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Fan Fiction

Posted By: Jasper<mpritt@earthlink.net>
Date: 22 May 2001, 2:08 am

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"How about a nice game of chess?"

    -Joshua, Wargames

    On the seventh day, I played chess with Cortana.

    Well, to be honest, that wasn't all I was doing, though that was enough; the senior officers wouldn't like it if they found out I was wasting precious cycles playing a game. But it was only chess, for God's sake. I say, if burning one-billionth of an AI's processing power playing a simple game was going to screw us over, we were screwed to begin with.

    Anyway, I was also tossing a baseball around, bouncing it from floor to bulkhead and snatching it before it passed over my head. It made a satisfyingly annoying sound, which would have been more satisfying if there had been someone else in my quarters to annoy.

    Thump-thump-SLAP. Thump-thump-SLAP. Thump-thump-SLAP.

    "Knight to B-5, please, Cortana."

    Thump-thump-SLAP. Thump-thump-SLAP.

    "Bishop to E-7, Ensign."

    There was a certain something about the AI's voice that, in my idle moments, seriously turned me on. It was female, obviously, so it was pretty easy on the ears to begin with. Underneath the neutral softness, though, I could detect an underlying huskiness, like the scent of mesquite burning over a distant fire. I wondered if someone at the SolCore shipyards orbiting Terra had sampled an actual woman's voice. Perhaps some horny demented audio tech had slaved over a massive mixing board for a week until he rejoiced, triumphant, like some postmodern Frankenstein. I leaned rather hopefully towards the former, because that meant at some future point in time I might be able to meet this goddess clothed in mortal flesh.

    Yeah, right.

    Thump-thump-SLAP. Thump-thump-SLAP. Thump-thump-SLAP.

    "Pawn takes bishop at E-7, Cortana."

    I smiled inwardly, moving pieces around in my head. Oh, sure, there was a terminal mounted on the bulkhead above me, but why bother looking at it? I mean, there are only sixty-four squares on a chessboard, and a maximum of thirty-two pieces on the board at any one time, half of which can only move to two possible squares each in one direction, which really cuts down on the permutations. Of the other pieces, only the queens have real freedom of movement, and they can only cover seven squares in any one direction at most.

    Looking at the board is for wimps.

    Cortana was in real trouble now. I'd never beaten it yet, not during my entire tour of duty on the _Pillar of Autumn_, but things were looking up this game. Only a few moves, and its ass would be grass.

    Thump-thump-SLAP. Thump-thump-SLAP.

    "Rook takes knight at G-3. Check, Ensign." It even managed to sound a little smug.

    Shit. It had extended itself pretty far, but it was a righteous move, and this late in the game, he who hesitates is lost. I considered the possible moves for the eighth time, only saw disaster looming beyond the horizon, then shrugged and decided to quit for now. It would have been nice to say I'd beaten an AI at chess before the PoA was ripped to shreds by the Covenant, but anybody I could have told wouldn't really be impressed at this point in time. I'm sure the Covenant wouldn't be.

    "I resign. You're too good for me, Cortana."

    "Not at all, Ensign. You've gotten much better. A statistical analysis of our games shows an eighty-seven percent improvement."

    "Games are about winning, Cortana, not about how well you lose."

    It might have said something in reply, but just then, the klaxon sounded. I caught the baseball with one last thump-SLAP and scrambled to my feet. A standard alert screen rippled across the terminal, and I could hear echoes of the Captain's voice in the corridors faintly overlap the speaker blaring just over my head. "GENERAL QUARTERS, GENERAL QUARTERS. ALL HANDS MAN YOUR STATIONS--" There was a shudder underneath me, and I knew it was reverberating all throughout the ship. They were disengaging the FTL drive, dropping out of superluminal.

    Time to die for SolCore.