one Jack, we’ll find most of them.”

  “Sounds good, but what if you’re wrong?” Demon Ryan debated, “We could end up only finding one Jack and then spend who knows how long trying to find the rest. If there’s at least eight of us, then there should be at least eight of him.”

  “And we still don’t know just how many of ‘us’ there are.” GTA Ryan pointed out, “Infinite number of dimensions, right? Who’s to say there isn’t a Ryan on Venus right now?”

  “Shit… Well, I mean, we can only really worry about the ones we find. Otherwise we’ll be here forever.” Rye wanted to be realistic.

  “I think it would be safe to assume that not too large of a number of us ended up in this dimension. Because then every face on the street would be ours – infinite is a huge number and so is any division of it.” Spy Ryan tried to apply logic.

  “So say there’s something like fifteen of us, but we only find our eight and assume the others don’t exist. That’s hardly fair.” Demon Ryan told them and got some surprised looks at his sudden compassion, “Guys, I’m a demon; by definition the one thing I tend to care about is myself. You guys are all me. So I care.”

  Spy Ryan drummed his fingers on the arm rest of Jeremy’s seat, “We all have some version of the internet in our dimension… except maybe the Ryan with the crown and sword, but, we would have tried getting access to the internet if we hadn’t found each other, right?”

  “But where on the internet would we check? We could spam Ryan Prime’s social media and still not be noticed by another Ryan.” Puma Ryan stated.

  Spy Ryan scratched his chin, “How many digital signs and billboards does this Austin have?”

  GTA Ryan looked at him, “You want to hack them and start a manhunt? Are you nuts?”

  “No, not a manhunt, but assuming that we can all read, maybe just some sort of message like: if your name is Ryan Haywood please come to whatever address or something. It will undoubtedly get us some unwanted attention, but increases the chances of a Ryan coming to us instead of us trying to find him.” Spy Ryan explained his idea.

  “That would be a prime way to become a nuisance.” Demon Ryan grinned and then let the grin fade, “But seriously, every relative and friend of this dimension’s Ryan is going to try and contact him if we do that. It might even make the local news. We don’t want to start any kind of ‘missing persons’ level of concern.”

  “What would you suggest then? Is there some kind of finding magic you could cast?” Spy Ryan was genuinely curious.

  “Technically…” Demon Ryan appeared hesitant, “Issue is that I’ve never had to find myself before, and that might just make the spellwork self-terminate – magical blue screen, if you will.” He continued, “And as for finding the Jacks, I need personal items, or hair, and assuming by the smell that this office hasn’t been cleaned recently, I could only then guarantee locating ‘Jack Prime’.”

  “I say do it. We could be completely wrong in the guess that one Jack will lead us to them all, but then we will at least have one Jack. Better than none.” GTA Ryan was starting to more actively participate now that their problem had turned into a challenging puzzle.

  With a swish of his tail, Demon Ryan stood and walked over to Jack’s desk, “Hair would be best, but seeing as we can’t confirm any hair to be his 100%... What would you say is the most important thing to him that’s on this desk?”

  Puma Ryan knew that the question was mostly pointed at him. He, Demon, and Prime were the three Ryan’s that made Let’s Plays for a living, and would have the most similar Jacks. He stood and walked over next to Demon Ryan.

  Observing the desk, the two of them began gently shifting items around. There were several shot glasses, a small bottle of alcohol labelled ‘Jack’s Booze’, multiple pieces of fanart, some signed paraphernalia, and a miniature Tower of Pimps.

  Demon Ryan picked up the small tower and grinned, “I guess he must have won the Tower of Pimps last.”

  GTA Ryan sat up, “The what?!

  Spy Ryan and Rye were looking at them with furrowed brows as well.

  Puma Ryan laughed, “It’s like a trophy.”

  Demon Ryan held it up higher for them to see, “From one of the first Minecraft videos we – er – they made. One guess at who thought up the name.”

  “Was it Gavin?” Spy Ryan answered.

  Demon and Puma laughed and nodded in confirmation.

  “Figures it was him.” GTA Ryan chuckled and shook his head.

  Puma Ryan turned to look at the wall of fan gifts and art, “What about something like his sheep or the little stuffed version of his Minecraft skin?” he suggested to Demon Ryan.

  “Uh,” Demon Ryan shifted his weight, “Fire is involved in the process, so something non-flammable or insignificant would be far better. We start burning gifts and I think it will be difficult to explain.”

  “Hmm.” Puma Ryan thought on it.

  “We’re stuck in a parallel dimension, I would think that could justify burning a toy.” GTA Ryan spoke his opinion.

  “Nah, in my universe that’s a guaranteed way to lose viewership, and therefore souls. Not gonna jinx it here.” Demon Ryan explained, and began going through drawers. Finding a picture of Caiti he held it up, “This would work, sorta, assuming Jack is currently with her.”

  “Otherwise?” Rye asked.

  “Well it means a lot to Jack, so would locate him, but seeing as it is a photo of Caiti, it will also weakly track her down. If they are together, great, if not, then we’ll end up with what is more or less a mid-point between the two.” Demon Ryan detailed.

  “And we can’t just print out a picture of Jack, why?” Spy Ryan raised an eyebrow.

  “Because a random picture of Jack won’t hold any personal significance to him.” Demon Ryan said it as if it were obvious.

  “So is Caiti a girlfriend or something?” Rye hadn’t known Jack to have someone significant.

  “Wife.” Puma Ryan told him, “At least for my Jack.”

  Rye lifted one brow, “Oh, mine doesn’t wear a ring… Didn’t think he had someone.”

  “Might not.” GTA Ryan stated, “Mine’s single. She’s too busy.”

  Demon Ryan snapped his fingers as he remembered something, “That’s right, your Jack’s a woman!”

  “Sounds like all yours are male, though. So I don’t even know who we’re looking for.” GTA Ryan commented.

  “Wait, so could we be looking for a female version of ourselves too? How are we supposed to know what she looks like?!” Spy Ryan hadn’t considered the possibility earlier.

  “If I’d have to guess, the reason your Jack is female, is because his avatar in GTA is a woman. So far we can only confirm GTA 5 and Minecraft – if that king is from Minecraft – and in neither of those do we have a female avatar.” Puma Ryan hypothesized.

  “What if he’s just royalty? Does it have to be linked to Minecraft?” Demon Ryan leaned on the back of Jack’s chair, “My Minecraft avatar doesn’t have horns.”

  “Mine doesn’t either, but the man had a blue shimmering sword, red kilt, and could fly.” Puma Ryan argued, “We don’t know how directly our actions in the games mirror other dimensions.” He thought on it further, “And who’s to say that ‘your’ GTA Vagabond would be the same as mine? Do we play identically?”

  “Look, how many times must I mention that I’m real? My decisions are mine.” GTA Ryan was irritated by the suggestion that he was somehow a puppet or less real than the others.

  Puma Ryan moved over to Ryan Prime’s work station and booted the systems up. Maybe GTA Ryan would better understand if he saw. He smiled as he entered the correct password on the first try and began to load up the game.

  Demon Ryan immediately caught on to what he was doing, “Yo, GTA. Come over here and see what we’re talking about.” He waved GTA Ryan over.

  Puma Ryan had gotten used to playing with claws, and now without them, he fumbled the buttons slightly. Soon he got a private multiplayer game running.

  GTA Ryan pushed himself up out of the couch with a loud annoyed groan. He slowly made his way over, and took the offered seat in front of the desk. He threw a glance at Geoff’s desk as he picked up the controller, “Huh.”

  “What is it?” Puma Ryan asked. The game was still loading in.

  “Your Fruit computer only has an apple on it.” GTA Ryan pointed to Geoff’s Mac.

  “The Apple computer?” Demon Ryan asked with a chuckle, “Even we have those, although, I bet this one is far less likely to ask for your soul as a service fee.” He turned to Puma Ryan, “Right?”

  Puma Ryan shrugged, “Ours may be overpriced pieces of junk, but at least they don’t steal souls.”

  Spy Ryan seemed to brighten at the mutual dislike of the brand, “Oh man, can I rant about how shit they are.”

  “Megasoft just works better, and is way cheaper for what you get.” GTA Ryan nodded with a smile, “But why just an apple?”

  “You mean Microsoft?” Rye tilted his head as he heard the strange brand name, “It must just be a dimensional thing. I’ve also got Apple in mine.”

  “Looks like you’re the odd one out on brand names.” Demon Ryan clapped GTA Ryan on the shoulder.

 

  The game world loaded in and GTA Ryan’s eyes widened in recognition, “That’s Los Santos! This–” He moved his character around, “This is Chamberlain Hills – You can even see the Vinewood sign! What the fuck?!” he ran up to a car and mashed buttons, “Can I take–” his character pulled the NPC out of the car and sat in behind the wheel, making his front visible, “Holy shit. The character is wearing my clothes, but the face paint’s wrong… What the hell?”

  “It’s easy to customise. He probably needed it different for a video. Or just wanted a change.” Puma Ryan shrugged.

  “I admit I like the style, but painting that on your own face on a regular basis?” GTA scoffed, “I have to see the rest of this, it’s unreal. What are the controls?”

  Demon Ryan was more than eager to point everything out. He even showed him how to put the skull mask back on.

  With it back on, GTA Ryan pulled out his own mask and began to compare the two, “This… wow. You guys weren’t just shitting me… I just wish I could actually carry that many weapons at once…”

  “Also death isn’t permanent, so there’s that too.” Puma Ryan stated and almost jumped as he noticed Spy Ryan and Rye had silently come over to watch.

  “Is this – wow.” GTA Ryan shook his head in recognition of the Olympic Freeway. His driving was lacklustre but that was to be expected from anyone playing the game for the first time. He hit an oncoming vehicle, “This is much harder than the real thing. I swear I actually know how to drive.”

  “Still don’t feel like we should ever allow it.” Rye commented.

  “Well, I mean, we aren’t planning to be in a high speed chase anytime soon, are we?” GTA Ryan stopped in front of convenience store and got out of the car. He laughed and shook his head, “This is almost identical to the place I robbed when I first joined the crew. Uncanny.”

 

  GTA Ryan continued to explore the digital Los Santos, and utter the occasional anecdote about a building or location. The majority were related to murder or other crimes, but he would sometimes comment on how a certain food joint had the best burgers or mind-blowing milkshakes.

 

  Ryan Prime Returned to the office not too long afterwards with his surprise at them being crowded around his workstation clear on his face.

  Rye was quick to notice that Ryan Prime’s hands were empty and his face flushed as if he had just ran, “Where’s the food?”

  Ryan Prime took a breath, “A lot of birds. Crows, ravens, I don’t know, but they came at me. They’re all crowding outside. I was afraid to grab the food from the car.”

  Demon Ryan grinned, “They must have found something!” He jumped to his feet and approached Ryan Prime, “I promised them some food as a reward, so come with me and we can toss them a few pieces of cornbread.”

  “You sure it’s safe? It’s a Hitchcock film out there.” Ryan Prime was clearly unnerved by the whole thing.

  “I asked them to go and find any Ryan they could, if they’re back then they were successful. Come on.” Demon Ryan urged.

  “What if they saw Ryan Prime ordering food and thought he was another Ryan?” Rye remembered how the crows had been told to ignore any Ryan in the building.

  Demon Ryan lost his smile, “Fuck. Let’s hope not.” He left and Ryan Prime was right on his heels.

 

~*~

 

  Jack turned over beneath the covers of his bed and stretched out his limbs with a huff. With a quick glance he saw that Caiti wasn’t next to him. She must have woken early and headed downstairs already. It was Jack’s turn to make breakfast, so she was probably making coffee while she waited for him.

  He stood and saw the time on his phone. He hadn’t slept in. Besides, it was a Sunday.

  Jack shrugged and put his phone back down on the bedside table. He brushed his teeth and combed back his hair before heading down the stairs in his pyjamas.

 

  Noise came from the kitchen, as did the smell of eggs frying and toast cooking.

  Jack frowned. Caiti had decided to make breakfast even though it was his turn to do so. She should have just woken him if she was so hungry!

  He walked into the kitchen, ready to ask why she hadn’t told him she was hungry, but the words died on his tongue as he saw the back of a man in front of his stove.

  Caiti was sat on a chair at the edge of their breakfast bar. She watched the man cook, and then noticed Jack in the entryway. She did a double take, her face twisting between confusion and then fear.

  The man at the stove turned and noticed her expression, “Caiti, what’s–” he followed her gaze and saw a duplicate of himself standing in the kitchen doorway.

  The two Jacks stared at each other in stunned silence with mouths agape. They were identical, down to the very pyjamas they wore!

  “Uh.” They both uttered in unison.

  Caiti was wide-eyed and silent, looking between the two mirror copies of her husband.

  Both Jacks snapped back to attention at the same time, and asked, “Who are you?”

  They froze at having spoken in sync, and waited for the other to break the tension first.

 

  A loud banging at the front door had all three residents snap their heads in the direction of the noise.

