Gabriella Montague sat in her car with her hands over her mouth. Was her husband dead? His computer just exploded for no good foreseeable reason.
EC: love please respond.
EC: I can see your limp corpse.
EC: wait you’re still breathing.
EC: oh thank God.
EC: hold up I’m getting a message from Allison.
She closed the window with her husband and opened the one for her friend.
SW: hey do you know what happened to Xavier.
EC: He appears to be uh, unconscious?
SW: Well shit.
SW: we have a problem btw. my server side disc is with my roommate and also our house is not on Earth anymore.
EC: I mean technically we have an extra client and server side disc at my house since I bought a digital copy for my work laptop today.
SW: that is… good?
EC: But that does not help us since Xavier’s unconscious and we have 17 minutes until something really bad happens.
EC: and you were out from a bowling ball, but his computer exploded. Discord said so.
SW: Yeah hey, sorry to sidetrack but that’s oddly specific. Why does discord have a specific prompt for when your computer explodes?
EC: Probably part of The Ultimate Riddle.
SW: The what?
EC: You know. The thing. The thing on prospit?
SW: what’s prospit?
EC: You know… I honestly don’t know.
EC: Hold up something is happening to Xavier.
Gabriella switched her window back to sburb and something indeed was happening to Xavier.
It was like he was moving really fast for a second and then everything was weird again.
MS: by my calculations we have exactly 25 minutes.
EC: that’s oddly specific.
MS: Well that’s what the cruxtruder says.
EC: Oh. So it does.
MS: and it matches up with what’s on Allison’s cruxtruder.
MS: hold on what’s this?
Xavier’s computer was shut down.
On Gabriella’s window she saw Xavier sitting at his computer and then he leaned down and pulled the power cord out.
As soon as the cord came out her server side window went black.
EC: um. What just happened.
MS: I’m not sure but a bad thing was about to happen and then it didn’t?
EC: Whatever, we don’t have time to dwell on whatever just happened. We need to get this all taken care of because we now have 5 minutes left and still need to get Charity, you, and I to wherever Allison is at.
MS: Five minutes? Didn’t we just have 25?
EC: Probably? But whatever you just did just costed us a lot of time. Connect to Charity and then get her to connect to me. Or something.
MS: Where is she anyways? I haven’t heard from her in forever.
> Be Charity
Charity Farelli was sitting at a drive-thru Mcdonalds about 30 seconds away from her house she had been there for the last 15 minutes until she was suddenly at the end of the line with her food being prepared.
The burger was made with almost no care at all. She could feel her phone buzzing on her dashboard. A message from Gabriella.
EC: WE HAVE 5 MINUTES WHERE ARE YOU YOU NEED TO CONNECT TO ME AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA XAVIER HAS YOUR HOUSE ALL READY.
RA: chill ur Jets girl i’m getting Mcdonald’s.
EC: I AM LITERALLY ABOUT TO DIE.
RA: I’m hungy binch.
The bag finally came to her. And on the other side of the valley, a girl in a car screamed at the top of her lungs waiting for a friend to connect to her via video game.
“Uh excuse me, You forgot the fries.”
“Oh sorry ma’am. I’m just a little scared.
“It’s okay. Take ur time.”
As the fries cooked inside the fryer she took a sip of sprite.
Finally they were finished and the underpaid terrified fast food worker handed Charity her fries and then ran.
“Hey wait I wanted Barbeque sauce. Oh. oh well.”
She drove off and another car pulled up to the still open window.
Ugh. Red lights. Charity waited at the empty stoplight for about 30 seconds before pulling into her driveway. The roads were surprisingly empty.
She walked into her house and went into her room. She looked over at her computer and put her bag down next to an identical light blue one. With her back turned, the two bags turned the same color and then swapped places rapidly. She looked at the highway That Gabriella was stuck on and opened up the Phrenalia Registry.
RA: aw, there’s a lot of spots for me to put stuff..
EC: If I die I’m blaming this on you.
RA: you aint gonna die.
She dropped the Cruxtruder on the bed of a pick up truck. The totem lathe and punch card station were put on top of a huge semi truck.
And lastly the alchemiter and pre punched card next to her car.
RA: There. Now you won’t die.
EC: I can’t climb on top of a semi.
RA: I’m gonna eat my Mcdonald’s now.
EC: My husband is gonna kill you.
