Bitter 365

The screen flickered again, and showed a man sitting on a very big chair. Britta had never seen him before.

For a moment Britta thought she must have imagined seeing Stan. There had been a face right up against the screen, and it had looked like Stan. Looked like his character in the game, that is. But it was only for a couple of seconds.

“Together we can defeat this dark scourge,” said the man. He had a beard, and a crown. The big chair has a hard-to-miss throne-like quality to it.

She guessed he was the king, although she didn’t know what he was king of. The whole planet? If they’d put his name up, she’d missed it. He was trying to sell the audience on some kind of noble adventure requiring heroic deeds, or something. She had missed the beginning of his speech, too.

It was hard to concentrate when she was so confused about what she was looking at.

“Evil is gathering, and only a very special few can—”


“Listen to me while you can.” Stan was back. It was definitely him. He seemed to be somewhere dark and cramped. His neck was bent to one side like he didn’t have enough room to stand up properly. “This isn’t a game. You aren’t being sent to fight an evil fiend and save a princess. They will promise you immortality, but make no mistake, you’re being sent to die, over and over again. The enemy is right here. The enemy is the Empire.”

It cut back to the king, smiling. Flanked by men polished in armour. “We fight for honour. For freedom. For justice. For the Empire.”

Stan leaned into the screen. “We fight for honour. For freedom. For justice. For the rebellion.”

Britta realised she was an idiot. She was watching a promo for the game. Stan wasn’t cutting into the broadcast, he was part of the broadcast. She felt relieved and annoyed at the same time.

She was glad he was okay, of course. He’d obviously made it through New World’s transformation unharmed, and now he was working for them.

It shouldn’t have really come as a surprise. He was stuck in there, might as well find something long-term to do. Plus, his father was on the board, so he was practically an employee, already. Although, how much control the board really had was questionable.

The back and forth between the king and Stan went on. They were both recruiting for some kind of upcoming battle. The king wanted to fight against a demonic overlord threatening to invade, for which he needed plenty of willing volunteers to join him and his men in shiny armour.

Stan wanted a rebel army to fight the real enemy. He wasn’t clear on who that was, possibly the king and his men in shiny armour.

Her own experience with the game had made Britta think Stan might have been warning against APE itself. Warning the consumers to stay away from a dangerous product. He had hacked the signal and was broadcasting from a secret location to save the innocent before it was too late. Or some other plot from a bad movie.

Now that she understood what was happening, her initial thought seemed ridiculous. How could he even have done that on his own? He was stuck in the game. He didn’t have access to the outside world.

If she hadn’t been distracted by her knowledge of who was behind the game, she probably would have realised it was an act. Now that she watched without her preconceived notions in the way, she could see just how hokey it all way.

The king wasn’t bad, your classic charmer who you couldn’t really trust, but Stan was overdoing it quite a lot, acting like there were only seconds before the door would be kicked in and he’d be dragged away.

Most people would probably find the whole thing funny. She looked around. Most of the other kids were watching without much reaction. Either they were enthralled, or bored.

How did they even intend to explain what the king and Stan were doing? Who were they supposed to be talking to? And how were they doing it? Was the king in a Medieval television studio? Was Stan now a Level 3 hacker?

Magic would be the answer, of course. Special crystal balls you could use to talk to the public with, or something along those lines.

Britta found she felt a bit disappointed. Stan trying to take down an evil corporation from inside a computer seemed quite romantic. Ridiculous, but on a grand scale, which always made things look more impressive than they were. There was no evil corporation, just a corporation, no more or less evil than the rest.

Leading a pretend rebellion in a pretend kingdom, while still quite epic, didn’t really feel like that big a deal. It might change the world, but only until it was reset for the next playthrough.

They had stopped talking. Britta had missed a lot of what they had said, their sales pitch, but it didn’t really matter. She could always watch a recording later. Visuals of New World appeared on the screen, ending with a large shadow passing over the mounted soldiers. No doubt a hint of dragons to come. Pretty standard fare for this kind of game.

It didn’t bother her that Stan had taken on a role in the game. She didn’t know exactly how much say he’d have over his role, or if he was merely the figurehead for the rebel faction, but it was fine. An added level of complexity by using a real person to keep things authentic.

Maybe it wasn’t an AI you needed to run the game, maybe it was a person with too much free time on their hands. Stan certainly had the hours available to devote himself to such a project.

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