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Part 1

         From the beginning, he was always running. He gasped for breath now and picked up speed.
         They had been right behind him, gaining, when he had dived sharply to the right, pounded down a short alley, and then slid inside an entryway covered in shadow. He flattened back against the wall as much as possible, trying not to breathe so loudly. They thundered past, oblivious to his hiding place.
         He let out his breath in a soft sigh, but the relief was short-lived. In moments, they were back, rounding past him again, walking now. He could see them just at the edge of his field of vision.
         His name was Chess. He was a thief by trade, and that occupation had done pretty well for him today. There was treasure in his pack: treasure he had taken from a dragon, by his wits and skill and, well, sneaking around a lot and then running really, really fast.
         He inhaled again, quietly. This treasure was a gift for the indigo priestess. She would be pleased, he thought, his heartbeat speeding up a bit. And no one – certainly not the king’s men, here – no one was going to take it away from him.
         “Wasn’t that the same kid we chased a couple of days ago?” one of the men growled, close by.
         They were walking right near him. “Are you kidding?” the other one answered, sounding out of breath. “Next time, just ignore him! I can’t take all this running around.”
         “Yeah, he’s no dissident anyway,” the first voice commented. “Just a jackass.”
         “Would’a blown something up by now, if he was gonna,” the second voice concluded, fading.
         Just then, Chess’s ear-link buzzed. “Inquiry from --”
         Startled, Chess smacked his ear, causing the voice to terminate. Then he squeezed his eyes shut, held his breath, and just listened.
         “Hell with it,” he barely heard one of the men say. “Shift’s almost over. I’m up for a beer.”

         Okay, so he wasn’t a professional thief... and those weren’t the king’s men: they were just local, low-paid, government security. And he was an unemployed college student. He sighed, hoisted his backpack, and walked off in the opposite direction from where the men had gone.
         And his name wasn’t really Chess – that’s just what his little sister had always called him. When she had been a toddler, she couldn’t really pronounce his name, so “Charles” came out sounding like “Chess” -- but he had always kind of liked the name. It sounded like someone he wanted to be... it was the name of his character in the game... it was part of the story he told to himself.

         Stories. His entire life was stories, Chess thought. Well, the worthwhile parts of his life, anyway. The game, especially, was full of good stories. The rest of his life was just awful. His family was broke, school was useless, his job prospects were non-existent, and the city... well, here he was being chased by physically unfit community watch guards for committing the high crime of being out past curfew.
         He had grown up in this environment, had never known anything else. But somehow he just knew that this was all wrong. Things should be much better, he thought. The world should be better.
         He slowed his pace and futzed with the link-phone earpiece for a moment, and then moved on.
         Actually, the chases made this whole walk more fun, he told himself. Otherwise, it would be so boring. And it was not as if he would get arrested or shot or anything -- well, probably not. No, he would just get in trouble. “Oh no!” he whispered sarcastically. Of course, the way things were, these days, with so much competition for so few jobs, and his family so financially insecure... and with everyone being watched so closely, anyway... well, getting in trouble could probably be pretty bad.

         But it was worth the risk, he thought, to get to the game: the one thing that made his life the slightest bit interesting. He could hardly remember his life before the game, actually; before he knew it existed. The phone call, moments ago, had been from them, too. Wonder what they wanted?
         And how had he managed to discover the game? The luck of it all still boggled his mind...

Continued next page...


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The Added Value of SciFi/Fantasy

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

         Stories! Well, nonfiction books on a particular subject of interest can be informative and also quite engrossing – and some will definitely be referenced in future blogs here. However, for imparting information in a way that grabs the attention and stays in the memory, there is nothing like the power of fiction. Arguably, science fiction and fantasy do this best of all.
         Obviously, first of all, there’s the subject of technology: its current frontiers and where it might go in the future are the domain of science fiction. We now have, essentially, the “Nets” from Ender’s Game, and we are getting amazingly close to Star Trek’s replicators and tricorders. With such extraordinary things on the verge of becoming every-day reality, I wonder how long it will be until teleportation and maybe even time travel become commonplace. If they ever do, then, thanks to science fiction, we will already be familiar with the discussion of the potential harmful effects on people and societies, and the possible ways of mitigating the negative aspects. Genetic engineering, of course, has been explored countless times in sci-fi. Other very real possibilities, such as the potential downside of having a replicator in every home, an idea that is currently being debated by scientists and futurists like Michio Kaku and Jamais Cascio, have already been introduced to us unwashed masses by pop sci-fi like Star Trek. The ideas are not foreign to us and we can be active in the debates. In fact, in many places online, we already are. I think that’s a very positive thing.
         Okay, so I’ve mentioned future stuff. Next, counter-intuitively enough, I want to tackle the present and then the past. Anyone have a time machine I can use? Maybe a vortex manipulator? I’d settle for a teleporter, since that would at least give me more time!

I teleported home one night
With Ron and Sid and Meg.
Ron stole Meggie’s heart away
And I got Sidney’s leg.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

Note to readers: Monday's installment may run a little late because this weekend we at SeeDarkly will be attending the Arisia Convention in Boston. We'll be roaming about with the rest of our geek brethren, enjoying our favorite nerdy pleasures, and chatting with anyone interested about The Myth Prosaic.
Hopefully we might see (or perhaps have seen) some of you there!

P.S. The IE issue is still unresolved but we're working on it.



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