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Earth Beyond, Part One

Written by shadar :: [Saturday, 07 January 2023 18:28] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 07 January 2023 21:25]

Earth Beyond, Part One

By Shadar

January, 2023


The attack on the Illuminate Complex was turning desperate. Our Security forces were being massacred, leaving people dead all around the Complex. I’d taken a bullet in my right leg, but a tourniquet was keeping me from bleeding out. So far, anyway. But God it hurt!

Yet the hole in my leg wasn’t my biggest problem. I could hear gunfire coming closer again, and knew we weren’t going to survive the next assault.

As the threat from the Heaveners had grown, Miranda had worked for 48 hours straight to complete an Avatar design she hoped to use to escape, if it came to it. Now that time was here.

She needed me to load her into the Scanner to send her on to Earth 2 to merge with her Avatar, but that meant destructive scanning. The laser would vaporize every synapse in her brain while recording it for duplication in the Avatar. We only dealt with dead people here, scanning them in the roughly five minutes we had after they came off life support.

I scanned her alive, I’d clearly be murdering her.

I hesitated at first, even as she urged me on. Nobody had ever been scanned while alive.

But then the shooting was just outside our Lab. There was little doubt now — the Heaveners were going to break into the inner Lab Complex. I led the way at a run toward the Scan Lab, but halfway there I heard Miranda give a short cry, and turned to see her brains splattered all along the corridor walls behind me. She’d been shot in the back of the head.

I fell to my knees as more bullets zinged just over me, barfing my guts out on a floor covered in her brains.There was nothing left of my friend to scan. All her work, all her planning, all for nothing!

Unlike Miranda, I hadn’t believed the Heaveners would actually turn to violence. And if they did, I was confident that our Security would protect us. But I was wrong on both counts.

That group of religious fanatics had been united by the belief that we’d tapped into Heaven and were sending dying people’s consciousness — their soul the Heaveners claimed — directly to Heaven using technology and not religion. They were very aware that most of the people we’d sent weren’t even religious.

The Heaveners had united by the hundreds of thousands to put a stop to a project they felt had opened a back door into an afterlife that they claimed was theirs alone to control.

It had all started when the aliens, who called themselves the Illuminate, first arrived. They’d offered many types of advanced technologies, but in return had asked for the ability to send on the consciousnesses of a select group of dying people to what they claimed was an alternate Earth — existing in another dimension of time/space. They claimed it was much like our Earth except for being at a much earlier stage of technological development. They wanted to speed things up. So we were asked to recruit scientists and professors and such folks who wanted to be sent to this other Earth upon their death.

The aliens claimed that they could capture a person’s consciousnesses and then use it to inhabit a synthetic life-form they’d created in this alternate Earth — which quickly became known as Avatars for obvious reasons — and thereby give the deceased a chance to live another life. A life with all their memories intact from this world so they could accelerate the development of that other world’s science and engineering.

It was literally the deal of a lifetime for those who were not invested in a traditional belief in the afterlife.

Once I’d learned all this, I desperately wanted to work with the Avatar team. I got my wish. I now ran the Scan Room.

And as far as any reference to old movies went, it didn’t bother me too much. Movies often presaged things that happened later in real life. I just wish we’d chosen any other name than Avatar, but it kind of fit.

The gunfire was getting closer by the minute. No way was I getting out in that direction. If I was going to leave, I’d have follow Miranda’s lead and scan into an Avatar. But the only Avatar currently in the system was hers.

Could I take her place?

I looked at her Avatar design screen, hoping to at least modify the specified gender, but was shocked to see that there were Overlimit warnings in every category. She’d used her high level access to override all of them.

Fortunately, given her station was still unlocked, I could change anything I wanted. The problem was that I’d never seen an Avatar design anywhere close to the complexity of this one.

If I was going to use it, I’d have to make one change right up front. I was about to pull down the Gender menu to make the change to Male when a long rattle of automatic weapon fire in the hallway outside the Lab drove two more Security officers through the doorway, both of them spurting blood from multiple gunshots as they went down.

I had no time to try and figure out what Miranda had created. No time to adjust anything. All I could do was hit Transfer to Scanner and begin my run toward the Scan Room. The tourniquet on my thigh slipped to spurt blood again, but I managed to leap over Miranda’s still body and the slippery mess around her to dive through the doorway just before a hail of bullets slammed into the glass walls, cracking and crazing them. Armed men wearing body armor raced into the control room I’d just left as I pulled the door of the Scan Room closed to lock it.

That wouldn’t stop them for long. I threw myself back onto the table as I locked my head into the metal grid. There was no time for sedation as I slammed my fist down on the big yellow PREP button, very aware that I was doing something that had never been done before — a live scan.

