Short Story – A friendly wager

-by Lorkan

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Noise.99 has entered Heinlein.WyldChat

<Whizzard> Hey, NoiseMaster! Howya?

<Noise.99>  hi Whizz, doin fine

<Noise.99>  took a course in protein recomposition at Levy. graduated in 2:36 mins!

<Noise.99>  t Prof will never know he had one of the brightest students between sunset and dawn

<Whizzard> *gg* well played!

<Whizzard> Now you mix with the uppidity crowd from the ‘teki variety?

<Noise.99> hellno, chumster, daNoiz still has values – waddya call ‘work ethics’

Chaos.TRY has entered Heinlein.WyldChat

<Whizzard>  hi CT

<Noise.99>   hey CT,

<Whizzard>  CT, how is ya doin?

<Chaos.TRY> Hi guys, I’m just dandy. Thanks for asking!

<Chaos.TRY> Say guys, what have you been up to? Any bed time stories to tell? Dino loves stories.

PM: <Noise.99> whispers to <Whizzard> Tell me again why you put up with chicken-brain? I don’t get it

PM: <Whizzard>  whispers to <Noise.99> ’cause she is more than first meets the eye. Let me demonstrate

<Whizzard> Actually, CT, we were just about to play a little game. You in?

<Chaos.TRY> Am I? Sure I am. Dino loves games.

<Whizzard> Great, Noise will be playing as well, I will be the umpire.

<Noise.99>  k

<Chaos.TRY> yip

<Whizzard> And these are the rules of the game …

***

Noise ex-ed his soykaf, stretched his fingers and plugged in the contacts of his Spinal-MDM-3000. He was in Cyberspace.

It’s dark inside. A flicker. A fine net of lights appeared before his eyes. It followed the data streams to towers of bright light that were important data traffic nodes.

He loaded up for the run, no point being careless.

He entered the coordinates for his destination. His guidance system led him from local node to the next regional and the destination’s local node. Three little jumps and there it was. A giant palazzo of light, a data fortress.

„Oh, bugger!“ He’d expected less whoom for a little chip shop.

A giant white wall protected the palace gardens. As Noise floated towards it, a chilling bŕeeze struck over his face. It got colder the closer he got. The wall glittered, reflecting the lights of  close-by data streams.

***

Noise dug briefly in his memory banks to load up a little tool. He charged it and waited.

At first there was nothing to see. Tall and glittering white it stood, towering over all those that approached.

Drip.

The sound broke his tension.

Drip.

Little bits of data trickled down.

Drop.

Bit by bit and trickle by trickle a passage shone through the icy barrier. He could already see the gardens. When it was big enough for his persona to slip through, he did.

It was a wonderful arrangement of flowers, digital though they were. Some of them changed form synchronously, others their colours. They performed a captivating dance of shapes and colours.

A twang woke him from his trance. He twirled around.

A few paces away a hooded figure stood pointing a longbow towards Noise. Old reflexes kicked in. First he needed to stall this Robin Hood wanna-be. He activated a little program he’d been tinkering with.

The figure seemed distracted. It worked. The program would keep on unleashing useless data on this digital bowman. While he was busy processing all this junk data Noise activated another program.

He then just passed by the sentry. To the archer he must have appeared as just another copy of himself.

The gates of the palazzo were closed. Their silver inlays into the ebony base showed scenes from greek or possibly roman mythology. Figuring prominently in the middle was Cerberus, the three headed guardian dog of the underworld.

The figures began to move. They swirled into eachother until only one big figure remained within the relief. A face formed, no eyes, no nose, only two lips moving. A gentle voice said:

„What does man love more than life?

Fear more than death or mortal strife?

What do the poor have, what the rich require,

And what contented men desire?

What does the miser spend, the spendthrift save,

And all men carry to their graves?“

Noise hesitated. Normally he would just dump a whole database of common words and passphrases at this gatekeeper.

„What does man love …?“ He murmured and mumbled to himself. „Hmmm“

“Well, …?“

„Wait, wait. I know that!“ he said hurriedly

He thought again „… the miser spend ….“

Finally he said   „I know!“

„Man loves nothing more than life or fear more that death. Contended men desire nothing and that is what a miser is willing to give. The answer is ‘Nothing’!“

„Indeed.“

the voice said.

„You may pass.“

The gate opened. He stepped inside.

He stood in a mirror hall three stories high and about the length of an urban brawl field. In the middle of it on a dais that carried a pedestal lay a golden ball of data. The prize of the game.

He copied it, triggered his Disrupter in case someone was tracing his route back, and jumped from node to node.

Once he felt safe Noise jacked out. He laughed. What a thrill! Every time.

***

Noise.99 has entered Heinlein.WyldChat

<Noise.99>     Bin dere, dun dat

<Whizzard>    Hey, how was it?

<Noise.99>     Easy as pie.

<Noise.99>     met a cute puzzlebox, gotta get me one of those

<Whizzard>    gōng xǐ, anything to keep ya entertained

Chaos.TRY has entered Heinlein.WyldChat

<Chaos.TRY> Hey guys, you there?

<Whizzard>    Yeah

<Noise.99>     bin waitin’ on you, girl

<Noise.99>     Did we say winner gets a stash of Diesel?

<Whizzard>    We didn’t, but why not

<Noise.99>     Then I guess it’s time to pay up, CT! Uncle Noise needs a fresh supply of da juice

<Chaos.TRY> Oh, so you were there?

<Noise.99>     ‘course

<Chaos.TRY> and you have the file?

<Noise.99>     sure.

<Noise.99>     Hey, why d’you ask?

<Chaos.TRY> Oh, nothing

<Chaos.TRY> just, well, you happen to open it?

<Noise.99>     not yet. Why?

<Chaos.TRY> Oh, that’s okay, I’ll wait.

***

Noise closed in on his quarantined and encrypted download folder. There was one small file in it.

XcharIZnet.odt

danoiz-a8hn35m-~$> jedit -a XcharIZnet.odt

Open file XcharIZnet.odt? (y/n) : y

Opening file …

He scrolled down. The file was empty save for three lines, that said:

Hey big N

Nice guys finish last

Thanks for playing 😉

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