Stellar Tour 1: Stellar Reveal

You are part of an agency that tracks down unregistered magical girls/boys to train and register them in the system or to arrest them if they are uncooperative.

June 19, 2021u/gravyfan93

“Hi, I’m Oz,” a lean man with round spectacles stood before Astra and introduced himself. The 14-year-old girl was on her way home through the park. Oz was sitting on a bench as she passed and he called out to her. Astra had no fear talking to strangers; she could take care of herself and she wasn’t alone.

“Hi, Oz. What can I do for you?” Astra asked without giving him any information.

“Do you know what a special little girl you are?” He asked. Astra nodded, then whirled around to start walking away again.

“Yeah, that’s not creepy at all from a stranger,” she said loud enough for him to hear.

“You’re right, sorry!” Oz was quick to apologize. He continued pleading his case when Astra slowed and turned around. It was a bright, sunny December Saturday. The park was relatively empty so Oz felt comfortable speaking some secrets aloud. “I’m here on business; what do you know about the unusual spider-fall a couple of weeks ago?” Astra wanted to play it cool; but, her answer told Oz that she knew plenty about it.

“What business, exactly?” she asked. Oz smiled.

“There’s a magical world hidden just underneath the real one,” Oz said. “My organization recruits and trains magical kids, like you, to keep the normal world safe. Oz noticed golden stars flash in Astra’s eyes for a moment; then, she grinned and shook her head.

“No thanks,” Astra gave him a half-wave.

“Wait,” Oz said. “What do you mean, ‘no thanks’?” he asked. “I’m asking you to help save the world. You know, where your friends and family live. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?” Astra shrugged.

“Sure. But, I’m not gonna stress it. If things happen and I see an opportunity to help, I’ll help.” Oz shook his head.

“I’m sorry to say, I must insist,” he took a step forward. As soon as he did, a low, rumbling growl filled the air. Oz tilted his head. “Eager to fight, huh? I have to say, that’s not a good reflection of your temperament.” Astra rolled her eyes.

“It’s not me,” she said. “Show him, Ben,” Asta added. When she did, a large white wolf, almost as tall as her, materialized out of thin air. The wolf stood next to Astra and bared his teeth at Oz.

“I don’t want to fight you,” she said. “But Ben is more than happy to.” Ben barked at Oz and half-dozen large black widow spiders flew out of his mouth. They landed on the park path and immediately scurried towards Oz.

“You’re going to have to do better than that, puppy,” Oz smiled. He lifted his hand and made a crushing gesture with his fist; green energy lifted the six spiders off the ground and pulled them together. They were compressed into a single small black ball. “I’m taking you in for registration one way or another.” Astra shuffled closer to Ben and put a hand on his head.

“I already said no thanks,” Astra replied with a smug smile. Oz was focused on the girl and wolf before him. He did not notice the extra tall black portal opening behind him until Asra pointed it out. “But maybe he’ll want to go with you,” she said and pointed behind him.

It was Oz’s first mission alone, but he wasn’t a fool. He wouldn’t have turned around if the hairs on his neck did not jump to attention as soon as Astra pointed behind him. He spun around and immediately stumbled backward trying to run away. A giant purple spider the size of a Volkswagen. Oz made a crushing fist; green energy surrounded the beast but it continued to crawl toward Oz.

“Okay, I guess I have to get serious,” Oz said. He scrambled to his feet, then held up a jade fountain pen. “Authority Access,” Oz said. A green flash of light emanated from the pen, it was bright enough to make Astra blink. when she opened her eyes again, Oz stood there wearing the exact same suit he wore moments ago. But, instead of the spectacles, he now wore a green eye mask. The pen became a long jade staff; Oz pointed it at the car-sized spider.

“Wait! Don’t hurt it!” Astra said. A giant portal opened under the spider to swallow it again. “I just wanted to scare you,” she said. “I really, really don’t want to fight you.”

“Then, don’t,” Oz said. “Join us, help protect the Earth.”

“My dad always says something that I think applies to you,” Astra said. “You need to broaden your horizons; there’s ALWAYS more out there than you know.”

“That’s a nice lesson,” Oz said. “But, I don’t see how it relates to saving humanity from the forces of evil.”

“Well, for one thing, it’ll help to know this isn’t the only Earth that exists,” Astra said. A tall portal opened halfway between Astra and Oz.

“There are infinite Earths out there, most of them with humans,” Astra said. Oz had been curious where the spider came from and went. Now he had an answer; it came from a different Earth. He stared at the portal as his mind raced. Alternate Earths, infinite alternate Earths.

“Saving humanity? It’s just busywork,” Astra said. “Not only can you not do it; you don’t have to.”

Vampire by Starlight

“Fourth!?” Victoria asked with wide eyes. “That’s super high,” she added with a shake of her head. Her violet bangs wobbled with the motion. She met her date at the coffee shop and they easily settled into a conversation. It didn’t take too many questions from her to land on the topic of vampires. Wendell surprised her when he mentioned they were the fourth leading cause of death.

