0ne Milkshake < Two Straws

0ne Milkshake < Two Straws

A Story by shiloh jennings

a worth1000.com contest 4yrs ago, rules were: pick 3 themes from Rock concerts, World Cup Football (Soccer, for the yanks), Chess, Romance (if you pick this, keep it PG), Giant Robots. 800-1500 words


The sub�"process called upon to run mechanics of the upper portion was perceptively slower than that required of the next segment down, but even this could not match the minute and precise movements required by the lowest extremity.

The Game was something like ancient Chess, only that was a game reserved for the lesser abilities of Deep�"Blue class machines. Even Rodenberry's fictional universe had only conceived of a third axis upon which to play the Game, which, for processors of the current era, was a mere step away from simple algebraic equations.

No, perhaps the Game resembled nothing in mankind's history. For this was a game played only by the elite on Umberia; the Umbaudsmen who could afford the risk involved were seldom known to cower in defeat.

But for Firkenwrench the stakes were an entirely different matter. His machine held secrets even he, himself could not define. The programming, which had begun as an inebriated joke upon his insomnia�"riddled mind, had exploded into an entirely new avenue for Umberkin design. No one on the home planet had ever dreamed it possible, not since the early trials over two centuries ago.

Svelt Firkenwrench woke as though from a fugue. He disentangled himself from the bed sheets and ran a hand over his face, lacing his fingers through his thinning hair, before reaching out to reclaim his eyeglasses. Standing from his bunk, Svelt remembered at the last moment to duck his head, avoiding the overhanging light. This maneuver should have been second nature by now, sixteen months into the flight, but the numerous scratches and welts adorning his ample forehead proved otherwise. It wasn't that Firkenwrench was uniquely tall, in fact he was hardly 6'5 in his work boots, but the vessel he was traveling upon had not been designed to carry Umbaudsmen as anything more than day passengers. The bunking rooms were all crafted for the delicate and compact Shargrians, who were known universally for their wanderlust. Although Firkenwrench's travel choices were not unheard of, they were of such a rare occurrence that bunk expansion was not high on the list of InterOp concerns.

After a quick shave, carried out at a slouch in front of the in-room mirror and a standard InterOp supplement pack, Firkenwrench made his way through the tubes to his lab.

The latest match between the Umberkin and Shargerkin players had been a stalemate.

On its own, this news does not appear startling, until, of course, one acknowledges that in seventy two years of play, no game had ever been concluded without a clear victor. Firkenwrench's new programming was creating a buzz which had rippled across the InterOp channels faster than even the annual tournaments could boast.

One Umberkin was a visual army unto itself and facing opposite the Shargerkin player, the sight was impressive even to the untrained eye of a novice viewer. Firkenwrench had dubbed his newest programming masterpiece with the honourable title of K’Umber, a token to the bygone goddess Kuli, said to have been the creator of all chaos, fire and aggression on ancient Umberia. Thusly, K’Umber was bedecked in darkness and flame while the Shargerkin's player, Shark, named for an extinct killer from the sea, portrayed harsh blues and grays. The opponents were given the chance to begin on equal footing at a predetermined time, but for this match K’Umber had taken the seldom used second stance. Following Shark's initial maneuver, K’Umber responded with a daring flank and skipped the opening formalities. This play, while respected and honoured amongst Game Masters, was not generally seen from new players, due to the often costly results. This gave K’Umber the momentary upper hand and Shark was forced to retaliate sooner in the Game than usual.

For those watching each snapshot coming from the Games room, a common breath was held. Shark was playing by the book; K’Umber, without breaking any rules, was doing something different.

K’Umber's next move seemed to betray a weakness in part. Was defense a universal weakness when chosen over the attack or only in the Game?

Wait, was K’Umber protecting a single play? This made no logical sense. K’Umber had programming. Certainly the most advanced of any machine to date, but programming none the less. In the viewing rooms, the elders, both Umberian and Shargrian, peeled their eyes from the screen and glanced at one another. It was not current curriculum to dissect the foibles of two centuries long past, but it had been at one time. The theory had been pronounced, tested and thrown out in under a decade. The possibility of revival was absurd.

Firkenwrench watched the match snapshot by snapshot on a small viewing screen in his lab. Chair of Honour was offered to the lead from both parties, and while most Umbaudsmen reveled in the attention granted by this position, Svelt knew something monumental was happening. He preferred to experience the awe in privacy.

K’Umber made a final sweep. The snapshot froze as the Game ended. Shark had not been defeated. The viewing rooms were silent. The expressions of young and old ranged from confusion to elation, respectively. The Games room went black and both machines stepped back from one another, slinking to the floor, while each retaining contact of the others lowest extremity -- these seeming to pulse.

The sight of machines, thirty stories high and taking up two city blocks, holding hands was enough to confuse even the smartest of the youth. One elder stepped up to the InterOp communication board and keyed in a network message.

Firkenwrench smiled into his view screen. K’Umber had affected Shark. The first domino had fallen. It was only a matter of time before the entire fleet would access the new programming. Betting pools all over the galaxy collapsed instantaneously. Robots with emotions meant that the Game was over.

© 2015 shiloh jennings

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Added on January 17, 2015
Last Updated on January 17, 2015


shiloh jennings
shiloh jennings

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

~//:* I am me, no more, no less. *://~ The film has started. The first scene is of a young woman. She is tall, perhaps 5'10". Her long dark hair falls over her shoulders in a cascade of natural cur.. more..