Over the next few days, Chess and Ileana discussed a possible course of action, based on Chess’s idea for manipulating Tez. But they were circumspect, afraid even to broach the subject in the computer room. Once, they even ventured out to the pond in the woods to talk quietly among the trees.
“Putting this plan into action is going to take some time, though,” Ileana confided to him. “Possibly many months, and I just don’t know what will happen in the end. It could be really bad.”
“Okay,” Chess agreed. “But when it all does finally blow up, you’ll have to be ready to leave.”
“Yes, I’ll be ready,” Ileana had assured him. “But where will we go?”
There was only one place that Chess could think of as a possible refuge -- and he did not even know if it was a real place: Lodestar. Using every bit of knowledge that he had gained through his research on samiz, he tried again to find them.
Samiz was slow and winding. He came to many dead-end pages, and sites that just seemed to be activity logs that he could not interpret in any useful way. Some of this stuff, he figured, was probably set up on purpose by Lodestar to throw any spies off their track. Finally, out of options, he tried something really basic. On Lodestar’s most-accessed public page -- the page where they posted their game information, he hacked in and posted a short, inert message inside the page’s code.
Chess spent a long time pondering what the message should be: something pertinent to the game itself, probably. That might be the only subject that could win any amount of trust. So, finally, after staring at the black and white lines of code for so long that a greenish halo had begun to form around the characters, Chess pulled his clenched hands from where they had been pressing against his chin, and lowered them to the keyboard. He typed:
I have a suggestion for a new expedition setting, involving a completely new pantheon of gods.
He wrote a paragraph outlining some ideas based on Sariel’s collection of stories, and briefly described the creator goddess, Lilumei, and the water god, Enthirath.
Then he changed the page code a little, so that the word “Lodestar” appeared in a corner of the main page. When any of the Lodestar people checked on or updated their page, they should notice it. And then they might look at the code and read his message, and then they might reply to him. Or they might just correct the code, shore up their security, and foil his last, desperate effort to contact them. It was a long shot, he knew, but he felt like he was out of options. With a sigh, he exited the page.
Occupied with Razor’s assignments, Chess did not return to check on the page for days. And, when he did, he found himself wondering why he was still pursuing this idea. Actually getting to Lodestar -- if they even told him where they were located -- would require journeying through untold kilometers of wilderness. He knew that he was holding onto the hope because Lodestar had always seemed magical to him. But wasn’t he past all that now? He knew that the world was not filled with magic and adventure. The world was filled with real monsters and nowhere to escape to.
As he waited for the slow samiz page to load, Chess found himself gazing out the window again. The leaves on the trees around the compound were dark green now, and he was shocked to realize that it was the middle of June. He had been outside of civ, and away from his family, for six months.
He still thought about his mother and sister often, but not chronically, the way he had when he was first here. The contact with his sister and the knowledge that they were receiving his death stipend had eased his mind somewhat, freeing him to focus on his own survival. He shook his head, thinking there must be irony in that, somewhere.
His sister would be out of class for the summer, he figured, and probably pouring all of her free time into that mayoral campaign she was volunteering on. And his mom? He could only hope…
Sighing, Chess looked down at the computer again -- and blinked at the screen. The word in the corner had changed to the stylized, tribal “L” that was Lodestar’s symbol. And, in the code, was a different message: Who are you?
Continued next page...
And taking out my dagger, I began to carve deep in the soft stone:
Marius the ancient one: Lestat is searching for you… Please make yourself known to me...
I went out into the night with my chisel. I wrote my questions to Marius on stones that were older than us both. Marius had become so real to me that we were talking together
-The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that a company cannot patent a sequence of human DNA, and many people in the scientific and healthcare fields breathed a huge sigh of relief. The case in question involved a company that had discovered that a particular sequence of human DNA had a role in a disease process (in this case, breast cancer) and the company was attempting to patent that sequence of DNA so that anyone else who wanted to do research on it would have to pay the company a high fee.
But what’s the problem with patenting a discovery that your company has invested a lot of money and time on? When it involves a critical health care issue like diagnosing breast cancer and the test is expensive because you have a monopoly on it, people tend to get agitated. Is it fair? Maybe not. In this case, the Court followed the precedent that anything naturally occurring cannot be patented. However, the company could patent a synthetic form of the gene or a proprietary test for diagnosis, etc. Patents are meant to protect someone’s original ideas and discoveries from competitors, and this is normally a good thing; otherwise, who would spend time and money working on something if another company could come along and take your idea immediately? But patents also have the effect of preventing others from working on problems that we really wish could be solved as soon as possible. It’s a tough question that will probably never have an ideal solution.
We are becoming increasingly surrounded by the constraints of patents and copyrights, proprietary formats for our entertainment and even for our coffee machines. These legal protections free up companies to develop more advanced tools, but will they eventually begin to have the opposite effect: preventing creativity and discovery, and stopping everything from developing any further? Isaac Newton is quoted as saying that he saw further because he stood on the shoulders of giants. In other words, he learned what others had discovered and used that knowledge to make further discoveries. But at what point will everyone be legally prevented from further development of anything?
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