Bitter 520

When Britta got home, she went to her room and opened the laptop Lin had given her. She had the name of the Chinese site in a message from Lewis. It was a screenshot of Lewis’s laptop screen, so she couldn’t copy/paste the text into a browser. She could try to match the Chinese characters by sight, but that would take forever. The Chinese alphabet seemed to go on forever.

The laptop was a very high-end piece of kit, plus it was Chinese. It had to have a Chinese keyboard or some way to convert the text to something she could put into a browser.

But this was a really, really high-end machine. Perhaps she shouldn’t think so small.

Britta peeled off the sticker covering the laptop’s webcam.

“Can you find this website?” she asked the computer, holding up her phone.

An image of her phone appeared on the laptop’s screen. The focus blurred and sharpened. It shook a little, but that was Britta’s hand. White lines formed boxes around certain parts of the image, capturing the text, it looked like. The screen went blank and returned to its original state.

“Yes,” said the laptop in a smooth and silky voice. Nothing happened. Did she have to download the screenshot onto the laptop’s hard drive so it could be analysed? It seemed to have all the information it needed.

“Would you like me to open the website?” asked the computer. Britta realised she had only asked if it could find the website, not if it would. It was taking her literally.

“Yes, please,” she said.

A browser opened, Chinese characters appeared in the bar, the site appeared just as it had on Lewis’ laptop, with flashing text and images all over the place, and the video in the middle of the page.

“Can you play the video?”

“Yes,” said the computer.

Britta sighed. “Play the video.”

The video started. It looked much higher quality than what she’d seen on Lewis’ laptop. She could also hear what the players were saying in the video. When she’d seen it before, the whole site had been making noise, music and sound effects. This time, only the video’s audio could be heard.

The players were shouting at each other in what sounded like Chinese. She could also make out the sounds of weapons clashing, spells going off, and monsters roaring. Even though it was utter chaos and she didn’t know what was going on she couldn’t stop watching.

These players moved like they were on wires, jumping around and striking in huge swings that sent numbers flying off the monsters they faced. It was wild and savage, but also beautiful like a dance.

The screen went black. “Intruder detected,” said the laptop.

Britta turned her head to find Dad peering around the door. “What you got there, sweetheart?” He smiled at her, fishing for an invite.

“Your mystery team, they’re on a Chinese website.” The screen was still black. “You can show him, this isn’t sensitive information.”

“Advise discretion,” said the computer.

“Noted. Now turn it back on.”

The screen flickered — somewhat reluctantly, thought Britta, but maybe she imagined it — and came back to life with the video playing.

Dad came closer and watched from over her shoulder. “Wow, look at them. They’re good. I mean, really good.”

“Shame we don’t speak Chinese,” said Britta. “I might ask Lin for help translating all this text.”

“Translate text to English?” asked the computer.

“Oh, okay. Yes.”

The screen shimmered. The text all transformed into English. The site’s name was Green Turtle Heart. The title of the video was: Peerless Online Warriors Strike Again!!!

Most of the text plastered on and around the video were messages of encouragement from fans.

“Amazing!”

“Super good, you guys are the ones! POW Power!”

“Kill them all! POW. POW. POW. Only you are god tier. Much love!”

The mystery team were called Peerless Online Warriors, apparently. POW for short.

Around the borders, there were adverts for pills with chemical names Britta had never heard of. Some kind of microchips were also available for a very low price. Energy drinks, pens that glowed, cuddly toys —it kept changing from one to another. The sounds had gone, but the flashing lights and animated text were still annoying.

“Video full screen,” said Britta. The video enlarged but the text stayed where it was, covering the pictures.

“I’d like all the extra text not related to the video removed if possible,” said Britta.

The text faded and stopped jumping around. It was still there, but in the background. Not even her supercomputer could stop the endless rise of Chinese capitalism, but it was a lot easier to watch the video now. Technology, the cause of and cure to all of life’s problems.

The video was about an hour long judging by the running time at the bottom, although it could be fifty minutes of adverts at the end. The players were running around, working together to take out groups of monsters at a time. The way they cooperated was eye-opening. Could they keep up this pace for a whole hour?

One of them seemed to be doing most of the talking, screaming at the others.

“I wish I could understand what he was saying,” Britta muttered to herself.

The video stuttered, the volume dropped and a new voice spoke over the top in English.

“Pick up that jewel. Pick it up.” It was the soft computer voice with no emotion or inflexion. “I will rip your ears off if you don’t pick it up. I don’t care, let the thing hit you, pick it up.” It was very odd, hearing the English be so calm while the original voice under it screamed itself hoarse.

Britta turned around. “Look, pretty cool… Dad? Are you okay?”

Dad was sitting on her bed, his hand over his mouth and what looked like tears in his eyes.

“Oh, Britta. Oh…” He moved his hand away from his mouth so he could wipe his eyes. “I never thought I’d see it. Maybe a glimpse before I kicked the bucket, but not like this. Born too early to really live through it, I thought. The future, it’s here. It’s really here. Not just for the super rich, but for people like us. Everything I dreamt it might be, right in my own house. It’s... beautiful.”

Britta didn’t know what he was going on about. Yes, the laptop was impressive, but it was hardly going to change the world. No one was going to work in a flying car quite yet. She turned around so he could have his moment in private.

“Next time you tell me to not let him watch,” she said to the computer, “I’m going to listen.”

“Assessment supported,” said the computer.

 

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Afterword from Mooderino
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