“Well, vampires are apex predators. I’m surprised ‘death by a vampire’ isn’t number one,” Wendell said. He was slightly annoyed when Victoria pulled out her phone and began texting while he was talking. He guessed she was arranging an emergency to leave the date; she wouldn’t be the first one to skip out early. Her phone appeared more advanced than any he’d seen, but his feelings were too bruised to give it much attention.

“Everything okay?” he asked. She nodded but continued typing for half a minute before she looked up again.

“Sorry, work stuff. This place is great,” Victoria said. She slipped her phone back into her purse then gave Wendell her attention again.

“So,.. you’re not leaving?” He asked. Victoria shook her head again.

“No. Why, do you need to leave?” she asked.

“No no,” Wendell said. He realized he needed an excuse to keep from sounding too insecure. A quick glance through the window at the night sky gave him an idea. “It’s just that, in the past, any time I mention that fact at night my dates suddenly realize how dangerous vampires are and hurry to get home.”

“Oh,” Victoria giggled. “Vampires aren’t dangerous; they’re just hungry. Though, maybe it’s just me that isn’t threatened by them,” she added with a confident smirk.

“Oh?” Wendell asked. He smiled at her and his voice took on an amused quality. “You’re not scared of vampires?” Victoria giggled again.

“If I was, I would’ve left already,” she said. Wendell’s smile grew broader. He laughed to himself when he realized she was talking about the night waiting outside. It wasn’t particularly late, but the sun was gone so the streets were empty.

“Yeah, I guess you are brave being out after dark,”  he added. He once had a date tell him the danger of meeting after dark made it more exciting.

“Oh, I don’t care about that,” she said. “I meant because you’re a vampire.”

“Huh?” Wendell was too surprised to offer a more cohesive thought. She was the first one to identify him before he revealed himself. Not that it was soon enough to save her. The coffee shop itself was run by vampires and most everyone in there at the moment was one. A few brought dates for dinner like Wendell had. He felt lucky that her voice wasn’t loud enough to alarm any others; and, he hoped to play it off. “What do you mean?” he asked. Victoria smiled and golden stars began to glow in her eyes.

“I can see you,” she said. Though, she leaned over the table and deliberately kept her voice low. “I can see all of you,” she said as she scanned the coffee shop around them. Wendell’s stomach dropped. She obviously wasn’t normal. She said she wasn’t afraid of vampires, and knowingly stayed in their company. He leaned back in his chair with his face whiter than it normally was.

“What are you?” he asked. Victoria smiled.

“Unique Soul #35, La Estrella,” she said. “You don’t know what that means yet, but you will soon,” she added.

“I know Spanish,” Wendell replied curtly. He was usually the one surprising his dates and he was eager to defend his honor. “Estrella means star,” he said. The golden stars faded from her eyes, but Wendell was still trying to make sense of what she said. “You have the soul of a star?” He asked while still trying to sound confident in his conclusion.

“Not exactly,” Victoria shook her head. “It’s more like my soul is tied to a star.” She held her hand out with the palm facing up and it immediately began to glow with a soft blue light. “Gimme your hand,” she said. Though, he didn’t have a chance to pull away because she grabbed his hand at the same time she asked. She placed his hand hovering over her blue palm.

“It’s hot!” he yanked his hand away as if from a flame. Victoria nodded.

“That’s my star. I can use its energy any time I need to; and even better, I don’t die until it does. Or someone kills me, but that’s pretty hard,” she smiled. Her confidence rubbed Wendell the wrong way; he was supposed to be the one scaring her. He was the apex predator. He fumed silently while she continued the conversation.

“Anyway, things are about to change big time… probably in the next week or so,” Victoria said.

“Why?’ Wendell asked dryly.

“I texted my boss about this Earth. Once Sharp Medical Services sets up here you won’t have to hunt humans anymore. You’ll be able to get blood from one of our blood banks. And society can move forward without everyone trying to kill each other.” Wendell snapped and leaped into action. In the blink of an eye, he appeared next to Victoria and lifted her out of the booth by her neck. His eyes glowed red while he bared his fangs at her.

“What if we like killing?” he asked with a sinister smile and began to squeeze her neck. He was used to women fighting him off, but he did not expect a blue glowing palm to strike his cheek. He was surprised for a moment because it felt more like she was offended than fighting for her life. Then, the slap began to burn as intense as sunlight. He dropped her to rub his cheek, but his hand also began to burn. He looked at it in panic and saw what looked like brilliant blue napalm burning through his hand.

“If you like killing, then you have problems,” Victoria said. She grabbed her purse while ignoring his panic and turned to leave. But she left Wendell with some reassurance. “Don’t worry, Sharp Medical Services also offers therapy.”

Stellar Normalcy

“Not at all,” Roger smiled. The violet-haired woman returned the warm smile and sat down next to him.

“Thanks,” she said. “I’m not used to a coffee shop being so crowded.” Roger chuckled. She seemed to be open to conversation; and, now that he finished writing he felt comfortable talking.