  Caiti stood slowly, “You two, don’t – just stay here. I’ll get it.” She almost ran from the room, and the banging started up again.

  The two Jacks could only blink at each other.

 

  Caiti returned. She was hugging her body and bit her lip before turning to speak to someone behind her, “In this room, Sir.”

  As she walked back into the kitchen, a third Jack followed her in cautiously. He was dressed in plate mail, well-polished, a red cape pinned at the left shoulder with a golden clasp shaped like a crown. His left hand was tightly gripping the sword sheathed at his hip, and his steel boots clanged on the tiled floor of the kitchen.

  “What sorcery is this?” The armoured Jack asked the room with narrowed eyes, “Why do these men wear my face? What is this realm?”

  “Um.” The Jack who had been sleeping moments earlier was beginning to believe he had never woken.

  “Fuck.” The cooking Jack uttered, he then had an idea, “Caiti, ask me a question! Something that could distinguish us!”

  “Well it’s really only between us two!” The once sleeping Jack pointed out, “That one’s from medieval times, or something!”

  The armoured Jack watched silently, his hand never leaving his sword. This kingdom was strange, foreign, and most of all it was loud. He didn’t have the luxury to wonder how glowstone had been harvested in large enough quantity to illuminate almost every nook of this dwelling. This woman must be someone of note to have a home with so much glass and glowstone. The carpentry work was incredible as well – nothing ornate, but incredibly precise, with edges so straight and perfect he couldn’t help but be impressed.

  “Uh,” Caiti wracked her brain, “What do you do for a living?”

  Cooking Jack frowned, “You know I can’t just talk about that.”

  The previously sleeping Jack turned to him, “What the fuck are you talking about? We – I make videos for Achievement Hunter on YouTube. Millions of people know that!”

  The cooking Jack shook his head, “No. That is definitely not what I do.”

  “Oh thank god!” Caiti exclaimed and rushed towards her Jack – the video making Jack – pulling him into a snug hug.

  “Caiti…” Cooking Jack sounded hurt.

  “This means that I’m the real Jack, the OG Jack. So who are you guys?” OG Jack didn’t want to release his wife, and Caiti was happy to hold onto him tight.

  “You can’t just say that you’re real and I’m not!” Cooking Jack was upset, “This looks identical to my house! Caiti’s my wife!”

   Armoured Jack shook his head, “We cannot all be Jack. You are all unknown to me.” He could tell that the others were wary of him, and that they were as lost as he was when it came to knowing what was going on, “You both claim to be married to this woman, yet she has determined who she wed.” He turned to Caiti, bowed and held out his hand to her, “My Lady, what are your thoughts on this most bewildering matter?”

  Caiti raised her brows and gave him her hand.

  Armoured Jack dropped to one knee and gently placed a kiss on her hand.

  Caiti blushed and watched him stand back up, “Uh, I have no clue what’s happening, really.” She looked between the three Jacks and felt bad by cooking Jack’s saddened expression. She had assumed him to be her husband, and it was clear that the man believed her to be his wife, but that wasn’t possible, not unless, “You’re married to another Caiti!” she realised.

  “What?” Cooking Jack asked.

  “It’s like bloody Star Trek!” Caiti tried to explain and turned to OG Jack for support, “With two Spocks; both Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto!”

  OG Jack understood, “Alternate timelines.”

  “Parallel dimensions.” Cooking Jack sighed and suddenly realised the stove was still on. He hurried to remove the frying pan and turned everything off, “But if that’s true, how did we end up here? How do we go back?!”

  Armoured Jack nodded. They spoke in an unusual fashion and mentioned much he did not know, but he could understand them well enough, “I must return to my service in the King’s name with haste. If what you speak of alternate realms is true, then someone must be responsible for our being here. I ventured through no portal.” He finally felt comfortable enough to release his grip on his sword. Who could he better trust than himself?

  “The King, huh?” OG Jack was intrigued.                                                                                    

  “I am Captain of the Guard. His Majesty shall not take my absence lightly.” Captain Pattillo informed them, “I do not know who rules these lands, but my King is no man to be taken lightly.”

  “Oh boy.” OG Jack uttered, “Not to overwhelm you with how our politics work here, but we don’t have royalty. It’s a democratic republic – we vote on our leader.”

  “And I also most definitely want to get back to my ‘realm’ as soon as possible too.” Cooking Jack crossed his arms.

  “Who is your King?” Caiti asked Captain Pattillo.

  “His Majesty King Ryan Haywood, Dark God and Protector of the Realm.” He put a hand over his chest as he said the title.

  “Oh shit.” Cooking Jack swore. He did not want to imagine the Ryan he knew in a position of power.

  “Dark God? Seriously?!” OG Jack was incredulous, “So he’s got the whole Mad King thing happening?”

  Captain Pattillo’s lips tightened, “Please refrain from using that distasteful title.”

  OG Jack turned to cooking Jack, “What is your Ryan?”

  “Seeing as this is a parallel dimension, I guess I can tell you what it is we do back in mine. It definitely isn’t making YouTube videos.” Cooking Jack told him, “I work for Geoff. Mostly in charge of transportation and extraction, but interrogation as well if it’s needed. ‘My’ Ryan is simultaneously our tech guy and heavy hitter. He used to be a mafia hitman, and while I can’t be sure that he’s stopped taking contracts while working for us, he is definitely not any kind of royalty.”

  “Oh god.” OG Jack spat out the words in utter disbelief, “So what are you? Like a spy?”

  “I wouldn’t say that… We do what we need to get intel, or stop weapon deals, and we aren’t exactly on the right side of the law.” Cooking Jack shrugged.

  “Could I call you Spy Jack?” OG Jack asked, “Call me OG Jack, and him,” He gestured to Captain Pattillo, “He can be Captain or Captain Pattillo. That way we can all know who we’re talking about.”

  “Yeah, that only makes sense.” Spy Jack agreed, “Keep things clear.”

  “So any idea how we fix this mess, now?” OG Jack looked between them, “You’re both welcome to stay here as long as you need to, but I feel like getting you home would be the best.”

  Captain Pattillo crossed his arms, his armour clinking, “The King would undoubtedly know where to start, but I do not know if I can contact him while in another realm.”

  “You could try?” Caiti suggested.

  “Why would Ryan know anything?” OG Jack asked.

  “King Ryan is very well read in the arcane.” Captain Pattillo stressed the title, “Should he respond, you must respect his title and authority. I do not know how much patience he would have for you, even if you are versions of myself.”

  “How exactly are you contacting him?” Spy Jack was curious. If the man was planning on sending a carrier pigeon, they would get nowhere.

  “He taught me a simple spell.” Captain Pattillo was surprised that they hadn’t assumed that.

  “Like magic?” OG Jack felt himself lose hope.

  Spy Jack groaned, “Of course. Magic. Why didn’t I think of that?” he dripped sarcasm, “Do you have internet, OG? I can try and see if there’s anything that can actually help us.”

  “Let him do his spell, maybe magic is real for him?” Caiti spoke gently.

  “But it’s not real here.” OG Jack argued.

  “Then at least allow me to try. It will not harm us if I fail.” Captain Pattillo uncrossed his arms and drew a dagger.

  “Whoa, buddy!” OG Jack put up his hands defensively, “You can do your spell, we won’t stop you. No need for the dagger.”

  ‘The dagger is for the spell.” Captain Pattillo laughed at them thinking he had been threatening them. He removed the gauntlet on his left hand and crouched down. He placed the gauntlet down on the kitchen floor so the palm faced upwards.

  Everyone gasped when the Captain ran the dagger blade across his hand. He sheathed the dagger and used his blood to draw a circle around the gauntlet. Unpinning the crown brooch holding his cape, he placed it on the palm of his gauntlet, before squeezing his wound so that a couple drops of blood fell on the crown.

  Wincing, the Captain straightened, “He usually responds swiftly. It is not often that my blood is spilled.”

  “D-do you want a Band-Aid?” Caiti stuttered.

  “Pardon?” Captain Pattillo did not recognise the word.

  “A bandage.” Spy Jack explained.

  “If it is no trouble.” Captain Pattillo nodded.

  Caiti hurried over to the cupboards where she knew some disinfectant and bandages were stored.

  “Also some paper towels while you’re there? If the blood dries it will be harder to clean.” Spy Jack requested. It wasn’t easy to remember the house wasn’t yours when it was identical.

  King Ryan appeared next to Captain Pattillo at that moment. It was as if they had blinked and he was suddenly there.

  Dressed in regalia and partially armoured, he would have been intimidating enough, but his appearance was almost monstrous. Large bull-like horns cradled his crown, his eyes were black with silver irises, and his right arm was inhuman and taloned.

  “Mother FUCK!” OG and Spy Jack backed away with their arms up defensively.

  Caiti dropped the box of Band-Aids she had found with a whispered curse.

  Captain Pattillo appeared worried and immediately dropped into a full bow, “Your Majesty, excuse them. This is not our kingdom, nor our realm, and although they wear my face, they do not know the same as I do.”

  King Ryan gestured for the Captain to rise, “Do they threaten you?”

  “No, Your Majesty! I called you in hope that you could aid us in returning to our realms.” Captain Pattillo told him.

  “I did not know that you were trapped here.” King Ryan spoke to the Captain, but was scrutinising the other Jacks and Caiti, “If I had, I would have come to find you sooner. I do not like this realm, and unfortunately I too seem to be trapped here.”

  “Oh Your Majesty, I am so sorry, I did not realise calling you would have you become trapped here as well!” Captain Pattillo dropped into another bow.

  “You did not trap me here. I was already within this realm. I just assumed I was alone.” King Ryan explained then nodded towards the rest of those there, “Who are these people?”

  Captain Pattillo stood once more and looked to the other Jacks and Caiti, “Introduce yourselves to the King.”

  OG Jack wasn’t sure if he should bow, but did so stiffly just in case, “I’m the Jack Pattillo of this realm, or dimension. You are all visitors, and this is my home.” He gestured to the room, “I can understand that there’s probably a lot here you don’t understand, but I’m just as confused as to how and why you guys are here.”

  “I’m also Jack Pattillo.” Spy Jack quickly bowed his head, “But I am also of another realm. A much more similar realm, but still different.”

  Caiti did a quick curtsy, “Hi. I’m Caiti. This Jack’s wife.” She pointed to OG Jack.

  King Ryan raised a brow at that.

  OG and Spy Jack did their best not to smile or laugh at the action. No matter how different this Ryan may look and speak, his gestures were identical.

  “A married Jack?” King Ryan looked to the Captain with a sly smile, “Maybe you should look into that. It would be a fine way to finally get that stick out of your ass.”

  “Ryan!” Captain Pattillo turned red, dropping all formality at the insult.

  King Ryan broke into laughter.

  They politely waited until he calmed, suppressing smiles on Captain Pattillo’s behalf.

  “Captain Pattillo said that you might know where to start looking for a way back to our own dimensions.” Spy Jack asked the King.

  King Ryan grew pensive, “Not without the aid of a resident of this realm.” He looked to OG Jack, “Where are the royal archives or library? Is there an academy? I haven’t sensed magic in this world, but it may just be of a kind I do not know.”

  OG Jack shook his head, “No magic in this dimension. I also doubt the local library will be any help, but we could always try the internet. Or I guess, Spy Jack and I could try the internet, I don’t know how well you two would handle it.”

  “I have never heard of this ‘internet’, but if this dimension has no magic, I do not know what information it could have that could aid us.” King Ryan admitted, then had an idea, “Where is the Ryan Haywood of this realm?”

  OG Jack chuckled, “He’s more of a science guy, and it really wouldn’t be fair to involve him in this mess. Keeping damage to a minimum should be our goal.”

  King Ryan didn’t seem convinced, “I believe we should seek all the aid we can. As well, should it not be assumed that if there are three Jacks, then there is one Ryan unaccounted for? Would we not know best how to find the third?”

  Spy Jack did not like to think that his Ryan was running around somewhere, but it only made logical sense, “Fuck, he has a point.”

  “How do we know there are only 3 Jacks?” Caiti asked, “Or that there aren’t extra Geoffs or Gavins?”

  King Ryan narrowed his eyes at the mention of Geoff and Gavin, “The Lady makes a strong argument.” He crossed his arms, “I cannot summon myself, but I can summon Jack. Assuming that you are all similar enough, I should be capable of bringing every Jack in this realm here.”

  “Really?” OG Jack didn’t know if he wanted that. Two additional versions of him was unsettling enough, but it wasn’t fair to leave the others floundering and lost.

  “It will affect us as well, so I would expect some disorientation if you have never been teleported.” Captain Pattillo told the other two Jacks.

  “If it works. I have never before encountered such a situation.” King Ryan didn’t want to promise anything.

  “It will be chaos if it does.” Spy Jack stated, “What if there is fifty or more Jacks? How will we explain to all of them what’s going on? It will take forever!”

  “Better than them roaming this realm alone.” Captain Pattillo replied.

  OG Jack nodded, “Then please, Ry– King Ryan, bring them here.”

