A Good Boy: Part 9

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.

16 thoughts on “A Good Boy: Part 9”

  1. My vote is still valid from before.

    In other news a great web story has ended today, “Super Powereds” by Drew Hayes. In the afterwards he mentioned how many of his readers would now be looking for their next fix. I made sure to make my suggestion in the comments! 😉

    1. You thought SP was great? Seriously? I thought it had some strong points, it succeeded more often than it failed. I did read the whole thing after all. But I thought the ending was absolute crap. How can anyone who loves the story be okay with it? It’s totally unsatisfying because it didn’t do anything to move the central conflict closer to a resolution. It just ended abruptly, without even a proper climax, Chekov’s gun still hanging up unfired. The Adair Labs raid and ensuing fight was large in scale, but it didn’t accomplish anything that wasn’t inevitable already, it was just another battle. And that’s just about the end of book 4. The epilogues were even lazier. Was Drew not trying any more? None of the characters grew at all in the intervening 10 years. Every single couple is still together and married? Give me a fucking break. Why does he spend more words explaining that Transport and Sally are actually happy *even though they aren’t married! (Gasp!)* than he does on explaining the Powered cure?

      What’s worse, I thought Drew’s comments after epilogue 4 were more insulting than elucidating. His non-explanation of his failure to include 10 CoL grads basically makes fun of his readers for caring enough to want to know! Screw him for that. Writing a bad ending sucks, but it’s understandable. Maybe there’s shit going on in his life impacting his ability to write, I don’t know, but if it was just that I’d probably still read whatever he writes next. Showing so little respect for his readers is a different thing entirely. I will probably discourage anyone from reading SP from now on. It’s not like there aren’t enough good webserials out there, topwebfiction is more competitive than ever.

      I think Jim knows Drew through that podcast, but I don’t listen to podcasts so I’m not sure. If so, I’m sorry to be so harsh on your buddy, Jim, but it’s only because I do love his story that I’m so unhappy about the ending. I wouldn’t bother complaining if I didn’t care. It had so much potential to be great, but it ended with a pathetic whimper instead. It’s frustrating and hard to parse.

      1. Actually there is a possible scenario where I’m completely wrong. I thought Peter F. Hamilton’s original Commonwealth duology left a Chekov’s gun unfired when he left the High Angel starship unused, but then I didn’t know there would be a sequel trilogy where he rectifies that (and how!). Now that series is my favorite space opera. So if I missed that SP wasn’t ever intended to stand by itself, then almost nothing I just said applies. I just haven’t seen any indication that’s the case here.

      2. I’m not going to claim any special knowledge here. I could probably ask him directly and get an answer, but then I probably couldn’t share it. To me, it looked like he’s setting up another series where the questions you have will be explored further. Also, honestly, I suspect that like me he’ll probably revise the ending between the serial version and the ebook version.

        As for the Class of Legends question… I think nine of ten were listed in the comments and the tenth appeared in a short story anthology we did as well as Blades and Barriers (which he’s revising).

        EDIT: I realized afterwards that I should have said this more directly. Drew wasn’t making fun of people for not knowing. He was hinting at who it was. There’s a super whose power is to not have people notice or remember him. He appeared in the stories I mentioned. END OF EDIT.

        That said, I’m writing this neither as a defense or attack–just as an observation. Incidentally, our next podcast will be all about ending series (for what that’s worth).

    1. Hal is a completist. Obviously, he can’t really play them, but if he wants a good overall picture of how humans behave, he feels he should know the rules. Also, he likes rules in and of themselves.

  2. I haven’t mentioned it before, but for a group who’re trying to hide their home planet, they’re giving an awful lot away. For instance, just from this chapter, they have an animal called a “chicken”. The list of proton arrangements are called a “periodic table of elements”.
    Surely someone has made something like the Oxford English Dictionary that lists word origins.

    1. I believe Nick and the others are using languages provided by their implants, not English. That means that what we are seeing Jim write is not what they are actually saying.

      So, they might actually be saying ‘domesticated meat avian’ or ‘list of atom variances’ instead of ‘chicken’ or ‘periodic table.’

  3. Wow, took longer to read what my comment spawned than it did to read the story post…

    Its a story read by, and seemingly enjoyed by, a lot of people and made him some money so how bout we just call it a “successful” web serial instead?

    For me the ending was mostly what I was expecting to happen so while I didn’t have the fun of being surprised I couldn’t really be upset about it after expecting that was what was coming down the pipe for some time now. If I read the last year in one sitting I might have been surprised we didn’t make it to graduation but all stretched out into little bites it seemed apparent halfway through that we weren’t going to make it that far.

    I knew that some of the future visions “foreshadowing” were actually meant to happen farther in the future than the last year of school. I can’t recall exactly why right now without going back to reread but at the time the visions were in the story I remember that feeling sinking in. Maybe this is meant to mirror some feelings about the far future the author had when he was in college? I haven’t had a similar experience to draw from so can’t say for sure but I kind of thought that was what he was going for. As in, the story is all about and set in the college part of their lives and except for our tiny glimpse after the “end” can’t leave that setting but while college is its own experience part of that experience is colored by the fact that you are actually there working towards arming yourself for the future long after graduation so that feeling of working towards the future shows up a lot in Drew’s story? Something like that.

    And now after its all said and done it looks like Drew has gone out of his way to point out that “The Chosen One” is in the next generation that will continue on with the spirit and momentum this generation bequeathed to them. (Is Drew drawing on Naruto for inspiration? LOL [should we be putting spoiler tags on this conversation?? * shrugs * ]) So if seeing it as a part of a future whole series of stories makes it better for you I think that will also be so eventually.

    The whole col thing just seemed to be one of those fun guessing games that fans liked to play in the comments. Why not leave a little mystery to keep folks coming back to read the story and work it out? I feel like the answer is in there or the related works like Jim says. It’s not very important to the story anyway.

    Anywho, the IMPORTANT part of my comment was that I managed to get a plug in on the last page of a popular story for this story which I agree is the superior story.

    But SP was a fine thing to read while I waited for the next post of Legion goodness. Good stories of the type that tickle my fancy aren’t all THAT prevalent and I’ve read much much worse than SP to get by while searching for the next great thing. It also get’s huge points for releasing regularly and actually making it to an ending which a lot of my favorite freebies don’t. (often they just stop for no reason and with no explanation. 🙁 )

  4. Nick has a tendency to geek out or get fascinated by physics or interesting engineering. Discovering new elements would probably stun him momentarily, then lead to a implant download.

    I’m actually rather amazed that he didn’t stop everything and spend at least a few seconds pondering the potential uses of the new elements, as described by the implant, before dragging himself back to the tasks at hand.

    He might also want to ask Hal if the AI also knew about the extra elements. It probably does. Which might lead to a question and answer session with the AI about the depth of it’s scientific and engineering knowledge base. Nick might have a gold mine of useful engineering tidbits in Hal that he never knew was there.

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