“Not from around here?” he asked. “This place is always full.” She shook her head. Her long violet strands shimmered in the sunlight pouring in through the windows.

“I do a lot of traveling for my job,” she brought her hand up between them. “My name’s Victoria.”

“Roger,” he replied as she shook her hand. “Travel, huh? That’s interesting. I bet you’ve seen some amazing places.”

“Yeh,” Victoria replied and shrugged her shoulders at the same time. “The novelty wears off after a while. This place has more customers than I’m used to;  but, sometimes it feels like all I do is visit coffee shops,” she said. “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” Roger said. Victoria’s eyes flitted to the open laptop, then back to him.

‘Oh no, sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Victoria began to apologize but Roger shook his head. He made a point to close the laptop lid to make the point.

“You didn’t, I just finished.” Her eyes lit up.

“You finished a story? That’s so cool! What’s it about?” she leaned closer with a curious smile on her face.

“It’s about a girl that leads a normal life-,” Roger made it that far before Victoria interrupted.

“Oh, I can totally relate to that,” she said. Roger smiled and continued.

” …until she meets a strange man in a bar.”

“And then?” Victoria asked.

“And then her life gets interesting,” Roger smiled. “I don’t need to give it away.”

“Boooo…,” Victoria rolled her eyes,  but giggled to let him know she was kidding.

“I wish my life would get interesting,” she said.

“What do you do?” Roger asked. “You said you travel, but what for?”

“Unfortunately, traveling is my job,” she sighed. “The company I work for, Sharp Development, is always on the lookout for new resources, opportunities, or information. So my job is basically to travel around and report back whatever seems helpful.”

“Are you kidding?” Roger asked. “That sounds amazing!”

“Yeh,” Victoria shrugged again. “The company is amazing, but the work is starting to get old.” She smiled. “It seems like the coffee is getting worse in every shop I go to at least.”

“You visit that many coffee shops?” Roger asked. Victoria nodded.

“It’s the quickest way to meet someone and get information.”

“So you’re always chatting up strangers?” Roger asked. Victoria shook her head.

“No. Usually, I set something up with a dating app-“

“Dating app?” Roger interrupted with curiosity. Victoria giggled.

“Yeah, you don’t have any here yet. So I’m moving on tomorrow.”

“Oh,” Roger said. He debated for a moment and decided to go for it. “Well, if you’re looking for a date, my evening’s free. I’d be happy to take you out.” Victoria smiled at him.

“Technically…,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for a date anymore. I was ready to move on. But,” Roger was feeling deflated until she added the ‘but’. “It wouldn’t hurt to see more than just the coffee shop,” she said. “My evening was reserved for a date anyway, so yeah. That sounds good.”

“Besides,” she added with a wink. “Maybe you’ll make my life more interesting like the girl in your story.”  Roger chuckled.

“I doubt that,” he said. “They go off on adventures to a parallel universe,” he decided he could spoil the story for her a little bit. He regretted it when her smile dimmed just a tiny bit.

“Oh man,” she said. She playfully shoved him away. “You said it was something interesting.”

Buying Restraint

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Sharp. I’m Restraint,” the tan young man in a black suit shook Ms. Sharp’s hand before gesturing at the pair of seats in front of his desk for her and her assistant. “What can I do for you?” Restraint asked. He returned to his own seat as Ms. Sharp sat down; her assistant remained standing.

“I’m here to tell you what I can do for you,” Ms. Sharp replied. “You have a decently successful business here but it can be more.” Restraint was used to fending off business ideas from people that have no clue how to run a business. Everyone was eager to tell him how to make more money off the Supers that visited his spa anywhere he was. At least Ms. Sharp had the courtesy to make an appointment.

“Alright,” Restraint nodded. He let a short sigh escape then continued. “Go ahead and tell me how I can be making more money.” Ms. Sharp smiled at him.

“I’m sure everyone in this room knows you’re not doing this for the money,” she said. Restraint was surprised. He glanced at Ms. Sharp’s dark-haired assistant and she gave him a slight nod. Every other idea he’d heard was intended to boost his profits. “As I said, I want to help you make your business into more. To reach further and help more people than you already are.”

“That takes money…,” Restraint said. He was actually hoping she meant what she said. But, he did not want to let her know how close she hit to home. The only reason he ran the spa was to help people in his own way. He had the strength to be a superhero, not to mention his ability to nullify powers. But to him, it was more important to create an island of peace than to suit up and fight villains.

His spa was in the center of town and every year its influence grew a little larger. Heroes and villains were more civilized the closer they were to Restraint’s spa and he hoped that’d cover the whole city eventually. It surprised him when Ms. Sharp shook her head in response to his comment.

“It takes resources,” she said. “Money is just the middleman, I have all the resources you’d need.”

“And you have a plan to use those resources?” Restraint asked. “I doubt you’re giving them to me just like that.” Ms. Sharp nodded.

“You’re aware that alternate universes exist?” Ms. Sharp asked. Restraint nodded and chuckled.