The grid immediately tightened to squeeze my head painfully, and then sharp points bored through my scalp to grip my skull to prevent any movement. I screamed in agony.

The last thing I saw as I hit SCAN was the glass walls around me exploding inward from another blast of bullets. The scanning laser flared to begin destructively taking my brain apart, starting by slicing my head in half before recording every synapse and connection and neuron of each hemisphere with perfect accuracy — while vaporizing them. All in just a few seconds.

I was gone before then, out into the blackness.

Chapter One

I woke from a nightmare seemingly moments later, still desperate to escape the bullets that I’d last seen slamming into the Scanner Tube — and promptly crashed face first into a dirty, graffiti covered brick wall.

The bricks exploded outward as if by magic as I went through that wall and then another. And then the one beyond that before I got enough control over my fight or flight reflexes to come to a stop in a pile of bricks in an even filthier alleyway. Looking back, I saw three body-sized holes in the walls, with twisted rebar bent outward in my direction of travel and shattered bricks in front of every hole.

Clearly, I’d melded with Miranda’s waiting Avatar, under traumatic conditions no less. You were supposed to wait an hour to get used to your new body before even trying to sit up. Walking was supposed to take another hour of preparation and adjustment.

Yet I’d woken up running.

Several things were immediately clear — I was smaller, lighter and, based on the condition of those reinforced brick walls, a whole lot stronger.

Oh… and my face was full of blonde hair. And my legs were bare. And my hips moved differently.

No surprise on some of that. I’d fully expected to be female given I hadn’t had time to change Miranda’s Avatar design, but the effortless way I’d crashed through those walls was a shock. I’d felt the bricks hitting my face and body, sensing every blow, every brick, but they’d shattered painlessly as I went through them. The rebar had bent and tore from the walls like they were made of string.

Still shaking from the adrenaline surge, my fight or flight reflexes continued fueling me as I stood with clenched fists, looking up and down an empty alleyway, looking for any shooters. For anyone who might hurt me.

But I wasn’t on that world anymore. I was here, on Earth-2, in the so-called afterlife. I also knew very well that my head had been sliced open and my brain had been totally vaporized during the scan. I’d done that to hundreds of dead bodies. And now, I was dead too, my head completely emptied of any brain matter.

Looking around, I quickly decided this didn’t look like Heaven. Which said all those Heaveners had been freaking out about the wrong thing. This was just an alternate Earth. One of many according to the Illuminate.

Instead of Heaven, I found myself in a narrow alleyway made of brick walls with a few windows here and there, all of them painted over. Rusted steel fire escapes rose up the sides here and there.

Given I was alone, this was as good a place as any to take stock. A glance down my front confirmed my new gender in two rather dramatic ways. That view looked both weird and really good from this angle. I tried not to dwell on it.

Interestingly, I was wearing some kind of red and yellow rune on my chest that was hard to make out at this angle. Running my hands downward, I traced my fingers along a very slender midriff, my skin tight, warm, supple and very feminine. Clearly Miranda’s settings for physical appearance had been very high.

But why not? I’d have done the same. Except not in this gender.

Spotting a dirty window to my right, I walked over to brush it off, and then scraped away the paint with my fingernails, which I discovered were manicured and natural looking. Miranda might have been in her 60’s, but she’d always been into details, always dressing smartly and taking care of herself. She’d worked out nearly every day of her life and had taken pride in looking far younger than she was.

Thoughts of Miranda filled me with remorse. She should be the one here, exploring whatever it was that she’d created. She’d planned ahead, while I’d trusted the government to protect me.

I could be dumb that way. Too trusting.

But nothing could be done about any of that now.

Looking closer at my hands, I found they were small and feminine, even elegant looking, with long fingers. Yet they had strong-looking tendons on the back and over my wrist to signal a high degree of fitness. Still, my wrists looked terribly delicate.

I’d been a 250 pound man who should have weighed 180. Now I likely didn’t weigh much over 100. It was hard to judge height in this radically different body, especially without anything to compare to, but Miranda had been 5’8 and she’d said that nobody had ever asked to be shorter.

One thing was for sure, however. The torn holes in the walls and the piles of broken bricks on the ground and torn rebar said I wasn’t fragile. Or weak. Adrenaline didn’t begin to explain that.

Taking a deep breath as I searched for courage, I became briefly distracted as those breasts rose dramatically as I filled my lungs. Which made me wonder what else Miranda had done with her Avatar. She was a perfectionist after all.

I tilted my head and stepped in front of the glass to see my face.

