Berry was well into her second bowl, one hundred and forty-five grams of sugar, when she was confronted by something more puzzling than any challenge presented by her virtual worlds.

Her landline telephone rang.

She never got phone calls and took every precaution to protect her contact information.

Any work request came through an agent, and always in an email. She kept all interaction strictly non-verbal. Communication with the outside world was made through the safety of broadband.

She hesitated, picked up the phone, and instantly regretted it.

“Miss Butler-san?”

It was a young woman.

The line crackled with long-distance static.

“She’s out,” explained Berry, hoping for a swift exit.

“We have an . . . an opportunity.”

The caller paused, following a pre-determined script where Berry was clearly now meant to ask what the opportunity was.

“She will be most grateful to hear our offer.”

Berry considered putting the receiver down, but didn’t want to leave the stranger with an option to call back.

“I’ll deliver the message,” she said.

The caller sounded relieved.

“Miss Butler has been selected to join a new venture from a leading digital architecture company.”

Berry hesitated. “Are you guys Nintendo?”

“We are not Nintendo,” replied the voice, matter-of-factly.

There was a momentary pause while Berry checked how The Immortal was doing on the Atari Shock servers and accepted an IGM from GreySkull to join a super clan. 

“I am an assistant of Dr Tadashi Finjoto-shachō of The Foundation of New World Technologies in Japan. Miss Butler is invited to attend a meeting where she will be instructed further, once she has signed the confidential non-disclosure agreement.”

“You can trust me with the details, if that’s what you mean?” mumbled Berry, unsure if this kind of conversation was considered in any way normal.

“Inform Miss Butler, please, that she will receive payment of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, GBP, in advance of attending the meeting, and a further two hundred and fifty thousand pounds on the signature of a month’s development work.”

Berry slipped into the imaginative safety of pretending that life was just an over-ambitious film and that this was merely another exaggerated scene . . . or perhaps a deleted online extra.

“I trust by the sound of your breathing that you are taking notes,’ said the voice. “Dr Finjoto would not want her to miss out on such an exciting opportunity.”

“She gets this kind of thing all the time.”

“Of course, she does,” replied the caller. 

Berry Butler had a gift, a talent that made her an asset to the companies that hired her, and gave her the celebrity status that she shunned.

Algorithms came easy.

She saw her world in statistics and problem solved her way through the day. She was an incredibly fast coder. Able to achieve as much as a small team in half the time, and development time was money.

Some of the biggest gaming companies in the world fought to have her on their books. But she stayed true to the indies and created emotional experiences that were truly her own. Truly original.

She’d studied mathematics at college and could always be found in the I.T. room, locked into an action role-player hack and slash like Diablo on the communal PCs.

She won a scholarship offered by a leading creator of software for major corporate and government clients, and with the cash, she’d bought her first laptop.

Research kept her staring at the screen, computer on, burning game imagery into her brain.

She lived for strings of numbers, patterns, puzzles, and as soon as she understood the rules, her universe exploded, full of possibilities.

Her imagination established engines without limits, no boundaries, no rules. She enabled a future in virtual spaces and found purpose. 

Berry’s journey into a parallel life online had begun.