“Mr. Martez?” A short, pale woman in a black suit addressed the over-crowded waiting room. It was apparent they brought in extra chairs; more than a dozen folding chairs did not match the tasteful all-white decor of the office. Even with the extra chairs, several dozen strangers were forced to stand against the wall. A young elf with brown hair raised his hand and stood. His chair was quickly taken over by someone else. “This way please,” the woman smiled at Mr. Martez.
She led him through a small maze of doors, and into a white office that was larger than the waiting room. A white desk sat in the middle of the room and Mr. Martez recognized the pale, white-suited woman behind the desk. Ms. Sharp stood and walked around the desk as Mr. Martez walked in.
“Mr. Martez,” she extended a hand to greet him. “My name is Ms. Sharp.”
“Oh, I know!” he said excitedly. Ms. Sharp gestured at the seat in front of her desk, then walked around to sit behind it. “What can I do for you Ms. Sharp?” Mr. Martez asked. He had no idea why the most powerful woman in the multiverse wanted to see him; but, turning down an invitation from Ms. Sharp is not something anyone did. He felt less special when he saw a room full of strangers also summoned by Ms. Sharp. The few people he struck up a conversation with had no idea why they were all there. Ms. Sharp shook her head.
“This is about what I can do for you,” she said. “First, I must apologize on behalf of Sharp Development.”
“Apologize? For what?”
“For not being better prepared,” Ms. Sharp replied. “An unprecedented solar flare struck your Earth this morning,” she said with a cool, flat tone. “A non-insignificant portion of your forest was unfortunately destroyed.” Mr. Martez immediately reached up to touch his pointy ears, then he patted his chest and legs to make sure he was still intact.
“What does that mean for me?” he asked. “I feel okay.”
“It means that if you die again, the AlterNet will be unable to respawn you; I’m sorry,” she added.
“So I just have to not die.. in an MMO?” Mr. Martez asked. Ms. Sharp nodded.
“Exactly. To that end Sharp Development has arranged several ‘utopian’ servers you may choose from. Although, there is another option; if you’re interested,” Ms. Sharp said. “You are also qualified to join our research group.”
“While I intend to prevent this tragedy from happening again it’s also my duty do try and undo it. The research group would be the first to get their souls back, assuming I can do it, in exchange for letting me experiment on you.”
“What kind of experiments?” Mr. Martez asked. Ms. Sharp smiled.
“The human soul is a complicated thing, I couldn’t possibly make a guess yet. As you can imagine; it’s been a busy morning for me. The only thing I can guarantee is we will explore every avenue until we learn all we can from you.” Mr. Martez felt himself relax. It came as a surprise; he hadn’t realized he was so tense. But, everyone knew Ms. Sharp was a woman of her word. If she said she would do everything in her power to help him; she would.
“I am, unfortunately, pressed for time, there are plenty of players behind you. You don’t need to decide right this minute, but I do have to rush you out. You may browse the available Earths and choose one to get some time to think. Melody will show you the options.” Mr. Martez shook his head.
“I want to be in the research group. Please,” he said. Ms. Sharp nodded.
“Great, Melody will send you to the waiting room while I finish with the rest of the players.”
“Send m-” Mr. Martez’s question was interrupted by a portal opening under his feet. It closed as soon as he fell through it.
“That completes the third group, Ms. Sharp,” Melody said once they were alone in the office again.
“Thank you, Melody,” Ms. Sharp took a moment to glance at the clock on her computer screen. “Let’s start a fourth one. Send the next one in.”