Bitter 321

Britta opened the file and was faced with a wall of text. It was more than she could handle late on a Saturday evening. Made up place names with no vowels and inappropriate apostrophes worked like a hypnotic suggestion, telling her brain to abort this mission immediately.

She closed the file and went to bed. It would still be there tomorrow.

The following morning she woke up and lay awake in bed for a good ten minutes before she remembered the file. She fumbled about in the small bedside cabinet until she found the tablet she never used.

She would probably have used it more often if it had been an iPad, but Dad refused to have any Apple products in the house. He insisted they were the work of the devil, and he wasn’t joking.

Britta had tried to convince him to get one — he had the latest products from just about every other major manufacturer, even when they made the same thing as each other — but he was adamant. They may look beautiful and have very intuitive user interfaces, but that’s how Satan works, he would tell her and Marisa when they begged him to get the latest thing the cool kids at school all had.

On one level it was a good thing not to let your kids run foul of peer pressure and pointless competitiveness. But it wasn’t like he didn’t get them ridiculously expensive phones with umpteen features they would never use. Fiscal responsibility wasn’t the issue. Nor was common sense. The specific reason was that Lucifer wore an Apple watch. 

Britta plugged the tablet into her phone charger, which admittedly, she wouldn’t have been able to do with an iPad, and opened the file Dr Reedy had sent her. At least if she read it in bed, it would be less of a pain.

Having her head on a pillow as she read turned out not to be such a great idea. She drifted off a number of times and lost her place often. The layout was quite hard to follow, with numerous tables and lists of numbers she couldn’t be bothered to understand. She just didn’t care.

The basic gist of it seemed to be a search for keys (sounded familiar) and then using those keys to open a big temple to fight the God-Queen and her many, many minions.

It was fairly linear. Go to each place, kill the guardians, find the key, go to the next place, rinse, repeat. It did mean you got to journey to all corners of New World, seeing all there was to see, which would be nice. She had still to leave New Town, and the quest would be a good excuse to travel around a bit more, but it did feel a bit samey.

There were four keys, located at four small temples. You fought monsters, avoided traps and solved puzzles, until you reached a boss. Once you killed it, you got a chest with a shiny key in it. She assumed it would be shiny.

It might have been simple and repetitive, but it allowed character progression, levelling you up quickly, giving you superior weapons and armour, and then pitting you against a giant demon spider.

It was like any other run of the mill RPG quest, as far as she could tell.

There was nothing really wrong with that. It was a popular genre of video game which people enjoyed. But why would Nigel even consider using something like this? He had keys in his quest, too. Keys that had already been found by another monster who was using them to lure his rivals to their doom.

It was a more complicated questline, but at least it wasn’t the same thing over and over. Perhaps she had been too quick to give up on it.

She wasn’t sure what she should do. Dr Reedy wanted her to present it as an option to Nigel. Just an option. She could do that, but it would be a very short presentation, and a very unenthusiastic one. She doubted Dr Reedy would be very happy with that.

What she needed was a decent sales pitch. Not one she necessarily believed in, but one that made it seem like she was giving it her best shot. There was only one person who could get excited about something like this. She would show it to Dad, and then repeat whatever hyperactive babble it drew out of him. Maybe she could just record his reaction on her phone, and then play it back while moving her lips like in a dubbed movie.

She got out of bed and wandered quietly downstairs. Mum would be having her Sunday morning lie in. Dad was in the kitchen, eating cereal and mumbling to himself. He hadn’t gone mad, that was just how he was when he was deeply involved in a game. He was planning the next few moves in some quest or crafting mission, carefully choosing each step and getting the order fixed in his head. It was a bad time to bother him.

Britta placed the tablet next to him on the table, and made her way to the counter. By the time she had her own bowl of cereal and sat down, he was holding the tablet, his eyes gliding from left to right.

The only sound for the next few minutes was Britta’s crunching. Then the tablet was slid across the tabletop towards her.

“That’s terrible.”

“Why?” said Britta. “Isn’t it just like every other RPG?”

“What is this? 2007?”

Britta had no idea what he meant by that. “How would you bring it up to date?” she asked.

“By throwing it in the bin,” said Dad. It was going to be hard to get anything else out of him. He was emphatic on an Apple-level.

“Dr Reedy wants me to convince Nigel this is the way to go.”

“This is not the way to go. Nigel knows what he’s doing.”

“His idea was all about collecting keys, too,” pointed out Britta.

“Completely different. Execution is everything, sweetheart. And that thing you’ve got there should be hung by the neck until it’s dead, dead, dead.”

She was in danger of provoking a Steve-Jobs-inspired rant if she wasn’t careful.

“There really isn’t anything good here? Not one thing?” She was sounding a little desperate. She just needed to make it look like she’d tried. Surely there was a way to make it seem sort of okay.

Dad dragged the tablet back to his side. He flipped through a few pages.

“This. Here, where it talks about Old Town. That sounds like it might be fun.” He pushed the tablet back to her.

Old Town. She had missed that when she skimmed through the file. Why did it sound familiar?

She realised it was the place Diana had gone. She had taken the quest from the Alchemist and gone to assassinate someone. Had she succeeded? There’d been no sign of Diana since then. She wondered what she was up to.

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