Chapter One

Staric is this chapter's POV character.

Chapter One opens with a CG of Staric laying in their bed, with the Stars Align Logo and the subtitle "Chapter One" underneath it. The logo and its subtitle fade away.

It transitions to another CG of Staric rolled onto their side, now asleep. There is a large window visible behind them.

A portal opens up on the other side of the window, with Purple and Midas peeking out of it. Purple looks exhausted and nervous due to the heights, but Midas still seems enthusiastic.

I jolt awake from my half-asleep state to the sound of a bird slamming into my window.

Part of me is excited. I love birds, and if I catch this one in time, I could possibly keep it.

Maybe I've watched too many "wholesome" BooTube videos of people rescuing animals and forming a bond with them…

I sit up and face the window.

Staric: Huh?

Background: Staric's apartment. Sprites: Purple & Midas.

I immediately draw the curtains shut.

Everything becomes a little darker.

I wonder if it's just an illusion. I've read before that people can hallucinate strange landscapes outside of their window when falling asleep or waking up.

Could it be that?

My train of thought is interrupted when I hear a knock on the other side of the window.

?: Let me in! It's hard to balance on the edge of this freaking portal!

?: Uhh...we come in peace!

I open the curtains just a crack.

Two faces are staring back at me: a strange man and a robotic woman. The man is standing still on the edge of the tear in reality, holding the woman around the waist so she doesn't fall.

She has one foot propped up on my windowsill, and the other on the edge of the portal.

Staric: Hahah, what a weird dream.

I close the curtains again, then reopen them, expecting some change in the weird imagery I'm viewing.

The man and the woman are still there, but now the woman is perched on the windowsill, her feet dangling with nothing but five stories of air beneath her.

The man is somehow sitting on the edge of the portal. He's holding onto the sides of it with both hands.

The woman's head turns all the way around, like an owl. I'm surprised, but only a little. Being a cyborg and all, I can do the same.

Well, technically a haunted robot, but a ghost counts as an organism, right?

Woman: Can you please let us in? Pretty please?

Staric: It's a dream, you'll live. You can fly in a dream.

She tilts her head to the side, then giggles.

Woman: It's not a dream, silly! Please let us in.

I wonder if they're like vampires, and need permission to join. Vampires wouldn't be too weird to dream about, I suppose.

I open the window. It's old and dirty, so it's a bit of a struggle.

Staric: Come on in!

I grab her wrist and pull her in to safety.

The man manages to step inside on his own.

Now that they're close, I can get a better look at the two.

The man has strange crystals growing from his shoulders. It must be just another weird dream thing.

I wonder if it represents anything about myself. Doesn't everything in a dream mean something?

I should start by asking their names. There must be something meaningful about their names.

Staric: What are your names?

Midas: I'm Midas, baby! Good as gold!

Purple: And I'm Purple.

Midas's name makes sense. She has accents of gold all throughout her outfit, and one golden arm.

Purple...makes less sense. He doesn't wear it at all. His suit is magenta at best, and would only look purple in the dark.

Maybe it's just his favorite color?

Ugh, I shouldn't be trying to force logic into dreams.

Staric: Uh, hi! I'm Staric!

Midas: That's what they all say!

Staric: Huh?

Purple chuckles, shaking his head.

Purple: We've visited a couple versions of you today.

I have a feeling this is where the dream gets interesting. No wonder I'm a bit of a writer; I even come up with cool plots in my sleep.

Plus, usually my dreams are a lot more random and disjointed.

Purple: You're oddly calm. I'm pleasantly surprised.

Staric: Uhh, thanks!

He's kind of hot. He reminds me of my celebrity crush, Aido, but more alien.

He has the same hair color, skintone, eye color, and even height.

It makes sense that my subconscious would borrow from the people I've seen in my waking life.

Staric: You seem familiar, Purple.

Purple: Of course I do. Does the name Aido ring a bell?

I nod in response.

Purple: That is my true name, but I go by Purple in most situations. It started as a code name but now I'm most comfortable with it.

Midas: And when you join our cause you can have a cool code name too!

