The table was set, the guests were being called, and every piece of the puzzle was coming together.
Sitting in his trademark suit, eyes ever shadowed, mouth smiling wide, a very powerful man was waiting for eight of his Hitmen to arrive with his guests, one of whom would be his future successor. This powerful man was known as Don Itallio and he was the leader of The Mafia. By now, he was old, and he knew it. In an ever growing multiverse, someone with a weakened mind would not be able to run an operation as large as this, so after searching far and wide withing his ranks, his partner suggested the search be more broad.
To see him as cheerful as he was, gleefully twiddling his thumbs at the most extravagant chair out of the ten surrounding the table, was not something that any normal person would view and live to tell the world. The woman who was watching this was of course anything but. She was his partner, Femme Itallio.
"I see you are pleased with yourself."
"Well, why wouldn't I be? In mere moments, I will see the face of my successor, and a feud will begin over who is worthy of stepping into my place. It's exciting. Unlike anything I've seen."
"But... are you sure you are up to it? There's your condition..."
"Nonsense! This will be a simple exercise, the hardest part is the first plunge, and my Hitmen are taking care of that, moving the rest of them shouldn't be any effort at all."
Femme looks worriedly, but knows that there is no convincing him otherwise. She has worked under and with him long enough to know that when he's set on something, he will accept no other path.
At that moment, there was a sound, a riff of the saxophone, emitting from the doors around the table, eight ambiguous humanoids in suits, each wearing a similar uniform to their boss, with a few variations here and there, and carrying the numb body of one of the successor-to-be's entered the room. They each set down their respective choice down in their seat and moved back into the shadows.
"So I've noticed."
Composing himself, he raised his hands and snapped them to life.
"Hello there my guests. Today I bring the eigh-" he pauses for a moment to re-count the beings in the room, "nine of you here for an opportunity unlike any other. In the next few days, weeks, months, maybe even years, you will go on an adventure unlike any other, you will see multiple worlds, meet extravagant people, and learn from the best the multiverse has to offer. For some of you, that will be all you see before you die, never to see me, my organization, or your home again. And, for one, very lucky, person, you will see all this, and not only live to tell the tale, but also embark on a very different journey. One in which you are groomed to be my successor, the de facto leader of a mafia family that spans the entire multiverse."
The eight listening to him are perfectly still, despite some of them wishing otherwise. Each forced to stare ahead at whatever being was placed in front of them.
"Ah yes, I forgot to mention, you can move only if you have the intent to eat the food in front of you. Now moving on, the man that has so wonderfully introduced you is none other than Don Itallio, the current Godfather of The Mafia. I am his faithful partner, Femme. As he said, you will be moved across the universe, moving from locale to locale, until only one of you remains. This final contestant will live on as a being far more powerful than they could ever previously imagine, controlling this entire organization. But before that, you need to jump over the hurdles that are your fellow successor's-to-be."
"Now, that we've introduced ourselves, we will do the same for you. Femme, the chart if you will?"
He takes out reading glasses and inspects the chart with notes on each of the nine chosen. Clearing his throat, he begins, pointing at the large cyborg man, accompanied by a proportionally large horse right behind his seat. His military wear and and light brown cut accompany his red skin and a slightly miffed face. "This is Khagan Toghun Tegüs, a genetically altered behemoth of a man. He is a warlord without mercy, preferring to rely solely on his strength, but still curious and open to technological advances. This strength is unlike any other, but while he sees himself as a cultured man, he has trouble grasping the nuances of polite company. He is accompanied by Ariq, a horse."
Moving his finger to a young scraggly boy, wearing ripped clothes and in bare feet, his face tired and focused on the food in front of him. "This young lad is Artemis Holloway, while you can't see him, he is accompanied by a demon, who we shall call Grendel. The pair have been together for quite a while, surviving on the streets as best they can, making use of Artemis' determination and Grendel's shapeshifting to live as well off as a lonely orphan can. I would imagine that Artemis only wishes to survive, but Grendel... let's not dwell on the possibilities."
