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Monday, December 28, 2015

Penultimate Hustle: L.A. - Chapter 10

Chapter 10 - Games

Chris had resumed his seat in front of his computer, and was still typing in a program from a magazine.
“Well?” he asked.
“Toke's case looks good.”
“That's great to hear.”
“I know. I'd feel really bad using his money if we didn't get him out. So what are you doing?”
“Learning. Look.”
He typed in a command, and the screen turned coral pink.
“Pretty!” she said. “Pussy colored. My favorite.”
“Heh. I thought you'd like that.” He did it again, and the screen turned back to blue. “See, there are these things called memory locations. You can store a number there with 'poke'.”
“You're kidding.”
“Nope. And you can read the value using 'peek'.”
“Hilarious! You're like some Peeping Tom computer rapist.”
“Heh. So there are about sixty-five thousand memory locations, each of them do different things.”
“Shouldn't it be called a Commodore Sixty-Five, then?”
“Well, a byte is a thousand twenty-four bits, and-”
“Bo-ring,” Janique said in a sing-song voice. “Teach me how to use mine. I need to draft an ad.”
“For what?”
“Casting call. I'm going to fill our rouster in one night.”
“Yes. Why play around?”
“Makes sense.”
Janique sat at her desk. “So what do I do?”
“You turn it on...”
She giggled and pressed the power button. The screen flashed, and she was greeted with a command prompt/”
“Now what?”
“Use Wordstar,” Chris said, not looking up.
“How do I do that?”
“Type 'wordstar'.”
“Chris Turner, are you trying to make me feel dumb?”
He got up and hugged her shoulders from behind, realizing he'd been neglecting her.
“Never,” he said, and kissed her cheek.
Chris reached over her and hit enter. A new screen appeared with a menu across the top row.
“Now what?”
“Just type.”
“I love you, Chris Turner.”
“I love you, Janique. Forever.”
She beamed with delight and normalcy was restored. He returned to his program as she drafted her ad. Thirty minutes later, she had something she was happy with.
“How do I print it?”
“Hit 'printscreen' on the keyboard.”
“Of course. How did I miss that?”
She did, and the printer sprang to life with a cacaphony of whirs and clicks.
“It sounds like a fucking tractor!”
Chris laughed. “Must be why it's called a tractor-feed printer.”
When it was done, she ripped the sheet off.
“This is no good. It has the menu on it. I don't like it.”
“Hit 'alt', and the menu should pop up.”
“Now push the down arrow, and you should see the print command. Select it and press enter.”
She did so, and the printer fired up again.
“Perfect,” she said. “How do you know so much already?”
He shrugged. “I looked at it, once. It comes pretty naturally to me, I guess.”
“You're so smart, Chris.”
He blushed. A few words from Janique could flood him with emotion.
“I'm gonna go show Janice.”
In her office, Janique presented the draft, feeling a bit like a child seeking approval from a teacher or parent.
“Wow, Janique. This is a big undertaking. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, it's not. But the L.A. Coliseum?”
“Or the Palladium. Whatever's best.”
“What's your plan?”
“Chris and I will evaluate at the door. Only the best get in. Then we audition them. I'd like to hire about forty people. Thirty-five women and five men.”
“You're nothing if not ambitious.”
“If it all goes as planned, the footage will make us back ten times what we spend.”
Janice thought about it. “More like fifty.”
“Really? I guess I'm a genius afterall.”
“You certainly have a knack for this. I'll start researching it. You're going to have every porn star in L.A. knocking down your door.”
“Yum,” Janique said.
“Not a moment too soon, either. I've already lined up two more 'dates'. The girls have their hands full. When this ad runs, we'll be flooded.”
“I'll take one of them. Chris can film it.”
“Your relationship is amazing, I must say.”
“Superlove, we call it.”
“I like that. Let's see what's available, and shoot for two weeks.”
“Whatever you think is best.”
Brad showed up soon thereafter, and Janique greeted him with a smile.
“You wanted to see me, boss?”
