Star Creation

[SP] A world like ours except it has an mmo like systems in it, like leveling, respawning, and loot dropped from enemies.

“Welcome to the AlterNet!” Mark heard a woman’s voice behind him and turned around. He stood outside in a golden field of grains under a darkening purple sky. A black, featureless mannequin hovered inches off the ground in front of him.

“Jessie!?” Mark yelled; he ignored the mannequin-like Jessie told him to. After a moment a tall, black portal opened next to Mark. A pink-haired young woman stepped out. As she stepped into the wheat field her clothes changed from a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt to a bright pink martial arts gi.

“Manual tutorial override,” the woman said to the mannequin. The black figure nodded, then disintegrated into tiny black dots. A small group of dots flew from the mannequin to Jessie’s left hand and the rest disappeared. A black bracelet swarmed a ring around her wrist.

“So, this is the AlterNet,” Jessie finally turned her attention to Mark and smiled. She spread her arms wide to indicate the entire landscape. Mark inspected his hands with wide eyes.

“This is amazing. It feels so real,”  he said as he took turns making fists with each hand. Jessie nodded and held her hand up to show him the black dots around her wrist.

“But your body is just a whole bunch of these,” she smiled. “Lesson one: AlterNet Servers are real Earths.” Jessie walked forward and jabbed her index finger into his shoulder. He winced in pain and pulled back.

“Hey, that hurt!”  Jessie nodded.

“You…,” she poked him again, lighter. “…are back at the academy safe and sound. Your consciousness is projected here using nanos,” She jiggled her wrist at him to draw his attention to the nanos. “But I am actually here. If you die you get to respawn, but since I’m actually here I don’t get that luxury. Keep it in mind when you’re playing.” Mark chuckled.

“I’ll just log in remotely then. I don’t feel like risking my life,” he said.  Jessie shook her head and smiled. She held up her right hand and made a tight fist. It began to glow with a bright orange light, but Mark watched the color transition to bright blue.

“Stellar Strike!”  Jessie turned her body slightly and punched the air in front of them. All at once a roaring gale flew forward, seemingly out of her hand, and mowed down a 10-foot wide column of wheat. The grains doubled over as if stomped on by a giant, and the damaged tract extended farther than Mark could see. After a quiet moment, the flattened stalks ignited into a bright blue flame. Jessie turned back to Mark with a smile.

“Lesson two: You want to play in person. The system boosts Unique abilities, but only if you’re here in person.”

“Can I do that!” Mark asked. He made a fist and stared at it intently.

“Only if you pick the Monk class,” Jessie replied. “Lesson three: Create your character wisely. You can’t reroll a character once you make it; and, not all AlterNet servers are the same. Some servers only allow certain class and race combinations,” she shrugged. “Some Earths don’t know they’re a server. Choosing a human is the most flexible choice.”

“Alright, I’ll take your word for it,” Mark nodded. “I’ll be human, what are the classes?” Jessie shook her head.

“There’re 25 classes, and I don’t feel like going through them all. What kind of character do you normally make in games?”

“Wizard,” Mark said without hesitation. Jessie nodded.

“That’s a good choice, but there are a few different specializations. Do you want fire, ice or lightning? By the way, fire would sync up the best with your Unique ability.”

“Can I do something like that?” Mark pointed at the flattened section of the field, but it was no longer flat and smoldering. The golden crops had regrown and were now swaying in the breeze. “Or I guess like the damage you did?”

“More,” Jessie smiled. “Now you just need a soul.”

“A soul?” Mark asked. Jessie nodded.

“AlterNet characters can have souls different from their race,” Jessie said. She held up her right hand and made a fist again. Instead of igniting with flame it darkened and turned into dark grey iron. She opened her hand and wiggled metal fingers at Mark. “To give you an idea of how it all works together; I’m a human monk with the soul of a metal elemental.” Jessie slammed her metal fist into her other hand and her entire body became darkened iron. She did it again and her iron skin changed back to her normal, fair, skin color.

“Wow, alright. What souls are there?” Jessie shook her head again.

“Too many. There are 25 races, so you can pick from any of those. On top of that, there’re another group of special souls you can pick that aren’t a playable race. I’ll pick for you. You get a unicorn soul.”

“Wait, why unicorn? What about like an elf or something? I’m assuming elves are a thing.”

“They are. An elf soul will give you a magic bonus, but the unicorn soul grants an AoE bonus,” Jessie said. She tapped Mark’s forehead. “As a fire wizard, you want the AoE bonus.”

“Alright, unicorn it is,” Mark stood up straighter and met Jessie’s eyes. “Make my character.”

Star Tour

“… and you can find those here in the library,” Jessie said. The pink-haired woman’s tour of the academy grounds ended inside the largest library Mark had ever seen. He looked upward to and realized there were several more floors to the giant library. Most of the tables were occupied. “You’ll be spending a lot of time here since the books can’t leave.” Jessie started walking further into the library.