  King Ryan closed his eyes.

 

  The room was filled with surprised yelps that turned confused and terrified as a group of eight different Jacks appeared in the centre of the kitchen. Three of those Jacks were those privy to what was happening, and the rest began all shout and yell over one another. Cursing became profuse, and they all tried to back away from each other in an attempt to make some room and get their bearings.

  The noise was a cacophony so King Ryan waved his hand, using his magic to silence them all.

  Suddenly unable to speak the Jacks began to panic. Captain Pattillo quickly returned to King Ryan’s side, and Ryan gave him back his ability to speak.

  “Jack Pattillos!” Captain Pattillo spoke loudly, authoritatively, demanding their attention.

  The Jacks not previously aware of King Ryan all gaped and tried to curse. Two pyjama wearing Jacks pushed themselves forward to stand next to Captain Pattillo.

  “Spy and OG?” The Captain wanted to confirm.

  The two silently nodded.

  King Ryan returned them their voices as well.

  “This is not your realm, nor is it mine. Somehow we have all been brought here. We are all Jack Pattillo, regardless of our differences, and need to work together to find our way home.” Captain Pattillo explained.

  “We’re all parallel dimensional versions of ourselves. This is my dimension, so we’ve been calling me OG Jack.” OG Jack wanted to clarify a bit on what the Captain had said. He still felt shaken that there were so many of himself in one room, and some of them were weird, “This Jack we call Spy Jack, because in his dimension he is basically some kind of spy. The Jack wearing armour is Captain Pattillo, and this King Ryan is from his realm.”

  “So all of you can probably safely assume that your own versions of Ryan are present somewhere in this world as well.” Spy Jack added.

  A Jack dressed in a t-shirt and jeans waved his hands in the air violently to get their attention. It was clear he was trying to speak. He stood next to a curly haired red headed woman in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts who had her arms crossed and was giving the room a death glare. Behind him was a Jack with floppy brown dog ears and a long fluffy white tipped brown tail. The rest of the Jacks wore varied modern attire, but had no unusual features.

  “Your Majesty, if you would allow him to speak.” Captain Pattillo requested.

  King Ryan released the spell on all the Jacks, but was ready to mute them again.

  “I know exactly what’s going!” The waving Jack announced, “It’s my fault,”

  “What?!”

  “You fuck!”

  “How the hell–?”

  The Jack shook his head and motioned for quiet, “It was an accident! In my dimension I was trying to teach my Ryan about summoning and parallel dimensions. My Ryan is a Smiling Stranger and accidentally negated my magic as I had a window open through several parallel dimensions. My holding wards failed and pulled the two of us through, and all of you along with us.”

  “Send us back!”

  “Asshole!”

  “Then why is there only one Ryan here?”

  “And why the fuck does he have horns?!”

  The summoning Jack spoke again, “If this is all of us, then there are also this many Ryans somewhere in this dimension. I can try to work out a spell to send us all back to our correct dimensions, but we can’t leave anyone behind. We’ll need to ensure that we find our Ryans and any additional Jacks.”

  “Summoner Jack, how would you recommend that we find my counterparts?” King Ryan was both excited and worried by the concept of seeing alternate versions of himself. They would all undoubtedly have much to teach him, but knowing himself, they may not be so willing to divulge.

  Summoner Jack was at a loss, “Uh, how did all of us end up here? I was in a park somewhere and then I suddenly wasn’t.”

  “His Majesty summoned us all here so we would not have to try and seek you out.” Captain Pattillo explained.

  King Ryan closed his eyes for a moment in an attempt to summon himself here as he had Jack. Just as he had assumed earlier, it did not work, “I have confirmed that I cannot summon myself.”

  The female Jack in a Hawaiian shirt snorted and crossed her arms, “Your Majesty?

  King Ryan looked to her with lazy irritation, “I am not your Ryan. I am a King, and shall be respected as such.”

  A normal looking Jack chuckled, “But you’re hardly our king.” He snapped his fingers and dropped the glamour he was wearing.

  Exclamations of surprise came from the other Jacks as this Jack suddenly grew curling ram-like horns that were far more spikey and mean looking than any natural animal’s. His pupils and irises turned white, while his sclera became black. Ears became pointed, hands clawed, and a long thin tail tipped with a pointed spade, swung behind him.

  “I’m a demon, and I can tell you that you won’t be ordering this Jack around. I’m no subject.” Demon Jack declared.

  King Ryan smirked and appeared genuinely interested in the demon, “Another one of us who knows magic. I wonder, who is more powerful?”

  Demon Jack crossed his arms and scoffed, “You might look demonic, but you are far from it. You wouldn’t stand a chance.”

  OG Jack did not want a fight erupting in his house, “Hey! This is still my house! No fighting! Especially with magic!”

  All the Jacks agreed with him.

  Demon Jack shrugged, “Ryan always acts so tough, as if he’s the biggest guy around. Not going to let even a parallel version of him throw his dick around.”

  “He really is a King though.” Spy Jack told Demon Jack.

  “I silenced you easily enough, I can silence you again.” King Ryan wanted to end the argument.

  That he had, Demon Jack had to admit, so he shrugged and fell silent.

 

  There was an awkward silence with them all shifting their weight.

  Summoner Jack broke it, “If you have several pieces of paper and some pencils, I can begin attempting to craft a spell to get us home. Maybe those of you who know magic could help me?” He looked to the Demon and the King.

  King Ryan nodded, “This is no area of expertise for me, but I shall aid however I can.”

  “Yeah.” Demon Jack agreed, “At the very least I could add my magic to yours.”

  The dog-eared Jack spoke up, “Ok, so how do we start looking for the other Ryans?”

  “Follow the smoke.” Female Jack, Demon Jack, and another normal looking Jack said in unison.

  They couldn’t help but laugh at the synchronicity.

  “One of the things we decided was to name ourselves something other than just ‘Jack’ so we can refer to each other easily.” Spy Jack felt the sooner they got it over with, the easier things would get.

  “Right, good point.” The dog eared Jack nodded, “I’m a St. Bernard Hybrid, so I’m fine if you just call me Dog Jack or even Bernard if you want.”

  “Dog Jack works best I think.” OG Jack nodded back to him.

  “Demon Jack.” Demon Jack put up a hand.

  “Summoner Jack, I guess.” Summoner Jack shrugged.

  The female Jack still appeared apprehensive, but sighed, “My middle name is Shannon, so we can use that.”

  “Me too!” All the Jacks happily replied.

  “Well I call dibs!” Female Jack jabbed her thumb to her chest, “I’m actually a woman.”

  “What about GTA Jack? You look eerily like my avatar in GTA 5.” OG Jack suggested.

  “Holy shit, you’re right.” Dog Jack realised.

  “I didn’t even think of it, but yeah, she really does.” Demon Jack gave her a good look over.

  “What the hell is GTA 5? Just stick to Shannon!” Female Jack argued.

  “Fine.” OG Jack conceded.

  Shannon nodded, then asked again, “But what is GTA 5?”

  The three Jacks who knew looked to each other to see who would break the news.

  “It’s a videogame that apparently exists in at least three of our universes.” Demon Jack told her.

  “Fuck that.” Shannon laughed, “I’m real bone and flesh. Not some code.”

  “Never implied you weren’t, but maybe our dimensions are more connected than we think. What if stories and games in one universe are really just what’s going on in another?” OG Jack hypothesized, “Infinite dimensions, infinite possibilities, and yours just lines up with what is a game in ours?”

  Shannon appeared to agree, “You make a good argument.”

  “I’ve long had a theory that when it comes to parallel dimensions we’re all more connected than we’d like to believe.” Summoner Jack knew more about the topic than the rest of them, “I wouldn’t be surprised if stories were all just some form of tapping into another world.”

  “It’s too early for this kind of shit.” The remaining unnamed Jack rubbed his forehead.

  “What is your dimension like? What should we call you?” Dog Jack realised that that Jack was still unintroduced.

  The Jack shrugged, “In my world I’m a member of the Achievement Hunters protecting the city from, well, from people like our Ryan. He’s a mind controlling menace that we have – er – had locked up.”

  “Mind control?” King Ryan’s eyebrow rose.

  “Not a thing here?” the Jack saw OG Jack shake his head, “Good. In our universe some people have powers, and not all of them use them for good. Under Geoff, I do what I can to keep everything peaceful.”

  “Do you have powers?” Shannon felt he was omitting the most important part.

  “Just some strength. Nothing cool.” The Jack replied with a shrug.

 “Super strength? Are you like a superhero?!” Demon Jack’s tail flicked in excitement, “Are you from a dimension where heroes and supervillains are real?”

  “Oh dude!” OG Jack’s eye went wide and he smiled.

  “Hero Jack!” Dog Jack declared.

  Hero Jack blushed, “I’m not a hero…” he quietly protested.

  “Ok, but back to your Ryan having mind control?!” Spy Jack was worried.

  “Yeah, it’s nothing to disregard. If he locks eyes with you, or so much as utters a command you’re his. We still haven’t figured out how to counter it, which is why we had him locked up. Only good news is that when he uses his main power with eye contact, his right eye turns red. Unfortunately if you’re his target, you won’t exactly be able to do anything about it.”

  King Ryan was fascinated. He scratched at his stubble with his clawed hand. Would such a power work on him? Could that Ryan potentially teach him his ability? Not that he truly needed it, but it would aid in subduing Gavin and Geoff.

  Captain Pattillo saw how pensive his King had become, and could only frown. Should the King learn such a power, the kingdom would become enslaved.

  “And how has Ryan used this power?” King Ryan asked.

  The Jacks didn’t have to know King Ryan personally to be set on edge by the question. If his personality even remotely matched his appearance, it could only mean trouble.

  “He, uh,” Hero Jack debated how much he wanted to divulge, “Well he enslaved the entirety of the city. Declared himself ‘The Mad King’ with subjects of no will but his own… The property damage was devastating.”

  King Ryan turned to Captain Pattillo, “Interesting how that title seems to follow me regardless of realm.”

  “So about getting me some paper?” Summoner Jack did not at all like how dangerous the other Ryans were turning out to be. It could only imply bad things about his own.

  “Yes.” OG Jack nodded, “We need to work on sorting everything out. I can get you whatever you need.” He headed out towards his office.

  Caiti looked at all the versions of her husband (and wife?), and it made her uncomfortable to have them all just standing around, “Well while you’re all here, you may as well get comfortable. Take a seat where you can. Kitchen table, dining room, we have couches in the living room.” She suggested, “If you would like anything to drink we have water, milk, juice, beer, some coke…”

  Summoner Jack moved over to the kitchen table, “I think if I, Demon Jack, and King Ryan sit at this table it will give us a nice workspace.”

  “You have internet and a computer right?” Shannon asked.

  “I’m with her, I feel like I need to start doing some research.” Spy Jack agreed.

  “We have three computers: two laptops and a desktop.” Caiti nodded, “I can get you those.”

  OG Jack returned with a full stack of printer paper and a handful of pencils and pens. Seeing the magic users at the table he went over and dumped the supplies between them.

  “We also have an ipad.” Caiti offered.

  “If you wouldn’t mind leaving that for us?” Summoner Jack asked, “I might want to see if I can’t find something on your internet should something come up. My phone doesn’t work here.”

  Caiti nodded and left to gather the computers.

  OG Jack froze, “My phone!” he remembered how he had left it on his bedside table. What if his Ryan had found a copy of himself and had tried to contact him? He had originally wanted to keep Ryan out of this mess, but if there were several of him running around, he needed to know.

 OG Jack nearly sprinted back upstairs to grab his phone. To his horror he had three missed calls and several texts from Ryan.

  Answer your phone!

  Jack we need to talk ASAP

  Where are you??

  Jesus Christ Jack, I need your help with something. It’s an emergency!

  JACK!

  I’m at the office, please come!

  Jack swallowed in fear. Ryan had been trying to contact him. He immediately responded.

  Ryan, I’m so sorry, but some weird shit has been going on, are you ok?

  It only took Ryan a couple of minutes to respond, Where the fuck are you?! I have the weirdest shit happening today and I need to know where you are. You won’t believe what’s going on.

  Jack took an educated guess, Is it by any chance having multiple versions of you?

  YES HOLY FUCK! You too????

  Jack laughed. So at least some of the Ryan’s were accounted for now, Yes at least seven other versions of me, and a weird royal horned version of you.

  Oh thank fuck he’s with you, we were worried he was about to cause the apocalypse.

  Jack raised an eyebrow, How many is ‘we’?

  Not including me, there’s five Ryans here. Mad King is currently in jail, and we have a heads up about another one somewhere downtown.

  Mad King? Jack asked.

  Yeah, the xray and vav cartoon guy.

  Holy Shit, Jack replied, then suggested, Once you find your last Ryan, get over to my place, it’s where all the Jacks are, and one of them says he knows how to get everyone back where they need to be.

  Will do. I’ll let the others know. Any news if it’s just us or do any of the other guys have doubles too?

