“Is that a quest!?” Lex rushed up to Monica, a stranger he’d never met, asking the question. Despite his sudden approach, he didn’t seem to be threatening her in anyway. He kept a respectful distance and made eye contact when he asked his question. His clothes were a bit odd for an office building, more pajama than business. But, Monica didn’t know what other business occupied the space and didn’t want to jump to conclusions.
“I’m sorry, what?” Monica asked. She hoped she didn’t sound rude. The man’s sudden question pulled her out of her own thoughts and she wasn’t sure she heard him right.
“You said, ‘I’d kill for a coffee’ just now. I was just wondering, is that a quest? I can go get you a cup right now if it is,” he shrugged apologetically. “It’s only my first day here, so sorry if it’s not.”
“No,” Monica giggled and shook her head. “We don’t do ‘quests’ here,” she added air quotes. “At least, as far as I can tell. Maybe your office does things a bit differently, but that’s not a quest,” she said. “But, welcome to the building. It’s a good sign that you’re trying to be helpful on your first day.”
“Oh, okay, thank you,” Lex gave a stiff, half-bow. “I’ll try to find quests somewhere else; good luck to you.” He turned to leave.
“Hey, hold on,” Monica stopped him. While he wasn’t threatening in any way, something about him didn’t sit right with her. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I don’t know what quests you’re looking for… but you know you’re not in a game, right?” Lex smiled and nodded.
“I know,” he said. “The AlterNet is way more than just a game.” His puffed out chest deflated as soon as he said the words. “Uh oh,” he mumbled. “I’m not supposed to say anything to NPCs.”
“I’m Monica,” she introduced herself with an outstretched hand. “I’m on lunch, how about we get that coffee together?” She asked. It was a snap decision that led into a lie. She wasn’t on lunch, it was nine in the morning, but this man didn’t seem to have that sense of time. Monica knew her boss would understand the situation. This man clearly needed help; his pajamas made a lot more sense. Now that she kind of guessed he was roleplaying his own delusion, his outfit looked more like the flowing robes of a wizard.
“Okay,” Lex nodded. “Maybe I can get a quest there.”
“I’ll bet you can,” Monica said. “So, first day, huh? What floor?” she made conversation as she led Lex to the building’s coffee shop. She also discreetly texted her boss to inform him of the situation. She didn’t want to scare the man, but it would probably be best for security to stand by until the whitecoats got there.
“Oh, no, I don’t work here. It’s my first day in the AlterNet! My Earth barely got access last month.”
“Oh.. your.. Earth?” Monica asked. She relaxed slightly when she saw one of the guards nod at her as she and Lex entered the coffee shop. Her question was met with a sharp smacking sound as Lex facepalmed.
“Stupid!” He grumbled to himself.
“Hey, stop it,” Monica grabbed his wrist and pulled it down from his face. “You’re not stupid,” she said.
“Sorry, I’m still trying to remember all the rules of the things I’m not supposed to tell you.”
“Why can’t you tell me?” Monica asked. They reached a small two-person table and sat across from each other.
“There have been a lot of NPC awakenings happening lately. Ms. Sharp is encouraging the players to avoid talking to NPCs about..,” he sighed. “Some of the stuff I already told you like the AlterNet and Multiverse, and Sharp Development.”
“So… you’re saying I’m an NPC?” Monica asked. Lex nodded.
“And you’re playing some sort of game right now?” she asked. Lex nodded. “What can your character do?”
“I’m an ice wizard,” Lex said. “But, since it’s my first day I only have one starter skill. I’m looking for quests to get more.”
“Well, since I already know, can you prove it to me?” Monica asked. She knew he didn’t have any magical abilities, but she was curious to hear how he evaded the question. Plus it was a good way to stall for time.
“Sure,” Lex nodded. Monica giggled. It was waiting to pop out at his excuse. After she realized he said yes, she noticed a chill breeze caress the back of her neck. Then, she spotted snowflakes falling down around them; inside the coffee shop. “It’s the Flurry skill, it’s not upgraded or anything yet, but hopefully that’s proof.”
Monica stood from her seat to look around. Snow was falling in the coffee shop, but no one seemed to care. The guard that nodded at her stood at attention when Monica stood, but he didn’t move. The other business-dressed patrons seemed unconcerned with the snow piling up on their shoulders and tables.
“Hey, Jim,” Monica managed to pick out a familiar face in the cafe. “It’s snowing,” she said. Monica stretched her arms out to indicate the snowfall around her. Jim tilted his head at her and gave her a curious look.
“And?” he asked. “Never seen snow before?” Monica remembered why she didn’t talk to him much as he refocused on the newspaper in front of him. She returned to Lex at the table.
“Why don’t they think it’s weird?” she asked. Lex shrugged.
“They’re still NPCs,” he said.
“I’m not anymore?”
“No. It looks like you woke up,” Lex said. His hand flew up to smack his face.