Bitter 67

Dad spent the next few minutes furiously texting. Britta didn’t understand what was so urgent, it was just a game after all.

She was hungry and tired, but most of all, she wanted to go back into the game and grab her loot. Fat chance of that happening.

“Did you have dinner?” asked Mum.

Britta shook her head.

“What about lunch?”

“Yes, Mum. I’m not a game nerd, I do still remember how to feed and wash myself.”

“Okay,” said Dad, putting away his phone. “They said they’ll look into it. Good thing it was me that told them and not them calling me to find out what’s going on. We could have been in real trouble.”

“Why would we be in trouble?” asked Britta.

“Because, my darling daughter, I signed an NDA saying I wouldn’t let anyone else know what happens in the game. That includes letting someone else use the pod. They’ve only let a special select few enter the game so far. People they’ve carefully screened.”

Special select few? Britta didn’t think there was anything special about the other players she’d encountered. But then, was there anything special about Dad? Why choose him? He was a programmer, so maybe they wanted people with game development experience. Were the other people all computer programmers, too?

“I told them my youngest crawled in and activated it, just an accident, and if anyone asks you, that’s what I want you to tell them.”

“Crawled in? I’m not a toddler, Dad.”

“Unless they ask, I’m happy to let them think you’re a babe in arms. Might stop them suing us out of house and home.”

“You’re exaggerating, aren’t you?” asked Mum.

“I wish. This is serious business. They’re planning to go wide by the end of the month. And there’s a number of competing VR pods about to come out.”

“They’re going to make the game available to the public by the end of the month?” said Britta incredulously.

“Yes. What’s wrong with that? You’ve seen the game. Pretty impressive, huh?” He seemed to have forgotten his concerns once they were talking about the actual gameplay.

Britta twisted her mouth. “Not really. I mean, it looks good, but the game isn’t even finished.”

Dad sat down, a curious frown on his face. “What do you mean? There’s bound to be the odd bug here and there, but other than that…”

“My Level 3 gnome quest wasn’t ready. I’m a gnome. I couldn’t do anything.”

“Gnome quest?”

“And who’s Nigel?” said Britta, suddenly realising now that she had been caught, she could ask Dad about all the odd things in the game.

“Nigel? There’s no Nigel,” said Dad.

“Didn’t you notice all the big monsters call themselves Nigel? Is there someone high up at APE called Nigel? Did he name some of the monsters after himself?

“Britta, there’s no one at APE called Nigel. Which mobs call themselves Nigel?”

“The dragon at the start, in the tutorial.”

“All he does is tell you about the game options and gets you started. He doesn’t tell you his name.”

“He does if you ask him.”

Dad shook his head like he was trying to clear it. “Did you report all of this?”

“No. How was I supposed to report it? I told you, they didn’t ask me.”

“There’s a bug report button on your status screen.”

“Not on my screen.”

Dad scratched at his chin and then noticed the mug of tea. He picked it up and took a sip.

“Okay, tell me what you did in the game. From the beginning.”

Britta sighed. It wasn’t like anything much had happened to her so far, just some wandering around and the occasional death. Usually her own. And she was still annoyed about losing all that loot.

“Can I just go back and collect some loot?” she asked, fully expecting a no. “I just killed a bandit and his stuff is just lying on the ground.”

“You killed a bandit on the way to Jasper’s ranch? They usually just run away.”

“My goat got mad and rammed him.”

“Your goat?” Dad only seemed to be getting more confused. “Where did you kill him? On the road to the ranch?”

Britta paused to look closely at her father. “Dad, are you going to steal my loot?”

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