  Jack couldn’t be sure, so he relayed what Summoner Jack told him, Probably not, one of the Jacks said it was an accident with him and his Ryan that caused it, so he thinks only we’re affected.

  Thank god, Ryan replied.

 

  Jack put his phone into his pocket and hurried downstairs to share the news.

 

~*~

 

  Demon Ryan parked the car next to the restaurant with a large rooftop patio. If the birds were correct, there was a Ryan up top enjoying a meal.

  In the front passenger seat was sat GTA Ryan, and in the back were Rye and Ryan Prime. Puma and Spy Ryan had decided to remain at the office and work on clearing the Mad King, as well as finding any more additional Ryans. Besides, the sedan could only fit five Ryans at most.

  Ryan Prime looked up from his phone, “Ok so Jack Prime confirms that King Ryan with the horns is currently with him at his house.”

  “So who’s this fuck?” GTA Ryan squinted and peered upwards as if hoping to spot the Ryan on the rooftop patio.

  “Only one way to find out.” Demon Ryan snapped his fingers and suddenly looked like Geoff, “How do I look?” He sounded exactly like the weary AH boss as well.

  To Rye, Demon Ryan’s appearance didn’t change, but his voice did, “As per usual I don’t see it.”

  “You look just like the big boss.” GTA Ryan gave him a thumbs up.

  “We sure that Geoff is the best guy for this?” Ryan Prime was worried, “We don’t know who this is.”

  “I’ll be fine. I’m a demon, remember? I can work my way out of a tight situation. So just hold tight and hopefully I’ll be back with another Ryan soon.” Demon Ryan said with Geoff’s voice and exited the vehicle.

  Walking to the restaurant he gave the car a quick glance to ensure his glamour was still making it look empty. It was. Good. He loved glamours, but they had never come to him naturally. It probably originated with the territory of him being a vengeance demon, so the skills and magic that came to him easily were all far more gruesome.

  Entering, a waiter asked him ‘how many?’ and Demon Ryan replied that he was here to join someone on the patio. The waiter nodded with a smile and told him how to get up to the roof.

  Demon Ryan nodded his thanks and left to go where directed. He took the stairs two at a time until he emerged into the sunlight once again. A quick scan and he spotted the back of his head (something he had never previously thought he would ever become familiar with). His hair was a bit messy from the wind, and his clothes casual but normal to what would be found in this dimension.

  The mystery Ryan was seated in the far corner overlooking the street. A large glass of what was probably diet Coke was in front of him, next to a big plate of fully loaded nachos.

  Demon Ryan idly wondered if this Ryan’s money would even be accepted in this dimension. It could lead to a nasty surprise.

  He quietly approached the mystery Ryan and casually slipped into the seat across from him.

  Mystery Ryan looked up at the movement and froze upon seeing Geoff.

  “Geoff?” The Ryan asked with a hint of worry in his voice.

  Demon Ryan shrugged, “I don’t know who your Geoff is to you, but I’m not him.”

  “What?” The Ryan tilted his head in confusion.

  “How about you tell me where you think you are?” Demon Ryan needed a place to start his explanation and it would be easier if he knew what this Ryan knew already.

  “Ok look, I get it, I got out somehow, but I swear I don’t know how it happened.” The Ryan quickly began to explain, “I was at the Tower and then suddenly I wasn’t. I seriously swear I didn’t escape – I just, well I found myself outside and decided to take advantage of it with some good food for once, ok? All I know is that this is some city called Austin – I swear I would have come back.”

  Now it was Demon Ryan’s turn to be confused, “What? No – I said I wasn’t Geoff. I don’t know what the fuck you did that Geoff had you in a frikkin’ tower, or how your world works – look this isn’t your dimension.” He skipped straight to the point.

  The Ryan narrowed his gaze with suspicion and his right eye turned from blue to red.

  “Ok, don’t know what you’re doing there with your eye, but just listen to me – we’ve gotten into some shit with parallel dimensions and a bunch of us are stuck here in this one.” Demon Ryan knew it sounded ridiculous.

  The Ryan’s expression grew confused, “Tell the truth.” He demanded.

  “I am!” Demon Ryan insisted, “I’m not Geoff, I’m actually another parallel version of you, and there’s a few of us here. We want you to come with us so that we’re all in the same place at once and can then work on getting our asses back to our home dimensions.”

  “If you’re me, then you know I’m going to need a bit more proof than that.” The Ryan told him, but didn’t appear any less wary of him. He let his eye fade back to blue.

  “Easier said than done – I can’t show you my real face because there’s no – the people in this dimension would freak out. I’m a demon: horns, tail, claws, the full monty.” Demon Ryan tried to explain, and then anticipated the next question, “I chose to appear as Geoff because all the other Ryans have a Geoff in their dimension, and I figured that meant it was highly likely you did too.

  You want someone else? I can do someone else.” He snapped his fingers and suddenly looked like Gavin. He spoke with Gavin’s voice, but the accent was slightly off, “You prefer Gavin? I don’t know how much else I can do here without drawing attention. Just please take your nachos to go and come with me.”

  “Your accent sucks.” The Ryan told him, and then took a long drink of his coke, “Say I believe you, and you actually are a demon version of me, why the hell should I trust a demon?!”

  Demon Ryan let out a long exhale and leaned back, “Normally, I would agree with you, but I really want to get back to my dimension and continue being a demon there – I have a great gig going and the souls just keep comin’. But we can’t abandon any version of ourself as only one guy that we know can get us all back, and once he’s gone, shit’s permanent.”

  The Ryan tented his fingers and leaned forward, “What if I don’t want to go back?”

  Demon Ryan uttered a very Gavin-like squawk, “What?!”

  The Ryan leaned back with a smirk, “I’ve spent the whole morning in this world – I’ve had time to talk with people. My powers work here just as well as they do back home, but the key difference is that there isn’t any superheroes around to stop me. I was a prisoner in my dimension, in this one, my city doesn’t even exist – there’s no powers, or serums, or anything.

  There’s no one to stop me, and everyone is susceptible to my powers.”

  Demon Ryan didn’t know what to say. They had all assumed that everyone would want to go home. What could he possibly say now?

  He decided to put on a stern face – not the most menacing as Gavin, but it would get his point across, “You’re forgetting about the Ryan this dimension belongs to. All of us – the other Ryans – are on his side, and trust me when I say that whatever powers you think you have are no match for the rest of ours.”

  The Ryan grabbed a nacho and crunched down on it calmly, “We’ll see.”

  Demon Ryan’s lip curled upwards. This was all the excuse he needed. Ryan Prime could whine about it later.

 

  A caw echoed down the street.

  Soon, another joined it.

  Then another.

  And another.

 

  A massive flock of ravens descended from the sky. They darkened the patio as they swooped down towards the waiters and other patrons.

  People screamed and threw up their arms to defend themselves against the beating wings.

  The Ryan jumped to his feet to watch as the birds forced everyone else to flee the patio and race into the safety of the restaurant. He turned back towards Demon Ryan to see he had revealed his true appearance.

  Demon Ryan took in the Ryan’s horror with a wide grin, “Told you I was a demon.”

  Now with the patio empty of patrons, the ravens squabbled over the food left behind. They feasted on fries, nachos, burgers, and steak.

  Demon Ryan didn’t let his grin fade as he rested his chin on a clawed hand and flicked his tail, “And I’m just one Ryan. You don’t get to decide if you stay in this dimension or not. Only the Ryan who it belongs to has that choice. Basic common courtesy. Besides, who says we wouldn’t be willing to help you before we send you back? If you’re in a shit situation, we have every reason to be sympathetic.”

  “And it will only cost me my soul?” The Ryan laughed humourlessly.

  “Nah.” Demon Ryan waved a hand, “But nine heads are better than one.”

  “There’s nine of us?!” The Ryan exclaimed.

  Demon Ryan shrugged, “Well, I mean, one got himself arrested and we need to deal with that still, but yeah. So far as we know.”

  The mystery Ryan crossed his arms and looked out over the ravens having the time of their life, “So what are we waiting for?” He turned back to Demon Ryan, “Let’s go.”

  Demon Ryan stood with a chuckle and appeared as Geoff once more, “Good decision.”

 

  They squeezed the new Ryan into the car, and began to set off back towards Stage 5.

  “Why did you call your birds?! Was that entirely necessary?” Ryan Prime immediately scolded Demon Ryan.

  Demon Ryan still appeared as Geoff, he jabbed his thumb over his shoulder at the newest Ryan, “He decided to test my patience.”

  The newest Ryan rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, “Let’s just say I didn’t believe him.”

  GTA Ryan chuckled at that, “So what’s your thing?” he asked him.

  “My ‘thing’?” The new Ryan wasn’t clear on what he meant.

  “What makes you different than us? You are from another dimension…” GTA Ryan elaborated, “Demon Ryan, here,” he pointed to their driver, “Is, well, a demon. Ryan Prime belongs to this dimension and is pretty boring–”

  “Hey!” Ryan Prime protested.

  “–And Rye is some sorta man eating monster.” GTA Ryan continued.

  Rye frowned, “Well when you put it that way…”

  “I’m a high stakes criminal, and then back at the office we have Cat Ryan, and Asshole Ryan.” GTA informed him.

  “He’s Puma Ryan – and Spy Ryan is hardly the only asshole.” Ryan Prime argued.

  “One of the versions of us is a puma?” The new Ryan asked with disbelief.

  “Half-puma.” Rye clarified, “Some kind of hybrid disease hit his dimension and made everyone it infected become part some kind of animal.”

  “Geoff got rattlesnake.” Demon Ryan snickered. The other Ryans smiled as well.

  “Is that funny?” the newest Ryan didn’t understand why it would be amusing.

  “He’s terrified of snakes.” Ryan Prime told him.

  The new Ryan lifted an eyebrow, “Really?” he smirked, “That’s very useful to know.”

  “Never came up?” GTA Ryan was surprised that he wouldn’t know. Everyone that knew Geoff knew how much he hated those limbless reptiles.

  “I don’t know who Geoff is to you guys, but to me he’s my jailer. I might not hate the man, but it’s hard to like the person who’s responsible for you being locked in an underground bunker.” The new Ryan told them.

  Ryan Prime’s eyebrows rose skyward, “What?! For me, Geoff is my boss and easily one of my best friends.”

  Rye nodded, “Maybe not ‘best’ friend – I haven’t known him that long – but he’s been nothing but good to me.”

  “Yeah, he’s got some deep seated issues, but he’s a decent guy that cares too much about us.” GTA Ryan had to agree.

  Demon Ryan shrugged but it was clear that he too felt similarly, “I’ve never met a more sympathetic crossroads demon. Even Gavin is more willing to do his job properly.”

  “’Properly’ as in screwing people over, I bet.” Rye commented.

  Demon Ryan chuckled, “Demon deals aren’t supposed to be straight forward, and Gavin always thinks of the most demented twists. You want to be a millionaire? Sure, but now there’s going to be gnome watching you pee for the rest of your life. Or you have to shit through your dick. Or scream every tenth word you speak.”

  Ryan Prime sighed, “Yeah, that’s Gavin alright.”

  “Fuck.” GTA Ryan couldn’t help but laugh, “A universe where his hypothetical questions can actually become reality? Count me out.”

  “So what’s different about your world?” Rye steered the direction back to the new Ryan.

  “Some people have superpowers and that pretty much divides the world into civilians, superheroes, and, well, supervillains. I guess I classify as the last category.” The new Ryan shrugged.

  “Oh dude.” GTA Ryan’s eyes sparkled, “What’s your power?”

  “Mind control.” The Ryan replied quietly, unsure of how they would react.

  “Mind control?!” The other Ryans burst out in unison.

  “How does it work?”

  “Could you get anyone to do anything?”

  “Would it work on us?”

  “Does it work here?”

  “Just humans or animals too?”

  “Do you just think it or…?”

  “Can you command people to do stuff they wouldn’t otherwise?”

  The Ryans all spoke over one another, bombarding their newcomer with questions.

  The new Ryan held up his hands, “Whoa, whoa! Calm down!” he couldn’t help but chuckle. Never before had he been faced with such genuine curiosity about his powers when he revealed them. People always became paranoid, fearful, and closed off.

  “No but seriously, how does it work?” GTA Ryan asked with excitement.

  “I don’t know exactly why or how it works, I just know how to use it.” The Ryan told them, “My main power is somehow connected to my right eye – it just turns red when I try to use it.”

  “You tried to use it on me!” Demon Ryan remembered taking notice of his eye.

  “Yes, I did, but it doesn’t work on you. Neither did my verbal commands – which are my secondary power. If I command someone to do something, they will, but it’s not as strong, and easier to find loopholes in.” He explained.

  “So did it not work on him because he’s a demon, or because he’s us?” Ryan Prime asked.

  “I wouldn’t know exactly, but probably both?” the new Ryan made an exaggerated shrug, “It only works on humans in my world… Could I test it on all of you…?”

  The atmosphere in the car grew hesitant.

