Bitter 130

Bored of staring at the ceiling, Britta got off the bed and sat at her desk. She couldn’t be bothered to go online again so she took out a sheet of paper from her printer and a pen from the drawer.

She tried to recreate the map of the mines from memory. Next time she went in there, she wanted to have a better idea of what to do and where to go. In order to come up with a plan, she needed a better idea of the layout.

A reasonable idea, but even though she’d spent quite a lot of time staring at the map in the corner of her vision when she’d been in-game, trying to recall it proved to be trickier than she’d expected.

She had a rough idea where things were, but that wasn’t really going to help much. What would have been really useful would be if she could access game information when offline. Not just the maps, but inventory and status screen as well.

She put down the pen. Maybe she could.

Just because she couldn’t enter the game for twenty-four hours, that didn’t necessarily mean there was no way to see basic data. It had to be stored somewhere which should mean she could access it without having to go into the game. It hadn’t been mentioned in the tutorial, but then lots of things weren’t.

Excitedly, Britta jumped back on the bed and put the helmet over her head. She fired up the system and waited to be taken to the white room. A screen came up asking if she wanted to enter the game. She knew if she pressed ‘Yes’ it would tell her she couldn’t. If she pressed ‘No’ it would log her out.

“Show status screen.”

Nothing happened. She tried making the hand gesture that opened the status screen in-game. Still nothing. It didn’t seem like that big an ask. Then again, she didn’t know how the system was set up or what Dr Reedy had meant when she said it needed twenty-four hours to ‘refresh.’

Refresh what?

Britta took off the helmet and sat there for a second. Then she moved back to the desk and picked up the pen. She was supposed to be testing the game, pushing the software to new heights, or whatever and giving her feedback. They could at least answer a few of her questions to help her do that.

She listed the things to ask Dr Reedy. Once she got to thinking about it, there was a bunch of stuff she wanted to know that wasn’t covered in the tutorial, both to do with the hardware and the gameplay.

It was unlikely Dr Reedy would be able to answer anything about the weird behaviour of the NPCs, they were all in the dark when it came to the odd conversations Britta was able to get out of them, but a rudimentary idea of how the monsters were supposed to react to a player trying to have a chat would at least give her an idea of when she was getting somewhere.

Did they have a set list of responses? Did they have a bunch of lines and phrases they mixed and matched to suit the conversation? Were they triggered off keywords or did they actually recognise questions? Was there someone supervising and watching out for tricky situations?

And there were other minor things that Britta wasn’t sure about, like what was the deal with potions taking so long to make? Was that to do with game balance so people couldn’t spam health potions and be immortal, or was it like the refresh thing, whatever the refresh thing was?

What was it about the human-machine interface that made things take so long? And why did it cause so much sweating? It wasn’t like the player was moving in real life. You were staying still, not using any energy. If anything, Britta found her body quite relaxed when she returned to it, so why was she covered in a moist slick?

Most of all, she wanted to know if she could access information when she was offline. And if she couldn’t, could they make it possible so she could.

Some of her questions might require answers that were top secret or still in development, making it hard for Dr Reedy to tell her the details, but she could always refuse to talk about the more sensitive stuff. No harm in asking. They might even like some of her ideas and implement them.

The page quickly filled up. As she sat there chewing on the end of her pen, considering other things that didn’t make sense, she remembered there was actually an ex-APE employee in the house.

Dad had worked for them for a number of years and could probably answer some of these or maybe help phrase them better so Dr Reedy and her team could understand what she meant more easily.

Some things would be as much of a mystery to them as to her, the elements inserted into the game by an unknown party, but even knowing which parts were APE’s and which were the other party’s would be useful.

So far she’d approached the game like a noob—which she was—flitting about from one thing to the next. Even with the special equipment that Dr Reedy had promised her, she would continue to die if she didn’t take this more seriously. She needed a plan. And to do that effectively, she needed a better idea of the game’s limits so she could properly test them. No point having an ability to turn the game inside out if you didn’t use it.

When she looked up from her deliberations, hours had passed and it was already late afternoon. The paper on her desk as full of lists and scribbles and ideas jotted down in the margins.

She heard Dad’s voice downstairs, talking to Mum. He was out of the VR pod. Time to pick his brain.

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