As you follow after the petite young woman, you hear one of your traveling companions squeak, as if she’s choking off a scream. You look over at her and feel your blood run cold. There’s a window right next to you. As you look out it, you see what you would swear is a bridge leading to Mars. Yet the sky doesn’t look quite right.
Anila comes up and looks out with you. “Oh for…” She pulls a tarnished silver mirror off of her belt. “So glad these things became so much useless junk a long time ago,” she mutters. She rubs her finger across it in what might be a pattern, if only you could wrap your mind around the view you’re seeing.
“Anila, I thought you were on guide duty,” a soft, lilting feminine voice says.
“I am,” Anila says. “But we have a problem.”
“What kind of problem?” The soft voice grows sharp.
“Bridge 273 came disconnected from Multiverse 14 again,” Anila says.
The voice, still quite soft, swears just as fluently as anyone you know – yet none of the words are familiar. “Who’s on maintenance in that sector? Do you know?”
“No,” Anila says. “I asked Donnevon who the security commander for this sector is and he suggests the Silver Wolf and Crimson, but I don’t know if that’s true either.”
“Give me a moment. I’ll be right there,” the soft voice says.
Anila grins. “You’re going to love this,” she says. “I hope you’re not afraid of ghosts.”
“They don’t exist,” one of your traveling companions says with a sniff. A quick glance shows he’s a priest of some sort. “I should know. I deal with the dead every day.”
“You deal with the corporeal dead,” the same soft feminine voice says from just behind you all. “You do not deal with those who pass on the Net.”
When you turn, you’re confronted by a beautiful Romani woman. She smiles sadly at you. “Anila, Donnevon was wrong, as usual. I swear Lia needs to keep a closer eye on him. His memory is going.”
“She says it’s just fine in their part of the Multiverse,” Anila says.
“That’s because he has access to the central cores of all their ships through that armor of his,” the woman mutters. She looks at you. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I always forget this part. My name is Nariel.”
“Who – what – are you?” the priest asks.
Nariel smiles. “That’s something you’ll have to visit my little piece of the Multiverse to find out. I wouldn’t recommend coming if you’re a technophobe though. It won’t be for you.”
“Nariel, focus. Do you know who’s in maintenance so we can get that fixed?” Anila says, pointing out the window. “Or who’s in charge of security on this level so I can get these poor people cleared?”
Nariel blinks. “Oh, no wonder I’m confused. These aren’t the visitors from Multiverse 618, are they?”
“No. 618’s guests got crossed with this group’s plane. I’m guessing 618’s passengers landed on whichever 21st century Earth this group came from,” Anila says.
Nariel looks at you, but it’s almost as if her eyes aren’t seeing you. Then she blinks. “Maverick says they’re from Multiverse 218.”
Anila cringes. She looks at you. “You might be better off staying with us. I’ve seen all of the news reports from your Earth. So many governments in chaos, war looming in so many places. At least this place is sometimes peaceful.”
“Don’t poach, Anila. You know we’re not allowed to do that,” Nariel says with a grin. She blinks again. “Maverick says our resident security manager for this area is…” She pauses with obvious glee. “Your favorite vampire.”
“You expect me to take them to see him?” Anila shrieks. “Every time I get anywhere near him he starts talking about how good I smell.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve sent the other two ahead to remind him of the rules. You’re off the menu,” Nariel says. She sees a few frightened looks and the priest starts fingering his cross. “First, my friends are taking care of the whole ‘if they walk they’re food’ thing with him and second, that cross won’t work, priest. When here, forget everything you think you know about vampires. Not all worlds in the Multiverse work that way, and if you try to act like they do you’ll get killed.” With that cheerful bit of news, Nariel waves and vanishes.
Anila sighs. “Well then, let’s get moving.”
“What’s so wrong with vampires?” a teenage girl asks. You look over and have to keep from groaning out loud. She has a copy of a certain book in her hands. It’s obvious it’s well read judging from the broken spine and well worn pages. “Vampires are cool.”
Anila looks at her, sees the book, and starts laughing. “That book doesn’t even have its own Multiverse, it’s so bad,” she says, still laughing. “Little girl, if you believe that tripe, you too will be in for a rude shock. No vampire anywhere in any of the multiverses that connect to the Amberwoods Station are like that. If you even try to compare them to those things in those books? I’ll let them eat you.” She skips a little before resuming her brisk pace. “This way, please. I’ve got a lot to do today and I need to make sure you’re all settled before I can do any of it.”
You hear the teenage girl sniffle as she tucks her book back in her bag. The others are all looking at you and each other, confusion obvious. A few steal glances out the window at the free floating bridge. You decide that all you can do is follow along and see where this goes. Perhaps you’re all dead in a plane crash and this is a delusion brought on by your brain starving for oxygen. Or, just maybe, this is going to be far more interesting than that boring conference on index card manufacturing your significant other finally got you to agree to meet them at.
to be continued…