Bitter 406

Dad only emerged from his shed several hours after Britta had logged out. She had spent the time sorting out her school stuff and making sure she was up to date with everything, which hadn’t really been necessary. Next week was half-term, so she had the week to do this stuff, but she found it relaxing to go through her files and tidy things up.

She also cleaned her hard drive and tossed the trash and temp files. Watching the available hard drive space go up was always a pleasing sight.

Dad was humming and grinning. The first hint of what he’d been up to was his refusal to say anything about what had happened once she’d left him. “You’ll see,” was all she could get out of him.

After eating and using the bathroom, he headed back to his shed. He reappeared a couple of hours later, and was straight on the phone. He still wouldn’t tell her what was going on.

Only after several phone calls, and some odd conversations where he agreed to lots of demands and gave numerous assurances, did he finally tell her about the video he had made.

Britta had more or less forgotten he could record gameplay. He couldn’t use it while he was playing with her, but as soon as she left, he could hit record, and he had. The delay had been in getting permission from APE to upload it.

They had required some changes, which they would have made for him, but he preferred to keep control of the edit to ‘maintain consistent levels of quality,’ as he put it. Britta assumed that meant he didn’t want to let them play with his baby.

Now the video was up, he could show her. He wanted her to be the first to see how events had transpired.

Which she wasn’t. When Dad showed her the site where the video was streaming, there were already several thousand views.

It was titled: Korlath Mines World’s First.

It started with a shot of Mark. Or Master Chief, to give him is character name — although his name tag wasn’t hovering over him like it would be in-game.

“What are you doing?” said Mark, looking slightly irritable.

“Hold on,” said Dad’s voice. “I just need to set something up. You’re a fighter, right?”

“Yes,” snapped Mark, adjusting his helmet. “Obviously.”

“What skills do you have?” asked Dad.

“That’s personal,” said Mark. “I’d rather keep that information to myself until I know exactly what this is about.”

“I told you,” said Dad, still out of shot. “We have to work with the kobolds to defeat the banshees.”

“And you’ve really unlocked the second level?” asked Mark. “This isn’t a trick?”

“No, it isn’t a trick.” The camera moved. “Ah, I think I’ve got it working now.” The view shifted around the room. The three other members of the party were standing alongside Mark. They looked a bit nervous.

“Are you filming us?” asked Lady Da. She looked the most nervous of all of them. “Like, right now?”

“Yes,” said Dad. “Whatever I look at is being recorded. I can blur out your face if you don’t want to be part of the video.”

Lady Da's face suddenly became pixelated.

“No, that’s okay,” said Lady Da, her face returning. “I don’t mind.” She blushed.

“How come you can record gameplay?” asked Fart Lord. “Doesn’t that need a special machine, or something?”

“Then clearly he has one,” said Mark. “Don’t pry. You won’t get anywhere worrying about what gear other people have. Focus on getting yourself kitted out.” He spoke to Fart Lord like he was a little kid, which Britta suspected he was.

“I don’t know if I can work with kobolds,” said the tall bald man who’s game name was Dun Kirk. None of them had visible name tags, either. “I’m Lawful Good.”

“This game doesn’t have alignments,” said Dad.

Dun Kirk straightened his back and stuck his nose in the air. “Yeah, I know. I just, you know, that’s how I play the game.”

“Roleplayer,” Dad whispered to Britta as she watched the video.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Dad in the video. “They aren’t evil. You’re just letting your preconceptions get the better of you. Wait till you meet them.”

“You aren’t an assassin, are you?” asked Fart Lord. Britta wondered if they actually called him that. No one had used his name when she had met the group, and they hadn’t in the video, either. It was like they were avoiding it. Which was understandable. “Are you going to lead us into a trap? That’s what I would do. Get you all killed and then take your stuff.”

He was very upfront about how he would betray them, given the chance.

“Where’s that gnome you were with earlier?” asked Dun Kirk.

“No, I’m not an assassin. And she had to go home.”

“Thief? Rogue?” pressed Fart Lord.

“I told you, I’m a mage.”

“And you just walked up to the kobolds and made a deal with them, did you?” asked Mark. The camera swung back to his doubt-filled face.

“I won their trust first.”

“And how did you do that? Magic?” Mark sounded both sarcastic and genuinely curious.

“With a sandwich.”

“A sandwich?” said Mark, like it was the most remarkable thing he’d ever heard.

“Yes. You know, the ones we get from the guild.”

“They don’t even taste that nice,” said Lady Da. She blushed as the camera pointed at her.

“Can they see when they’re on screen?” asked Britta.

“No, they just know it’s where I’m looking.”

“So you can’t be on screen?”

“I can make it third person, so it follows me around, slightly above and behind, but I prefer this. More control of what’s in the shot.”

“Did you really beat the banshees with them?” asked Britta.

“Wait,” said Dad. “I think they’ll surprise you.”

The four people began walking towards camera, which turned to lead them out of the room and down a tunnel. There was a sudden jump, and they were in the middle room, facing the door over the stairwell. It was open.

“Why is it open?” asked Mark. He leaned in so he could look down, but kept his feet outside the cubicle, ready to run away.

“They left it open when I said I needed to fetch help. It’s perfectly safe.”

Mark didn’t look convinced. He took out his sword.

“Don’t do that,” said Dad. “They’ll think you’re going to attack.”

“What if they attack us?” asked Fart Lord.

“They won’t. You sign a contract with them. They don’t attack us, we don’t attack them.”

“A contract?” Suddenly Mark’s eyes lit up.

“That’s right, Chief,” said Dad. “It’s all in writing. Kobold-human truce.”

Mark put his sword away, eyes gleaming. “Lead the way, lead the way.”

Dad leaned down next to Britta. “Turns out he’s a lawyer in real life. You think we got a good deal out of the kobolds.” He shook his head.

The party wound their way down the staircase.

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