“Aren’t you the lady who went Indiana Jones on some spiky-haired guy with an electrical cord?”
“Kibaou deserved it.” Yulier looked calm, demure, and not at all shy about doing it again if she had to. “He’s a good fighter in a tight spot, and he’s very persuasive. But he has a habit of getting in over his head and taking down everyone else around him when things don’t work out. Early in the game, he almost got some beta-testers killed-”
“Yeah,” Mills cut her off. “Kibaou was on his way toward drumming up a mob. Torches, pitchforks, the whole works. That was ugly.”
Jack gave him a casual look. “Take it you did something about that.”
“Tried,” the merchant admitted. “Managed to head him off the first time. Second time… somebody else did. But it cost them.” He grimaced. “Kibaou’s a grade-A rabble-rouser. Keep an eye on him. And maybe a gag.”
“We thought he’d learned his lesson,” Yulier said sadly.
“I thought he’d learned his lesson.” Thinker admitted. “I should have listened to you.” He scratched wild hair. “Let’s just say, getting trapped unarmed in a dungeon for two days was not a good time. If Yulier hadn’t found some clearers to come get me….” He shook his head.
“Clearers?” Daniel jumped in. “Asuna said most of the clearers knew each other. What’s a clearer?”
For a moment three people were blinking at them, with the kind of look Jack recognized from pilots who’d just realized most people thought flaps came with the word mud in front. Or stunned particle physicists forced to explain what a hadron was, and why any sane man would want to collide it with anything.
Yulier pulled it together first. “They’re front-line players, like Agil. People who meant to clear the game, so we could all go home.”
“Kind of fell into it,” Mills grinned. “I showed up for the first level boss fight and stayed in one piece. Turned out I had a knack for it.”
“Thought you were a merchant,” Jack commented.
“Not the first time I’ve held down two jobs,” Mills shrugged. “Besides. Can’t be a merchant without something to sell. On the lowest levels, that meant you had to go adventure and get it.” He chuckled. “The good blacksmiths swing a mean mace.” He cracked his knuckles, and nodded toward the ALF leaders. “So. You want to keep people calm, these two are a good place to start. How many people did you have, over two thousand?”
“Something like,” Thinker nodded. “Most were just affiliate members, but… Colonel?”
Jack reminded himself not to catch flies. A guy who looked about as command-ready as – oh, say, Daniel – had managed to keep two thousand game players aimed more or less the same direction, without any official backing? Huh. “How’d you pull that off?”