Escape to the Nevernever
He sat quietly in a field of flowers slowly changing color around him. It was a particularly beautiful part of the Nevernever, but Kyle hardly noticed. He sat amongst the ever-changing flowers, arms wrapped around bent legs, and forehead resting on his knees. Tears tracked their way down his cheeks, also ignored. A few of his sparks darted about the meadow, talking amongst themselves, but Kyle didn’t care to rein them in.
He’d just had a particularly painful argument with his parents, but this was just the latest affront to his burgeoning adulthood. Nobody took Kyle seriously, because he was “just a kid.” It didn’t seem to matter that he was the one who took care of his mother after the divorce, drying her tears and trying to get her to move on with her life. It didn’t seem to matter that he’d been surviving just fine without his father for years now. It didn’t seem to matter how much experience he’d packed into a very few years. The most ludicrous of all, it didn’t seem to matter that he had phenomenal super powers, a host of other versions of himself to call upon for advice, and had literally held the power of life and death in his hands. It didn’t seem to matter that he was one of the few paranormals both deemed worthy and willing to assume the mantle of being a super hero, that he’d actually saved the world, possibly more than once.
They all still expected him to bow down to whatever they thought was best for him, just because he was younger than they were. Even his teammates Bouncer and Jesuit talk down to him, as if he’s not capable of noticing their condescending tones or making his own adult decisions.
“You know, you could do something about this,” one of Kyle’s sparks spoke, finally succeeding in breaking into his brooding moment.
Kyle’s head slowly rose, and he looked at the sparks dancing around him, studying them. Sensing his attention more appeared until there was a veritable swarm of them. He noticed how some appeared and disappeared quickly, never to be seen again, and then it all clicked. It made sense.
“You’re right. There is something I can do about this.”
Kyle waited for a brand new spark to appear, one that didn’t feel familiar to him, one that only emitted a high-pitched whine rather than words he could recognize. He focused intently on that one spark, and all his other sparks went into an agitated flurry.
“He’s going to do it.”
“Yup, it’s about time he figured it out.”
“Ready or not, here we gooooooo!”
Sing-song: “There’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going.”
Then, there was silence, and Kyle and all his sparks were gone. The flowers continued to slowly change colors as if he’d never been there.
The Academy (a.k.a. Sky High)
An amphitheater-style auditorium is filled with what could only be described as super heroes of various types and shapes. Most look like normal humans and might only be recognized as heroes by their outlandish costumes, but others are garishly otherworldly with powers on perpetual display or non-humanoid body shapes.
A board of elder heroes sits at a tall semi-circular desk raised high above a circular dais, and on that dais stands one of the brightest figures in the room, an older version of Kyle. He’s surrounded by a flurry of rainbow-hued sparks, living up to his heroic identity. His sparks are strangely quiet, as if understanding the gravity of the situation. At the center of the semi-circular desk, a stately woman with long black hair streaked with gray sits higher than the rest. Her navy blue cloak rests easily across her shoulders, a silver tiara with a large, blue gem barely glimpsed beneath her hood. Her commanding presence is undeniable as she speaks.
“Firework, your performance at this academy has been exemplary. You have taken to each challenge we put before you with a fervor that should stand as an example for all our students to follow,” she said while sweeping the entire assemblage with her gaze. “As you know, we wish to award you with our highest honor, ‘Hero Examplar.’ However, it is with a heavy heart that we must also bid you farewell.”
Gasps ran around the room at this proclamation, but Firework showed no surprise. Only those closest to the dais noticed the single tear slowly making its way down his cheek. Only those of Firework’s closest circle of friends were aware of the tears flowing freely down a young man’s face in the front row, his hair moving as if blown in a breeze that wasn’t actually in the room, and his hands tightly clasped with the young heroes flanking him.
“You are blessed with a power quite rare, that of traveling between parallel universes. Recently it has come to our attention that your power is actually tied into the very fabric of the multiverse, you are one with the living energy that connects all things and binds the multiverse together. This power expresses itself in each and every reality of the multiverse, and in your world it has expressed itself through you. In our world it has expressed its power through another.”
Firework’s eyes connect with those of an older hero standing to one side of the elders’ desk. What appears to be a slow-moving swarm of violet-colored fireflies lazily winks in and out of existence around the man, a stark contrast to Firework’s frenetic sparks.
The elder heroine continues, “We count ourselves honored and lucky to have had two of you for as long as we have, but this duality is a problem. While you may visit other realities, you should not stay in any of them as long as you have stayed with us. We have delayed this day as long as we dared so that you might complete your training, but it has created certain… imbalances. These will soon reach a problematic level worse than the rifts we’ve already experienced. And so, with a heavy heart, I must send you home. We bid you a fond farewell, and we hope that the experiences we send with you will help you to build a better world for your people.”
Firework’s gaze sweeps the entire panel before bowing deeply before them. “It has been an honor to serve you, and I will make you proud.”
Firework turns toward the crowd, and his eyes fall upon the breezy-headed young man. “Zephyr, I would take you with me if I could, but your place is here. Know that a piece of you will always be with me,” he says as he places his hand over his heart, and his gaze briefly encompasses the circle of friends surrounding Zephyr as well.
Lastly, Firework turns to the violet-lit elder version of himself, saying, “Thank you for your wise and level-headed counsel during my time here. I do not have enough words to express my gratitude fully.” Taking a deep, slow breath, Firework continues, “I hereby turn this dimensional custodianship over to you. …but I’ll try to stay in touch,” he adds with a wink.
Firework’s sparks begin to move at blurring speeds in a delicate and deliberate pattern, emitting a harmonic humming tone, the entire display demonstrating far greater control than their random, dissonant motions of years earlier. In the moment that the pattern closes and the sparks eclipse all view of Firework’s form, the sparks and Firework are suddenly gone, echoes of his departure quickly fading from the chamber.
Getting home proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Firework safely arrived in the Nevernever, at least upon that first jump from The Academy. However, when it came time to return home, Firework found that after years away he only had a vague sense of a place that “felt like home.” He tried to contact The Caretaker using his sparks, but apparently the Caretaker was out of his range. Without a spark of himself to use as a dimensional navigation beacon, he did his best to focus on his “sense of home” and jump. …only to find himself in another random parallel dimension. This happened many, many times.
Firework eventually lost track of how many other Earth’s he visited. Sometimes it took a while to figure out this wasn’t his “home” Earth. Other times, it was obviously immediately, though still not always easy to turn around and leave again. The full scope of Firework’s Multiverse Adventures ™ are known only to Firework, though some details are certain to leak out over time. The time he spent traveling the multiverse is impossible to judge given differently flowing time, and even Firework’s personal sense of time passing became blurred when he stopped eating and sleeping. It’s Kyle’s best guess that he’s now somewhere around 24ish years of age, heavy on the “ish.”