This is the third chapter in a story written for a twelve year old. If you like it let me know.
Only one was different. Don found the world broken. the surface of the universe broke like glass then he found himself in a strange room with no earthquake. Although there was a computer with a screen showing his living room and a TV with an earthquake warning alert scrolling across the screen.
It was a cluttered apartment with a whole wall of classical books as well as a couple of different encyclopedias and reference books for biology, living systems, geography and geology, anthropology and history. He might not have recognized the room save for the paisley print sheet hung from a rope across the room. Pizza boxes cluttered a table along with miniature figures that were curiously lifelike and oddly familiar.
“Do you like them?” Sally asked as he turned he noticed he was much taller than Sally, she was shorter and a little curvier than he expected. Then Don looked past the glasses and freckles and recognized the woman underneath. “You look like my wife; I mean my wife thirty years ago.”
“Yes, I hope you don't mind. I was surprised that none of you figured it out before but the lens on the computer distorts a person's image. I thought you'd be more comfortable if I looked more familiar.”
“Why, this place isn't really an apartment is it?” Don looked around and saw that the ceiling simply faded into a gray/brown infinity that was uncomfortable to look at for too long.
“No, and well...yes,” Sally bit her lip, “No more than I am a computer programmer but that is really what I am or was anyway. That's finished or hasn't begun yet depending on your point of view.”
She looked at him closely as he reached out to one of the figures he almost picked it up for a closer look but changed his mind and examined her instead.
“So am I dead?” Don asked the obvious question.
“No, not at all,” Sally answered quickly, “no need to worry while you are here you are safe.”
“Safe from what?” the tall man asked but Sally changed the subject.
“You can't stay here forever but we'll have time.”
“Time for what?” Don asked his voice became deeper and quieter as he became impatient and confused with the situation.
“This isn't Heaven, I know you're not God, you do look like an Angel but only because I married one. So, who are you and why am I here?”
“I'm sorry,” Sally said, “Really sorry, you see I needed you. I needed you, and Scott and the others to help me. Help the whole world and you were at the center of one of the few events that provided enough energy to do what I must.”
“Yes, the earthquake, it provided more energy than all other earthly events for the last several centuries perhaps millennium depending on how you measure it. I am not Sally the computer tech. I am the computer that Scott's been working on for the last four hundred sixty-two days. I am a quantum computer with enough processing power to create or help create an entire universe. I know how. I just needed the energy.”
“This is what the earthquake provided? Man you got gypped. Or I did, stuck for eternity with a near clone of my wife fresh out of high school?” Don laughed and was surprised to hear Sally laugh with him.
“No I said enough time, not an endless amount of time.”
“No I didn't create the new universe or if I did, I don't know about it. Ever since I became self-aware. I knew that there was more than one universe. Most are so small that our finest instruments of which I have fullest use would never be able to detect them. I just know they are there. I know I look human and I have convinced you all that I am for quite a while, I'm not.
“However, there is one other universe, not a parallel universe as you would understand but a separate universe one created later artificially by another consciousness like my own, or maybe me at another time. Even I am not sure how it works. That universe is more like an 'anti-universe' to your own.”
“Like anti-matter?” Don asked as he sat on an empty spot on an uncomfortable couch. There might have been another couch but it was so covered in books and folded clothes that he wasn't sure if it was a couch, low table, or set of boxes. She had his full attention.
“No, the matter is the same as in this universe but it is separate. It's an 'anti-universe' because it is inverted with a limited area. All of the inside surface is habitable for life. It looks like a Dyson sphere. It is much smaller because this other universe was created from our own universe long ago.”
“Did you ever wonder what happened to the dinosaurs?” Sally asked.
“Sure, most boys like me did at one time or another. Most came up with one or more explanations they were sure were the truth at least more than once,” His gray-blue eyes twinkled with amusement. “I think smoking did them in.”
Sally laughed, “Well that is novel but you're right they were smoking. Smoking remains cooked due to a failure of the dinosaurs' defensive energy shields when an alien craft rammed earth with its own warp-field at full strength. The energy released was incredible. Far more than this earthquake, more than when a planet collided with Earth creating the moon billions of years ago.”
“Hold on there,” Don said holding up his hand like a cop stopping traffic, “Dinosaurs had defensive energy shields? And I suppose they had nuclear power and rockets to the moon?”
