Chapter 5: The Neutron Star

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Chapter 5: The Neutron Star

Post by Raiden on Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:29 am

THE LAST GENERATION
Chapter 5: The Neutron Star

“̰̭̙̤̥̯̩̀T̲̦͘ẉ̹̗̜̗̱o̖̮̙̫͎̺ ̶̷͚̤̺̜͢f̡̭̣̹ą̝̪̯͎̻̠͟c̭̬̺̥̹̤̖̀e̛̪͎̙s̥͙̞͞ ͕͈͞o̶͍̳͘f̸̣̪̯̥̻ ̳̳̹̕͢t̛͇̼̥̜̤͙̜h͘҉̞̰͍̘̺̻̣e̷̛̥̘͕ ̨̭̟͎̣͝ͅs̶͙͕̭̠̻̭a҉̴͖͍̟̠͕͔̖̥m̢̛͈̥̭e̹̕͟͝ͅ ̪̳̺̪̯͘s̭͕̝̣̙͈͞e̸̱̲̤̟̤̦͉r͉̪͔̹͔̮͙͝p҉̝ę̜͍̠̦̪̻n͜҉̹͙̻͓̝ͅt̴̳̠̮̪.̸̻̹̻͠ ̡̜̘̖̰͍̪͢O̳͓̹̻͉̪͡ͅn̺͔̭͘͢e͏̰̪͇͈̞͠ ̸̲̟̮̟͓͘͠i̧̳͎̙̝͙͚̰̗͖͡ń͕͔̠̙̺ ̧̖͔̰ͅo̴̞̦̦͙̜̗̞u͏̢͖̺͔̖̟͡r̵̨͍̱̕ ̹̙̞͚̟̕w̶͍̝͔̺̬̦͈̳̘͝͠ǫ̛̺̦̜̠r̡̥͔̳͇l̨͙͖̱̖͔̤̰̭̪d̯̤̙̦͢͝͡,̸̢͚̺̪̟ ̧̦̦͕͇͘͜t̷͇̞̭̗̣̖̻h͔͈e̛͍ ̧̤̣̭͍̫̬͔o͏̴̭̦̩͎͈̩t̶̨̖̝̣̀h͈̭̰̯̳͓̖ͅẹ̸̴̰͉͠r̙̤̘̳̰ ͓i̷͏̹͉̟̖͖͈n̡̩̯͎̬̠̟̦͙ ̥̩t͔̲͍̣͉̩̳̤h̶͏̬̥͔̰̻͡e͕̘̤̠̟͞͞ ͖̜̲̕o̸͚͇̟̥̖̼̖͘͝ţ̱͔͈̪̹̦͍̩̻͞h̸̯̠̦͟e̡͇̫̳̭͎̦͞r̗͚̱͖̪̥̦͜ ͔̲̲̕w̛̹̺̥͟o҉̜̦͉͙̝͖̩͠r̵̸̭͖͖̯̲ļ̲͜d̶̤.̢͍͙̤͍̱ ̱̜͉̘̟͟W̴͍͟o̗̦ę̬̲̹͈̕ ͉͉̫̪ͅt̵̯͙͈ͅo̢̠̘̕͘ ̯͔̲̭͘͠h̤͖̮̩͢ͅe̸̜̳͢ ̧͍̞̲w̸̴̧̦̺̣͙̥̼h̢̘̱̩͎͙̩͞ơ̞͉͕̞̳̗ͅͅ ̸҉̳̲̗͉̻̲ͅͅś҉̛͎̠̙e̩̻̘͓̝ͅe̵̞͜͠s҉҉̟̣̝̱͎͓̤ ̺b͏̶̖͉̱͇͚̝̲o҉̙̙͈͕̝̹̺t̨͕̰̥͙͕͔͞h͚̦̭̣̤̰͟ ̦̣̥s̡̗̭͝i̤̲̩̠͓͓̝͟d̛̦ͅȩ͕̗̜̼̣̦̥͓͞s̨̺̩̥̣̭ ͚̦o̭̯̫̺f͚͎̠͟ ͔͉̥̟t͙̠͚̺͖̼̘̱̭͠h҉̤ȩ̹̣̗̲̫̭̗̮͢͠ ̸̭͔s҉̭͚̭̣͇̞̮̙n̲̥̟̝̱̜̤̣a̵̩̩͈̝͚̳͈̮k̨͙̦͡e͎͝.̛͈͎̻̮̮̬͚ͅ”
Unknown

