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Pwned, Page 2

Shannen Crane Camp

  My character screen popped up and I scanned the names guiltily. I had a bad habit of getting bored with my higher level characters and creating twenty low-level characters, just to see what the class was like. My mouse hovered over my highest level character, Xandris. She was the one I’d take into the raid today.

  Xandris was my hunter, which pretty much meant she rocked at killing things. She got to stand back and kill stuff with a bow and arrows while everyone else in the guild got hit by the boss. I always loved the intricacies of raiding; how everything worked together to make a perfect machine.

  We had me, the Hunter, who did massive damage per second, or DPS as we said in game. Then there was Rekrap, our Necromancer. He did quite a bit of DPS as well, but he was much easier to kill than me . . . . I liked to call him squishy because if you hit him a few times, then bam, he was dead. Then we had our tank, Kaydinn. He was our Paladin, so he took most of the hits but pretty much never died. Sovay was our Rogue, which meant she stabbed people in the back before they ever saw her coming (kind of like Tawny, actually). And last, but not least, we had Eilarae. She was super squishy, but she was our Priest, so she never got hit anyway . . . well . . . as long as we did our jobs right. She just kind of stood back and made sure we all got healed and didn’t die.

  Together we made up this perfect team. We had people doing the damage, people taking the hits, and people keeping us alive. It was a potent combination.

  The second I signed on, I was bombarded with people talking over chat.

  “Xandris, where have you been?” I heard Rekrap ask.

  “Sorry, I had to do some stuff outside of the game . . . you know . . . in reality . . . where I live?” I replied with a laugh.

  “Oh yeah. Reality. I forgot what that’s like.”

  Rekrap was my favorite one in the guild. His screen name was just his real name spelled backward, which he apparently thought was really clever when he first made it. Since that was about five years ago when he was eleven, we forgave him for that little faux pas.

  “Okay, that’s enough chit-chat. Hurry up and get here, Xandris. I’ve got someone to port you so we can get this started,” Kaydinn said loudly.

  Kaydinn always had a bad habit of yelling during raids. Not because he was particularly angry or anything. Just because that’s what he did when we raided. It was like he couldn’t turn his volume down in real life.

  “Is everyone else already there?” I asked, slightly shocked. The raid was supposed to start in fifteen minutes. It wasn’t like I was really late.

  “Xandris, we don’t have lives, remember? We would have been signed on even if we didn’t have a raid, so yeah . . . we’re all here . . . except Sovay, who just got here,” Rekrap said happily.

  Sovay had a bad habit of not showing up for scheduled raids. It drove Kaydinn nuts.

  I didn’t know a whole lot about my guild members in real life. I knew Rekrap’s name was really Parker and that Kaydinn and Eilarae were married in the real world even though they were both pretty young, but that was about it. I didn’t actually know anything about Sovay, since she was very adamant about not revealing any personal information online and only used text chat, never voice. I wasn’t sure if that was part of her character as a Rogue, or if she really didn’t trust us. I couldn’t say I blamed her. Online people could be creepers.

  “You guys make me lol,” Eilarae chimed in, her sweet voice always making me smile.

  She had a tendency to use in-game abbreviations like they were how people really talked, so instead of actually laughing, she would just say “lol.” It was actually funny and endearing.

  “All right, I got the port, I’ll be there in a sec,” I informed them, popping another strawberry into my mouth.

  I adjusted my headphones so that they sat comfortably on my head, with the microphone positioned strategically at my mouth.

  “All right guys, while we wait for Xandris to get here, let me just remind you all that today is a progression day. We’ve tried to kill this boss a few times already, but we’ve been pwned every time,” Kaydinn said a bit too loudly. “Xandris, are you all stocked up on flasks already? We’re pretty much overstocked over here if you need anything.”

  I quickly checked my bags to make sure I had everything I needed for the raid. I had wasted enough time already, apparently, even though the raid didn’t start for another fifteen minutes. “I’m pretty sure I have everything I need,” I replied distractedly.

