Marcie’s Armageddon

“… and on Sunday,” Marcie smiled. “I want to give crafters something to do too. Maybe a wedding, or a ball?” She offered her half-formed ideas to the pink-haired girl that was helping her set her server up. Jessie nodded. They sat in Marcie’s living room. Jessie and her friend, a shorter, green-haired girl.

“You’re wanting to run these events every week, right?” Jessie asked. She did most of the talking. Marcie got the impression the second girl was tagging along with her friend. Any time she left the room, her two guests immediately took up chatting and giggling. Marcie nodded to answer Jessie’s question.

“Okay, that might be a little overkill, but you can change it later. And since you’re repeating them so often, we can make them less repetitive by changing them up. Wedding one week, a ball the next, and maybe a fair or farmer’s market to fill out the rest of the month. I recommend changing up the rest of the server events too.” Jessie said.

“Remember, you have the whole world. Mad Scientist Monday doesn’t have to take place in the same location every week. You can ask the AlterNet to randomize any variables from week to week,” Rana added a helpful note.  Also… we need to talk about Wednesday,” she said. Jessie nodded.

“Ms. Sharp doesn’t want anything related to ‘aliens’…,” Jessie added air-quotes with her explanation. “in the AlterNet. So, your alien invasion is a no-go.”

“Oh… really?” Marcie was surprised. It was a feeling she had the chance to practice often lately. Her life changed completely once she took control of her Earth. That was the first step in learning about a completely new universe that she had no idea existed. “Why?” Marcie asked.

“Because aliens don’t exist,” Rana said. Marcie tilted her head and narrowed her eyes.

“Then, what difference does it make?” she asked.

“Because, Ms. Sharp doesn’t want them to exist,” Jessie replied. Rana nodded as if what Jessie said made perfect sense. It didn’t.

“Okay, this is what I’m hearing, and I don’t get it,” Marcie said. “Ms. Sharp doesn’t want anyone in the AlterNet to talk about aliens, because they don’t exist. And she’s doing this so that .. they won’t exist?” Both girls nodded. “How does that work?”

“You’ve done some research on your own, have you heard of an Estrella named Andromeda?” Jessie asked. Marcie shook her head.

“What about the Calavera, Wonder?” Rana asked.

“Yes! She’s on CyberRiot, right?” Marcie asked. Rana nodded.

“Does anything else stand out about her?” Jessie asked.

“She’s a nano-swarm A.I.?” Marcie shrugged.

“That’s right. So is Andromeda. She joined CyberRiot too, and they have another A.I. Unique Soul named Metro. When Dana Sharp released the first AlterNet, centuries ago, -“

Centuries?” Marcie interrupted. Jessie nodded.

“It’s not like she doesn’t have a thousand Muertes on her payroll; she’s not dying, like ever,” Rana giggled and Jessie joined in.

“When the first version released, we thought only humans and animals could be Uniques. Now, we have three sentient A.I. Unique Souls on one roller derby team. The AlterNet has a way of making things happen. I mean, it’s common knowledge that the AlterNet spreads to other universes on its own for the most part.”

“What does that have to do with aliens?” Marcie asked. “Are there alien Unique Souls?” Jessie shrugged.

“Ms. Sharp is trying to keep the AlterNet from thinking we want aliens. Because if it thinks we want aliens, it will create aliens. And for the most part, humanity has done a pretty good job of coming up with aliens that are good at killing us. They’d almost definitely be Unique Souls.”

“So… no aliens on Wednesday. Got it. Any other ideas?” Marcie asked.

“Yeah,” Jessie smiled. “Don’t decide right now. Leave it as a free day where you can try out different ideas. Don’t rush the decision like you did your server name,” Jessie giggled at Marcie. Rana and Marcie also smiled at the joke.