On her screen, she saw Gabriella scrambling around running to the top of a semi truck and then falling on her back. She expended 20 build grist to construct a staircase for her.
She seemed to have an easier time.
Charity turned her back towards the computer and her eyes rested on the two identical mcdonald’s bag.
She pulled out her phone and messaged Xavier.
RA: OH NO. THE BAGS. THEY’RE SAME.
MS: you’ve dug your own grave here miss.
Behind Charity lay a flashing unprototyped kernelsprite and further behind that, on Her computer screen Gabriella finally got the shaped cruxite dowel and started running down the stairs. Her foot got caught on one of the perfectly generic steps and she started tumbling through the air, headed down towards an untimely demise.
Charity reached for a bag and then pulled back.
On her screen behind her Gabriella was saved at the last minute by her car being pulled off from where it was to lighten her fall. She looked down through her car window and could see Xavier at his computer on her home laptop in one hand maneuvering the car she was on and trying to fight another unprototyped kernelsprite with a plate with the visage of mickey mouse.
The car she was on laid safely down next to the alchemiter as Charity picked up one bag.
She closed her eyes and opened up the bag, reaching in blindly, her hands settling on a big mac that she hadn’t ordered.
She smiled brightly and opened her eyes.
On her computer screen Gabriella watched a pink man appear with a spinning wheel with different icons surrounding it. She punched the man in the face
Charity picked up the empty bag with her food and tossed it behind her, the bag perfectly intersecting with the flashing Kernelsprite.
Gabriella reached deep into her purse modus and grabbed the first thing her fingers closed around and with another hand spun the wheel.
Xavier flung the Mickey plate at the sprite with expert aim. It met its target.
Charity unwrapped the burger slowly, it dripped with blue grease and pickles. Ew. She removed the pickles.
Gabriella saw the wheel keep spinning while she flung the plastic object at the kernelsprite to her right. The sprite dodged it but it bounced off the car and hit it from behind causing the sprite to light up.
Xavier threw the carved cruxite dowel at the alchemiter and a dj station appeared. With a groan he slid in it and put on the headphones and crafted a quick beat.
Charity bit into the burger.
Gabriella saw the wheel come to a stop around a strange green spirograph symbol.
Xavier’s turntables lit up with green energy as the quick beat flowed through the room and enveloped him.
And overhead a Massive meteor impacted a slightly religious state as a chunk of highway and two houses disappeared from it’s existence.
Allison stared down a tiny goblin, her bright red hair flowing in a breeze that graced her land.
She pointed a finger at the goblin and gave it a quick thumbs down in disgust. She reached a hand towards her dicebag and chucked a d4 at it. The die landed in it’s eye and it screamed in terror. Allison gave a fistpump in victory. And as it screamed it’s form began to change.
Suddenly it’s outfit changed from pissed on leather to a yellow zip up shirt with the sleeves having red and white stripes. It’s head morphed from the grotesque green face to two iconic black ears on the top of it’s head. The grim visage of mickey mouse stared back at Allison as the d4 she chucked fell out and tumbled to the ground. Grey cat ears and fur came last. Finally a flowing cat tail completed the look.
The Goblin with Mickey Mouse’s head, Ronald McDonald’s outfit that was also a furry pointed a gnarled finger at Allison. And in a voice that could only be described as horrifyingly accurate to Mickey Mouse itself, it said “HOHO! I’m gonna kick your Ass!”
The three sprites nestled in her hair poked out and chimed in, “Oh boy! It looks like all your other players have entered the medium and their prototyped sprites have become one, bringing the battlefield to it’s complete form!” GriffinSprite said.
“Now the final battle can begin! The forces of dark and light will rage against each other in a never ending battle that can now be concluded.” Travis Sprite said.
Allison dodged a sword swing and with a step to the right she smacked the monstrosity in the head with her Pathfinder rulebook.
She wiped a bead of sweat off her forehead as the tiny goblin exploded into what looked like massive Blue Fruit Gushers.
“But the Forces of light will eventually lose, and dark will win and Start The Reckoning once they have both the white and black kings staff!” Justin Sprite said.
What’s this strange blue gunk that exploded from the goblin?” Allison asked quizzically.
Griffinsprite laughed, “Why that’s a unit of build grist. You can use it to alchemize items via the punch card system using combined captcha codes and other object that you find either in your house or in the medium.”
TravisSprite nodded, “Very. Cool. it’s how you get better gear to fight with and so you can complete your special quest!”
