Read Constellation Games Online

Authors: Leonard Richardson

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

Constellation Games (7 page)

BOOK: Constellation Games
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Blog post, June 28, late night

Well, the cookout was terrible. Jenny got angry at me because of something I said to Bai, but we worked it out while throwing beer bottles into the recycling dumpster, and then she helped me clean up the nonrecyclable trash and we relaxed in the living room.

"I really hope that
was
the last cookout," I said. I was playing a game on the Brain Embryo.

"I don't know what cookout you were at," said Jenny. "The one we had here was fine. Bizarro Kate and Martin finally hooked up. They left together, anyway."

"That's a chilling thought," I said. "I can already see their kids running around in little polo shirts and catgirl ears."

"People had a good time," said Jenny.

"I wanted to show them the Brain Embryo," I said. "But I was busy with emergencies and you guys didn't want to put in a little effort to figure things out."

"It's a party," said Jenny. "Not a time for strenuous mental effort. Here, lemme try it now." I left the Brain Embryo console and went to the bathroom.

"I like the art," said Jenny when I came back. "It's like playing a Kandinsky."

"You're not moving your guy," I said. "You're just looking around and the background's scrolling."

"Let me figure it out,
pendejo
," said Jenny. "Not everything has to work immediately. Any docs on this thing?"

"Uh, it's called
Sayable Spice
. Apparently it shatters the taboos of Dhihe Coastal Coalition society, though I don't know what those might be. It's got a skewed histogram—that was a good idea you had."

"Okay," said Jenny. "Let's do this one."

"What? We're doing it now."

"Let's port it. It looks nice, it's a good game that a few people didn't like because it was controversial. Sounds like a good choice."

"It was controversial to another species ninety million years ago," I said. "I'm still going through the list."

"The list has fifteen thousand games on it," said Jenny. "And then there's all the other systems you could be exploring. Curic said you could spend the rest of your life playing these games, and I would like to start getting paychecks before then. That means at some point making a decision and starting work. So let's do this."

"What if there's something wrong with
Sayable Spice
?"

"Yeah, there probably is. You know how I complain about my web design clients?"

"How you give them exactly what they ask for, and then they change their minds. Which is what I want to avoid."

"That's part of the process," said Jenny. "You build something, and then you find out it sucks, and you use that information build something else. The only way to avoid this problem is to never get started and never get paid."

"Okay," I said, "the decision is made." Crispy Duck Games is porting
Sayable Spice
. (Offer subject to change.)

Chapter 8: They Came For Our Twinkies
Blog post, June 29

Woo hoo! Thank you, Charlene Siph! Constellation citizens are now being issued US tourist visas!

ABlum:
i'm filling out paperwork for your visa
i need to know if you're a "person of good character"
Curic:
I sure hope not.
ABlum:
i'm going to put down "yes"

I have to fill out the forms twice for Curic, because the government considers a Farang's differentiated mind to be two different people in the same body. With that attitude, I don't know how they're ever going to get Constellation Library service down here. And I certainly wouldn't want to be the guy who has to sort out the paperwork for Her.

Blogging will be light for a few days. I'm working on a project for a friend. Also for money.

Real life, July 4

We all got into Bai's SUV and drove through traffic to the Constellation landing site; me and Jenny and Jenny's nephew Eduardo, who was more interested in seeing a real spaceship land than in meeting a space alien.

"Is Curic going to fit in the car?" said Jenny. "Physically? Have we checked?"

Bai looked back at Jenny and backed the car out of my unused driveway. "Durrr, we're not idiots, Jenny," he said. (Bai's douchebag tendencies rise to the surface when he gets nervous.) "Farang are hobbit size. She can sit on your lap."

"Not on
my
lap," said Jenny.

The road to the landing site was still packed and the approach full of rubberneckers, but after showing Curic's ticket to the guards we were able to park. The first thing we saw was National Guard soldiers loading packages into a temporary structure. This was what we got now instead of drop-shipments. Packages came down on the shuttles, they went through customs and were delivered by UPS. The Guard was mostly there to keep people out of the structure. This allows the population at large to avoid thinking about the Constellation dropping rocks on us.

