“Run, run, run!” exclaimed Kayla from the ballroom.
“N-not that way. Sp-split up and circle around in opposite d-directions.
“What about me!?” asked Dani.
“Dr-drink this and attack on m-my mark.” ordered Raine.
Maple, Jemal, Cosette, and I had left Dejon in the library and continued on with Maple’s tour. Hearing the conversation in the ballroom as we walked, I knew that there was a battle happening in Ancient Tribes of Earth, but managed to resist the urge to run ahead and check it out. Raine was actually being a leader for the group from what I heard, and I wouldn’t want to interrupt such a development even if I wasn’t giving a tour.
“Boss-man, sir!” exclaimed Aaliyah after rounding the corner. “I have paperwork for tonight’s job!” Waving a tablet in her hand, she bumped her secretary glasses, knocking them askew. Then she pushed her glasses back up and grinned as if she was delivering the best news in the world.
“She does work here! This is your mother, Mila!?” exclaimed Maple in a loud whisper.
“Of course.” replied Mila.
“Play Ancient Tribes of Earth?” inquired Jemal.
“Yep. Willow Wood, Elven Druid.” replied Maple proudly.
“The game doesn’t have classes.” he informed her.
Cosette grinned mischievously, so I shook my head at her, not wanting Maple to get picked on more for her tree names. Cosette’s pout made me wonder if she spends too much time with Aaliyah.
Maple shrugged and said, “I’m in an RPG guild. We also do online Pathfinder RPG here and there, though that’s been slow lately.”
“I bet we could set up a game here if you want to play.” suggested Jemal. “I mean… a Pathfinder game thing, if you’re interested.”
Maple sounded amused as she asked “Have you ever played?”
“Yep!” exclaimed Aaliyah, who had walked up to us. “My baby girl is a great Gamemaster. You should see the software we have for it!”
“You wrote Pathfinder software!?” asked Maple, seeming to be geeking out over the idea.
“Nope! Mila did.” replied Aaliyah.
“Mother did offer suggestions.” insisted Mila. “My original software lacked the virtual reality integration for prototype hardware in the lowest gaming room. She also suggested a number of tweaks to my interface options for the non-VR version.”
“Will you really be willing to play with me?” inquired Maple excitedly.
Cosette grinned and said, “I’ve been playing with you since we met, silly.”
“I’ll gladly give it a try. My sister will probably want to join us too.” replied Jemal.
“I’ll gladly GM.” stated Mila.
“Is this a unique enough job interview for you, Maple?” I asked with a grin.
“Considering that I usually know more about others than they know about me, this started as a most unique experience. I wasn’t expecting to be hired with barely any questions. Now we’re just having fun, which I wouldn’t have expected from a job interview. So yes, this is the most interesting job interview I have had.”
“After we have your current availability, I’ll send out invitations to see who is interested in joining us.” announced Mila. “Maple, I emailed you the itinerary for our trip to France. Please look over the information and decide on whether or not you wish to go as soon as possible.”
Maple quickly told her “My schedule is fairly open. Is there a cost estimate for the trip?”
“Free.” I replied. “We’ll be taking my aircraft. The hotel and concert tickets are covered by the company. Marco is taking care of general dining, since he knows some people there. You only need to worry about personal expenses.”
Then Aaliyah informed her “As a matter of safety, you’ll be required to wear an enhancement suit, so we’ll need to schedule some training for you soon. Mila’s great at helping to coordinate outfits with it!”
“What is it?” asked Maple.
“This thing.” replied Cosette as she pulled back her sleeve.
“I’m wearing one too.” stated Jemal as he pulled down his collar. “I can lift hundreds of pounds while wearing it.”
“While wearing mine, I can lift him while he’s lifting hundreds of pounds.” teased Cosette.
“I can lift a fork to eat cake without one, when we have cake at least.” added Aaliyah, looking clearly dejected about her current lack of cake.
“Don’t worry, mother. Marco has a cheesecake in the fridge.” replied Mila.
Looking nervously at Aaliyah, Maple said, “Umm… Aaliyah, can I have some time to talk with you eventually? No hurry or anything, since we’re both working here. Really, I just want to thank you. The game you made makes so many people happy, and I… my guild, we sorta put something together for you. They sent me some stuff in case I ever caught you somewhere. I’ve been hauling it my car. I was honestly going to try catching you at the convention this year, but I thought maybe if you have a few minutes before then…”
“Don’t worry. Best Friend For Hire is already scheduled to attend and promote Global Princess Entertainment! Catching me then will be easy for you!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a grin.
Sounding exasperated, Mila said, “Mother means to say that you have plenty of time to run out to your car right now. She’s free enough to sit and talk with you for a few minutes while the master checks in on his daughter. We can continue the tour from the ballroom after you’re finished. I’ll show you out.”
Maple looked to me questioningly. When I smiled and nodded, she said, “Thank you, thank you! I’ll try to be fast.” Then she hurried down the hall behind Mila.
Jemal’s obvious disappointment as he watched them leave was endearing.
“Does someone have a thing for trees?” asked Cosette.
“Huh? What do you mean?” he asked nervously.
Cosette stared him down.
“I wasn’t going to bring it up, but I went to high school with her. Well, we didn’t have any classes together. She was a couple years behind me, but… I-I don’t know if she remembers me. She kinda seems to, right?”
Smirking, Cosette asked “Ever actually talk with her?”
“Well, no, not till today. She was always with her clique, ya know.” he told her.
“Not really. I’ve never been to high school.” she replied, angling to keep him nervous. Her body language seemed predatory, as if she were toying with her food.
“O-oh. Yeah.” he replied, chuckling nervously. “Seeing her again, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to speak with her.”
I pulled Cosette away by the shoulders. When she looked up at me, I told her “Be nice, or he might really try hiding.”
“Aaliyah…” pouted Cosette. “James acts as if I’m being mean.”
“Boss-man, sir, you wouldn’t pick on my friend, would you?” asked Aaliyah.
“Shouldn’t you be heading to speak with Maple?” I questioned.
“Shouldn’t you be checking on Dani? I hear she’s helped release an ancient undead from its tomb, maybe a vampire.” she replied.
“Really!? I want to see this!” exclaimed Cosette just before sprinting down the hall.
“Might as well join us, Jemal. Maple will be back when she’s done with Aaliyah.” I told him.
“Unless I’m done with her first.” teased Aaliyah.
“Please be nice. She’s a good person.” he insisted.
“I will be. Why would I be mean to someone bringing me gifts!?” she questioned.
I walked down the hall, listening to Aaliyah continue teasing him as they followed and the ongoing sounds of battle ahead. I was confident that Jemal would loosen up eventually.