Two hours later, Milo and Larry finished up the first part of Larry's quest.

It was going to be much more involved than Milo had imagined, with some traveling.

Larry assured him that the System would send him messages and Brinka could help with Tunnel Muggle magic.

Something was obviously going on, and Milo suspected the Engine was behind this.

It likes interesting things to happen, and Larry as a Knight in Shining armor was about as interesting as it got.

In the meantime, people were waiting for him.Belinda, Minn, Butch, Brad, Kenji, and Yumi were sitting around a table eating while Mama was taking a nap.

She'd lost a lot of sleep while she and Big Butch kept watch over Belinda and was determined to catch up again while she could.


Milo had caught part of a discussion with Rusty where Mama explained over and over that asking, "Are you awake yet?" was rude and guaranteed to upset the person who was trying to sleep.Milo grabbed a chair and filled his plate with food, some familiar and some not.

He was determined to learn more about food.

"What are pear slices in heavy syrup?" Minn speared one off his plate and bit into it, "Something off a bush, I think, like strawberries.

But they're awesome.

Kenji, are you going to grow pears in the hydroponics?""I'll have to ask.

We have a lot of work to do.


Only a few rooms were still working, and all the others were turned off.

But I'm learning some cool stuff about dirt.

James is having me test each batch we bring out of storage for PH and nutrients to make sure it's the best mix for each type of plant, and Big Butch has me enrolled in a simulation program in my pod.

The first part was on old farming techniques and how things changed over time.

Cool stuff.

I never knew there was so much about plants.""So, what I'm hearing is no on the pear bushes.

You need to figure that out.

There are only 2,679 cans of pears left." Minn took the can and scooped out the last of the pears.

Butch took the can from her and poured the sugary pear juice into his glass."Ok, enough pear talk.

I want Milo and Belinda to tell us how we get the best classes."Belinda leaned back in her chair and looked over at Milo.

"I started as a basic Cleric with some healing and a mace.

I had to earn some levels, beat a World Boss, get to Tier 2, and be offered a better class.

It will take some work.""How did Milo do it?"Belinda laughed, "From the little he's alluded to, he cheated or accidentally fell into it."All eyes turned to Milo.

Butch sipped his drink and said, "Hey, little brother, tell me about the better classes and 'accidentally cheating' to get them.

Color me very interested."Milo felt like a bunny surrounded by several wolves.

Yumi was even leaning over him from behind.

She whispered loud enough that everyone could hear, "We know your weaknesses.

Tell us your secrets, or no more cheese or pancakes for you!"Milo was worried for a split second that they were serious.

After all, a threat to steal cheese is always serious.

Then he remembered how much cheese he had stashed in his warehouse, and relaxed.

"I'd tell you, but it's really, really complicated and we'd be wasting time we could be in the game."Butch looked at him, mulling that over.

"Nice try, but no.

This is character creation, and that's important.

Keep it simple; use small words."Milo thought that over.

"Bad guys doing bad things.

I stole their special pod and got a special class for a special quest.

And ruined their plans to cheat in the game."Belinda looked up, a gleam in her eye.

"Wait, did you steal it from 'Kaminski the Idiot' ?""How did you know?""Remember how I told you everyone forgets I speak Russian and a bunch of other languages? Victor and a couple of his cronies started talking about something one night when I had dinner with him.

They'd shown up out of the blue to discuss something that had happened and were from.

They bitched a lot about some failed scam and an idiot named Kaminski, and a lot of other people who were idiots.

Much bitching, and nothing I could make sense of, but one guy mentioned Kaminski losing a pod somehow, a special one, and after that, bad things happened and they lost a lot of money.

They wanted Victor to reimburse them for their losses, but he didn't see it that way.

Victor was screaming back that he'd lost a lot of money and didn't see the connection.

Lots of cursing in Russian and arm waving.

I learned so many new words that night.

I guess these guys wanted to pull the same scam again, but Victor wanted no part of it.