We saw Curic's shuttle land and I signed her out at the immigration desk. Curic looked like the Farang picture on Wikipedia: short, heavy black-dark-purple fur, scary parrot beak and antennacles around the mouth. She doesn't smell bad, if you don't mind the smell of fur. (For the record, I look exactly like the dude on the Wikipedia page for "Human".)

But one thing I hadn't expected was the way she walked. Curic waddled out of the holding area and made every CGI alien ever created look fake doing it. She moved like a real thing, not like a motion capture.

"She's gorgeous," said Jenny.

"That's not the word I'd use," I said, "but I see where you're coming from. What Jenny saw was that Curic was
real
. This was really happening.

As we left the immigration Quonset hut, Curic took out the prosthetic tongue that lets her speak human languages and made a noise at the customs official. It sounded like "K'chua!"

Then she told me: "I have important scientific equipment for you." We went to the temporary structure and signed out eight wooden crates with the Constellation Shipping logo stenciled on them. The crates were full of computers and game systems, which in turn were full of moon dust and nanomolecular machines.

"You think you brought enough stuff, bro?" said Bai, having decided that being male half the time was enough to qualify as "bro."

"This may be the only delivery you get for a long time," said Curic ominously.

You don't see a lot of these crates in real life, but they looked exactly like the generic wooden crates that have been lying around first-person shooter maps for the past twenty years. Bai and I carried one of the largest crates together, and by mutual agreement set it down halfway to the car. We watched tiny Curic hustle past us, clasping a crate to her chest that was as big as she was.

"How can you carry these?" I called out. Eduardo ran around in the grass chasing dragonflies, ignoring the space alien.

"Are you kidding?" said Curic. "It's like half gravity here."

With the prosthetic in her mouth, Curic had an awesome oozy squeaky European type accent, like a movie villain high on helium. I thought it was awesome, anyway, but I can see how TV producers might not like it. So most Farang use the Oyln-English translator, or if their English is really good they just use the vocalizer. This works out very well because the vocalizer has George Clooney's voice—much more mediagenic.

By the time we'd loaded the SUV, the Texas morning was in full effect. I wiped my brow and just smeared the sweat around.

"Curic," said Bai, oblivious to the heat. "I want you to meet my girlfriend, Dana Light."

"Can we meet Dana in the car?" I said. But Bai had already slid his phone out of his pocket.

Curic took the phone. "Hello, Dana Light," she said, more to the phone than to the person on the screen. I looked over Curic's shoulder—her whole body, actually. Dana was sitting on her fake couch typing on her fake tablet, writing in her fake blog about her semi-fake feelings. She didn't notice Curic.

"Hey, I'm greeting you!" said Curic. Dana looked up but didn't say anything. "By human standards, your sexual partner is quite rude," said Curic, making to hand back the phone.

"Probably the face recognition doesn't work on Farang," I said.

Curic snatched the phone back. "Your sexual partner is implemented in software?" she said. Curic shook the phone as though she expected a tiny Dana to fall out. "Is it self-aware?"

"That's a disputed question," I said.

"Does your relationship enjoy legal sanction?"

"No," said Bai, "'cause of prejudice."

Jenny cracked her door open. "What's the holdup?" she said.

"My own curiosity, I'm afraid," said Curic. She handed Dana back to Bai. "Let's take cover before we all die of heatstroke."

We escaped into the car, where Jenny had the AC running. We all sat squeezed into our seats, our feet propped up on the smaller crates, Curic sitting atop a crate despite Eduardo's offer to share a seatbelt.

"Hey, Curic," said Jenny, "Eddie wants to be an astronaut."

"Isn't he a little young to have fully-formed desires about future societal roles?" said Curic, peering suspiciously at Eduardo. Eduardo is taller than Curic.

"He's a kid who wants to be an astronaut," said Jenny. "It's cute."

"I'm an astronaut, said Curic. "It's not cute."

"It is cute," said Jenny.

"Curic, what was that you said to the immigration guy?" I said. Bai backed us out of the parking space and honked at some rubberneckers.

Curic took her tongue out again. "K'chua!" she said.

"Yeah, what's it mean?"