I must admit I'm sort of curious as to how far down the rabbithole I can go in this dream. It's intriguing enough for me to risk sleeping past my alarm.

Staric: Your cause? Tell me more!

Midas: Purple and I are partners, and the leader of the rebellion! We...are looking for a more specific name than 'the rebellion'.

Midas: But I digress! Are you interested in hearing about our mission?

Staric: Knock yourself out.

Purple: I'm sure you've heard of the multiverse theory. Well, as you can see from the giant portal behind me, it's very true.

Midas: After all, despite the common belief, scientific principles are only called theories when they're basically proven already! For example, the theory of evolution!

Purple: And throughout the many universes, we have no shortage of villains! Including the dictatorial duo, Lord Aido and Lady Aldritch.

Why are there like three people named Aido…?

Purple: You may want to sit down. This gets confusing.

Staric: I'm already confused.

Purple: Well, throughout the multiverse, there are infinite possibilities. And Midas and I are just one different possibility.

I nod again, but I'm still super lost.

Staric: Is that why you said your real name is Aido?

Purple: Absolutely. I am just one version of the Aido you know, among many. And so is the Lord Aido who I declare to be my enemy.

Midas: And I'm a different version of you! See? We're both robotic and have that heterochromia thing going on here.

She points to her one golden eye, which matches my defective one.

Midas: And Lady Aldritch is a version of you too! She used to be called Staric, just like you, but changed her name to distinguish herself from the other versions of her she enslaves and conquers!

Purple: She and Lord Aido are incredibly powerful, and only desire more power. If no one opposes them, surely in their immortal lifespan they will conquer the infinity of the multiverse.

Midas: But we can't do it alone! That's why we're teaming up with other versions of ourselves! Who can you trust more than yourself?

Staric: You want me to fight alongside you…?

Midas jumps up and down in excitement.

Midas: Yes! Yes! Be our ally!

Purple: We will take you through our portal back to our secret base, and you will meet with the other members of our team there. And, if that isn't enough to convince you…

He smiles smugly.

Purple: ...Aido has already agreed to work with us, and assuming his claims are true, he's kind of a big deal in your world.

Oh my god. A dream with Aido in it all over…

What an amazing opportunity.

Staric: I'll come.

Midas covers her mouth and giggles under her breath.

Midas: Simp!

I wonder what Freud would think of this dream…

Purple points to the portal through the open window.

Purple: Okay, get in.

It's just a dream...I'll be safe.

And even if it is real, I have the right tool set of powers to survive the fall.

Midas: Just jump right in and we'll guide you down the right path! Just try not to get any portal goo in your mouth! It tastes like shaving cream!

Purple: How do you know what that tastes like…?

Midas: I ran out of toothpaste one time and had to get creative.

I step on the ledge, looking down. I feel dizzy staring at the crowds on the pavement below. If I fell, I could explode, and murder those poor people…

But I won't fall. This isn't real anyway.

It's a dream. I'm allowed to leave. It's ok.

I put on foot into the portal. The material is bouncy, slippery, and hot.

I reach forward, grabbing the edge for support, and hop in, sitting on my butt like a slide.

Background: The Portal. Sprites: Purple & Midas

Midas: That's it! Just scoot forward!

My stomach drops as I slide down into the portal. The golden fluid that coats its inner lining splashes around me as I zip down.

I yell, not out of fear, but just reflexively. I pray that the excitement doesn't wake me up.

Within seconds of my journey, a fork in the road comes up. I have no idea which way to turn.

Midas: Left!

In my excitement, I didn't notice at all that Purple and Midas had followed behind.

Midas is standing on her feet, as if she is skiing or snowboarding.

Purple is on his back with his arms crossed over his chest.

Midas zooms past me, grabbing my arm on the way, and pulls me down the left tunnel.

She celebrates by literally backflipping, expertly landing on her feet again.

As if just to show off, she pirouettes on one foot as she zips past me, deep into the portal.

Purple: She always goes ahead to look for tight spots or sharp turns. Don't worry, she'll warn us. Listen if she says to slow down.

Staric: How do I do that?

Purple: Don't be afraid to dig your heels or claws into the material around you! You really can't poke a hole in this stuff.

