2010-02-06: FB: Checkmate



Date Set: August 1, 2009


Carl and Micah play chess online.

Six Months Ago…



"Your move."

It's a redundant comment; there's no microphone hooked up to the laptop, he doesn't even know his opponent's real name. But it helps put Carl's mind in the right place. A quick glance over to the other screen - physically isolated network, stock-issue CIA-logo background - then, satisfied that nothing of significance is going down there yet, he lets his thoughts return to more abstract concepts of flanking and tempo.

Most wouldn't consider a thirteen year old a worthy opponent, but this one is pretty skilled at chess yet he lacks the experience of his adversaries. With a sigh he looks at the screen and, at will, causes his rook to move forward several spaces.

Micah leans back in his seat and grins at the screen. "Check." His opponent will, undeniably move his king and find a way out — it's by no means Checkmate, but it's progress on his part.

On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog teenager. There are plenty of adults on the site with weaker chops, and it doesn't even require you to lie and claim to be at least 18. Carl pulls back a rank, playing it safe for now, and taps out a note in the chat window afterward. « Didn't really think it would be that easy, did you? »

Micah smirks at the words that appear on the screen and he shakes his head, even though Carl can't see his face. He chuckles slightly and then sighs and cracks his knuckles before choosing to type a response. His fingers moves quickly over the keys clicking in an all-caps script.

Carl squints at the screen, rubbing his eyes. Oh, man, all caps? Really? It's the sort of thing he'd expect to see on AOL, if he went anywhere near AOL. « For all you know, I could be sloppy. » Oh, good, this is where the game gets interesting.

Another quick glance over to the other screen. Still nothing. And nearly time for an enforced break, he'd better wind this game up before too much longer.

All caps are, in a way, Micah's signature. He's gotten used to using them as they're particularly easy to use when he's not typing conventionally. Plus, it just makes his brain work easier. The message in reply draws a quiet chuckle before he types again.

«SLOPPY? HA! I BET YOU'RE TRYING TO MAKE ME COMFORTABLE SO I SLIP UP. NOT GONNA HAPPEN.» Not that Micah will win, anyways. He's still learning the ins and outs of the game.

And now, speaking of that, it's time to teach the braggart a lesson. After a couple of back-and-forth lateral moves between the two as they chat, Carl sends a pawn out into the middle of hostile territory. It should trigger a series of captures - which will leave him a piece down at the end, but at the same time leave a narrow gap in his opponent's defense.

And Micah takes the bait. His lack of experience draws him to pursue the pawn. Sure enough he does so with one of his knights. "Gotcha," he says the screen as he leaves a hole in his defence.

Carl waits till the end of the exchange before allowing himself a faint smile. What would happen if the other guy gave up the material advantage? Probably nothing good - his other rook's been at risk through most of it - but if he missed a subtle detail… No, there's the opening, and he promptly sends another pawn toward it. « So. Should I beat you with the queen I've got, or the queen I'm about to get? »

"What?" Micah quirks as he sends another pawn towards his rook. Frowning, he does what seems like the only logical thing, he takes the pawn with his rook. « … » The text response is simple enough, Micah really doesn't know what Carl is planning; his genius is developed, but not in that way.

Which is fine, except that it opens up another hole on that side for the queen to get through. « Check. » Not checkmate either, but unlike the earlier stab, this one is clearly headed that way in a hurry.

And the hole continues. Micah furrows his eyebrows at the check, and manages to get out of it easily, by drawing his queen from her home base. "What are you doing?" he asks the screen with another hmm. There's little he can do now other than try his best and wait. «I'M NO CHAMP, BUT… IT'S NOT THAT EASY.»

It takes Carl a minute to respond, but only because one of his co-workers pops their head in to tell him that the catered lunch will run out if he doesn't hurry up. "All right, I won't be long." This time, one of his knights threatens the queen and rook at the same time. « Close. So which one do you feel like losing? »

«DOES IT MATTER?» Micah types quickly in response. He's not in a rush here, but he is taking mental notes; learning is one of his strengths.
Carl leans back in his chair. « Oh, not much. » Bad timing, though: the other screen is coming up with something at last. Nothing he can't handle, but he may have to miss out on the tri-tip after all.

With a sigh and moderate boredom, the future Rebel feels his lips twitch into a mischievous smirk, "I wonder where you are…" He touches his machine and feels his way through cyberspace just to pinpoint Carl's location. It's all about practice when it comes to his ability, after all.
Not only is the laptop cut off from any sensitive systems, it's also routed through an anonymizing service halfway across the city. It would take a similar department-sized coordinated effort to backtrace it— or a kid with a pesky ability. Unaware of all this, Carl scoots over and starts working on the database problem while he waits for the fork to resolve.

"W-who are you?" Micah murmurs as he begins backtracing it slowly. Admittedly he hadn't thought it would be this complicated, and the complication leaves him curious. "And why are you hiding so much…" Not well enough from a kid who can talk to technology. Finally he types, although he's not entirely sure why he's asking.

«PROBABLY SHOULDN'T PLAY CHESS.» It's an unusual message to type.
He focuses further, as his eyebrows furrow with concentration. The database isn't what he'd expected.

Once he gets to a point where the system can work on its own again for a minute, Carl addresses the chat window once again. « Still your move. » C'mon, man, it's not speed chess but he still has things to do, don't just sit there (apparently) doing nothing!

Micah's forehead wrinkles as he hmms quietly before he moves his queen. He'd sacrifice the Roof before the queen. He smirks before he types, «ONE OF THEM NEEDED TO GO I GUESS.» At least the queen is more mobile. And then, as an aside he considers mentioning something about the database, but leaves it alone for now.

Carl's attention is only slightly on the game at this point - it'd be a good opportunity to Micah to get back at him, if he hadn't already pushed the kid into a corner. A couple moves later, Micah's king is on the wrong side of the next fork. « Mate in two, unless I'm missing something. »

« DON'T SEEM TO BE MISSING ANYTHING WITH THE GAME, » Micah types frantically. He hmmms at the database however and then adds, « YOUR DATABASE MIGHT WORK BETTER IF YOUR ALGORITHM HAD A BETTER ENDING. JUST A THOUGHT. » That said the kid sighs and moves one of his pawns.

Automatically, Carl feeds in the last move— then squints. How would he know about that? Maybe he's bluffing. Maybe he's accusing Carl of using a computer program to come up with his own moves. Or maybe…

« Good game. Gotta run, I'm about to miss out on lunch. » Without further ado, he pulls out the network cable and fires up an anti-spyware scanner, then closes out the database job and stalks down the hallway in search of meaty goodness. Note to self: flag the database issue for a code review. And check whether the laptop has a camera installed.

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