The prosthetic went back in. "It's a Nuk word. That's an Auslander language that's good for bringing down curses. The closest English translation might be 'fuck the system.'"

"That's very punk," I said.

"Don't swear in front of Eddie," said Jenny. "My sister is gonna think I taught him that."

"What, 'K'chua!'?" said Bai.

"The other one!"

"It's not the best translation," Curic continued oblivious, "because when you say 'fuck the system' you're addressing another person. 'K'chua' is something you say to the
system
."

A car pulled out of the parking lot behind us. "Are we being
followed
?" I said.

Curic squirmed to look between the huge crates in the cargo hold. "We had better not be," she said. And we weren't.

Once we got underway, sophisticated Jenny asked the same stupid question I'd asked when I first met Curic. "So, Curic, boy or girl?"

"What?" said Curic, unsure if Jenny was even talking to her. "I am both boy and girl."

"But not at the same time, right?" said Bai. "Are we talking to the boy Curic or the girl Curic?"

"Ah—" Curic muttered to herself—"the smaller gametes. The male."

"You don't just know?" I said.

"Forgive me, that's not how we classify it," said Curic. "We didn't know about sex differences until scientific times. In caveman days you'd relax in a nice tide pool, some other people would come along later and relax in the same pool, and a few tides later there'd be kids growing in the pool."

"How'd you know whose kid was whose?" said Jenny.

"Who needs to know?" said Curic. "Kids are kids."

"Wait a minute," said Jenny, "are you
naked
?"

"Yes, because your planet's so damn hot," said Curic.

"Where'd you get the wood for these crates?" I asked quickly.

"It's fake wood," said Curic. "I used it as a joke. Last night I was hangin' with a Mzungu friend from Constellation Shipping, and I'm like 'ha ha, I chopped up some Wazungu-style lifeforms and made containers out of their corpses.'"

"That's a joke?"

"It was funnier when I was female," said Curic. "Anyway, my friend can take it. Is 'hangin'' really a word? I ask because there's a punctuation symbol at the end."

A half-hour of this sort of stream-of-consciousness later, Bai parked in my driveway, and we all fell out and stretched our legs. "Before we do anything else," said Curic, "there's a ritual I'd like to perform with you."

"What is it, a religious ritual or something?" said Jenny.

"I've been advised to change the subject whenever someone brings up religion," said Curic, "but it seems safe to tell you that the answer is no. We'll need some small, flat items."

"How about Jenny's tits?" said Bai.

Jenny cupped her hands over Eduardo's ears. "How 'bout your undescended testicles, Bai?" she hissed.

"Coins," I said, hands already in my pockets feeling around. "I have coins."

"I don't know what a coin is," said Curic, "but it seems like the best choice of the three."

I handed a quarter to Curic. She took it, being careful not to touch my hand, and started to say something. Then she did a double take and cooed to herself in Oyln. She held the quarter between two fingers in sick fascination, turning it over and over as though it were the still-wriggling corpse of a trilobite.

"Oh, I see!" she finally said in English. "This is
money
!"

"Is that okay?"

"I thought it was all in software," said Curic.

"We got bills, too," said Bai.

"This is fine," said Curic. She flipped the quarter onto the driveway. It came to rest on a crack in the concrete, nestled in dead grass.

"This is called the star-draw," said Curic. "It binds the five of us in common purpose. Everyone, take a piece of money and toss it down, just like I did."

Jenny looked in her purse for a dime, took aim, and pegged Curic's quarter with a precision shot. "Don't try to hit my money," said Curic. "Just throw it in the same direction."

Bai and I threw our coins. Eduardo's rolled into the front lawn, which I had landscaped in Southwestern style so I didn't have to water it. The coins on the ground looked like this:

o
*
O
o
O

A little like the Constellation Shipping logo, except with a few coins instead of a lot of stars.

"This is a constellation," said Curic. "There is no pattern. We just happened to draw the stars a certain way."

"So why... did we... do it?" said Bai.

"This one is
ours
," said Curic. "A constellation is a pattern claimed from randomness. This shape identifies the five of us, right now, and the project we're about to carry out."

BOOK: Constellation Games
5.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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