My heart skipped a beat as I found an extremely attractive blonde girl looking back at me. Emphasis on girl. Her eyes were sparkling blue, her cheekbones high, her face slightly wide and framed by pale golden hair that was slightly more than shoulder length. Her skin had a delicious golden tan, and was absolutely flawless.

Disbelieving this could really be me, I turned to look behind me, looking for the beautiful girl whose reflection I was seeing, but I was the only person in the alleyway.

I closed my left eye, and my reflection did the same. Opening them wide, I found my eyes were big and unnaturally blue, clear and sparkling. Only a girl could have eyes like those.

Feeling disoriented and a bit queasy now, I was starting to comprehend how far the controls on Miranda’s Avatar design had been maxed-out. More than maxed, she’d set them all in a zone that none of the rest of us even knew existed.

I was no longer an over-fed 64 year old man with a long, white Santa Klaus beard. I was a slender, beautiful blonde in her teens.

Stepping back a few steps to see more, I discovered that the decoration on my blue crop-top was an iconic “S”. It made me look as if I was attending a Comic Con or something. Ridiculous.

Looking lower, my midriff was gloriously bared all the way from the base of my ribcage down to my hip bones, and so perfectly tight that my abs looked like a work of art. Tensing them a little, I saw perfection. My entire body was slender and wickedly fit and delicately boned. Miranda had truly had an appreciation for beauty.

But as far as fashion went, I was wearing a brown leather mini-skirt with a golden belt featuring another “S” emblem on the buckle. That and a pair of calf-height boots. And over all that, a coat of the same leather that was so long in the back that it might as well be a cape.

Skirt. Bare midriff. Boobs. Blonde hair. Bright eyes. Boobs.

I started to feel a touch of panic as I thought about what I couldn’t see. Just the thought of being female that was disorienting, especially the way those boots and that short skirt made my legs look so long and lean.


avatar sgas


I was clearly ready for a ComiCon. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong planet for that. In the wrong existence. Wrong universe. Wrong life.

While my thoughts were soaring around all those impossibilities, I became aware of a breeze that was blowing down the alleyway and through my bare legs and up under my skirt. It made me feel very free but also vulnerable and wildly under-dressed.

I tried to take it in stride as my male self-consciousness freaked out, leaving me watching almost as if from outside. Dissonance was expected. My mind was still integrating with the Avatar.

I’ve been scanning people into Avatars for years, sending their minds and souls across the void to awaken in radically different bodies than the one that had just died. They’d all asked for younger versions themselves. That made integration a lot easier given they’d been there before.

But Miranda had created an outrageous Avatar for herself that belonged in a comic book. A imagined fantasy being. Unreal.

Not that the words ‘real’ or ‘imagined’ carried much weight here. I was dead. But also very alive, albeit in an Avatar I didn’t belong in. Who would have guessed that Miranda, given her tough, hard-as-nails way of running things, had a whimsical side.

My role had always been limited to maintaining and operating the Scanner, so I had no idea what Miranda had been doing with the designs. But I had read many of the applications that people had sent in, each one explaining why they wanted to go to Earth-2, and what they hoped to find when they arrived. The only universal themes had been ‘young’ and ‘healthy’, followed closely by ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’. I mean, if you were dying and could become someone else in the afterlife, why wouldn’t you ask for those things?

But those had all been requests by geriatric scientists and professors, most of them male. They were the only people we were supposed to send. You couldn’t buy your way into the Avatar program. We had an incorruptible Selection Board, and nobody inside the program had ever designed their own Avatar.

Until now.

Now the last words Miranda had said to me made more sense: “Nobody was ever going to hurt me again. And I won’t allow anyone else to be hurt.”

Clearly, she’d imagined herself as some kind of protector. A superhero or something. A superhuman.

And now I was living inside whatever she’d made.

It was going to be hard enough to think and act convincingly like a girl, but a super girl? That was way out there.

One thing was certain, though. This remarkable body was going to draw a lot of male attention, and I had absolutely no idea how to deal with that. My brain still worked like a guy in every way.

But the superhero part — now that might be doable. Who didn’t want to be a Kryptonian or whatever in their dreams?

I quickly decided there was only one thing to do about the gender swap problem — I had to find my ex-wife. We’d divorced and she’d married the love her life, a woman named Patsy, only to succumb to cancer shortly after. She’d been one of the first Avatars created, but given we get zero feedback after the aliens send someone, the only thing I had to go on was that she’d once asked me to ensure she was recreated like she’d been when we first met. I’d fallen head over heels for her when I first saw her. Thirty plus years ago.

That didn’t go over well with Patsy, who’d not even met Amy until she was fifty, but I carried just enough resentment toward her for stealing the love of my life to whisper in Miranda’s ear to override whatever instructions she was getting from Patsy and use mine.

