“I was just going to check on one of my spells,” said Britta. It sounded stupid, like she was making up some ridiculous lie to get out of trouble. Spells? Magic? It was all so preposterous.
Britta felt bad. She felt guilty for making Mum worry so much. And even though she was clearly unconvinced about the safety of the whole operation, she was willing to sit there and wait while Britta put herself at risk.
The risk was small, maybe even non-existent, but it was still hard on her to watch her child jump out of a plane. There was always a chance the parachute might not open.
“It’s fine,” said Mum. “We just need to be cautious the first few times.” Britta could tell she was trying to sound casual about it. She had her phone in her hand, ready to call for help if things went wrong.
“Are you sure?” Britta asked her. “I could do it tomorrow.”
Mum nodded, her mouth tightly closed, like she was forcing herself not to say, “No, you can’t, I forbid it.”
“How long do you think you’ll be?”
“Not long,” said Britta. “A few minutes.”
“Could you make it longer? Say half an hour?”
Britta was a little confused. “Um, yeah. Why?”
“We’ve only seen what happens to you — the glowing — when you go in for ten minutes. It would be good to check it doesn’t get any worse if you stay in a bit longer.”
It was a reasonable idea. And it would help Mum feel more comfortable about the whole thing.
A sudden slew of doubts raced through Britta’s mind.
What if it did make the glowing worse? Shouldn’t they wait until Lin could be here to observe, with her fancy phone? Should she call her?
She forced herself to calm down. She was only taking a small step forward here. Lin would still be able to track her vitals once she logged in, and fly in by chopper if she was needed.
But there was no reason to think things would go horribly wrong. They could, but assuming it would only lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. She couldn’t go into panic mode every time she wanted to log in. This would be a good way to help normalise the situation. For Mum, and for her.
“Okay,” said Britta. “Won’t be long.”
She put on the helmet and lay down on the bed. Mum sat in the chair, hunched over, forcing herself to smile.
Britta took a breath, not so much to ease her worries about the game, but to take her mind off what she was putting her mother through. She closed the visor and logged in.
There was a bright light. It was the sun. Why was the sun out? The game should have been in night mode.
Britta sat up. She wasn’t in the small room in the Church of Roha. She was in a church, or at least the remains of one. She was sitting on an altar covered in moss. The walls around her were crumbling, and there was no roof.
Above her was a blue sky. It felt like it was around lunchtime.
She jumped down from the altar and looked around. She was in the ruin of a small church. It looked uninhabited. She could see through the gaps in the walls that there were more buildings outside. A whole town, maybe. They seemed to be in a similar state of disrepair to the church.
There were no sounds, and no signs of people, real or otherwise.
There was no response. Maybe it was some kind of error. A shudder of fear ran through her. What if she was stuck here? Her nightmare come true.
She shook her head and pushed the thoughts away. This was no time to be wallowing in paranoid thoughts. The game had glitched out on her plenty of times. It didn’t mean anything.
She pulled down her map. It showed the blueprint for a town that didn’t look familiar, with only empty space surrounding it. The buildings didn’t have names, but the town itself did: Old Town.
The name rang a bell. This was where Diana had gone to carry out her assassination mission. Why had she been brought here? And why was it daytime? It wasn’t synced to her. And it didn’t appear to be on the same map as the rest of New World.
“Hello?” she called out again. “Diana?”
Still no response.
She opened her status screen to check everything was okay. The logout button was there, and not greyed out. No need to panic. This was just an area of the game she hadn’t visited before.
If she treated it like a dungeon, she could probably spend several hours here. An old ruin in a fantasy game… there were bound to be places to explore, items to find. If it was a disused part of the game, it would be a fairly boring few hours.
What she could do was cast Shadow Agent, and get the shade and get it to do a perimeter check. That would take care of why she logged in, and give her a better idea of where she was. It seemed like a solid plan.
She summoned the shade. It appeared as a black pillar of smoke, similar to when she had first summoned it. Had it gone back to being a regular spell? She felt a bit sad. If the shade was gone for good, she would miss it.
“Hi,” she said. The shade didn’t respond. She sighed. “Can you check the area for any players or NPCs?”
“One player.” The voice was thin and scratchy, but devoid of personality.
It was a quick response, though. The shade hadn’t even moved. “Where?”
“Directly beneath us.”
Britta looked down at the cracked tile floor with weeds growing out of it.
“Please tell me there’s a trapdoor somewhere.”
“There better be,” said the shade. “I don’t do digging.”
Britta couldn’t help smiling.