“Yeah, we get a few travelers through here sometimes. Why?”

“I run a multiversal corporation named Sharp Development,” she said. “While we offer a wide variety of products and services, I still need to address the Super sector. Unfortunately, my knowledge and contacts in that area are thin at the moment, which brought me to you,” she said.

“Okay, you’re here,” Restraint said. “What’s your plan?”

“Simple as can be,” Ms. Sharp replied. “We’ll start off simple by having sign-up sheets available in the locker rooms. Once we get enough interest I’ll host a presentation laying out the whole thing. I’m envisioning a service that allows clients from other universes to hire Supers.”

“You think Supers want to get hired to help with honey-do lists and bodyguarding?” Restraint asked. 

“I think that Supers would like the chance to use their abilities freely without risking their lives. I also think they’d like to travel and see other universes. If the local Supers are off in different universes they won’t have much time to cause trouble here,” Ms. Sharp said. Restraint had to admit he liked that idea the most.

“Okay,” Restraint nodded again. “I’m willing to give you a shot, what’s the next step?” He was surprised when Ms. Sharp’s assistant stepped forward with a red clipboard that she wasn’t holding a second ago. The clipboard only had one sheet.

“I just need a couple of things, first a signature,” Ms. Sharp said.

“What’s this?” Restraint asked. He was curious to see where her idea led, but he wasn’t ready to sign a formal contract.

“This is just giving us permission to distribute flyers in your business,” she smiled. “You’re not committing to anything else yet.”

“Oh, okay,” Restraint nodded then signed his name. “And the other thing?”

“This isn’t a requirement as much as it is advice,” Ms. Sharp said as she stood. Her assistant collected the clipboard. “This isn’t true for everyone, but it is for you. Get a tattoo. It will change your life,” she said. He watched her assistant wiggle her fingers at the air, then a tall black portal opened. “And make sure it has your favorite number, 42, on it,” Ms. Sharp added before she stepped into the portal and disappeared.

Star-hitched

“It’s Aurora, right?” Cliff’s mother asked. The birthday boy was crowded in his living room on all sides. Multicolor balloons and red ribbons decorated his cozy home. Friends and family just watched him open gifts, but now it was time for the real reveal. His mother leaned in close with a large grin; she hoped by being closer the news would hit her first.

Cliff stared at the thin black string tied around his pinky at a complete loss. It was supposed to be red and stretched out in the direction of his soul mate. His mind should be full of information about his destined partner but the dark string gave him nothing. Instead of stretching out, a two-inch strand black strand hung off his pinky tied to nothing. He worried for a moment that it meant a life of loneliness; but, that wasn’t something to discuss at his birthday party.

“Well… it’s personal,” Cliff said.

“AUGH!” Cliff’s family filled the small room with tangible disappointment. Everyone except his mother, she continued to smile.

“Now, now,” she said to ease their disappointment. “If he wants to keep it personal, that’s his choice and we’ll respect it,” her grin grew wider. “Just like we respect Aurora’s choice not to reveal her soul mate either!”

“Hey, where is she anyway?” Cliff’s father asked over the laughter that filled the room.

“Late,” Cliff’s mother replied. “She’s picking up a special gift for the birthday boy. Because he’s probably her soul mate.” His mother was only making Cliff feel worse about not understanding the string. It helped knowing Aurora would miss his party entirely; she told him ahead of time. He hoped and expected it to be Aurora. They grew up together being the best of friends, although she turned 15 first. Her parents had the foresight to tell the partygoers ahead of time that there would be no reveal.

He hated putting his mom on the spot like that, but he knew she’d understand once he explained the situation after the party. He hoped that maybe she even had an idea about what it might mean. Mothers tend to know things; his did at any rate. Ten minutes later Cliff got a call from Aurora, as planned, to let him know that she was going to be extra late. The party didn’t last too much longer after that. Then when most of the cleanup was done, Cliff told Aurora to go ahead and come over. While he waited, he thought it was best to tell his mom that she wasn’t his soul mate.

“I didn’t want to say anything during the party…,” he opened up to her as she sat down to recover the partying and cleaning. “but, I think there’s something wrong with my string,” he said. He wiggled his right pinky at her to clarify which string he meant.

“What is it, honey?” she asked. His mother had sat back on the couch to relax, but she immediately sat up straighter and scooted forward to listen.

“Well…, I don’t know who my soulmate is,” Cliff said. As he tried to explain the dark string to his mother, it suddenly filled with color. He did not pick up any new knowledge, but the string no longer hung limply. It was stretched taut in the direction of his front door and shined with a brilliant golden glow. As the string filled with color, the doorbell rang.

“Oh, it’s Aurora,” Cliff’s mother said. She hopped to her feet to answer the door. Cliff watched his mother open the door to let Aurora in. As soon as the door was open, Cliff spotted a golden glow on Aurora’s right pinky stretching towards him.

Awesome…,” Cliff mumbled to himself. He had a ton of questions, but the most important thing was that he found his soul mate.

“Happy birthday!” Aurora said as she hugged Cliff.