I'm getting faster and faster by the second. It feels like I'm grating my thighs against hot tar as I'm being pulled along by a car.

I can't help but yelp in pain.

Purple: You might get a bit of a burn, but it won't be too much of a problem. Just be thankful that we're going fast, or else we could be stuck for hours.

I hear Midas yell in the distance!

Midas: There's a tight bit, slow down!

I do as she says, slamming my heels into the material in front of me, and promptly flip over onto my belly.

I drive my gloved claws into the stuff instead. The yellow liquid sprays in my face.

Midas was right; it really does taste like shaving cream.

I manage to slow down, but only truly stop once I slam into Midas, who is struggling to climb through a kink in the tunnel.

Midas: Oof..ouch...it's like being born again…

Purple slams into my back.

Purple: You never were born, honey.

Midas: Close enough!

Midas breaks through to the other side, and Purple and I slide behind her with a slippery *pop*.

I am hit with a blast of fresh air as I fall to my knees on some sort of floor. The shock is almost relieving after being stuck in the hot and humid portal.

Background: The Denny's. Sprites: Purple, Midas, Vixen, & Mirror

Midas, of course, does a flip and lands like a cat without stumbling at all.

Purple lands on his feet as well, but not without stumbling.

In front of me are two robots sitting in a diner booth eating popcorn.

The one on the left just looks like arms on a jar, and the one on the right is more humanoid.

In fact, they resemble me strongly…

Rightie: They look too much like me. Five point four outta ten.

Leftie: Bitch! They're kinda thicc though. Seven outta ten.

Staric: What are you doing?

Rightie: Rating you, ten outta ten, how hot you are.

Leftie: One is 'I became a virgin again just by looking at you', five is 'I could fuck you if I was really drunk', and ten is 'Please breed me into oblivion right this instant.'

Staric: Uhh...any tens so far?

Leftie: Besides me? Nah.

I honestly was rated higher than I ever thought I would be.

Plus, portal goo isn't exactly the best look on me.

Midas: Staric! Meet some of your other selves!

Staric: So y'all are Staric too?

Leftie: Duh!

Rightie: I already chose my own codename, biatch. Call me Vixen!

Update: Rightie ⇒ Vixen

Vixen: I think it suits me.

Leftie: More like...uhh...bitch-xen.

Vixen: Uhh, yeah!

They say dream characters represent aspects of yourself. Perhap these two guys represent the side of me that is critical of myself.

Midas: Welcome to our super secret lair!

Purple: Lair makes it sound like a villain's den. This is a hideout, our base of operations, and most importantly, our home.

Staric: A diner…?

Purple: There's more to it than that.

Leftie: There's like a whole huge basement and attic hidden away-

Midas: Hey, you ruined the surprise!

Leftie: Do I look like I care?

Vixen: You two need codenames too, and since I already gave myself such a great name, I'll take that obligation upon myself. You're welcome.

I wonder what sort of nickname they'd give me.

Staric: Huh? Well, I guess you can go ahead.

Vixen: I'm calling you Vanilla.

They point at me.

Staric: Aww, because I'm sweet?

Vixen: Nah, because compared to the others I see, ya basic and there's not too much special about you.

Oh…

Staric: Uh, thanks.

Despite their reasoning, I don't mind it. I could get used to the nickname.

Update: Staric ⇒ Vanilla

Midas: What a cool codename!

Vanilla: So you, on the left, are you like my evil twin or something?

They shrug, scrolling absentmindedly on their phone. I find it funny that they'd think to bring their phone to another dimension.

Leftie: How can we say you aren't the evil one?

Midas: It's a mystery! Morality is subjective! Nothing means anything!
They said that in an awfully cheerful voice…

Vanilla: Well, an evil twin needs an evil twin type name, right?

Vixen puts their hand to the front of their body, as if they are propping their chin up in their hand to think.

Vixen: How about Mirror? Since they're like your mirror image?

Midas: Yes! What a cool name!

Update: Leftie⇒ Mirror

Mirror: Wha? I didn't even get a say in this!

Purple chuckles to himself softly.

Purple: Can you think of anything better?

Mirror: ...no.