  “By making us do what?” GTA Ryan gave him a glare that very clearly communicated that if the other Ryan tried anything funny, it would end poorly.

  “Sing a song or something. Nothing bad.” The new Ryan reassured them.

  “And if it only works on humans, Demon Ryan and I are always here just in case.” Rye pointed out.

  “Alright. Try me.” Ryan Prime turned and faced the newest Ryan.

  The Ryan’s right eye turned red for a good second before fading back to blue, “Anything?” he asked Ryan Prime.

  Ryan Prime shook his head, “I don’t suddenly feel the urge to do anything.”

  “So it doesn’t work on us then?” GTA Ryan wanted to be sure.

  “I guess not.” The new Ryan sighed, “Not really surprised; I can’t use my power on myself with a mirror or video, so this must be along the same lines.”

  “So what are we gonna call you? Mind Control Ryan?” GTA Ryan brought up a good point.

  “Supervillain Ryan?” Demon Ryan suggested.

  “I don’t know if I’m comfortable being labelled a supervillain – it was one time, and really not entirely my fault…” The new Ryan quietly protested.

  “MC Ryan? Shorten down ‘mind control’? Although it makes him sound like he should be running a show somewhere…” Rye mused out loud.

  “Super Ryan?” Demon Ryan tried again.

  The new Ryan appeared to think it over, “Kind of embarrassing. The implications–”

  “You’re literally only among versions of yourself.” Ryan Prime pointed out before he could finish his argument.

  The new Ryan laughed, “True. Fine. Call me ‘Super Ryan’. Just remember that I’m not bullet proof, and actually very squishy.”

  “Well you’re more the type not to get shot in the first place, right?” Rye chuckled, “Just tell people not to.”

  “Still requires me to either make eye contact or have myself heard. It’s really not that fantastic a defence in any kind of chaotic or long distance situation.” Super Ryan claimed.

  “Better than simply yelling ‘don’t shoot me!’. Which is all I would have. That and cowering.” Ryan Prime countered.

  GTA Ryan laughed, “That’s why you buy the heaviest grade armour and shoot the fucks before they get a chance to fire on ya.”

  “Or just not live that kind of life.” Ryan Prime argued.

  “He has a good point.” Super Ryan agreed with Ryan Prime, “Keep your head down, and you’re unlikely to be targeted.”

  “Nah.” GTA Ryan replied simply.

  “Or be immune to mortal weapons.” Demon Ryan chimed in with a smile.

  “Not all of us are so lucky.” Rye frowned.

  “Guns bad news for monster man?” GTA Ryan raised a brow.

  “I’ve been shot, and while I haven’t died yet, it sure as fuck isn’t pleasant.” Rye replied angrily.

  “Yayyyy for never having been shot!” Ryan Prime weakly cheered.

  “I haven’t been shot either; I’m just saying it would probably be a bad time.” Super Ryan made clear.

 

  They reached Stage 5 and went into the AH office where Puma and Spy Ryan were sitting at workstations next to each other.

  Introductions and explanations were exchanged in order to get them all up to speed.

  Demon Ryan dropped his glamour as well as Puma Ryan’s, as they felt that there was no longer any need for either.

  Puma Ryan was ecstatic to change back into his pants and be rid of the kilt.

 

  “Any luck with finding any more of us or dealing with Mad King?” Ryan Prime asked Puma and Spy Ryan.

  “None with finding any more Ryans,” Spy Ryan told them, “But as for Mad King, I’ve got all his documentation, records, and video footage ready to delete. Basically just say the word.”

  “We need to free him first.” Puma Ryan argued.

  “Not a problem.” Super Ryan smirked, “I can literally walk him out of there. No questions asked.”

  Spy Ryan nodded, “Right… Ok I’ll just delete any security footage of you being there. Try not to sign anything with your real name.”

  Super Ryan gave a quick nod, “I’ve gotten people out of super-max: a local drunk tank is nothing.”

  “So why aren’t we calling him Supervillain Ryan again?” Demon Ryan was only half joking.

  “Honestly I’m more worried about Mad King. Super Ryan won’t be able to use his powers on him, and I don’t know if he has the ability to be rational.” Ryan Prime told them.

  “And then we all need to get our asses over to Jack’s.” Rye added, “Could mind control convince a cab driver that we aren’t all weird versions of the same guy?”

  “Easily.” Super Ryan nodded, “Perception is reality, and I can make their perception whatever I need it to be.”

  “Now that is a frightening concept.” Spy Ryan remarked, “I’m glad we’re immune.”

  “To be fair, if you weren’t, I could always make you believe you were.” Super Ryan threw them a sly grin.

  “And now I don’t question Geoff’s judgement in tossing you behind bars.” Puma Ryan twitched his tail.

  “It’s an underground bunker.” Super Ryan corrected him, “And to Geoff it was a gamble with him betting on that I wasn’t so vengeful as to murder them all and then starve to death.”

  “Well, if you ration it – but yeah eventually you would starve.” Rye ran the scenario through his head.

  Everyone turned to him with mild disgust and partial amusement.

  “Oh come on,” Rye complained, “I told you what I am.”

  “But for you it’s not cannibalism.” Super Ryan pointed out.

  Rye shrugged, “Yeah, but in your universe you said you don’t like them all that much. So…”

  “How about, if we ever switch places, or you end up in my universe, then you can go right ahead?” Super Ryan chuckled.

  “Do I even stand a chance against any of them? They are superheroes…” Rye asked.

  “Probably not.” Super Ryan was honest, “Maybe only with the element of surprise.”

  “So about breaking out Mad King?” Ryan Prime was enjoying the conversation, but he was on a strict timeline before his wife started getting angry about him not being home.

  “Just take me where I need to be.” Super Ryan told him.

 

~*~

 

  “Why am I the one getting stuck with chauffeur duty all the time?” Demon Ryan complained. He was once again disguised as Geoff, and had perfected his whiny tone.

  “You know why.” Super Ryan replied from the passenger seat.

  They pulled into guest parking of the police station.

  “Doesn’t mean I can’t be annoyed by it. It’s not my fault the rest of you can’t change what you look like.” Demon Ryan shifted into park.

 

  The two of them left the vehicle and walked into the station. The officers inside paid them little mind, and Demon Ryan noticed how Super Ryan’s eye would flicker red every time they did look his way.

  “What are you doing to them?” Demon Ryan whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

  “Just insisting we aren’t interesting or familiar.” Super Ryan explained quietly.

  Reaching the main service desk, Demon Ryan just let Super Ryan take over.

  Super Ryan didn’t even need to say a word. He locked eyes with the male cop behind the counter and the cop gave a nod.

  “Right this way please.” The cop stood and led them back to the holding cells. He pulled out some keys and unlocked the first door, “Fair warning, the guy’s got a temper.” He warned.

  Super Ryan chuckled, “It’s fine.”

  The cop took them down to the last cell on the left, “He wasn’t playing nice with others, so we had to separate him.” He explained as they finally approached.

 

  Crown-less, Mad King sat on the steel cot. His hair was messy, suit ruffled, and bowtie askew. Face in shadow, he glared at the wall across from him so intently he didn’t notice them at his bars.

 

  The cop unholstered his nightstick and banged it on the bars, “Hey! Turns out you have friends after all. Look alive.”

  Mad King didn’t jump at the sudden noise, instead he turned his head slowly to scrutinise the newcomers, “Friends?” he asked with suspicion.

  “Yeah. Who knew?” The cop chuckled. He unlocked the cell door and pulled it open, “Come on.”

  Mad King didn’t make to move. He looked Demon and Super Ryan over distrustfully.

  Super Ryan quickly locked eyes with the cop, and then spoke to Mad King, “I know this is a strange situation, but–”

  “This is a parallel dimension.” Mad King finished his attempt at explanation for him. He slowly rose and turned to them. Adjusting his suit, straightening his bowtie, and then running his fingers through his hair, he evaluated their surprised expressions, “Took you long enough to find me. Is this your dimension?”

  “Uh, no, but a bunch of us are stuck here.” Super Ryan had been thrown by Mad King knowing what was going on.

  “But we know how to get back, sorta. We just want to ensure we have all the versions of ourselves accounted for first.” Demon Ryan added.

  Mad King thought something over, “I want my crown back.” He strode out of his cell and gave the cop a glare.

  Demon and Super Ryan exchanged a glance behind Mad King’s back.

  Mad King turned back to them, “Well? Are we leaving this vile pit of human misery or not?”

  Demon and Super Ryan crossed their arms in sync.

  “Yes, Your Majesty.” Demon Ryan mocked him with a scoff.

  Mad King scowled at him, “I’ll gladly commit murder within a police station.”

  “Not the time for this!” Super Ryan warned, his eye turned red and he stared the cop down, “I do have a limit as to how many minds I can influence at once!”

  Mad King cocked his head and evaluated Super Ryan’s eye, “You implanted a mind control device in your eye? Fascinating.”

  “No, I just – can we discuss this in the car?” Super Ryan was growing impatient. He directed the cop to open the main door back into the station, and motioned for them to leave.

  Mad King passed through the door with his chin held high and back straight. The other two Ryans and the cop trailed after.

  Super Ryan ordered the cop to grab Mad King’s things, and the cop hurried away.

  He returned with a golden crown, a wallet, and a small folding knife.

  Mad King didn’t thank him as he placed the items back where they belonged. He handled his crown gingerly, as if it were of great significance.

  “Do you really have to wear that?” Demon Ryan asked Mad King.

  Mad King didn’t humour him with a response, “Take me to the car.”

  Demon Ryan frowned angrily, Ryan Prime hadn’t made mention of just how rude this Ryan was.

 

  Super Ryan ensured that they weren’t stopped or questioned as they returned to the car.

  Mad King was clearly disgusted by the simple sedan. He stood by the passenger side door and cleared his throat loudly when Demon Ryan went to sit behind the wheel.

  “What now?!” Super Ryan turned to him.

  Mad King crossed his arms, “The door.”

  “It’s unlocked.” Demon Ryan informed him and sat down.

  “Oh my god.” Super Ryan rolled his eyes when he realised what Mad King was bothered by. He stepped over and yanked the door open for him.

  Mad King slipped into the back seat, and Super Ryan slammed the door shut after him.

  Demon Ryan started the engine once Super Ryan sat down, “There’s several Ryans here in this dimension stuck with us.” Even though Mad King was a jerk, he figured he should tell him, “We’re going to take you to this dimension’s Jack’s house. There apparently the Jack responsible for this mess is figuring out a way to get us all back home.”

  “You look nothing like me, have you lived under a bridge for the last ten years?” Mad King told Demon Ryan, “I don’t want to be associated with you in any way. It’s offensive.”

  Demon Ryan angrily exhaled a wisp of smoke and the smell of ozone wafted off of him, “I’m a demon version of you, and the only reason I look like Geoff is as a disguise.” He quickly gestured to Super Ryan, “His job was hard enough with two Ryans, so I didn’t add a third to the mix.”

  “My name is Mad King.” Mad King insisted.

  “I’m not going to get angry about preferred names, but you’re ‘a Ryan’ - not going to specify ‘eight Ryans and Mad King’ each time.” Demon Ryan replied.

  Super Ryan turned in his seat, “If your name isn’t Ryan, what the hell does the ‘R’ on your kilt stand for?!”

  “It means ‘royal’!” Mad King spat, “I am CEO of Monarch Labs and I shall not sit for this disrespect!”

  “In this dimension you’re CEO of nothing.” Demon Ryan smirked and looked at Mad King through the rear-view mirror.

  “Also apparently, there’s an actual King version of us at Jack’s.” Super Ryan repeated what he had been told, “You two will probably get along great.

  “I look forward to having intelligent company!” Mad King told them.

  “Well, I mean, we’re all probably roughly of the same intelligence, right?” Super Ryan asked Demon Ryan.

  “Clearly not.” Mad King scoffed.

  “We might know different things, but should all think equally – like have the same potential.” Demon Ryan ignored Mad King.

  “How did you know about the parallel dimension thing?” Super Ryan finally asked Mad King.

  Mad King snorted and lifted his chin, “It would be obvious to anyone with half a brain. This is clearly some other world in which I am unknown. In mine they know better than to throw me in some simple cell.

  Given the correct resources and some time, I could even create a rift out of here and back to my dimension. So when your one horse show fails, you’ll greatly regret making an enemy of me.”

  “Assuming those resources exist in this dimension.” Demon Ryan pointed out.

  “If not, then I will make them.” Mad King declared confidently.

  “I want whatever he’s on.” Super Ryan muttered.

  “It’s called being delusional.” Demon Ryan responded.

  Mad King overheard and laughed loudly. It was no sane laugh, “That’s what the small minded believe! Just because you can’t comprehend the level I work on, you declare it insanity!”

  “I’ve been called insane and crazy,” Super Ryan told him.

  “Ditto.” Demon Ryan agreed.

  “But you are clearly a mental case, and I’m going to need you to tone it down just a bit.” Super Ryan continued.

  “You have no authority over me.” Mad King stated, “And if you try and use that mind control device in your eye on me, I’ll tear it out!”

