Bitter 330

Britta hadn’t heard anything about an imminent release. None of the boys who were obsessed with video games seemed to be aware of this news, either. They were eagerly waiting for the announcement. But somehow Rashida, who had no interest in anything involving pixels, had the inside information.

“How do you know?” she asked Rashida.

“Once you broaden your horizons beyond the advertiser-approved media outlets, you will find there is a lot more information available than you’ve been led to believe. Google is not your friend.”

“And you’re sure they’re putting the helmet on sale next week?”

“That’s what the investment markets believe. They tend to be aware of anything that’s expected to make a lot of money, and this is apparently going to be bigger than all the other toys ever made. Unless there’s a last minute change of plan, of course.”

Britta didn’t necessarily think Rashida was wrong, but it would be very strange for them to go ahead with a full launch right now. The game looked great, and she had no doubt people would be impressed with that side of it, but what were they going to do about Nigel?

Even if they had fixed all the bugs and completed all the quests, they knew Nigel was the one in control. Unless they’d found a way around that, too.

“How much are they going to charge?” she asked. Rashida appeared to be the expert on all things New World.

“£1000. I know, ridiculous price for a hat.”

A thousand? That was way less than she’d expected. It was expensive, but no more than a high-end phone or laptop. They would certainly get a lot of people buying at that price.

Britta looked over to where the boys were bunched up watching a video on one of their phones.

“Hey, do you know when the helmet’s going on sale?” she called over to them. No one answered. They weren’t really ignoring her, they just hadn’t noticed she existed. “Nick? When does it go on sale?”

Nick, the class poser, swept his blond hair back and glared at her with what could only be described as disdain. He clearly didn’t want people to think they were friends.

“That’s what they’re going to announce today, isn’t it?” he said dismissively. “Thinking of trying your luck on a different planet?”

There was some sniggering, but nothing she wasn’t capable of ignoring. She had found out what she’d wanted to know. They had no idea what was coming.

“Impressive how clueless arrogant people can be, isn’t it?” said Rashida. “Ten years from now, Mr Scumbag will be balding and splashing around in the shallow end of life. Let him have his moment of cockiness, poor boy.”

“You don’t know that. He could end up incredibly rich and successful.”

They looked at Nick Newman, in his expensive designer clothes. Even his socks had an insignia on them. He clearly saw himself as one of life’s winners. He looked up and saw them both staring at him, and flinched. He turned back to his friends.

“See?” said Rashida. “One day he’ll face real hardship, and he’ll buckle like cheap plastic.”

There was a harshness to the way Rashida judged people that was chilling. It didn’t matter if she was wrong, her certainty made her sound right.

“Let them have their fun in the paddling pool. They think a pretend world will allow them to be heroes and warriors. I’m tempted to get one of those helmets and show them what it takes to be a true conqueror. I would enjoy that.”

The seething menace was unsettling. People considered Muslim women to be timid and forced to walk ten steps behind the men. Not Rashida. Britta wondered what class Rashida would choose to play if she did buy the game. Dark Lord? It would be quite interesting to see her go up against Stan.

The announcement came later that afternoon. People were watching the livestream in English. The teacher, Mr Maxwell, didn’t seem to mind all the excited whispering and phones under desks.

As Rashida had said, the helmet was to go on sale next week. Even though Britta had decided to take more of a backseat role in regard to New World, she was curious to find out what APE was planning. And how Nigel intended to react. Unless he was on board with the idea. For all she knew, it had all been sorted out and agreed upon.

“Okay, calm down,” said Mr Maxwell. “I’m sure whatever’s got you so excited is very interesting and important, but so is your coursework. I want essays in by the end of the week, and remember, this will go towards thirty percent of your final score.”

Britta switched to school mode. Whatever the game was going to do wasn’t really relevant. She had other priorities, and English was one of those subjects where you couldn’t just memorise the answers.

“Is it alright if I argue against the theme?” asked a boy.

“Of course,” said Mr Maxwell. “Approach it how you please.”

“Because I don’t think ‘write what you know’ really makes sense. I mean, does that mean you have to be a real wizard if you want to write about dragons and magic?” the boy scoffed.

“Yes, yes. If you feel you’ve uncovered a misstep made by the greatest writers this world has produced — after all you’ve been alive for a whole sixteen years — then by all means, elaborate to your heart’s content. I’m sure it won’t reveal that you’ve misunderstood what was meant.”

The boy’s face reddened and he stopped looking so pleased with himself.

Britta nodded to herself. Jumping to conclusions was a risky strategy, in life, and in games. It was always better to make sure before you claimed to know what was going on. She hadn’t planned on logging into the game until the weekend, but it wouldn’t hurt to drop by and see what Nigel and Stan thought of the latest developments.

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