Star Brigade

“Go show Margo around,” the short, burly man said. He supported an unconscious man hanging over one shoulder and an unconscious woman on the other. “I’ll get her parents a dorm and get them caught up. Then I need to tell the king about Ballisea.”  Rana, a short green-haired girl, nodded.

“Thanks, Dad.” She leaned forward and pecked his cheek. “We’ll be in the library, I’m gonna show Margo the AlterNet.”

“Thank you for taking care of me and my parents Mr. Ruiz,” Margo said. The man nodded and walked away carrying her mother and father.

“C’mon!” Rana led Margo toward the other end of the large, hallway. The floor was made of sparkling white marble, with large pillars along the hallway made of the same beautiful stone.

“Who’s the king? Is he going to stop Ballisea?” Margo asked with a hopeful voice. Rana giggled but recovered quickly.

“No one can stop Ballisea. He needs to report our Earth was taken so the Academy can update their databases.”

“That’s it?!” Margo stopped walking and faced Rana. Her green eyes narrowed to angry slits. “Ballisea conquers a whole Earth, and all they’re going to do is update their records? Isn’t anyone doing anything to stop him?” Rana nodded, then lifted up a single finger.

“First,” she said. “Ballisea is a she. Second…,” Rana bent her index finger at the joints and nodded the tip of her finger in a ‘yes’ motion. “…see this?”

“Yeah?” Margo said though she didn’t know what she was supposed to be seeing. Rana wiggled the finger a couple more times, then stopped.

“That’s how much effort it takes Ballisea to conquer an Earth,” she shook her head. “The only thing we can do is stay out of her way.”

“RANA!” A girl’s voice echoed around the marble hallway. Rana and Margo turned to see an older, pink-haired girl running toward them. Two boys that she was walking with continued their slower pace toward Rana and Margo.

“JESSIE!” Rana dashed forward to meet the girl part-way and hugged her.

“When did you get here?” Jessie asked. “What’s the occasion?”

“Just now,” She shrugged. “Ballisea.” Margo caught up to them and stood next to Rana.

“Oh, that sucks. Who’s your friend? Unique?” Rana shook her head.

“Zero. This is Margo. Margo, this is Jessie.” The two boys caught up to Jessie. “Who’re those guys?” she asked.

“Mark and Andy, new Estrellas at the Academy. We decided to start a Derby team. OH!” She hopped excitedly “We need you, and Margo!” Jessie turned her attention to Margo. “Have you been in the AlterNet yet?”

“Yeah, Rana said that too. But I don’t get it. Alternate what?” Mark and Andy snickered, but Jessie turned around.

“Shut up you guys didn’t know either,” then she turned back to Margo. “Alter, net. Like internet,” she looked at Rana. “Did they have internet on her Earth?” Rana rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, a lame one.” Jessie nodded then focused on Margo again.

“It’s a game, like an MMO,” she paused and looked at Rana. “Those too?” Rana nodded. “But you only get one character. I’m a monk,” she used her thumb to gesture behind her. “Mark’s a wizard and Andy’s a chef,” she said. Then she pointed at Rana. “Rana’s a ninja.”

“We were on our way to the library to make her character,” Rana said.

“Cool! We’ll meet you there,” Jessie said. She wiggled her fingers at the air and opened a black portal. “C’mon guys.” She stepped through the portal, then both boys followed her. After the portal disappeared Rana continued toward the library.

“Did she say chef?” Margo asked as she followed.

“Yeah. His class is Craftsman, but he picked Chef as a specialty,” Rana giggled. “Although Jessie probably picked it for him.”

“When she said derby I thought she meant roller derby,” Margo shrugged. “But I don’t see how a chef would work.”

“She did mean roller derby. There’re special rules for the non-combat classes, but don’t worry about that. Pick whatever class you want.” She led Margo through a high arched opening.

“Whoooa,” Margo paused just inside the library. “I think this is bigger than our school!”  She looked up and counted three floors, each lined with floor to ceiling shelves of books. Several dozen tables dotted the open space in the middle and most of them were occupied. She turned to Rana.

“This is a school, right? How come you’re not coming here?” Rana shrugged and smiled.

“I liked our school,” she said, then started walking again. “Mudrooms are this way.” She turned down a narrow hallway near the entrance.

“Mudrooms?” Margo asked. She saw small study rooms along the hallway. Instead of tables, each one had a large hole filled with rich brown soil in the center. “What are those for.” Rana smiled as she opened the door to an unoccupied mudroom.

“It’s how you connect to the AlterNet.”

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