World ???, 1 Hour Left

The first thing that went through Inna’s head after she regained consciousness was just how weird it was that she had woken up at all. When departing, the young woman was pretty sure that her journey to the neutron star would be a one-time affair ending with her complete disintegration. By some strange turn of events, though, she had not only survived - she was actually feeling rather well. Her stress and exhaustion were gone, which meant that she’d been sleeping for at least a few hours, and the… thing she was lying upon, whatever the hell it was, was soft and rather comfortable. The place she was in was warm and rather bright, if the light invading her eyes through her eyelids was any indication. Still, it didn’t really feel bright enough to be the core of a star that had swallowed countless worlds already.

With a groan, Inna forced herself to open her eyes, and immediately regretted the decision. The light hurt, causing her to instinctively shield her face with her hand in order to let her pupils adjust to the brightness. Inna wasn’t very religious, but for a moment, she did wonder if she was actually in Heaven being blinded by God’s divine light. Once her eyes adjusted, though, she quickly discovered that what she had assumed to be some sort of deity was nothing more than a particularly panoramic window whose glass seemed to magnify the sun’s rays. The walls surrounding it were a warm yellow shade, with several abstract paintings hanging from them, most of them completely nonsensical safe for a reproduction of Klimt’s “Fulfilment”, which for some reason was positioned vertically as opposed to horizontally. The place where Inna had spent several hours sleeping turned out to be a surprisingly comfy sofa right beneath the painting, with a coffee table placed right next to it. There was no sign of the Bastion, and considering how quiet it was in her head, AYAME was gone too. Everything seemed… ordinary. The world out the window seemed similarly mundane - there weren’t any cyborgs, forests or dystopian neon signs. There were only a few very typical concrete buildings, a handful of trees and a road where completely standard cars waited for a very traditional red light to turn green.

For a moment, Inna wondered if she’d traveled back to her own world, but something about it seemed… off. The young woman had traveled all across the world, from Bulgaria all the way through Europe to Canada and the US and finally to Japan, and yet this place seemed completely unfamiliar to her. While every city she went to had its own style and its own feel, this place looked… bare. A bit too mundane. It was almost as if the city planner had decided to sacrifice individuality for the sake of practicality. The same went for the room - while there was certainly a style to it, she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. There were no indicators around to help her deduce where she was - no flags, no plaques or certificates written in a foreign language, no souvenirs. All she found were a handful of photographs depicting various members of what she assumed to be a family of four in different locations, and once again, Inna couldn’t recognize any of them. If this world was so ordinary in every way, then why was it so utterly foreign to her?

Deciding that there was nothing more she could learn in the living room, Inna decided to open the door and have a look outside. The next room, which turned out to be a hallway painted a dark shade of orange, connected to a few more - six, if Inna counted correctly, though one of the doors probably led outside and another was most likely the bathroom. Three of these rooms were completely quiet, to the point where it was almost eery. Behind the fourth door, Inna could clearly hear a jumble of sound effects - grunts, gunshots, yells, explosions… It reminded her a bit of the sounds she’d hear when her brother was playing videogames. Or perhaps someone was watching a movie? Either way, the young woman was pretty sure that there was another person behind that door. After taking a deep breath, she placed her palm on the handle and pressed it down before pushing the door open slowly.

Keeping with the multicolor motif of the house, the room she entered was blue, from the walls through the sheets on the large bed to the carpet on the floor. The place was somewhat smaller than the living room she’d awakened in, and its most prominent feature, besides the bed, was a big lounge chair in the left side of the room, located in front of a 32’ plasma screen. On the chair was sitting a young man, maybe in his early to mid 20s, with short, dark hair and a full beard that looked like it hadn’t been trimmed for about two weeks. The man was overweight, though not to the point where he could be considered obese, and his loose T-shirt and pants concealed his weight, for the most part. Regardless of that, though, Inna actually found the man rather attractive. Sure, he wasn’t exactly Channing Tatum, but he was certainly in her top 5 most attractive people she’d ever met, maybe even top 3! The screen in front of him reflected in his blue eyes, making them seem like mountain lakes shining under the moonlight, and the way he held his controller in his large hands made Inna feel emotions she thought she’d never experience in her lifetime.

Of course, it goes without saying that that man was me.

