“Daily log number 18,” Clark spoke to a small translucent rectangle. He sat on the deck of his boat for the day and watched the orange sun setting under the purple sky. “Oh yeah, this is my first recorded log. I’ll go back and transcribe the first ones later.” The wiry man leaned back in his chaise and gave a full body stretch. He looked at the device and held it up to the sun with a smile.
“There’s a lot of big news today. First, as always, no sign of people today either. I did see a disturbing architectural trend,” Clark chuckled to himself. “A few of the houses I went into today had giant trees growing out of their living rooms. Through the roof and everything, it’s nuts. I can’t wait to find out what that’s about.”
“Second is this thing I’m recording on. It looks like a direct descendant of a cell phone.” Clark touched the screen and his bearded face stared back at him. A timer next to a red dot counted up. “It was easy enough to figure out but the bigger news is, it’s connected.” He smiled at himself in the camera, then turned it toward the sunset. “I don’t know what it’s connected to, or how it’s still running; but, I have cell service. I have INTERNET!” he cheered. Then he turned the camera towards himself and made a pouty face. His bushy eyebrows dipped low as his bottom lip grew more prominent.
“But it’s abandoned,” he sighed. “I mean, obviously because there’re no other humans here as far as I can tell. But beyond that, it seems like everyone abandoned the internet a few years after I went under.” He shrugged. “It looks like a new network showed up and people started using that instead. Something called the AlterNet.”
When he said the word the rectangular glass vibrated in his hand and glowed with a red light.
“AlterNet Server Control Panel: Activated” a feminine voice spoke. It startled Clark enough to drop the device and get off the lounge to back away. “Administrator Absent. Register New Administrator?”
“Yes!” Clark leaned down to speak to the gadget, but did not pick it up. It sounded like it wanted to give him control over something though, and he was willing to take it.
“Name?” The glow grew brighter whenever the voice spoke.
“Clark Feldman,” he replied.
“Template?” the voice asked.
“uhh.” Clark leaned down and lifted the device from the floor. He saw a long list of names on the screen. Something told him reading them out loud might be a bad idea. “Fantasy, Future, Zombie Apocalypse, Night Born.” He did not want to scroll through the list and picked the first one that appealed to him. “Future.”
Hundreds of glowing dots, the same red as the gizmo, filled the air around Clark. He glanced at the screen.
“Build Time – 12 Hours.” He glanced the pier and noticed red specks linking together as if re-constituting into larger structures. He shrugged and laid down.
“Guess it’s bed time.” He fell asleep easily.
“Sir, wake up.” He woke to the sensation of his shoulder being shoved. He opened his eyes and found a short well-dressed man on his deck. “Construction is complete. It’s time to open the server.” Clark’s hands felt noticeably empty. He sat up in a hurry and searched the chaise under him, then he rolled to the deck and looked under it.
“Where is it?” He looked up at the bald man. “Where’d you come from?” The man bowed with a flourish and extended his hand toward Clark. He showed with the glass card in his hand.
“I am it.” He stood and made the card disappear again. “It is called a node, and I am your administrative assistant. Right now I need to assist with launching the server. ” Clark stood and looked toward land. Shining glass skyscrapers reflected the rising morning sun. He watched cars flying in organized lanes and hundreds of people streaming in out of the curio shops along the pier.
“People? Where’d everyone come from?”
“Don’t mind them, they’re just NPCs. You won’t see any players until we open the server, which is why I need your authorization.”
“Hold on,” Clark held a hand up. “I don’t know what you’re saying, but I think I understood that if I didn’t open the server, no one else will show up?” “Show up from where?” he wondered to himself. The man nodded.
“Yes, sir. At the moment Clark Feldman is a private server.”
“You named the server after me? Nice,” Clark grinned.
“You named the server. When I asked for a name I meant the server name. But I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re going to stay private.”
“So, what’s going on? I know some of the words you’re saying, but not in that context. What is a server?” The man spread his arms wide and gestured at everything.
“This Earth is an AlterNet Server. The AlterNet lets people send their consciousness into another body in another universe.” The assistant held his hand up in front of Clark. It disintegrated into red dust and disappeared, then it reappeared while Clark watched. “Nanos create the body in any shape the player wants.”
“So all those NPCs?” The man nodded.
“How much autonomy do they have?” Clark caught sight of a beautiful red-haired woman walking alone on the pier.
“The default is quite scripted, but you may grant them more.”
“What else can I do?”
“The template you chose is for quick construction, but you may modify anything. Everything from the color of a single flower to the shape of the world. Populate the forest with fantasy creatures, or cause diamonds to rain from the sky.”
“So you’re saying I’m in charge of my own world here, and I don’t have to share?”