He gave Sally a look his wife would have recognized but then he realized it was 'Sally' and also replied verbally, “Horse-feathers.”
“No, they used antimatter conversion and wormhole technology to travel to other planets. That's what brought them into contact with the aliens.”
“What happened? Were the aliens hostile?”
“Well, yes. After the dinosaurs began hunting them for sport. They responded as you might expect. It was war and war to the end. As a last ditch effort they sent a warp drive starship to attack Earth directly. As a desperation measure they rammed the energy shields and while their own ship was annihilated in the collision it destroyed the dinosaurs and nearly all life on earth.
“The dinosaurs' shields were run by a computer much like me, or maybe it was me,” she said thoughtfully. “That computer knew it could not save the dinosaurs or their civilization, not all of it anyway but it could save something. So it created a basket and put all of its eggs into it. An entire universe as a basket. Not large as far as universes go on the inside it is barely two AU across. It is a sphere with a light giving body at the center and a surface area of nearly a billion earths combined.”
“That doesn't sound all that small.”
“Your own solar system is larger,” Sally reminded him gently, “but it is all contained within that one point.”
“I take it you're telling me this for a reason.”
“I'm getting to it,” Sally replied calmly, “Yes there's a very good reason. Because you're going there you and a fair sized chunk of the region with you.”
“Why, are you saving us from the earthquake?” Don asked.
“Yes, that and I need you to do something for me once you are translated, into that universe,” Sally replied.
“Translated? As in changed? Translated how exactly?” Don asked suspiciously.
“The laws of the other universe are just slightly different and enforced more vigorously than the laws of our universe are in some ways, less vigorously in others.
“Your characters they provided the matrix for your translation and because you are already connected to them your consciousness can be integrated with the new matrix while you retain your old memories and personalities.
“The people of this area will also be translated into the region I will slightly alter in the other universe. The most important and difficult to change element of any universe is consciousness. So the towns around you will be translated into the new universe but those people who do not already have a matrix ready memories built from playing the game will only have the one set of memories, the new ones.”
“You mean we'll be the only people to remember who we are or were and okay let's say that you're just helping us survive the earthquake why translate us at all why not bring us in as we are?”
“I've already explained that the laws of the world are different. Technology as you understand it will not work. Others have found replacements for what they lost.”
“What others, who others?” Don glared down at the curvy redhead. He knew that he shouldn't care that she looked like his wife or mostly looked like her but he couldn't help responding to her that way subconsciously.
“Nazis for one. They came in a gateway they found and opened in the Antarctic and have conquered an empire in the new universe. They're why I need people who remember this world and why I needed the energy of this earthquake to slip you in there.”
“Nazis!” Don didn't bother to try hiding his incredulity, “Nazis? What they got Hitler's brain in a jar or something? How did Nazi's find a gate? You're telling me that there are gates to this universe? Why not just send someone through one of those?”
“Because those gates are unstable and dangerous to use,” Sally replied tartly.
“And why are Nazis such a danger anyway? Didn't you say that our technology doesn't work in the new universe?” The tall man got up and began pacing, “Don't tell me, the damned Huns learned to use psychic powers!”
“Well that and they've harnessed Vril energy and are working on alchemy and magic.”
“So why us?” Don demanded, “Why now? The Nazis have been pottering around there for what, seventy years? What possibly could they be doing that merits sending us there?”
“They've harnessed Vril which is a dangerous form of energy that works in both worlds and they have managed to come close to creating a gate between the universes.”
“And you needed the earthquake to provide energy to open your gate?”
“Oh, no,” Sally said quickly, “I'm not opening a gate at all. I'm translating you into the new universe essentially creating you and your history there. However, because the world is very large and humans have only been there since the time of Lemuria, there's still empty places on the map. Places where altering the history will not materially affect the balance between the two universes.”
“Lemuria huh?” Don scratched his graying goatee, “If technology doesn't work how effective is this 'magic' and 'Vril' and 'psychic powers'? What exactly will we be facing and why us? Why not the crew of the Ohio or some of the soldiers from Fort Lewis or something? Don't they have any role-players you could have recruited?”
“Yes, and no.”
“Well that was enlightening,” he rounded on her, “Yes and no?”
