Bitter 22

Britta raised her hands and shouted, “Spork!” It felt like an incredibly dumb thing to be yelling, but there wasn’t much she could do about that right now.

Nothing happened.

You don’t have enough mana, said the calm voice from somewhere above her.

Great. She had used up her MP casting the other two spells and didn’t have any left. Would have been nice if she’d been made aware of that before she’d randomly called out a piece of cutlery at her attackers. Why simply die when you can embarrass yourself first?

The three men running down the alley towards her hesitated as she waved her hands at them, one of them even dived to the ground and did a forward roll which would have looked very cool if there had been a fireball, but they quickly closed in on her when there was no magical attack.

They surrounded her and had clubs in their hands. The somersaulter looked particularly red-faced, probably because she’d made him roll around in the dirt for no apparent reason.

“Take it easy, guys,” said Britta, trying, belatedly, to calm the situation. “He was like that when I got here.”

It wasn’t a very convincing explanation, especially as she had a bloody knife in her hand and a corpse at her feet, but these were computer controlled AI with very basic thought processes, Britta hoped. Somewhere, numbers were being randomly generated and even if there was only a one percent chance they would believe her, there was still a chance.

“You expect us to believe that?” said the biggest of the three. He also had the biggest club. “Clearly you’ve killed this man. Did you have a good reason?”

The way he spoke didn’t sound like a thug, he sounded more like a policeman. Now that she had a chance to look at them, they were all wearing very similar outfits and matching helmets. It seemed unlikely they would be so coordinated unless it was some kind of uniform.

“Who are you?” blurted out Britta.

“Captain Jerrod of the New Town Guard. I suggest you explain what happened. We’ll have to take you in.”

At least they weren’t more muggers.

“He attacked me and I defended myself. It was self-defence. “

“I see,” said Captain Jerrod. “And that’s your dagger is it?”

Britta looked at the knife in her hand. “Yes.” She didn’t want to give up the only weapon she had.

“We’ll have to take it. It’s evidence.”

Had they let some Law & Order fan program the cops? Why they hell would they want the dagger? Fingerprints?

“I need it. I’m an adventurer.” It sounded a completely stupid thing to say.

“Oh, are you with the guild?” The captain’s demeanour seemed to change. He suddenly became much more polite. “May I see you card?”

Britta took out her guild card and handed it over. He looked at it and then passed it back.

“That’s fine then.”

That was it? Was a guild card a licence to kill? Was she James Bond now? Or perhaps she was allowed to kill criminals.

“Do you think there might be a bounty on him?” she said.

“On Freddy?” said one of the other men. “No chance. Who’d pay anything for him?”

The two subordinates rolled the body, revealing Freddy's face. It was frozen in a grimace and his eyes were wide open.

“You didn’t have to kill him,” said Captain Jerrod as he looked the body over. “He wasn’t even armed.”

She’d already said it was her dagger, so she couldn’t tell him the truth. He might still take it off her.

“It all happened so quickly, he jumped me and I reacted. I didn’t mean to kill him.” Which probably would have sounded a lot better if the wound hadn’t been in her victim’s back, but the guards didn’t seem like they were going to make a big deal about it.

They picked up the corpse between two of them, one by the hands, the other by the feet, and carried him out of the alley.

“We’ll take care of it from here,” said Captain Jerrod. “Mind how you go.” He touched the rim of his helmet and followed his men.

Britta was left standing in the alley. It seemed a guild card had all sorts of uses.

She had managed to survive an attack and avoid getting thrown in jail, which was a relief. Judging by how seriously the game took its level of realism, prison would probably mean literally sitting in a cell for hours on end.

Her spells had worked better, except when she ran out of mana, which was frustrating. She had to figure out a better way to keep track of her stats, and she also needed to change how she cast her spells. Screaming Spork! at people was too embarrassing. In fact, it would probably help if she took a moment to go through the whole status screen and try to understand it.

Even though she had only intended to have a look around, now that she had spent a little time in this world, she wanted to have at least a rudimentary grasp of the controls. Rudimentary enough so that she didn’t get killed every five minutes

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