Read Constellation Games Online

Authors: Leonard Richardson

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

Constellation Games (8 page)

BOOK: Constellation Games
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"Uh," I said, "what is the project? I thought we were just going to spend Independence Day together."

"I told you in email," said Curic. "We're going to scan your house."

"I thought you meant, like,
look at
my house."

No. She meant
scan
. This was how I was to pay for all the old computers packed in their FPS crates. Just like during the first Internet boom, the coin of the realm was sweet, juicy personal information. Curic had some super sensors in her hands and antennacles, and that day she touched and/or snuffled
everything in my house
.

Curic systematically snooped through every room, and every box in every room, and every box inside another box. And if that box should contain a third box, she'd be interested in that box as well. She emptied out my change jar (money!). She rifled through my game cartridges and disks. She itemized my refrigerator magnets. She stuck an antennacle in my shampoo. She offered to image my hard drives and flash cards. (I said no, eventually gave her the drive with my ROMS and music.) I had to pick her up to put her on the kitchen counter or into the high closet space, which is how I know so much about what she smells like. She crawled under my bed, runnning her hands over my winter clothes, skimming my old notebooks from college.

This took seven hours. I would have gone crazy except for the bizarre questions Curic constantly asked to to keep me on my toes. "What's your favorite book on this shelf?" "Why is this insulating foam blue instead of white?" "Did you get this yourself or did someone give it to you?" "Tell me why Sonic is important to you." "Why don't you have any musical instruments?" She asked me questions about
stuff she'd given me
. "What color do you see this as?", pointing to one of the cables that came with the Brain Embryo. Everything she touched, she put back within an inch of its original location.

If that star-draw we did really had any connection to our house-scanning project, Curic and I were definitely the bright stars in the constellation. Jenny had a grand old time heckling me, telling Curic to look for porn (who keeps hard copies of porn?), and playing with Eduardo on my PS4. Bai's main contribution was to drive to the grocery store for a lot of little plastic bags to hold the food from all the cans Curic opened.

Once it cooled down a little, Curic scanned the exterior. She climbed out my bedroom window and walked fearlessly up and down the roof, unafraid of falling—half gravity, right?

Bai left in the early evening for a date with Dana, counting her polygons or something. I flopped exhausted on the couch next to Jenny. "Eddie wants to go to the fireworks," she said. "They start at eight-thirty, but my sister is having a picnic at eight, and we can drop him off."

"We can't take Curic out in public," I said.

"Says who? It's the Fourth of July. We're going to keep her cooped up in your house for twenty-four hours?"

"Says the BEA. They don't want Curic to start a riot."

Curic padded into the living room. "What kind of person do you think I am?" she said. "I'm not going to instigate a riot!"

"Other people might see you and decide to riot," I said.

"That's fucked up," said Curic. "What are the fire works?"

"Colorful rocket-propelled explosions," said Jenny.

"So, the riot has extenuating circumstances."

"Eddie, where did you get that?" asked Jenny. Eduardo had cinched a large, sharp red fractal onto his wrist and was punching the air like the newest member of the Nuclear Ninjas.

"I made that for him," said Curic. "It's a toy."

"What's it made of? Jesus! It looks like Skewer Sue's bracelet."

"I believe you would classify it as a plastic."

"Well, it's—honey, take it off. You'll cut yourself. Jesus."

"I apologize," said Curic. "Our research indicated that human kids love fractals of dimension 1.4. Ariel, please take me to the fire works. If your government contact tries to fuck you over, you can say that I specifically asked for this."

"What difference will that make?"

"I am the representative of an ancient and powerful civilization," Curic squeaked. "They know not to fuck with me."

Jenny had covered Eduardo's ears again. "You know that 'fuck' is a swear word, right?" I said.

"Oh," said Curic. "You swear too much, Ariel."

As it got dark we all walked to the park for fireworks, Curic riding on my shoulders. Nobody noticed, or they just thought I had an ugly kid. Then Jenny and Curic had the bright idea to hit the bars for some live music, which I never do often enough but I didn't think it was a good time.

"Remember the riot," I cautioned.

"I remember you being afraid of a riot that didn't happen," said Curic.