“They can’t leave? Why not?” Mark asked as he followed her. She walked along the wall and turned into a hallway. They passed several windows with what Mark thought were study rooms inside. Until he saw one room in use; a student lay in a pit of mud inside the room.

“There’re books in here from over 100 universes. We like to keep them from ending up somewhere they don’t belong. But there are some pretty neat exhibits too.” She stopped walking and pointed through a window. “This is my favorite.”

On the other side of the window, a large clear vase sat atop a black pedestal. The vase held a single golden, flaming rose. A soft, weak flame danced along the top of the rose petals.

“Whooaa,” Mark said. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s called a Dragonbreath rose.”

“Where are the rest?” Mark asked.

“No one knows. The Earth this one came from is gone.” Jessie said, then shrugged. “So, that’s the tour. Any questions?”

“Yeah,” Mark nodded. “What’s fun around here?”

“Oh my gosh!” Jessie grinned. “You saw the mud pits, right?” She pointed down the hall at one of the windows.


“And you don’t know what they are?”


“Come on!” Jessie grabbed his hand and pulled him toward one of the rooms. “You need to try the AlterNet!”

Star Recruit

“Your Earth is pretty,” Jessie said. The pink-haired woman stared up at the glittering stars in the night sky. She and Mark sat on the lonely park bench at two in the morning.

“It’s not bad,” Mark shrugged. He stared at the ground while he sorted his thoughts. He’d had a fairly stressful day and needed a bit of a break before he decided what to do next. He was grateful for Jessie’s company. “But wow, the academy is really something else,”

“It is,” Jessie agreed. “But if you accept the invitation to attend, you’ll learn to appreciate each Earth in its own way.”

“Is there anything left for me to learn?” Mark asked. A blue glow washed over his hands, then dissipated. “I don’t even know how I learned what I know,” He shrugged.

“I’m sure that was part of Julius’ plan,” Jessie replied. “And that proves that you’ve still got plenty to learn.”

“How so?” Mark looked up from the ground to her. Jessie grinned.

“We,” she pointed at Mark, then herself. “Estrellas can kind of jump-start the abilities of other Estrellas. Whoever set you up to kill the King made sure you could use your flow at least.”

“At least?” Mark chuckled. “Between that and traversing between universes what else could there possibly be?”

“This is why you should attend the academy,” Jessie rolled her eyes and sighed. “Alright, here’s a short version. Estrellas are like masters of energy.” She locked eyes with Mark. He watched golden stars begin to glow around her red irises. “We can see energy like auras and stuff.” The golden stars in her eyes faded, then she waved a hand at the nearest lamp post. The light grew brighter until she made another gesture, then it dimmed. “And we can control nearby energy to an extent.” Jessie held a hand out in front of her with her pointer finger aimed at the ground. A soft orange light glowed around her finger until a single drop of fiery plasma dripped out of her finger onto the sidewalk. It hissed as the drop melted itself into the concrete.

“Why is yours orange?” Mark asked. He already knew how to do that move. He held his hand out and dripped a bright blue drop. It hissed and sputtered louder than hers.

“You’re pulling plasma out of a real star somewhere. Some stars burn hotter and some are cooler.”

“No way! Wait. Does that mean I can run out? Can other Estrellas use my star? Can I switch stars? Can I-” Jessie interrupted him with a sharp slap on his cheek.

“I’m not going to answer any of those questions,” she winked at him. “You can learn all those answers at the academy.”

“Alright,” Mark nodded. “I want to learn more about what I can do, I’m in.”

Framing Device

It’s gotta be somewhere,” Mark stuck close to the wall as he shuffled down the narrow, bright hallway. White marble floors and whiles reflected sunlight throughout the hall. Mark needed to squint to avoid the bright pain. “Where the hell am I?

“There you are!” An angel wearing a black and gold robe emerged from an unseen hallway and rushed to Mark’s side. “It’s time for the ascension exam.” The angel grabbed Mark’s arm and led him forward. “It might be, ‘just a formality’ but you should still take it seriously.” Mark stopped letting the angel lead him.

“What are you talking about? Where am I?” The angel rolled his purple eyes and shook his head.

“I can’t believe you went out drinking the night before your big day. You know how foggy you get.”

“No, I didn’t!” Mark argued. “ow…” His own loud voice reminded him of his headache.  The angel gave Mark a stern look.

“You’re going to tell me you didn’t go out drinking last night?” he asked with a raised, silver eyebrow. Mark shook his head.

“I didn’t have a big day planned today…,” he said.

“NOT A BIG DAY!?” the angel yelled. Mark flinched and brought his hands up to support his head; he worried it was ready to fall off. “Not a big day?” the angel repeated the question with a softer voice. “I said it was just a formality, but you’re still becoming a king.” The angel grabbed Mark’s arm and pulled him forward again.