And while Inna had fallen head over heels with my godly physique, my reaction towards her unannounced arrival in my room was a bit less enthusiastic.
“SWEET JESUS!!!”, I yelled out in English when I noticed her standing by the door, dropping my controller in my lap without even hitting pause. “What the hell are you doing in my house?!?”, I followed up in Bulgarian immediately afterwards.
“I, um… I don’t... “, she spoke, probably wondering how to tell the handsome stranger whose house she’d trespassed that she had arrived there after flying an interdimensional transportation device through a neutron star. I, on the other hand, simply assumed that I was being robbed.
“I’m warning you, get the hell out of here or I’m calling the cops! I’m not kidding!”, I warned her.
“W-wait, wait, hold on, don’t call anyone!”, she responded to me in Bulgarian. “I just woke up in the other room! I don’t even know how I got here!”
“What do you mean you just woke up? Where did you fall asleep?”, I pressed.
“I don’t remember falling asleep. In fact, I have absolutely no idea where I am”

I raised an eyebrow. I guess I should have assumed that she was just a robber trying to squeeze out of a tight spot, but, well… What can I say, I’m a sucker for good stories, especially if they involve an attractive young woman stumbling into my gaming den. And besides, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew her from somewhere.
“Alright, alright… Let’s start at the beginning. Do you know who you are?”, I asked her. She nodded.
“My name is Inna Wilson. I’m, uh… I’m not from around here. I’m Canadian”
I spent the next five seconds gaping at her.
“Say that again”, I managed to speak after regaining control over my mouth.
“Yeah, I’m from Canada. I don’t know what--”
“No, no, your name. Did you say you are Inna Wilson?”
“Yeah, I am. Is… there a problem?”

Unfortunately, I have to admit that my otherwise brilliant brain completely drew a blank. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, whether I had become the center of an elaborate practical joke or a miracle beyond imagination. Either way, there was only one way I could be sure.
“Turn around”, I asked her. “Let me see the back of your neck”
“What?”, she stepped back, her hand instinctively raising up to her neck. “Why?”
“There’s an implant there, right? A device that externally reconnects your spine”
She kept quiet for a moment, her eyes wandering around the room. I guess she was trying to decide whether or not she trusted me. Funny - even though she was the one invading my home, I guess in her mind I was somehow the bad guy. It didn’t take her long to see my point of view, though, and with a quiet sigh Inna turned around and pulled her hair away, exposing the metal permanently attached to her skin.

And that’s when it all became clear to me. Well, okay, not everything cleared up, as I still had no idea how I was suddenly a character in a terrible reverse self-insert fic, but at least the woman’s sudden appearance in my home made a a little bit more sense.
“Ah, well… This is kinda awkward, but, uh… I kinda sorta created you”
This time, she was the one who gaped at me.
“Excuse me?”
“Yeah, um… I’m not quite sure how to explain it, because honestly, this is blowing my mind right now, but you’re my character in an online roleplaying forum. Like… You were born from my imagination. I play you!”
She kept quiet, staring at me like I’d just told her that the Jonas Brothers are secretly lizard people working for the illuminati in order to brainwash the younger generation into submission (which is true, but that’s neither here nor there).
“You… Play me?”, Inna raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, like… I write you. I’m, uh, I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Write. You know, except it’s online, with other people”
“You’re insane”, the woman raised an eyebrow judgmentally. “How does that make any sort of sense?”

Instead of responding, I merely grabbed the laptop lying on the bed next to me and placed it on my lap before opening it up and waiting for it to boot. Once I was in, I quickly opened up a new tab in Chrome and wrote the domain of KS: The New Generation. Soon enough, I was greeted by the familiar green interface of our forum. With that on the screen, I invited Inna inside, finally realizing that she had been standing by the door all along. She reluctantly stepped forward, closing the door behind her and walking up to the bed before sitting down on it and taking the laptop. Her long fingers moved swiftly across the trackpad, and even though I couldn’t see very well what she was doing, I could see her blue eyes staring at the screen.
“Ew”, she exclaimed, her head pulling a bit backwards in disgust. I leaned over to be able to see the screen, and when I did… I kinda wished that I’d prepared a bit better for the arrival of my fictional character.
“Come on, why would you look at the other tabs?!? I opened the one that’s important!”
“You are a sick man, you know that?”
“Hey, I don’t judge you for your sex life, so don’t judge me for mine!”, I spoke, my face flushing. Shamed by my own creation! Blasphemy!

