“What happened with Hyperbowl?” asked Tal. “Did you burn down their guildhouse?”
“More like demolished it,” said Lord Jim.
Britta listened in, eager to know more. Dad had organised a massive raid against Hyperbowl’s stronghold and by the sounds of it managed to take them by surprise. How had he managed it?
Tal laughed. “Bet they weren’t happy about that.”
“No.” Lord Jim chuckled gleefully. “The whole fortress had like five people in it. We took care of them and then wrecked the place. Must have been over a hundred of us. That Bruce de Bruce guy put the word out to every guild Hyperbowl had screwed over and let me tell you, the list was long. Everyone wanted in. It was a riot. People took the furniture, the curtains, anything that wasn’t nailed down and everything that was.”
They both laughed and Britta couldn’t help but join in even though she didn’t know the people involved. It was enough to know Stan had got his comeuppance. Apparently Hyperbowl was not a popular guild among non-members.
“Stan and his army turned up eventually and we all legged it,” said Lord Jim. “You should have seen him, he was so mad. So, so mad.”
“Oh no,” said Tal, a hand covering her giggling mouth. “He’s not going to let this go, is he?”
“Nope. He’s out for revenge. Bruce de Bruce better watch his back.”
“Who’s this Bruce de Bruce?” asked Britta, knowing it was Dad but wanting to hear what other people thought of him.
“Hey, B,” said Lord Jim. “He’s a new guy, only started recently but seems to know a lot of people. It might be a smurf account, which would be smart.”
Dad had just started a new character because his old one had been taken away by APE so no one knew who he was. Perfect time to make an enemy of the biggest guild in the game. Knowing him as she did, it would come as no surprise if he took on the role of the mystery vigilante making life difficult for the all-powerful Hyperbowl from the shadows. In fact, now that she thought about it, she had no doubt that was exactly what he planned to do.
“It’s going to cost them to put their fortress back together,” said Tal. “That thing was huge.”
“Millions,” said Lord Jim. “And they’re going to blame Stan for summoning the whole army and leaving it undefended. He was so pissed off. So, so pissed off.” More laughter followed.
It was a novel experience to be part of a group, to gossip and laugh about rivals and feel like she was included. It was fun.
Usually, she was on the receiving end of that kind of treatment. Ever since starting secondary school, she had been ignored and isolated. If anyone had a party or arranged for a trip somewhere, she was never invited. It was easy enough to act like she didn’t care and wouldn’t have gone even if asked, but it was still a painful thing to deal with as a twelve year old kid.
It was especially galling because in her first couple of years the popular kids had tried to use their friendship as bait. She was a good student and a meticulous note taker. When the other kids saw the detailed, cross-referenced files on her laptop that Dad had set up for her, covering every subject from every angle, it became obvious she had the best kept notes in class. Other girls would mention a birthday coming up, a party over at so-and-so’s house, ask her if she was busy that weekend. Then the casual mention about borrowing her notes.
And of course, once she made a copy for them, the invite never materialised. She would hear about the get togethers after they’d already happened.
She couldn’t understand why they didn’t like her. And if there was some reason, why go out of their way to be so mean? They could have just left her alone. Instead, they felt entitled to treat her like crap and take advantage of her.
Over time, Britta became hardened to it, learned to ignore them. If they asked for help, dangled some stupid hope of joining their little club in front of her, she would slap it away.
“Sorry, I can’t go, I’m busy that weekend. My notes? Parental lock on my laptop. Won’t let me send or receive anything. My Dad’s a software engineer, he says you let someone stick their USB stick in your port and you’ll be riddled with malware for the rest of your life.”
Girls learned to not ask. They bitched about her being unfriendly and ill-tempered, and then made fun of her looks and her sour face. All things they would have done anyway.
These were all things she had dealt with and buried long ago, but now the memory of them resurfaced. She was on the verge of finding her own friends who she could talk to and gossip with.
Of course, she would never be as cruel as those girls had been to her, but it wasn’t like Stan didn’t deserve a little mocking. He had tried to bully her and it was his own fault things had turned out the way they had. She was well within her rights to laugh at his misfortune. She was entitled.
“Hey, we’re here.” Lord Jim emerged from the tunnel. Behind him were the other members of the party.
Britta smiled and waved, a little shy, but also a little happy to not be on her own anymore.