HUMAN/SUPER First Contact 232

“I’m not very good at exercise,” Frederica said.

Angela chuckled.

“Neither am I,” she said.

Frederica set up her laptop on the coffee table. Angela summoned up Leigh’s technopathy ability and transferred it to her sister. Frederica logged into the game without touching her computer.

They met up in the dark forest surrounding Sal Mordra. Frederica’s character was Yuki, a half-elf rogue with dark hair and an ornate hunting bow slung over her shoulder. Together, they travelled south, into the desert. By the time they reached the city of Sal Ish’aek, Tommy logged in with his paladin, Galahad.

“Who’s that?” Frederica asked.

“Tommy from upstairs,” Angela replied. “You met him yesterday, remember?”

“Oh,” Frederica said. “Yeah.”

“Do you mind if he joins our party?” Angela asked.

Frederica was quiet for a moment, then said, “Sure, that’s fine.”

Angela sent Tommy an invitation.

The kids were just as reticent online as they were in person. Angela tried prompting them into conversation but nothing seemed to work. So she steered them toward more dangerous areas of the game, until they were attacked by a swarm of fire giants. Angela pulled her character back from the fight and let Frederica and Tommy handle it.

The final beast fell twenty minutes later.

“Wow,” Tommy typed. “You’re really good.”

“Thanks,” Frederica replied. “So are you.”

They got a lot chattier after that point. Angela mostly felt like a third wheel or, worse, a chaperone. Occasionally, Frederica would laugh at something Tommy said, then cover her mouth and look away when Angela glanced back.

At noon, they took a break for lunch, and Angela checked her email. She had a new message from someone named Simone Rios. The subject line read “Saw your ad, can you help?” She clicked on the email.