“Actually,” said Britta, “I found there was an alternative to fighting. If you say the right thing, you can talk your way out of most tricky situations.”
“You can,” said Dad, “but where’s the fun in that? At the end of the day, you’ll have to win some fights the old fashioned way, and a weak character won’t get you very far.”
“I wasn’t trying to win the game, Dad.” Britta felt his dismay at her choices was completely unfair. “I think I did pretty well, considering. By the way, where do you get potions from? I only found a couple in those reward boxes—which are a total scam, by the way.”
He rolled his eyes. “There’s a potion merchant practically on every street corner. But spamming pots isn’t the answer, either. You need a solid character and an optimised build.
Now it was Britta turn with the eye-rolling. “I just wanted to see what the game was like. I chose the class at random. And I did manage to kill a bandit.” Technically, Donald had done the killing, but she had been the one in charge, technically. “And a giant zombie.”
There was a flicker of surprise in Dad’s eyes. “I heard a party had taken down Zombzilla. You were involved in that, were you?”
“I got a couple hits in.” If she was being honest, it was only one hit. “Didn’t get any rewards, though. Shouldn’t I have gotten something?”
“They weren’t expecting anyone to kill it,” said Dad. “Rewards weren’t ready.”
He seemed to know a lot about it, for a player.
“So you still talk to the people at APE?”
“Of course. Just because I left—”
“Were let go,” said Mum.
“Yes, just because I was let go, doesn’t mean I don’t still have friends there. We—they’re still working out the kinks. There’ll be proper rewards once the game goes live, I’m sure.”
“By next month?” Britta asked dubiously.
“It’s not like it’ll be on sale at the local supermarket. They’re just expanding to include more people. Create awareness, build up interest. It’s a gradual process.”
“More players, more people to steal from,” said Britta.
“Britta, I’m not stealing from you. We’re family. Everything I own belongs to you. And vice versa.”
She didn’t like the way that sounded. “Then how come all the toys in your office are locked in glass cabinets?”
Dad stiffened. “They aren’t toys, they’re collectibles. And you’ll be glad of their pristine condition when they sell for thousands, one day.” He folded his arms, looking very satisfied with his point. “Once I’m dead, they’ll all go to you.”
“What about Marisa?” asked Britta.
“Well, yes, obviously you’ll have to share them.”
“And Mum? She’ll probably outlive you.”
“Don’t worry about me,” said Mum. “I don’t want any of his junk.”
“What?” said Dad, visibly upset. “Not even to remember me by?”
“Darling, I don’t need a replica of Captain America’s shield for that. No one needs a replica of Captain America’s shield. For anything.”
Dad turned to Britta. “Keep the shield safe, Britta, and it will keep you safe.”
Britta shook her head. “Why don’t you pick up my loot and sell it, and then keep the money for me. Like in a trust fund, you know, where I trust you not to spend it? If I ever try the game again, you can give it back to me.”
“I suppose I could do that.” Dad didn’t seem to love the idea. “Once you’re eighteen and start earning money, you might buy your own pod, I suppose.”
“She’ll be in university,” said Mum. “She won’t be earning.”
“She might win the lottery,” said Dad. “Or get a rich boyfriend.”
Britta was uncomfortable being talked about like she wasn’t even there, but it was better than being told off. She had successfully sidetracked Dad, but it was still the end of her adventures in fantasy land. Tomorrow, she’d be back to her boring old life. No more flying around with gryphons or hanging out with Level 999 gnomes. She felt a twinge of sadness.
“And, did you pick up any other useful items?” said Dad, casually. Slightly too casually, thought Britta. “Any special weapons or rare items?”
“No,” said Britta. “All I had was a knife and a goat. If you find my goat, can you take it back to the ranch? His name is Donald.”
“Mounts despawn when you log out,” said Dad. “You have to resummon them.”
“How?” said Britta.
“You really didn’t bother with the tutorial, did you?” He shook his head. “You can set up a command in the settings screen. And you didn’t come across any unusual items?”
“No. Why? Are you looking for something?”
“Not in particular. The game has lots of special objects that trigger secret quests. You never know when you might stumble across one.”
What Dad said sounded familiar, but the strange tangents she had gone on hadn’t involved any items. All she’d done was talk to people, but there was no point telling him that, he’d just scoff.
“I don’t think I’ve come across anything like that. I do have a gryphon feather.”
Dad jumped to his feet. “Oh,” he said excitedly. “A gryphon feather!”
“Yes!” said Britta, standing to match his excitement. “Do you know what it does?”
“I have no idea,” said Dad. “What?”
Britta sat down. “How would I know? I thought you did.”
Dad sat down, too. “Never mind. Send me the feather and I’ll see if I can work it out.”
“Send it how?” said Britta.
“Next time you’re in-game… Oh. Right.”
“I could just nip back in and—”
“No,” said Dad. “We’ll just leave it as an unsolved mystery. I better go and collect those items before someone else finds them.” He rose from the table. “And we still have the matter of your punishment to sort out.”
“Punishment for what?” said Britta, spreading her arms wide. “I probably did them a favour finding a potential security… thingy.”
“Yes. I’m sure they’ll be very grateful and only sue us for half of everything we own. We’ll talk about it later.”
“Mum!” Her last hope for a reprieve.
“Hm?” said Mum. She was busy on her phone and had lost interest.
Britta got up and slouched up the stairs.