  A private typed message appeared in my chat box. I was used to getting private messages from Rekrap throughout the raid. The two of us would keep a running commentary going about our guild members, the raid, or just life in general. He was definitely my best in-game friend.

  In this message, he was proposing that we get right up to the zone for the raid and then tell Kaydinn that we forgot something in a city all the way across the zone. The idea of how Kaydinn would react to this made me smile, but I knew I wouldn’t do it; not on a progression day.

  I guess we could always say that the other guild messaged me that they weren’t coming . . . and I just happened to forget to mention it until now, I typed with a wicked grin, just imagining how mad Kaydinn would get.

  Typically five people weren’t enough for a full-on raid. You needed at least ten people for normal raids, and twenty-five for the seriously intense ones. Since our main group of friends in-game only consisted of the five of us, we usually grouped up with another guild.

  We could . . . But I’m guessing that’s not going to happen, since you’re just so nice, huh? Rekrap messaged back. I shook my head at the computer screen.

  Not a chance.

  At that moment, my computer was pulling up the load screen, indicating that I was being ported to the general area where the raid would start. Once I entered the city where the players had ported me, my screen filled up with the hundreds of avatars populating the city.

  This was why our little group had their own vocal chat room. Already my text chat box was being filled with people selling, buying, begging, and just generally being obnoxious.

  Oh, the joys of Voyager’s Quest on a Saturday.

  All the ten-year-old little boys who needed attention that their parents weren’t giving them or were making up for being bullied at school were online being rude to one another.

  “Are you in the city yet, Xandris?” Kaydinn asked in his usual overly loud timbre.

  “Yeah, on my way; just have to pick through about twenty million noobs parked outside of the auction house,” I said as my avatar made her way through the throngs of people.

  Once outside of the large city, I got on my flying mount (a very pretty glowing blue bird that I was very proud of) and sped away toward my waiting guild.

  As I flew, Kaydinn’s voice pinged in again, always ready to re-brief us on what we were doing that day. You see, raiding wasn’t just like slashing at a boss until it died. You actually had to strategize. That was what so many people didn’t understand about these kinds of games. It wasn't some mindless computer game where your brain turned to mush as you stared at a screen. It actually made you think.

  Of course, if I ever tried to explain that to Zane or Tawny, they would just make fun of me . . . Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t get far enough to start explaining raiding . . . They’d start making fun of me the second I told them I played computer games.

  For today’s raid, we had to stand in certain parts of the room at very particular points of time. The boss would give signals that meant he was about to do something, and that’s when we’d all move like clockwork into the positions that would keep us alive. Some bosses would cast a spell that you had to try to avoid; others would pound the ground, and if you didn’t jump just at the right time, it would stun you and you’d be a goner.

  Like I said, it could be intricate.

  “All right, so this boss, as you guys know from the fifteen times we’ve tried to kill him, will shout ‘desecrate’ right before he swipes his giant arm in front of him.
Right when he starts saying that, you run up against the wall to avoid the blow. I don’t care what you’re doing at the moment—Xandris,” he added.

  I looked at my screen with my mouth wide open in indignation.

  “What? I was casting a very important spell last time he shouted that. I couldn’t just start running away and have it interrupt my casting!” I said a bit too loudly in an attempt to justify my actions.

  “You’re right,” Kaydinn replied, sounding almost sympathetic.


  “Because it’s much better to die and leave us there without our main DPS than to interrupt one spell, which, if I may remind you, was actually a spell we didn’t need you to cast in the first place.”

  I could tell Kaydinn was half in earnest and half joking. He took the game very seriously, but luckily for us he was never a jerk about it.

  “My mouse may have slipped and accidentally clicked on the ‘sense animals’ button instead of the ‘killing shot’ button. Sue me,” I stated matter-of-factly.

  At least you didn’t accidentally “summon drink” instead of “heal party” like Eilarae did a few raids ago, Rekrap typed to me, always ready to make me feel better about myself.