  Super Ryan sighed, “I wish it worked on you… And it’s not some device or implant; it’s just a thing I can do.”

  “A natural superpower?” Mad King grew intrigued. Without warning he lunged forward and grabbed Super Ryan by his head, roughly twisting his neck so that he could peer into his eye.

  “Hey!” Demon Ryan exclaimed and almost swerved off the road

  Super Ryan’s eye went red defensively and he shoved Mad King off of him and back into the rear seat, “What the fuck?!” he shouted.

  Mad King leaned forward with a cruel smile, “Oh how interesting your eye and brain structure must be… I’d love to dissect you.”

  “No!” Super Ryan knew his commands wouldn’t work on Mad King, but at this point it was just reflexive.

  Mad King pulled out his small knife and unfolded it, “Come on, just a little bit!” He pounced again.

  “NO!” Super Ryan screeched and pushed himself right up against the dashboard. His seatbelt was working against him here.

  Demon Ryan slammed on the brakes, “FUCK!”

  The sudden stop forced Mad King to spend a moment regaining his balance. In that moment Super Ryan undid his seatbelt and kicked Mad King in the shoulder, sending him back. He grabbed the door handle and escaped the vehicle while Mad King regrouped and gathered his crown from the floor.

  Demon Ryan also hopped from the sedan and jogged over to Super Ryan, “You ok?” he quickly asked.

  Super Ryan nodded.

  Mad King straightened his crown and pushed the car door open. He laughed, “Oh it will only hurt for a few seconds! Think of the scientific merit!” he stepped out with his knife still brandished.

  Demon Ryan moved between the two of them, “Ok, Mad King, you seriously need to cut this shit out, or I am going to be forced to hurt you.”

  Mad King chuckled, “We’ve just having some simple fun!”

  “No we’re not! Fuck you!” Super Ryan shouted.

  Demon Ryan removed his glamour and pointed a clawed finger at Mad King. Bright white flames exploded forth from his eyes and tip of his tail, “Cut. It. Out.”

  Mad King didn’t appear fearful, quite the opposite – his eyes lit up with awe, “Now you are far more interesting!”

  Demon Ryan’s fire petered out and his arm dropped, “What?!” Every mortal had always been terrified of him when he’d threatened them like that – sometimes even other demons!

  Mad King approached him with genuine curiosity, but it was far from innocent. The curiosity of a mad man could only be malicious.

  Demon Ryan caught himself taking a step back but realised how ridiculous it was for him to be fearful of a mortal. He grabbed Mad King by his knife wielding wrist, “You will behave, or you will learn what I am capable of!” he then spoke over his shoulder to Super Ryan, “Would you prefer I turn him into a rat or a toad?” he grinned towards Mad King devilishly.

  Mad King seemed to realise then what was at stake. He snatched back his hand and put the knife away, “Fine. Another time then.”

  “More like never!” Super Ryan argued.

  “Try anything and I will not hesitate.” Demon Ryan threatened Mad King.

  Mad King snorted and begrudgingly returned back into the car, slamming the door shut after himself.

  “Thanks, man.” Super Ryan told Demon Ryan.

  “No problem. Guy’s a full on lunatic.” Demon Ryan was beyond the point of caring about renewing his glamour, so he didn’t bother and returned behind the wheel.

  Maybe Mad King would be less likely to act out when actively reminded of who he was dealing with.

 

  Mad King remained quiet for the rest of the ride, opting to stare out the window and shoot the occasional glare.

  Demon Ryan pulled out a scrap of paper with directions and followed them to Jack Prime’s address. This Austin was near identical to his own, and he navigated the streets easily. As a demon, it wasn’t often that he actually drove anywhere, but he had grown pretty intimately acquainted with the city by working there.

  Just because he had a sweet gig at Rooster Teeth didn’t mean he couldn’t still reap the occasional soul. He was a vengeance demon after all, and people always wanted someone punished.

  Especially hipsters.

  And Austin was a hot spot.

 

  They exited the sedan and walked across the driveway up to Jack’s door.

  Demon Ryan decided to give Mad King one last warning, “Behave, or we’re sending you back to your dimension as a slug.” He then turned and knocked.

  To their surprise the door was opened by a woman none of them recognised. She was holding a beer and was dressed as if she had been vacationing on a tropical beach somewhere.

  Demon Ryan was about to pull out his piece of paper and double check the address when she spoke.

  “Hello.” She greeted with a smile and then turned to shout over her shoulder, “The remaining Ryans are here!”

  She waved them in.

  “Call me Shannon. I’m a Jack.” She introduced herself, “Gonna assume you’re the Demon Ryan, but who are the rest of ya?”

  Demon Ryan smiled.

  “They’ve been calling me Super Ryan.” Super Ryan nodded in greeting.

  “Mad King.” Mad King said as if they were all wasting his time.

  “Oh fantastic, another king.” Shannon rolled her eyes and then explained, “King Ryan’s already destroyed three lightbulbs and nearly set the place on fire. He wants to tear apart OG Jack’s ‘steel carriage’ and see what makes it move.

  Obviously that’s a definite ‘NO’ from all of us, but I did try and explain some basic principles of engineering and combustion to calm him down.”

  “OG Jack, huh?” Demon Ryan raised a brow.

  “The one from this dimension – you guys call yours Prime Ryan, right?” Shannon chuckled.

  They nodded agreement. Close enough.

  Shannon stopped at the entrance to the living room.

  Inside GTA Ryan, Puma Ryan, and Rye sat on the couches representing the Ryans. Dog Jack, Superhero Jack, Spy Jack, and Captain Pattillo represented the Jacks. They were crowded on the couches and had some sort of card game going while the TV played the news as background noise.

  Captain Pattillo had removed his armour for comfort, and threw the odd wary look towards the TV. They had explained it to him, but he still didn’t trust it. There was no way that such a thing wasn’t magic. How could they be so sure that the people on the other side couldn’t see them?

  An assortment of greetings sounded around the room.

  “If you don’t know magic, feel free to hang out. We’re basically just waiting. Gonna order some Chinese later.” Shannon told the newcomers.

  Demon Ryan looked towards GTA Ryan and gestured to Mad King, “This guy’s crazier than you. Try not to stab each other.” He then looked to Rye, “Don’t eat him either.” He grinned.

  GTA Ryan raised a brow.

  Shannon shook her head with disbelief, “Sure.”

  Super Ryan stepped into the living room, he knew he would be no help with magic. He introduced himself, “Hey, I’m the Ryan whose eye turns red – which one of you is my Jack?”

  Superhero Jack raised a hand, “This doesn’t mean you are allowed to use your powers on me or anyone else.” He warned.

  Super Ryan laughed, “Can’t use it on Ryans anyway, but I promise I’ll behave…” He turned to Mad King with a scowl, “Him on the other hand – fucker tried to dissect me on the way here.”

  “Yeah, we should probably take away his knife or something.” Demon Ryan suggested to Shannon.

  Shannon grinned and lifted up her floral print shirt to reveal a handgun in her waistband, “We’ll be fine.”

  Demon Ryan couldn’t help but laugh at that, “Nice.” He turned down the hall and looked towards the back of the house. He could see his Demon Jack and another Jack seated at a table in what must be the kitchen, “I’m gonna go and see if my magic can be of any help.”

  Shannon nodded, “Good luck, man.”

 

  Demon Ryan reached the kitchen and realised that Mad King was following him when the others greeted them both.

  Summoner Jack and Demon Jack were seated over a bunch of loose papers covering the kitchen table. Lying on a painfully out of place chaise lounge was King Ryan. The chaise was solid carved wood with clawed feet and thick plush padding made from red velvet.

  King Ryan was partially sat up on it, covered by his heavy black cloak like a blanket. Beneath the chaise was piled his armour and weapons, and resting on his propped-up knees was an iPad. He was glued to it, filtering out the outside world and scrolling through with his human left hand.

  Demon Jack laughed when he saw Demon Ryan’s bewilderment at the medieval man using a tablet, “We taught him how to use Wikipedia. It was a mistake. He won’t talk to us anymore.”

  “Well, he will… but only about stuff he reads or if he can’t figure it out.” Summoner Jack explained, “Watch.” He told them before turning to the King and raising his voice, “Your Majesty, what are you reading about now?”

  It took King Ryan a second to register that the question had been directed at him, he snapped out of his almost trance like state and blinked a few times, “Uh, Bernoolies principle.” He lifted the tablet to show Summoner Jack.

  “It’s Bernoulli.” Summoner Jack corrected him, “He was Italian, I think.”

  King Ryan returned to his reading.

  Mad King snorted, “The goes my hope of intelligent company.”

  Demon Ryan rolled his eyes, “Why are you still here, anyway? You don’t know magic, do you?” he asked Mad King.

  “Magic doesn’t exist.” Mad King crossed his arms, “It’s all just misunderstood science. So of course I need to see it with my own eyes instead of relying on your uneducated perception.”

  “Dude, you’re literally in a room with two demons…” Demon Jack pointed out.

  “Don’t bother trying to be rational with him.” Demon Ryan sighed and pulled out a seat at the table, “Just ignore him and fill me in on what we’ve got here.” He sat down next to Demon Jack.

 

  Mad King hovered close by as the Jacks brought Demon Ryan up to speed.

  “Then we tried a linking pentagram to let the three of us channel our magic as one, but His Majesty over there overloaded it.” Demon Jack informed him.

  “Your pentagram wasn’t powerful enough to channel my magic.” King Ryan spoke without looking away from an article about Tetrodotoxin. Seemed he was listening in on what they were saying after all.

  “Powerful enough?” Demon Ryan looked between the King and Demon Jack, “We’ve channelled all six of us with one of those before.”

  “It was fine when it was just the two of us.” Summoner Jack explained, “But then we tacked him on and nearly burned the table down.”

  “Yikes.” Demon Ryan uttered.

  “So if we need his magic, we’re gonna have to channel it directly and hope we don’t die.” Summoner Jack continued.

  “I’d cut off the flow of magic before any of you die.” King Ryan scrolled back up the page and tapped the link for ‘neurotoxin’.

  “How the hell do you have so much?” Demon Ryan was finding it difficult to believe.

  King Ryan ignored the question.

  “He won’t tell us either.” Demon Jack shrugged.

  “Why does a demon require glasses?” Mad King had slunk around next to Demon Jack.

  Demon Jack jumped, “Shit, you’re fucking creepy!” he turned to face him, “Because I have terrible eyesight.”

  “And ‘magic’ won’t fix it?” Mad King smirked.

  “If you think I’d let another demon mess with my eyes you are insane. Glasses are safer.” Demon Jack replied.

  “I could probably do it.” King Ryan looked up from an article on ‘Allodynia’.

  “Oh no, definitely not!” Demon Jack shook his head.

  King Ryan shrugged and continued to scroll.

  Summoner Jack cleared his throat and pushed a few papers forward, “So about getting us all home – this is what I’ve been able to put together so far.”

  Demon Ryan took his time in looking the symbols and summoning circles over. It was way more complicated than anything he’d ever seen. The level of detail was insane, but he took notice of something, “Why are you drawing up a different circle for each of our dimensions? Erasing and redrawing each one will only increase the chances of making a mistake or striking a stray line.”

  “Are you suggesting opening eight portals at once? Using a combined circle?” Summoner Jack was in disbelief, “Do you know how much magic–”

  Demon Ryan tilted his head towards King Ryan.

  The Jacks grew pensive.

  “Ok, but it will be one hell of a complicated circle. Huge too.” Summoner Jack conceded, “We’ll need a place to draw it, and it will take hours.”

  “Indoors, with a smooth unbroken floor.” Demon Jack added.

  “Where’s OG Jack? Does he know of something like a warehouse or aircraft hangar we could rent?” Demon Ryan took notice that there were still some versions of them missing.

  “OG Jack and Caiti are out shopping for supplies and food. Ryan Prime has a family to tend to and our Spy counterparts are all in the house wherever the computers are.” Summoner Jack informed him.

  “I thought Spy Jack gave up and was hanging out with everyone else in the living room?” Demon Jack asked.

  Summoner Jack shrugged.

  Demon Ryan found himself watching King Ryan. There was something nice about seeing another Ryan with features more or less like his. The arm was unusual, but their horns were similar. King Ryan’s appeared to be a bit more ‘heavy duty’, as if they had come from an actual bull and weren’t properly proportional to a human shaped frame.

  “Nice horns.” Demon Ryan told King Ryan.

  King Ryan raised a brow and smirked, looking up from ‘Electricity Generation’, “You as well.”

  “Where’d you get yours?” Demon Ryan asked.

  “Magical mishap. Geoff’s fault.” King Ryan still seemed bothered by it, “And yours? Or is that a foolish question to ask a demon?”

  “They grow in shortly after you become a demon.” Demon Ryan answered his curiosity, “Only grow larger over time too, but I think that rings true for most horned creatures.”

  King Ryan looked upwards at his own pair, “I do not look forward to it.”

