Bitter 155

“Britta, don’t worry, your secrets safe with me.” Stan smiled infuriatingly.

“How did you find out my name?” repeated Britta tersely.

“I know a lot more that that. I know why you’re so special to APE and what you can do. I can help you. We can find out what’s going on here, together.”

Britta felt betrayed and very vulnerable. She looked up at the sky. “You were supposed to stop him bothering me, not help him.”

Stan followed her gaze upwards. “Oh, are we being observed. I suppose that makes sense.” He didn’t sound bothered by it.

“Ah,” said Dr Reedy. “I’m sorry, Britta. This shouldn’t have…” Her voice trailed off.

“Dr Reedy?” said Stan. “Is that you?”

“Yes, Stanley. This really isn’t appropriate behaviour. I’ll have to speak to your father. Again.”

“Go ahead. Would you like his private number?” He had a smug smile on his face like he was finding the whole thing amusing.

“How did he know my name?” shouted Britta. There seemed no point keeping her cool in this situation. “Isn’t that a breach of my privacy?”

“I’m very, very sorry,” said Dr Reedy. “He must have seen some confidential files belonging to his father.”

“Or his father just told him.”

“We don’t want to start making unfounded accusations,” said Dr Reedy, like rules mattered to her. It only made Britta madder.

“I think you should focus on what you did wrong first, don’t you?” said Britta. “I’ll make all the accusations I want until you tell me how this piece of crap got hold of my private information. That’s the only thing I care about, and if I want to point fingers at his scumbag Dad I will. Or is that under NDA, too? Because I don’t really care if it is, since NDA’s don’t seem to count for much around here.”

“I completely agree,” said Stan. “Security around APE proprietary material has always been shockingly lax.” His obvious enjoyment of the situation he’d created was unbearable.

“Look at him!” Britta pointed at him. “He’s not even worried about getting into trouble.”

“Britta, please, give me a chance to—”

“I already gave you a chance, and look what happened. I’ll make it very simple. Either you kick him out of the game permanently or I’m out.”

“Britta, please, we have a contract. We’ve made a serious investment.”

“Yes, a contract which you broke!” It was hard to believe she was trying to use some kind of legal argument, like they’d take her to court if she didn’t keep to the agreement they’d made. They were the ones who should be worried about being sued. “I don’t care about the money, you can have it back.”

“Oh, they’re paying you?” said Stan. “I didn’t know that. Must be nice.”

“Shut up!” snapped Britta.  “Have you any idea how scary it is for this psycho to have my details? Does he know where I live? Is he going to stalk me and stuff me in the boot of his car?”

“Britta, I’m sure there—”

“Sure? You’re sure? Sure of what? That he isn’t an internet nutjob? Because I’m sure he is.”

“She’s right,” said Stan, “I could very well be on the spectrum. It’s been mentioned before.”

If she’d been a bit bigger, and better at fighting, she would have hit him.

“Look,” said Dr Reedy attempting to take control of the situation, “I can see you’re upset, and not without reason. I’m completely on your side here, Britta. Please believe me when I tell you that. Just take a moment to calm down and wait for me to speak to his father. He assured me he’d take care of this and now that his son has exposed us to a serious financial liability, I’m certain he’ll take the necessary steps to bring about a swift resolution to this matter.”

Britta wasn’t convinced. She was speaking in PR mode, the way Mum did when she gave talks at her company AGM. Britta usually had to serve as proxy audience to help her practice and recognised the carefully worded sentences that sounded firm and committed, but actually meant nothing except ‘I’ll try’ and ‘I can’t promise anything.’

“I’m not sure what financial risk you think I pose,” said Stan, still completely unfazed. “I’m under the same NDA as everyone else in New World. I can’t tell anyone about our special girl.”

“That’s not quite how the NDA works,” said Dr Reedy. Her voice was conciliatory when talking to Britta, but with Stan her irritation was barely restrained. “I’m going to talk with Sir Kenneth now. Both of you, please wait there and don’t do anything until I’ve had a chance to sort this out. Remember, you’re being recorded.”

Britta sat down on the rock, seething. She stared at the mountain in front of her, her glaring intense enough to bore a tunnel through the rock. She could feel the smug git watching her, his confidence in his own immunity to punishment impossible to ignore. She could only conclude he was right and that he wouldn’t get into any trouble. That was the great thing about being born into the right family—rules didn’t apply to you.

But they weren’t in the real world, they were in this one. And the person who rules didn’t apply to was her. She just had to find a way to use it to destroy the people causing her problems.

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