After Marcie’s first meeting with Unique Souls, she was left unhappy with the name she’d chosen for her Earth. ‘Marcie’s Test’ was meant to be a placeholder name. After researching everything she could, thanks to the node itself, she learned about the Star Academy. They cataloged all Earths they came across, and Marcie could change the name of her Earth with them. She was surprised when the meeting turned out to be with a pair of teenage girls. But, they certainly knew what they were talking about and had been pleasant the whole time.

It turned from a short conversation about changing the name to a full explanation about the fact that she now had complete control over her Earth. She wanted to make it interesting, and they certainly helped her with that.

“Well, I think we got all the broad-strokes ironed out, and the AlterNet will handle the rest. Did you decide on a server name yet?” Jessie asked. Marcie nodded.


Star Brigade in the Lead

The sudden vibrations startled Parker into dropping the shiny oblong object. It fell into the soft grass and began emanating a golden light from its chrome-like exterior.

What the hell?” In the back of his mind, Parker feared it might explode in his face; he leaned closer anyway.

“Comin’ through!” someone shouted. Parker looked up and saw a short, pink-haired girl barreling toward him on skates unlike any he’d ever seen before. They left behind a two-foot-long visible trail of golden light. “MOOOOOOOVE!” She shouted; Parker did not. She brought her hands up to soften the impact but she still slammed into his chest. Parker was a tall, sturdy man. The unknown skater sent him staggering backward. He tried to keep his legs under him but he ended up on his behind in the soft grass. The girl, for her part, managed to stay on her feet. She crouched to grab the egg-like item but Parker noticed something behind her.

A second girl, shorter with raven curls falling down her shoulders, exited a tall, black portal and skated toward the girl that knocked him down. The second girl slowed down once the pink-haired one held the device in her hand. Another black hole opened in front of her and she skated through it and disappeared again.

“You okay?” The pink-haired girl turned her attention to Parker, but she did not make any attempt to help him up. Instead, she wiggled her fingers at the air and opened another black hole.

“What’s going on?!” Parker asked her. Once he realized she wasn’t going to help him up he got off the ground and dusted off his butt. The girl smiled.

“We’re winning!” she said with a wink. She skated into the black hole then she and it disappeared.

Star Shy

“It’s completely safe!” Grant reassured the 14-year-old girl, his granddaughter. The scrawny bundle of bags shook her head; everything else shook. She wore a bulging green canvas backpack on her back with several colorful pouches clipped to its various zippers for more storage. A forest green messenger bag hung from her right shoulder and she carried a lime-green satchel with her left hand. She nodded at the sign.

“Transportation to another dimension? Really, grandpa?” She tried to inject teenage annoyance in her voice but her grandfather raised her. He could hear the fear in her words and smiled in return.

“There’s hundreds of thousands of these across the world, it’s only happened once,” he shrugged and put a hand on the straps on her shoulder. “And they came back fine, it was just an inconvenience.” He tugged at the straps. “Looks like you’re all set for any inconveniences that come our way. I’ve been through dozens of times, we’ll be fine. Besides,” Grant pointed at the bright red number painted on the wall behind the teleportation pad: 35. “I even picked your lucky number.” The girl rolled her eyes but nodded.

“Okay, so how does it work?”

“Just step on it and press the button. Everything goes black for a second and then when the lights come on your parents will be waiting for us.” The girl took a deep breath then hopped onto the black metal platform. She turned to face her grandfather but her eyes were closed.

“Ready!” she said.

“Alright,” Grant stepped on the pad next to her. The circular pad wasn’t much bigger than a small car, its limit was four at a time. White walls surrounded the back of the platform and came around to the front. Grant fed his tickets into a mechanical slot in the wall closest to him.

“Teleportation in five seconds,” a female voice said. “Four,” she continued the countdown second by second. At one Grant felt his granddaughter’s hand slip into his and he squeezed it. “Teleporting,”  the voice said. The lights in the room went out leaving everything pitch black. Suddenly light returned and Grant realized something was wrong. He held the girl’s hand tightly and tried to pull her closer to him without alerting her.