They left angry, and Victor felt bad for ignoring me, so we had ice cream."This narrative has been unlawfully taken from Royal Road.

If you see it on Amazon, please report it.Everyone else stared, from her to Milo.

Brad was the first to talk.

"You stole your gaming pod from Russian mobsters? That's awesome."Butch pointed at Belinda, "Less impressive, actually, than having an Uncle who's an actual Russian mobster.

That had to be not-fun growing up."Belinda was silent for a moment.

"Yeah, not fun.

It helped that I could play Victor and my stepdad against each other.

But I'm glad he's in jail."Milo looked over at Mama.

The bruises had faded, but he still felt horrible.

"And never coming back to this hab.

Ever."There was a small, uncomfortable silence at Milo's words, spoken with a tone that left no doubt in any of them.

Then Butch smiled at Belinda and broke the mood.

"Then, no worries.

Forget about the bad guys; we have characters to make and games to play.

We've got you and Milo, big monster killers, for advice.

Tell us what we should do."Belinda took the lead, knowing Milo had never gone through the normal routine.

"OK, you'll be given a choice of picking your skills or taking a standard class and getting a bonus to your stats.

I've watched a lot of the discussions while sitting in a hospital bed.

Based on what I've seen, I think it's better to start with the standard class and then work to upgrade it to something better.

You get better quests, and there are a lot more opportunities to pick up the skills you want.

The custom classes are good in that you can max/min your role, but that can also give you a very narrow path to walk, and you miss out on opportunities that are based around the standard classes.""Such as?""Lots of things.

Let's say you take the standard Warrior.

You get a +2 to your STR and +2 to your CON.

That will help you hit your milestone ability for Warriors.

The Warriors Guild will give you cheap training in skills as you earn gold by killing monsters and doing quests, and there's a standard set of enhancements that are available to Warriors.

But let's say you want to specialize in just two weapons, not five, and swap those out for mounted combat to be some type of horse archer.

Since you're designing your own class, you only get +2 points to stats, not +4.

The Warriors Guild will charge you standard rates if they even let you train with them, and you won't get great quests that use your new skill set.

But if you start with the standard Warrior skills and work to become a mounted archer, the game seems to give you more along the way."Milo added, "There is a big part of the game that encourages you to do things, push your limits, and get better.

If I'd stayed in the city I started in; I wouldn't be half as powerful as I am now.

Doing stuff to earn special skills or a better class is better than designing it."Kenji spoke up for the first time.

"But it's fun to try.

There are whole forums devoted to people trying to game the system with special classes."Butch looked a little interested.

"How's that working out?""Not sure, the same people seem to start new characters a lot.

Maybe they just love making new characters?"Minn poked Milo in the side.

"What special quests did you get?""Just a weird one that got me in trouble.

The scam Victor and his cronies set up was for a special quest only they knew about that took a dozen specialized classes.

There were thirty-seven pods and thirty-seven special race/class combos.

But all of those other pods are gone now, and I killed the NPC who was part of the quest.

It's all been erased, and the programmer who did it is in protective custody somewhere, with no computer access."Brad sighed, "So close! You get a friend who can hack the game, but he can't hack it for you.

Where is the justice in the world?""He can still hook you up with some gear.

Milo has a special treasure chest filled with loot.

That's where I got my ring."Again, all eyes turned to Milo, who simply shrugged.

He did have a bunch of stuff that came out of the storage in the mace and from adventuring.

It was a shame to have it go to waste.

"Sure, once we log in and start making your characters, I'll pull out the pile of stuff, and you can sort through it."Everyone stood up and started walking toward the pods.

Butch put his arm around Milo.

"Got to say thank you for all this, little bro.

I never even dreamed of living in a place like this, going to school, and playing games with you.

Pretty awesome for all of us.

Remember that."Milo took another look at Mama.

She was smiling as her kids went off to play.

The knot inside Milo grew a little looser.