Worlds hung in the balance and the balance was tipping in very much the wrong direction. That, however, wasn’t what worried Jin. Two worlds facing imminent annihilation was concerning, certainly, but to her eyes the problem was significantly larger than that.
“Are you rearranging the cosmos again?” Kari asked, appearing beside Jin as they both floated in a endless sea of stars.
“Nope. This isn’t me,” Jin said. “And these aren’t stars.”
Kari looked at her, their celestial forms still human enough for her to be able to convey a confused expression by rearranging the stellar nebula she was using for facial features. “What am I looking at then?”
Jin drew one of the blazing points of light out from the ever brightening sea of illumination that surrounded them. With a hand made from starlight and dreams, she spun the orb around and drew the two of them in closer to it so they could make out the fine details.
Below them, a world, as vast as the Earth and far more technologically advanced spread out.
“What are we looking at?” Kari asked.
“The Earth we’ve been fighting for was like mine. Only a scaled back version. Where mine had sorcerers and super science and metahuman powers, the one you caught and saved had only normal people and a steady march of very repeatable science all along. No hidden demigods. No secret cabals of supernatural monsters.”
“Sure, we’ve seen plenty of those. We’ve even seen a bunch like my old world too. Lots of places where magic and monsters are reasonably common. This isn’t like either of those though.”
“It’s not. This kind of world doesn’t form on its own.” Jin gave the globe one more spin, revealing the vast multi-leveled technological landscape which covered the planet. “It’s called Coruscant, and it is a world that can never be. Not on its own.”
“The mix of technologies doesn’t add up. This place would generate so much heat that it would melt the planet’s surface. A galactic civilization capable of building this place could address that, but when galactic civilizations arise naturally, in a reality with physical parameters like this one, they develop different tech than what we’re seeing.”
“This is an illusion then? Or a reality-trap?” Kari asked, moving a half breath back.
“That was what I thought too,” Jin said, drawing them in closer to where a battle was raging. “But it’s not. It’s something much more rare.”
On a landing pad that was several hundred meters long and half that wide, a trio of figures wielding blades of light were fighting for their lives against a creature that seemed to be 90% mouths, 90% tentacles, and 90% solidified rage against the fabric of existence.
“Should we help with that? It’s pretty clear who we want to win, isn’t it?” Kari condensed her celestial body into a human-adjacent species and ignited her own blazing green sword.
“Definitely,” Jin said, joining her with a brilliant amber sword in her hand. “Our job is to save these worlds after all.”
Inhaling, Jin drew in the essence of the world she was walking though. The role she’d shaped for herself was that of an Archivist. She wondered briefly is she should have opted for a warrior’s role. That was usually Way’s first choice and Jin had gotten so used to working with her wife that she’d defaulted to leaving the fighting role open and instead focused one that provided enough information to setup the sort of blatantly unfair tricks that won the day without any fighting required.
Except, fighting was often required, at least when she and Way didn’t manifest their true reality breaking might. With Way at her side, Jin never needed to worry about the fighting though, since Way was every bit as sneaky as she was, except Way tended to focus that into being more powerful than she had any plausible right to be, while still at least technically fitting within the boundaries allowed by a world’s framework of reality.
“Hey, you two, get the rest of the civilians out of here!” The man who shouted at Jin was one of the three who were fighting the Hyperspace Ravager. Kyle Moonfinder. The name came to her along with a detailed biography of his life and his place in the almost overwhelmingly complex society he was a part of.
Jin reeled as an avalanche of information poured into her. She could take it in, but processing it through J’in Voidtreader, the persona she’d created to inhabit within the world, took a bit of time.
Time Way would have bought her without a second thought.
Kari wasn’t Way but sometimes friends knew you well enough to have your back in a heartbeat anyways.
“She can handle that,” Kari said nudging Jin towards a group of diplomats who were huddling behind the remains of a destroyed transport shuttle. “I’ll give you folks a hand.”
‘You folks’ being Kyle, his daughter,…and Lily Na, from South Salem, New York? More information came flooding in but Jin caught the last important bit there.
Lily wasn’t a native of this world. Lily came from the Earth Jin, Kari, and Way had been trying to save weeks. It confirmed Jin’s growing suspicion.
“Come with me if you want to live,” Jin said, extending a hand to the diplomats. The nearest one reached out and the hand that closed on hers was as solid and real as Lily’s would have been.
As she led them to the turbo lift that would whisk them off to safety, Jin cast a glance back to where Kari and Lily were making short work of the Hyperspace Ravager’s tentacles, while Kyle and his daughter telekinetically held the beast’s near infinite number of mouths at bay.
Jin looked past the physical for a moment and saw that infinity collapsing ever fast, each of Kari’s slashes cutting away not only the tentacle she sliced through but an endless pool of not-quite-real additional tentacles as well.
To an outside observer it looked as though the beast was simply running out of resources at last, and that would be true for all similar Oblivion Remnants that tried to take that form as well.
It wasn’t enough to just save this world after all. Not when Jin could feel a host of new threats continuing to arrive as more and more people turned to this dream world made real as their last hope to save the world it had been born from.
