Bitter 523

It was fun to learn with Professor Madley. Even though she had no real interest in learning the distance of the moon from the Earth (or the circumference or the volume), and it would have been a lot easier to simply google the answer, it was an interesting exercise to slowly work it out herself.

The way the professor clarified how each principle worked and how it gave her the information she needed made the whole things much clearer in her head. There really was a difference between knowing and understanding. Not that you couldn’t end up in the same place from more traditional teaching methods, but this way she started in the right place and built from there.

And the most pleasing part of it was getting the answer, the one she had no real interest in finding. Doing all the extra work no modern student would be required to do gave her an immense feeling of satisfaction when she produced a final answer. It wasn’t just correct, it was hers.

The writing in her notebook made sense. And it wasn’t just a way to find out random measurements of celestial objects, she could apply it to anything.

“You’ve done very well, so far,” said Professor Madley. “It does get more complicated, but I think you’ll be fine. You seem to have a knack for this kind of progressive thinking. Good brain — try to keep it that way.”

Perhaps physics was the direction she should take her career ambitions. It was something she found enjoyable, but she wasn’t truly passionate about it.

She wasn’t particularly passionate about anything. How did you find your passion if it didn’t jump out and make itself known? Keep trying different things until something popped? Or did you have to get to an advanced stage before you could appreciate what you were dealing with?

After the professor left, Britta checked her phone. She had to force herself to remember to do things like this because she never had a reason to normally. Hardly anyone ever called her. There was a text from Lin, replying to the question about the Chinese players.

Hello Britta. Yes, the POW team is known to us. They have been allowed the same video recording privileges as your father. Actually, because of your father. The success of his videos has led to a number of players being given access to the same ability to upload videos of their gameplay. We hope to introduce all the different approaches to the game before the next round of inductions. The aim is to double the player base within the next few months.

It had been sent a few minutes after Britta had sent her text. She hoped Lin didn’t think she’d been ignoring her.

From the sounds of it, they were planning to bring in new players fairly soon, which would certainly make people happy. Until they realised how far behind they were, especially when it came to the Chinese players. Then there’d be the next round of complaints and rage. Unfair, unbalanced, injustice. A free fashion item in everyone’s inbox would probably solve the problem.

The text didn’t say anything about how the Chinese team were able to switch between regions, though. Or why that was allowed.

Britta had a moment of doubt about contacting Lin again but brushed the thought aside. This was just a text, not a big intrusion. She was supposed to contact Lin if she had questions, that was why she was in the country. Well, one of the reasons. It was hard to make herself feel deserving of her position. What she had to realise, what she tried to convince herself, was that it had nothing to do with what you deserved. It was simpler than that, more binary. You either had the job or you didn’t. She had been offered the role and he had taken it. Every decision she now made was underpinned by that.  

She sent her query about the cross-region travel and got a response almost immediately.

That’s always been possible. You can cross regions from any of the major cities. It’s expensive in terms of game currency, and there are issues with language differences that need to be overcome, but anyone can do it. You are allowed to go where you want.

Freedom for all, it seemed. And an advantage for whoever figured it out first. Did that mean players from one region would end up dominating another? It felt like there was probably more to it than simply running around grabbing all the best low-level quests for yourself. Although it did seem to be working out very well for the Chinese team.

It didn’t really affect her, but it was interesting. Everyone was new to the game and how to make full use of what it had to offer. Strategies were bound to evolve. People were still figuring out how to play. First principles had to be worked out with no one to show you the way.

Britta packed up her books and had dinner with Mum. Dad had disappeared into his shed and it was impossible to say when he would resurface. Once enamoured of an idea, he became obsessive. She had no doubt he would track down the Chinese players, but then what?

There was a third text from Lin when she got back to her bedroom. This one was short.

You’re doing an excellent job. Everyone on my end is very happy with your performance.

Britta was immediately suspicious. She wasn’t used to random compliments and encouragement. And when she had received them, there was always an ulterior motive. It became apparent early on in her life when a girl would compliment her on a hair ribbon or her shoes, and then ask for a favour. If Britta turned down the favour, for any number of legitimate reasons, the compliment would not only be taken back, it would be reversed.

“And your shoes aren’t pretty, they make you look like you have polio.”

She made it a point to always refuse favours from that point on. If they accepted the refusal with good grace, she would say there’d been a change of plans and help them. But they never did.

Was Lin being genuinely nice, or was she after something? Perhaps Britta was overthinking it. It would be nice to be genuinely appreciated, but even if it was an attempt to flatter her and win her confidence, it at least meant she was considered a valuable asset.

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