Pawn's Gambit (Book 1 of Halo: Checkmate) by Jason-078
Pawn's Gambit - Prologue
Date: 25 September 2013, 11:42 pm
SUBJECT INTERVIEW JOURNAL
DATE OF BIRTH: OCTOBER 30, 2510
INTERVIEWING AUTHORITY: HALSEY, CATHERINE ELIZABETH, MD, PhD (Civilian Consultant 409871)
1138 hours, September 1, 2517 (Military Calendar) / Circunius System, Circinius IV, New Constantinople
When I first arrived with Lieutenant Keyes at Vespasian Preschool, I was not sure exactly what I would find. I've read all of the reports regarding this subject, but nothing really stood out. Even the subject's profile was average compared with the rest of the candidates. I almost skipped over this one in lieu of subject 149, but then something caught my attention.
This subject plays chess. He does not just pay chess, but he apparently plays chess well. According to Orlin, the dumb AI from the Corbulo Academy of Military Science, reported that it had to repurpose a total of 13% of her processing power to beat the subject. Of course, I had Dèjá completely erase all records of the tests from Orlin's memory, but that number was still surprising. I had Dèjá run the numbers and his play level was Class C, which was completely unheard of in anyone at the subject's age. So, I decided to go ahead with the subject's interview.
I cleared my presence with the school's office. Thankfully the ONI powers granted me enough of a clearance to get me through most of the useless bureaucracy that seems to have cropped up of planets like this. The visitor badges that were given to Lieutenant Keyes and myself would get us into every room on campus, regardless of the security procedures. And, if they did not, then I had a break-box in my handbag that could override any lock or AI.
My biocanner lead me to one of the smaller classrooms just in time for the bell to ring for recess. Jacob pulled me to the side of the hall just as a stampede of children burst from the classrooms. It was thought, but unnecessary. Most of them would simply have gone around any adult in the halls. I thanked him with a smile and checked the bioscanner again. The subject was still in the classroom.
I peeked inside the door and saw him. He was laying with his back resting on a holotable, staring out the windows. On the table was an animated tiger with large cartoonish gloves. They were playing chess, but the subject was not even looking at the board. It was astounding. It was not just that, but he made a move and put the AI in check. Not only was he not looking at the board, but he was doing so and winning.
I chose that moment to make my move. As with the previous subjects, I handed Lieutenant Keyes the bioscanner to record the interaction and activated the AI disruptor. The tiger flashed once and then went dark with the rest of the chessboard. The device would simply block the AI from being aware that this room ever existed, putting it into a loop for everything within the hall or room until I deactivated the device.
The subject turned around to look at the board and saw me standing in the door. He looked wary, but also curious. One of the rules of the school was that non-staff adults were not allowed into the classrooms when there were students present without an escort of a member of the staff. Evidently, Subject 078 was aware of this rule, too.
I walked into the room and crouched to sit on one of the child-sized chairs. I could tell that he was defensive and rightly so, especially if he knew what fate would befall him if I found him suitable for the program. I was also sizing him up. Not too trusting, not too suspicious, but cautious. Oh, also his left shoe was untied.
I asked him for his name. It took him a couple of seconds of him looking between myself and Lieutenant Keyes before he told me it was Jason. Then he asked me mine. With a smile, I told him that it was Catherine. Cover story be damned, I will not lie to one of my potential trainees.
The boy rolled onto his knees, placing the dark chessboard between us. He again glanced at Jacob and then to the door that lead to the teacher's office. The door wouldn't unlock with the block in place, but if he did run, it would cause an issue with my interview.
I asked him how he was able to play chess against the AI without looking at the board. He told me that he didn't know, but if he did look he would win too fast. He said that the AI was dumb and wasn't as good as some of his father's friends, so he had to do something to make it interesting. That was true, at least. His father was one of the instructors at the Corbulo Academy.
I replied, sincerely, that I wished I could play chess like that. It was true, and it might even give Dèjá run for her money. He told me that it was easy for him, but his sister thought it was both creepy and that he cheated.
I told him that it was because he was special and that it was fascinating. I reached into the bag then and activated the chessboard, including the voice-activated movement controls. I told him that I wanted to play a game of chess against him, just the two of us.
He agreed and the white pieces appeared in front of him. That meant that I would be going first. I was not planning on it happening as such, but the board had a suite programmed in. He leaned forward as I moved the first piece.
King's pawn to king four was the opening move. The board automatically moved the piece, sliding it across the holosurface. He mirrored my move with king's pawn to king four. He was good and it was a classic gambit, but I would not fall for it.
