Anila leads you down another corridor to a pair of double doors. “This is our biggest lift,” she says. “It can hold up to one hundred people. We can get as many as five hundred visitors on the days the station is in full swing, so they’re usually in demand.” She glances over her shoulder at you. “There’s only about a dozen of you, but none of our other lifts are big enough to get all of you to where we need to go.”
“Where are we going now?” the woman who was missing her daughter’s wedding asks.
“To the next level,” Anila says. “You need to see the whole station, not just the docking level.” She presses her hand with its long, delicate fingers against a panel set into the bulkhead. The panel lights up and you hear a faint whoosh. The doors slide open and Anila gestures for you to precede her into the lift.
You do as she says, though you hear a few of your traveling companions whimper. Apparently they don’t care for elevators. “Is there no other way down?” the teenage girl with the fascination with Twilight asks. “I don’t like elevators.”
“Sorry sweetie,” Anila says gently. “We don’t have stairs and the teleporters are broken again. We’ve asked the repair techs from Multiverse 23 to fix them, but they’re swamped. The central core’s processors have degraded and she’s really upset. She has a deadline and she isn’t able to work. So they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with them.”
“Child, you should be grateful we’ve been granted this opportunity by God to experience such a momentous journey,” the priest says pompously. “Fear nothing. Embrace everything.”
Anila snorts. “Your god doesn’t exist on this station, priest. I’m not entire sure he exists in any of the Multiverses either. He might exist in Multiverse 243, but Khey Lan and Khyle don’t believe in him and those two have been around long enough to know if he exists or not.” She pauses. “The core doesn’t believe in him either. She’s closer to the gods and goddesses of the Multiverses than the god she was raised to believe in.”
“Is she your god?” the priest asks with a sneer.
Anila’s eyes turn solidly black. “My god is pure death, mortal,” she says in a voice that echoes eerily. “His touch withers. His breath freezes. His very presence draws the life essence from everything.” A moment later the blue returns to her eyes and she smiles cheerfully. “The station core isn’t our goddess. She’s our creator. She’s the one who brought us into existence. Of course, our Multiverses have creation myths. It’s only natural she’d put them in there. But in reality she’s the whole reason we exist.”
“She sounds interesting,” you hear yourself saying.
Anila turns that sparkling smile on you, though you can’t shake the feeling you just had when she channeled whatever it was that turned her eyes black. “Oh, she is. I think you’ll like her. And if you like it here on the station, she might even put you in one of her Multiverses. Or even create a new one for you to inhabit.”
“Can’t she send us back to our own?” the woman whose daughter was getting married asked. “I want to be there to see my grandchildren be born.”
Anila smiles sheepishly. “I, uh, I don’t know. I don’t remember this ever happening. Then again, I’m not the usual greeter. It used to be done by a woman named Liliana, but she got written out of her primary story and moved to another part of the Multiverse so there was a personnel shift. We’re kind of short handed at the moment even though the station core is trying to get all of her new creations placed here.” There is a wry quirk to her lips as she adds, “Personality conflicts are a real problem, along with those from fantasy realms coming in contact with technology from the technologically advanced realms and this station.”
“This station isn’t like any I’ve ever seen or read about,” a young man says. He’s one of those who has, up until now, remained silent. You glance at him. He’s wearing a D20 t-shirt and a pair of ratty jeans. His tennis shoes are Pink Floyd themed Chuck Taylor All-Stars that are in better condition than the rest of clothes. “And I’ve seen just about every sci fi movie and read just about every sci fi book out there.”
Anila laughs as she makes sure everyone is accounted for before pressing a button on a panel in the lift. “I’m not surprised. This station is a mixture of magic and science. After all, the station core doesn’t create one over the other. She plays with both technology and magic quite freely. In fact, there are a few worlds she’s created that mix them both. Those are Multiverses that many of us try to avoid. They’re…not pleasant.” Anila shudders. “To be honest, there are Multiverses that she’s created that scare everyone but her. She revels in playing in them when she’s in the mood. Those are the days where no one goes into her rooms. It means something’s going on that’s got her to the point where – if she’s disturbed by any of us – she’ll kill us in our Multiverse. If she does that, and doesn’t bring us back right away, we fade and disappear. Our existence will only be remembered by Nariel and the station core.”
“She sounds awful,” the teenage girl says.
“She’s a creator, and sometimes a creator must kill their creations,” Anila says. “You don’t want to know how many incarnations I’ve been through before she came to my present character.” She laughs. “My original format was a human noblewoman named Anne who was rescued by her childhood playmate – who happened to be the Prince of Vassa – from a most Cinderella like fate. That was my form, hm, 19 – maybe 20 – years ago.” She gestures to what you now see is form fitting leather armor and her petite form. “This is what I am now. I’ve been a mostly blind elf, a human, a half elf, even a Majiin.” She shudders at that last. “Hope we don’t run into any of those meandering around the station. I can’t do anything against them and even the station core has issues controlling them. If one of those – creatures – should take an interest in you, you’ll disappear and the core might be able to save you. Then again, she might not.”
“If they’re her creations, she should be able to control them better,” the priest says.
“She doesn’t control any of us,” Anila says. “She lets us know what she wants, but we don’t always listen. She loves it when we take her places she didn’t expect, though she often gets frustrated along the way. That’s half the fun of being her, well, I suppose you could say we’re her children. We give her the excitement of getting to know us while leading her down paths she never expects. Sometimes we’ll do what she wants though because it makes the most sense. We’re not idiots. We do know what’s in our best interest.”
The doors open and you step out onto the next level. The corridors are much broader than the previous floor and the ceiling higher. As you start walking forward, a creature you’ve only seen in movies and storybooks appears. Now you see why everything is so much bigger here. “Anila, these aren’t the guests we were expecting,” the dragon says, her dark red head lowering to where she can look at the short elf with greater ease.
to be continued…