Bitter 192

The bruise on Freddy’s face was impressively gruesome. Blue and purple with a yellowing border. You had to hand it to the programmers, even if they didn’t get around to finishing some questlines, they did a great job with cosmetics. It made Britta wince just looking at it.

“Did he just punch you once?” asked Britta.

“Yeah. That’s all I gave him the chance to do. I legged it before he could get his axe out.”

Britta was curious what would have happened if Freddy had been killed, and this would have been the perfect time to find out. Not that she wanted Freddy to die just to test a theory, but it wasn’t really dying, was it?

She could understand why the memory wipe was important. If NPCs realised they had died and come back to life, it would fundamentally change the way they acted. She wondered what would happen if she told Freddy he was immortal. He probably wouldn’t believe her.

It would be best to make sure Freddy stayed alive, for the time being, just for the sake of convenience. If he died, she would have to go through the whole thing again to get him back on the team.

It wasn’t just death, though. The kobolds reset every time she left the mines. There didn’t seem to be any good reason for that as far as she could see, but she didn’t have all the information so there might be a very good one, she just had no idea what it was. The alternative would be to have permadeath for NPCs, which would thin out the roster pretty quickly.

They ordered food, Britta deciding she would work her way through the menu one by one to see what it all tasted like. Today, barbecued ribs. It didn’t say what the ribs came from.

“I was only being friendly. I mean, I wasn’t, I was totally faking it, hur hur, but he didn’t know that. He was just being rude.” Freddy seemed quite upset about the dwarf’s reaction but still pleased with his own performance.

“You’re a big fella, Freddy,” said Stan. “And he was only little. He probably got scared and lashed out without thinking.”

“I can’t help the way I look,” said Freddy. “What kind of a person judges others on appearances? Bigots, that’s who.”

It was a reasonable point, or would have been if Freddy wasn’t exactly the sort of person his appearance suggested he was. The dwarf player probably thought he was about to be attacked, and even though he was wrong this time, every other time he would have been exactly right.

“He didn’t lead you anywhere interesting, then?” asked Stan, mildly amused by Freddy’s lack of sense. “No dwarf enclave where they talk about all the evil stuff they’re planning?”

“No. He went to Madame Sylvie’s but they wouldn’t let him in because of the height restriction.”

Britta assumed Madame Sylivie’s was a house of ill repute, but what kind of brothel could you have if you didn’t have any genitalia? She wondered if there was a ‘You have to be this tall to go on the rides’ sign outside.

“They don’t have a height restriction at Madame Sylvie’s,” said Stan.

“How do you know that?” asked Britta. Stan’s face turned red.

“They just say that sometimes when they think you’re a dodgy sort,” said Freddy.

Now Britta was really curious about why the dwarf had gone there.

“We should get on with it before B. has to leave,” said Stan, redirecting the conversation.

“I’m fine for time, actually,” said Britta. “Friday. No school.”

“You go to school?” said Freddy in between mouthfuls of food.

“Erm, yes. It’s a school for magic. I’m learning the basics. Might come in useful.”

“Sounds dangerous,” said Freddy. “I had a cousin who got into that stuff. Blew his own hands off. He’s got these iron hooks, now. Got all sorts of attachments for them—spikes and scissors and tongs. Pretty neat.”

His warning about the dangers of magic had somehow turned into an endorsement of Swiss army prosthetics.

“Where should we start?” asked Stan.

“I’ll go to the post office,” said Britta. “Why don’t you go with Freddy to see his dad?”

“On my own?” said Stan, surprised.

“You won’t be on your own, you’ll have Freddy with you.”

She knew the NPCs only acted outside of their predefined roles when she was around, but what would happen if Stan went off with one who was already acting like a real person? Would he shut down as soon as he was far enough away? And how would other NPCs react to Stan and Freddy when she wasn’t with them?

“Okay,” said Stan. “You’re right, we should see what happens.”

“No,” said Freddy.

“You just have to introduce me.”

“No, I can’t do that,” said Freddy. Of course, the game might not allow them to test out the theory. All it had to do was make Freddy refuse.

“You don’t want to see your dad?” asked Britta. It could also be a simple matter of Freddy being uncomfortable around his old man.

“He isn’t here at the moment,” said Freddy. “He’s out of town on business.”

There was also the possibility they couldn’t meet the head of the Garbolum family because he hadn’t actually been put in the game yet.

“Okay, why don’t you two go see the mayor, then. Set up an appointment.”

“Appointment for what?” asked Freddy.

“Make something up,” said Britta. It really didn’t matter, it would still serve the same purpose. The important part was her not being there. What would the game do?

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