Dread’s black helmet dissolved into nothing, then she looked down at the bearded elf with narrowed eyes. He smiled up at her from the team bench beside the derby track.
“You know we’re Uniques?” Dread asked Jelly_Jim.
“You picked the Slime Soul just to hustle? At least it has a use,” Dirge added her own question as she handed a gold coin to Jelly_Jim.
“It was useful in beating you.” The elf’s green eyes rolled up and he turned his head away as if he embarrassed himself with the comment.
“Wait a minute…” Dirge said then reached for her Node. She pulled the transparent rectangle from the white dock that decorated her wrist; the rainbow in her hair faded to black and her black sailor skirt grew and became her favorite black and orange lolita dress. She made several swipes, then watched the Node intently. After a few seconds her jaw dropped and she looked at Dread.
“He cheated.” She looked down at the seated elf. “You cheated!” A hearty guffaw left his mouth followed by several more as he leaned over his stomach.
“You can’t cheat in the AlterNet, nanos won’t let you. It’s why you can’t use your Unique abilities,” Jelly_Jim said. He stood from the bench and stared at Dread. “Yeah, I know you’re Uniques,” he extended his hand. “#25 El Borracho, you can call me Jack.” Dread accepted his hand shake.
“I’m #42 La Calavera, and that’s #14 La Muerte.” Dread introduced them.
“This server in particular attracts more Uniques than Zeroes.” He shrugged. “After a while they get easy to spot.” Dirge continued watching her Node, then shook her head.
“Dread was powered up, how’d you knock her down?” She asked.
“As far as the system is concerned Dread knocked herself down,” Jack explained with a growing smile. He brought his hand up to show a small puddle of green translucent slime resting in is palm. He poked it with his other hand, then his finger pulled back several viscous strands. “This stuff is sticky, and it gets everywhere. It’s not my fault you skated over some and didn’t clean it off.”
“But if she ‘fell’,” Dirge used air quotes. “why did you earn the point?”
“Because you didn’t read the rules carefully. If you check them you’ll see, ‘Friendly Fire’ enabled. And she counts against herself.”
“That’s a pretty slimy thing to do,” Dirge said with a small pout. Jack nodded.
“It’s effective.” He turned his attention back to Dread. “If I’m going to train you, I need to know what I’m working with.” He walked around her in a slow circle while examining her up and down. “What are you?” Dread felt her heart jump to action; it pounded on the inside of her chest and she clenched her fists.
“What?” She asked.
“There’s something unnatural about you,” Jack said. The moment he finished speaking Dirge responded.
“HEY!” She yelled at him with a sharp edge in her voice. Dirge used a bard skill to attack as she yelled, a small blade shot from her mouth at Jack; but, he caught it between his fingers.
“Don’t worry we’ll get to PvP later,” He said, then tossed the silver blade on the white track. It disintegrated into the surface. “You’re obviously a Beastmaster,” Jack focused on Dread again. “I can’t tell what race you are, but I know it’s not human. There’s magic disguising you.” Dread giggled in the back of her mind as she let out a sigh of relief. “Let’s just do it like this,” Jack said.
“I’m Jack, my character Jelly_Jim is an elf card mage with Slime Oversoul. Alright, you go.” He pointed at Dread.
“I’m Dread, my character Dread is a mermaid beastmaster with Tiger Oversoul,” she said.
“Your actual name is Dread? What kind of parents name their child Dread?” Jack asked while scratching his beard.
“Cool ones,” Dread said. Then Dirge jumped in.
“I’m Threnody, my character Dirge is a fairy bard with Unicorn Oversoul,” Dirge said. Jack nodded.
“Are you just a mermaid, or did you pick a variant?” Jack asked Dread.
“Shark variant,” she said with a nod.
“I’m going to guess that you don’t know how to access your beasts, or you would have used them,” he said.
“Beasts? I get more than one?” Dread asked.
“You are NEW, aren’t you?” Jack glanced at Dirge and noticed she wore the same lost look that Dread did. “Very well. In that case I’ll give you a primer on each of your characters.” He gestured to Dread. “The beastmaster of course gets a beast to fight alongside, however you picked an excellent combination. I don’t know if it was luck or if you planned it out. Shark mermaids have a racial ability that grants them a shark pet, no matter what class they are. Then, Cat Oversoul grants the ability to have a pet of whatever soul you get. On top of that beastmasters have a class ability that upgrades pets to beasts that can battle. BUT, you’re a Unique. Zeroes that log in from their own universes get a pet as soon as they make their character. Uniques that play beastmaster need to tame their own, real, pet and bond with it.” Jack focused on Dirge.
“You picked a great combination too. You can change your size as a fairy, and Unicorn soul doubles all your magic stats. That nimbleness is fantastic for a bard, you can hide and keep your team buffed.” Jack turned his back to them and walked away from them and the derby track without warning. The two girls decided to follow. After several steps he looked over his shoulder to check if they were following, then he started talking again.
“I can’t start training you until you’re ready.” He lead them through the main walkway, winding through the crowds around several different derby tracks. “I can’t train a beastmaster without her beasts, and I can’t train a bard,… ” Jack reached a green door in a black brick wall. “… without her instrument.” He opened the door and walked in. The girls found a small, messy office on the other side of the door. Jack gestured at Dirge, the last one in, to close the door. She did, then he sat down at a desk overflowing with papers. He opened one of the drawers and pulled out two black keys, then handed one to each of the girls.
“So go do it. Separately.” Dirge smiled eagerly. Dread thought about it, a corner of her mouth twitched. “I need to see how well you can can do without each other,” he said. Dirge burst out laughing.
“Dread spent 400 years vandalizing Ballisea’s property, and I’ve killed entire worlds. I think we can handle ourselves,” Dirge said. Jack burst out into laughter.
“Welcome to being a Unique, that’s kid’s stuff,” he gestured to them to make his point. “But those keys’ll give you a real challenge. You’re in the big pond now, girls.”