It wasn’t my finest hour.

Now emotions I’d suppressed for years began to course through me as I thought about seeing Amy again in this afterlife. I hadn’t cried in decades, but now tears welled up. Here I was, back at a youthful ground zero with so much to learn, and apparently with some kind of powers and strangely female. And crying.

But then, every person I’d cared about was dead. Myself included. Crying wasn’t so unexpected as that horror crashed in on me.

Yet I was standing here, alive and with all the experience and knowledge I’d collected during 64 years of living.

It had been more than five years now since Amy had died, but I knew one thing for sure: I’d always loved her, and I still loved her, even though she’d abandoned me for the love of her life.

Finding her likely would be easy. I’d given Miranda a photo of Amy taken on her 18th birthday. Add five years and she’d be older than me now. Yet I’d been a dozen years older than her back when we were alive.

I laughed at the sudden realization that it wasn’t going to be my age that was going to get Amy’s attention when we meet — she’d been a closet lesbian during our marriage.

The whole situation with Patsy and Amy’s tearful betrayal made my heart ache just thinking about it again. Amy had been torn between two people she loved. She had to choose. She’d felt terrible when she told me she hadn’t chosen me.

More tears welled up as I remembered that moment. So painful for both of us.

This was going to be a really weird and emotional reunion, but then, this is the afterlife. What were the rules even like here? Assuming there were any. Would we become lovers again? This time on her terms?

Lost in those confusing thoughts, and so looking forward to seeing her again under any circumstance, I didn’t notice the men coming down the alleyway at first. Not until the roar of an engine drew my attention to a large tank-like vehicle turning into the alley behind them, roughly a block away. The men were all wearing uniforms and thick body armor that was almost medieval in appearance, and carrying absolutely massive weapons of a type I’d never seen before.

But the real shock was the men themselves. They were huge and massively muscular, and so hairy that they looked like a cross between a bear and a man. Their jaws were wide and their foreheads low with very large eyes sunken inside heavy eye sockets. And they were very tall. Every one of them.

My thoughts raced. If these men were typical of the people here on Earth-2, then clearly Homo Sapiens wasn’t the dominant hominid on this Earth.

So much for the, “It’s just like our Earth with a few minor tweaks”, argument. This was NOT a minor tweak.

It looked to me like Homo Neanderthalensis had won the battle for hominid dominance here. Which raised the question of whether any native Homo Sapiens were even around.

The men paused about fifty feet away while their leader barked orders at me in a strange kind of pidgin English. From what I gathered, I was to put my hands on the wall or be shot. I stared at their pointed weapons again, seeing barrels big enough to put two or three of my fingers into, the cartridges cartoonishly big. What kind of prey were they designed to take down? Godzilla?

I’ve always been pathologically afraid of firearms, and getting shot in the leg and then blasted while I was scanning out to merge with Miranda’s Avatar hadn’t helped those fears at all. I would forever be traumatized from seeing Miranda’s brains splattered over the wall. That’s why I hate guns. Violently messy things.

While this Avatar was clearly superhuman in some ways, I had no idea what my limits were. So I complied by putting my hands up and leaning against the wall. I had to figure a lot of things out before I was going to invite being shot with those kind of monster weapons.

The men quickly gathered around me as one of them fastened a very thick pair of handcuffs behind me, and then punched the back of my head to slam my forehead rudely against the wall. The bear-men talked among themselves in a grunting language that sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard back on Earth-1. They didn’t smell obnoxious though, which said they at least had decent hygiene.

The leader who’d spoken in pidgin English kicked my legs wider open as he lifted the back of my leather jacket to search me. He spun me around to face him, his hands going up under my skirt to do a very thorough investigation. Obviously I wasn’t carrying weapons there. Then his hands worked upward, fondling me as he seemed to enjoy himself way too much. He laughed crudely as he spoke to his men, who also laughed.

I just closed my eyes and endured the search, not enjoying being female at all now, thinking of all the women in history who’d been treated this way by men in power. It was all I could do to resist kicking him in the balls. But battling these bear-men in this decrepit alleyway wasn’t going to help me figure out what was going on here.

But moments later, any plans I had to cooperate evaporated when the brute spun me around again to bend me over as he tried to rape me. Whether it was my latent homophobia or just a cry of female outrage, or maybe the size of that hairy thing that was probing upward between my legs, but I came completely undone.

Spinning back around, I jerked the handcuffs apart to send hardened steel pinging off the walls and street, and then proceeded to kick that bastard in the balls so hard that I launched him across the alleyway. He crashed halfway through the far wall as a ton of bricks fell on him to bury him. At that moment, I sincerely hoped I’d killed him.

