Bitter 263

“Britta? This is Dr Reedy.”

“Hello, Dr Reedy. I just stopped playing.”

“I know. We were all watching you just now. Very interesting conversation you had with the Mayor.”

“Oh, you saw that?” Britta immediately felt stupid for sounding so surprised. Of course they’d been watching her. She was the only person—real person—in the game. Because night mode was brand new, they had logged everyone else out. They probably had a few of their own people in with her, but there wouldn’t be many players allowed to keep playing. Just her and Stan, as far as she knew.

“Yes, yes, very interesting. The book sounds like it may be the key to this puzzle.”

Britta realised she still hadn’t checked to make sure the book was where she’d left it. There was no way it would have fallen out of her inventory, but she still felt nervous about it. She should have made sure.

“I was wondering, what the Mayor said about destroying the book to destroy the spell, is that true?”

“It isn’t a mechanic we put in the game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t correct. There’s really only one way to find out.”

She had suspected that would be the case. But she didn’t want to risk going all out and then finding out it was the wrong move. The book would be gone, and she didn’t know if there’d be a second chance like with a regular game. What she needed was a test run.

“Are there other magic books like the grimoire?” she asked. “Ones that cast a spell on someone.”

“Not really. The grimoire—” she said it the same exaggerated way as the Mayor “—wasn’t one of ours, either. There are scrolls, as you know, and we have skill books that can give permanent buffs to your stats. That’s about as close as we get to an actual spell book like the grimoire.”

It was going to get quite annoying if everyone kept pronouncing it like that. “Can I buy a skill book from someone in town? I’d like to test out what the Mayor suggested. If I destroy the book, its effect should be destroyed, too.”

“Yes, perhaps. It might not apply to regular items, though. We could put one in your inventory, but there’s the added problem of the game not liking it when we help you.”

That was certainly true. The game hadn’t liked it at all when they’d given her the anti-dwarf cloak. It had more or less turned its back on her.

“Yes, you’re right. I wouldn’t be able to rely on the results. Is there somewhere I could find a skill book on my own?”

“There are, but you’re still quite low-level. It might not be that easy without help. I can send you a list of quests and locations, if you’d like.”

It seemed like her best bet, although it would have been easier if Diana was still around. She wondered how she was getting on. “Thank you, yes. I might as well try it. By the way, how did the first night on New World go?”

“Very smoothly. There were no outbreaks of vampires or ghosts. It was all very quiet, I have to say. We may have overreacted sending everyone home.

“Did you tell the players what was happening?”

“We said we were running a test. If anyone asks, please don’t tell them you were in-game. We don’t want people to feel like they missed out on something special.”

“Sure,” said Britta. “No problem. Does that mean you’ll let everyone keep playing tomorrow night?”

“Assuming there is another sunset tomorrow, yes, that’s the plan. We’ll be watching closely, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason why not. Fingers crossed.”

It did seem slightly risky since control of the day-night cycle was completely out of their hands, but it would certainly impress the players when they saw the night sky in its full glory.

Britta answered a few more questions and gave her feedback on the pros and cons of night mode. It hadn’t really been all that different to day mode, but she tried to make her answers as comprehensive as possible. It was what they were paying her for, after all.

“Oh, there was one thing that was different,” said Britta. “When I returned to my room, I wasn’t, um, as... sweaty as usual.” She felt a bit embarrassed talking about it. What if she was the only one affected by long-term excessive perspiration? Maybe her body was just weird.

“Really? A little less or a lot less?”

“None at all, actually.”

There was a long pause. “Britta, we might need you to come into the lab for a few tests.”

“I feel fine. It’s not like there’s any other difference. Just dry sheets.”

“No, that’s fine. I’m not suggesting there’s a problem. Quite the contrary. We’ve been trying to find a way to stop this particular side effect from the beginning. With no luck. This could be quite a breakthrough.” She sounded quite excited.

“Didn’t you see the same thing with any of your people?”

“Our people?”

“The people you sent in to observe night mode.”

“Oh, we didn’t send anyone. It was deemed too risky. You were the only one. You and Stanley, of course.”

Had they really considered it that unsafe? And if they had, why the hell did they agree to let her stay? She felt quite alarmed. They really did care more about the project than her, which shouldn’t have been a surprise, but still unsettled her.

There had been nothing to suggest a threat. Although maybe it wasn’t the environment they were worried about, maybe it was the hardware hooked up to her brain.

“I’ll need to talk to my parents,” said Britta, not really wanting to trek out to the facility again.

“Yes, you do that. I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”

Britta ended the call and got off the bed. It was weird not feeling all clammy and sticky. She’d sort of got used to it.

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