“Congratulations!” a faint whisper formed in the back of Jimmy’s mind when he noticed the glowing box on the shelf. “Quest complete: collect me!” He felt like the box was talking to him.
“Why’s that box glowing?” He asked and pointed the box out to his three best friends over the last three years: Ellia, Karie and Steven. And their new, fifth friend: Carl.
Carl was the one who insisted it would be “fun” to venture into the school’s basement. However, his idea of fun was very specific. He suggested coming down into the school’s basement three months ago when he first arrived. He insisted it had to be on the first Tuesday of the month and all five of them needed to be present. Jimmy’s three friends looked at the box then chuckled and shook their heads at him. He took their mocking like a good sport, but he noticed Carl didn’t join it. He seemed surprised more than anything.
“HAHAHA!” Carl suddenly said. “This was fun, let’s do it again next month.” he pushed Ellia and Karie toward the exit first. He let Steven pass but stepped in front of Jimmy.
“What, Jimmy?” He asked loudly. “You want to talk to me in private? Okay,” he turned and waved the rest of them forward. “You guys go on ahead. We’ll meet you for pizza, on me.” Blonde and Brunette heads, Ellia and Karie, tried looking past Carl at Jimmy. All he could do was encourage them to leave. Jimmy was sure Carl could see the box glowing.
Jimmy also had the feeling that he himself was not supposed to. Worst case scenario: he was keeping his friends safe from a possibly unstable student. That seemed the more likely scenario when Carl closed the door, locked it, then turned around.
“You can see it glowing?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Jimmy nodded. “It keeps saying, ‘Quest Complete‘ whatever that means,” he added.
“AAARGH!” Carl growled in frustration. “NOT FAIR!” His hand flew into the pocket of his sagging blue jeans and he pulled out a phone. It wasn’t the usual phone that Jimmy had seen him with for the past few months. This one looked like a thin, glassy rectangle. He swiped and tapped at it furiously, then held it up to his mouth. “GM ticket: Power of Friendship quest on the Highschool server. An NPC stole my quest item.”
“Are you playing a game?” Jimmy asked. He was not much into them himself but he’d heard a lot of the same terminology that Carl was using. Carl looked him right in the eyes and laughed obnoxiously loud.
“You called a GM?” A new voice said. Despite Carl still blocking the door, someone else spoke up from next to Jimmy. He turned and saw a kid, possibly a freshman with a mound of curls on his head. The stranger wore blue jeans and a black t-shirt with a blue crescent moon on it; Jimmy had no idea where he came from. Carl nodded and pointed an accusing finger at Jimmy.
“I spent months working on this quest, but somehow this NPC got credit and now I can’t claim it. The GM looked at Jimmy and adjusted his invisible glasses. There was nothing on his face until he made a slight motion as if he were pushing his glasses up. The moment he did bright blue dots of light coalesced from the air to form a solid visor in front of his eyes. After a few moments of his eyes wandering all over Jimmy, he gave his head a shake and the visor disintegrated. It became white powder that vanished long before it hit the ground. Then, he raised his hands level with his stomach and began manipulating his fingers as if he were typing on the air.
“I keep telling them to have weekly resets,” he grumbled while shaking his head, then he turned to talk to Carl. He completely ignored Jimmy. “This Zero showed up after the last reset four years ago. He hasn’t been integrated yet.”
“Can you fix it?” Carl asked. The GM nodded. “Yeah. Once the system converts him you’ll get credit for the quest.”
“Oh thank god,” Carl said. “I don’t think I could put up with their teenage bullshit for another month.” Jimmy looked at Carl with confusion. They were obviously the same. He let the questions go unanswered for too long. He needed answers and he needed them now.
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING AB-“
“Done,” the GM said, then he dropped his hands. Jimmy blinked.
“Hey, Carl! How’s it going, buddy?” Jimmy ran to hug Carl, his best friend since Kindergarten.