The thought that Stan was lying to her and had killed Freddy for some reason was unsettling. It was also confusing. Why would he possibly have done it?
It seemed far more likely that she had misunderstood how the game operated and the exact reason it had decided to take Stan hostage. So much more likely that it was almost comforting. The chances of her having gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick were very high.
Still, it was a concern. She really had very little idea what was going on. She had meant to uncover the mysterious behaviour underlying the game, and all she had done so far was to make the muddy waters even muddier.
She looked at the time. It was only eleven in the real world, so plenty of time for her to do whatever she wanted. But what time was it here? It dawned on her it was always daylight in the game, no matter when she logged in. Even if it was the middle of the night.
She had never seen a night sky here. She had never seen it get darker or the sun setting. There was a sense of morning and afternoon, although that could be her projecting her own assumption of time passing on the game. There was no clear indicator of different parts of the day. There didn’t seem to be a way to tell the time, either.
Which raised another question. How was she supposed to know when to go see the mayor? He had said eight o’clock, but no one had a watch or a clock here. Did it ever get that late?
She would be hard-pressed to be on time for a dinner date if the arranged time of day didn’t exist. You didn’t get these sorts of problems in the real world.
“Dr Reedy?” Britta said to the sky. She was still under a tree opposite the Town Hall, so the sky wasn’t completely visible to her, but then the need to talk at the sky when trying to get the doctor’s attention didn’t require her to look up. It just felt appropriate.
“Is anything wrong, Britta?” asked Dr Reedy a few seconds later.
“No. The mayor asked me to dinner at his house. At eight. How do I know when that is?”
“Ah,” said Dr Reedy. “We’ve been meaning to implement a day-night cycle for some time, but we haven’t gotten around to installing it yet.”
“So, it’ll never be eight o’clock?”
“I wouldn’t say never, but it won’t be for a while yet.”
Britta was at a loss as to how to proceed. How could she meet the mayor if their appointed time would never come? And how would the mayor react to her not turning up? Would he be able to tell?
“I’ll tell the development team to get on it,” said Dr Reedy. “I’m sure they can put together some sort of evening lighting condition. A world clock is going to be a little more difficult to implement. With so many players, it’s going to be hard to put everyone in the same progressive timeframe.”
Britta wasn’t really sure what that meant. Simply putting a clock on the game that everyone could see would be all it took, wouldn’t it? Most likely there were variables she wasn’t aware of.
“There was something else I wanted to ask you,” said Britta.
“When Freddy died, did you see what happened?”
“I’m afraid not. I was watching you at the time. Everyone was, in fact. We recorded all other interactions for later analysis.”
“So you have a recording?”
“Ah, actually no. The files have been removed.”
“No,” said Dr Reedy firmly. “They’re somewhere on the system, they’ve just been hidden.”
“Who would do that?” said Britta, even though she already knew. The game didn’t want her to have it too easy. No flipping to the back of the book to see who the murderer was.
“It’s hard to say. I would assume this is part of whatever it is you’re experiencing.”
On the other hand, Dr Reedy could be lying. She could be behind all of this and testing Britta by creating these strange conditions for her to exist in. It was the sort of thing scientists were good at—building mazes for their rats to run around in.
“Okay,” said Britta. “I’ll carry on here while you sort out the time thing.” She had plenty to be getting on with, including finding a way to level up. It had never been a high priority for her, but it would come in useful to have a new spell or maybe some new skills.
“Very well. Oh, I meant to tell you, that unfinished gnome quest you weren’t able to complete, it’s finished. Next time you visit your great gnome friend, he should have the appropriate tasks to give you.”
Suddenly, questions about Stan’s reliability and Dr Reedy’s honesty didn’t seem that important, at least not in the short term. Here was Britta’s ideal opportunity to gain a level or two and learn some new abilities at the same time. She just had to return to the gnome village and earn her due.
It would actually be a relief to do a simple quest and get useful rewards. She was even looking forward to it. She checked her mana. Still plenty for the shade to use. If she was quick, she might even be able to complete her class quest before the shade had to be recalled. For once, time was on her side.