I start pacing around the room, looking at various things. It's remarkably consistent, and everything is the same when I look away and back again.

Vanilla: What a remarkable dream…

Midas: It's not a dream, silly!

I don't buy it. I've seen some strange things, considering I'm a literal cyborg, but this is too weird even by my own standards.

Each footstep burdens my knees with my weight, so I take to levitating around instead.

You'd think a dream would relieve me of my literal robot arthritis…

The diner seems to be completely abandoned of its use as a restaurant, but not its use as a living space. The walls and corners are free of cobwebs, yet all the windows are boarded up; several tables and booths are covered with white cloth, as if to keep them clean. The few uncovered booths are dusted clean and seem to be in use.

There's the one Mirror and Vixen are occupying right now of course, but there is another booth off to the side with an open laptop on it.

Several stacks of paper are piled on it as well, along with manilla folders and loose pens. A little desk lamp gives the space its own light.

I look away, and look back again. The table remains exactly the same. Not even a pen has moved position.

Vanilla: I'll wake up soon, right?

I've begun to worry that I forgot to set my alarm. I only have dreams this long when I'm oversleeping.

Midas shakes her head sympathetically.

Midas: Let's go downstairs, silly!

Staric: No, I wanna wake up...this dream is nice but I don't wanna be asleep anymore.

Purple pats me on the back.

Purple: I know it seems impossible, but I can assure you this is real.

Vixen leans forward, extending their arm and roughly pinching my face.

Staric: Ouch!

Vixen: See! You're awake!

Mirror: I can kick them to make sure.

I shake my head. The pinching trick never truly worked on me…

Vanilla: No, this is too much! Wake up wake up wake up! Wake the fuck up!

Midas simply frowns.

Midas: Do you think this is a dream, or a nightmare?

Vanilla: I don't know…

Midas: They must be kinda overwhelmed. Come on, let Purple and I take you to your room, you can lay down for a while.

I guess I should accept her offer. I've had dreams in which someone helped me to wake up before. Maybe I just need peace of mind before my brain will accept it's time to snap out of it.

Purple: We don't want you doing anything rash. Who knows what stunts you may pull if you believe this isn't reality.

Midas: I know your life must be weird already! I see you floating right now! I see it! Is no one going to point that out?

Vanilla: Of course I can float! You can't?

Mirror: I can too, but I hardly bother. It's a lot of mental effort.

Midas: Y'all gotta tell me how, but later! Follow me!

She grabs my hand and pulls me along like a child dragging a balloon behind them.

Background: None. Sprites: None.

We pass through a kitchen cluttered with plates and knick knacks on our way to a door that's dripping with warning signs.

It has several locks on it, too.

If this is a dream, I bet this represents going into my subconscious or something.

This room leads to an unremarkable office. I tune it out.

Midas kicks a bookshelf that's embedded in the wall, and it spins like a revolving door, revealing a staircase.

Midas: Cool, huh? It's just like in the movies!

Vanilla: Yeah…

My eyes are blurry with tears of frustration. She enthusiastically hops down the stairs, pulling me along.

Purple closes the 'door' behind us.

Purple: She saw it in a spy movie and insisted I install it. We used to have just a hole in the wall hidden behind a normal bookcase before.

I nod, but that's all I can manage to do.

I stop paying attention to where we are going. All I can focus on is repeating to myself my little mantra.

Wake up, wake up, wake up!

Midas: Ok, you can go to sleep now!

Vanilla: Huh?

Background: Vanilla's Empty Room. Sprites: Midas, Purple, & Vanilla.

It's a small, broken room. The walls are cracked, and there's tallies carved by the bed.

Midas: I know, it ain't much. Purple had to divide the basement into rooms by putting up walls, but this is one of the original rooms. I think it was a supply closet once? So yeah, it's old.

She runs her fingers over the tally marks on the walls.

Midas: We slept in here when we first got here, and I marked these to keep track of the days.

She lets go of my hand and holds Purple's instead.

Midas: Anyways, once you're done napping, feel free to have Purple and I help move in any stuff you wanna keep in here!

