In the end though, it wasn’t something that I could do anything about aside from passing on the speculation to everyone else—that and the fact that Kals’ could get around our current defenses. Everyone’s response could be summarized in Jaclyn’s, “Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you tell us that before?”
“I didn’t know until just before you told us you’d found Katuk. Everyone was worried about that and I kind of forgot. Anyway, we were going to work on it tonight. Well, I was assuming we would, if that’s okay.” I looked over at Kals.
She gave a quick nod. “Whoever controls all of you controls all of us. I’m not going to let that happen.”
Cassie looked around the table. “Sounds like the two of you are going to have fun. Now what are the rest of us going to do?”
I thought about it. “The Xiniti implant has an entertainment folder. Plus there’s the ansible.”
Shaking her head, Cassie said, “I don’t even know what kind of entertainment you’d find through the ansible. And have you checked the Xiniti entertainment folder?”
“No.” As I said it, a long list of titles flowed through my mind.
“Don’t.” Cassie’s tone of voice mixed the sound of finality with utter disbelief. “I did, and they’re this weird mix of soap opera and war story. At any given moment anyone in the story might change gender or maybe everyone will change gender. Units will break up and reform for reasons that won’t make any sense. Also, some of them are musicals. And there are religious rituals. And there are sports where your gender can change mid-game… Plus, you know how the implant rushes to give you all the information you need every other time you use it? Well, it doesn’t with the entertainment because that would affect your interpretation of the creators’ artistic intent. Xiniti art is supposed to be enjoyed and interpreted by your whole unit or group marriage.”
She clenched her right hand as she leaned forward over the table. “If Katuk’s listening, I hope he understands I’m not hating on his culture, but I don’t get it at all.”
Marcus waved his hand in the air. “You know what we could do?”
Almost in unison, Jaclyn and Cassie said, “No Monopoly!”
“Okay…” Marcus leaned back, cocking his head and waiting for a moment before he added, “But I don’t know what we’d do then. Maybe Hal could list any games he thinks he could simulate and then we’d choose?”
I didn’t pay much attention after that. It wasn’t surprising if you thought about it, but Hal’s specialty was simulating battles. That meant that while games using military strategy and tactics might be a special interest, he had a general interest in all games, ranging from children’s games to drinking games and including sports, boardgames, war-games, and role playing games. As long as it had been uploaded on to the internet, he knew the rules.
By the end of the night everyone was playing some game (I didn’t pay attention to which one). I spent most of the night tweaking the algorithm that countered motivators’ voices—which meant that Kals divided her time between playing and testing my tweaks. That’s to say she alternated between playing and giving me orders.
This would have been fine if we were alone except that we weren’t, and as soon as Marcus realized how we were testing he began to offer suggestions. “Have him cluck like a chicken. No, wait… I can come up with something better than that—”
At which point Kals interrupted him to ask, “What’s a chicken?”
After Marcus explained, Cassie then suggested that they, “See if he knows the Periodic Table of the Elements from memory.”
I did—all the elements known on Earth plus a few Grandpa told me about. Tikki knew a few more—several, actually. At Marcus urging, Kals had her recite them too—which made her laugh once she was done.
That wasn’t the reaction I’d been expecting given that the whole colony seemed to exist to avoid control by motivators, but I was beyond trying to make sense of people. I was more concerned about the sounds that came out of Kals’ throat, using my suit and the implant to record and analyze them, and sometimes offloading work to Hal.
Even with Jaclyn’s help in preventing Cassie and Marcus from making more suggestions (“Just stop it.”), we didn’t completely figure it out before I realized that I was too tired to think clearly. Chalking it up to the problem being hard and everyone being stir crazy, I went to bed, finding that it wasn’t easy to sleep.
I couldn’t quit thinking about alternate solutions and sonic tricks Grandpa had told me about. When I did finally fall asleep, I didn’t stay that way all night. Around four in the morning, I woke up, realizing both that I heard footsteps in the main room, and that I needed to pee.
While the possibility that it wasn’t one of us did occur to me, it was far more likely that one of the four people on the women’s side of the suite needed to go the bathroom too. Since my “pajamas” were simply a thin version of the stealth suit, I grabbed my glasses/HUD and walked out of the room.
The glasses’ thermal imaging left no doubt about what had happened. Glowing footsteps led from the women’s doorway toward the end of the room where two doors stood. One led to the bathroom. The other led deeper into the building.
The glowing footsteps went past the bathroom and out the other door.