Bitter 78

Everything went white. Britta looked around but there was nothing. No message, no buttons, no soothing voice telling her she died.

“You died,” said Dr Reedy, unsoothingly.

“Yes,” said Britta. “I noticed. Why did you put me in next to a goblin?”

“We didn’t. It’s a random spawn. You were just unlucky.”

Britta sensed something in her tone. Like she thought Britta should have been able to take care of one goblin. She kept her mouth shut, even though she had a number of things she would have liked to have said. She breathed slowly and waited until the irritation subsided, a little.

“Am I locked out for the day?” she asked as politely as she could.

“No, we can put you back in.”

“Okay. Can you make sure I don’t land on top of a monster this time?”

“No, not really. Like I said, it’s random and very rare. The chance it would happen again is astronomically low.”

She’d heard that before. “If it’s so rare, how come it’s happened to me before. More than once.”

There was a pause. Dr Reedy trying to come up with an excuse probably.

“Britta? It’s Dad.”

“Oh. Hello, Dad. Were you watching?”

“Yes, they’ve got it up on one of the big screens here.”

Great, just what she needed, a whole roomful of strangers laughing at her poor gameplay.

“They’re just setting up to reinsert you,” said Dad. “Don’t get to worked up about it, just one of those things.”

“It isn’t one of those things, it’s something wrong with how they randomly make things not very random.”

Dad laughed.

“It’s not funny, Dad.”

“It’s not that. Complaining about RNG is the sign of a real gamer. You’re one of us now.”

Britta winced. Maybe she was overreacting and making too big a deal about it, like a raging nerd insisting they only lost because everyone else was using hacks and cheats.

No, that didn’t explain the ridiculous number of times something incredibly improbable had happened to her in this game. It couldn’t just be random.

“Okay,” said Dr Reedy, “we’re ready.”

“Can you put me in near the gnomes’ underground village?” she asked. If she could talk to the Great Gnome it would show them exactly how the AI worked when it went off script. And that annoying gryphon would be close by, too.

“We can spawn you by the entrance.”

“Okay, thanks. And can you give me a weapon?” She hadn’t checked her inventory but she probably had the same crappy equipment. If she was going in with the full might of the world’s creators behind her, they could at least give her a magic sword or something.

“Ah, not really. We want you to be as close to what you would have normally. Makes it more likely we can replicate what you experienced before.”

What she said did make sense, but it wouldn’t help Britta replicate anything if she got killed again. “Okay, just give me a shield so I can avoid getting insta-gibbed.” She might not have been a pro-gamer, but you don’t live with a gamer all your life without picking up a bit of the lingo.

“I told you, it won’t happen again,” said Dr Reedy, sounding a little testy.

“No, you said it was astronomically unlikely. What I’m trying to show you is that it isn’t.”

There was a moment’s pause. “Fine, we’ll give you a wooden shield for when you spawn. One second.”

It wasn’t the legendary artefact she’d been hoping for, but it was better than nothing. Of course, now that she’d said it, nothing untoward would happen, making her look stupid.

“All right,” said Dr Reedy. “Here we go.”

“Good luck, sweetie,” said Dad.

She felt the drop again. She felt something in her hand, smooth and warm. She opened her eyes and held the shield up, ready to deflect any attack. There was no attack.

She looked over the top of the shield which was round and covered her from head to knees.

Empty fields spread out ahead of her.

“Everything okay?” asked Dr Reedy in her ear. There was a definite ‘told you so’ quality to the voice.

“Yes,” said Britta, fighting back her desire to snap.

There was a scream and a goblin came charging out of the brush.

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