"Crossed Wires": Finally, Nelson Jent and the Dial Bunch have found their way through the back-routes to the Hub - a place where all realities connect through the Exchange. As expected, though, The Centipede is waiting for them. Al
- I'm child-king of melancholy emissions. Every wheeze, every tear, makes me stronger.
Appearing in "Crossed Wires"
- Secret Faction
- Monodon Seer
- Chimney Lacrymose
- Pelican Bluff
- Tugboat Resin
- Cloud Skeet
- Flame Snail
- Open-Window Man
- Water Tower
- The Centipede (Apparent Death)
- The Fixer
- The Lost Operator (Apparent Death)
- The Hub
Synopsis for "Crossed Wires"
Finally, Nelson Jent and the Dial Bunch have found their way through the back-routes to the Hub - a place where all realities connect through the Exchange. As expected, though, The Centipede is waiting for them. Almost immediately upon seeing him, Dwan - who is unable to stop dialing heroes - attacks. Using the H and S-Dials, Nelson and Roxie prepare to fight at Dwan's side, becoming the Secret Faction and Exhaust.
Secret Faction's ability is to cause dissent from within. However, it has an unusual effect on the Centipede, whose ability allows him to split into multiple versions of himself: they all fight eachother. Worried that the conflict will be his downfall, the Centipede calls on the Fixer for help. Nelson warns Roxie to get Bansa out of the line of fire while he faces the Fixer's ability to dial any hero. Unfortunately, his dial loses its juice, and he reverts to regular old Nelson, requiring Roxie to come back for him. She is too late, though, and the Fixer and the Centipede manage to make off with him.
The remains of the Dial Bunch know that Nelson is somewhere in the Hub, but they've no way of knowing where. Hopefully, Roxie suggests that Dwan might be able to dial someone who can divine Nelson's location. Unfortunately, there is no such luck, and what's worse is that horrifying creatures are approaching them aggressively. Dwan manages to fight them off, but Roxie cannot dial a sidekick when he is so unstable. When Dwan succeeds, they discover that the creatures seem to have come from a part of the Hub where the wires are frayed and cut.
Where the wires meet, elements of an infinite number of worlds are being dragged into the Hub, ruined by war, and ripped from eternity. Some of the wires are plugged into a damaged structure resembling a skyscraper. What's interesting, though, is that this structure appears to have windows, which means a door for Open-Window Man.
Meanwhile, Nelson wakes up to find the Centipede standing over him. Nearby, a man comments that it is surprising how far Nelson got with such a broken dial. When questioned, the man introduces himself as O, the Lost Operator. Angrily, Nelson remembers all that the Lost Operator is supposed to have done, and shouts that the man is a murderer. O merely shushes him, sending the Fixer to shut his mouth for him. The Operator explains that the universe is not wired well. Dial users have taken advantage of that face to become heroes and sidekicks. To play with reality. He has developed a D-Dial. A Doom Dial, and with it, he has been destroying realities by way of a randomly dialed apocalypse. Against Nelson's muffled shouts, the Operator dials a doom, and wipes out the reality of Metacastle.
The Operator leaves, ordering the Fixer to find out if Nelson knows anything they don't, and then kill him. Once gone, Nelson demands to know why the Centipede would help O destroy realities. The Fixer responds that O has promised the Centipede a dial that will work for him; an E-Dial for Evil. The Fixer had been fighting with Centipede until the man had revealed his knowledge of how to travel through the Exchange without a J-Dial. The Fixer had needed this knowledge, and the Centipede had been true to his word.
Nelson points out that the Fixer had been hunting O all this time, and has now betrayed his home world to help the maniac. The fixer responds that his world is long dead, and he had been loyal to it for too long. To explain himself, the Fixer returns to his true form, and uses Nelson's finger to dial up the Monodon Seer, a narwhal who can read thoughts.
Nelson learns from the Fixer's mind that the Hub is the destination for every universe's frayed wires, which channel the crackle of realities. The Hub became a place where dials could be used for everything, to bring forth copies of things from each universe temporarily, as needed. Occasionally, things would go wrong, though, and a real object or person would be channelled directly instead of copied. These instances caused rumours to spread, exaggerated though they may have been, of people who stole things like powers from other universes through the use of dials.
Eventually, a great war broke out when the people of these realities found their way to the Hub. The people of the Hub barely survived the initial attack, holing up in their tower. One of them rose up with a plan to end the war by causing genocide with a Doom Dial. This was the Lost Operator, whom the others turned on in order to prevent his mad plan. He escaped, and using his unique ability to create new dials, he warned that he would go back in time to destroy these worlds, if he they would not let him do it now.