“King? Who’s a king?” Mark asked while trying to keep up with the angel.

“Keep it together, man. Look, it’s simple. The exam is just to prove you’re of royal blood, and we both know you are. All you have to do is walk out there and show them your flow.”

“Flow? What flow?” The angel sighed heavily.

“You forgot how to use your flow?” Mark shrugged.

“You got the wrong guy, I never had it. I don’t even know what it is!” Mark nodded politely at the angel. “I hope you find him, I’ll see you around.” He walked away from the angel but was stopped by a jet of bright orange, blazing hot magma hitting the white marble wall ahead of him. The jet, coming out of the angel’s hand, melted a large hole in the wall. Then he closed his hand to interrupt it.

“It’s called Plasma Flow. You just have to try.”

“Try what? To shoot fire out of my hands?” Mark complained. The headache seemed to make the situation worse for him, he was running out of patience. “I don’t know magic! I don’t even know where I am! It’s not like I’m just gonna raise my hand at the wall and pour fire out.” Mark raised his hands as he described the motion, then a small, thin stream of bright blue liquid fire poured out of his palm. It melted the floor under him. The angel lifted a silver eyebrow at Mark. “What!?” Mark shouted in surprise, but he had enough sense to close his hand.

“Now do you believe me?” the angel asked.

“What the hell…” Mark whispered to himself while inspecting his hand.

“Come on!” The angel yelled and yanked Mark forward. They turned around one corner, then several more. The angel led Mark through the maze of bright marble hallways until they reached a large, tall metal door. It stood over twice Mark’s size and he was not a short man.

“I know you’re not all here, it’s fine. Get through this first and I’ll yell at you later. When they ask you who you are, you say…,” the angel gestured at Mark.

“Uh… Mark?” The angel shook his head.

“You say, ‘#35 La Estrella, Mark.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Mark shrugged.

“You do when you’re sober. It’s what they want to hear. When they ask you to prove it, show your flow.” Mark half-heartedly lifted his hand and bright blue plasma poured out onto the floor. “Try to be more impressive,” the angel sighed. “Pretend it’s a water hose.” Mark lifted his hand to try but the angel stopped him. “Inside. Aim for the big angel with white wings,” the angel turned his body to show Mark his left wing. “…like mine. That’ll really wow them.”

“Okay. And then?”  The angel smiled and patted Mark on the shoulder.

“That should be more than enough. If there are any doubts left, remind them that you represent the White Dragon Army. Got it?” The angel asked. Mark grinned.

“I’ve always wanted to be a king. This is awesome!”

“In you go,” the angel shoved Mark toward the door. The confused king-to-be slammed into the door.

“ENTER!” a deep voice echoed from inside the room. Mark steeled himself and pushed against the tall door. He pushed the door open, into the room, enough to step through, then he turned back to the angel for reassurance.

“You’ll be great,” he gave Mark a thumbs up gesture. “Remember, like a water hose.”

“Right,” Mark nodded. He disappeared into the room and the door closed behind him.

Better go,” the angel thought to himself and started down the hall. After turning the first corner away from the main hall he heard someone call his name.

“Prince Julius!!” an angel shouted in front of Julius. The winged-man rushed over. “There’s an intruder! Get to your father! I’ll raise the guard!” Julius stopped the angel with a hand on his shoulder.

“I leave my father to you, I’ll get the guard!”

“But my Prince?”

“I’ll keep those White Dragon bastards away from my father. Spread the word: All agents of the White Dragon are to be killed on sight.”


“Thanks for letting me get my stuff,” Red said. The portly, white-haired man tugged at his neon green suspenders. He let them slap against his black t-shirt then reached into the small desk again. “Feels good to be myself again!” Billy, a lean man in a navy blue suit, nodded at Red.

“You need your gear, I get it. But why is your stuff in an old school on an empty Earth?” Billy asked. They stood in a condemned classroom with aged, cracked walls and floors. Obscene layers of moist dust coated every desk. When Red lifted the lid on his chosen desk the dust did not slide off; it remained affixed to the desktop. Red pulled a small, transparent rectangle out of the desk and smiled at Billy.

“It wasn’t empty when I got here.” His smile dimmed. “My partner ditched me. Without a way off the Earth, I knew I’d get caught. Hid my node,” he tapped the glassy rectangle against his head.

“Now’s a good time to remind you. No killing unless I approve it.” Red nodded.

“Fair enough. I won’t touch a Unique without your say-so, Boss.” Red straightened his back and gave Billy a mocking salute. Billy shook his head.

“Zeros too.”

“What? C’mon!” Red’s hands flew up in exasperation. “They’re everywhere and so squishy. It’s almost impossible not to kill them.”

“This isn’t a negotiation,” Billy replied. “It’s simple: If you kill anyone or anything without my consent you’ll be going back to the raft. A significantly smaller one.”