"We'll be fine," said Jenny. "People are always saying to Keep Austin Weird." She pointed at Curic on my shoulders. "Well, here is Weird."

"It's true," said Curic.

Against my better judgement, we went, and we had a great time. Curic was the guest of honor. She drank a dozen free shot glasses of beer and ate a lot of Twinkies, and everywhere we went she was invited onstage to sing with the band. Her Peter Lorre voice is totally incompatible with human music and everyone loved it, unlike the time I got drunk and climbed onstage at the Dog Pound.

Around 11 PM Curic began acting tipsy, but it was just her male brain going to sleep and her female brain waking up. There was no memory loss—girl-Curic still knew where she was and what we were doing—but there were drastic personality changes. In particular, girl-Curic proved to be a lot rowdier than boy-Curic. Or maybe she was getting tipsy after all. Eventually she knocked over a glass and apologized a lot and we took a taxi back to my place. The taxi driver wouldn't take our money, but he did want his picture taken with Curic.

We arrived at one in the morning. Jenny went upstairs and zonked out on my bed without even asking me, so I sat on the couch and talked with Curic for a couple hours, the way you talk when you meet someone from another country. Curic doesn't sleep, so I left her with a curated stack of comic books Jenny brought for her, and staggered into the retro-game room to sleep on the spare couch.

Blog post, July 5

Happy Fourth of July! Or, if you're not American, happy fourth of July! Yesterday was Curic's first visit to Earth, and we had a hell of a time, so busy I didn't have time to write about it. Which worked out well because I was also
forbidden
from writing about it until Curic had safely returned to Ring City.

Curic snooped through my house and got drunk and taught us all a new swear word, but most importantly for this blog, she brought down crates and crates of ancient Constellation gaming hardware. After a scant few hours of sleep, I woke up at four in the morning to loud clicky-clacky noises from the living room. I thought it was an alien invasion and (tabloid TV news sting) it was! Curic was playing with the Brain Embryo! Twisting and flicking the abacus beads, flipping and pulling the switches. Ignoring the television, staring at the empty plexiglass display on the front of the unit, playing with light I couldn't see.

I turned on the light. "Hey," I said, rubbing my eyes.

"Hmmph," said Curic. Her antennacles finished feeding a Twinkie into her mouth, and she put her prosthetic tongue back in.

"He—" she swallowed the Twinkie. "Hello, Ariel."

"What's up?"

"I don't play games very often. This seemed like an appropriate time."

Unlike me with my genius plan to play only the most enduring Brain Embryo games, Curic was just trying random games from the all-in-one pirate cartridge. However, as someone who can percieve the RF frequencies, she could at least see the whole game. So I give you
Curic's Capsule Reviews
(patent pending):

Dangerously Unbalanced Boat
: "It's supposed to be a boat, but it doesn't look or act like a boat at all." ("How do you know it's a boat?") "Because that's the name of the game."

Kryrtur
: "This is a famous game where you have to get three in a row. This game is still around, but the technology is improved, so you have to get eighty in a row."

Solox
: "If you like these games, this is a really great one. It takes a long time to get anywhere, which I guess is important."

Enjoyable Reactor
: "The control doesn't do anything. I think this is just a game for causing hallucinations." (Not kidding. She turned this one on and her antennacles tried to crawl around to the back of her head.)

Prophecy From Space
: "This is a game about whatever was popular back then."

Sadly, Constellation tourist visas are only good for 24 hours, so after breakfast and a brief but embarrassingly personal anthropological interview, it was back to the Austin spaceport. I'll never forget the great camaraderie we enjoyed on our night out, her oozy singing, or the way I'm pretty sure she peed in my bathroom sink.

In related news, I've discovered that while she was on my PS4, Jenny used my account to download
Lost Empires: Inca
, the greatly inferior (yes, Jenny!) action puzzler which I'm now stuck with.

K'chua!

Chapter 9: Import System
Private text chat, July 5
Curic:
I did not pee in your sink.
ABlum:
well there's a terrible smell in there
Curic:
I performed only normal oral hygiene.
ABlum:
its pretty bad
Curic:
There's nothing in your sink that wasn't originally
part of a Twinkie.
Except for some adapter bacteria.
ABlum:
im going to go out on a limb and say the bacteria are the problem
i will kill them with bleach
Curic:
OK.
ABlum:
btw where did you pee when you were here on earth?
Curic:
n/a Not everybody has to evacuate every ten minutes.
Blog post, July 6

Crate update! I'm super busy but I couldn't resist opening one of the crates Curic brought down to Earth. What I found inside quickly convinced me to get back to work. If I start opening crates, I'll spend all my time organizing the hardware and you'll never see me again.