“Are we there yet?” she asked. She kept her eyes closed but Grant guessed she noticed there was light again.

“Not yet, keep your eyes closed, Cassie,” Grant said while he tried to figure out his next step. They stood in the middle of a large, white-marble hall. Marble pillars lined the sides, but the width of the hall reminded Grant of an eight-lane highway. He expected to see his daughter and son-in-law but saw no one. He did not hear the busy sounds of the teleportation station.

“What do you mean not yet? It’s supposed to be instant!” the girl opened her eyes. “Whoooooaaa,” she looked around at the gleaming stone floors and walls. “Are we in another dimension?”

“Not necessarily,” Grant said.

“Well, we haven’t been atomized and I still feel like I exist,” the girl replied with genuine sarcasm. Despite himself, Grant chuckled. “So how do we get back?” she asked. Grant shrugged. He was about to elaborate but he heard voices coming down the hall. He looked toward the sound and saw a group of kids, about his granddaughter’s age, turn a nearby corner and into the hall. They stopped as soon as they saw the pair. After a moment of processing the situation, a girl with pink hair broke off from the group and dashed toward Grant. The rest of the group trailed behind her at a slower pace.

“HI! Welcome!” The pink-haired girl waved and smiled at Cassie. She seemed unsure and took a step backward while Grant stepped in front of her.

“Hi, I’m Grant,” he said.

“I’m Jessie,” the girl introduced herself as the rest of the kids arrived: two boys and two girls. She pointed them out clockwise to introduce them too. “That’s Rana, Margo, Andy, and Mark.” Grant decided they seemed friendly enough. He nodded at each one as they were introduced, then stepped aside.

“This is my granddaughter Cassie.”  The girl gave the group a weak smile. “She’s kind of shy,” Grant added. “Where are we?” he asked to take the focus off her.

“This is the Star Academy. We get estrellas like…,” She looked at Grant and he caught a golden flash of light in her eyes. Then, she looked at Cassie with the same light. “…her all the time.”

“Well, I’ve never heard of the Star Academy, but it seems like a nice place. Can you help us get home?”

“I’ll do it!” Mark and Andy both volunteered in unison and stepped forward.

“Yeah, I’ll get you home right now,” Jessie said. Then, she cast a glance to the boys on her left with narrow, slitted eyes. “You guys have to train.” They sighed, groaned, and turned to leave without another word. Jessie extended her hand toward Grant.

“Think about your home and give me a handshake,” she said. Grant thought about his daughter waiting for him and shook the girl’s hand; he thought he saw a light purple pulse pass from his hand to hers.

“Got it,” she turned to the two girls. “Wanna visit?” she asked them. Rana and Margo both nodded. Jessie raised her hand slowly while keeping her eyes on Cassie. She waited until she had the girl’s attention then wiggled her fingers in the air. “By the way, you can learn this too,” she said while looking Cassie in the eyes. A tall black portal opened next to them. “You can come back here any time you want.”  Margo and Rana walked into the portal first to show them it was safe.

“Really?” Cassie asked with a loud whisper. Jessie nodded.

“As sure as your favorite number is 35,” Jessie winked.

Star Brigade

“Go show Margo around,” the short, burly man said. He supported an unconscious man hanging over one shoulder and an unconscious woman on the other. “I’ll get her parents a dorm and get them caught up. Then I need to tell the king about Ballisea.”  Rana, a short green-haired girl, nodded.

“Thanks, Dad.” She leaned forward and pecked his cheek. “We’ll be in the library, I’m gonna show Margo the AlterNet.”

“Thank you for taking care of me and my parents Mr. Ruiz,” Margo said. The man nodded and walked away carrying her mother and father.

“C’mon!” Rana led Margo toward the other end of the large, hallway. The floor was made of sparkling white marble, with large pillars along the hallway made of the same beautiful stone.

