“JAMES!!! Come quick! We need you in the ballroom immediately!!!” shouted the twins, causing me to sit up and look around. There was a pounding coming from my bedroom door, so I hurried to it, finding them on the other side once I flung the door open. “Come on!” they exclaimed. I barely had realized that Mai was holding a very groggy looking Aaliyah in her arms when she started running. Ai pulled me into a run beside her. They were extremely quick. Keeping up with them was too much effort for me to try asking what had happened. I followed them into the ballroom where Ai literally leaped into her chair while Mai stuck Aaliyah into another one. “Mila, what time is it?” I inquired with a yawn. “Nearly seven, boss-man, sir. Jarod, Brandon, and Brenna are minutes away. Emma is finishing coffee.” she told me. “James! We need your help before it gets to the town! The runt’s unresponsive.” cried the twins in unison. Mila had logged me into Ancient Tribes of Earth as I sat. The top of the cave where I had logged out was missing entirely, and there was a plain path of destruction that couldn’t be missed. I looked over at Ai and Mai’s screens to find them fighting an enormous monster fit for a nightmare.
I started running after the twins and the creature, following the path, but I didn’t hope to catch them very quickly. “Mila, can you get the others here?” I asked as I ran. “Sorry, boss-man, sir, but having an A.I. control the characters of others is against the EULA.” she replied. Jarod arrived moments before Brandon and Brenna, but he looked just as tired as they did. “What’s happening?” asked Brenna, whose pajamas could use an extra button on top when stretching. “Well, there’s apparently some big monster going for a town, and the twins want to stop it.” I explained. Jarod laughed and said, “I can’t believe they managed to get you out of bed for a video game, Brandon.” He shrugged and replied “I didn’t know why they woke me, but how could I turn down those two?” Brenna rolled her eyes and drowsily mumbled, “You really are the most hopeless brother imaginable.” He smiled, hugged her, and told her in a voice suitable for small children “Aww.. sissy makes such cute noises when she tries to talk with the grown ups.” She hit him half-heartedly and he let her go, raising his arms protectively in front of his face.
“Log on! This thing almost killed me again!” exclaimed Ai. Her character was running from the beast when I looked up to her screen. Emma showed up with a cart holding two large kettles and multiple glasses. “Brought coffee and tea. Now where’s the beastie?” As her screen came up, I saw that she was already closer to the twins than I was. “James! Look out!” yelled Mai. I turned back to my screen to find that I was running straight at the creature, a being named Piggy the Devourer. “Is that really supposed to be some sort of pig?” I asked as I maneuvered my character back away from the thing. “Who knows, but it’s the first rare enemy we’ve seen. It’s gotta drop something amazing!” declared the twins in unison. “Is the runt awake yet?” inquired Mai. “If not, feel free to dump a little coffee on her,” said Ai. While I gawked at her, Emma yelled “DON’T YOU DARE! If she can sleep through all this noise, she must really need it.” I continued gawking, but now completely surprised by Emma’s vehemence. I knew she enjoyed babysitting Aaliyah, but I never expected her to get quite so defensive.
Making sure that Ignus wasn’t too close to the monster, I leaned forward enough to see Aaliyah in her chair. She was sprawled out in a ridiculous position, probably just how Mai had set her down. “I think we’ll have to take this without a GM’s assistance. What have you learned about it so far?” I asked, trying not to yawn again. Most of us must have gotten under five hours of sleep. Ai and Mai started filling the rest of us in on the different attacks they had seen the monster use as well as the various spells that seemed to be ineffective. Unfortunately, fire spells were among the ones that didn’t effect the creature, so I would have to try helping with melee. The twins assigned us each tasks as they continued keeping the thing busy. On their signal, we started the onslaught, but we found ourselves falling behind within minutes. Though the beast didn’t seem to be a master strategist by any stretch, it would often start attacking Emma’s character when she started casting healing spells, so she wasn’t able to keep up with the damage being done. Jarod and Brenna’s characters were attacking the beast’s flanks while Brandon’s “Elf Hottie” was hacking the side of the beast every chance she got, but the beast could injure our characters simply by turning if we failed to dodge quick enough.
I didn’t see any hope of us defeating the creature, so I suggested retreating. As I started backing off, the creature’s legs became encased in ice. Elf Hottie slid under the creature and rammed her greatsword up through it. Jarod had somehow gotten his character on top of the creature and was pummeling it from above. The twins and I moved around to opposite sides of the beast’s neck, attacking whenever it looked the other direction. In the end, the beast was vanquished, but the ice spell which had captured it came from none of us. Eseld Antigone, a pale Elven woman with light blue hair, had seen our struggle and came to the rescue. The poor girl apparently didn’t have a mic, since she was typing her responses to us, but she stayed and chatted for some time as Brenna plied her trades on the beast to collect meats and leather. Ai and Mai were searching the innards for swallowed valuables with surprising success. The creature had recently eaten numerous people whole and still carried their gear within it. Eseld didn’t seem remotely bothered by the gruesome display, claiming that she had hunted numerous animals in the real world. Before excusing herself to head to work, Eseld added us all to her friend list. Ai and Mai promised that they would reward her for her help when next they saw her online.
By that point, Brenna was muttering about how she shouldn’t have taken up such “icky” professions. Though I appreciated the tremendous detail Aaliyah put into the game, I had to agree that showing the animal’s guts seemed a little excessive. On the other hand, I had heard about infamous “poop quests” in another game which had players digging through animal excretions in search of lost valuables. Maybe the majority of modern gamers expected to get a little messy in their quest for greatness. Whatever the case, we had a significant haul once the beast’s corpse was thoroughly picked through. Ai believed that even the bones could be sold for a large amount to certain NPCs if we could get a cart to haul them before someone else claimed them. After a little discussion, Brenna declared herself too tired to bother playing anymore, so she logged off and headed back to her room. Despite Ai and Mai protesting, I agreed with Brenna and scooped up Aaliyah to put her back in bed. Brandon, Emma, and Jarod stayed behind to help the twins more. As I walked to Aaliyah’s room, I thought about how crazy most of us were, giving up sleep to fight a monster in a video game. Only Aaliyah was sane enough to sleep through the ordeal, and she was the one who made such an addictive pastime possible. Perhaps I needed to create a gaming schedule to keep my employees as well as myself from becoming too lost in that virtual world, but that was something for a rested mind. For now, I needed sleep.