After quickly closing all other tabs, I gave Inna a few moments to poke around the forum, read the threads and slowly come to the realization that I wasn’t lying to her.
“So you… You created this? My whole life? Everything I know?”
“Well, not exactly. It’s not like I’m writing a book here. I created you, Ellie and Wade, yeah, but the things that happened to you… The people you ended up being… That all depended on your interactions with other characters, which were controlled by different people.”
Inna sighed quietly, her hands covering her mouth.
“Oh my God…”, she whispered, her eyes staring blankly at the screen.
Yeah, I guess I really wouldn’t have taken the realization that I’m a fictional character someone else created that well. Surprisingly, Inna only took a few moments to come to terms with the truth before asking the question that really mattered.

“So, does that mean everything I’ve been through is because of you?”
“Erm… Sort of? I mean, I’ve been writing you, but I’ve done my best to make it sound organic, you know? To imagine how you’d really act in the situations that presented themselves. And trust me, in a roleplaying forum, there’s a whole ton of variables! Hell, I’m not even the guy in charge of the forum! Sure, I created it, but I gave my admin privileges to Subverse ages ago!”
“What do you mean ‘admin privileges’?”
“Erm, well… You know, he’s in charge of major story stuff, events, approval of characters, that sorta thing. I mean, it’s kinda hard to do everything myself considering I’ve got a full time job! But hey, he’s been doing pretty well. Keeping the place like a tight ship!”
“Wait, you mean… The neutron star wasn’t your fault?”
“The what now?”, I raised an eyebrow.

Inna took a moment to explain to me everything she’d been through - how every single world in the Multiverse was being obliterated, erased from existence, with nothing left behind. Honestly, it was a bit of a shock to me - I might be a twisted writer, but I’d never intentionally cause the demise of trillions!
“So, are you saying it’s this guy Subverse’s fault? Now that he’s in charge?”, she asked.
“I don’t think so... “, I spoke, taking the laptop back and looking through the latest threads just to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. “As far as I can tell, this wasn’t caused by any of us. We haven’t written about it, see? If you go by the forum alone, you’d never know that the world was ending. Then again…”
“What? What is it?”
I pointed at the statistics near the bottom.
“Look at this. A long time ago we used to get at least 5-6 different people logging in and posting every single day. Sure, it wasn’t much, but… It was something, you know? Enough to keep us going. Now there’s no one. Nobody bothers to post or even log in. People have moved on. Even without an apocalypse, the place is… dead. I guess without people to run it, the world just dies. The neutron star is a natural response, like… Like an animal that dies when it’s no longer being fed”

She spent a few moments just staring at the forum’s interface. I could tell that she was still processing the whole ‘being a fictional character’ thing, but needed to move past it in order to resolve the whole situation and save the world.
“So now that you know about this, you can fix it? You can… I don’t know, write something? Anything to stop the apocalypse and save my world?”
“I don’t think I can!”, I shook my head. “That’s just not how it works. You can’t force a forum to come back to life. Once it’s dead, it’s dead. I mean, even if everyone suddenly remembered about the forum, they’d just go back to an empty place and wouldn’t even attempt to do anything. Going back to my metaphor, once the animal starves to death it’ll stay dead no matter how much food you give it”
“So there’s nothing you can do? Is that what you’re trying to tell me? Someone with the power to craft worlds out of nothing is suddenly incapable of saving one?”, she looked at me. I sighed.
“I can… I guess I can write a book? Continue your story like that? It’s an imperfect solution - I mean, a world like that wouldn’t really be alive, it’d be entirely dependent on my will, and it’d die the moment I’m forced to abandon the series, for one reason or another. But it’s the only solution I can think of”
“No, no, there has to be something. Something we’re missing”, she closed the lid of the laptop, deep in thought.
“Okay, like what?”