Allison pocketed the d4 she threw at the goblin. She felt like she was going to need it, “What’s my special Quest?”
GriffinSprite waved his hand in the air, “Oh you gotta like… Light the forge and become one with the Stars or whatever. Or maybe call the stars. Something like that. The signal between here and Skaia is kind of fuzzy.”
Allison ran back into her house as a few more of the strange kobolds and goblins showed up, she slammed the door shut and locked it, “What does it mean to light the forge?”
JustinSprite flitted out of her hair and folded his arms, the monsterfactorySprite still churning monsters out of the window, “Normally space players take a Volcano with them but it needs to be activated. You’ll have to speak to echidna to figure out a way to light the forge.”
Allison walked upstairs and pulled a knife out of a kitchen drawer and put it in her Journal Modus. “Who’s Echidna?”
TravisSprite slipped out of her hair and down onto her shoulder, “She is the mother of all Monsters and is your Denizen that you must face, to create, The Ultimate Alchemy! Once you have Bred the genesis frog you can create a new universe!”
Allison walked upstairs to her room and picked up a players handbook, and a blank journal, and put it in her modus.. She grabbed a few more articles of clothing and moved to the punch card station. She paused and looked at TravisSprite, “Wait wait, what? New Universe?” We’re making a new universe?”
TravisSprite continued as Allison started combining cards and putting in captcha codes and started punching them on blank cards, “But of course! SBURB is but a seed that gets planted and is given the change to bloom into a beautiful tree that is also metaphorically and literally a frog.”
“Why a frog?”
“Okay, Weird. Well I suppose that makes sense. So as you said before we gotta build to the gate. But I need build grist to build. So I gotta fight monsters, do this whole personal journey and also breed a super frog?”
GriffinSprite nodded, “It sounds like a lot. And it is!”
“That’s not reassuring.” She fired back as she walked back down to the alchemiter.
“It wasn’t supposed to be. The deck is already stacked against you and there’s almost no way that you’ll win. Usually only one universe can beget two or three new universes and yours has already made two.”
She thought back to the Polygon review, “But in my world, they mentioned earth being a desert. How can it be both a desert for them and also saved by us?”
Justinsprite rolled his eyes, “UGH, Lore dumps am I right? You won’t be saving your earth. Everyone on it is already dead!” She took a look at the cost for what it would be to combine a journal and a Players handbook. It was astronomically high, and just said “Blank Rulebook.” She shook her head and moved to a few other items.
Allison froze after she pulled a lever on the alchemiter and it spat out a shimmering d20 combined from a players handbook and a regular d20 that was called, “The Summoner’s Dice”
“Yup! Everyone’s Dead! Donezo! Doornailed.”
“Oh…. oh.” Allison thought about all her work friends, all her online friends. All the people who she loved and then some. She felt bad. She felt out of her own body. All the people in her life that she had invested so much time and love inside. So many days spent together laughing. All of that was now gone.
“I… I need to sit down.”
JustinSprite shook his head, “Better make it quick, Monsters are coming to assault your house! And there’s a lot of them!”
Allison felt like a void of emotions. Nothing felt like anything. Nothing mattered.
“What’s the point?”
GriffinSprite tried to pull her hair as if to lift her, “The point is you can’t die at the first few moments or your other friends die too!” She looked up and stared at the door. Through a window she could see about 8 goblins charging at her door. They would be here soon.
Allison forced back the tears. She clutched the dice in her fist and she opened the door and stepped outside. While the dice was the only thing she was able to make from the grist she got, she had a feeling she was about to make a lot more.
She gritted her teeth, set her feet into the ground and chucked the d20 out into the field.
The die flashed outwards and in a burst of light a Gorgeous woman made of wood stood in front of Allison.
Hold up, “Jasmina?” The wood lady turned slightly towards allison and nodded, the Dryad Druid her best friend had once played in an old game stood in front of her, ready to kick some ass.
“I’m not sure why I’ve been summoned here, But I’ll be damned if I let a group of goblins kill a level 1 friend of mine.
A swarm of black clouds swirled around Jasmina’s feet and she reached out, ready to strike the Goblins.
MusicalSquid has created a Group Chat.
MS: Okay sound off. Are we all alive?
EC: I made it in. No thanks to Charity’s help.
RA: I ate a burger and now im here lads. though where here is is strange.
