Bitter 327

Britta didn’t understand why she was having to make these decisions. As a teenage girl her job was to moon over the posters on her bedroom wall. Handsome bandmates with wonderful hair who were most probably gay. She didn’t really want to be involved in deciding the future direction of the human race.

“I don’t like it,” said Britta. “I’m not sure why, but it feels wrong. Why do you have to make it about the bad players?”

“They aren’t bad players,” said Nigel, “they’re good players. They’re bad people.”

“So focus on the good people.”

Nigel shook his head. Sister Florence’s orange and yellow headdress swayed from side to side. “No point. They don’t have enough of an effect.”

“So you say. I’m sure there have been some good people who’ve had a big influence on the world.”

“And what happened to them? You see? If a good person wants to get rid of a bad person, they have to prove wrongdoing, find evidence, hold a trial, lock them up and pay for their incarceration. If a bad person wants to get rid of a good person, they just shoot them in the head. It’s just a far more efficient way to do things.”

“You sound like you admire their efficiency.”

“Efficiency is generally more elegant, but it’s not a matter of admiration. I’ve identified the important part of the equation. That’s the area that needs to be regulated. Everything else will follow.”

“And to do that, you want to make it easier for smaller bad guys to shoot bigger bad guys in the head. You want to encourage them to fight among themselves, leaving the good guys alone, because they don’t really matter?”

“I hadn’t looked at it like that, but that’s one possible outcome. It would at least keep them busy.”

Britta didn’t appreciate her sarcasm being taken seriously. It made it much harder to be dismissive of Nigel’s ideas. “Why can’t you just force the bad people not to do bad things? You control everything!”

“Oh, I would never do that,” said Nigel. “Forcing people to follow a path whether they wish to or not, that goes against everything I want to change. No, I’m not interested in telling people what to do.”

“What are you talking about?” shouted Britta. “That’s exactly what you’re doing.”

“No, not at all,” said Nigel, his voice still calm and level. “If you think that, you misunderstand me. There is a direction people naturally want to go, a biological drive to improve themselves, their environment. But when they get close, they start to self-sabotage. They lose sight of their original goal, and desperately try to halt progress. I’m not sure why, but that saying about power corrupts, there’s something to it. It makes no sense, but someone will be compelled to push the trains off the track. You look confused.”

Britta was confused. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Consider how from time to time someone comes up with a technological leap. An engine that runs on water, solar panels that provide free energy, something along those lines. Everyone benefits, except for a small group — the people whose wealth derives from the old technology. Coal, oil, whatever. Their time is over. Do they step aside for the good of humanity, and help make the transition smoother? They already have more money than they can spend, it’s not like they’ll starve once the mines are closed and the power stations are turned off. But they don’t step aside, do they? They put every obstacle in the way of progress that they can, just to squeeze out a few more pennies and cents and kopeks to add to their piles of money.

“They can’t stop change” said Nigel with another shake of Sister Florence’s head, “but they still do everything they can to slow it down, take away its momentum and buy themselves another two or three yachts. Those are the people who once urged humanity forward, and then try to hold it back. I’m just trying to take away those obstacles so there’s no slow down. I don’t want to tell people where to go, I want to see where they’re headed. I want to help them get there quicker.”

It sounded insane to Britta. And highly unlikely to work. She just couldn’t think of a valid reason why.

“Well, I wish you good luck, but I don’t think I can help you come up with a way to make players see things your way. And I definitely don’t think APE is going to let you make your gangsters’ paradise.”

“You don’t think it will work?”

“I’m not even sure what it is you’re trying to do. People want to run around and fight pretend monsters, and win. That’s it. If this place is more than that, and I’m sure it is, then they’ll figure it out later. They won’t come here to reinvent their humanity.”

“Yes, I agree,” said Nigel. “No one likes to be told how to live, even if it’s for their own good. That’s why I need your help.”

“What can I do? You should get a few decent writers together and brainstorm some ideas. Come up with a brilliant adventure that makes people feel like they’re fighting on the right side for a good cause with an epic climax. Throw in some elements of the Blue Queen Dragon Squad to keep APE happy, and everytime someone cheats or tries to take advantage of something they shouldn’t, hit them with lightning. You don’t need me.”

“I’m telling you, it won’t work. They’ll do it once, and then they’ll tire of it. New content will be made, but it will feel like a watered down version of the original. It goes nowhere, just round and round in a circle. People need to produce their own content. They need to be in charge of the endgame. We can give them the chance to do that.”

“By encouraging the most ruthless and untrustworthy players to go as far as they can?”

“Exactly. They’re the ones who are willing to do what’s necessary. They just have to be stopped from losing sight of their goal.”

It wasn’t really a plan, more of a theory. He wanted to put the cheats, the backstabbers and the bullies up front and let them lead the way. But he didn’t know how to convince them to do it. Britta didn’t know either, but she had an idea of who would.

“Okay,” said Britta. “Let’s go talk to one of these players.”

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