Bitter 490

...1. Enter when ready.

There was a flicker of movement causing everyone to turn and raise their weapons. An archway had appeared with columns on either side. It looked like a fancy entrance to a museum or art gallery, although it was probably meant to be some kind of imposing gateway to the next fight.

More archways appeared on the walls of the chamber.

The announcement of the raid starting sent everyone into a panic. There weren’t any monsters charging at them — not yet, at least — but the general consensus appeared to be to act like there might be an ambush through any of the archways. Weapons were drawn and the players formed a circle, facing outwards so they could keep an eye on all of them.

“Use your spell,” one of the players said to Dad.

He had blocked off a doorway earlier, which had prevented the other players in his team entering while Britta and company dealt with the AI problem. Now, they wanted him to do it to stop the raid monsters from tearing everyone apart, although he would only be able to block one of many.

“Calm down,” said Dad. “I think we’re supposed to go through, not the other way around.” He was probably right, but Britta expected he also didn’t want to waste a spell.

The players looked dissatisfied with this answer. As always, a gamer was unrepentantly insistent when it came to someone else using up their ability, and miserly when it came to using their own. Britta was aware of this phenomenon because Dad embodied it so well.

Right now, though, he was taking the part of reasonable player making sense on the basis of logic. Another of his tricks to get people to use up their skills instead of having to use his own. If Britta wasn’t so used to his tactics, she might have actually believed he cared about managing resources sensibly.

“He’s right,” said James, taking on the role of leader. “Look at the map. It says this is the entrance to the Temple of the Ancient. We’ve got an hour. Let’s see if there’s some more information, first.”

The others readily agreed, happy to give way to the BR champion. They also didn’t want to rush in and be the person who died first and gave everyone else the information they needed about what not to do. Everyone opened their screens to try and work out what they were supposed to do.

James took a breath and then called out: “ What are the raid rules?”

Teams may enter in groups of between five and ten players. Ten teams in total will be allowed to enter for the duration. Time left is fifty-nine minutes and fifty seconds.

There was a lot of noise as they all began talking at once.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” The voice came across group chat, for everyone. It was General Zevan.

Since it was on an open channel, everyone answered at once. James told them all to shut up, which they did, and spoke to General Zevan, telling him about the raid and to send down nine more ten-man teams.

He didn’t mention the BR, probably not thinking it worth telling an NPC, and also because it would only waste time.

Once that was arranged, James turned to the men gathered around him like groupies. “We can wait for the others and attack together, or go in first and see if we can work out what we need to do.”

“We’ll just die if we go in alone,” said someone.

“But if we don’t die, we could get some kind of special treasure,” said someone else.

The idea of defeating the monsters alone and getting all the loot for themselves was, of course, hugely appealing, but the chances of them defeating whatever was waiting for them without any prior knowledge was very small. A raid which required a hundred people was not going to be a simple matter.

“It probably scales, though,” said a large player who looked ready for a fight, possibly right here with the other players. “We might be able to rush it.”

No one seemed very keen. They weren’t clear on what the objective was, what the rewards were, or what penalties there were for death. The difficulty level of the game so far encouraged caution and sending others to check first. They decided to wait for backup and try to figure out any more information. People began calling out questions in the hope of getting the system to make more announcements.

Britta had no interest in taking part in the raid. It would probably involve coordinating the players to take on some huge behemoth while smaller adds tried to make life as difficult as possible.

She had completed her task and it would be simple enough to log back in at the totem she had left on the road to the capital. She no longer had her butterfly wings to speed her through the air — they wouldn’t be available again until tomorrow — but she was a lot fitter in this world and could probably jog the rest of the way. If she had some kind of speed potion, she would be able to get there even quicker. She wondered if they sold something like that in the cash shop.

There was a natural inclination to consider the cash shop as cheating and also as being taken advantage of by the billion dollar corporation behind the game. People could end up spending thousands on a game hardly worth twenty, and become addicted to the various gambling opportunities aimed at tricking them out of their money.

But, once you got past that and stopped worrying about the implications, it seemed silly not to. Why not just buy whatever you needed to make the process more convenient? It was what people with money did in real life. Who cared if others disapproved?

It wasn’t like Britta was competing for the honour and glory of being first among nerds. In fact, since she had signed with APE and become a wealthy person (payment pending), the need to prove herself and impress others had changed into something else entirely. Now she only needed to please herself.

“I’m going to go,” said Britta.

“Don’t you want to know what the raid is all about?” asked Dad. He was as excited as the rest.

“No. I can always check out your videos.” Now that contact had been resumed, he could presumably once again start broadcasting.

“Ooh, yes. I should get the all-clear from APE first.” He turned his attention to his own screen.

No one was paying Britta any mind, not even Owen and MrKappa. It was the perfect time to leave. Britta logged out and logged back into the saving totem.

She was in a tunnel. She had forgotten that her respawn point had been set to Gabba’s temporary totem. Gabba herself was standing in front of her, carrying a sack of something.

“Oh,” said Britta. “Sorry, wrong address.”

Gabba put a hand on Britta’s shoulder. “Perfect. Just the person I need.”

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