“Hawke… The guy I was travelling with…”
“Yeah, Subverse’s character. I know him”, I interjected, though a look from Inna was all it took to shut me up.
“He called me the Conduit. He said that in the entire multiverse there’s hundreds of versions of other people… Other characters… But I’m unique. He said that’s what makes me the key to solving all of this”
I leaned back in my chair.
“I guess that makes sense”, I muttered.
“It does?”, she looked at me.
“It’s kind of hard to explain, but I think I’ve got an idea about how this happened. Why you’re unique”
“Well, it’s not like I’ve got anywhere else to go. My space car is busted”, she smiled faintly. “I’ve got time is what I’m trying to say”
“Heh. Alright, then”, I chuckled, pushing myself up from my chair and opening a drawer directly in front of me, under my TV. “The thing is… A long time ago… Something like three or four years back… I went to an anime convention dressed as Deadpool”
“Deadpool?”, she asked.
“Yep”, I nodded, pulling out a comic book featuring none other than Wade Wilson, The Merc with a Mouth, on the cover. Inna took the book in her hands, staring at the cover as I continued my story.
“I had my picture taken a lot then, and I liked one image so much that I decided to place it as my profile picture on Facebook. It’s, uh… It’s a social--”
“I know what it is”, Inna interrupted me. I nodded.
“Well, the thing is, I had followed a whole lot of pages on Facebook. One of them was called Eos Eregeneia, which was a roleplaying page based on the game “Katawa Shoujo”. I wasn’t really that much into Internet roleplaying back then, but Eos did post a lot of cute pictures, so I followed her. One day, I decided to comment on one of those pictures. Honestly, I don’t even remember what the comment was, but knowing me, it was probably something snarky and witty”
“Oh, I wouldn’t doubt it. You do play me, after all”, she chuckled.
“Surprisingly, Eos responded to me, saying something along the lines of ‘Shut up, Deadpool’. Deciding to be a smart-ass, I responded in-character as Deadpool. And before I knew it, we were having a blast, roleplaying a meeting between these two characters, Eos and Deadpool. That’s when other people from the same roleplaying community also began messaging me, trying to roleplay with me. Before I knew it, Deadpool had taken residence in a small Japanese town next to a school for disabled children”

Inna turned her eyes from the cover of the comic book to me. I could tell that my story was interesting to her, but it was also pretty obvious that she had no idea where I was going with it.
“At first, Deadpool was a rascal, just like in the comics. One of the first things he did when meeting Eos was point a gun at her, and then he tried to shag her, only to casually ignore any mentions of Eos’ girlfriend. He was a loveable asshole. But the more he interacted with the students of Yamaku, who were so very, utterly different from him - literally from a different world than him - the more I could feel him changing. He evolved. He learned things about himself. He realized just how utterly alone he was, and that his antics were pushing people away. Deadpool soon decided to change himself, toning down his questionable behavior and forming some strong friendships. At first he had this little voice in his head, like in the comics, but soon enough he realized that he no longer needed it, as now he had real friends he could communicate with. Soon enough, Deadpool had grown very different from his comic book counterpart, to the point where some people even called me out for not being faithful to the source material. But I never listened to those comments, quite the opposite - I wanted to further illustrate just how far this Deadpool had come. And I thought that the best way to show that was by giving him a responsibility. That’s when I decided that it would be pretty fun to turn him into a father figure”

Inna gasped quietly. It was the kind of gasp one would make when finally connecting the dots in a detective novel and figuring out who the murderer really was ahead of the main character. I could tell she knew what I was talking about, but I still thought that she needed to know how things developed from my point of view.
“His child was based on another comic book series - a Japanese manga called ‘Gunslinger Girl’. In it, an Italian military agency known as the SWA took in young girls with health issues, brainwashed them and replaced their organs and limbs with cybernetics, turning them into the perfect killing machines. It’s, uh… Much better than it sounds, trust me”, I chuckled, though Inna only gave me a look that indicated she was very eager for me to continue the story.
“Rather than take a character straight from ‘Gunslinger Girl’, I decided to create my own - a twelve year old girl called Andrea. Deadpool was revealed to have been a double agent secretly working for the SWA all along, and he was then promoted to Handler status and assigned Andrea as his partner. Andrea was really well accepted into the community, probably because of her young age and her adorableness. Hell, two adult men even tried to have a romance with her, but the less said about that, the better… Those were embarrassing times”, I sighed. Inna chuckled quietly.

