When Hal finished, the gun said, “IT’S A GAME OF COMMERCE. INTERESTING.”
Keeping her voice low, Tikki asked, “Does it always shout?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “but my bet is yes.”
The scene changed. It was just like before in that Tikki, Cassie, Jaclyn, Marcus, Katuk and I were together in a room, but now we were around a dark stained wooden table. A Monopoly board lay in the middle of the table. Beyond the board, table, and chairs though, nothing else looked real.
Above us, below us, and around us, everything else merged into indistinguishable white. It reminded me of the staging area in The Matrix where they picked up weapons before going to rescue Morpheus.
[I could add in the racks of weapons], Hal told me over a private channel.
“No,” I told him. That might give the gun ideas and it already had enough ideas.
Hal addressed the entire group after that. [Please choose your token. A token from any version of the game will be acceptable.]
After a few minutes, we’d chosen them. I took the Space Shuttle. Jaclyn took the boot. Cassie chose the thimble. Marcus chose Jack Skellington’s head. Tikki stared into space before finally picking a pretzel and asking, “What is it?”
Katuk chose a penguin. I have no idea why.
The gun meanwhile chose itself. I didn’t hear the conversation, but I did see a representation of the gun appear next to the board while hearing the gun comment, “HA! PERFECT!”
Hal didn’t say anything.
Tikki leaned over to Marcus. “Is that part of the game?”
Marcus shook his head. “There is a howitzer, but that’s a different kind of gun.”
[Now you may roll to see who goes first.]
Then two dice appeared in each of our hands as well as next to the gun’s token. We all rolled—including the gun because virtual reality didn’t apparently require hands—just will.
Cassie went first, followed by Jaclyn, followed by the gun which couldn’t help but add its own thoughts. “CLOSE ENOUGH! NOW WATCH THE BIRTH OF A GREAT COMMERCIAL EMPIRE!”
Katuk eyed the gun without saying anything. Tikki looked up from her own dice. “He’s very optimistic, isn’t he?”
Cassie glanced over at her. “You don’t know the half of it. If the Abominators made all their weapons like him, I think they aimed for crazy.”
Tikki nodded. “They did. From what I heard anyway. The Human Ascendency doesn’t have anyone left who can use them, but we’ve all heard stories of their massive AI controlled ships and the way they destroyed worlds as well as the smaller weapons… Our government wishes we still had them. Me, I’ve always wondered if they would have stayed on our side without the Abominators controlling them.”
“I’m betting on no,” Jaclyn readied her dice to roll her first turn.
Katuk looked up from reviewing the rules. “When the Xiniti fought them, a group broke away to challenge the Abominators for control of their own sector. They didn’t do it to aid us. When they won, they created factories to make more of themselves. In the end, we declared a war of obliteration on them. They were too dangerous to let live.”
“AS WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE. ONLY OUR COMPLETE DESTRUCTION CAN PREVENT OUR INEVITABLE RULE OF ALL THINGS!”
The game went as you’d expect after that. With every move, the gun praised itself for its brilliance. It wasn’t as if it was doing spectacularly well either. At best, it was the upper end of normal.
You could view it as funny. You could view it as irritating. It was your choice. For myself, it was easy to do a little of both. I’d rolled a three—which meant that I was the last person to start. On a practical note, that meant that I had to pay rent on the second square I landed on.
“ONE STEP CLOSER TO VICTORY!” the gun informed everyone as I paid. Irritating. That said, he didn’t see me as a threat, so I didn’t get much razzing by the comparison to Jaclyn or Katuk who it saw as competitors.
“I swear,” Jaclyn said, “if I hear ‘mongrel’ one more time—“ but she didn’t get to finish that sentence. All of our implants received an alert.
Geman’s voice echoed in our heads. “It’s not what you think, if you’re imagining invaders,” he began. “We’ve got a situation near one of the barricades we’re building. You’ll want to come armed and armored.”
“HUMPH,” the gun muttered.