Stellar Tour 1: Stellar Reveal

June 19, 2021 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.

“Hi, I’m Oz,” a lean man with round spectacles stepped in front of Astra and introduced himself. The 14-year-old girl was on her way home through the park. Oz sat on a concrete bench and stood to approach her as she passed. Astra never feared talking to strangers; she could take care of herself and she wasn’t alone. Despite the grey, cold day Astra was in a great mood.

“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 walk away.

“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. Thanks to the dark clouds hiding the sun or last-minute holiday shopping, the park was relatively empty. The closest person was a jogger on the other side of the park headed further away from them. 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 more than she meant to.

“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 and took a step forward.

“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 turned to shrug at him. She idly tugged at the strings of her blue checkered hoodie as she raised her shoulders.

“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 and gave a slight chuckle.

“Of course my first mission wouldn’t be as easy as training,” he sighed, then focused on Astra. “I’m sorry to say, I must insist,” he took a step towards Astra. As soon as his foot landed, a low, rumbling growl filled the air. Oz glanced around the park, then tilted his head at Astra. “I see you’re eager to fight. I must say, that reflects quite poorly on your temperament. Don’t worry, you’ll learn tools to manage that aggression during training.” 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; his fur bristled with his ears laying back and he 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 concrete path and immediately scurried towards Oz.

“You’re going to have to do better than that, puppy,” Oz smiled. He lifted his hand chest high and made a crushing gesture with his fist; wispy green energy lifted the six spiders off the ground and pulled them together. The loose tendrils of energy coalesced into a grapefruit-sized ball, then shrunk. The spiders were compressed into a single small black sphere before the energy dissipated. The mass of spiders landed on the ground with a moist plop and released dark green ichor. “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 kept his focus on the girl and wolf before him and did not notice the extra tall black portal opening behind him until Asra pointed it out. “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 at the same time. He managed to keep his legs under him and keep his cool, despite the surprise. A giant purple spider with a body the size of a Volkswagen crawled towards Oz on giant spindly legs. Each of its eight eyes was almost as big as Oz’s head. Oz made a crushing fist; green energy gathered around the beast but it maintained its pace toward Oz.

“Okay, I guess I have to get serious,” Oz said. He held up a jade fountain pen. “Authority Access,” Oz said. An emerald light flashed from the pen; it was bright enough to make Astra blink. when she opened her eyes an instant later, Oz stood there wearing the exact same suit he wore moments ago. But, instead of the spectacles, he now wore a forest-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.”

Star. Spider.

Greg hopped out of his bed as soon as he opened his eyes. He heard wild screaming outside his house and ran to the window. He spotted the few neighbors that spent their weekend mornings outside rushing indoors. All of them were screaming, a few of them were flailing at the snow that was falling.

“It wasn’t supposed to snow today…,” Greg mumbled to himself. His mind latched on to that fact to help him process why everyone was so scared of it. It wasn’t until several of the snowflakes landed on his window, and began crawling up the glass, that he realized something odd was happening. He immediately thought of his daughter and bolted out of the bedroom; he grabbed his robe on the way.

“ASTRA!!!!” he shouted as he barreled down the stairs. He knew she would be outside in the backyard. He opened the sliding door and paused. He realized he wasn’t wearing any shoes and didn’t want to step onto the spider-filled ground if he didn’t have to. As he paused, he saw his daughter laying on the lush green grass, leaning against a large white wolf.

She and the pet wolf she got 10 years ago appeared to be napping together. Somehow the spiders falling from the sky all chose to miss their yard. Greg felt calmer knowing she was safe. He eased the glass door open and padded out in socks.

“Astra, Ben,” she said addressing his daughter and her pet. “What’s going on?” he asked. The girl’s eyes popped open and she grinned at Greg.

“Hey dad!” she said excitedly. Ben opened his eyes too, but just long enough to let Greg know he was paying attention too. Then, he closed his eyes again. “We learned something cool!” Astra said.

Greg nodded in patient understanding.

“Did you have to terrorize the neighbors to do it?” he asked.

“Ohhh,” Astra’s eyes clouded a bit. “Didn’t think about that, sorry dad,” she said.

“You and Ben put the spiders away, then you can come inside and tell me about your new trick, okay?” he said. Astra nodded and Ben opened his eyes again. It took Greg the better part of the decade to get used to Ben having such a human-like personality. Although, admittedly, Ben didn’t even make himself visible for Greg for the first two years, so he didn’t count those.

Greg returned inside and to his room to put on some actual clothes. After taking a few minutes to wash up and dress, he returned to the kitchen to find Astra and Ben sitting at the table. Ben sat on his haunches on a chair next to Astra. The giant wolf towered over her, even more, when they were seated.

“Alright, what’s this new trick exactly? How did you get it to rain spiders?” Greg asked. He sat down across from them. Ben towered above him too.

“We can put our powers together!” Astra said. She reached up and put her right hand on Ben. She raised her left hand and wiggled it at the table. A small, saucer-sized black portal opened over the table. Immediately, a half-dozen spiders fell out of the portal and onto the table. There were different varieties in a rainbow of colors. Greg didn’t recognize any of them. It always surprised him how he was still seeing new types of spiders after 10 years. The spiders crawled across the table to another portal and disappeared into it.

“Whooa!” Greg chuckled in awe and surprise. 10 years ago Mundo, the owner of the pet shelter, explained what Astra’s and Ben’s abilities were. She also took time to explain the amazing abilities of all Unique Souls. Some were powerful enough to mind control an entire Earth, some strong enough to shatter an Earth. She also took time to explain about the multiverse at large and that Astra could get to any of them at any time. “That’s pretty awesome!” he said.

“Buuuut,” he tilted his head. “You can obviously do it, why make them fall from the sky?” he asked. Astra’s eyes immediately looked at the table between them; her bronze cheeks took on a faint blush.

“It was a test to see what it looks like,” she apologized to the table. “In case it doesn’t snow on Christmas.”