Bitter 415

After dinner, Britta went to her room. She’d had enough of the game. Every time she logged in, it seemed to take over her life. The idea had been to use the game as a means to an end, to make her real life more enjoyable. Instead of worrying about what her future held for her, she could make it hold what she wanted.

That had always been the sticking point. What did she want her life to be? What would she choose if all options were available?

Well, now she was in that position, more or less. And finally, she’d started to figure it out.

It could all be taken away from her, of course, but she would still be better off than before. As long as her contract lasted a couple of months, she could count on having enough money to not have to worry about the basic things most people got into knots over.

She’d be able to buy a house outright. A car. Pay for basic necessities, and still have money in the bank.

It wouldn’t keep her in diamonds and tiaras, but it would make for a solid foundation. That was more than most people had.

Britta turned on her laptop, and then checked that the plaster over the camera was still in place. Did it really matter? If someone was spying on her, they could probably tell what she was doing without having to look at her. If anything, they were probably relieved they didn’t have to.

What could they possibly learn from knowing which websites she visited, or what emails she received? Neither of those things were very interesting, not even to her.

She opened her email account and found the contact details for Lin. She hadn’t transferred them from her phone, but had assumed they would be there. And she was right.

When it came to the game, Dr Reedy had been her contact. She had always been very helpful and ready to listen to anything Britta had to say. Britta felt slightly guilty about going around her now that she had access to Lin, but this was the way they had set it up. It wasn’t personal. It was business.

She wrote quite a long email, and then cut it down so it didn’t seem so demanding. It was just a list of requests, if possible, no pressure.

If they were keeping an eye on her, they probably had a copy the longer version as well. Britta made a note to write on paper next time, and only type up the edited version. Not even they could hack pen and paper. Although, maybe she was being naive.

Her first request was for full access to her character offline. She had checked her helmet, and she was able to see her status screen without logging in. But things like her skill tree weren’t available.

She had asked Dad if he could see his, in his more advanced rig, but he said no one else had a skill tree, yet. It became available at Level 3, and she was the only one above that. She felt it would be an important feature, and one she would like to keep a close eye on.

She also asked for a way to contact N-28. This was unlikely to be accepted, but she figured it was worth a shot. She even told them she would be happy for them to monitor any communications between them, like they wouldn’t anyway.

If she wanted to stay an integral part of their plans — and she did, since it was an integral part of her plans — then it would help to be more involved. She could just log in every forty-eight hours, do her twelve minutes of pottering around, and leave it at that, but she was sure they’d find a way to replace her, eventually.

They might think N-28 might reveal something to her the way Nigel had. She wanted them to think that.

That was why she also suggested a second character for herself. A brand new one with nothing special about it. Even though people were only allowed one at a time, she wasn’t people. And having a second one might give APE more information on what was different about her.

Britta wanted to give them more. She wanted to be value for money.

It would also help to have a backup, in case something happened to her gnome. Or if people started noticing she wasn’t quite like other players.

Her first draft had a load of pleasantries, hellos and how are yous, but she cut it all out before she sent it. She didn’t want Lin to think she was trying to get too friendly. Just business.

Lin was the one who had shown Britta what was possible for a girl with money. She had been rich her whole life. She wasn’t a party girl looking for a powerful man to buy her jewellery. She was a qualified doctor, and the man she seemed interested in had nothing to do with money or status.

With half-term next week, Britta had a lot of free time on her hands. The temptation was to use it to play the game non-stop — at least there would be places to go and new things to see.

But Britta was going to start revising for the upcoming exams.

She had ten subjects to prepare for her GCSEs. They were supposed to determine her future, the start of her life in higher education, leading to university, and culminating in a career in… something.

It didn’t matter. She closed the email and started a search for tutors.

If you worked hard and studied seriously, you could do well in your exams. But if you had money, and weren’t distracted by teenage stuff, you could excel in all subjects.

The first thing she needed was a French tutor. She had always felt a bit lacking, especially in oral. She was always thinking before speaking.

Mum and Dad had both done French at school, and neither had any recollection of it. School French wasn’t designed to teach you how to speak the language, it was just to give you an idea if you had an interest in pursuing it further. The answer being no for most kids. It gave you the basics. Everything at school was about the basics.

Britta had the opportunity of going beyond that, now, when her brain was, according to her basic biology classes, in its optimum state for absorbing new information.

Schools just didn’t have the time and resources to give students individualised care. Even if she went to a posh private school, there would still be twenty kids in a class. She wanted a better way to learn, and she could afford it. 

Even French, despite it probably being useless in the long run. The translation glasses President Wu had used would make having to learn another person’s language redundant. There were already apps that could do it, but they were far from perfect. The glasses had been flawless. Lin probably had access to even more advanced tech.

Lin was the person Britta intended learning from the most. And to do that she would have to get close to her. Not in a creepy way, but she needed to be smarter if she wanted to converse with her on something approaching the same level. That was the world she wanted to be part of.

“Everything alright?” said Mum from the door.

“Mm? Yes, fine.”

“If you’re planning another trip to—”

“No, not tonight. Oh, I’ll need some money.”

Mum came into the room, a slight frown on her face. “What for?”

Britta explained her need for private tutors. Lots of them.

Mum’s frown slowly disappeared. “Yes. That sounds like a lovely idea. I’ll take a couple of days off work and we can sort it out together.”

Britta was surprised. Mum had never ditched work before. Everyone was approaching things differently, it seemed.

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