“Thanks!” he said. After they separated, Aurora held up a transparent, glassy card.

“I got you a special gift,” she said. “It’s called a node.”

“I’ll take that,” Cliff’s mom snatched the node out of Aurora’s hand before any of them could react. “There’s something I want to hear first,” she said. Then, she looked at Cliff expectantly. You were saying?” she asked. Cliff glanced at the golden string on his finger. Now that Aurora was close enough, he could see a whole string tying them together. He smiled and wiggled his pinky at his mom.

“It’s Aurora,” he said. His mom shook her head.

What’s Aurora?” she asked. Cliff sighed, but he did enjoy humoring his mother for this instance at least.

“Aurora is my soulmate,” he said. Despite his mom being the only one in the room that didn’t know it, Cliff felt the most embarrassed. His cheeks flushed with red and he glanced at Aurora to see her give him a shy smile. 

“That’s better,” his mom smiled at both of them, then handed the node to Cliff. “You and I are going to have a major conversation later,” she said. “nothing bad,” she added as soon as a nervous look appeared on Cliff’s face. “Now go show him how to use this,” she said to Aurora.

“Thanks, mom!” Cliff leaned forward and gave his mom a peck on the cheek.

“Thanks, Mrs. Longoria!” Aurora said. Cliff chuckled and his mother rolled her eyes.

“How many times do I have to tell you, Estrellita?” she said. “Call me, Mundo.”

Sharp Informant

“H. hello?” Mario froze when he spotted the violet-haired woman peeking into the window of a coffee shop. It had been close to 35 years since he’d seen another person. Not that he was lonely. Somehow it felt like all the animals on Earth knew he was the last human on Earth. He discovered early on that predators would ignore him and managed to get a lot of traveling done. Being able to camp out anywhere without fear was especially liberating; even deadly insects and reptiles minded their own business around him.

Mario had a lot of time to wonder about why the aliens seemed so wary around him. After a couple of decades though, he realized it didn’t really matter. He had an entire Earth to himself and the freedom to travel anywhere in the Americas. As comfortable as he was alone in nature, he did often return to the city to reminisce about the past. He was wandering the abandoned downtown of a city he’d never visited when he spotted her. She whirled around and Mario caught a glimpse of golden stars in her eyes for just a moment; he assumed it was a stray reflection. She gave him a friendly, broad smile as if she recognized him.

“Hey, Mundo!” She said. “What happened here?” she spread her arms out to gesture at the empty town around them. Mundo had a dozen questions running through his head, but one bothered him the most. Thinking back on his time alone, he felt completely sure he was the last person on Earth, without ever really being able to confirm it. He realized his surety disappeared moments before he turned the corner and saw her.

“Where did you come from?” he asked. She had to have come from somewhere because she wasn’t around before. He wondered if she was another alien.

“Where did I…?” She tilted her head in confusion at the question. Gold stars flashed in her eyes again and Mario knew it wasn’t a reflection. If she was alien, she was different than the ones Mario remembered. After the stars flashed, the woman smacked her forehead. “Pay attention,” she mumbled to herself. Then, she focused on Mario.

“Sorry, you’re still Slumbering,” she smiled. Then, she shook her head. “You don’t know what that means either. But, that’s okay.” She seemed intent on saying more, but Mario shook his head.

“Where did you come from?” he asked again.

“An alternate universe,” she replied. “What happened on this Earth?”

“Aliens,” Mario replied. Her reply could have been a joke or a flat-out lie. But, Mario had over 30 years to deal with the existence of aliens. If they were real, anything could be. He did not doubt her for a moment and was more worried about whether she would believe him. She seemed to come to the same conclusion about him.

“Whoa, really!?” she asked. “They didn’t invade?” Mario shook his head.

“Nah, they just took everyone,” then, he shrugged. “Everyone but me. Talk about rejection, right?” he added with a chuckle. She took a step back and her eyes lit up with golden stars again; this time she had a slightly concerned look on her face. Her head moved up and down as she actively scanned him.

“They didn’t even touch you?” she asked. Her head continued to move up and down as she studied him intently. “How old were you?” she asked. She relaxed finally and the stars disappeared again.

“No. They seemed afraid of me. I was 12 when they took my parents away. My dad was a big guy, a boxer. He tackled them, but they took him down easily. Forcefully. I tried to jump in and help, but they just avoided me until one of them put me in a forcefield that kept me in place. I watched them take everyone in my neighborhood. Then, they just left and the forefield disappeared.”

“Whooooooaaaa…” the violet-haired woman said with awe. “…they know too…,” she whispered to herself. “…they have to.” She quickly reached into her pocket and pulled out a transparent glass rectangle.

“What?” Mario tilted his head at her. “You look like you figured something out.” She nodded vigorously but kept her attention on the glass. Her thumbs flew over its surface and Mario guessed she was typing something he couldn’t see.

“Is it why they left me here alone?” Mario asked with a chuckle. “‘Cause that bothered me for years.”