  Since I had exited the city, my textual chat box had stopped getting clouded up with people’s trade talk and I could actually see what he was typing to me again.

  Very true, I replied with a smile.

  It’s seriously so hot here I don’t think I’m going to make it through the whole raid. I may just die of heat stroke before we even get to the boss, Rekrap remarked.

  Well that was random! Where are you that it’s so hot right now? I’m freezing here!

  As I said this, I pulled my bare feet up on my chair and folded my legs. I guess freezing wasn’t exactly the word I’d use. I was in a tank top, but that was only because I’d lived in Oregon my whole life. I was pretty used to the winters now . . . and besides, we did have a heater, so it was only freezing outside of the house.

  I was a cheerleader. I was allowed to be dramatic.

  Right now I’m in Southern California. The desert part, not the pretty part. It gets cold sometimes but mostly it’s just hot and miserable. But pretty soon I’m moving up to Oregon so I bet I’ll be complaining about the cold in a few months. What can I say? I’m just a whiner, he typed.

  As I read his message, I paused.

  He was moving to Oregon? Oregon as in, my Oregon?

  My initial reaction to this news was joy. How awesome would it be to have a guildie so close by? I would have someone I could actually talk to in person about the game.

  Then I realized what that would mean. There would be someone close to me who knew about my nerdy gaming obsession—someone who could most definitely tell my friends about it and ruin my reputation, which I had spent years building up.

  I could be the one being stuffed into a locker soon rather than the one doing the stuffing!

  Okay, so I never stuffed anyone into a locker. But I had stood by and watched Tawny do it numerous times. I knew it wasn’t pretty.

  The worry that I could be “outed” crept over me like a cold chill . . . but only for a second.

  I was having a seriously blonde cheerleader moment.

  Of course Parker wouldn’t ruin my reputation, because what were the odds that he was moving to my town? Pretty slim. Oregon was a big place. It wasn’t like if you moved here you were required to move to Albany. This logic helped me to relax. My status as popular cheerleader who would never play an online game was safe.


  3. The Raid Boss Versus Spiderman

  Tawny was pacing up and down the locker room like a woman possessed. We were still out of school on winter break, but we had commandeered the locker room and the gym for practice.

  Most of the time Tawny lacked any sense of enthusiasm while within the confines of the school, but today was different. Today she was discussing how we, as The Squad, would haze the girls trying out for next year. Any opportunity for humiliation, blackmail, and general chaos always put Tawny in a good mood.

  “What if we told them they made the squad . . . but really . . . they didn’t,” said Beckie with a triumphant smile, obviously quite proud of herself for what she thought was a brilliant plan.

  Tawny turned a vicious look on her.

  “That’s a great idea, genius,” she said sarcastically. “Do you even know what hazing is?”

  Beckie looked confused for a moment, possibly not catching onto the sarcasm in Tawny’s voice. I would never call Beckie stupid, but more than once I’d heard her say that she wasn’t “the sharpest crayon in the box,” combining both the massacre of two well-known sayings with her own ability to unwittingly prove her point.

  “We need something that will make them prove they really want the glory that comes along with being part of The Squad. It’s got to show that they’re one of us,” Tawny stated, the maniacal gleam back in her eye as she continued to pace.

  I sat quietly on the bench, pulling stray pom-pom strings off of my uniform. I did have a pretty brilliant idea for hazing that I knew Tawny would love, but somewhere deep inside I knew it would be pretty harsh to whomever the poor victim turned out to be. I didn’t consider myself a mean person . . . I just had a reputation to live up to at times. Keeping my mouth shut right then, for example, was one of those moments where I proved to myself that I could be nice.

  “Reagan?” Tawny said suddenly, turning all the intensity of her brown-eyed stare on me.

  “Yeah?” I asked distractedly, lost in my own thoughts of how noble I was being.

  “Do you have any ideas? You were the brains behind our sophomore year hazing. I’m sure you can think of something.”

