“I just realized…,” Brooks said. He was sitting in a red and gold booth across from Margie; it was their first date and he suggested Chinese food. They made small talk until the waitress took their orders, then Brooks decided to dip into deeper conversation. “You didn’t know about other universes… so do you know about the AlterNet?” Margie shook her head.
“Alternate what?” she asked. A large grin grew on Brooks’ face.
“Alter. Net, like network,” he explained. It’s a collection of universes set up for gaming. Do you have MMOs on your Earth?” Margie nodded. “Virtual reality?” She lifted her hand and wiggled it to suggest: “sort of”.
“It’s like both of those combined, but on a bigger scale. Imagine a whole, real, actual, alternate Earth dedicated to gaming. You can be a wizard in a fantasy realm full of magic or a hi-tech cyborg soldier in a futuristic planetwide cityscape or anything between.” Brooks knocked on the wooden table. “And it all feels as real as this.”
“Wow,” Margie said. She had trouble picturing what it would be like but it sounded amazingly fun. “That sounds like an awesome Earth,” she said. Brooks shook his head and smiled.
“Oh no, it’s not just one, there are hundreds. Each Earth is a server, and different servers have different settings.
“Hundreds?” Margie was genuinely awed. Brooks nodded. Before that day she regularly daydreamed about seeing the world one day. Some days it seemed like an impossible task; the world was just too big. Now Brooks was telling her that there were at least a hundred other Earths. And they were only used for recreational purposes. She knew she had to visit.
“How does it work? Can we go?”
“Of course. We can go after eating. In the meantime, start thinking about what kind of character you’re going to make. Oh yeah,” he snapped his fingers as he remembered something. “Unique…, ” he pointed at Margie to remind her she was one too. “…powers work in the AlterNet too. A lot of us take that into account when making our character. He placed held his hand, palm side up, in front of her. It began to glow with soft orange light and Margie felt a warm current of air radiate from his hand.
“I can channel plasma through my hands so I chose to be a fire wizard. I can add plasma to my spells for more fire damage; get it?” he asked. Margie’s head bobbed at a 45-degree angle. She was trying to say yes, but her mind drifted to how she could use her abilities in the game. He mentioned she had “luck” powers, but she still didn’t really know what that meant.
“So what should I be? What can I do with luck?” she asked.
“Luck is a great stat and yours will be much higher than average,” Brooks said. The waitress delivered their food as he spoke; then left again with a quick promise to come and check on them again soon. Brooks continued. “But, there is a Cardmage specialization that for the most part only Borrachos, like you, play. They’re called Gamblers but all the abilities are luck-based,” Brooks shrugged. “It’s pretty useless to anyone that can’t control their own luck.”
“Then that’s what I’ll be,” Margie smiled, then giggled. “It’s kind of funny. On my Earth there are tons of stories about people being dragged to magical worlds to become heroes,” she winked at Brooks. “…and I get to do it on our first date.”