“All other things have a portion of everything, but Mind is infinite and self-ruled.”
EARTH: FIVE YEARS AFTER MYSTIC MAN IS REVEALED TO THE WORLD.
“What if I told you—that there is another world. Not just another world, but another reality entirely. And in this reality, in these realities, is energy. Energy we can harness and use to make the world a better place. I know, I know it sounds crazy. But look at the world around us. Mystic Man, The Shade of San Juan, Dream Crusher, The White Dwarf, Sparkle Girl. There aren’t rules anymore. See, I used to think in simple formulas and theories, just like the rest of you here today. But when I saw Mystic Man fly and teleport on the news, I realized I knew nothing. As scientists, we always tell other people, non-scientists, that we don’t know anything. Say that we’re just tools of science and we’re happy to discover even the slightest wonder. But that’s not true. Each and every one of you knows it. We’re arrogant. Sloppy. Prideful. And when I saw Mystic Man, when I saw Isaac Eckspo, do what he did, I realized I knew nothing. But now, here today, I’ve cracked the code. Cracked what makes it all work. I’ve gone from terrorist watchlist to Project Element superhero to where I am today. And I couldn’t think of a better way to introduce my ideas with the world. My name is Yousef Pashteen. And I’d like to welcome you all to The Mind. A way to travel beyond our reality and beyond our own expectations.”
“Are you sure this is going to work, Yousef?”
“I’ve done all the calculations, Rena. If it doesn’t, I’ll buy you dinner.”
Rena grinned as she powered up the machine. It was a simple procedure, but Yousef knew what came next was the real test. Ever since Mystic Man jumped onto the scene, the science community was abuzz. How did he do it? Was it magic, or just science we didn’t understand yet? Yousef Pashteen took the latter approach. Today, he was his fifty-third attempt at traversing another universe. No luck the previous fifty-two times. His machine began to make incredibly loud noises as it attempted to gather energy from outside of this universe. Then, it sparked a bit before shutting off. Yousef had seen this fifty-two times before.
“I’m in a mood for Thai,” Rena said as she smiled and walked away.
Before Yousef could get too upset at his colleague, someone walked into his lab. No one expect Rena ever came into his lab except for one person.
“Mr. Little, what a surprise to see you,” Yousef said.
Eli Little stood before Yousef wearing an expensive looking suit. His head was particularly shiny today as well. Although Yousef couldn’t tell if that was because Eli had just shaved or if the lighting in his lab was reflecting just right.
“Stop calling me that,” Eli said. “After everything we’ve been through, call me Eli.”
“Right. I’m sure you heard, but we just had another failure with the machine.”
“You had another failure, I’m just an assistant,” Rena said from across the room.
“An assistant with multiple PhD’s and a Nobel Prize, Ms. Petrov. You two are a team, whether you like it or not.”
Rena didn’t say anything. She just nodded and continued to work on something on the table. Eli’s voice was stern, and Rena knew when to stop joking around the boss. He gestured to Yousef to follow him near the door. He then lowered his voice and began speaking.
“I know that when I sought you out all those years ago, it was because I believed in your innocence. I still do, Yousef, but the objectives have changed.”
“What are you talking about, Eli?”
“I’m talking about Project Element. A secret team of superheroes created by me. And funded my Meri-Tech.”
“Super—what? What in the world are you talking about? I’m doing important, good work trying to access another universe and you’re out there playing hero?”
Uh oh, thought Yousef. He couldn’t remember the last time he had gotten that angry with Eli. Rena noticed it too, even though she was pretending she hadn’t. Eli’s face tightened up.
“I don’t need you to remind me of the work you’re doing. What I’m doing relates to your work. I want from you is to involve this new team with what you’re doing. Train them. Lead them.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“If we are to ever figure out Mystic Man’s powers, we must also show the world he isn’t the only type of hero. In private, you continue this work. In public, you’ll be a hero.”
“Hero? Have you forgotten that I’m on a terror watchlist? The second I show my face in any part of the world, I’m good as dead, Eli.”
“I know. Which is why I brought this.”
Eli pulled something from his pocket. In his hand, was a ball. Of what? The ball had a weird glow and appeared to be vibrating. Yousef backed away at first. But as he got closer, he noticed the pure power in Eli’s hands. It was energy all right. It felt nuclear. And Eli was holding it like a child’s toy.
“What—what is this?”
