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Authors: Leonard Richardson

Tags: #science fiction, aliens, fiction, near future, video games, alien, first contact

Constellation Games (25 page)

BOOK: Constellation Games
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Blog post, September 2

I am a complete
fucking
moron. I was trying to splice the Cheb Complete Entertainment Device directly into my wiring system, and I
burned my house down
. Fire department, ambulance, the whole ritual. Fortunately, sending the ambulance was a waste of taxpayer dollars. Svetlana had left earlier, and I was able to get out of the house before the smoke got too bad. That's about all the good I can say about today.

I've lost everything except the clothes on my back, the money in my bank account, my offsite backups, and the stuff in my pockets. I'm staying at Jenny's house. This is the worst day of my life.

Chapter 23: Trust Us, We're Expert Systems
Real life, September 3

I was lying on Jenny's couch in a food coma/depression. Jenny tossed me her phone. "It's for you," she said. "From a dot-gov phone." I missed the phone and it bounced off Jenny's couch.

"I hope it's my useless government lawyer," I said. "Hello?"

"Ariel," said the voice I hoped I'd never hear again. "This is BEA Agent Krakowski. I'd like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind."

"You prick," I said. "After all I've been through today, you call me and say by the way, you have some follow-ups?"

"I'm lookin' at a Greenland Treaty visa application," said Krakowski in a kind of singsong voice, emphasizing every alternate syllable. He let it sink in. "Entry visa for a guy named Tetsuo Milk."

"Ask your questions," I said, deflated.

"When you were talking to the Her superorganism, did she mention the Slow People?"

"Shit, that again?" I mentally reran my gut-wrenching conversation with Her. "No, you know what, she did! I thought she was talking about people who are slow. I mean, nobody likes slow people."

"That makes no sense," said Krakowski. "She was talking about the Slow People."

"If you say so. Who the hell are the Slow People?"

"It's a philosophical movement. It doesn't matter. I'm interested in them. What did she specifically say about them?"

"She said that she was tired of dealing with Slow People."

"That's all?"

"Yes."

"Tired of dealing with Slow People."

"In so many words. She's also sick of cleaning up dead bodies. Maybe that means something special to you, too."

"You're sure that's it?"

"Yeah, but maybe you don't believe me? Like you apparently never do?"

"I believe you," said Krakowski. "Listen. Same deal as we had before. If
anyone
ever
mentions Slow People to you again, call me. You have my personal number. Twenty-four seven. And Ariel?"

"Yeah?"

"There's still something in this for you. We can restore your exit visa."

"Bite me." I hung up.

I pretended to dial Jenny's phone, jabbing at the screen like a baby imitating his parents. "Yeah, I just got a G-ddamn fascist calling me, nosing around about the Slow People. He was really interested in them. Yeah, big time. What's that? You're going to fuck him up sideways with a fence post for his curiosity? That's a little extreme, don't you think? Don't you think that sort of thing should be reserved for PEOPLE WHO—"

"Don't yell!" said Jenny. "You're scaring my phone pet." She grabbed her phone from me.

"You have a phone pet?" I said. "You made fun of Bai for a year because of Dana Light, and all this time you've had a phone pet?"

"It's a pet!" said Jenny. "I don't masturbate to it."

"Uh-huh."

"And it's just as smart as a real goldfish." Jenny patted her phone's screen. "There, there," she murmured. "Mama'll take care of you, even though her job fell through and her flaky employer probably won't pay her."

"Your employer is sitting right here," I pointed out.

"Yes, indeed," said Jenny. I moved my legs and she sat down next to me. "On my couch, where he lives. Because he burned his house down."

"We're backed up. I lost, like, ten hours of work. It's not like the video game factory exploded.
Sayable Spice
is still happening."

Jenny patted my foot. "Ariel, you do not make good decisions under pressure. You freeze up and spend two years in a shit job, or you get impulsive and end up burning your house down. I do not see a ghostwritten corporate biography in your future."

"Do you want to make the business decisions? Because I'm fine—"

"No," said Jenny. "That's boring."

"You're just as bad at it as me," I said.

"Don't
want
to," said Jenny, like this distinction was crucial to her identity. "You can't do two jobs at once when you just lost your home. We need a frontman. Someone to set the release schedule and bullshit the publishers."

"What's wrong with the schedule I already set? We're like a week from a playable demo."

