Paz lurched awake and ready to fight. The last thing she remembered was being kidnapped by a giant spider. The 14-year-old girl sat up in a comfortable bed in a dim room that she did not recognize; and, she was not alone. The loft-like room almost seemed to be as large as Paz’s house. She rested on what she guessed was a king-size bed with red silk sheets. A pair of ornate wooden nightstands decorated both sides of the bed; each had a small lamp. A lit fireplace was tucked into one wall. A woman sat on a rocking chair, reading by firelight until she heard Paz move.
“Wh- Where am I?” Paz asked. She recognized the pink-haired woman as one of the teachers from school when she turned her attention to Paz.
“Calm down. You’re safe now,” the woman said. She stood from her seat and crossed the room to sit on the bed. “The guard spider brought you here.” Paz exhaled a bit of relief. At least she was still on the same Earth. Thinking about her mission caused her to look at the woman with new appreciation. It could not be a coincidence that she ran into this particular teacher.
“Ms. Knight?” she asked. “Where’s Oren?” Ms. Knight’s delicate features hardened and her eyes narrowed.
“Who told you he was here, and who did you tell?” she asked Paz.
“No one!” Paz said. “It’s why I came alone.” she looked down at the red sheets and lowered her voice. “Jenny told me accidentally, but I promised her I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Jenny…,” Ms. Knight growled in the back of her throat, then she shook her head and looked back at Paz. “And? What do you want, an autograph? Your own nanos? If you’re just here to ask for things, go home.” Paz shook her head.
“No! I’m not asking for anything, someone is asking for him.” Anger flashed in Ms. Knight’s eyes and she stood from the bed.
“So you’re just going to hand him over to someone else that’s going to use him like Dana Sharp did?” She said with harsh sarcasm. “Or maybe this person only wants to kill him like Mommy Ballisea? Hmm? Oren wants to be left alone until the tournament.” Paz climbed out of bed during Ms. Knight’s accusations to plead with the woman. She shook her head.
“No! It’s not like that, it’s…,” Paz hesitated. It sounded crazy, and if she had not been there to see it she would not believe it either. “… it’s an NPC,” she said. That gave Ms. Knight a moment’s pause.
“What?” she asked the girl.
“On Oren’s server, there’s an NPC asking for him. We think she might be a Unique.”
“Uniques can’t be born on AlterNet servers,” Ms. Knight said matter-of-factly. Paz nodded to show she knew that.
“That’s why it’s odd,” Paz said.
“Which server?” Ms. Knight asked. “Oren has several.”
“Uh..,” Paz made a gesture with her hand as if she were plucking something out of the air, but nothing happened. “… there aren’t any nanos here? I need my node,” she said.
“This room is isolated from AlterNet nanos, just tell me about the NPC,” Ms. Knight said. “Is she part of a quest?”
“It’s a 900-year-old server,” Paz nodded. “There’s a quest in a goblin cave. At the back, there’s a cage with a princess in it; she’s the one asking for Oren.”
“Tell me more about the cave,” a man’s voice said. Paz jumped and looked toward the new voice. A tall, lean, young man stood in one corner of the room. His skin was so pale he almost glowed in the dark, he wore all black clothes. Ms. Knight sighed and sat back down by the fire to keep reading. Now that Oren decided to talk to the girl himself, she had nothing else to do.
“Oren!” Paz cheered and eagerly explained the cave quest.
“There’re no monsters on the way in, but there’re four or five ambushes on the way out.”
“You said one of my servers. 900 years?” he asked. Paz nodded. Distant memories flickered at the back of Oren’s mind as he tried to remember what his life was like so long ago. He remembered what belonging to a family felt like. “Show me,” he said. A tall black portal opened in the center of the room. Paz nodded and jumped into the portal. “You too, Justice,” Oren glanced at Ms. Knight with soft eyes. “Please,” he added.