Bitter 329

Once Nigel and Stan began talking, Britta felt like they’d forgotten she was even there. They both had a keen interest in how the world should be, and plenty of ideas. When it became hard to follow what they were saying because of all the jargon words, Britta decided to call it a night.

She told them she was logging out, but they were too engrossed in each other to respond with more than a slight nod. She may have imagined even that.

Back in her bedroom, she experienced a strange sadness. The opportunity to be a big part of something very special had been there for her, but she had retreated from it. She wasn’t the right person to make those kinds of decisions, that much had been obvious.

But now that the opportunity had passed on to someone else, she regretted not taking the chance. She knew it was a silly way to think. It was easy to convince yourself you would have been a success when you didn’t have to prove it. People always thought the best of themselves in hypothetical situations. Everybody thought they could do better than the guy struggling on a game show.

She did her best to put it out of her mind. Stan would have lots of ideas, many of them she was sure she would disapprove of, and Nigel would try them out. Good luck to them.

Dr Reedy and the people at APE would no doubt have something to say, as well. She imagined the public launch of the game would have to be pushed back while they sorted it out. Not necessarily a bad thing, although the investors wouldn’t be happy. Still, they wouldn’t want to take a half-finished product to market. That would only hurt sales, in the long run.

The next morning, Monday, Britta went to school like normal. The game seemed a lot less important now. She had made some money from it, but it was unlikely they would keep her on the payroll for much longer, not now that she wasn’t so involved in the game’s development. She would have to speak to Dr Reedy about it. She hadn’t been in touch, not even an email, which was surprising.

As Britta sat at her desk during registration, there was some chatter about the game among some of the boys, which wasn’t unusual, but today they seemed more excited. She casually listened in.

There was going to be an announcement at some show or convention. A release date was anticipated.

Britta doubted it. They had wanted to launch at Christmas, which was only a few weeks away. There was no way they could do that with the state the game was in. Perhaps they’d announce a wider release for the beta. Or show off some of the visuals to whet people’s appetites.

“Why are you so smug?” asked Rashida.

“What do you mean? I’m not smug.”

“Yes, you are. You’ve got your post-exam face on. That’s how you look when people are discussing how they did on a test, and you know you aced it.”

Britta had no idea she had a special face for such a specific occasion. Or that Rashida had been studying her so carefully.

“I don’t really have a post-exam face, do I?”

“Don’t worry,” said Rashida. “No one else has noticed. Most of them don’t even know you exist.”

She found that much easier to believe.

“Why are you eavesdropping on the boys’ boring conversations? You will learn nothing of any use, I guarantee it.”

It was frightening how observant Rashida was. Britta would have to be less obvious around her.

“I wasn’t eavesdropping. They were talking about some computer show. My dad—”

“Yes, yes, your father is a computer repairman, very interesting.”

Britta had the urge to correct her, but bit her tongue. It was close enough.

“There’s a live stream later today,” said Rashida.

“How do you know that?” It wasn’t like Rashida to care about such things.

“It’s being held in one of those Arab hillbilly countries.”


“You know. Rednecks with guns who treat women like property. Every culture has them. Ours just happen to be very rich. It’s quite annoying, really. They think finding oil must mean Allah approves of their idiotic behaviour. They seem to have forgotten it’s Satan who gives you things for free. Allah wants you to earn it.”

“And they’re hosting this convention?”

“Apparently it’s a big deal. Usually it’s in the West or the Far East. Now it’s in the middle. Hurray.” She didn’t sound very excited. “No doubts large bribes were involved.”

“Sounds like a good thing,” said Britta.

“I’m sure,” said Rashida. “Virtual reality pilgrimages to Mecca, and I don’t know what else. New World are going to make their launch announcement.”

“Wait, you’ve heard of New World?”

“Of course,” said Rashida. “You think I don’t have my finger on the pulse? I’m very in touch with the modern world, Britta. I’m a key demographic. I might even get one of those stupid helmets. They go on sale next week.”

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