“One sec..,” she nodded. Mario was surprised. He stood patiently for a moment until she finally gave him her attention again. She looked up at him with a smile.

“You remember what they look like, right?” she asked. Mario nodded.

“Yeah, they were humanoid. Actually, a lot like elves,” he said.

“Interesting,” a new voice said. It startled Mario when he noted two new women standing next to the purple-haired one. He was focused on her and suddenly they were in his peripheral vision. “Thank you, Victoria,” The woman in a white suit said with a nod at the purple-haired one.

“You’re welcome, Ms. Sharp,” Victoria bowed her head slightly. Then, she stepped back into a black hole that wasn’t there a second ago. It closed and disappeared taking her with it.

“As for you, Mundo, I am very curious about why the aliens left you alone. Why don’t you tell me about it?” she asked. Mario burst into laughter.

“My name’s Mario, and I was just telling Victoria that I have no idea why. It bugged me for years, then I just quit worrying about it.”

“Of course you do,” Ms. Sharp replied. “You just don’t know that you know. Melody, jog his memory,” Ms. Sharp said. The woman in the black suit stepped forward and gently took Mario’s hand between both of hers. Then, he noticed a bright blue light glowing in her palms.

“What are you-OWWWWWW!” Mario yanked his hand away to shake off the sudden burning sensation. “What the hell!?” he shouted. He checked his hand to see a ’37’ scarred on it. Then, it was like a dense fog was lifted from his brain.

He suddenly remembered everything. Not only could he recall his childhood with perfect clarity; he could recall all his childhoods. He could feel every animal and plant on Earth. He knew why his name was Mundo. He remembered the rules; at last, he knew why he was left behind.

“They want to meet peacefully. No Uniques on either side.” Of the two women, only Melody showed any reaction. Her eyes went wide with shock. But, Ms. Sharp responded casually.

“Then, they have Unique Souls too?” she asked. Mundo grinned at her.

“Of course. It’s only fair if every side gets soldiers.”

Sharp. Waste.

“I’m just saying…,” Carter shrugged at the rest of the crew. “…they weren’t in charge when we left; it seems kind of fast that a company we never heard of is running NASA now.”

“I know you’re not complaining,” Lucy replied. The team’s engineer sat on a lounge in the common room. She wore a fluffy white robe and held a margarita straw centimeters from her mouth. A pair of red scissors was the only logo on the robe; it looked familiar to Carter but he could not place it.  “After the couple of years we had, this new quarantine protocol was heavenly. I wouldn’t mind a few more days.”

The rest of the crew laughed and agreed with Lucy enthusiastically. Something still bothered Carter, but he decided to drop it for the moment. Even after his first successful mission, the rest of the crew considered Carter a rookie. He was usually given the least exciting jobs like cleaning, or sample collecting. He didn’t know how to communicate what was bothering him, so he let it go and tried to enjoy the free time with his friends. It was a nice change of pace from days full of chores and maintenance and little time to socialize. Though, he hoped it was the last night of quarantine.

After two years and three weeks, Carter was ready to socialize with different people. He was excited for the mandatory meeting just because he’d finally get to see some new faces. New faces that would hopefully tell him he could go into town tomorrow. Not that he wanted for any material possessions; he could literally ask for any food, gadget, or tool and get it delivered the next day. He wanted to see real sunlight. An actual blue sky that’s not a virtual environment. 

“Good evening, crew,” A pale woman in a white suit appeared on the main screen in the common room. The crew immediately gave her their attention. “My name is Dana Sharp, owner of Sharp Development, and temporary head of NASA.”

Eight of the nine astronauts greeted the woman with a wave, nod, ‘hi’, or ‘hello’. Carter was distracted by the company logo along the bottom of the screen. It said ‘SHARP Development’ but the ‘A’ was made up of a red pair of scissors pointing down, like the embroidery on Lucy’s robe. Ms. Sharp either didn’t notice or didn’t care that not all of them were paying attention.

“Though standard quarantine protocol is coming to an end. In order to thank you for your service and bravery, Sharp Development is honored to extend your stay indefinitely. Take advantage of our hospitality free of charge, for as long as you like,” she said.

“YEAAH!” The room burst into cheers. Eight of the nine crew members hopped on their feet in excitement.

“What if I don’t want to?” Carter asked Ms. Sharp.

“What??” The cheering stopped immediately and Lucy spun Carter around to face her. “Why don’t you want to stay? This place is amazing!” Carter did not know how to explain that he didn’t trust Ms. Sharp, partially because he couldn’t identify the reason. It didn’t help that the woman herself was watching. Before Carter could stall for more time, Ms. Sharp spoke up again.

“I’m afraid that it’s somewhat of a package offer. All of you stay, or none of you do. I’ll give you an hour to discuss it,” Ms. Sharp said. Then, she disappeared off the screen. Instead of feeling at ease, Carter felt the heavy stares of his crewmates.

“Alright, Carter,” Lucy said. “What’s the problem?” She used her captain’s voice. It comforted Carter. When she used that tone she was open to new ideas and suggestions no matter how stupid they were.