With a literal time-bomb, the Lost Operator broke time, and the result was that all of the dials of the Hub were sent off to other realities like Nelson's. The Fixer's attempts to retrieve all of the missing dials was merely an attempt to clean up the mess that O had left. After a lifetime of trying to collect the dials and track the Lost Operator down and bring him to justice, the Fixer has only just returned to learn that within days of his leaving the Hub, the Exchange tower fell. His world was lain waste. In his mind, the Lost Operator was right. They should have destroyed those other worlds, if it had meant the preservation of the Exchange.
In the meantime, O had ended up on Earth. He guided the world's fledgling inventors to design new dials, without their knowledge of what that truly meant. All that time, he had been pressing the Earth's greatest minds into building him a J-Dial so that he could return to the Hub so that the Fixer could follow, and learn that he had been right. In banishing O, the Fixer had helped to kill his own world. After hearing this story, Nelson realizes with some annoyance that what the Fixer really wants is for him to persuade him that he is wrong now.
Meanwhile, the Dial Bunch carefully attempts to knock one of the windows of the Exchange tower open, so that Open-Window Man can get them inside. Once there, they are surprised to see that there are actually hundreds of dials inside; of all kinds. Eagerly, Roxie replaces her S-Dial with a flawless H-Dial, but at that same moment, the Centipede discovers them. At Bansa's instruction, Roxie dials 6-2-8-7-9-6-7-0 for Matryoshka, a Russian nesting doll of a hero, who can match the Centipede's multiple selves.
The Operator calls on the Fixer to help, but he is surprised when Nelson comes in, riding on the Fixer's back to take him down. They are unhappy to learn, though, that the Operator has the ability to shut off their dial powers, which he does to both the Fixer and Roxie. He intends to do the same to Dwan, but he shifts between heroes so quickly with his broken dial that O can't get a fix on him. In response, O decides to speed up Dwan's dial, so that he changes so fast that he can't even move. It also has the effect of building up energy to dangerously high levels, and the others decide it would be best to run for their lives while they can. Unfortunately, this means jumping out of the window into one of the Exchange's garbage heaps.
Realizing that this was where their dials came from, Roxie and Nelson wonder what they should do. They spot some of the crossed-wire creatures in the distance, and it gives Roxie an idea. Together with Bansa, she begins gathering together broken dials, but the sudden appearance of the Centipede stops them in their tracks.
He explains that his dial has finally been finished, and now that he has it, he can do something particularly evil. He separates himself into many versions of himself, and with each dial, each one becomes a different villain. As the army of villains attacks them, Roxie commands Nelson to dial on the device she and Bansa had been making, despite knowing that the Operator can shut down any hero they dial.
O's controls have no means of stopping this dial, however, as Nelson becomes Chimney Lacrymose - a mashup of two heroes. By crossing the wires on the dials, they circumvented the shut-down mechanism O had. Unfortunately, Bansa has been wounded, and can't celebrate her hand in that victory. Vengefully, Roxie attacks Centipede.
Meanwhile, Nelson wonders if it is fate that the first mashup hero he dials would also happen to be made up of the first two heroes he dialed so long ago, Boy Chimney and Captain Lacrymose. He continues dialing new mashups as he attacks O, but he is unprepared to fight against an Operator equipped with a dial amplifier.
As a last ditch plan, Roxie steals the Centipede's evil dial and has Open-Window Man carry her up the side of the Exchange tower while Nelson does his best to distract the Operator. Up there, Roxie explains that Bansa taught her how to direct the essences that flow through the exchange with dials. Given that O is amplified, she can zero in on the essence that he is using and strip the insulation from his wires. If he can't control what happens when someone else crosses the wires, what can happen when his wires are crossed? The Operator dials a mashup that is so mashed up that it is unrecognizable as any one thing. Energy blasts fly from his body, striking the top of the tower as Nelson's dial's powers wear off completely.
Nelson watches as the stray energy blasts from the Operator catch onto the tower and are relayed back into him, causing him and most of the tower to explode - and Centipede along with it.
Awed, Nelson, Roxie, and Open-Window Man stare into the crater. Hoping that's the last they'll see of them, Nelson suggests that they Dial one more time, and see if they can find the friends they left behind in other worlds. After all, it's in their nature now. They're Dialers, and this can't be the end of their adventures.
- This book was first published on August 7, 2013.
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