  Now the whole team was looking at me hopefully. Looking to their leader for advice. I scrambled for something to say, trying to think of a way to haze the girls that wouldn’t end in possible arrests.

  “Don’t you think we should give some of the other girls a turn to prove their brilliance?” I asked, trying to get myself off the hook.

  “Brilliance?” Tawny replied, raising her eyebrows at me as if I’d lost my mind. She did have a point.

  “Well . . . I do have one idea. But it’s kind of iffy,” I said cautiously, hoping they wouldn’t get too excited about it.

  Tawny was standing there, posing like a supermodel with her hip jutting out to one side. I couldn’t tell if this was her look of intense concentration or if I had completely lost her. Either way, it was ominous.

  “So before the last basketball game in March, we always have that big rally, you know? We get out of class for it and everyone has to come.” Tawny nodded slowly; she was definitely listening. “Well, what if each of the girls from the junior varsity squad that we’re considering moving up has to pick a boy out of the stands to come and cheer with them. Obviously this will make them look dumb . . .”

  “But how is that hazing the girls? They have to pick guys out of the crowd anyway,” Tawny interrupted, obviously unhappy that my plan wasn’t meeting her expectations.

  “Well, right before they go to get the guys, we give one of them a note to pass on. They won’t know which one of them will get it before they go up, so to prove they’re up to the challenge, they have to agree to it before knowing if they’ll even be taking part,” I said, not sure if I was explaining myself very well.

  “I don’t think I get it,” Beckie chimed in, though she wasn’t the only one who looked confused.

  “Like Russian roulette,” Tawny said with a wicked grin, looking as if she played her whole life like a game of Russian roulette. “But what does the note say?”

  “It’ll say something intriguing. Something good enough to convince the unlucky boy to meet our candidate somewhere on campus after the school is locked,” I explained, actually forgetting how mean my plan was and feeling pretty proud that I had thought of it all on my own.

  “Skinny dipping,” Tawny said knowledgably. I laughed and shook my head
at her. Only she would come up with that so quickly.

  “All right, skinny dipping. So I guess that means we’re going to have him meet this cheerleader at the pool after hours.”

  “And this is where it gets good, I’m guessing,” Tawny said excitedly.

  “Oh yes,” I replied. “So the boy goes into the pool area to wait for our cheerleader. Meanwhile, we mess up the hallways—spray-paint, tip trash cans over, throw stuff all over the floor. Pretty much make it look like some drunk teenager had a party in there. Then we lock the doors to the pool area, pull the fire alarm, stash the spray-paint cans in his locker, and get out of there before the cops show up,” I finished triumphantly.

  For a minute no one said anything, and I started to wonder if my brilliant plan wasn’t really that brilliant after all. It was just as well really. That meant I wouldn’t have to feel guilty knowing I was the mastermind behind such a heinous act.

  “It’s perfect,” Tawny finally said, sealing the fate of our future victim with those two words. “That kid is definitely going to get arrested for that. What better way to prove you really want to be part of The Squad? I love it!” She came over and gave me a hug, which proved to be a little awkward since I was sitting on the bench holding my uniform up to inspect it for any remaining pom-pom strings. “And that, girls, is why she’s co-captain.”

  I smiled at the compliment, feeling proud of myself, even though I knew I should be feeling about as proud as a thief who steals cookies from Girl Scouts.


  “I’m glad we’re pretty much the same person, Reagan,” Tawny said as we walked into our favorite café to grab a quick lunch after our very relaxing pedicure. “It makes it a lot easier to be your friend.”

  I laughed and looked over at her, never quite sure when she was joking and when she was being serious. Today it looked like she was being serious.

  “Glad I could help,” I replied, shaking my head.

  We got quite a few head-turns as we walked through the café doors. Even though we could have changed out of our uniforms after practice, Tawny and I would sometimes wear our cheerleading uniforms outside of school in order to remind people that we were important.