Bitter 13

There was also the matter of her twenty-four hour lock out. Having died (somewhat unfairly) there was a mandatory cooling off period before Britta could re-enter the game world. She wasn’t sure exactly when that was but sometime after midnight would probably be fine. Which gave her plenty of time to look up exactly where she was and where she should go next.

At the very least, she could do with finding a map. She had already tried and failed to use the one in the settings, and she really didn’t want to revive in the field still not knowing which way to go. It was all very well exploring a new world, but a little hint to where the nearest amenities were wouldn’t hurt.

Britta went up to her room and turned on her laptop. It was one of Dad’s old ones and he always bought the most powerful machines available, so even though it was quite old, it still ran smoothly other than the occasional dropout on the wifi.

She began searching for sites to do with APE and the game, but found very little other than news of the game’s existence and fervent excitement for its release.

There were no details of the kind of game it was or the name of it. The words ‘New World’ weren’t mentioned even once.

There was also a complete lack of first-hand reviews by people who had tried it, other than some journalists from non-game related sites who attested to how amazing an experience it was to enter an accurate 3D world. They gave no information on what they saw or did while inside the virtual environment. It was all very hush-hush.

Lewis had said users were required to sign an NDA, and when Britta saw the letters appear again in the article she decided she might as well look up what it meant. NDA stood for non-disclosure agreement and meant the person couldn’t talk about what they’d seen or done. It was a way for a company to protect its property. Like when a critic is allowed to see a movie before release but isn’t allowed to say anything until after it comes out, to avoid spoilers.

It made sense, but it also made it very hard to find anything concrete on the game. There were definitely no maps.

After spending a couple of hours scouring the web—there were lots of hits from her searches, just no useful information—she remembered the site Lewis had mentioned. hadn’t come up when she was googling, so she didn’t hold out much hope for a lot of APE. related content. What she found was a bunch of forums on all sorts of rumours and gossip. There was no particular subject that seemed to be the primary focus, just everything. Movies coming out, countries undergoing revolutions, alien landings, the release date for George R. R. Martin’s next book—it was a real hodge podge of conspiracy theories and baseless conjecture.

Information relating to APE. and the VR pod was tucked away in the gaming section, among hacks for consoles and walkthroughs for games she’d never heard of.

Most of the threads were asking for news on the release date and lists of what people hoped the game would be like. There were a lot of references to manga and anime.

Britta quickly got tired of the lack of information that was remotely authentic or reliable. Nobody knew anything, was the general gist of it.

Clearly, there were people playing the game—Dad was one of them—but nobody was talking about it. If it was still in the early stages of development, it seemed strange people were making such a big fuss. There had been any number of hyped devices that hadn’t lived up to their marketing, some had never even been made. You’d think people would wait to actually see how good it really was before going crazy over it.

If it was close to release, wouldn’t it make more sense to show off the in-game footage and allow people to access to the game? From what she had seen, anyone even slightly interested would be blown away by the actual experience of entering New World. It easily surpassed expectations.

But then, Britta was no marketing expert. Perhaps keeping it all a big secret was designed to create maximum anticipation. No doubt sales would break records whatever they did.

Britta looked at the clock at the bottom of the screen and realised it was after 10PM. The last few hours had passed in a blur. She hadn’t eaten anything or even got changed.

She put on some jogging pants and a tee-shirt, and left her room.

The landing was dark; the odd kind of dark when the curtains haven’t been drawn that made a house looked unlived in. She went round turning on the lights and closing the curtains in each room. After that, she used the bathroom.

Sitting there, she wondered how you were supposed to relieve yourself in the game. Your real body was in the pod, without any kind of facility to take care of business, as far as she had been able to tell. Dad spent all day in there, how did he manage? No, he had to take breaks, that was the only answer. Not just toilet-breaks, but breaks for food and water. Even if the food and drink in the game looked real, it wasn’t.

Britta finished up and went downstairs. There were two twenty pound notes under a jar of honey on the kitchen table. Pizza money. She went through the fridge and made herself a cheese sandwich.

It was still only 11 PM by the time she’d finished a cup of hot chocolate and used the bathroom again; this time to brush her teeth. She surfed the net some more but it was the same useless sites coming up again and again.

11.30 came round and Britta decided she might as well see if she had access to the game. She went back down, turning off the lights as she went—no point wasting electricity—and climbed into the waiting machine.

Had Dad really not noticed another user? Would her using it again make it more obvious? Too late now.

The lid closed on her and the bright white pinpoint of light appeared. Once it reached her, everything faded out and she was back in the white area.

Would you like to restore last save point?

Britta pressed Yes and waited to be told she couldn’t. Hopefully it would tell her how long she’d have to wait. But she ended up not having to wait at all.

The whiteness around her faded and she was staring up at a stone ceiling. She sat up. She was in a room, on a stone slab.  Where the hell was this?

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