Bitter 20

Britta held up her empty hands. “Hey, take it easy. I’m new. I just started. I don’t have anything worth stealing.”

“The jacket.” As he came closer she could make out his features a little more. He was bald with a fat, round face and a flat nose that had probably been broken many times. He had stubble that went from his neck almost all the way to his eyeballs, and hair on his chest, his shoulders, his arms, his hands... and he had a big knife.

She could just give him the jacket and then it would be over. It wasn’t even a nice jacket and it had only been in her possession a few minutes. Easy come, easy go. It was still annoying.

She looked around but there was nothing to help her. No weapons lying around. No door into one of the buildings. She would have to fight or run (and then fight anyway, probably).

“Jacket,” said the mugger. He’d obviously been programmed with a very limited vocabulary.

Britta made a decision. She wasn’t going to let the game keep killing her and taking her stuff. She might end up dead (again) but she didn’t want to live her life here like she did at home, always doing what would cause the least hassle and avoiding trouble. She often felt like she wanted to punch and kick the people who made her life miserable, but you couldn’t. Not in polite society.

Nothing polite about this society, though.

“Back off, shithead. I’m a mage. I can set your head on fire.” She stuck out her hands in what she hoped was a threatening manner.

The mugger stopped moving forward. And then he burst out laughing. “Hur, hur. Sure you can. Little girl like you, I’m sure you’re a fire mage.” He began moving again.

Britta couldn’t set stuff on fire, and she didn’t have a weapon, but she did have her two spells. One that never worked and one that she hadn’t tried yet. Might as well give it a whirl.

“Noomar!” she said, waving her hands about like she’d seen witches and wizards do in movies. Nothing happened. It was supposed to make a copy of an object, but she had no idea how to choose the object, or what object to choose even if she did know.

The mugger had stopped when she cast her spell (or didn’t cast her spell) and felt the top of his head. “Doesn’t even feel warm.”

He could have easily jumped her by now but was taking it very slow, which made Britta think he had to be a computer controlled character, an NPC, as they were usually called, although she had no idea what the letters stood for. Maybe she could avoid a fight by triggering a conversation with him.

“Hey, er, nice dagger. Where could I buy one of those?” She didn’t have much practice making small talk with violent thugs.

“Thanks. Come here and you can have a closer look. Hur, hur.”

She was almost at the back wall—nowhere else to go. She looked down and noticed a strange glow coming from her right hand. She turned it over to get a better look and the palm was red (redder than normal) and glowing.

“Hold on,” she said. “Something weird’s going on.” To her surprise, he actually stopped.

She reached out a finger and poked her palm with it. The glowing stopped and something moved in the corner of her eye. When she looked up, there was another gnome standing beside her.

It seemed whatever she touched with her glowing hand would be copied. Since she’d touched herself, there were now two little gnomes in the alley. Seeing herself on her guild ID had been odd, but seeing herself in the flesh, as it was, was even odder. Her doppelganger stared back at her.

“How did you do that?” said the mugger, looking from one Britta to the other.

If she was going to make her move, now was the time. She ran.

Britta went to the left, her double went to the right. The mugger couldn’t grab both of them, which gave her a fifty percent chance of escape. They weren’t the best odd, but after so much bad luck she was due a break.

She, of course, didn’t get one.

The mugger lunged towards her; the real her. There was only one option left, and that was to blind herself.

“Artua!” She fully expected it to backfire again.

There was a bright flash, but Britta could still see! The mugger, however, dropped his dagger and put his hands over his eyes with a scream. “I’m blind!”

It was a bit over the top—some programmer letting loose his love of am-dram—but it gave Britta the chance to get away.

She stopped. There was a large dagger on the ground. She picked it up, turned around and jumped on the mugger’s back. Her copy did the same, although she had nothing in her hands. They both hit the mugger at the same time.

The mugger screamed, arched his back, and then fell forward. He hadn’t simply gone poof and disappeared, he was still here, lying very still. She had felt the blade go into his body. Felt the warmth of his blood as it covered her hands. Was this level of detail really necessary?

She looked over at her mirror image. The look on her face, presumably the same as the look on her own face, was one of guilt. It wasn’t a real person, she hadn’t really killed anyone, but still, she felt like a murderer.

Her hand was glowing again. She turned it over and the word ‘message’ was lit up in red across her palm. She tapped it with her finger.

“Congratulations, you have reached level 2,” said an emotionless voice.

Tiny fireworks went off in the palm of her hand.

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