Bitter 193

They settled on their individual goals. Stan and Freddy would go and see the mayor and try to find out how he felt about the Garbolums. It was more of an exploratory mission. They didn’t really know what they were looking for and the hope was that prodding the hornet’s nest would reveal something interesting. It was one of the advantages of being in a game world that you could opt for a high-risk strategy like this without having to worry too much about the repercussions. It was more fun, too.

At least, Britta thought it would be fun. Stan wasn’t so sure.

“Is it alright taking Freddy? I mean, if the mayor does have issues with his dad, seeing him might put him on his guard. Or make him mad.”

Britta could see Stan’s point, but that was part of the strategy. If anything, she hoped Freddy would say something stupid and provoke the mayor.

“He won’t attack you, though,” said Britta. “He might throw you out. But he’s more likely to say something revealing if he’s all worked up.”

“You want me to get him worked up?” said Freddy.

“No,” said Stan.

“Yes,” said Britta. “Do you think you can?”

Freddy smiled, his large, yellowing teeth bursting out of his mouth. “Leave it to me.”

Stan didn’t look too enthusiastic about the plan, but he accepted it.

“It’ll make it easier to tell if you can get him to go off-script without me,” said Britta.

“I know, I know. I’m just nervous.” Stan suddenly smiled. “I’ve never felt like this in a game before. It’s pretty cool.”

Britta leaned across the table and lowered her voice so she wouldn’t be heard over the sound of Freddy enjoying his third bowl of stew. “You weren’t nervous with his aunt?”

“No,” Stan said equally quietly. “I was just scared.”

Britta’s task was to go to the post office and speak to Dennis, the young man behind the counter who had some kind of relationship with the mayor. She had sensed there was a questline waiting to be triggered, but she wasn’t sure if it had been put there by the devs or not.

She could have just asked Dr Reedy to find out, but it didn’t really matter. Her goal was to trigger the real Dennis and get information about what the mayor was up to.

They left Sonny’s after Freddy had finished. To be more exact, they left after he finished his current bowl and before he could order another. At Stan’s expense, of course. It wasn’t even like he had to eat, it was just there to add flavour to the game, and to inconvenience them. Still, it felt rude to drag him away while he was in the middle of eating.

Britta tried to invite Freddy to their party so he’d be on their group chat, but there was no way to do it. NPCs didn’t appear on the invite list. It would have been hard to explain to him how it worked (and how he was really in a game) so it did make sense to not allow it, but it would have been useful.

Stan had the expression of a man going into battle, except he had seemed much more confident when he was actually going into battle. Having a loose cannon like Freddy onboard seemed to be his main problem.

“I feel like a babysitter, for the world’s biggest baby,” said Stan. “I feel like I could use one of those toddler leashes you see crappy parents use.”

Freddy had wandered over to an alley and was urinating on the wall, only no liquid was coming out. He was just miming it.

“He’s not that bad,” said Britta.

“He’s going to wait for the most inopportune moment, and then he’s going to jump in with both feet. I can feel it.”

“Don’t be so negative,” said Britta, unable to stop herself grinning. She had no doubt Stan was right and only wished she could be there to see it. “It’ll be good practice for you. Learn how to cope with the unexpected. Make sure he doesn’t die, though. I don't know what’ll happen if he resets and I'd rather not have to go back to square one.”

Stan nodded. “I’ll try. But a lot depends on what the mayor’s really like. He might have us both killed on the spot. That’s what I would do.”

Britta gave Stan a curious look. “In real life or in the game?”

“In the game,” said Stan. “I don’t know what kind of person you take me for, but I’m not some villain with an evil lair.”

“But you would build an evil lair in the game, if you could? With human skulls and a shark tank?”

“Of course,” said Stan. “And I will, don’t you worry about that.”

He gave Freddy a shove, making him complain about non-existent splash-back on his trousers, and the two of them set off for the Town Hall.

Britta was tempted to go with them, but it wasn’t just the mayor they would be testing, it was how far Stan could go on his own. Britta headed in the opposite direction. The post office would probably be quite a straightforward operation. Talk to Dennis, get him to reveal information about the mayor, find something to do while she waited for the other two to report back. Assuming they didn’t get themselves killed somehow.

She walked down the street, through the bustle of crowds going about their pretend business and opened her status screen to look over her stats. It was something she found she was doing quite regularly, almost a habit. She liked checking her numbers and seeing if any had changed. She was very close to achieving Level 4. If Dennis offered her some menial task she was tempted to take it just for the XP.

“Hey,” called out a voice. “Over here.”

Britta looked around and then saw a shadowy figure in the alleyway between two stores.

“Come over here, quick,” said the figure. Britta moved closer. She wasn’t sure, but it looked like a dwarf.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.