MS: okay, so in a last second decision I threw a mickey mouse plate at this sprite and now it’s just a ghostly visage of Mickey Mouse that keeps following me and just saying ‘Oh Boy’. Outside I can see huge stone mountains and lava. But no stars like what Allison mentioned.
EC: Yeah, No stars here either. Though I don’t see mountains or lava, just A bunch of pyramids and pretty shiny rock crystals. I’m not sure how to get off this highway though.
EC: hot shit, it took the highway with u?
EC: yeah >.> There’s a lot of empty cars with no people inside them. It feels dead here.
RA: hey are any of u currently freezing ur butts off rn?
MS: no it’s quite hot here actually.
RA: this place has a bunch of snow and ice everywhere. Also i fucked up and now ronald McD won’t stop blathering on about the new happy meal toy.
MS: Don’t you think that this might be some sort of karmic retribution for your inaction earlier?
RA: Hey man don’t harsh my vibe. I’m just trying to live my best life. I was hungry and since as far as I can see, there’s not a single Mickey D’s here. I may have the last burger and fries in wherever ‘here’ is.
RA: Aw SHIT THE SPRITE ATE MY BURGER.
MS: Again, I would like to reinforce the idea of Karma to you.
EC: Both of you shut up. Has anybody noticed that Allison hasn’t said a single word in this chat?
RA: yeah but i didn’t want the hostility here to get any worse, lest u blame that shit on me as well.
MS: the mcdonalds was your fault. End of story. However this is strange. I’m worried of turning my computer on out of fear of it Exploding again.
MS: it was exploded and then it wasn’t and then 10 minutes had past without any of us knowing.
RA: Huh, that explains how I got jettisoned to the front of the Mickey D’s line. I didn’t even order yet they gave me what I wanted.
EC: I would really like it if you never mentioned McDonald’s Ever Again.
RA: would love to but Ronald over here looks like he’s just falling off a bench on loop.
EC: let’s not ignore the weird time vortex that happened and instead focus on the bigger matter. Where the hell is Allison?
MS: Sorry, was booting up my other computer to try and see if I could connect. Ran a quick diagnostics and apparently a virus slipped past literally everything I have set up to stop that.
MS: the problem has been averted.
RA: thought u were liked a cybersecurty thingy.
MS: I am. I am a very good one.
MS: this discussion isn’t going anywhere.
MS: I have a visual of sorts. Allison’s server client on my end is filled with… uh. Static.
MS: I can see her house and interact with it, but the outside is a strange disturbing mess.
MS: messages appear to not be going through either.
MS: that doesn’t even begin to make sense. She’s sending a message. A single message that is then encrypted and sent over earth internet through servers and then it’s opened on our end.
EC: I don’t think we’re in kansas anymore.
MS: We are from Utah.
EC: it was a joke honey.
RA: Alright, Well I’m gonna go grab a coat for Charity. You two lovers have fun.
MS: we need to talk later. Your behaviour pre medium was unexceptable.
RogueAscendant has left the group chat.
MS: Am I being too harsh?
EC: Honey we almost died.
MS: I’m gonna try to keep getting in touch with Allison. Keep in touch okay. This new place sounds scary and I don’t know how we’re going to see each other soon.
MS: I don’t mean like permanently. Just… From what I’ve read online, this might be dangerous. Keep yourself safe.
EC: You too.
Xavier sighed and leaned back in his computer chair. Two laptops lay before him. Allison was MIA, Charity was being well… Charity, and his wife who he loved very much was by herself in a strange land that could kill her easily. All those autoimmune disorders and liver problems didn’t help her one bit. She was weak. He didn’t want something bad to happen to her but he knew that he couldn’t do much in his current state. Times were tough. He would need to be tougher.
He looked back towards the sprite that refused to leave him alone. He looked down at a squid plush laying on the ground. It was from Splatoon. The sprites could be prototyped once more.
The mickeysprite hovered closer, the sounds of “HOHO” and “OH BOY” ringing in his ears nonstop. With the force and power of a thousand suns, Xavier spun around and chucked the squid into the sprite.
It didn’t even resist.
With a brilliant flash of light, and a spin of a tiny gun, a Small child with tentacle hair popped up from the squid that it previously was and looked at him directly in the eyes.
The two sat wordlessly.
Until the squid started jabbering on uselessly in a language he couldn’t understand but to the exact tone and pitch of Mickey Mouse.
He gave a breath of distress and put his hand up to his mouth, “Motherfu-” “WOOMY!”