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29th December
posted by amber

The Game of Dog

“Power of two,” Joel said.

“Damn!” I replied. “Point to you. In fact, game to you.”

We both watched as his knighted dog leapt over my King Dog and Queen Bitch to attain the castle. It happened in Fastspeed. No use waiting five minutes while the dogs played out the disappointing (to me) endgame in Realtime.

I reached down and gathered up my Pack, restoring them to their kennels while Joel did the same with his, black and white now segregated, lapping at their water dispensers, crunching kibble.

“Want to play again next week?” he asked, and I agreed, but in reality I was becoming unhappy with defeat. Oh sure, I could have gone to the Lower Lounge to play the amateurs, some of whom had to rent Packs because they couldn’t afford to own one, but those victories were too easy.

I’d worked with trainers and nutritional experts, with dog psychologists, with Game theorists, and I knew my Pack was the best I could make it. And it would never be as good as Joel’s Pack.

I’d have to cheat.

Hard to cheat on Outland Ship. I’d suspected Joel of cheating – had run every sort of surveillance on him, had come up with a clean bill of gameplay. But now that I was in the position of contemplating illegal enhancement or Realtime obfuscation or any of the other known cheating methods, I’d have to figure out a way of doing it without being seen.

I returned to my apartment, let the Pack out to exercise in their runs, programmed them for Game practice, each to their own speciality, while I hooked into Shipmind to learn what I could learn. Naturally, I was immediately queried as to the reason behind my line of research, but I had a good alibi established by my previous enquiries into Joel’s possible cheating.

When I’d learned all I could learned through that avenue, I headed down to the concourse favela for a face-to-face meeting that would be discreet and unrecorded. I had no appointment. You can’t make an appointment with the Dog King. You have to understand play just to find his place – in the concourse favela neighbourhoods are fluid, walls and alleys are constantly being moved to confound Security and surveillance. Dog King moves his residence weekly, locating it according to the play of one particular bad player in the Lower Lounge group.

I arrived at his gate and was admitted, admiring the size of his courtyard as I walked across it. Potted plants grew, realsize dogs and cats cavorted. His wealth was immense and ostentatious. When they brought me to the King in his chamber, sitting on his wooden chair and drinking real coffee, I got right to the point.

“Is it possible to plant a dog in someone else’s Pack, a dog whose loyalty is not to the owner but to the owner’s opponent? A dog who would behave at a high competition level, never show signs of anything but normal variations and individuality but who might slow down his obedience speed on a crucial move?”

The King contemplated this for a full minute, then replied, “Yes, it would be possible. Do you want me to set such a thing into motion?”

“No,” I answered, and thanked the man, taking my departure as quickly as was decently possible. All the way back to my apartment, I thought  furiously, trying to pinpoint when such a move could have been made on me. I raised my Pack myself, using standard Pack genetics available from Ship records, developing all my own enhancements and registering them for legality, as was required. But members of my Pack had left my hands on occasion, for medical work and compliance checks. Had a substitution been made at one of those times?

It was possible and I vowed I would find out how and when. I’d defeat Joel at the larger game.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

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