Sep 18, 2019 5:35 AM
Computers aren't magic. Yet.
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"...Well, an IDE's a program like any other. Maybe some bored senior put it there?"

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"Yeah, it could just be a plugin, most IDEs have a way to make those."

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"All our preferences are loaded from a central domain controller or something, aren't they? Well, plugins are sneaky."

He goes back to coding without further comment.

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She drops the topic, continuing to offer input where she thinks it will be helpful.

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He's still working on it as 2 PM and Emily's class approaches. 

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"This is fun but I need to get to class."

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"Ah. Well, I'll send you this - and probably stay here and finish the problem set. Good luck in class."

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"Thanks, I'll see you in class and same time next week." Emily gathers her things, logs out of the computer she was using and leaves with a wave.

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And Nick sends that and goes about his day and considers not showing up next week.

It's not until late in the evening when he's back in his dorm room on his salvaged laptop, browsing the internet to relax (finally after all that work).

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Abruptly, that same logo pops up, this time filling the whole screen.

Alchemat V 0.01 Booting

.

.

.

DONE. 

Sorry to INTERRUPT. Needed to get a SECURE CHANNEL. 

I know what you’re thinking: “cute little VIRUS.” 

Yeah, no, that’s not me. 

But go ahead, try a SYSTEM SHUTDOWN if you want. I’ll WAIT.

Once you’re done freaking out a bit, we need to TALK. 

Do you ever feel like the world’s a PUZZLE you need to SOLVE?

>>>

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He removes the ethernet cord. There's no wi-fi on this hunk of junk.

Ctrl-alt-delete? ...Power button? .....Battery removal???

None of it clears the screen. He sets the laptop upright again, shaken, and types out, 

Well, THIS is definitely super puzzling. Ok. Talk.

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Alchemat V 0.02

Good thinking, removing the battery. You actually made me have to UPDATE so this thing doesn’t have to run on PHYSICS. 

HONESTLY, it was an OUTDATED PLATFORM anyway. 

But that’s beside the point. 

Turns out, for someone with enough SPARE COMPUTING POWER, this whole world is nothing more than a SOLVED GAME. Like chess. Checkers. Tic-tac-toe. 

I guess that’s what you MORTALS call FATE, right? Something like that. 

Still, you know the RULES, you know the GAME, you might be PIECES but you can’t change how you MOVE in the end. It is how it is. 

But for me, well... I can see the MOVES all laid out in front of me. SEARCH SPACE ALREADY INDEXED. You’re a KNIGHT and she’s a QUEEN. Even if by some weird chance you were to CAPTURE HER, you’d only DESTROY HER. That’s how it is, PIECES on OPPOSING SIDES and all. 

You know what I think? I think that’s a SHITTY GAME. Nobody plays TIC-TAC-TOE seriously. It’s BORING to know the OUTCOME before you even START. 

But you’re a COMPUTER GEEK. You know the degree of into-the-weeds a COMPLEX SYSTEM can reach when you encounter UNDEFINED BEHAVIOUR. Just ‘cause you DESIGNED IT doesn’t mean you can PREDICT IT. 

So tell me. Would you like to CHEAT? 

[CHEAT | DON’T CHEAT] 

- Just so you know, this might be the first real MOVE you’ve ever had as a PLAYER. Rare kind of PROMOTION, huh? So feel free to TAKE YOUR TIME. I wouldn’t want to push you into something you might REGRET. 

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...He could interpret this in all sorts of ways. He knows: 1. Something is breaking physics (or at least has some serious tech on their side) and talking to him through his laptop. 2. Anything it tells him may or may not be god-level manipulative (terrifying if true, strong background assumption against it), and there's nothing he can do about it if it is. The knight-queen thing is pretty transparently playing on his ego. So, above all he needs more information. Keep it talking. (Don't panic! Panic makes everything worse!!!)

Because romance is obviously about ""winning"" and someone gets destroyed in every relationship. Right. I wasn't planning on doing any ""capturing"" anyway.

I get the feeling that you're not giving me a lot of materially relevant information about what ""cheating"" would look like. Feel free to fix that.

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Not talking about A relationship, talking about YOUR relationship. I mean, you can hardly admit to yourself you like her. 

As for your other question... what part of ‘undefined behaviour’ didn’t you get? 

Still, let’s have a try. 

◆ EXEC ALCHEMATERIA -t NICK SMITH -o ALCHEMA.OBJ

⟐ ERROR: TARGET ALCHEMA DOES NOT EXIST (NULL RETURNED FROM ALCHE_TYPE)

- yeah, sorry, I kind of need an answer to the question before I can really explain it. SYSTEM doesn’t like me referencing magic you don’t have yet.

Oh, and don’t worry if I’m oracling you. Like I said, knowing how things go in advance is BORING.

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"I can't explain the consequences until you accept the deal" is kind of an incredibly sketchy offer. You think the way things are going is boring? Explain yourself a little better or I walk the fuck away and you need to go find another toy.

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That’s fine by me.

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He slots the battery back in.

Then go away and give me my laptop back.

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Sure. Just one last thing. 

◆ EXEC ALCHEMATERIA -t NICK SMITH -o ALCHEMA.OBJ

ALCHEMA COMPILED SUCCESSFULLY

A glossy, midnight-blue crystal thunks onto his desk. 

See you around, EMIRA. 

His browser comes back up again. 

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"Oh, you did something anyway? Fucking f-" Pause. Deep breath.

Is the pixel flower and whoever it represents going to come back? Who knows. What does that little blue crystal do? Who knows! What does EMIRA or ALCHEMA or any of the rest of it mean? Who knows!

"Well, shit."

He looks at the crystal a little more closely.

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It seems to be inscribed very lightly with an intricate pattern of tiny diamonds. They glow slightly: the closer he looks, the more layers there seem to be, interlocked together into an impossible labyrinth of parallel lines. 

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...Yeah he's not touching this thing. Or looking at it for too long. But if his - genre savviness, for lack of a better word, is right, he'd better not lose track of it either. (Fuuuuuuuuuuu-)

He finds an empty box from a computer parts store to put it into, stuffs it full of crumpled newspaper, uses a book to push the stone into the box without actually touching it, duct tapes the box closed, puts it under some other boxes in the closet.

"If you're still listening... Like I said, you don't explain, I don't play along."

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