Purple: We can just throw it down the portal attached to a rope, and drag it along behind us. Shouldn't be too hard to bring any furniture you need.

Midas pantomimes surfing, holding her arms out and making 'whoosh' sounds.

Midas: I surfed on a desk! It was awesome!

Purple: Of course, you're not obligated to live here. But I'm gonna leave you to think about it for a bit. Just...try to rest.

Midas: Bye bye! Midas, out! On to the next mission!

Purple and Midas's sprites disappear.

They walk out the door, shutting it behind them. I sit on the edge of the bed.

What even happens if you sleep in a dream?

I should plan what to do if this is all real…

How will I explain to Midas that I'm a literal haunted robot? What if she doesn't believe in ghosts…

I've been wrong about life being a dream before.

I mean, what teen would believe that they'd died and come back?

I get under the blanket. It's well worn. Midas and Purple must have slept in this same bed before.

Vanilla: Wake up, wake up…

Despite my mantra…

I fall asleep.

The background fades to black.

CG: Aido overlooking Staric in bed.

Aido: Hello. They told me to wake you up.

Vanilla: Good morning, Aido…

Wait a second.

Hold up.

Wait a damn second!

Vanilla: Aido?!

It wasn't an empty promise?

He's here?

I'm here, still too. It really wasn't a dream?

I have never even once slept and subsequently woke up in a dream.

He's pretty, he's so pretty. Oh my god. I might just cease to exist.

Aido: Yes. Aido. I believe you've heard of me?

Vanilla: Wha? How?

Aido: I'm honestly just as confused as you are. Are...you a real robot?

He pokes me in the cheek, feeling one of the screws in my face.

Vanilla: I'm haunted.

Aido: Good for you.

Vanilla: Technically a cyborg? I think? My n-name is...Staric...b-but apparently my codename is Vanilla…?

Aido: I turned down the chance to have a codename. My name is an important part of my brand.

Aido: Do you have any idea what's going on? Don't let my celebrity status intimidate you. Right now we're on the same level. Or, as much as a man and a robot can be.

Vanilla: Well technically I'm a ghost, the r-robot is just my vessel-

Aido: Yeah yeah, that doesn't matter. You seem like one to me.

Oh god he's so handsome, so pretty. I don't even care about anything other than gazing up at his intoxicating face.

Aido: So like that Purple guy is an alien version of me? And you're even from my universe, but you're a robot? I didn't know we had such advanced robots. Are you from Japan or something?

I could ask the same of him. Aido is a japanese name.

A magazine I once read claimed Aido wasn't always named Aido, but changed it, because its meaning has something to do with being beautiful.

Vanilla: Purple told me he's you, yeah. He said you'd be here...or Midas did, I can't remember.

Someone knocks on the door. Then, without waiting, they open it.

Background: Vanilla's Empty Room. Sprites: Aido, Midas, and 34.

Midas: Hi! You haven't met this guy yet, you two, have you? This is 34! Vixen named him that, they said it has something to do with the 'rules of the internet', whatever that means!

He silently waves hello. He doesn't seem as if he wants to be here; he's hunched over a book he's clutching to his chest protectively, avoiding eye contact.

Being human, I assume that 34 is an alternate version of Aido, rather than of me.

Vanilla: Hi, 34!

Aido's demeanor switches instantly. He rises to his feet, standing straight with his chin up.

Aido: Hello, have you heard of me?

34: Not a chance. I'm not from around here.

Midas: He's from the same universe as Vixen! 34, Vanilla and Aido are from the same universe as each other!

34: I'd be lying if I said this wasn't really fucking weird.

34 promptly turns around and tries to leave.

Midas stands in the doorway.

Midas: Noo, we're a team! Stay! Stay! Y'all need to get to know each other!

Aido: Let him go. We were busy talking about something.

Midas: Fine...come on 34, let's go upstairs.

They leave, and the emptier room brings some relief.

I have to accept that this isn't a dream. At least I'm not alone in this.

Being brought to another universe with your celebrity crush sounds like something out of a ThoughtPad fanfiction, but right now it's my life.

Can anything any more weird happen to a poor haunted robot like me?

End of Chapter One. Roll Credits!