Stepping out of the world was an easy thing to do. Far too easy unfortunately. With Rachel in tow, Way knew she had to be very careful in terms of how much reality bending she did. The last thing she wanted to do was break Lisa’s sister, or worse erase her from history.
“So, I should warn you, there’s might to be a lot that my friends and I talk about that won’t make a lot of sense, and I may not going to be able to explain most of it to you.”
“Uh, okay? What do you need me for again though?” Rachel was on the edge of freaking out after Way had literally dragged her down a dark and smokey alley. As they walked the smoke cleared considerably though. Way was at least able to tweak things like that without risking too much trouble.
“You went back and forth to the Beta server, right?” Way said. “And you went to the real Fallen Kingdoms, and then crossed over to here?”
“Yeah, but a lot of other people were doing that. I’m not special or anything.”
“Remind to go over with you how literally none of that is true,” Way said. “For now though, just focus on being your selves.”
“Rachel Chen of Earth and Deadly Alice of the Fallen Kingdoms.” Way twisted the pink ring on her finger and sent a silent call to the one person she knew would always be with her no matter how many world might lie between them.
“But Deadly Alice isn’t real. Is she?”
“That’s the question of the hour I guess,” Jin said. She fell to the ground next to Way.
In theory, she could have jumped off the roof of the building above. She was small enough that maybe she could have landed as gracefully as she did with a lot of Parkour training and some very nimble bouncing from one wall to the other.
Jin hadn’t done any of that, and Way knew it, but fortunately neither Rachel nor the world at large noticed that fact. If someone checked, they’d probably find footprints in all the right places for someone of Jin’s size and weight to have dropped from the roof. Or not. The world might come up with some other clever retro-history to explain what happened. Realities were strange like that.
“You’re with her?” Rachel asked, looking first at Jin and then Way.
“We are too, for this job at least,” Beth said. Kari stood beside her, along with a woman who was definitely not covered in blue scales. Nope, just a normal looking lady. Reality was much happier with that.
Reality was also happier with the three of them since they’d elected to walk around the corner at the end of the alley rather than cheat for a faster arrival.
“So, here’s the deal,” Way said. “Rachel is a full fledged world walker.”
“Oh no!” Kari said, with Jin’s expression falling into a worried frown as well.
“I’m a what?” Rachel said.
“You’ve moved through an entire circuit from one world to the next,” Way said. “And this is the important part. You did it while leaving your body behind.”
“I’m sorry. What?” Rachel said. “What do you mean, I left my body behind. My body is right here, thank you! See!”
She poked herself in the arm, confirming that she was indeed made of solid tissue.
“That is your body.” Jin’s nod of agreement did nothing to quell the disbelief in Rachel’s eyes. “But it’s not quite the same as the one you were wearing the last time you were on this world, is it?”
“What do you mean? Of course it is. I’m not a clone or something,” Rachel said.
“That is correct. You are not a clone,” Way said. “You are the real Rachel Chen. Or the real you. There’s lots of Rachel Chen’s in this world I guess, and they’re real too.”
“Okay, why is this important and what are you saying,” Rachel asked, after taking a forced calming breath.
“Consider this,” Way said. “When you transferred to the Beta server, what happened to your body on Earth?”
“Nothing. It was basically just VR. I was still on Earth but I was seeing and interacting with stuff on the Beta server like it was real thanks to whatever weirdness is going on.”
“That’s correct, mostly,” Way said. “Now consider what happened when you used the portal from the Beta server to the Live server.”
“I stepped through and got stuck in Deadly Alice’s body,” Rachel said, confusion beginning to creep across her face.
“And what do you think happened to your Earthly body then?” Way asked.
“I…Well, the same thing as everyone else right?” Rachel asked.
“When you arrived in the Fallen Kingdoms, were you a ghost?” Way asked.
“No, I was just like this. I mean, like Deadly Alice,” Rachel said.
“You were right with that first bit,” Jin said.
“For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure, your Earthly body was still here, even after you stepped into the fully real version of the Fallen Kingdoms,” Way said.
“Where we were before? Where you were Deadly Alice? Did any of that feel even a bit less than real?” Way asked. “You could see things, feel things, even smell and taste things there right? Does that sound like VR?”
“But that is a lot to take in. Trust us, we know,” Beth said, stepping forward to put a comforting hand on Rachel’s shoulder.
“But I’m here now,” Rachel said, looking over her body again as though to make sure she really was herself.
“Right. So, last step, consider what that means,” Way said.
“I don’t know. What could it mean?”
“It means that when we came back, you reached out to your sleeping Earthly body and brought it here,” Way said. “You needed a body in this world, and you had one so its the one you used.”
“But what happened to Deadly Alice’s body then?” Rachel asked.
“Nothing. Its still yours too, there waiting for the next time you need it.”
“But I can only be her in the Fallen Kingdoms, right?”
“Nope,” Jin said. “You’re wearing your Rachel Chen body because it’s the most comfortable one here. But you are as much Deadly Alice as you are Rachel Chen. You can be whoever you choose to be.”
“Even someone who shows everyone else how to save this world,” Way said.