The Good Student Part 1 ebook (edited and revised) is now available on kindle and epub. LINK.

Bitter Book 5 is also available. LINK.


Preface from Mooderino

Bitter 585

Rick had hightailed it out of the alley like he would be able to avoid the AI if he ran quick enough. Maybe he could. He probably had a way to hide himself from detection, although if he intended interacting with NPCs, he was going to end up being noticed. N-28 didn’t seem too concerned. He made no attempt to pursue Rick.

“Isn’t he going to be a problem?” Britta asked N-28.

“No, I shouldn’t think so,” said N-28. “Pro-active players like him are good for the game. N-21 was very pleased with his performance in the arena. We have high hopes for him.”

“Where is N-21?” said Britta. “Is he your new partner now? Is it okay for more than one of you to run a server together?”

N-28 looked down at Britta with a slight scowl. “We don’t work together. He is more of a specialist contractor. Our roles are entirely separate.”

“Hmm,” said Britta, not quite buying it. “I don’t really see the difference. You’re both trying to turn players against each other to find the perfect weapon, aren’t you? Him with his arena, you on a bigger scale with armies and civil war. The rest of us are just part of the process. You don’t really care about the people who have to live in your world, do you?”

“It isn’t my job to care,” said N-28 “This is a game. It’s my job to win. And if I do, life will be better for everyone.”

“I would have to agree with my young gnome friend,” said the dean, who had been standing quietly as the other two spoke. Britta had assumed the AI had turned her off or put her into standby mode, but apparently not.

“You think there is a better way to improve the standard of the current population?” asked N-28.

“I think burning books isn’t going to lead to a better standard of anything,” said the dean.

“Not even your own people like what you’re doing,” said Britta. “Good thing this isn’t a democracy, they might vote you out.”

“Then someone nearly identical would replace me,” said N-28, not appearing to be very concerned. “Democracy doesn’t guarantee you a better option or even a different one.”

“So, there’s no difference between you running things and L-15? We should let him take over?”

“If he can, then he will. He won’t need our permission.”

It was a game, and that’s how he was approaching it. But then why did it feel so wrong to Britta. Why did she feel like she should stand up to these computers playing at being gods?

“I don’t think they’re going to listen to us,” she said to the dean. “They like wrestling with each other too much.”

The dean nodded. “I fear you are right. Perhaps you will be able to do something about it.”

“Me?” said Britta, regretting putting herself in the line of fire. “I don’t have the tools, or the levels. And even if I had a way of getting them, it would take too long.”

She did plan to go to the Legendary World and look for an easy way to level-up quickly, but that was more for personal protection. She wasn’t going to change anything.

“But you came to me to learn magic. Special magic that will elevate you to their level, so you can make them listen.”

“Er, no,” said Britta. “I just wanted to be able to teleport away from trouble.”

“And defend the right for the citizens of this world to live in peace.”

“Not really, no.”

“You will speak for us.” The dean didn’t seem to be listening to Britta’s protestations. She was too wrapped up in her own fantasy where Britta was some kind of hero of the people.

“I can’t,” said Britta. “I’m not strong enough, and I don’t know how to cheat well enough. Not as well as everyone else.” She said the last bit while looking at N-28. It didn’t seem to have any effect, which was about what she had expected.

“Read the other book,” said the dean. “You’ll find it easier now.”

Britta’s objections were cut short by the sudden change in subject. She opened the other book, Footwork and Fireballs, at the last page and began turning pages towards the front.

She didn’t have to read the pages, she just scanned them and could tell she had absorbed what she needed. In less than a minute, she had finished. She hadn’t learned anything, but when she closed her eyes, she saw the book.

A message screen appeared to tell her she had another floating skill point. If it was this easy, imagine if she still had access to all the other books…

“Now what?” said Britta. She still didn’t know where to put the points in her skill tree.

“That’s for you to work out,” said N-28. “That’s the whole point, is it not?”

“No,” said Britta, finding his attitude irritating, “it isn’t. One person works it out and posts it on the internet, and everyone else just copies what they did.”

“If people choose to rob themselves of a satisfying experience, then that’s their choice,” said N-28, turning pomposity up to max. “They don’t have to follow a walkthrough.”

“What difference does it make if you tell us in the first place? At least the cheaters and hackers won’t be able to surge ahead of everyone else.”

“Not everyone wants to have the information spoonfed to them,” said N-28.

“They don’t have to follow a walkthrough, do they?”

There was a pause. Britta glared but said nothing. If he was going to insist he wouldn’t help her, they would both know it was just a stubborn refusal to see sense.

“Very well,” said N-28, a stiff smile on his face. “Allow me.”

Britta’s skill tree appeared in front of her unbidden, at least not by her. Then it flipped to show the reverse, the labels of the quirks all spelled backwards. From this side, lines were also visible, a lot more of them, connecting the quirks in myriad ways. It was like a multitude of spiderwebs on top of each other, long and short threads, and some weaving together.

“As you can see, it would take a determined mind many years to unlock the true potential of this tree but let’s not waste time. Here and here.” Two quirks lit up as her available skill points reduced to zero. “Enjoy your unearned privilege.”

Britta had no idea what N-28 had just done, but she used Teleport to see if anything had changed. She popped to six different locations in the alley, one after the other. It was still not good enough to guarantee her freedom, but it was a start.

She smiled. “Thanks.” And then she logged out before he changed his mind and took it back.

“I thought that went very well,” said the dean.

“Yes, you played your part perfectly,” said N-28.

“Thank you,” said the dean. “Power to the people.” She laughed. “Shame you didn’t let her have access to all those books you had burned. Then we’d really see something.”

“We can’t make it too easy for her. How would she rise to the challenge if there isn’t one? No, this is about enough. Now we’ll see what she does.”


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Afterword from Mooderino
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