Stellar Tour 5: Zero Waiting

June 23, 2021 A person finds a computer, and upon opening up one of its tabs, finds that he can edit, remove, or add aspects to any object in the universe.

“Well, that went…,” Oz sighed. He was glad to be out of the goblin’s boardroom. “…on.” He looked around to take in his new surroundings. Astra took them to another Earth straight out of the meeting. He was outdoors now and cycled through several deep breaths. He hoped the fresh air would rinse his lungs of the stench of goblins. When he first arrived on the Paradise server he encountered a horde of zombies. At the time, it was the foulest smell he’d ever encountered in his life. Then, he walked into the goblin’s boardroom. It was hot and humid. But, the stench made him wonder if all the humidity in the air consisted solely of goblin sweat.

If there was one thing he was thankful for, it was that the goblins barely let Astra talk, much less him. Oz did not have to open his mouth once and risk tasting the air. Now he happily gulped as much air as he could, and he caught the delicious scent of cooking meat. It wafted through a giant open archway ahead of them. Beyond it was a city of tents and stalls with dozens if not hundreds of patrons pushing through the crowd from vendor to vendor.

“We shopping?” he asked. Astra shook her head but walked forward through the arch.

“Now that we got help from the goblins, we need a team. That means you need to make your AlterNet character. This server is called ‘The Schoolyard‘. It was meant to be a tutorial server; but, since it was the first stop for most new players it drew some unsavory types. Sharp Development, along with plenty of helpful players, have managed to keep reasonably civil. Now the entire Earth is pretty much a grey market.”

“The goblins agreed to help? I was holding my breath so long I might’ve blacked out; I don’t remember that. All I heard was they wanted us to challenge them to a derby game. It was hard to keep track with them talking over each other.” Astra giggled as she led Oz through the crowd.

“We’re going to need all the practice we can get anyway. That’s why they’ll only help us if we beat them.” Astra turned right. Oz turned with her and stumbled in surprise at the new path. He had been enjoying the sights and sounds of the bazaar; he saw fairies, ogres, mermaids, and more purchasing deadly weapons and shiny trinkets. But, the new path changed under his feet from a worn dirt path to a paved concrete thoroughfare. The tents and wooden stalls lining the sides were replaced with brick storefronts, glass windows, and neon signs. Oz did a quick double-take to look back down the dirt path to make sure he didn’t miss Astra Traversing them to a new Earth. The crowded bazaar was still behind them and he could return to the dirt path with a single step. Astra continued walking and he dashed to catch up as she walked into a shop. A blue neon sign on the glass door only had three letters: “Jny”.

Walking in was like stepping into a new world again. Oz wasn’t sure if he’d ever get used to the sudden changes. Before he entered, the interior appeared to be a standard curio shop with knick-knack-lined shelves. The actual shop was a white room with no one else in sight. Oz had given up trying to keep track of Ben; Astra’s pet wolf. It could turn invisible, and she could send it to another Earth with a thought. As large as it was, it spent most of its time out of sight. Then, Oz noticed a sudden movement from under the white floor. A white and red koi fish swam out of the ground and sprouted crystalline insect wings. It flitted upward to hover before Astra. The young girl waved at it.

“Hi Flynn, is Jenny around?” she asked. Oz watched the fluttering fish hoping to see a talking fish for the first time. Instead, Astra shook her head, then sighed. “No, I didn’t make an appointment. Melody sent us.” The koi’s wings disintegrated and the koi plummeted to the ground and splashed into the white floor.

A white splash ring radiated outward from Flynn’s impact. The wake of the ripple replaced the white ground with green and white checkerboard tile. A counter appeared on one side of the room; then, a small red, round table sprung out of the tile along with two seats for the table.

“We wait,” Astra said, then took a seat. Oz noticed a lit brick oven behind the counter then took in the rest of the new room.

“Is this a pizzeria?” Oz asked. He wandered to the brick oven to take a closer look.

“It’s the AlterNet,” Astra said. “It can be anything.”

“Whoa!” Oz said. He’d turned from the stove to head to the table but flashing lights on the counter caught his eyes. A smooth glass keyboard seemed to be imprinted on the wooden, worn counter. Blue letters glowed under the elongated grid of squares. Oz couldn’t suppress the instinct to reach out and bump the neon blue spacebar.

The moment he did, a large display materialized before him on the counter facing him. The screen showed a single table in a pizzeria matching the room they were in. Oz didn’t see anything that resembled a mouse and his curiosity led him to hit the backspace key.

“Ow!” Astra yelped when she landed on her bottom; both chairs were gone from the room.

“Sorry!” Oz replied. He quickly hit the spacebar to try and bring them back. Instead, the table moved about a foot away from Astra.

“It’s better if you stop,” Astra said as she stood up.

“Yeah, It really is,” a new voice said. Astra and Oz turned to see a young woman focused on Oz behind the counter. She pulled back her purple hood to reveal her dark spiky hair; then, she crossed her arms and raised a single eyebrow at Oz.

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