“Heh. You're adapting remarkably well.”
“You're an irresistible force. I can see that already. Why fight the inevitable?”
“Are you comfortable with that? A lady boss, I mean?”
“Why wouldn't I be?”
“I don't know. Some men are like that.”
“To be honest, I'd do almost anything for this opportunity.”
“Would you do me?”
“Except that.”
“You're amazing, Brad. Your girlfriend must be really special.”
“She is.”
“What does she do?”
“Kiki? Nothing, really. Aside from taking care of me. She feeds me. Makes sure I sleep and bathe regularly.”
“Heh. Is that a problem?”
“Well... I tend to obsessover school and projects. I was a mess when I met her. I don't know what she sees in me.”
“Don't be ridiculous, Brad. You're quite a catch.”
He blushed. “I don't feel that way.”
“What matters is what she feels about you. I can definitely see the attraction. Despite the lumberjack beard.”
“I hate to shave,” he admitted.
“Well, it's not an issue, here. Just a quirk of mine. I love feeling Chris's stubble. On my face. Between my legs...”
She noticed his growing discomfort, and stopped herself.
“Here,” Brad, handing her a script. “Dana wanted me to bring to you. I think he was up all night. He smells funny.”
Janique laughed. “Floor Candy. I love the title!”
“He said it's something you want to eat, but you don't know where it's been.”
“Ha! I get it.”
She flipped through the pages and could see it was well-written and funny. “A lesbian candy shop. Brilliant.”
Brad looked relieved. “I was worried,” he said. “I've never been in the position of my brother deciding my fate.”
“Don't sweat it. This is good stuff, really. You're both hired.”
“Do we really have to pay him so much? He's terrible with money.”
“We can put most of it into savings, and not tell him about it,” Janique suggested.
“That's a good idea. I think he has a drug problem. Smoking weed, I suspect,” Brad confided.
“Weed? Oh, Brad. You slay me. I'll keep an eye on him for you. And keep Chris from influencing him too much.”
“Would you? I'd really appreciate that. Speaking of Chris, I brought something for him.”
He handed Janique a disk.
“What's this?”
“Some games I wrote. I thought he might like them.”
“Cool! Can we look at them?”
“Of course.”
In the office, Chris was pecking away at the keyboard with a borderline scary intensity.”
“Chris was just teaching me to pork memory locations.”
“Poke,” he corrected her.
“You're coding?” Brad asked with some amazement.
“Just typing in games, seeing how it's done. I need a hobby.”
“He doesn't have much to do, now that he's not busting heads,” Janique said.
“I'm impressed, really. I think you'll find that formally studying logic will change your thought processes.”
“Oh, yeah?”
“Definitely. Kiki and I think it should be taught in elementary school.”
“I love her name,” Janique said. “Where is she?”
“She's, uh, in the car.”
“Brad! Go and get her this instant.”
Chris loaded the disk into the drive while Janique waited at the elevator. Brad came back with the most beautiful redhead Janique had ever seen. She had full, sensual lips painted bright red, and was of statuesque, nearly Amazonian proportions.
“Kiki, this is Janique,” he said.
“How do you do?” Kiki said, shaking her hand.
“Pleased to meet you.”
Janique noticed her nails were cut short and unpainted. Bingo. She led them into the office.
“Chris, this is Kiki. Brad's fiancee.”
“Girlfriend,” Brad said. “I haven't formally proposed yet.”
“Looks like you just did. Go 'head, Brad! Kiki, you're magnificent.”
She smiled, growing more beautiful still.
“I was looking up the command to load from disk,” Chris said. “I haven't gotten that far, yet.”
“'Load “*”, 8, 1'” Brad told him. “But let's save what you're working on, first, or you'll lose it.”
“Cool, thanks.”
“And, here. I'd like you to have this.”
Brad pulled out a battered copy of “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” from his back pocket.
“Very cool, Brad. Thanks!” Chris said.
“Well, I thought you were just a tough guy, at first. I see there's more to you than that. That book-”
“It's his Bible,” Kiki admitted.