“Fine,” Red said as he hung his head. “I’m set, I guess. Let’s move on.” Billy nodded then raised his hand in the air. He wiggled his fingers and opened a tall, black portal.

“I need to assess your AlterNet character,” Billy explained. Red nodded and stepped out of the classroom through the portal. On the other side of the portal, Red emerged into a large open-air colosseum. A bright yellow sun hung in the sky, but all the seats were empty. Red’s body changed. Instead of the portly, white-haired, middle-aged man, he now looked like a portly, blue-haired clown. His ‘hair’ consisted of fine, long rubber strands in various shades of blue. His face became a ghostly, creamy white color. His neon green suspenders rested against a black leather tunic. Billy walked out of the portal and stood next to Red in the middle of the dirt arena.

“PvP?” Red asked. Billy nodded then walked away to the edge of the battleground. “Where’re you going?” Red asked.

“Out of the way,” Billy called back over his shoulder as he kept walking.

“Fire Spike!” A swordmage uncloaked next to Red the moment he used a sword skill. Red noticed a long, thin fencing foil that glowed bright orange with heat. The blue-haired clown sidestepped to avoid the attack. He raised his hand in the air as his body rotated to avoid the piercing attack. He made a fist, then his white-gloved hand inflated like a balloon. Red brought the inflated fist down on the swordmage’s head and laid the man out.

“Blindside!” A thief appeared behind Red but the clown reacted quickly. He spun around and slammed his inflated fist against the thief and sent him flying.

“Why is everyone,-” Red began to yell a question at Billy, but he was interrupted by another attack.

“Earthsplitter!” A knight appeared several feet away from Red. He used a large double-bladed battle axe to cleave the ground in front of him. The earth quaked and jutted upward as a shockwave of energy flowed toward Red. The round clown inflated both of his hands in front of him. He held his ballooned hands up with his palms out and inflated them further. The shockwave bounced off his rubbery hands and traveled back to the knight. The armored figure wasn’t ready and the energy washed past him. Its wake slammed him against a pillar at the edge of the arena.

“Why is everyone invisible?!” Red shouted his question at Billy. The lean man shrugged.

“Easy inanimates,” he replied.

“Iron Typhoon!” A ninja appeared and swung an ornamental black and gold hand fan at Red. A ball of whirling air flew at Red and grew larger as it traveled. The clown took a moment to sigh, then he adjusted his stance. He placed both feet together and shifted all his weight downward.

The gust of wind reached him and spun itself around him. Red was knocked backward, but his feet remained in place. His body remained stiff as he rose from the ground like a punched bop bag resetting itself. The wind knocked him down again; the impact made a hollow thud. After a moment on the ground, Red rose again. By the second time the wind dissipated. The ninja cocked his head at Red in confusion.

“That’s enough!” Billy called out. Half a dozen other figures appeared in the arena, then headed toward their nearest exit. Billy walked out to Red.

“I expected to be impressed, but I’m still pleasantly surprised,” Billy said. “Red, you’re definitely the right man for the job.”

“I said you could call me, ‘Red’ when we’re traveling together.” Red shook his head and grinned at Billy. “But in the AlterNet call me, ‘LaughTrack’.”

Sharp Contact

“Could this be a hoax?” The gathered men and women sitting around the long boardroom table all shook their heads.

“No, Mr. President,” one of the men said. “We’ve done an exhaustive analysis of the signal and everything indicates that this is a genuine event. Despite no sign of any vessels in orbit around the Earth. Not only are they trying to communicate; the signal was meant for us. They want to meet with you.” The president sat up straighter and looked at the scientist.

“I guess all that ‘take me to your leader‘ stuff turned out to be true,” he chuckled. “I’m impressed you guys translated it so fast. As I understand it you only got the signal a couple of hours ago.” The scientist shook his head. The rest of the men and women began to rise out of their chair and head out as if the meeting were over.

“There was nothing to translate, the message was in English. They didn’t ask for our leader…,” he paused and looked around. He was left alone with the president. “They asked, specifically, for the ‘president of the United States.’  I’m sure you can appreciate how much more surprising that is.”

“What about the U.N.? Any movement on that end?” the nameless scientist shook his head.

“As far as we can tell, Mr. President, the message was meant for us and only for us.”

“Fantastic news. I’ll meet them since I don’t have to worry about the U.N. breathing down my neck. Any idea of what they look like? I’d like to be prepared if I’m going to shake hands with a tentacle monster.”

“That message only contained audio data. I’d suggest you plan to shake hands with a tentacle monster, just in case.” The president nodded.

“Set it up, as soon as possible.”

“Actually, Sir, they said the same thing. They’re already standing by.”

