Beachfront Morning

“Build Complete.” The woman’s voice woke Jackson. He dozed off at his computer desk the night before while playing with his newest gadget.

“Wha-huh?” The startled mid-20s man sat up groggily from his desk and wiped drool from the corner of his mouth. He glanced around his workshop to get his bearings. He knew exactly where he was, but something still seemed off. His workshop was a converted mechanic’s garage; he lived on the second floor above it. His two-story building sat in the heart of a dense city. Somehow there was always noise and traffic day or night.

Jackson noticed golden sunbeams pouring in through the windows, then realized what was bothering him. His building was flanked on both sides by taller ones. Even on a sunny day, which was very rare to begin with, he wouldn’t get that much light through those windows. And, despite the beautiful morning, everything was quiet enough to hear the waves. The usual din of morning traffic was gone.

“Waves?” He rolled in his chair to the closest window and looked out. The grungy narrow alleyway and the apartment complex that belonged there were gone. He saw sparling sapphire waves lapping at a sandy shore. A brilliant sun hung in the clear, smogless sky.

“NO WAY!” he shouted and hopped off his chair. He ran back to the desk. Even though he knew where it was, the transparent glass card was hard to see in his mess of papers and parts. Once he found the node he pressed it against his lips and made an exaggerated “muah!” sound. “You did it!” 

“So…,” he stared at the clear rectangle. “…what’s next?”

[Server Template: complete] Red text appeared on the glass and the woman’s voice spoke again.

[Server Status: undefined. Please choose a mode and name for your server.] it said.

“Yeah, okay. uh… what are my options?” Jackson asked. He walked out of his garage to bask in the sunshine while he finished setting up his Earth.

[Public AlterNet Server: This mode connects your Earth to the AlterNet and allows players to visit from other servers. This mode is recommended.] the node said.

[Private AlterNet Server: This mode connects your Earth to the AlterNet but only allows players on your Friend list to visit.] [Unlisted Server: This mode does not connect to the AlterNet. Visitors are only allowed by invitation.]

“Can I change it later? I kind of want an unlisted server, but I don’t want to get lonely.”

[Confirmed. Your server mode can be modified. Negative. You cannot change server name.] Jackson was okay with that. The serve name didn’t seem to be important. His concern about being lonely reminded him of something the node said the night before. He had been too excited by the gadget and a bit drunk to pay attention.

“You said something about deleting NPC when I reset the template. Can I not do that or undo it if it’s too late?”

[Confirmed. It is too late. This cannot be undone, but you may create new NPCs at any time.] A swarming black cloud coalesced on the sand in front of Jackon. In seconds it became a black, featureless mannequin. On the node a list of options appeared. He touched the first one that caught his eye.

The mannequin shimmered and lifted its feet off the ground. Its black color transitioned to a soft pale blue. Long golden hair sprouted from the top of its head while its legs joined together into a shining, scaley fish tail.

“Awesome…,” Jackson chose another option. The mermaid shimmered again. She became a waifish woman with rainbow hair and a single horn protruding from her forehead. He pressed another button to dismiss the mannequin and it disintegrated into sand.

“What about me? Can I change my appearance?”

[Confirmed. Creating your AlterNet character is the next step of the tutorial. Please select a mode and name for your server.

“I want to stay unlisted for now. Server name…,” Jackson looked around at the tropical beach where he planned to spend a good portion of the rest of his life. “…Paradise.”

[Negative. Server name: Paradise is in use. Please select another.]

“Heaven?”

[Negative. Server name: Heaven is in use. Please select another.]

“Oh, Hell,” Jackson whined.

[Negative. Server name: Hell is in use. Please select another.]

Jackson angrily scanned the beach for inspiration and realized the beach was covered with seashells.

“Shell Beach,” he said.

[Confirmed: Server name: Shell Beach. Server Mode: Unlisted. Please create your character.]

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