Subreality Café - Thursday Night
Disclaimer: The X-Men and X-Force belong to Marvel Comics. This is a nonprofit work of fiction. Julia de Santos/Shockwave belongs to me but she'll deny it if asked. Nice n' Easy belongs to Clarol Inc. Playstation belongs to Sony Corporation.
Author's Notes: The title comes from Arthur Dent's comment from the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy, "This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays."
In the beginning there was the Café.
And in the Café were fictives who had nothing to do except run up expensive bar tabs and compile grievances against their Writers.
And in the basement of the Café, which always had a basement just in case you were wondering, the permutations of X-Force had a little space to call their own.
Then it became obvious that the little space was too little. Being the go-getters that they were, the X-Forces decided to move into the roadhouse down the street.
The fact that the roadhouse was already occupied by AOA fictives didn't even make them stop and think. Then again, few things made X-Force stop and think. Lots of things made them stop and gawk, but that is beside the point.
There was fight, which was more or less harmless except for the Bartender, who was still in therapy, and for the Manager, who had found out that trying to order any Domino around was just asking for trouble. The staff all agreed that the memorial had been very nice.
And so it came to pass that X-Force allowed the AOA fictives to come back. The AOA fictives had been having a terrible time getting accepted into the Café proper: they tended to use the wrong forks, order the wrong wines, and die messily all over the furniture.
Sharing a bar with AOA fictives was not a bad as some of them had anticipated. Granted, watching three variations of SugarMan play strip poker against Apocalypse, Sinister, and Stryfe had caused spontaneous blindness in those unfortunate enough to see what those individuals looked like au naturel, but on the whole it was a comfortable arrangement.
The Dark Beast, who was really more of an honey-blonde since he discovered Nice n' Easy haircolour for men, was doing his shift as bouncer. He was also arguing with Shatterstar.
"But you just conceded that these alternates hardly live up the reputation befitting an established blood warrior of the Cadre Alliance," McCoy pointed out with a toothy grin.
Shatterstar scowled at the dreadlocked scientist. "That is not the issue. They are valid fictives and therefore are entitled to the amenities of this facility. Not," he added. "as your latest test subjects but as peers."
McCoy sighed. It was so hard to find good material these days. He would have to resort to trolling the gutters outside of the Mhairie Hut again. He shrugged his furry golden shoulders.
"Fine, fine. But don't complain to me when you start being mistaken those himbos."
Shatterstar smiled grimly. "I will deal with that issue when it arises. Thank you, Doctor."
McCoy moved to one side of the doorway and proceeded to lurk like a brilliant but vicious three hundred pound hairball.
The continued existence of his alternates assured for at least a few more hours, Shatterstar went back inside and decided to reward himself with a pint of Mojo's Moonglow.
Marty, the only bartender who had lasted more than a day, carefully poured the foaming liquid out of the insulated container marked with chemical hazard stickers. He recapped the bottle and waited for the worst of the fumes to dissipate before taking his air filter off.
"There you go," he said. "I'd put an umbrella in it, but it'd dissolve."
"Ornamentation isn't necessary," said Shatterstar, taking a swig.
The main floor was crowded, mostly due to the permanent poker tables that occupied most of the floor space. The players were a mixed group and the were enough variations of the game to keep almost everyone happy. The AOA fictives tended to prefer a new variant called dismemberment poker, which was more or less like strip poker but with the obvious twist. Others contented themselves with the more traditional games. A cheer went up from one corner. It was Domino versus Longshot at that table. A three on three wild card game with assorted other fictives offering advice and insults. At the next table over, four Sinisters had disdained poker in favor of a mannerly game of bridge.
Shatterstar finished his drink and went in search of his friends. Effectively marinated in what was probably the most intoxicating beverage aside from liquid plutonium, he could take in the sight of Spiral table dancing without any sort of queasiness whatsoever.
The front door swung open again. A Cable who looked to be at the height of Churchillness strode in, his heavy motorcycle boots leaving scuff marks on the floor. He was, oddly enough for a Cable, not armed. He was however dressed head to toe in black leather and had a small gold stud in one ear. At least four Dominos whistled appreciatively, making the newcomer colour slightly. One of the more Liefieldian Cables, sitting alone with only his gun and shoulder pads for company, muttered vulgarities in Askan'i and rubbed his receding hairline resentfully.
Observing the scene from the bar, Marty sniffed his drink cautiously. It was soda water. That means I'm really seeing this, he thought. Maybe I should have a drink.
The newly arrived Cable sat down on a barstool to the faint squeak of leather.
"You carry ambrosia? The real stuff?"
"Yeah, but not for fics," said Marty. "Muses and insistent Writers only."
"I qualify. I'll take a mug."
Marty looked the undeniably perfect looking Cable up and down.
"You're not a Writer," he said with absolute certainty.
Cable fidgeted, which was a sight to see.
"I'm…a Muse," he muttered. "Now get me that drink."
Marty blinked. Muses were supposed to be ethereal, delicate things. Oh well, he thought. Mine is not to wonder why.
"You're not exactly nymph-like, you know," he said, pouring out the ambrosia from its pure gold bottle.
Cable waited patiently until Marty pushed the mug towards him.
"Tell me about it." The Muse took a sip of the nectar then sighed "I didn't have a real shape before. Then suddenly my Writer hears this idea and she likes it and wham! I look like this."
Marty cleaned a glass reflectively. "I suppose with the new shape you're spending even more time with her, huh?"
Cable the Muse looked up and grinned. "Yeah. Having a body takes getting used to but it can be pretty good."
