Dirge jumped out of a glassy, clear portal; her exit disturbed the surface making it ripple like water. Dread stepped out of the portal behind her and took in the sites of the Derby park. Dozens of different looping and twisting tracks surrounded by hundreds of spectators as far as she could see. On the tracks she spotted players racing around and knocking each other down.
“This is gonna be fun!” Dirge cheered as she stared at the sight. She produced a playing card sized transparent rectangle from her pocket and held it up. “Let’s test out our upgrades.” Dirge sang a short, steady, high pitched note causing the clear Node to glow with golden light. She inserted it into a small white dock wrapped around her wrist. After a bright flash of light Dread noticed Dirge’s outfit and hair changed. Instead of her black and orange lolita dress, she now wore a black short and flowy sailor skirt with orange trim along with a matching top and black thigh-high boots. Dirge twirled in place to show her outfit off to Dread, but the taller girl focused on the spinning girl’s rainbow hair.
“This is my AlterNet character,” Dirge chirped as she posed with a wide stance, then smiled.
“Nice hair,” Dread said. Dirge ran her fingers through the rainbow curls and looked at it.
“Unicorn Soul,” She smiled. “Let’s see yours.” Dread nodded and pulled her Node out. She held the clear rectangle in front of her and yelled short sonic scream at it to attune it to her. It began to glow with golden light, then she slid it into a dock on her belt buckle. A brilliant flash of light left her transformed. Instead of her red shirt and blue jeans she wore black leather pants with reinforced knee pads and black biker boots with golden buckles. Her top consisted of a black leather jacket zipped up to her neck. A black helmet with a skull drawn on the front covered her head. The skull design resembled a sugar skull decorated with golden flowers. She spun in place to show Dirge the tiger and shark yin-yang in red and blue on the back of her jacket.
“I can’t see your face.” Dirge pouted. Dread reached up and touched her helmet causing it to disappear. A pair of orange and black cat ears protruded from her bone-white hair. “Cat Soul?” Dirge asked.
“Tiger.” Dread nodded.
“Cool! Let’s go.” Dirge led the way through the crowd to look for any open challenges, Dread followed. After stopping at various tracks to check the rules Dirge found one that she seemed happy about. “This one’s a good warm-up, it’s a simple knock down challenge,” she said. Dread looked at the track in front of them. It was laid out in an oval shape with none of the corkscrews, loops, or jumps that made the other tracks so interesting.
“Looks boring,” Dread said. Dirge nodded.
“This is your first match, right? You need to get used to it before you can move on to the fun stuff. C’mon!” Dirge and Dread crossed the white line that separated the track zone from the rest of the spectators to join the game. The moment they crossed a translucent green man wearing elaborate blue and white robes appeared in front of them. His hair seemed to be a single mass sitting atop his head, it was a darker shade of green but also translucent.
“Challengers?” He asked. His voice sounded eager, but somehow ready for disappointment at the same time.
“Yep!” Dirge smiled.
“Rr-Really?!” His eyes widened. “Are you sure? Did you even look at the rules?”
“Yeah. Knock down challenge, no sweat,” Dirge said. The green man looked at the pair of girls.
“But it gives you my info too. Are you sure you want to try a knock down challenge against a Slime?” He stepped forward and his entire body jiggled like gelatin after he shifted his weight. “No one’s ever knocked me down.” Dirge dismissed his concerns with a hand wave.
“Yeah, yeah. Slime Card Mage, we got it. My friend here just wants to warm up anyway, doesn’t matter if she loses.”
“I won’t lose.” Dread spoke up in a hurry, and stood up straighter. The Slime man shrugged.
“It does matter if you lose, I’m not competing for free. Can you cover the bet?”
“It doesn’t look like you’re competing at all.” Dread said with a half smirk.
“Yeah.” He nodded, causing his entire head to wiggle. “Because I don’t do it for free. If you kids want a ‘friendly game’ go to the newbie zone.” He pointed them off the track.
“No this’ll be fine. We can cover the bet.” Dirge touched the Node on the inside of her wrist then a tiny brown leather sack appeared in her hand. She dropped the bag on the ground, and immediately the ground swallowed it up. A scoreboard appeared in the center of the oval track showing two names in blue letters.[Dread versus Jelly_Jim]
Jim nodded then turned around and wobbled his way to the starting line. Dirge grabbed Dread’s hand before she left.
“Okay, listen. He’s a Card Mage so… Oh wait. What class are you?” she asked.
“Oh, okay. Actually that’s a pretty good match up, you’ll be fine. Experiment with your class skills and get used to them. You only have to knock him down once to win, but he has to knock you down three times. Oh, and remember, your scream won’t do anything. It’s not a recognized class skill so the nanos will protect him from it. You go it?” Dirge asked.
“Yeah.” Dread nodded then walked towards the starting line.