Bitter 200

“Shouldn’t there be failsafes to make sure something like this can’t happen?” asked Britta. If Stan wasn’t going to get upset about it, she certainly was.

“There are,” said Dr Reedy. “Many. The Anderson cradle has never been bypassed like this before.”

“But it’s a bug, isn’t it? The game wouldn’t deliberately try to kill someone, would it?”

“Hey, take it easy,” said Stan. He could only follow the conversation from one side, but it wasn’t hard to work out what they were talking about. “I think it’s pretty obvious what the game’s trying to do.”

“You do?” said Britta. “What?”

“It’s trying to keep the story going. If an NPC dies and then you log out, what happens? The NPC comes back to life, and everything resets. As long as I’m stuck in here, Freddy won’t come back to life, which means all the consequences of his death are still in play.”

“What does that mean though?” said Britta. “What are we supposed to do?”

“Whatever we want. Actually, whatever you want. I can’t really do much, other than get prison buff and maybe level up my sewing skills. Intermediate sewing can be quite lucrative, you know?”

He was making light of the situation, which was both admirable and infuriating. If their positions had been reversed, Britta wouldn’t have handled things quite so calmly. She would have screamed the place down. If what his father had said about his illness was true, perhaps being locked out of his own body wasn’t as much of an issue for Stan as it would be for other people.

“I guess we need to prove your innocence,” said Britta. “I have no idea how we would do that.”

“Me neither,” said Stan. “You could always get me out the old-fashioned way.” Britta gave him a baffled look. “Break me out.”

“I have even less idea how to do that.”

“I’m pretty sure there’s a prison break quest. I never did it myself, but I heard other people talk about it. Dr Reedy?” said Stan to the sky. “That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s correct,” said Dr Reedy to Britta. “It’s a Level 7 quest, though.”

“It’s a Level 7 quest,” Britta repeated to Stan. “And I’m Level 3.”

“Better get levelling then,” said Stan. “In the meantime, you can do a bit of snooping around. See if the mayor and the dwarves give you any new leads. Trust me, I’m fine in the Prison Simulator 9000. I don’t think the game really wants to kill me, and I don’t have much going on at home. I’m okay, for now, but it’s up to you to figure this out.”

“What if I can’t?” said Britta.

“Well, you certainly won’t with that attitude. This whole thing started because of you, it’s only fair you fix it.”

“Are you saying it’s my fault you’re in here?”

“Of course it is,” said Stan, smiling. “And if you fail, I could die.” He said it with extra emphasis, but also with a grin.

“And you’re just going to wait in here? It’s going to be like being in a real prison, you know?”

“Not a real prison. My cellmate’s an elf, for a start. And you can visit me. We are married, after all. Actually, think of me more like Hannibal Lecter.  You go try to solve the mystery, and when you get stuck, come to me for advice, and I’ll tell you the most terrible way to solve your problem. I have a lot of good terrible ideas. Quid pro quo, Britta.”

She wasn’t sure what he was talking about. She knew who Hannibal Lecter was, but she hadn’t seen Silence of the Lambs. She didn’t like gory movies.

There was a lot to do. She’d have to find out what was really going on with the mine, and deal with all the parties involved. She would also have to avoid ending up in prison like Stan. If the mayor was willing to frame him, he would probably do the same to her if she became a nuisance.

And on top of all that, there was one more thing she needed to confront.

“What if I’m stuck in here, too?” said Britta. “I haven’t logged out of the game yet.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” said Stan. “That’s how you solve the game. That’s how you solve anything. Work out what you need to know, then go find your answer. You’ve got a lot to do, better get started.”

Britta opened her status screen, took a breath and exited the game.

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