The next person on the pointer end of his finger had a live tiger on his plate, that was being devoured with average effort on his part. The moustachioed man, currently in a tux and wide-brimmed Stetson hat was smiling radiantly. "This magnificent piece of work is Johnny Raptor. I'll cut the nuances for this one, he's a man, a man's man. Actiony. Fond of fighting whatever he deems evil and very capable of doing so. He's thinks himself the star of the show, and he had very little reason to think otherwise. Let's see how that changes as time goes on."
With some reluctance, the focus changed to a bearded human, face focused and full of passion. "This is Rayeln the Scourge, a revolutionary leader who revolted against his upper class in a series of long and bloody battles. He is inspiring, powerful, and merciless. While he failed to defeat the royalty, he was a living legend amongst the lower class. He is a true comrade, ready to do anything for what he believes in. And I mean anything."
Next, was a deer. A white one, with a gold laurel around his neck and a cigarette in his mouth. He looked pretty pissed off. "This piece of work is Exida Exis. Don't let looks deceive you, he is more than capable of taking down each and every one of you. That gold around his neck isn't for show, it allows him a power over those weaker than him, and some stronger. It turns him into what he is, a showoff and an egotistical jerk. Soon, he will learn to hate each and every one of you. Don't take it personally, that's just how he is."
If he could, Exidia would have jumped for Itallio's neck. Ignoring him, he moved on. The suited being that followed, face shadowed by a hat, was completley still. "This is Felgurd. He is not very accustomed. While he may only look like a very tall man, if he had the proper light you would see a rather grotesque sight. Getting to the point, he is a sentient mask, capable of growing by connecting himself to other things. He is strong, but without purpose, perhaps this is just what he needed. Watch out for him, he bites."
The sole female was the next to get the focus, dressed in a white woolen robe and in tan, honey skin. Her mismatched eyes looked curiously around at the others. "I would like to introduce, Altara Elwynn, a druid. As a result of something, she has no memories other than her powerful druidic magic. She is naive and inquisitive, but not defenseless. She has the power of possession, which can lead to alterations and new levels of power. And in case that doesn't save her, she's also got an edge in her arcane instincts."
Finally, the end of the steep climb to the roller-coaster to come was reached. A simply grey alien, red eyes, spotless labcoat, one red glove and one metal gauntlet, and goggles placed so perfectly. "Our final candidate is Doctor Zenith Grey. "Our one and only Vella Kehn has no gender, but for simplicity, I will say that he is a surgeon, the very best. Back on his colony he thought himself a hero, one of few to hold any name at all. Due to a visit to a dead planet, he has a gauntlet, capable of a few convenient feats. Smart, cocky, fast, and skilled, he dreams of charting each and every species, perhaps this will aid him on his quest."
"Now that you know the why and the who, let me take you to the where. I hope that you haven't eaten too much, the ride can be a little bumpy."
With another sax riff, the ten sitting around the table were, from one perspective, gone. From the other, the table, chairs, doors, and Hitmen were all replaced with blackness for one moment, followed by one of many sights. There were few constants around, one of them being that everything seemed artificial. The grass wasn't as lush and the sun wasn't shining just right. Others were in rooms, with portraits of mostly men plastered on the walls. It went on as thus. Had they been bound to the time, they would experience voices (arguing), people (watching), and maybe even machines (doing... things).
The voices they could hear began. "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the one and only government facility on the planet. This is where the magic happens, all of it. As the public is well aware, here the bills are signed, the laws are decided on, and the courts do their work for justice. What is lesser known, is that this is also where spies are trained, where all sorts of dark sciences are practiced and researched, and where they filmed the moon landing. You will have a hard time finding a more vital location on this planet, which is why you are free to do whatever you wish here."
"You need to know who's in power and how to deal with, or around them. Those of you who do so, get the gold. If you can't, then it's likely that you'll be dead and the rest of your peers will move on. But I'm sure that won't happen for a while," despite not seeing him, everyone feels him wink at them, "Good luck my successors, may the best of you win."
And with that, they returned to normal, or as normal as they could be, spread across the facility...