“I hear there's a sequel coming out, Brad said. Clearly it was as dear to his heart as Kiki was.
“Come on, Keek. Let me show you around,” Janique said, grabbing her hand. “You boys play nice...”
They were already engrossed in a technical `discussion.
Janique pulled her down the hall toward the stairs. “Offices,” she said, half-heartedly gesturing toward the doors. At the supply closet, she grabbed a blanket and led her onto the roof via the back stairwell.
Upstairs, Kiki removed her pants and unbuttoned her shirt without a hint of protest. She laid on her back and spread her legs for Janique, revealing a furry red mound.
“You like?” she asked.
Janique said nothing, but dove in face first.
“So, actually,” Brad was saying, “there are shortcuts to the commands. L-shift-O is load. You can do that with any of them.”
“Saves time,” Chris said.
“More importantly, it saves memory. You'll find the Sixty-Four limiting, eventually. Every little bit helps.”
“Ah, good pun. Must be Tuesday.”
“Janique's is a top of the line workstation,” Brad said. “Seven-hundred fifty-six K free.”
“And today's actually Thursday.”
“I don't keep track. Pun Tuesday is a game we play.”
“Oh, I get it,” Brad said.
The directory screen showed three programs, “Pern”, “Flood”, and “Trilogy”.
“So what are these?” Chris asked. He typed in 'L-shift-O “Pern”, 8, 1'.
“Some games I wrote.”
Chris typed in 'run' and launched it. The screen went blank, then two castle turrets appeared in the lower left and right corners of the screen. Between them, a little man ran back and forth. Above him, a dragon hovered, looking upward. Then tiny squiggles began to fall slowly from the sky.
“Arrow keys and space bar,” was all Brad said by way of instruction.
Instinctively, Chris positioned the dragon beneath one of the lines, and hit the space bar. Red and yellow flames erupted from it's mouth, obliterating it.
“Neat,” Chris said. “It's like Ka-boom. I love that game.”
“Right,” Brad said. “It's actually based on 'Dragonriders of Pern' by Anne McCaffery. Those things are threads. Sort of like acid rain.”
“I'll have to read it.”
Chris continued to burn threads, and the pace increased until he was frantically trying to protect the man below. Finally, he was struck, and the game ended.
“That was really cool!” he said.
“Thanks. I ran out of memory before I could add sound. I really wanted a title screen and music, too.”
Chris loaded Flood, and there was a man and a refrigerator. To his right was a stack of gray blocks. Beneath him were blue waves.
“So you grab blocks, and put them under the appliances. Try to stay ahead of the flood waters.”
It used the same simple control scheme, and Chris was soon engrossed. He made it past the refrigerator level, and it was replaced with a stove as the level started anew. The waters rose faster this time. Eventually, he lost, and the game ended.
“Damn it,” Chris said, totally into it. “How many levels does it have?”
“Five. All I had to do was change the graphic, and increase a variable for the speed. I wanted to add a couch for the last level, so you'd have to add blocks on either end.”
“It's awesome. Janique will love these. What's 'Trilogy'?”
“Oh, that one doesn't work. It was too ambitious for the Sixty-Four. It's a graphic adventure based on the writings of Robert Anton Wilson. The Illuminatus Trilogy, the book is called.”
“Should I read that, too?”
“Definitely. It's... weird. In the game, you were going to be able to visit different places and times. Like meet Abraham Lincoln or Lee Harvey Oswald, for instance.”
“Sounds neat.”
“Yeah. I wanted to port them all to the P.C., but Leo and I got too busy.”
“Who's Leo?”
“A guy I go to school with. He writes games, too. Mostly he's a hardware hacker, though.”
“Yeah. Leo can writer drivers for anything. Like, he's improved the performance of our graphic cards and stuff. He's designing a video codec.”
“What's that?”
“Well, basically, you can feed video into a computer and record it digitally. But it's all theory, for now. To save space, you compress the data as much as you can. Leo has this idea based on fractals, whereby instead of getting blocky, the video will just get a little softer. A little fuzzier, like. It'll look pretty natural, and will be hard to even notice. “
“Very cool stuff,” Chris said.
