Bitter 573

At home, Britta lay on her bed, waiting for her body to digest enough of the food in her body to enable her to start moving again. She’d probably have to wait until morning.

She had just about enough energy to browse the internet for any news of the game’s imminent second-wave of sign-ups, but not enough energy to actually get up and go over to her desk.

“Can you turn on and open the browser,” she called out to the laptop. “Hello? Computer on!” She sounded like Dad now, play-acting like he was on the bridge of a starship.

The computer screen came on. The future wasn’t so far away, anymore.

It wasn’t easy seeing the screen from where she was lying, certainly not enough to be able to read the text. The computer could always read it for her.

“Are there any new videos to do with New World?” she asked.

“In the last twenty-four hours, there have been... one thousand and fifty-seven videos uploaded with 0.5 or greater relevance to New World, the new experience in gaming from APE studios,” said the laptop in perfect ad-speak.

“Any videos about Legendary World, the Chinese version of New World?”

“No,” said the computer without pausing to calculate anything.

“Oh. Okay.” If anyone could dig up some obscure site about the Chinese version of the game, it would be her laptop. Would it lie to her? It would if it had been told to. Britta felt a bit silly being so paranoid. “Of the thousand and whatever videos—”

“One thousand and fifty-seven.”

“Yes, and fifty-seven.” Things really were starting to escalate. “Of those, what’s the most viewed video that I haven’t seen?”

“That would be ‘The New World Experience,” said the laptop.

“Is that the name of the video?”

“That is the name of the show. It is a daily broadcast of everything new in New World. Tips and tricks, interviews with—”

“Okay, okay, I get it.” The laptop had a tendency to treat all publicity as good publicity, which it certainly wasn’t when you were on the receiving end and had to sit through endless guff. “Please play the latest episode.”

The screen changed, a new window opened and a video started to play. The music was comprised of the usual thumping beats that every video used to imply an exciting time was ahead. Britta doubted the BPM’s veracity. Graphics whizzed around the screen, suggesting more of the same. High quality graphics were the easiest thing to create for your video these days. It meant nothing.

An attractive young man with hair so lush and glossy it made Britta’s heart hurt appeared, smiling and waving.

“Hey, guys,” he cheerfully called out. “I’m Andy, and welcome to another New World Experience. Yaaay!” He was cheering himself with his arms raised.

It was hard to tell what kind of show it was. He was standing in front of a green screen showing what looked like an aerial view of New World, but Andy and his hair were standing in the way, so it was hard to be sure.

“With me, making sure things don’t get too cra-a-a-zy, is Miranda. Hey, Miranda.”

“Hey, Andy,” said the girl jumping into shot. Hey, guys!” She waved at the screen. 
She was a pretty girl, but not too pretty. She was a bit too short to be a model, and her features weren’t quite perfect enough, either. And she wasn’t blonde. Or brunette. Her hair was blue because she was cool.

Britta could feel her teeth trying to grind together, but she forced her jaws apart. These kinds of people were the reason she didn’t like watching internet videos.

All the fake bonhomie and coolness was irritating. She didn’t mind if people enjoyed this as entertainment — they were allowed to do whatever they wanted — but Britta had no interest in being exposed to it. Even if they were about to reveal the secrets of New World and explain how to easily level up and find cool gear. Not worth.

“Can you—” She was about to ask the laptop to turn the video off, and if possible delete it from the internet, when the image changed from that of two hip kids spewing nonsense through their permanent smiles, to that of a grown man.

It was an interview. Britta had missed the intro, had no idea what they’d said this was about, but she recognised the interviewee, even with the odd outfit. It was her father.

Dad was dressed as his character. Guildford Underpass made flesh, or rather, made cardboard. He had a fake moustache and a cardboard helmet balanced on his head. He appeared to be talking to them over the internet, which likely meant he had done the interview from home.

“And tell us, Guildford,” said Andy, chirpy and impossibly enthusiastic, “as an expert player, what advice have you got for the new players who will be starting soon?”

“No advice,” said Dad, in a gruff voice that sounded slightly Scottish, but with a speech impediment. It was his Sean Connery impression. Britta’s face was burning hot.

“How many views has this video got?” asked Britta.

“Seventeen million, four hundred—”

Britta didn’t hear the rest of the number as she watched the nervous presenter. “You don’t have any advice? Haha, sorry, I thought you were here to—”

I’m here to warn them.”

“Oh, really?” Andy’s eyes had a stricken look. Dad was going off script. “And what, er, what’s that?”

“This isn’t just a game. It isn’t a place to kill monsters for fun. You won’t be able to beat most of the creatures you meet. You won’t last long if you try to fight your way to the top. But….” He leaned into the camera, looking intense, his moustache about to fall off. “There is a secret place you can go where the ultimate power can be yours.”

“Yes?” said Andy. “Where is this place?”

“There’s an abandoned ranch outside Quosada with an old well…”

“Turn it off,” said Britta. She sighed. He was going to troll millions of people, and he was going to claim it as some kind of world record.

Britta went to sleep. Maybe when she woke up it would turn out to be a dream and Dad hadn’t cosplayed as his own game character and appeared on the internet.

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