“I had a lot of fun with Andrea and Deadpool, but sadly, that’s where things kinda started going out of control. As you might have noticed, neither of them was a disabled Japanese high schooler - one was a mutant mercenary and the other was a cyborg assassin, so not exactly your typical slice of life material. This prompted a lot of people to start creating their own unusual characters - vampires and that kind of stuff. At first, that brought some much needed variety to the community, but when I saw a space marine and a pair of unicorns enroll in the school, I knew things were going in a pretty bad direction. There was also the fact that, since everything was happening on Facebook, there was absolutely no moderation, which led to a lot of ridiculous stuff such as a teacher trying to kill himself in front of his students with no repercussions - praised be Sakiento - or someone being stabbed in the chest and stomach repeatedly and leaving the hospital the very next day. And there’s also the fact that, since the community was based around “Katawa Shoujo”, we had multiple versions of the same canon characters walking around and interacting with the same people, which was very confusing for anyone who wanted a proper storyline. So two other roleplayers and I decided to cut off from the Facebook community and create a forum, with rules and tighter moderation. We agreed that the forum, while set in the same continuity, would need to follow the new generation of students who went to that school. Which is why we called the forum ‘KS: The New Generation’.”

“One of the rules, which aimed to prevent multiple identical characters, was that all characters had to be created specifically for the forum. While there could be ties to canon characters, everyone who was actually played had to be original. That’s why Deadpool could no longer be there, but Andrea could. Now older and wiser, she decided to return to the city alongside her little brother Wade Wilson Jr - who was Deadpool’s clone. It’s, uh, a long story within a long story, so let’s just leave it at that”, I sighed.

“For a while, things went great - while some of the Facebook characters, such as Eos, returned for the forum, none of them stayed for very long. We went going for about a year, attracting some attention and getting some really talented people. But that’s when I almost ruined everything”, I chuckled awkwardly. “The thing is, I’m a sucker for good stories. I always try to have a good plot, even in a setting that’s not meant for that. So I, for some reason, thought that introducing a serial killer who kidnaps students and turns them into cyborgs is a brilliant idea for a slice of life forum. You can imagine how that went. Bottom line is, we almost lost the forum right then and there. Attendance dropped to an all-time low for anyone but the few people who were interested in the arc, and they were more or less going on a suicide mission because guess what happens when a bunch of disabled kids go to confront a serial killer who makes military-grade cyborgs? While the arc had its moments, like, Wade turning evil for a bit, at the end of the day we just knew that it had to be erased from existence, and the status quo restored. Since cyborgs were the main problem, we decided that we would eliminate their root… And said root was the SWA. We rebooted the forum so that the SWA never existed, and things changed accordingly. Most things went about the same, but some characters were affected. Takeshi Tachibana, the mad scientists who created the cyborgs, was transformed into a mild-mannered physics teacher, and his daughter turned from a prototype cyborg into a frail, young girl. But the one who changed the most was undoubtedly Andrea. Since she was never with the SWA, she never became a cyborg - at least not fully. Hell, she never even received the name Andrea in the first place! So after the reboot, she started going by her original birth name… Inna”, I spoke, turning towards her.

From Inna’s eyes, I could tell that she had figured this out long ago, but hearing it spoken out loud like that probably still shocked her a little bit.
“That’s how your world came to be. And that’s why you’re unique. In a way, you were the very first character, the very origin of ‘KS: The New Generation’. You’re also the only character who had an active role in all three iterations of our community. No wonder you’re unique! Considering how instrumental you are to the whole world’s existence, I sincerely doubt that other versions of you could exist at all. No, that’s not quite right… There are plenty of versions of you, but somehow, all of them are… Well, you. Instead of having multiple different selves across the multiverse, you hold all of your selves within you. You’re a person with unlimited potential, who can be whoever or whatever she wants without being restrained by the continuity. Hell, that’s probably why you’re even able to speak to me - you’re no longer just a roleplaying character. You’ve evolved into someone much more than that. Something much more than that. Does… That make any sort of sense?”
“Not really”, Inna’s lips curved into a faint smile. “But I think I get the general gist. And you weren’t kidding when you said it was going to be a long story!”
“Well, in my defense, I did warn you”, I chuckled.

“So… You say that you’ve already fixed a similar problem once by rebooting the forum. Can’t you just reboot again?”, she asked me. I shook my head.
“Not exactly. That happened back when the forum was still alive. Going back to the animal metaphor, we gave the animal medicine before it could die. Now that the Multiverse is gone, I doubt there’s much that we can do”
“But you said I can become anything, right? That I’m not restrained by continuity, or by my world? Doesn’t that mean I can change things? Break the rules of the roleplaying forum and… Resurrect the animal?”
I rubbed my chin.
“What did you have in mind?”
“Well, you said it yourself - I’m the original. The most important person in the world. In a way, I created ‘The New Generation’. Perhaps I can do it again”
“You’re going to remake the forum?”
She shook her head.
“That animal is dead, as you put it. But perhaps I can create a new one. A fourth iteration of the same continuity. Something that’s the same, yet also very different. A place where people can just live out their ordinary lives in peace… But also a place for epic storylines that may or may not involve cyborgs”, she smiled. “I’m the girl of unlimited potential, right? Perhaps I can create a world with unlimited potential too”