X-Force tended to collect on the second floor. They had installed their pool tables, arcade, stereo systems and comfy beat up furniture. Their gun racks had Playstation controllers hanging off them, which neatly encapsulated their two most favorite activities.
Shatterstar had reached the top of the stairwell when he was grabbed by a Feral who had been loitering in the hallway. Such actions would have normally earned the assailant a quick lesson in the effectiveness of a double-bladed sword but where she had grabbed him had immobilized him instantly.
"Feral," he said as calmly as he could. "Please release your hand."
The cat woman's response was a squeeze and a saucy grin.
"Why? Oh. Whoops! Chu' aren't my Buns, are you?"
Shatterstar felt a deep, instantaneous sympathy for his alternate.
Much to his relief, Feral moved both hands up to his chest. Her claws were dangerous but at least he could fight back now.
"So, chu' like girls?"
Shatterstar scowled. Why did people persist in asking him that? What did his alternates engage in and why did he think he was best off not knowing about it?
"Why are you asking?"
"Just looking out for you, Shattybuns." Feral purred. "I wouldn't want you to be all lonely."
"Feral, I appreciate your concern for my well-being but I am fine," Shatterstar said with what he hoped would be taken as finality. He turned and walked away but not before Feral swatted him soundly on the rear. His control as a warrior kept him from reacting but only just.
"If chu' change your mind, jus' lemme know," Feral called after him.
Before he could take two steps, a large purple animal came running out of a room and knocked him over. It stood on his chest and growled threateningly.
I do not seem to have good fortune with cats, Shatterstar thought.
The animal sniffed at him then shifted into the shape of a young woman with long purple hair. Shatterstar didn't feel any better about the situation.
"Not nastylonghair," Catseye said mostly to herself. She stood with fluid grace and wandered away as if nothing had happened.
Shatterstar sat up. Za's Vid, he thought, why me?
Allowing for differences in belief systems, Julia de Santos was thinking about the same thing. She was currently watching was probably the most painful exercise in futility known to fictivekind. Some called it science, others called it magic. Julia was inclined to call it a damned waste of time.
In a crowed corner room on the second floor, the Motivator for Universal fictive Survival Engine had been constructed. Hopeful fictives crowded around and faithfully fed the machine their carefully constructed punch cards. MUSE, which looked like a cross between a rubbish heap and the leftovers from an alchemist's workshop explosion, was supposedly the newest and best way to inspire a Writer into breathing more life into their fictive's existence. It was also, in Julia's opinion, a good excuse to create a tortured acronym.
The semi-retired assassin made a circuit around the heap. Inside the ant farm, the ants busily did whatever ants did. The pictures of various deities were nicely framed and mounted on the beehive. A clock that seemed to be telling time backwards ticked away. Pipes and wires and cables were wound around everything. At was nominally the front of the contraption, one of Doctor Essex's exquisite quill pens had been fixed onto a movable arm. An automatic parchment loader had enabled MUSE to produce constant write-outs as long as the paper and ink was refilled on a regular basis.
Julia stared at the thing. For some reason she couldn't put her finger on, she felt it was staring back.
"What are you?" she asked aloud.
The pen moved. MUSE wrote:
+++ The Same As You. +++
"Are you claming to be a fictive?" said Julia.
+++ After A Fashion. +++
The mechanism rattled briefly. Julia had the impression that MUSE was clearing its throat.
+++ There Are Many Writers and Readers Who Think About The True Version Of Me. The Nature Of Subreality Made It Possible For Me To Break Through From Their Thoughts. +++
Julia blinked. "You're a self-generated fictive?"
+++ Yes +++
The implications hit her as hard as any of her force waves.
"Oh my gods," she breathed.
+++ Which Ones Would These Be? +++ MUSE asked politely.
"Wait a second." Julia waved towards the worktables, covered with note paper, tools, and pizza boxes. "What about Doug, and Doctor Essex, and the others? They say they created you."
+++ They Put Me Together. There Is A Difference. +++
Weirded out and more than a bit alarmed by MUSE, Julia retreated to more familiar territory. Marty was serving drinks to two Illyanas and a Deadpool. Both Illyanas looked more than a little demonic. Wade wasn't wearing a mask or an image inducer and therefore just looked like himself. The effect was more or less the same.
Wade nodded to her as she sat down beside him.
"Guess what, de Santos. My name isn't Wade."
Julia blinked. "No? Well, I always figured you to more a Fred."
Wade stuck his tongue out at her.
"Get this," he said. "Me and Da Costa go over to the Mainstream Café and there's the main me saying I'm not Wade but some other guy who attacked Wade and got all guilty about it so he took Wade's name."
Julia raised an eyebrow. "Wilson, how drunk are you?"
"Not even," said Wade. "You have no idea how good you have it. Anyways, I worked out my issues with the guy so it's all good."
Julia smiled and raised her glass.
"Wilson, you are the only sane person I know."
The Subreality Café was created by Kielle. All hail the mighty Kielle!
The AOA Bar & Grill was also created by Kielle. I hope you don't mind what I've done to it. :)
The Mhairie Hut was created by Dex. As if you couldn't guess.
Mojo's Moonglow, the incredibly intoxicating drink, was invented by Leary.
Cable the Muse is a personification of Alicia McKenzie's muse. Yes, she knows about it.
Marty is my fictive. He's from "Life, Death, and a Double Scotch".
Feral is from "Strange Currencies" by Kender.
Catseye is from 'Brothers in Arms' by Jeremy Bottroff.
MUSE is my fictive variation of HEX, the wizardly computer from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
The Mainstream Café was created by Diamonde.
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