"Tough-looking guy would be good," said Jenny. "Ask your space cougar to recommend an ex-astronaut who wants some part-time. They're good at talking and filling out paperwork."

"Excuse me? Did you just call Tammy a...?"

"Rrrawr. You heard me." Jenny pawed the air in a way I guess she thought was sexy.

"Don't call her a... that word. Nobody even uses that word anymore."

"She's a hottie. Robbin' the cradle."

"I'm almost thirty," I said.

"They make cradles in all sizes," said Jenny.

* * *

The next morning I called Bai from my office, which is also Jenny's couch, and Bai patched me through to Dana.

"Thanks for coming in," I said.

"I didn't come in," said Dana. "It's video chat."

"Yeah, well."

"Are you going to fire me?" said Dana.

"No," I said, "why would I... do that?"

"Obviously," said Dana. "You lost the Brain Embryo in the 'fire.' There's nothing for me to translate. You'll either cancel the entire project, or go forward with your current knowledge of the Dhihe Coastal Coalition. Either way, you don't need me."

"Is that why you're in your pajamas?" I said. "Because you thought you wouldn't be working today?"

"This is a chemise," said Dana.

"It has unlicensed cartoon characters all over it."

"So what?"

"I'm not laying you off," I said, "but there is no more translation work, and Jenny has called a vote of no confidence in me."

"Does it really work that way?"

"Apparently it does in this company. We need to get some money coming in so that I can buy a replacement house, and possibly clothes. If you can take up the PR, the money stuff, talking to publishers, all the stuff that's not coding or art, I can focus on development, we can hook a little investment capital, and I won't have to lay you off."

"You know I'm not really human, right?" said Dana. "I don't know how that stuff works in your culture."

"It's easy," I said. "You just crunch numbers and write emails. You can almost do it with a computer program. We only need a warm body to file paperwork. In fact there
was
an intelligent agent for running your business, about a year ago."

"Why don't you use that?" said Dana. "It would be cheaper."

"It was a trojan," I said. "Six months ago, it transferred everybody's assets to a holding company in the Cayman Islands."

"I accept the position," said Dana. "My first recommendation is to cancel the
Sayable Spice
project, fire everybody, and shut down the business."

"No, when you tell a joke, it's supposed to have some setup first."

"I crunched the numbers," said Dana. "The most likely outcome of this project is that you'll lose five to twenty thousand dollars. I'm sure it originally made sense to take that risk when you had a house, but it's time to reconsider. Your expected value is negative."

"Expected value is irrelevant," I said. "This is art. This is about introducing humanity to Constellation culture."

"Take the art and the culture to a game studio," said Dana. "They'll take the monetary hit and you'll get a salary out of it."

"I've had it with idiot studios," I said. "I've been working for other people my whole life, and all they do is ignore my ideas. That's if I'm lucky. If I'm not lucky, they ruin my ideas and then make me implement the ruined versions."

"All right," she said. "Since you are attached to the continued existence of your corporation, I have a backup plan. You don't need a full-time artist. Fire Jenny—"

"I'm not going to fire my best friend!"

"—and contract with her for a flat fee for every subsequent art asset."

"That's obscene, and she's also doing the music."

"She's not a professional musician. Get some Creative Commons techno from the web. Give the artist a hundred bucks if it'll make you feel better."

"We need to clarify something," I said. "When I offered you this position, it was not an invitation to be the fucking Cayman Islands computer program. Stop looking at this as an optimization problem."

"It
is
an optimization problem," said Dana. "This is the logic of business."

"It's the logic of shitty business," I said. "It's the logic of me quitting every job I ever had. Crispy Duck is going to be different."

"Cut everyone's salary in half," said Dana. "That's my final offer."

"How 'bout I cut your salary in half!"

"I don't have a salary," said Dana. "I'm already part-time hourly. Good decision, by the way."

Jenny poked her head into the living room. "Silence!" she said. "I am working! In my house! Silence!"

"Dana wants me to fire you!"

"I am
drawing
an
anthropomorphic cabbage
," said Jenny. She put her finger to her lips. "Sssh. Or get out. And no firing me." She held out her hand like she was showing off an engagement ring. "You see this hand? It is a very special hand. It is the proverbial 'hand that feeds.' No bitey."

"Dana," I said, "can I delegate to you the parts of this job that don't involve ruining peoples' lives? I think we've seen enough of that this week."

Dana shrugged. "It's your money."