“Well,” the President stood from his seat. “Lead the way, let’s not keep them waiting.” The scientist nodded and stood to lead the President out. They picked up the guard detail waiting outside the conference room. He led them through a maze of fluorescent lights and narrow, white corridors. They reached a lab where all the other men and women that were in the boardroom disappeared to. Each of them seemed focused on his or her own task; they were getting ready to monitor the impending visit.

“Are you able to send any messages back?” The President asked. The scientist that had been accompanying him shook his head.

“They told us how to let them know when we’re ready, but we could not figure out how to communicate beyond that.” The President nodded.

“Let them know we’re ready.” The scientist held his hand out to the President and offered him two small, yellow earplugs.

“You’ll need these.” After the President accepted the earbuds, the scientist walked to a nearby control panel and pressed a button. The lab immediately filled with a low rumbling sound as the speakers played a certain frequency. All the scientists in the lab put in their own earplugs while the lead turned a knob to raise the volume. The rumbling grew louder, and everyone covered their ears with their hands; the earplugs did not do enough to block out the sound.

After several loud moments, a small black dot appeared in the air in front of the president. It looked like a dead 3d pixel stuck in the air.

“STEP BACK MR. PRESIDENT!” A member of the security team placed a hand on the President’s shoulder and yelled to be heard over the rumbling. The black dot grew taller and wider until it looked like a hole in reality. The scientists in the lab gathered around the anomaly pointing different instruments at it. They fell into a sort of orbit around the black hole; the shape mesmerized them. Each one realized no matter what angle they looked at the hole, it looked like a hole. They expected it to thin and flatten its shape when viewed from the side, but it resembled a perfect hole no matter how they looked at it.

Two pale, dark-haired women and a small black cat stepped out of the hole. The tall woman wore a white business dress, the shorter one wore black. The cat had a red skull-like pattern on the fur atop its head.  Once they exited the hole it disappeared. The scientist stopped the rumbling frequency.

“Mr. President, my name is Dana Sharp. I believe we can do business together.”

“You’re human?” The President asked. Dana nodded.

“How? How did you travel here? Where did you come from? What can you tell us about what’s outside the galaxy?” Ms. Sharp’s eyes narrowed; she squinted at the President in confusion.

“We came from an alternate Earth. We don’t know and don’t care about anything outside the galaxy. There’re too many interesting Earths to think about that kind of thing.”


“What about that one?” Roger pointed at a sleek, white cube by the door. It appeared to be made of translucent crystal, but the material was so dense the inside could not be seen. The gnomish shopkeeper shrugged. He sat on a raised platform behind the till.

“Found it. Couldn’t get it open. As is, 300.” The gnome said.

“300? For a nice, but likely empty, box?” The gnome grinned.

“It’s heavier than it looks; it’s got something in it.” Roger walked to the perfect cube; its height reached his waist. He crouched on his metal legs then wrapped his metal arms around the box. His torso and head were the only human parts he had left. The cyborg pushed up with his legs and lifted the crystalline cube. He cleared about half a foot, then dropped it down again. It landed on the stone floor with a hollow thud.

Must remain in disguise,” the war sentinel reaffirmed its course of action to itself.

“It’s heavy alright,” Roger said to the gnome. “Doesn’t mean anything, though. I’ll give you 200 for it.”

“205 just so I can say we haggled,” the gnome replied. Roger agreed with a nod. He held his palm out and a small, three-inch golden cube, gathered in his hand. Then he gave the cube to the gnome.

“205 plus everything else.” The gnome closed his hand around the cube. When he opened it again the cube was gone.

“I’ll send it to your guild hall,” the gnome replied with a friendly smile. “Thanks for your business!”  Roger nodded, then turned to leave. The moment he stepped out of the shop the gnome called after him.

“Wait!” Roger stopped at the door and faced the gnome. The tiny man shrugged.

“All sales are final,” he said. Roger gave the gnome a confused look.

“Okay,” he turned to leave again.

“That thing…,” he pointed at the cube next to Roger. “…isn’t recognized by the nanos. You’ll have to carry it home. No returns,” he reminded Roger. The cybernetic man sighed but nodded. He crouched, grabbed the cube, then stood up again. This time he had a better idea of how much it weighed and put his machinery to work. He lifted the heavy cube with ease and walked out of the shop.

Advanced robotics detected. Appraising anachronistic anomaly.” The war sentinel discreetly scanned Roger while the man carried him out to the main road. Roger stopped next to an old beat up pickup truck and dropped the cube onto the bed.

“Well, no sense carrying you home if you’re worthless,” Roger patted the top of the cube. “Let’s see what’s inside.” Roger hovered his hands in the air in front of himself. His fingers moved rapidly as if he were typing on a chest-high keyboard. A white powder bloomed into the air inside the truck, but it did not float higher than the edges of the bed.