King's knight to king's bishop three was my second move. I was watching him, though, looking at the movements of his eyes and his level of concentration. However, I also asked him why he was not out playing with the other children. He responded that the teachers were punishing him, thinking he broke another child's arm. He also moved queen's knight to queen's bishop three.
King's bishop to queen's bishop four was my third move. I looked down at the board, hoping that he would fall for my bluff. Something was wrong, though. He was smiling at my move. He moved king' bishop to queen's bishop four and looked up at me. I am not used to being studied.
I looked up from the board, moving queen's knight to queen's bishop three, then asking if he did. He paused for a few moments then let out a sigh. He told me that he didn't. The other boy tried to push him off of the jungle gym while a group of them were racing to the top, but he grabbed the boys arm and they both tumbled. He then moved king's knight to king's bishop three.
I chewed my lip as I looked at the board. I hadn't had a game like this, against a live person, since I was in my graduate studies. At least with an AI, you know what you are facing. I didn't have many moves open to me, and recess was ending soon putting me in a time crunch, but then I spotted one. I moved king's knight to king's rook five. He immediately moves king's knight to king five and took my pawn.
Most children would be slightly triumphant at taking a piece from the board, but he just sat there waiting for my next move. He knew the goal of the game was to win and not just take pieces.
I asked him how the other boy fell, but he didn't. I also used his name. I shouldn't have done that. With what I am planning, I cannot afford to get emotionally attached to these children; these subjects. I moved king's knight to king's bishop seven taking his pawn. He moved his queen to king's bishop three. He also told me that he was able to catch himself on a bar before he fell too far.
King's knight to king's castle eight; takes castle. I asked him if he had done it on purpose. He looked up at me and caught my eyes. He responded by asking me if it mattered because he won the game. He also moved his queen to king's bishop seven, taking my pawn and placing me in checkmate.
His expression was completely void of emotion when he said that. I wasn't sure if he was talking about the game or about the race to the top of the jungle gym. The look was both terrifying and exciting at the same time. I knew there was a chance for sociopathic tendencies in all of the subjects, but this was the first time that I had ever actually seen it.
My king on the board slowly toppled, signaling my loss. However, I smiled up at him. Seven moves total and he won. This was definitely one of the candidates for the program.
I was about to stand and walk away when I caught sight of something on his wrist. I asked him what it was and he presented it to me proudly. He told me that it was a wrist-journal that his mother gave him when he began school. She told him to keep daily journals for her. That was an intriguing idea, though I knew it could cause some problems. I would have to think about it for a while.
I stood and took a step back from the table. I thanked him for a good game and began walking back to Lieutenant Keyes. I heard him thank me, but didn't care. I took the bioscanner back from Jacob and reached into my purse to turn the block off. The subject's movements caught the sensor and turned the internal lights on. The sound of the hologram moving its chess piece came from the classroom, as well.
We made our way back to the spaceport then, but I definitely approve the subject for inclusion into the program. If there is a god, I can only hope that one day she will forgive me for what I am going to do to that young man. When we arrived at the ship, I activated the retrieval team.
SUBJECT RETRIEVAL REPORT
ACQUISITION TEAM: 078
TEAM COMMANDER: HICKS, LANDIS DANIEL, SSG, UNSCMC (SN: 54126-57655-OR)
0304 hours, September 5, 2517 (Military Calendar) / Circunius System, Circinius IV, New Constantinople
The subject was asleep when we entered the residence. I made sure to use the narqahol gas in the room of the subject's sister and mother before the rest of the team entered. The subject's father was not present, but intel had him on field maneuvers with the Academy for the entirety of the week. However, I left a spotter in the van to warn of any onlookers.
CPL Tanaka entered the subjects room to get positive identification. I walked over and stood in the doorway as Sergeant Martin read the biodata readings that the Corporal was taking.
I would have been more comfortable to have been able to use the narqahol on the subject, but the project director refused, saying that it could have some possibly side-effects when combined with the cryo process.
The subject turned and looked at me, but there was no alarm in his eyes. He must have thought I was his father. I put my fingers to my lips and shushed him, which made him loosen his muscles slightly. CPL Tanaka gave him the injection of derpathomine.
He looked at her, but she was already moving out. I heard SGT Martin whisper that the package was incoming. I stepped forward and lifted the subject out of his bed. I carried him into the hall and past the flash-clone being carried in my SGT Brown.
The subject wasn't entirely unconscious by the time I walked him to SGT Martin, who took a bio reading of the subjects left thumb. It was positive identification through DNA and fingerprint. SGT Martin marked the subject as acquired and I carried him out to the van. He finally fell asleep when we were halfway down the stairs.