I raised an eyebrow, wondering just what the hell she was talking about. It seemed like she had something in mind, but without knowing exactly what she was planning I couldn’t really tell her if it would work or not. So as much as I wanted to give her the stereotypical ‘You know, that might be just crazy enough to work’ line, I instead was left gaping at her like an ape with a particularly low IQ.
“What are you talking about?”, I asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?”, she smiled. “I’m going to recreate the world. I’ll use the remnants of the old one in order to create something completely different, yet also very familiar”
“And how do you plan to do that?”, I asked, crossing my arms.
“Don’t forget - I’m not the only one with unlimited potential”, Inna smiled at me. “You have the power to create whole worlds out of nothing! You and the rest of the roleplayers… You all created my world. Kept it alive for so long. If you lend me that power… Channel it through me like a prism, then maybe I can use it to do what neither of us can on our own”
“Well, how do I do that?”, I asked, still feeling rather confused about what she had in mind… Mostly because nothing she said made any sense to me.
“You’re the writer. You figure it out”, Inna spoke.

I sighed. Well, that was easier said than done! What was I supposed to do now? I mean, we were talking about creating an entirely new universe from the ashes of the old one by using my fictional character as, well, a conduit for all the creative energy. I didn’t even know if it could be done, let alone how! But hey, it was either that or nothing. I mean, now that Inna was here, in the real world, what was she supposed to do? She had no ID or documentation of any sort. She had no knowledge of the real world’s history, geography, technology or business, which made her education useless. No matter how you look at it, she had no place here. She needed to be in her own world, or in none at all. I knew then that I had to do the impossible. I had a responsibility towards my character… Towards all the characters. And not just me.

I quickly grabbed my laptop and opened it up before accessing Skype and opening up a new chat with Subverse.
“Are you there? I need you ASAP”, I wrote him.
“Reporting for duty, Raidy-poos!”, he quickly responded.
“Alright, listen up, you! We have to make a new forum!”
A minute of silence.
“What?”, Subverse typed. “What about NewGen?”
“That place is dead. We need to start something new… But that is also something old”
“And something borrowed! Not to mention something blue!”
“I’m serious, man! Just think about it - a brand new forum that’s similar to NewGen, but also very different. A place of unlimited potential where anyone will be free to tell the stories they want to tell with the characters they want to play!”
“But even if we make a forum like this, it’s never going to take off! There’s just no life. No spark. I mean, you can’t just create new stuff out of nothing”, he wrote.
“It will! Just trust me on this, okay?”
Another minute of silence.
“Can it at least be blue?”
“Yes, Subverse. It can be blue”
“Then count me in! Let’s do this!”

With a grin, I opened up my browser and immediately registered a domain. After giving Subverse access to the admin panel, we began to work on the new forum, doing stuff like adding subforums and categories, clearing up its interface, that sort of thing. It was… Really a bit anticlimactic. Just two guys clattering away on our keyboards and intensely clicking our mouse buttons for a few minutes. Wasn’t really a sight to behold, trust me.
“So, what happens now?”, Inna turned towards me.
“You’re the Conduit. You figure it out”, I smiled.
She nodded, giving me a look that pretty much said ‘Fair enough’ before standing up and heading to the door. I don’t know what she was thinking, or whether she had anything in mind at all, but I think she just… felt something. Like she was being compelled to leave the room by a higher force. Inna opened the door, then turned around and gave me one last look of gratitude before leaving the room. I knew, right then and there, that I would never see her again.

Inna walked back to the living room, where she had originally awakened. Deep inside her heart, the woman felt its presence within that room. The thing which had destroyed her world and countless others, the thing that had taken trillions of lives, the thing which was programmed to obliterate everything she held dear, and everything she didn’t. The neutron star was right in the middle of the room, hovering above the empty dinner table. Of course, it wasn’t really there - or if it was, it had lost all of its destructive capabilities. It didn’t suck anything into its gravitational pull, it didn’t burn the furniture or melt the walls, even its brightness was only a mere fraction of what it should’ve been. But Inna recognized it immediately. Something inside of her screamed that that was the star, and not just an illusion or a simulacrum. It hovered there, tempting the woman to come closer, to examine this object of destruction more closely. Inna cautiously stepped forward, her arm slowly extending towards the star. Her palm felt its warmth, as faint as it was. She carefully reached out to it, her fingers gently touching the surface of the star. And then… it happened.

