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A clockwork flying fish is floating before you, eyes glowing a dull teal. He flutters his wings every once in awhile, whenever he remembers that his wings are supposed to be the things keeping him afloat. You pretend not to notice.

"What are you doing here?" it snaps. It is only then that you realize that "here" is decidedly not where you were approximately ten seconds ago. Hrm. Interesting. You really probably should have noticed earlier, but you find yourself rather too distracted to care, now.

You're in an odd place indeed, a place that changes on a moment-to-moment basis. It pulsates and it is pink, that much you can register. You are able to see things; a car accident, a spilled glass, a misspoken word, a misinterpreted action..something, somewhere, gone wrong somehow..the effect is quite nauseating.

"There, now, that's enough of that, you'll drive yourself mad," an irritable voice intrudes. You force your focus back onto the fish, which is giving you quite an attitude for a being made entirely of clockwork. "Honestly, I have no idea how you found your way here of all places." He does something, and you find yourself feeling a bit better. The fish sighs a clattering sigh. "Wouldn't have happened, except the mistress of this place is..currently unavailable." You stare. "Blocked, actually. Only thing I could think of."

"You'll be wanting the whole story, I imagine," he says. Well, yes. Now you do. Since you're here and all. "Right."

"Everyone knows that there are more worlds than the one on which you stand (well, ordinarily), other worlds where things are..different. Legend tells of a world where the island is nothing more than a computer game, ridiculous as this sounds." You wonder what a computer game is, but the fish continues before you can ask. "Allow it to be assumed that for every decision made, there is a world where the choice was made differently, and go on from there.

There are many different words to describe these alternate realities; fourspace, the multiverse, what have you. For the most part, people stay where they're put, but every once in awhile, someone manages to put themselves elsewhere. There are even those who can, through a variety of methods, do so deliberately.

All this is neither here nor there, if you will allow the phrase. Suffice to say that for better or for worse, Skidge is one such individual.

She wasn't always, of course. The hapless individual who was deposited on the Island originally was barely capable of even keeping herself alive, much less traverse what has come to be known, to us at least, as the Voidspace."

You realize this Voidspace is where you are now. "Rogue void," the fish explains, then goes on with his story before you can question further. "It came about slowly, the change. I do not know quite how it happened, as I was little more than a construct at the time, but as time on the Island went by, things started to go wrong for her. Not disastrously wrong, mind you. Little things. The wrong thing said at precisely the wrong time, a spill when it was important to make the right impression..embarrassments, really. We didn't pay much attention at the time. This was, after all, Skidge.

And one day, she made a void. She had been doing things, stick figures come to life and the like, but had never created something quite like this. Ever curious, she vanished into it and probably would never have come back had not an older denizen of the Island created a crystal to bring her back. An anchor, you see. She still has it.

After that, she began experimenting. It turned out that she was drawing her powers from Murphy's Law, which explained the various mishaps, and the voids were an offshoot of that. Murphy's Law is everywhere, and therefore, so were the voids. It was a matter of control, and she gradually gained that. Which meant she stopped randomly teleporting into planets made of lava, lightning strikes that were just getting ready to go, and other peoples' embarrassing conversations. However, there were..complications.

Other Skidges began appearing through the voids that had been left open. At first, they vanished shortly after appearing, pulled back into the worlds from which they originated. And then..they didn't anymore.

Have you ever talked to Zolotisty about how she came to be known as the Soloist? You probably should-it's a fascinating story. At the time I am telling you of, she wasn't even on the Island-she, too, can travel to different worlds, although not deliberately then. In her place was an alternate of herself from one such world, the Gentleman.

From the Gentleman's world came his version of Skidge, an uptight, snobbish, obsessively clean and utterly unfriendly creature who swiftly came to be known as the Pedant. The opposite of the Island's Skidge in every way, she came to the Island and much to the surprise and discomfiture of everyone, herself included, couldn't go back. Confusion reigned as the Island's Skidge encountered this alternate; they didn't get on, as I'm sure you can guess."

The fish emits an unusually flat chuckle at the memory. "As I recall, the Pedant took it as a personal mission to clean..everything. She loathed the Island and everyone on it, especially the Gentleman, who took it upon himself to make everything more difficult for her. They knew one another in the Realm, you see. Not fondly. Aside from the personalities, there was some other history there. I can't get the Pedant to tell me, even to this day.

But I digress. Other Skidges began to come to the Island to stay: a Kittymorph Skidge from an earlier version of the Island, a Joker from a later one, they were popping up everywhere. I had my fins full finding them and sending them back, I can tell you."

"Oh, people aren't the only beings who can be touched by the Drive," he says to your curious glance. "And half the time we weren't even fighting your Improbability Drive, but other incarnations in other worlds. I..am still not entirely certain what I can or cannot do.

In any case, I could feel something was wrong in the Voidspace, and thought perhaps it was becoming unstable, what with all the Skidges gone a'wandering. The universe doensn't much like it when things don't stay where they're put; it's rather like the Pedant in that respect. So I searched out what Skidges I could and escorted them back home, and then took to exploring on my own."

The fish shifts awkwardly in midair with a sound of settling metal. His eyes dim a little. "Perhaps what happened then was my fault; perhaps I was not meant to be wandering so far afield without my mistress. But I know something was wrong, and I had to find out what it was.

One day I emerged from a void deep in the Space, far from the Island. The Island there was supposed to be a lovely, tranquil place, its Drive living at peace with the inhabitants. I had quite liked it there, the first time I went, and had been looking forward to going back there.

It wasn't there. The world was gone, its void leading into empty space. It had been completely destroyed, and there was nothing left by an unfamiliar energy signature-similar to that of my mistress, but different. Darker. Unlike anything I had ever encountered before.

I should have turned back, then. Things would have turned out differently had I done so. Instead, I followed.

I lost track of the realities lost after awhile. The mind I was following skipped almost without logic through the Voidspace, willy-nilly, almost whimsical. And everywhere it stopped, all was annihilated. Worse, it kept getting stronger, and it inched ever closer to the reality I called home.

And suddenly, it was right before me, all malevolence and shining bloodred energy. She stood, one eyebrow raised, looking so much like my mistress I almost went right up to her. Almost. She stood, and the world she stood on burned, becoming the nothing I had so unwillingly grown accustomed to in my hunt. And the world was familiar; it was the home of the Joker Skidge, then on the Island.

She spoke to me, clearly unsurprised. "Why, Fish, there you are. I expected you several universes back.

You're late."

And then, I felt something in me go..wrong, badly wrong, and my body shattered. Just like that. She didn't even move. Something grabbed at me, and then I woke up. If you could call it that. I was back on the Island, my consciousness trapped in the body of a Skidge. In my absence, my body had been brought back in pieces by yet another Skidge, this one called the Harbinger. She had come with a warning of the one who had destroyed me; the Skidge known as the Murphy. She was of the same breed as my mistress, able to call upon Murphy's Law at will, save she had given up something essential to become one with the Law itself. She was so far gone she could twist reality at a thought, making everything around her go wrong. Which was of course what she had been doing, making things go so wrong that she was destroying entire worlds, entire realities, and harvesting the energy to feed her own power. And she was coming ever closer, drawn to the Skidge who had started it all; the Island's.

We tried to set up what defenses we could. Trapped as I was in a body not my own, there was very little I could do. The clockwork to my body was broken seemingly beyond repair, though the Harbinger did what she could to keep all the pieces, being of the opinion that I was somehow important.

To be continued.

 
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