Britta wasn’t very popular. She had a small group she hung with, and they weren’t popular, either. Rashida was her closest friend and her parents were very religious, so they couldn’t socialise outside of school.
If there was gossip going around, or some scandal, the only way Britta would hear about it was by eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. Which she was quite good at.
Britta sat at the front in Miss Cumber’s class and pretended to be looking for something in her text book. A group of boys were huddled around a phone, making noises like monkeys under a banana tree. They were talking about a videogame. It was usually either a game or pornographic pictures of someone famous that got them excited. Occasionally it was a car.
This game was unlike any other, according to them. And it was being released exclusively for the A.P.E. pod.
It was the mention of the pod that caught Britta’s attention.
“I’m getting one for Christmas,” said one of the boys.
“You any idea how much they cost? Where’s your dad gonna find that kind of cheddar? Cash Converters?”
“They gonna release a budget version. They always do. Bundle it with the game, innit?”
“That’s what I heard, too. No point releasing an MMORPG and making it too expensive for anyone to buy the thing. There’ll be no one to play it. They’ll have to call it an ORPG. I’m telling you, budget version for Christmas. Black Friday, even.”
“Unless they give it away for free, your skint arse ain’t getting shit.”
Britta felt like turning around and saying, “I’ve got one of those at home.” She didn’t.
They’d probably call her a liar. She certainly wouldn’t be able to answer any questions they had. And even if they believed her, once they found out she wasn’t allowed to use it, they wouldn’t be very impressed. Not that she wanted to impress them.
The rest of the day she kept overhearing people talking about the new game. She wondered if that’s how Dad planned to make money. She knew what an MMORPG was and how rabid people could be when it came to playing them. In-game items sometimes even sold for real money!
It didn’t matter if the items didn’t actually exist. The value was based on demand, and if nerds wanted to buy ones and zeros for ridiculous amounts, that’s what they were worth. Maybe Dad knew what he was doing after all, unlikely as that seemed.
When she got home that evening, there was a strange humming sound coming from the living room. The door was closed. She slowly eased it open enough to be able to get her head through the gap.
The pod was glowing. It was grey and blue, and the blue parts were pulsing with light. She stared at it for a few seconds, but she was looking at a big, glowing box. It wasn’t very thrilling.
Her father, drenched in sweat and bleary-eyed, emerged later that night. Just in time for the family meal.
“You stink,” said Mum.
He sniffed his armpits and grinned. “Yeah. I do.”
She insisted he take a shower before eating and for once he didn’t argue with her. He really didn’t smell good.
If they really did release a budget version of the pod, thought Britta, sales of deodorant would go through the roof.