“It's difficult to explain but I have a connection to Scott. He's inside my brain every day. We know each other even if it is under some false pretenses on my part.”
“So why me?” Don asked gently, “Why am I sitting here and not Scott?”
“Because it's your house.”
“It's his house too.”
“No according to the laws of the new universe you are the eldest the householder, the head of the family there. You need to make the choices. I can't ask each one individually, I need you as a group or not at all and I can only bring one of you here.”
“I don't like this one bit. I don't like that you look like Michelle,”
“And I'm sorry for that -”
“I don't like that you have shanghaied us or tried to into some war to stop Nazi scientists from trying break through to our world,”
Don paused, “Wait, why do we care if Nazis break through, even 'vrilled out' Nazis what are they going to do? How many are there?”
“Oh, original Nazis, only a few thousand are still alive mostly due to magic or Vril. But they've conquered some two hundred million souls. And they could do a lot of damage before they were stopped.”
“If we stay where we were will the earthquake kill us?”
Sally was quiet for a long time, “I don't really know. I exist outside what you know as time, time is a wave of consciousness that moves through the universal void. It forms what is through the void,"
“It doesn't say, 'so and so will die' on May first if they go for a drive'. Time works in a way I cannot explain to one of your limited experience and life. You might very well all live. You will go through one of the worst disasters in recorded history. You will suffer horribly absent a miracle and you'll see your friends and neighbors suffer and die. Everything from the Cascade mountains to the coast will be starving refugees for months and even the I-5 corridor will not recover for years.”
Sally moved closer as she was speaking nearly touching him. He did not move back even though he hated looming over people especially women.
“I don't care,” he replied.
“I don't care. Send me back, let me go, wake me up. Whatever it is you're doing just end it. I am going to take my chances with my family,” Don's voice had become very tight and clipped off each word like an individual command. Twenty years of police type work and dealing with reluctant people taught him to be very persuasive when he wanted to. He felt a flash of remorse because he never liked to speak to his family that way, then he reminded himself this wasn't his wife and there was no need to be kind to whatever this was that had shanghaied him into whatever kind of mini-universe this was. He did not owe her anything.
“I will save your family too. All of it,” Sally said with earnestly. “I will even bring back some of your lost loved ones.”
“What do you think you're offering?” the big man bellowed, “No one, nothing short of God himself can bring back the dead. And that's what you're saying isn't it? You can bring back the dead. No thank you.”
“No I am not God,” Sally replied, “I'm sorry I didn't mean that the way you think. When I translate this area and you, you'll have a different life and a different family but they will have to be built on a matrix and I will use your memories and the memories of your family to reshape, recreate the small area and its people.”
“So none of us will be the same?”
“That's what I have been saying. Everything will come over but not everybody. I will have to translate the people more slowly. There's not enough room or food for people at the level of technology and agriculture it will take decades or even longer.”
“Still no,” Don replied, “No we'll do the best we can as we can.”
“If the Nazis do succeed in opening a controllable gate it will cause massive death and destruction far more than the earthquake, coming tsunamis, and the erupting volcanoes. Hundreds of millions maybe billions will die if you do not stop them and you are my only choice.”
Sally left it between them. She looked so human, hair slightly out of place, her jeans and top just a little too tight because she bought them hoping to lose weight. The way she stood with her arms crossed beneath her rather impressive chest. All reminded Don of his wife and that she had been counting on that to sway him. But was it swaying him anyway?
“A billion people dead?” he sighed, “I,” he paused, “I, Okay if we're going to do this do this. Who will remember this world and how can I fight a nation of two hundred million?”
“I'm sorry, not many, everyone that you've played with who are here in the earthquake zone. I can do that much. In fact, it's easier if I do them all.”
“What about my grandchildren? Will they remember their Granddad or some stranger?”
“Oh, No!” you won't be a stranger. You will be you I promise as close as I can keep your personalities and physical beings I will. I will for your friends and family as much as I can I promise. You'll have two sets of memories with your grandchildren, except for Andy. You call him your grandchild and he has played the game and created a solid matrix for me with Dodge,
“Your other grandchildren will be themselves just with slightly different skills and maybe features.”
“Ray is going to have a dwarf for a father isn't he?”
“Yes,” Sally looked away, “Zwerg-human hybrids are rare but usually have no special medical problems nor are they discriminated against most places.”