  Demon Ryan chuckled, “Did you conjure that couch you’re using? I’m asking because it does not at all fit with the rest of the décor.”

  King Ryan nodded, “It is beginning to sound as if we are all going to be here for quite some time. May as well be in comfort.”

  “Good job with it. Looks really solid. When demons conjure it’s pretty temporary… unless a deal was made in order to bring the item into existence.”

  “Really? In our realm conjuring is considered a failure unless it is indistinguishable from an un-conjured object.” King Ryan was intrigued, “It must last indefinitely, and carry the same properties.”

  “Wow.” Summoner Jack was impressed.

  “Sounds exhausting.” Demon Ryan commented.

  King Ryan shrugged.

  “Might explain in part why your magic level is so ridiculous – if that’s the standard your world works on.” Demon Jack thought about it.

  “I wouldn’t even consider doing that. It would be less tiring to just carve a chair.” Summoner Jack said.

  “Conjuring requires far less time, however.” King Ryan pointed out.

  “Not if you factor in the time spent training to be able to do so.” Demon Jack argued.

  “Same goes for learning carpentry.” Demon Ryan countered, “Pick your poison.”

  “It’s not even remotely the same.” Summoner Jack protested, “It’s like if you had to get a PhD in engineering AND become an athlete just to make a chair. It’s overkill.”

  “You could always make a shit chair.” Demon Ryan shrugged, “Doesn’t have to be good.

  Demon Jack looked over to King Ryan to see if he would have any more to add, “Why are you reading about the Burj Khalifa?!”

  “Do your buildings really need to be so tall?” King Ryan asked, “I never thought of steel and glass being superior to stone and wood in construction, but it seems to be the case.”

  “You probably don’t mine and process enough iron in your realm to make it cost efficient for such large-scale construction.” Demon Ryan told him, “At the same time, it’s not like those buildings are cheap to build in our dimensions either, so…”

  “Concrete is also important.” Summoner Jack added.

  “Befuddled by skyscrapers?” Mad King sneered.

  “They are aptly named, but I don’t understand their purpose – if so much space is required, then you should build elsewhere.” King Ryan glared at the shifty man, “What are you king of anyway?”

  “My name is Mad King, and I am CEO of Monarch Labs. I hold far more power than any king.” Mad King smiled smugly.

  “And would you hold more power than a god?” King Ryan smirked.

  Mad King broke into a cackle, “There are no gods!” he sneered, “Don’t tell me you subscribe to such primitive dogma?”

  King Ryan chuckled to himself, “Depends on your definition of godhood.” He wasn’t going to let the unpleasant man get to him; he’d dealt with so much worse, “You know not what power I hold. They call me The Dark God – I deposed The First King, The Immortal, Kingdom Builder, and returned from the dead. I am unparalleled, unmatched, and should any gods exist but me, then they fear what I am.”

  “Out of curiosity, was your ‘First King’ Geoff?” Demon Ryan had a hunch.

  “Geoff Ramsey the Undying.” King Ryan confirmed.

  Demon Ryan smiled, “Hey Jack – Demon Jack,”

  “What?” Demon Jack hadn’t caught on to what Demon Ryan was trying to prove.

  “What was the order of our King LPs? Geoff, Me, Ray…?” Demon Ryan asked.

  Demon Jack’s eyes widened in understanding, “Geoff, You, Ray, Michael, You, Gavin, You.”

  King Ryan’s eyebrow rose, “How interesting. That is our order of succession for the crown.

You wouldn’t perhaps know the next king? Would you?”

  “It’s a point of contention.” Demon Jack told him, “Ryan wants me to host the next King series videos, but it’s his job to host.”

  “I’m waiting on VR!” Demon Ryan argued, “You’ve had two years to put something together!”

  “Vee-ar?” King Ryan asked, “Is this one of the games you play?”

  Demon Ryan made a ‘so-so’ gesture, “It’s a way to play the games. More immersive.”

  “I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s less of a game in your world if you died.” Summoner Jack looked over at King Ryan.

  King Ryan thought it over, “One with far higher stakes; where your strategy determines if you win or die.”

  “Best of luck, buddy.” Demon Ryan told him.

  “I accept your blessing, but you do realise that in my realm, those you consider friends are those I wish to kill?” King Ryan replied.

  Demon Ryan shrugged, “Yeah, but they’re also trying to kill you. It’s only fair.”

  Both Jacks rolled their eyes.

 

~*~

 

  OG Jack and Caiti returned from their shopping trip. Cheers erupted from the living room and kitchen upon announcing that they had brought food and drink with them.

  The kitchen grew crowded in the blink of an eye and everyone was there trying to aid OG Jack and Caiti in distributing the food. They had pretty much cleared the prepared foods section of the nearest grocery store and had a spread of roast chicken, salads, pastas, wraps, pizzas, and BBQ.

  OG Jack had also ensured to buy two large cases of Diet Coke. He had a feeling that his Ryan wouldn’t be the only one to drink the stuff. He had wanted to buy some beer for himself and the other Jacks as well (they had already cleared out most of his existing supply) but Caiti made a good point about not wanting to see how the group would interact once drunk. They had seen GTA Ryan drinking a beer earlier and felt they really didn’t need to open that can of worms.

  Shannon had also asked them if they had any pot.

  That had been answered with a strong no.

 

  With eight Jacks, eight Ryans, and one Caiti, the food was swiftly divided and devoured. Captain Pattillo and King Ryan were the pickiest in their food, steering away from most of what they did not recognise and sticking to the roast chicken, pasta, and salads. Mad King spent the whole time looking down his nose at the savages around him, and stole away with a chicken Cesar wrap to eat in solitude. The Demons ate everything and anything happily, while both hybrids ate almost exclusively meat.

 

  OG Jack had been right in his Diet Coke assumption, and only three Ryans didn’t make a beeline straight for the soda: Mad King, King Ryan, and GTA Ryan.

  GTA Ryan picked up a can a little later and examined it closely. He had never heard of the brand before, “Is this like Sprunk?” he asked no one in particular.

  “Just try it.” Shannon told him a bit roughly. For the crew member with no qualms about exploding a police chopper or torturing a hostage, he sure could be hesitant about the most innocuous things.

  GTA Ryan cracked the can open and gave the liquid a sniff.

  “Oh my god.” Shannon rolled her eyes.

  GTA Ryan took a sip, and seemed to think about it, before taking a proper drink, “Would be awesome with some rum.” He looked the can over again to try and remember the name, “What do you think the closest thing in our universe is to this?”

  Demon Ryan overheard, “Based on the logo and colours, I always assumed Sprunk was like our Sprite brand.

  So I don’t know of any Coke or Pepsi equivalent.”

  “Maybe it’s called like ‘Crunk’ or something?” OG Jack walked in on the conversation as he made his way over to the fridge.

  “Has His Majesty over there tried it? I want to know how he reacts to something carbonated.” Shannon crossed her arms and smirked.

  “Can I take a case of these with me?” GTA Ryan asked OG Jack.

  “What? To Los Santos?!” OG Jack swallowed a laugh.

  GTA Ryan shrugged, “I like it, and it might take some time to find my version of it.”

  “Knock yourself out. We can even go and buy some more if it’s a big deal.” OG Jack had to shake his head and smile.

  Shannon grabbed a can and a glass, and made her way over to King Ryan with a small devious smile.

  The King and his Captain were both seated on the conjured chaise, talking calmly as they picked away at their food.

  “… But it would be the best outcome if Geoff or Gavin seized the throne in our absence, the alternative being anarchy.” Captain Pattillo was urging the King.

  Shannon cocked her head, interested in the conversation.

  “I could depose either once we return, but I don’t favour the idea. Hopefully only a day or two passes in our absence, and the council can continue to run affairs.” King Ryan replied.

  “Sup, Your Majesty?” Shannon made her presence known.

  King Ryan looked to his meal and then to Shannon with a raised brow. Her inquiry perplexed him – it was blatantly clear he was indeed eating supper, “The food is fine.” He settled on replying.

  It was Shannon’s turn to hesitate, “Uh, sure.” She thought about it for a second before placing the empty glass on the table and cracking open the Coke, “You should try this – all your dimensional selves love it.” She remained friendly and didn’t let any mischief show on her face. It wasn’t as if she were tricking or poisoning him, but she was expecting a spectacle.

  King Ryan watched her pour the liquid into the glass with suspicion, “What is it? And why is it almost black in colour?”

  Shannon held the glass out to him.

  “Why does it hiss?” The King narrowed his eyes and didn’t go to reach for the glass.

  “His Majesty doesn’t partake in anything alcoholic or mind altering.” Captain Pattillo informed Shannon without looking away from the glass. His gaze was wary.

  Demon Ryan was at the table close enough to them to eavesdrop, “It’s basically just caffeine and aspartame.”

  Puma Ryan had moved over once he noticed what Shannon was attempting, “I’m probably on a one-way road to cancer from the amount I drink.”

  King Ryan looked between all of them. They were using terminology he did not understand, “Yes, but what is it?” he probed the liquid with magic and found that it was mundane. He looked up to see each of his dimensional counterparts drinking the strange stuff. He still didn’t trust it and threw forward a few spells to check for toxins.

  Demon Ryan picked up on the magic and laughed, “It’s not poison!” he couldn’t blame a king for being cautious, but it still amused him.

  “Debatable.” Puma Ryan argued, “Every nutritionist would say it is.” He shrugged and took another swig of his own can, “Hasn’t killed me yet though.”

  Claws clinked on the glass as King Ryan carefully reached out to take the Coke in his right hand. He lifted it to his nose. The smell was sweet and lightly chemical, with drops of the liquid jumping up to tickle his nose.

  He pulled his face away sharply and rubbed the Coke mist from his face, “Why would anyone want to drink this? It assaults you before you even consume it!”

  “Is it hot, Your Majesty?” Captain Pattillo watched the liquid through the glass, “It appears to be boiling of its own volition.”

  “It is quite cold actually.” The King told him.

  “It’s carbonated.” Shannon put a hand on her hip, “The gas is put into it on purpose.”

  “On purpose?” Captain Pattillo asked, “Why?”

  “How?” King Ryan added his own question.

  “Oh my god, just taste it.” Shannon urged.

  King Ryan saw how almost everyone was now watching him. He had really made too much of a show out of this, hadn’t he?

  He lifted the glass again; the hissing had died down considerably by now. The drink was incredibly sweet but not cloying, and instead fairly pleasant. It was difficult to pin down what its flavour was outside of ‘sweet’ and ‘tingly’.

  “I didn’t expect it to be so sweet.” King Ryan carefully licked his top lip. He then took another larger sip, before turning to his Captain and holding the glass out, “Try it.”

  Shannon was somewhat disappointed that his reaction had been so tame, she had hoped for a least a curse or some spitting. Maybe Ryan’s love of this drink was truly universal? Something that transcended time and space? She muffled a snicker at the thought, and realised that the other Jacks were thinking similar by the looks on their faces.

  Captain Pattillo had no choice but to take the glass at his King’s order, and stared at it as if he were being asked to kiss a rattlesnake.

  “Just drink it!” Super Ryan shouted from behind Spy Ryan and Spy Jack.

  Every Jack holding a drink took a swig of whatever they were having.

  Super Ryan realised what he had done and shied away as Superhero Jack turned to him with a deadly glare.

  Captain Pattillo sputtered and tried to refrain from spitting out as much of the drink as possible. It bubbled and lightly stung the tongue in a manner he had never before experienced. It had startled him more than anything, “By the gods.” He swore after he swallowed, “I did not expect that sensation.” He attempted to civilly dab at his wet beard.

  Laughter broke out around the room at his reaction, and conversations started up again.

  Superhero Jack knew he didn’t have to scold Super Ryan, but began to do so anyway to make his point clear.

  King Ryan took the glass back from Captain Pattillo and continued to drink it, “I like it.”

 

  Summoner Jack, finished with his food, made his way over to OG Jack and Caiti and began asking about large empty spaces that could potentially be used to draw the circle required to get them home.

  “The circle itself will be at least fifty feet wide if I’m calculating it correctly. So we’re gonna need quite the canvas.” He explained.

 OG Jack scratched his beard, “Would a parking lot work? Across from Stage 5 there’s this massive paved lot that’s not currently being used for anything.”

  Summoner Jack shook his head, “We need a surface we can draw on with charcoal or chalk and be sure there are no cracks or breaks in the writing.”

  Caiti looked between them, “We have magic.” She stated.

  Both looked to her to see if she was going to elaborate.

  Seeing their cluelessness, she did, “King Ryan. He could seal up the ground and make it smooth, right?”

  “We don’t know what kind of magic he knows…” Summoner Jack looked over to The King who was striking up conversation with his Demon counterpart.

  “We could… I don’t know… ask?” Caiti suggested with a smile.

  OG Jack and Summoner Jack exchanged an uncomfortable look.

  GTA and Spy Ryan had pulled up chairs by Demon Ryan and The King. They appeared to be excitedly discussing something, something that had Captain Pattillo leave his seat and seek the company of other Jacks.