"Thank you," said Jenny. "Now. Ariel: Tetsuo is moving to Earth. He got a Greenland Treaty visa and a job at the U. He's staying with Bai."

"How do you know this?" I said.

"Bai informed me," said Jenny, "using the Internet. I thought you might like to know."

"Why's he staying with Bai?"

"Because thanks to the magic of paperwork, Bai has become Tetsuo's sponsor."

"I should be his sponsor!" I said.

"Really? Where's he going to live? In the ashes of your house?"

"It's fucking Agent Fowler. He's doing this to spite me. He and Bai are frat brothers."

Jenny leaned her cheek against the doorframe. "Ariel, you
don't have a house
. It's okay to be angry about that, but you need to be angry about the actual loss of your house, and not random unrelated shit."

"Fuck off, Counselor Troi."

Jenny disentangled herself from the doorframe. "Oh, that is the absolute chicken-fried
limit
," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said immediately. "It's just..." I decided not to go with my planned defense: "you were being really annoying."

"Get out," said Jenny. "Go to a coffee shop or someplace where they'll put up with your 'what character are you' online-quiz shit. Counselor Troi, my ass."

"I can't live in a coffee shop."

"You can come back after dark. Out!"

Blog post, September 3

[This post is friends locked.]

I really lost my temper, I yelled at Jenny and she kicked me out of her house. That was eleven-thirty in the morning. I'll hit "post" on this just before ten PM. They're closing up the coffee shop. I haven't gone back because I've been working on hammering the
Sayable Spice
demo into something that could be considered "playable." No 16-bit game parodies and no melancholy playable flashbacks. Just a nice item-collection action RPG about assembling chemicals into flavors.

I could go back. She said I could come back after dark, and it's very very dark. I haven't gone back because I'm ashamed of what I did. I snapped at Jenny not because my house burned down, but because one little additional thing didn't go my way. I don't feel like I can trust myself anymore.

I'm taking solace in software, trying to make a version of
Sayable Spice
that's good enough to solve all our problems. This didn't work for Clan Interference, it didn't work for the Yaiskek Corporation, and it won't work for me. In the end, all we have is our overlay affiliations. Little patches with starfields on them. Little dots of light in the infinite darkness of space.

Crispy Duck Games: YOUR LOVABLE QUIRKY INDIE STUDIO

Chapter 24: Homebrew
Private text chat, September 13
ABlum:
ok here it is

* PRESS RELEASE * FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION * PRESS RELEASE *

CRISPY DUCK SOFTWARE RELEASES PLAYABLE DEMO OF "CONSTELLATION GAME" TO INDIFFERENT PUBLIC

HASTILY WRITTEN PRESS RELEASE ADDS VENEER OF RESPECTABILITY

Attention, people of Earth! Extraterrestrials walk among us! There may be one in
your
hometown, cataloguing flowers, scanning your art museum, or studying the dusty books in the back of your underfunded local library!

It's time to fight back! Time to learn about extraterrestrial culture before they learn about ours! Crispy Duck Games has the perfect solution:
Sayable Spice: Earth Remix
, available now for your Unix-compatible mobile device.

In
Sayable Spice: Earth Remix
, a fully localized remake of the classic Farang computer game, you'll build up flavors and scents to unlock memories of the past. You'll experience mind-twisting puzzles and non-stop action that thrilled audiences ninety million years ago (except for the parts we left out because they were weird or depressing). As you play, you'll gain a deeper understanding of our new extraterrestrial allies (except we took most of that stuff out).

"
Sayable Spice
is the project I've been wanting to work on my entire life." said studio head Ariel Blum from his luxurious fortress made from Jenny's couch cushions. "I remember being a little kid and thinking 'I wish space aliens would contact Earth so that I could do remakes of their video games.' I'm so excited about this fucking game that I haven't slept in forty-eight hours."

With the playable demo of
Sayable Spice: Earth Remix
, you'll be ready for the next phase in humanity's evolution. Available at any third-party repository for free download, you fucking chiselers. (iOS users allow six to eight weeks for App Store approval.)

DanaLightNotTheVideoGameChick:
I see a number of obvious changes, but they look easy to make.
ABlum:
fix it, send it out
DanaLightNotTheVideoGameChick:
Done.
ABlum:
that took like five seconds
DanaLightNotTheVideoGameChick:
You are complaining?
Wait! Did you even do an iOS version?
ABlum:
no
ask zhenya if he wants to contract for that
BOOK: Constellation Games
12.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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