Scan complete. Combination of organic and mechanical lifeform detected. Attempted non-invasive scan detected. Probability: friendly lifeform. Action: Request assistance.” A golden light began to glow from inside the cube and show through the outer white crystal. Roger noticed it immediately.

“Whoa..what’s that?” His fingers wiggled in the air and the white dust in the bed of the truck settled down.

“My name is Metro,” the cube said. The golden light in its interior flickered and modulated as it spoke. “I am lost. Please assist.”

“Metro, huh?” Roger asked. He climbed into the truck and sat down next to the cube. “You’re a cute little cube, Metro. Where’d you come from?”

“Current appearance is in disguise. Origin: Earth. Metro traveled through a dimensional portal and cannot find a path to return to Earth.” Roger patted the top of the cube.

“Yeah, that happens a lot around here. We can get you home, I know an Estrella. Disguise, huh? Can I see the real you?”

“Request for assistance: Approved. Request to reveal identity: Approved.” Golden lines formed around the cube and pieces separated from the core. A golden swarm of nanos whirled around the cube for a moment, then disappeared. When the nanos cleared a short, spindly, humanoid robot stood in place of the cube. Its body consisted of a white crystalline skeleton with golden energy flowing through it. Its head was a bald, blank abstraction with indentations where the eyes, nose, and mouth should be.

“Man, you’re something else, Metro. I think we’re gonna be great friends,” Roger said.

“Request for friendship: Approved.”

Sharp Takeover

“Thanks for the company, Dana! See you tomorrow night,” The pale, blonde woman waved at Dana Sharp then faded away. Her ghostly form gave way to rays of golden sunlight. Despite not sleeping a wink, Ms. Sharp got ready for work as she would any other day. Without complaint. 30 minutes later she sat in her office with her secretary, Melody, sitting in front of her desk.

“Alternate universes are real,” Ms. Sharp said. Melody nodded; she did not know how else to react. “I met a Dreamer last night. She appeared and we fell into a conversation. I learned a lot from her.”

“She’s from an alternate universe?” Melody asked. Dana nodded.

“I suspect she’s another version of me, but I don’t know if she has the same suspicions,” she shrugged. “It’s not worth mentioning. The important thing is she’s able to project herself here using technology common on her Earth,” Ms. Sharp smiled. “Technology that she’s going to teach me to build.”

“That’s great!” Melody smiled. “Did you learn anything I can get started on you for today?” Ms. Sharp nodded.

“I don’t know if it’s related yet, but she mentioned something called a Unique Soul. Run Mr. Spinne’s soul through another round of tests and compare it against the normal souls we have. She used the word “frequency” often; focus on its vibrations. Chart everything.” Melody nodded

“Yes, Ms. Sharp.” Melody nodded, stood, then left the office. Ms. Sharp kept busy for the rest of the day and evening. She made it home at 9 p.m. and found the familiar stranger, Samantha, sitting on her couch.

“Hope you don’t mind I’m early,” Samantha said. “I hit the hay early tonight.” Dana shook her head and sat next to the woman on the couch.

“Is this tech really available for everyone in your universe?” Dana asked. She picked up the conversation that they did not finish the night before. Samantha smiled.

“Yep! It started out as a VR game called the AlterNet,” she shrugged. “But I guess they’re trying new things.”

“So you don’t know how they got the tech?” The blonde shook her head.

“No idea. Sorry. But, I was able to save the few technical manuals I could find on it.” Samantha stood from the couch and stuck her hand out at Dana. A playing-card-sized transparent rectangle of glass appeared on her hand. “Here.” Dana accepted the clear object and looked it over.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a node. I guess the equivalent would be… do you have cell phones yet?” Dana nodded.

“How did you bring me this from your universe?”


“Nanos? Like nano-technology?”

“Yeah, kind of I guess? I don’t know the details but here it is as I understand it. My consciousness is controlling a swarm of nanos on your Earth.” The woman twirled around, her blonde hair fluttered through the air. “They give me a solid shape. I uploaded all the data into the headset, so it got transmitted to this Earth along with my consciousness. Then I gave you a swarm of nanos that are in the shape of a node, and they have all the information already. Make sense?”

“Not especially,” Ms. Sharp said. She held up the node. “But, here it is I guess. Thank you.” Samantha nodded. Ms. Sharp swiped at the node and the display glowed to life to show her the time. “Very nice.” She put the node down then looked at Samantha.

“I’d like to meet whoever’s in charge of the company that’s selling this tech. Can you arrange a meeting?” Dana asked.

“I have nothing to do with their company, I’m just a consumer. I can tell them about you, but that’s about it,” Samantha shrugged.

“That’s good enough. Tell them Dana Sharp, from another universe, wants to buy their company.”

Expositional Service

“You didn’t need to close,” Flutter said. The giant red-headed woman bowed respectfully in front of the frail, elderly woman a quarter of her size. “But, I appreciate it. It’ll be nice to eat in peace for once.” Donna Chang, the old woman, gestured for Flutter to stand up and sit at the table.