  OG Jack nodded in greeting as Captain Pattillo joined them, “What are the troublemakers doing now?” he subtly gestured to the shady group of Ryans and took a drink.

  “Sharing methods of torture.” Captain Pattillo replied matter-of-factly.

  OG Jack choked and began to cough.

  “As long as it’s just talk.” Summoner Jack scanned the room to double check that his Ryan wasn’t among them.

  Rye was off towards the dining room, idly chatting with the Hybrids, Super Ryan, and Demon Jack.

  “Captain, could His Majesty be capable of smoothing and sealing stone? A great big deal of it?” Caiti asked the Captain.

  Captain Pattillo nodded, “It would be easy enough for him to do. Why do you ask?”

  “For the spellwork to send us all home, we’ll need a massive unbroken surface to draw on. If King Ryan can make one for us, then it’s one problem less to worry about.” Summoner Jack filled him in.

  “The next problem is transportation for all of us.” OG Jack told them, “Can the King teleport almost twenty people to a place he’s never been to before?”

  Captain Pattillo frowned in thought, “It seems doubtful. I know teleportation often requires knowledge of the destination or use of an anchor such as a person or object - and His Majesty may be powerful, but twenty people would still be a feat, I am sure. Especially if you still require him to aid in powering the spell to send us home.”

  OG Jack ran his fingers through his beard, “Caiti has one car that could seat five, my truck can seat seven… Ryan Prime has a sedan that we know can fit five… We’d still be one short.”

  “Not all of us must be present for the laying of the spell, must we?” Captain Pattillo asked.

  “No.” Summoner Jack replied, “Only for the actual casting.”

  “So we can drop off our casters in one run, then you guys do whatever it is you do, and we bring everyone else in when you’re done.” OG Jack smiled at their combined problem solving ability.

  “That should work – assuming no one interrupts us or something unexpected happens.” Summoner Jack nodded, “I can borrow a phone and contact you that way once everything is done.”

  “Or I don’t go?” Caiti suggested as if it were obvious, “I’m sure another one of you would be fully capable of driving there.”

  Silence passed between the Jacks as they realised the oversight. They were counting Caiti when she didn’t need to come at all.

  Caiti chuckled at them, “I appreciated the inclusion, but I don’t need to be present. Might even be best I stay here and start on cleaning the mess you all left behind.”

 

  Uproarious laughter broke among the Ryans discussing torture. They must have started swapping stories, and were all quite animated.

  OG Jack looked towards them and frowned, “I doubt we wanna know what that was about.”

  “How soon could the spell be cast?” Captain Pattillo abruptly asked.

  Summoner Jack rubbed the back of his neck, “Soon-ish. We still haven’t worked out the details of the spell, but if we get our location ready then we can start on laying down what we have.” He glanced out the window, “It’s already pretty dark, so we either do our best to light up the area and hope it isn’t too suspicious, or we wait until morning.”

  OG Jack took a deep breath, “Tomorrow is Monday…” He then elaborated, “Ryan and I can take the day off, but anyone in the company could potentially drive or walk by the site and see us. All of us. Maybe we’d be far enough away not to be recognizable, but I really don’t know.”

  “I say it will have to be worth the risk. Maybe we can even convince the demons to give us a good glamour – either way we can’t wait a whole week.” Summoner Jack argued.

 

  Mad King ran into the kitchen from the direction of the living room. Under one arm he had some sort of Frankenstein-ed equipment attached to a laptop, and a pair of headphones around his neck.

  Everyone’s attention immediately went to him.

  Mad King gave them no mind as he pushed through over to the sliding door out into the backyard.

  “What the fuck?” many responded and if they had been sitting, they slowly stood.

  OG Jack took a moment to process what the equipment had been. Once he did, he put down his drink and marched out after him, “That motherfucker tore apart my stereo!”

  Respectfully, they let OG Jack follow Mad King out first, before all filing out to satisfy their curiosity as to what was happening.

 

  Outside, Mad King grabbed a lawn chair and set his equipment down. He slipped the headphones on and held up a makeshift radio dish.

  “What the hell are you doing?!” OG Jack stomped over.

  “SILENCE!” Mad King ordered and looked to the starry sky. After a few seconds of apparently listening to something, he shot over to the laptop and began to furiously type.

  “What’s going on?” Demon Ryan approached them, and everyone else wasn’t far behind. Someone had turned on the porch light to give them all some more illumination.

  OG Jack leaned over Mad King to try and read what the man was typing.

  Mad King threw him a quick glare, but continued to type.

  Jack watched the words appear and was impressed by the man’s incredible typing speed.

  …This is a parallel dimension. There are many of us stuck here due to some sort of “magical” mishap. Many are twisted or altered somehow but all appear to be Jack Pattillo or Ryan Haywood. They consider me one of the “Ryans” and it is accurate that the others share my face. No one else is yet known to be affected.

  “Who the fuck are you talking to?!” OG Jack was terrified.

  “Whoa, what?” Demon Ryan asked.

  “He’s talking to someone?” A Jack asked from behind them.

  Mad King’s glare returned with increased intensity, and he pointed his little dish to the sky. It was clear he was listening for something, and when he found it he held up a finger to keep them quiet. He broke into a smile.

  “I have found us a far more reliable way home.” Mad King announced, “Through another Ryan.”

  Confusion and questions broke out among the whole group.

  “From space?!” Spy Ryan almost screeched the question.

  “And I just got comfortable with the whole ‘magic’ thing too…” Spy Jack complained.

  “Are you for real?” Demon Ryan asked in disbelief.

  “We need to factor in that he’s clearly insane, right?” Shannon looked to the others for support.

  “How can he help us?” Rye inquired.

  Mad King had returned to typing and glanced over his shoulder at the question, “He can freely pass through dimensional space. With technology centuries beyond our own.”

  “And that’s more believable than magic?” Summoner Jack scoffed.

  “Well, hold on. We have King Ryan who is at least a few centuries behind us, so why couldn’t there be one several centuries ahead?” Super Ryan reasoned.

  “Then why is he still present if he can freely traverse realms?” King Ryan brought up a good point.

  Mad King was quick to type the question out, and recited the received reply, “He says he was trying to find his Jack on Venus.”

  OG Jack blinked, “Venus?!”

  “He found him.” Mad King straightened and began to inspect his nails, “I picked up a strange transmission, so I took the liberty of creating the equipment necessary to track it down.”

  “What, how?” Dog Jack shook his head.

  “The TV flickered.” Mad King replied, “It was clearly interference on a substantial scale, but in a form I had not seen before. Most electronics are carefully tuned to stay within their frequencies and avoid disrupting others.” He was condescending in his explanation.

  “So you tore apart my stereo system?!” OG Jack was still very much upset.

  Mad King didn’t so much as even glance towards OG Jack. Instead he finished up looking at his nails and clasped his hands behind his back, “He wants to know if you are willing to take him up on his offer to send you home. I, for one, am not going to rely on magic instead.” He said the word ‘magic’ as if it were something disgusting.

“Whoa, hold on!” Summoner Jack spoke over the others who had begun to break into discussion, “First of all, why should we believe you? Secondly, why should we trust some unseen space voice that says it’s a Ryan?!” he angrily gestured upwards, “I know my magic works – we know nothing about ‘Space Ryan’!”

  “How would he even know what dimensions we each belong to?” Demon Jack agreed with Summoner Jack.

  “You can waste your time asking him,” Mad King nodded towards the laptop, “Or you can spend it gathering your belongings because he is going to send us back in less than twenty minutes.”

  The Jacks broke into loud protest at that information, while the Ryans went dead quiet.

  After a beat, GTA Ryan turned on his heel and ran back into the house, “The Coke is mine!”

  That spurred everyone into motion and all but Mad King rushed in to ensure none of their belongings were forgotten about. It was mostly jackets, but King Ryan and Captain Pattillo had armour and swords to quickly strap back on.

 

  The main floor of the house was chaos as everyone tore through it.

  “If you have all your shit go back outside!” A Ryan shouted.

  “Take some leftovers!” Caiti demanded.

  “Don’t steal any of my shit!” A Jack, mostly likely OG Jack, threatened.

 

  GTA Ryan emerged back into the yard with an unopened case of Coke under one arm, and the opened case under the other. Shannon only had to ensure she still had her gun, keys, and phone, and was soon at his side.

  She looked his loot over judgmentally.

  “What?” GTA Ryan noticed the look.

  Shannon shook her head, “Nothing.”

   King Ryan appeared from thin air before them, once more armoured. His weapon belt was secured around his waist, and his cloak once again on his shoulders.

  The King pointed to the opened case of Coke, “May I take a few?”

  “Uh,” GTA Ryan hesitated, but decided to comply, “Sure.” He shifted his grip on the opened box so that the King could reach inside.

  King Ryan was thankful, and took four cans, “I will have to try and recreate this in my realm.”

  “You can try.” Shannon wasn’t going to wager he had much of a chance.

  “You’ll have to use magic for sure, I don’t think your world has a strong enough understanding of chemistry yet.” GTA Ryan told him.

  King Ryan made the cans disappear within his robes, “It will be enlightening even if I fail.”

  The Hybrids came out to join them. Both held a small bundle wrapped in tinfoil. Leftovers.

  Super Ryan emerged with a far larger package of leftovers and was arguing with Superhero Jack about it, “… I’m going to take an opportunity to eat better if I see one! You guys always buy me the worst shit!”

  “Only bad by the standards of a guy that can eat at any five star place for free!” Superhero Jack retorted.

  Super Ryan held up his food bundle, “Are you comparing grocery store deli finds to gourmet? I just want a fresh vegetable once a week! Something that I don’t have to pull out of a box and microwave!”

  Rye and Summoner Jack were behind them, and similar to Super Ryan, Rye also had a large amount of food.

  The Demons returned to the yard with hands empty, and it prompted Shannon to ask, “If you didn’t have anything, why did you run back in with everyone else?”

  “As Demons we may have not had anything to take, but we had to ensure we didn’t leave anything behind.” Demon Jack responded.

  “What does that mean?” Puma Ryan twitched his tail.

  The Demons shrugged.

  Demon Ryan replied, “This dimension might not have demons like us, but we figured it was common curtesy to double check that nothing decided to hang around once we left.”

  “Like what?” GTA Ryan was interested.

  “Demonic energies, curses, or any of a number of critters.” Demon Jack told them, “Just basic stuff.”

  Caiti opened the sliding door and stuck her head out, “King Ryan!” she shouted, “Are you going to take your chaise?”

  The Spies squeezed around her to get into the backyard.

  King Ryan turned to face Caiti, “I have no need for it. Do with it as you please.”

  Caiti looked back at the chaise lounge. It took up much needed room and didn’t match their space at all, but they could probably try to sell it. It looked solid and well made – no one had to know it was made with magic. Turning back to the King she said, “Thank you, Your Majesty!” and ducked back into the house.

  Captain Pattillo was the last to return, and he did so with OG Jack and Caiti. His armour was heavy and layered – It wasn’t easy to remove and even harder to put back on, but he was once again fully covered in steel.

  Seeing everyone outside, Mad King returned to the computer and typed two words: We’re Ready.

  “So do we say goodbye, or?”  Rye turned to look at everyone.

 

  No one had the opportunity to respond as a loud boom sounded and blinding green-white light surrounded each of them. Then, after not even a full second had passed, another boom blasted through the air and the light was snuffed out.

 

  Rye uncovered his ears and blinked away the burning after-image. He looked around at his now well-lit surroundings.

  He was back inside the old radio factory with Jack’s drawings around his feet, and Jack himself was standing next to him only a few feet away.

  Equally stunned, Jack met Ryan’s eyes, “Holy shit, it worked.” He looked himself over and then back to Ryan, “You are the right Ryan, right?”

  Ryan nodded, “Yeah. Smiling Stranger Ryan reporting.” He gave a weak half smile.

  “And ‘Summoner Jack’.” Jack chuckled, “Well we can’t know about everyone else, but it looks like we’re home.”

  Ryan pulled out his phone. Two bars. Good. It was the same shit signal he always had here in his apartment. He turned it around for Jack to see, “I have signal again. So we’re good.”

  Jack huffed out a sigh, and used his own phone to check the time and date. Only about an hour of their time had passed.

  “Don’t tell Geoff about this.” Jack quickly told Ryan, “He’ll freak out. Honestly, we’re lucky we’re back at all.”

  “What? Oh come on, I wanted to tell him how he’s half rattlesnake in another dimension!” Ryan whined, “And in two I’m a king!”

  “I wouldn’t count Mad King, he even said himself: he’s a CEO.” Jack corrected, “And none of that matters now that we’re back, so let’s not worry people ok?”

  Ryan crossed his arms, “Fine, but you’re a spoil sport.”

  “Yeah, well, we don’t need Geoff thinking he could have made himself a career playing videogames. I think that will piss him off more than anything else.”

  Ryan broke into laughter at that, and Jack couldn’t help but join in.