The other men grabbed the weapons they’d set down at the beginning of their planned gang rape, but I flew into them first, punching and kicking and otherwise registering my disapproval of their idea of fun in every way I could.

I had no idea how to fight men that large, but it didn’t seem to matter. In seconds, all the bear-men were down and I’d bent most of their weapons in half to ruin them. All without really thinking about it and nearly without effort.

That’s when an even larger weapon began to rise from the top of that tank to swivel my way. I ran straight toward the front of the tank to deliver a roundhouse blow that sent the tank flying backward, tumbling end over end down the alleyway for an entire block and then out into a street where it hit a huge truck with enough force to topple it on its side as well.

I just stood there, astounded, looking down at my little fist which was glowing white hot from the impact.

I wasn’t just a bit stronger!

Holy shit!

I’d just punched out a tank!

The men who were still conscious were groaning and trying to get up, searching for an intact weapon to shoot me with, so I bent my long legs and leaped upward, hoping to reach a fire escape high enough up on the wall to climb to the roof.

Unfortunately, I’d put way too much dynamite into that jump, and instead found myself soaring up and up and up, kilometers up. High enough to see that I was in middle of a fairly large city.

Clearly my legs were more than just cute.

But whatever goes up must come down. Flailing my arms, it was all I could do to come down mostly feet first, my skirt lifting up to plaster itself against my waist, my long coat and hair trailing behind. I didn’t come down as fast as I’d gone up, but terminal velocity is still pretty damn fast.

I landed a couple of kilometers or so from where I’d jumped, and in a lake in the middle of a large park. The water was deep, but I still hit bottom, where I stayed. Apparently this Avatar is pretty dense.

Holding my breath, I used the water for cover as my thoughts struggled to catch up to what I’d just done. Clearly, I had instincts that had proved useful in a fight. Maybe watching all those Action movies over the years hadn’t been a total waste after all.

I was also clearly stronger than those brutes. Breaking those massive handcuffs, tossing them around like that, and then punching what had to have been twenty tonnes of tank into scrap as I sent it tumbling into the street a block away. All with a single punch.

Several things seemed very clear now:

The locals were not friendly.

I was definitely some kind of super girl.

I might know more about what I’m doing than I think, reflex-wise.

And I wasn’t easily hurtable.

Despite hitting that tank’s armor as hard as I had, I’d not even skinned my knuckles.

Nor had the fall from a kilometer up hurt me.

It had instead been liberating and wonderful to be way up there for a moment, especially compared to the ugliness that was going down back in that alleyway. The weirdest thing about it all was falling with my skirt lifting up and no panties.

I quickly pushed that silly worry away. It wasn’t like I had junk hanging out in the wind.

To my surprise, as minutes passed while I walked across the lake bottom, I found I wasn’t running out of air. In fact, I had no desire to breathe at all.

I’m no expert on imaginary super powers, but I know what I’ve seen in old movies. I decided to use that as my guide.

Continuing across the bottom of the lake, which was surprisingly clear with a clean, sandy bottom, I found a shadowed place where trees overhung the bank. I climbed out there, having never felt the slightest lack of air despite having been down there for maybe fifteen minutes. And despite the very cold water, I wasn’t chilled in the least.

That gave me more confidence. I might look like a girl, but Miranda had put that “S” on my shirt for a reason. Clearly she’d had big plans for herself in the afterlife. A 60 year old woman turning herself into a young Supergirl. But all of that planning had been short-circuited by a bullet that had opened the door for me.

It was now time to work on my own plans.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in with Amy when I met her, but she was the only person here who I trusted. She could bring me up to speed on Earth-2 and from there I could maybe figure out what I was supposed to be doing here. Best of all, Amy obviously knew all about being a girl, and I needed a crash course in female.

Maybe she could teach me better ways of dealing with things like back in that alleyway with those bear-men. Although I have to admit, it had been immensely satisfying to kick their asses. And punching out a freaking tank? That had been one awesomely powerful moment. My entire body was still tingling. I really want to do that again.

I was starting to understand the magnitude of Miranda’s vision about strength and power and invulnerability. She’d wanted to become a cute slip of a girl who could change history on this other world.

And punch out tanks. Who knows what else.

Maybe this place was going to be a helluva lot of fun after all.

To be continued in Part Two

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An interesting beginning. Lots of room to maneuver, plenty of questions to keep a reader coming back for another helping. I look forward to seeing where this one leads- solid storytelling as always.
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Fun start, Shadar. Great to see you post new stuff. Looking forward to Part Two.
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