“If I don’t close…,” Mrs. Chang smiled up at the pale woman. Even seated, the woman towered over the restaurant owner. “Takeru falls behind on his orders. He can’t keep up with your appetite and customers.” Flutter grinned.

“I hope he’s warmed up. I’m starving,” Mrs. Chang nodded, then faced the room’s exit. The two women were in a small, private section of Donna Chang’s restaurant. Flutter took up most of one side of the room behind a large-built table.

“Britt!” the old woman called out the opening. A dark skinned teenager with twin afro-puffs on her head jogged into the room. The girl froze when she saw Flutter.

“Whooa.. You’re huge!” She said. Flutter smiled.

“Wait for Takeru to finish a dish, then bring it here as soon as it’s ready,” Donna told the girl. “Then you’ll go back and wait for more.”

“Keep ’em coming!” Flutter added. Britt nodded and turned to leave. She stopped at the entrance then turned back around.

“Hey, did Dread really move you?” she asked with a skeptical voice.

“Flutter is here to eat not answer questions,” Donna reminded the girl. Flutter waved her hand at Donna dismissively.

“It’s okay. Tell ya what. Every plate you bring me gets you one answer. Sound good?”

“Yeah!” Britt dashed out of the room.

“Unique?” Flutter asked; she tilted her head at the room’s exit.

“An Estrella,” Donna nodded.

“Estrella?” Flutter’s eyes narrowed. “Are you-“

“Forget the first question. Did Dirge & Dread really knock you down?” Britt yelled from the door as she entered the room with a steaming plate of beef and vegetables.

“Tall girl with white hair and a short one with black hair right?” Britt nodded at Flutter as she placed the plate down. “They did, that Calavera’s a strong kid,” Flutter said. She grabbed the pair of chopsticks. “Although, I wasn’t logged in at the time,” she winked at Britt.

“Awesome!” Britt dashed out the door again. Flutter wasted no time and began shoveling food into her mouth.

“Yes, I’m teaching her,” Donna answered the question Britt interrupted. Flutter raised an eyebrow while cycling food into her mouth. She swallowed everything whole.

“As a favor for a friend,” Donna replied. “On the condition that I can stop any time she breaks the rules or reaches her limit. Right?” The old woman asked the doorway.

“Yes, Mrs. Chang.” Britt entered with a new plate of food, and a question, as Flutter finished the first one. “Are you really a dragon like her?” Britt gestured at the frail woman. Smooth golden scales grew out of Flutter’s pale, light skin and covered her entire body. She shook her head.

“I’m only half dragon,” Flutter said. Two sets of transparent, veiny insect wings extended out of her back. “Half fairy.” The wings retracted into her back and the golden scales retreated into her skin.   “I can’t shapeshift, the scales are my only trick.”

“Ohhhh,” Britt said. She bussed Flutter’s first plate out of the room. Flutter started inhaling food again.

“She has potential,” Mrs. Chang said. Flutter nodded but did not seem to have any more questions. After a few silent minutes, Britt came through the door again.

“You’re nice,” Britt said. She swapped out the empty plate for a new, full one. “Why do you work for Ballisea?”

“I don’t have a choice,” Flutter replied. “Donna can explain it to you later; it’s kind of long to get into now.” Flutter and Britt looked at Mrs. Chang for confirmation. The old woman nodded. Britt left and Flutter worked on the newest plate of food. Mrs. Chang remained silent while Flutter ate. After several minutes Britt walked in to change out the plates.

“Will you help me train?” She asked. “I wanna see if I can move you like Dread did.” Flutter looked at Mrs. Chang but the old woman did not seem to care what she answered.

“Yeah, that sounds fun,” she said.

“Thank you!” Britt yelled. She turned and headed out of the room.

“Wait, no more food,” Flutter said before Britt left. The girl turned around with a surprised look on her face.

“Mrs. Chang said you could eat for hours,” Britt said. She cast a sideways glance at Donna.  Flutter nodded.

“I can,” she stood from the table and looked down at the girl. “But I want to work up an appetite first, let’s go see what you can do.”

Zero to 46

“83 years, not bad, but it isn’t the record,” the young Ellis said. The elderly man nodded and grinned.

“Better’n you by the looks of things. What were you? 20? 21?” Old Ellis glanced around the larger than usual room. It resembled a cafeteria. Both men, young and old, sat one of the dozens of round tables. Normally he woke up in a small office while he waited for his case worker. “Where’s Ezey?”

“20,” the young man replied. “I dunno. He told me to wait here.” The old man nodded.

“So, then who’s got the record right now?”

“One of us hit 103 and is still down there,” the young one replied. Before he said anything else the sound of footsteps drew their attention. A lean, clean shaved man in a black suit walked in and smiled at both of them.