“Who’s the king? Is he going to stop Ballisea?” Margo asked with a hopeful voice. Rana giggled but recovered quickly.

“No one can stop Ballisea. He needs to report our Earth was taken so the Academy can update their databases.”

“That’s it?!” Margo stopped walking and faced Rana. Her green eyes narrowed to angry slits. “Ballisea conquers a whole Earth, and all they’re going to do is update their records? Isn’t anyone doing anything to stop him?” Rana nodded, then lifted up a single finger.

“First,” she said. “Ballisea is a she. Second…,” Rana bent her index finger at the joints and nodded the tip of her finger in a ‘yes’ motion. “…see this?”

“Yeah?” Margo said though she didn’t know what she was supposed to be seeing. Rana wiggled the finger a couple more times, then stopped.

“That’s how much effort it takes Ballisea to conquer an Earth,” she shook her head. “The only thing we can do is stay out of her way.”

“RANA!” A girl’s voice echoed around the marble hallway. Rana and Margo turned to see an older, pink-haired girl running toward them. Two boys that she was walking with continued their slower pace toward Rana and Margo.

“JESSIE!” Rana dashed forward to meet the girl part-way and hugged her.

“When did you get here?” Jessie asked. “What’s the occasion?”

“Just now,” She shrugged. “Ballisea.” Margo caught up to them and stood next to Rana.

“Oh, that sucks. Who’s your friend? Unique?” Rana shook her head.

“Zero. This is Margo. Margo, this is Jessie.” The two boys caught up to Jessie. “Who’re those guys?” she asked.

“Mark and Andy, new Estrellas at the Academy. We decided to start a Derby team. OH!” She hopped excitedly “We need you, and Margo!” Jessie turned her attention to Margo. “Have you been in the AlterNet yet?”

“Yeah, Rana said that too. But I don’t get it. Alternate what?” Mark and Andy snickered, but Jessie turned around.

“Shut up you guys didn’t know either,” then she turned back to Margo. “Alter, net. Like internet,” she looked at Rana. “Did they have internet on her Earth?” Rana rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, a lame one.” Jessie nodded then focused on Margo again.

“It’s a game, like an MMO,” she paused and looked at Rana. “Those too?” Rana nodded. “But you only get one character. I’m a monk,” she used her thumb to gesture behind her. “Mark’s a wizard and Andy’s a chef,” she said. Then she pointed at Rana. “Rana’s a ninja.”

“We were on our way to the library to make her character,” Rana said.

“Cool! We’ll meet you there,” Jessie said. She wiggled her fingers at the air and opened a black portal. “C’mon guys.” She stepped through the portal, then both boys followed her. After the portal disappeared Rana continued toward the library.

“Did she say chef?” Margo asked as she followed.

“Yeah. His class is Craftsman, but he picked Chef as a specialty,” Rana giggled. “Although Jessie probably picked it for him.”

“When she said derby I thought she meant roller derby,” Margo shrugged. “But I don’t see how a chef would work.”

“She did mean roller derby. There’re special rules for the non-combat classes, but don’t worry about that. Pick whatever class you want.” She led Margo through a high arched opening.

“Whoooa,” Margo paused just inside the library. “I think this is bigger than our school!”  She looked up and counted three floors, each lined with floor to ceiling shelves of books. Several dozen tables dotted the open space in the middle and most of them were occupied. She turned to Rana.

“This is a school, right? How come you’re not coming here?” Rana shrugged and smiled.

“I liked our school,” she said, then started walking again. “Mudrooms are this way.” She turned down a narrow hallway near the entrance.

“Mudrooms?” Margo asked. She saw small study rooms along the hallway. Instead of tables, each one had a large hole filled with rich brown soil in the center. “What are those for.” Rana smiled as she opened the door to an unoccupied mudroom.

“It’s how you connect to the AlterNet.”

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.”