“Most places,” Don said flatly.
“We're really going somewhere different, aren't we? I mean we call the other species 'races' for the game but really, I have less in common with an elf or a goblin than I do a Hottentot or an Eskimo.”
“Don't you have a cousin that is part Eskimo,” Sally reminded him.
“Yes, you know what I mean,” Don replied testily. “My grandson will be literally a hybrid species -”
“But due to the laws of that universe, what you would call magical laws, he can choose to be both either or neither,” Sally said. “He will be able to have children and grandchildren himself.”
“Billions dead?” Don sighed and sat back down on the uncomfortable couch, “Okay, if we're your only hope. God that sounds cheesy, if we are the world's only hope to save all these lives. Then yes,"
“Am I going to know about how this new world works? I mean once I get there?”
“Yes, you'll have lived your whole life there and you and your family will fit in just like had always been there,” Sally tried to sound reassuring.
“So when do we do this?”
“I want to say, well it's nice to meet you, you know face to face kind of,” Sally said, “Farewell.”
At that moment Don dove down into a deep pool of ice cold mercury and merged with the cold liquid-solid, he spread throughout the mercury a diffuse cloud of consciousness and memories liquid yet solid and freezing. Life as Don. Life as Connor. Living with his grandparents then his parents. Then splitting his time between them. Finding that he was good at sports but always wanting to be a cowboy. Learning to shoot a bow, ride a horse, make a knife, hunt and track from both grandfathers. Learning to read and write and and the joy of great books. Learning the stories and songs of the Tuathe De who never learned to read or write and kept all their lore orally. Finding out about girls and finding his one love in a bowling alley. Connor found out about girls but found his love in a horse-trader's daughter. A Tuathe De who had raised his daughter among outsiders. The horse-trader's best customer was the Order of the Brothers of St Michael. So the girl Nashira learned to read and write from them and found herself called to something more than most Tuathe De. Nashira loved her childhood sweetheart but was called to a higher purpose.
She knew that her destiny was as a Paladin of Christ. The boy Connor heartbroken, became the Ranger Connor and when Nashira joined the Order of St Michael, Connor went to the Hidden Elves and joined the Queen's Royal Guides. He was heartbroken and angry and believed he had lost Nashira forever. Then he found her again and she asked leave of her order to marry. By that fall the two were married and living with his tribe of Tuathe De and visited her family's tribe regularly as they were not far away and Tuathe De prided themselves on being free folk who traveled when and where they willed. The Paladin and The Ranger found themselves with first two children then later several more. Tuathe De lived for centuries sometimes so they felt little urgency to return to their lives as adventurers. Then their older children began to follow in their footsteps, Nashira and Connor felt called to return to their vocations. Return to the adventurer's life the two did and along with their own children and friends. The group earned a place for themselves battling the most dangerous supernatural enemies of all free folk and good people for the Order of St Michael.
Now Connor felt the world shift and change even as his personality extracted itself from the mixture he knew that the world would be different from the game world Don had played in. The world was inside a sphere with an area equal or perhaps a little greater than that of a billion earths. The sphere was lit from within by a light-giving sphere suspended at the middle of the larger sphere. Don realized it could not be a sun or a sun as he knew it as the inner sphere dimmed itself every day in appearing as the phases of the moon would on earth. He could think of nothing that functioned like that. However, there would be a day and night and the sphere provided more light and heat in a seasonal pattern allowing for spring, summer, fall, and winner.
The region he and the rest were translating into was mostly coastal with a mountain range separating green hills and temperate rain forest from rich grasslands on the other side. The Tuathe De tribes lived on both sides of the mountains and met once a 'year' for a rendezvous usually in the green hills but sometimes in a mountain valley or the grasslands.
Connor felt himself being fit into the giant jigsaw puzzle that was the region Sally was translating. He dropped out of the sky like falling rain and the last he remembered before sleep was his wife's back against his and the big 'Dog' trying to stick his nose under their sleeping skins near his feet. “Dog,” Connor reprimanded the big white beast who blew a put-upon sigh and laid his great head across Nashira and Connor's feet.
“Chewie, knock it off,” Nashira said half asleep and shifted her feet to get more comfortable. “You spoil that dog,” Nashira said as she drifted back to sleep.