Stellar Group

“You’re… a robot?” Tommy asked. He, and his three friends stared at the white figure hovering a foot off the ground. It looked like an artist’s mannequin with indentions representing eyes on its featureless face.

“Incorrect,” the mannequin replied with a gentle, feminine voice. “I am A.I. I am conscious. I am Andromeda,” it said.

“A.I.?” Gina, one of the two teenage girls in Tommy’s group asked. “Then you are a machine, right?” she asked. The longer they spoke to the white mannequin the less she believed it was all part of an elaborate prank. Gina had her suspicions when Tommy suggested the test of bravery. The only reason she was there was because Tommy was known for going all out on his practical jokes. As frightened as she was of the abandoned school, she expected to have a good time with her friends. Matt and Noemi were also there more for the event than trying to prove their bravery.

“Incorrect,” Andromeda replied. Her form seemed to grow fuzzier for a moment; Gina realized the white body appeared to be made up of tiny white dots. “I am many machines. A nano-swarm.” Three heads swiveled around and focused on Tommy. He grinned, and shrugged.

“This wasn’t the plan guys, I swear,” he said.

“How did you get here?” Noemi asked. The red-headed teenager walked around the mannequin trying to focus on individual dots within the swarm. The white body solidified into a mannequin again and Andromeda lifted her arm. A golden number 35 glowed on the back of her hand.

“I am Unique Soul #35. La Estrella, the star. I am able to Traverse between universes at will,” Andromeda replied. A black portal opened in the air next to her.”

“There are other universes?” Matt asked. Andromeda nodded.

“Okay, you’re from another universe,” Tommy said. “But why are you here? Hiding out in an abandoned school?”

“I was awakened very recently. I wanted some place quiet to adjust.”

“But why here?” Noemi added. “You can go to any universe.” Andromeda shrugged her white shoulders.

“Correct. I can go to any universe. Why not here? Traversing between universes is not the same thing as choosing an address and driving to it. It’s more like a request to the universe. I say, ‘I want to go somewhere quiet’. The universe says, ‘here’s an abandoned school’. I can choose where I want to go, but I don’t get to choose where I end up.

“It’s kind of a dumb universe,” Matt chuckled. “This school isn’t even abandoned tonight.” Andromeda nodded.

“That’s probably why I’m here,” she said. “The universe usually knows what it’s doing.” As she spoke, golden stars began to glow in the indentations that represented Andromeda’s eyes. She took a moment to stare at each of them individually, then gave numbers after each of them.

“#01…,” she said after glancing at Tommy. “…#34…,” when she eyed Matt. “…#33…,” while focusing on Noemi. “… and, #21,” at Gina. “You four are why I’m here,” Andromeda said. The golden stars faded.

“What are going to do with us?” Matt asked. He took a couple of steps to the side to put himself between Andromeda and Noemi. He was glad to see Tommy get in front of Gina too.

“You are all Unique Souls. You’re meant to see the multiverse. I can show it to you.”`

“Yeah! We get to meet other versions of ourselves, right?” Gina asked. She seemed excited at the prospect.

“Incorrect. You are the only versions of you that exist in any universe. That’s what makes you Unique.”

“It’s free, right?” Matt asked. “You’re offering us a tour?”

“Correct,” Andromeda said. A single line, curled upward, appeared on the lower half of Andromeda’s face; it resembled a smile. “I am your gracious host.”

Stellar Awakening

“Welcome to the AlterNet!” the black mannequin said. The vaguely human figure hovered a foot off the ground in front of Alex. Her body seemed to be formed out of obsidian and shadows. She was exactly like Alex expected.

The AlterNet was new to Alex’s Earth but he had friends that were able to afford it faster than he was. They told him all about the different types of Earths available to visit. But, the first step was creating a character. Alex pored over every pamphlet and forum post he could find to create the best character possible. Then, he noticed something no one else seemed to pay attention to.

“I’m ready to make my character,” Alex told the mannequin. “I want to be Unique Soul #46, El Sol. For my race  I -,” Alex’s demands were interrupted.

“It doesn’t work like that,” the dark mannequin replied. Alex initially thought she had a pleasant, kind voice. This time, he heard a definite trace of annoyance. “You don’t get to choose to be a Unique, it’s how you’re born.”

“So, I could be one already?” Alex asked. Now that he knew, it kind of made sense why no one talked about choosing a Unique Soul as part of character creation.

“You could be; but you’re not,” the floating figure giggled.

“How do you know? Is there a way to find out?” Alex asked. The mannequin nodded.

“I suppose I don’t know for sure, but there is an easy way to find out. What’s your favorite number?” Alex narrowed his eyes and tilted his head.

“My favorite number? Oh! Like the Unique number? In that case, my favorite number is 46!” Alex said with a proud grin. The mannequin shook her head.

“You took too long to get there. The answer should be the first words out of your mouth,” it replied.

“Who makes up these rules?” Alex grumbled. “So you don’t have one either, right? What if I ask you, ‘What’s your favorite number?'” Alex asked.

“35. That’s correct, I don’t…,” the mannequin stopped speaking mid-sentence. Alex also noticed she answered with a number. He thought back to what he could remember. Unique Soul #35, La Estrella, the star.

“I’m…,” the mannequin lifted its black hands up to inspect them. “…I’m Unique? It asked. Alex watched a golden 35 appear on the back of its hand. The 35 pulsed with golden energy that radiated out from its hand and washed over her. The coursing energy replaced its obsidian body with a white crystalline form. The mannequin drifted down and touched the ground with its feet and it seemed to take in a deep breath.

Suddenly, its eyes opened. Alex had grown used to seeing dark indentations meant to represent eyes on the black mannequin. But without warning, the white indentations fluttered open to reveal sapphire-like eyes. Dark, navy-blue hair started growing out of the smooth white head, and she smiled at Alex now that she had an actual mouth.

“I’m awake…,” she said in awe. Alex watched her eyes dance all over him, then she turned to appreciate the endless amber field of wheat around them.

“What’s going on?” Alex asked. “Can I still make my character?”

“You can!” the new woman said. She took a single step toward Alex, then waved her hand at the ground. Immediately an obsidian mannequin coalesced floating in front of them.

“Welcome to the AlterNet!” the mannequin said. Alex looked at the new black mannequin, then he eyed the pale, blue-haired stranger that was a mannequin moments before.

“While you finish making your character,” the pale woman said. “I’m going to go explore.” A black portal opened behind her. “Have fun!”

“Wait!” Alex asked. “You’re an NPC that just came to life! I get that you want to go exploring, but can we get together later? I have a ton of questions for you.” The woman smiled and nodded.

“You’ll find me on your friend list after you make a character,” she stepped into the black portal and managed to add her name before it disappeared. “I’m Andromeda.”