As if the laws of physics themselves had been reversed, Inna’s hand began absorbing the neutron star. Her fingers started to shine in its distinctive yellow light, and the glow soon began to spread down her palm and up her arm. Within seconds, the neutron star was completely absorbed by Inna’s body and was slowly turning it into its new host. Surprisingly, the woman felt no fear or panic. Quite the opposite - she felt a warm feeling bordering on enthusiasm, like she had come home after a very long journey. It was almost like her entire life - no, her entire existence - had been leading her to this very moment. As the glow engulfed her arm and reached her chest, it began spreading to her other arm and down towards her legs. Within mere moments, most of Inna was no longer there, instead replaced by the warm light of the neutron star. She closed her eyes, allowing the star to completely absorb her.

Just like that, I became the star, and the star became me. There was no more Inna, yet I was still there. But where was there? I was no longer in that living room, that was for sure. I was… Everywhere. I could see everything. The entire multiverse, now completely devoid of life. But also everything and everyone that the star had absorbed. It was all still there - all the worlds, all the people… Even my daughter. Just like me, none of them had a physical form anymore, but I could feel their presence. I could bring them back. Not as they were, and not as they’ve ever been, but not entirely new either. Yes, I could see it clearly. Rebuilding worlds had become second nature to me. Is this how the admins of the forum feel like? No, I believe I feel something much more than that. I’m no longer just capable of crafting worlds and creating life. I’m in control of everything. Of everyone.

But not for long. I could feel my mind slipping into the neutron star. Very soon, there’d be nothing left of me, or the star. We’d be something new, something that would or wouldn’t even exist. I had to work quickly. The first thing I did was to bring back my own world - World PRIME, as Hawke had called it. I brought back my daughter, alongside everyone who existed there. But I didn’t make the world an exact copy of its past self. I removed everything that was… unnatural. I extracted all the creatures, superpowers, cyborgs, mad scientists and secret conspiracies. I got rid of everything that could pose a danger to my Ellie. The new world was no paradise. I still couldn’t get rid of the real monsters - the people who, intentionally or not, would cause harm to others. They would always be there, as even if I removed anyone I deemed to be “bad”, new ones would come in and take their place. But, in a way, they are a necessity. After all, without evil there can be no good.

I couldn’t just delete all extraordinary things from world PRIME, though. I could pull them out, but they still had to go somewhere. So I decided to create a second world, one that was very similar to PRIME in almost every way, except it would be full of wonder, excitement and danger. People here would be truly extraordinary, even more than humans usually are. They would have abilities that those on PRIME could only dream of, and would face many adversities in their quest to know their powers and themselves. Some would inevitably succumb to temptation and use their abilities for personal gain… But others will prevail, thus becoming true heroes.

By the time I restored these two worlds, placing them in their own separate corners of the multiverse and filling them with life - some placed from the remnants of the old worlds, some copied from them and some created by me - I could already feel myself losing my grip on my mind. I wanted to restore every single world that I had visited alongside Hawke, as well as all the worlds that I hadn’t,  I really did, but I just didn’t have any time. I felt like I could only last for long enough to craft one last world, and so I did the only thing that seemed sensible to me. I took all of the remaining pieces, the bits from all other worlds, and I combined them all into a single planet right in the center of the multiverse. This new world defied the laws of space and time and would only be held together by my own will, changing, shifting, twisting and turning constantly. But it would be there, and it would exist. And I would watch over it. I would be this world’s sun.

By the time the third world was crafted, I had lost most of myself to the neutron star. I didn’t remember my name, my history, my friends, my family, any of the books that I’d read or movies I’d seen. I didn’t know if I was male, female or even human. There was only one thing I desperately clung onto, one memory that I fought tooth and nail to retain until the very end. One person that was going to be in my heart forever. My sweet, little Ellie. In this new world you’d be all alone. You’re going to have to be very brave and fight life itself every day, but I know you can do it. You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t be more proud of you. There’s just one thing that I would like to ask of you.

Please, my beautiful child… Whatever you do…

Don’t forget me.
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Raiden
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