I know this about myself, so I thought I'd play it safe. Curic's manifest listed crate #6 as including some items related to the Brain Embryo, so I opened it and found, among other things:

  • The Massmonger 31, an Inostrantsi computer that looks like a roll of heavy-gauge chicken wire.
  • Four chalk pills, each the size of a basketball. These are
    Sea Level
    game units. (
    Sea Level
    is a Wazungu game—you swallow the system and carve it into some specified shape during the digestive process.)
  • Twelve Alien teledildonic devices in replica original packaging.
  • Replacement abacus beads for the Brain Embryo.
  • The Brain Eclipse, successor system to the Brain Embryo.
  • ...and a plastic board.

Yes, a plastic board qualifies as a Brain Embryo peripheral. If you put it under a blacklight, you can see the symbol of Clan Interference painted on it in ultraviolet paint.

I actually got a little excited about this because Clan Interference made
Sayable Spice
, plus several other games I haven't played. Of those games,
Bad Things in the Water
,
Legend of the Bystander
and
Double Attack
are listed as being "compatible" with this peripheral. But c'mon, it's literally a piece of plastic. "Compatibility" just means that when you exit the game you get two or three ideograms to write on the board.

I copied some
Double Attack
ideograms onto the board with a dry-erase marker, but nothing happened and the ideograms won't dry-erase. It's a mystery. It's a mystery that's going back into the crate. Too much to do! I'm going to be living with these crates 'til the day I die.

Blog post, July 7

And the deluge continues. The planets have aligned, the missing semantic link has clicked into place, and the Constellation Database of Electronic Games of a Certain Complexity is now available in English! This is great news. Now all y'all can get in on the extraterrestrial game fun, instead of waiting for me to crawl through these crates. The English CDBOEGOACC is amazing, like those mysterious game catalogs from when we were bony little kids with curly hair.

ABlum:
who can i thank for translating this?
Curic:
I will send you an achievement graph.
ABlum:
no your achievement graphs have 10 million nodes
i don't want to thank the whole damn constellation
just tell me the name of one person who i can buy a beer
Curic:
If you looked at the graph you would see a distinctive bottleneck: the Small Batch Data Cleanup Overlay, who
translated between old versions of SAME and various human
languages at the request of the History of Life Overlay.
ABlum:
ok who is in charge of the data cleanup overlay?
Curic:
That's not a real question.

ANYHOW
, I offer big thanks to a randomly selected member of the Small Batch Data Cleanup Overlay. That'd be Jeroen Vivekananda of Peregrini Ring, Ring City. I would buy you a beer, Jeroen, but your body heat would vaporize the beer before you could swallow it. So, instead, accept this mention on my blog.

I'm now seeding the English CDBOEGOACC translation, but if you got the original SAME version back in June, do yourself a favor and just download the translation program from the Constellation's website.

Please send your CDBOEGOACC pointers to games you'd like to see reviewed! Or, better yet, start your own damn blog. I'll even provide a crowd-pleasing concept for you: search the translated CDBOEGOACC for superlatives like "worst," and try to find the worst games in the universe. Here are some choice quotes I found with a quick skim; most of them from Constellation-era descriptions compiled by the people who put together and maintained (maintain?) the CDBOEGOACC.

The worst of Pi Mue Iormue Sae's games and perhaps the proximate cause of bis death. Shortly after publishing this game, bhe announced a fourth in the Canister series. It was never discovered whether bis assassin was motivated to stop the proposed sequel, or simply wanted revenge for this third game.
May cause nausea, pheremonal overload and severe cognitive dissonance.
This game is a memetic hazard and should be labeled as such. For countermeasures see [broken link].

From a contemporaneous review: "I have played five games and this is the worst."

From a
positive
review: "Vent your egg sacs before playing this game." Not into my sink!

BOOK: Constellation Games
4.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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