Leonis, 1:1, 2:9 - USAOL Part One

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"Geniel Empire?" Parker was shaking in spite of the heat of the hot summer sun enveloping him like a blanket. He stumbled from the sweltering alleyway where he appeared only moments before. As he emerged onto the busy sidewalk, passersby simply smiled at him as if he belonged there. Parker closed his eyes and patted his forehead with his palm in attempt to remove the cloudiness and fear from his mind. This reality had to be a strange product of his imagination. Maybe he had hit his head or something. There was just no way this place could be real and after the frightful experience of the last world he considered it a toss-up as to this one's potential for danger.

He slowly opened his eyelids. Everything was just the way he experienced it the first time. The scene before him was one of happy, colorful small shops, patronized by even more colorfully attired people. It was almost as if the Fresh Prince of Belair and Norman Rockwell spray-painted the image of a town on canvas and he walked into it.

"Pardon! Coming through."

Parker stepped back and waited for a tandem bicycle powered by a grinning elderly couple to pass by. The lead gentleman sported a brightly colored, tie-dyed 'Over 40 and Feeling Foxy' t-shirt. He winked at Parker. Parker nodded and then watched the two senior citizens pedal by, waving as they traveled down the street. Parker shook off the odd event and stepped out into the street of flamboyantly dressed citizens and bright buildings. He looked down the all-to-perfect road to search for the library.

"What the hell!?!!"

The American flag that fluttered above the building was a series of familiar red and white stripes with a blue square placed in its proper location. However, there was something inside the blue that nearly sent Parker reeling backwards. No stars, only one large white 'A' with a swirl in its center.

            "America Online? No kidding?" Parker muttered and with a shrug, made his way toward the only normal looking thing in this world.

            As he approached the rather nondescript, off-white building, Parker noted another peculiarity. A very official government plaque mounted to the cinderblock wall that read, "United States of America Online Library and Data Station M146".

            Parker scratched his head. He couldn't even imagine the chain of events and circumstances involved to create this interesting reality. With a shrug, he opened the front door activating some unseen digital bell.

            "Welcome to America On-library Data Station M146," said a man from behind the counter. "How may I help you?"

            Parker glanced around at the beige computer towers and large CRT monitors lining several rows of tables. Covering the walls were shelves of old books and VHS tapes. A framed image of Bill Clinton was mounted to the wall. "Second President of the United States of America Online," it said.

            "Sir?"

            "Oh, yes, sorry. I need to use one of your computers."

            "Most people come in here for that reason, mister. I need to know what you are going to use one for so I can get you the appropriate dial up number."

            "Email."

            The man nodded. "So, you just need a fourteen dot four line, then?"

            "Well, the email I need to read has an attachment...I don't know if that'll work."

            "How large?"

            "Not sure." Parker approached the counter and glanced at the man's name-tag. It said, "James - Senior AOLibrarian".

            James nodded. "I think there might be a 33.6 available...it'll cost you per minute, though."

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