“You know what this,” Eli said. “While you’ve been working on gathering energy from different universes, I’ve gathered energy from this universe. And here it is, in the palm of my hand.”
“How is it not killing you? Some sort of containment field.
“It will bond with the first thing it touches, granting them immense power. You’ll be coated in energy, and no one will recognize you. You’ll be the face of Project Element.”
“I’m not sure I want to do this, Eli.”
“Think of Fatima, Yousef. Think of Adiva. They’d want you to make a difference,” he said. “They’d want you to live a life outside of this lab.”
“Don’t use my dead wife and daughter against me.”
But—he was right. Yousef missed his beautiful Fatima and his gentle Adiva every day. They were the center of his life before they were taken from him. And ever since he buried his head in his work. But to no avail. It took years to even get a prototype of his machine built. And it cost Eli millions to get Rena here. And it’s been nothing but failure ever since. Here though, in his hand, Eli held something Yousef hadn’t seen or felt in a while. A win. With energy and power like that, the possibilities were endless. Yousef thought of all the ways he could help. Not just others, but himself, his projects. Eli Little was a cold, calculated man. And Project Element sounded like his attempt at playing God. All because Mystic Man made him feel inferior.
Still, Yousef thought. I can use this to my advantage. I have nothing to lose, right?
Before he could answer his own thought, Yousef grabbed the ball. The vibrations of the ball nearly knocked him to the floor. He squeezed the ball with all his might and it broke almost instantly. Eli backed up and let the energy consume Yousef.
At first, it was painful. Yousef thought he was going to die. He thought he’d be reunited with Fatima and Adiva. Then, the pain subsided. And Yousef was consumed by the energy in his hand. Well, it wasn’t in his hand anymore. Yousef looked down at his hand and noticed the change in color. It looked like copper mixed with yellow and orange light. He looked at the rest of his body and noticed the same color scheme. There was even an interesting pattern on his chest. It somewhat resembled a logo. Perfect for superhero work.
But Yousef didn’t care about being a hero for Eli’s ego. Not right now. With the energy of this known universe flowing through him, Yousef didn’t just know about these properties. He was a part of them. Nuclear, solar, geothermal, electricity. All of it was a part of his body now, a part of his soul. And it spoke to him. Yousef walked over to his machine that had failed him fifty-three times before. Almost instantly, his energies began singing in his ear. Yousef knew how to make this machine a reality now. And he knew he could, himself harness energy from across different realities and mix it with his own body. No one had ever done this, not even Mystic Man.
Or has he? Yousef didn’t want to get ahead of himself here. But, in his mind, he knew that he was now one of the most powerful beings in all of existence. And he had Eli Little to thank for that. Yousef turned and faced the man responsible for making him like this.
He thinks he can own me, Yousef thought. This was the last piece he needed. And he wanted to give this power to the person who he could control the most. It’s genius, really. And it’s expected. But now that the pure energies of this world sing to me, Eli, I will not let you, this country, or anyone control me ever again. In time, I will be free of you. Free of this reality.
Yousef didn’t say anything though. He reached his hand out to Eli. He only thought about it, but as his hand reached out, it transformed back into his human hand. He focused a bit more and the rest of his body changed back too. But he could still feel the energy in his heart. Yousef smiled.
Eli smiled as well and the two shook hands.
“Let’s get to work,” Eli said.
INTRODUCING YOUSEF “THE MIND” PASHTEEN:
Yousef has a complicated past and one that he’d rather not talk about. He’s the last member of Project Element, and maybe the most important. His work as a chemist has helped him learn everything there is to know about our universe. But he hungers for more. Just like Travis, Meena, Ronda, Samuel, and Amanda. Each of them wants more from life and that’s exactly what they’ll get. If it involves saving people, fine. But they’ll do anything to get answers. And Yousef is a big reason why.
Whoo! The team is complete, and Yousef might be the most dangerous member yet. I really hope you enjoyed this short story. It’s another addition to the Mystic Man Universe and there’s more to come. If you haven’t bought the book yet, what are you waiting for? I’ll link it down below. Also, how would you like to see Project Element come together again? A comic? A novel? Another short story? Let me know because I want people to enjoy these characters in the coolest way possible. This universe is coming together and I plan on showcasing my characters in a plethora of ways. Keep reading, keep writing, and remember to follow me on Twitter @peacelovecomics and if you ever need to reach me, you can do it by email firstname.lastname@example.org I’m always available to talk. Until next time! Peace, Love, and Comics!!