“Something,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t know. Something about this whole company is giving me weird vibes,” he pointed at the red scissors on Lucy’s robe. “That logo in particular,” he added. “I’ve seen that somewhere. I don’t know where, but something about it is driving me nuts.”  Lucy pulled the robe fabric taught and looked down at her chest. She seemingly noticed the logo for the first time.

“Hey. It’s scissors,” she said with a slight giggle. The moment she spoke she looked up and locked eyes with Carter. He remembered exactly where he’d seen the logo, and Lucy knew it too; she’d said the same thing the first time they saw it.

“No way…,” Lucy spoke, but Carter tore out of the room at top speed. As soon as Lucy realized he was gone she bolted out too before anyone got a question out.

Lucy caught up to Carter in the Sample Storage room. He was in the process of opening a heavy silver case as she walked in. Then, the heavy footfalls of the rest of the crew caught up. They entered the room and gathered around the case as Carter flipped it open.

“The first set of samples from Mars. 16 months ago…,” Lucy said. The interior of the case consisted of several deep velvet pockets. Each pocket contained a sealed clear plastic bag. Carter checked several pockets, then pulled one small plastic bag out completely. He closed the chest and laid the bag out flat on top.

Inside it contained what was assumed to be paper of some sort. It looked dusty red with age, but it was easy to tell that it was once white. In the center of the paper was a faded, distorted red logo that Lucy once identified as scissors.

“So, we’re not staying, right?” Carter asked.

50 minutes later, the crew sat in the common room. Bags packed and dressed to go, though Lucy did pack the robe in her luggage. Ms. Sharp appeared on screen again.

“We’ve decided not to stay,” Lucy said as soon as the pale woman appeared.

“Very well. On behalf of Sharp Development, I wish you good luck and godspeed.” She disappeared again without another word.

“What, that’s it?” Carter asked.

“No,” a woman’s voice said from the entrance of the common room. They all turned to see a short, pale woman in a black suit. “Ms. Sharp also sent me…,” her hands began to glow with bright blue light. “… to clean this place up.”

Scout. Out.

“Yeah. I mean, I don’t like to brag, but I can lift a semi,” Brett said. A broad grin accompanied his confession to Victoria.

“On top of the super speed and flight, that you also don’t like bragging about?” Victoria asked. They’d only sat together for about 10 minutes, long enough for the waitress to get their orders. Brett brought up Super powers and seemed eager to hesitantly mention his own abilities.

“Yeah, I got the full set,” Brett grinned. He was handsome, Victoria had to admit that. He was fit and tan with sparkling white teeth and short chestnut hair. But his attitude was wearing thin on her; she didn’t think his good qualities made up for being so undeservedly cocky. She decided to turn it into business instead of a date.

“Are Supers common on this Earth?” she asked. Upon changing the nature of the date in her mind, Victoria decided Brett probably wouldn’t be much help. She looked up and glanced around the crowded coffee shop with golden stars in her eyes, then she nodded.

“What do you mean this Earth?” Brett asked. Victoria smiled at him without the stars in her eyes.

“I meant what I said. THIS Earth. And, it looks like Supers are very common; I’m the only one in the shop that isn’t a Super like you.”

“I don’t know if it’s that common…,” Brett began to argue, but then decided to focus on her. “So, are you an alien or what?” he asked. Victoria shook her head.

“I’m a scout. Sharp Development is now interested in your Earth.”

Sharp. Con-Descension.

Tristan headed for his throne room as he did every morning for the past month. He had about 15 minutes before the guards let worshippers in to see him and he liked to sit quietly with himself for a bit. Despite his fame, Tristan was aware enough to keep himself grounded. He knew if he let his stardom go to his head, he’d make a mistake that would cost him everything. He spent a few minutes alone in the golden chair every morning to remind himself where he came from and how he got there.

“Good morning, Mr. Davinport,” Tristan jumped. The stranger spoke as soon as he entered the room, he spun his head towards the voice and saw two women. One in a white suit and one in all black; both pale with dark hair. The woman in white was taller and leaner, and she spoke with the same voice that startled him. “Sorry for the surprise, but I’ll only need a moment of your time. My name is Dana Sharp,” the woman said. 

Tristan kept his eyes on both women as he listened to Ms. Sharp’s introduction and finished the trek to his throne. He sat on it and nodded politely at the women.

“I appreciate your determination in getting past my guards this early. What have you come to ask a god for, Ms. Sharp?” A brief, sudden giggle escaped from the woman next to her, but she managed to swallow it before it became insulting.

“Nothing,” Ms. Sharp replied with a firm, cold smile. “I’ve come to offer you my services; one god to another,” she said.

You?” Tristan asked in surprise. “You’re a god? Prove it,” he said.

“Melody,” Ms. Sharp commanded her assistant. The shorter woman in black stepped forward.

“Your favorite number is four,” Melody said. Tristan burst into laughter, then held up his left hand; a golden tophat with the number 4 was tattooed on the back.