“Hey Ezey, what’s going on?” Old Ellis asked. The well-dressed man smiled when he reached the table, but he did not sit with them.

“Congratulations guys. You’ve made it to the final round. The highest score, neither of you guys…,” Ezey smiled at the pair. “…gets the final say. But you can start thinking about what Unique you want to be.” Elderly Ellis nodded at Ezey.

“How many points do we have?” The wrinkled man asked.

“Enough for the Celestial tier,” Ezey replied. “I just wanted to give you a heads up, I’ve gotta get back to work. Keep hanging out here until the rest of you show up.” The lean man waved, then walked out of the room.

“How’d you die so young?” the old man asked once Ezey was gone.

“Stupid stunt,” Young Ellis chuckled. “Trying to impress a girl.”  The old man burst into heavy, wheezing laughter.

“Was it the Ferris Wheel proposal?” he asked with glee in his eyes. Young Ellis nodded and the old man laughed harder. “Cheer up kid. If you lived through it, it would’ve worked out great.”

“Did you…?” Young Ellis began to ask, and the old man nodded.

“I died in a hospital bed,” he smiled. “With my first and only wife by my side.”

“Awesome,” the young Ellis grinned. He felt glad knowing it worked out like he wanted for someone. “So what Unique would you prefer?” The old man shrugged.

“I just assumed we’d go for #46.” Young Ellis nodded.

“Yeah, same.”

“Where’s Ezey?” a new voice said. Neither of the two men saw the third man appear. It was as if he silently popped into existence in the chair next to them. One second the chair was empty, the next second a bearded man asked about their caseworker. The number ‘103’ hovered above the man’s bald head in gold numbers for a moment before it disappeared.

“Hey, 103!” Young Ellis smiled. Despite being over 20 years older, 103 somehow looked younger than 83-year-old Elderly Ellis. He had silver eyebrows, but his face held fewer wrinkles and his eyes appeared less tired. “He’ll be back later, but we’re done.”

“We made it to the final round?!” 103 asked. Both the other men nodded their heads. “Awesome! Do you know what we’re gonna be yet?”

“#46,” both men answered. They knew 103 would have the final say, but he himself did not know. They hoped he’d repeat the answer when asked.

“Nice,” 103 replied.

“How do you look so young?” Old Ellis asked 103. “I’m only 83, but you look like you’re in our 50s.” 103 nodded.

“My Earth had magic. I got pretty good at it, and I used it to keep me young. I would’ve lived longer but some rampaging Unique conquered my Earth. Even with all my magic, I couldn’t do a thing to her.”

“A single Unique conquered your Earth? I didn’t know they could get that strong,” the young Ellis said.

“That means we can get that strong,” elder Ellis said with a smile. 103 shook his head.

“I don’t know. I’ve fought Uniques before, but she was on another level entirely.” 103 shook his head and looked at the other two versions of himself. “She used Void magic as easily as I breathe.”

“That would be Ballisea,” Ezey’s voice came from the entrance to the room. He was approaching the table. “Around here we recommend that everyone stay out of her way.”

“Is she that powerful?” Young Ellis asked. Ezey nodded.

“You guys are gonna forget anyway, I can tell you about her.” Ezey sat at the table with the three men. “She escaped,” he grinned.

“Escaped? From where?” Young Ellis asked.

“From here, the afterlife. We do things a certain way when we birth a new Unique into the multiverse, and sometimes that process involves creating a brand new universe. Without giving away too much about what goes on behind the curtain,” Ezey grinned. “Ballisea escaped in such a way that she was able to pick which universe she wanted to be born in.”

“Whooaa,” Young Ellis said. “I guess she picked one with lots of powerful Uniques then, right? That’s how she got so strong!” Ezey shook his head.

“I wasn’t here when it happened so even I don’t know the details,” Ezey said. “The easiest way to create a universe is an explosion of energy. If we’re going to put a new Unique into a brand new universe, we like to let it cool down for a few millennia first. Ballisea, somehow, got born into a universe instead of a Big Bang.”

“You mean the Big Bang happened when she was already in the universe? That’s.. wow…” Young Ellis asked. Ezey shook his head.

“I said ‘instead’ of it. All the energy that we put into a big bang… that’s Ballisea.” All three Ellis’ eyes went wide.

“No wonder she wiped the floor with me,” 103 said. Again, Ezey shook his head.

“That’s only half of it. Because there was no Big Bang she was born into the Void between universes. Her Unique ability manifested the only way it could: Void magic.”

“Why aren’t you guys doing anything? She’s wreaking havoc down there!” 103 growled the question at Ezey. The clean-shaven man shrugged.

“As far as we’re concerned she’s a force of nature like hurricanes and earthquakes. It’s a bit busier around here because of her, but it’s not too bad.” Then he looked at all three men and sighed. “And we’re no match for her anyway.”