Bitter 338

While Britta undoubtedly found it interesting to read about the internal struggle for control over at APE, there was one question the email didn’t answer. Why the hell had Nigel decided to drop all of this in her lap? What the hell was she supposed to do?

Even if the new AI, N-28, went crazy and put thousands of people at risk of receiving a DLC lobotomy (and probably charge them 29.99 for the privilege), it was hardly a good idea to put their fates in the hands of a sixteen year old girl. Especially one who wasn’t particularly good at video games.

She didn’t want to be the last hope for a bunch of overeager nerds who would no doubt critique her rescue method immediately after she saved them. No thank you.

She looked back at the email which was now an unremarkable holiday message from her sister. Nothing about it indicated it had been sent by Nigel. There was even a section about how good her boyfriend’s abs looked when oiled up with suntan lotion. It was both appalling and impressive. She could have sworn it had come directly from Marisa’s computer.

However, despite the technological marvel she had just witnessed, the attempt to disguise the true source of the email had caused a large chunk of information to be lost.

Nigel had hidden six keys somewhere in New World, but she had no idea where. Or what the keys were for. If he had just laid it all out in a clear, step by step fashion — go here, get this item, wait until this particular thing happens, use it in this manner — then that would have been fine.

All these vague directions with hidden objects to find just felt… like a game.

Perhaps Nigel couldn’t help himself. He had been designed to run a digital assault course to keep people entertained, so that’s what he spent all his time coming up with. Mental gymnastics for bored people.

Britta had no interest in getting involved with something that was ultimately no more than a diversion. It would be like if someone’s Netflix stopped working in the middle them binge-watching a series, and expected her to fix it for them. How was it her responsibility? And weren’t there better qualified people to do that sort of thing?

And yet… if things really went off the rails, would she be able to ignore the fact she knew how to help? It wasn’t as simple as Netflix not working. Once you were in New World, you were living a completely new life. You could get severed from reality. You could even die.

It was more like your Netflix cutting out just before the last episode.

It was a chilling thought, but hopefully it was all wild conjecture. Nothing really bad would happen. N-28 would be a marvellous step forward in home entertainment, there would be no bugs, and loot boxes would have a legendary item in each one.


Britta turned away from her computer and went to lie down on her bed. She didn’t even know if she wanted to continue playing. Would it just be the regular experience with normal NPC interactions? That was really the only thing that had interested her. Without Nigel, the people at APE would be able to do as they pleased, and she had seen the sort of things they had in mind. The thought did not fill her with confidence.

But so what? They had every right to do whatever they thought best. Including locking up Nigel and never letting him out. Although they might regret it.

After all the trouble he’d caused them, she was surprised they hadn’t just wiped his data banks, or wherever it was they kept him. But they had invested a lot of time and money into creating him, and probably didn’t want to throw it all away.

They had failed to stop him reaching out to her, though. Which didn’t say much for their security measures. And if he could bypass their security, why not the next generation of AI?

As she lay there, she realised there hadn’t been any mention of Stan in the letter, or the quake that had ripped a hole in the fabric of virtual reality. Had Nigel been responsible for getting Stan out? Would he really be okay once the reformation was over?

There was a lot for her to process. And there was probably even more she wasn’t even aware of. APE were bringing in a new way of doing things. And they wanted to get the game to the public within a few days. Whatever the next version of New World was going to be like would become apparent very soon.

Her mulling was interrupted by another email. She went over to have a look, but this one wasn’t from Nigel. It wasn’t from her sister, either. It was from APE.

She opened it, wondering if Dr Reedy had more to tell her, but it wasn’t from her. It was a very official looking letter from the HR department, informing her that her contract with them was terminated immediately.

Dr Reedy had said they would honour the contract to completion, but according to this letter there was a clause that allowed them to end the agreement early, and apparently those conditions had been met.

It was very impersonal, basically a form letter. It also informed her that the Anderson Cradle would be collected and returned to APE.

It wasn’t really surprising that they’d want their equipment back. It was a prototype and very expensive. If she wanted to continue playing the game, she’d have to buy her own helmet like anyone else.

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