“Everyone knows that,” he said. Melody nodded, then continued. 

“Your real name is Tristan Davinport the 4th. You were born April 4th, 2004 in Toledo to Tristan and Meredith Davinport. You have three older brothers -“

“Alright,” Tristan interrupted her. “I’ve heard enough. So, what are you offering then?” he asked.

“I’m offering you the chance to join me,” Ms. Sharp replied. “This is just one Earth in a multiverse of alternate realities. If you ally yourself with Sharp Development  you’ll gain access to all my resources and show your worshippers miracles they’ve never imagined.” She was good, but Tristan could spot a con a mile away. The thing that puzzled him, though, was that she was telling the truth; but, she was still hiding something.

“What’s in it for you?’ Tristan asked.

“You’re a smart man,” Ms. Sharp replied. “I don’t need to give you the company line about bettering humanity; instead I’ll tell you the truth. Advertising, plain and simple. Your worshippers buying and using my products, spreading the word about both of us throughout the multiverse.” Tristan nodded as he listened. Again, she seemed to be telling the truth; but, he still thought something felt off.

“And… what happens if I say, ‘no thanks’? What if I want to try and go it alone?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s not an option that’s available to you anymore,” Ms. Sharp replied.

“Huh?” Tristan asked. He was genuinely confused. It sounded like it could be a threat but even if she was a god, like him, they were on his turf.

“Before you ascended, this Earth belonged to its people as a whole. They could elect leaders, and those leaders are considered the Earths’ representatives. Normally, I need to convince the governing body of an Earth to sell me their planet.” Tristan felt a knot growing in his stomach the more she explained.

“In your case, however,” Ms. Sharp smiled. “One god may take an Earth from another god by force.” Tristan shrank slightly into his throne.

“What kind of force?” he asked.

“That’s up to you,” Ms. Sharp replied. “Enough force to twist your arm,” Ms. Sharp nodded at Melody; her assistant offered Tristan a red clipboard loaded with a form and pen. “Or enough force to kill you. Either way, this Earth is mine now.”

Sharp in Deed

Justin sat in his small, tidy kitchen across from Dana Sharp, a woman he’d never heard of before she showed up at his door. Her crisp white suit, and the black suit of her assistant, somehow made his kitchen seem drab and messy in comparison. Aside from their impeccable appearance and business-like demeanor, they seemed positively insane.

“Not only are you saying I somehow own this Earth, but you also want to buy it from me?” Justin asked. Dana Sharp nodded. “But, if I already own everything on Earth, what do I need  your money for?” It was a valid question. Justin woke up that Saturday morning like any other. He had no idea he was entitled to the deed of Earth until Ms. Sharp told him. Then, she promptly offered to buy it.

“This claim began at the dawn of human civilization on this Earth,” Dana replied. “The universe recognizes your ownership; but, I doubt you’ll find anyone else willing to listen. At best, you’d be ignored.”

“And why would they listen to you?” Justin asked. Dana smiled.

“They don’t have to,” she said. “You’ve lived 30 years without the knowledge that the Earth was owned by a single person. That doesn’t need to change for everyone out there.” Justin tilted his head. It didn’t make sense to him that she wanted to buy the planet but didn’t seem concerned about the people on it.

“Then, why? What’s in it for you?”

“Mr. Cardenas, I think we may have different ideas about what I’m offering,” Ms. Sharp said. “I’m here to help you; I’m not asking for anything in return.”

“Yeah…,” Justin chuckled. “…nothing but the planet.”

“The universe places great importance on rules and contracts,” Ms. Sharp said.  “You may have lost yourself in thought when I explained my offer the first time. I understand; it’s a lot to take in. I am offering you a trade. You grant me ownership of this Earth and I give you the means to run it as you see fit; a way to enforce your claim as it were.”

“If you just want to help, why not give me that without claiming the Earth?”

“I’m sure a smart man like yourself already realized I’m from an alternate universe. This universe knows that I came from a different universe as well,” Ms. Sharp explained. “Anything I do to help you would be seen as a threat on this universe; it would not end well for anyone.”

“But if you’re the proper owner…,” Justin nodded in understanding.

“The act of you signing the universe over to me allows me to help you. My name on the deed no one knew existed instead of yours; that’s all that’s in it for me. Nothing changes unless you want it to; and, you’ll have the capability to generate those changes. On top of that, you’ll have access to the multiverse, if you choose. Your citizens can see other universes as well as welcome alternate tourists.”

Justin sat quietly for a moment and Ms. Sharp did not rush him. No matter how he looked at it, he only saw positives. On the far end, she really was insane and lying about everything. If that were the case, his signature wouldn’t mean anything to anyone. And, he would find out sooner by signing. If she were telling the truth about any of it, his life would improve. He started to imagine himself being praised for being a wise ruler and opening the multiverse to the citizens of his Earth. Dana Sharp’s name may be on the deed, but he would be managing the Earth and recognized as its ruler. Finally, he looked at Ms. Sharp and nodded.

“Where do I sign?”