“Thanks. I mean, we're still in school, but way ahead of our classmates.”
“And your professors, too, I bet.”
“Yeah, to tell the truth. We really are.”
“Look, we're about to close the door on new employees, other than performers. But do you think Leo would like to work for you?”
“Yes, definitely.”
“Would you like a Cray II?”
“Are you kidding? How do you even know about Crays?”
“Oh, we did a film with computer graphics in Japan. Come to think of it, I don't even have a copy. We left in a hurry. But I did get one for Kawaguchi.”
“Yoachira Kawaguchi? You know that guy?”
“Used to drink sake with him. Anyway, I got him a Cray I through the Yakuza. Stolen, I think. It was two hundred thousand.”
“Definitely stolen. They cost over a million. I'd love to have one, but it's overkill. Plus it would take up part of this floor. We can rent time on one, and access it over the phone lines.”
“That's a pretty good idea. What else would you need?”
“Leo and I have always wanted Sun workstations of our own.”
“Spec it out for me. We'll get two.”
“That's fantastic.”
“Is it? I consider you a good investment. It's obvious that these are going to be big fields, soon.”
'Wow,” Brad said. “Just wow.”
“We don't fuck around. Talk to Leo, and let me worry about the rest.”
“One more thing. I'm sort of embarrassed to ask.”
“Out with it.”
“Well, there are these Aeiron chairs, really ergonomic and comfortable for long periods of time. But they're, like, four hundred dollars.”
“Is that all? Throw it in with the workstation bid. Actually, if they're that good, get one for everyone.”
“What's that?”
“A high-speed network connection, to access the Cray.”
“Too easy,” Brad said. “What's the catch?”
“No catch. You're going to make us rich, Brad. Yourself included. So what are your plans?”
“Well, on the software side, I'd like to rewrite the games with Leo in machine language, so they'll be faster. The C-64 is a dead end. PCs are the future.”
“I can see that. Good call.”
“And I have this hardware idea. You can make a card that would allow two people to share a single computer.”
“Sounds smart to me. What about the trilogy game?”
“It would work on a PC with a hard drive. We could finish it. The store was just taking up all my free time. Leo delivers pizzas...”
Chris laughed.
“I'd like to finish school, though. The degree means a lot to me.”
“I understand.”
“I bet Leo drops out, though. He thinks it's just holding him back.”
“Heh. Sounds like it is. So do we have a deal?”
“Are you kidding? I'm definitely in.”
Up on the roof, the girls basked in the afterglow of Kiki's explosive orgasm, and shared a cigarette.
“Don't tell Brad. He hates it when I smoke.”
Janique smiled. “What about eating pussy?”
“Oh, that he doesn't mind so much. I'm pretty much a lesbian, other than with him. We just have mismatched libidos. I have to drag him to bed, sometimes. He works and studies so much. So we have sort of an agreement. He lets me do what I want.”
“Basically anything to keep you happy.”
“I can see that. You're so fucking how. And sweet. He's really lucky. Would he let you work for us?”
“That I don't know about. He has sort of a fragile ego where men are concerned.”
“I could pay you to run our daycare. He wouldn't have to know.”
“You have a daycare?”
“A nursery. I don't want my employees to worry about anything but sex. Do you like kids?”
“Love 'em. Thanks for pushing the marriage issue for me, by the way. I think Brad wanted to wait until he graduated.”
“No need to wait now, is there? You're both rich.”
“This is so weird, Janique. I mean, I just met you. How did you know?”
“You have the nails of a lesbian.”
“I read it in a Susie Sexpert column, once. Let's go check on our men.”
Downstairs, Chris and Brad, now fast friends, were discussing programming languages.
“You two getting along?” Janique asked.
“Of course,” Chris said. “Why wouldn't we?”
“Brad,” Kiki said. “I'm going to run Janique's nursery! Isn't that great?”
“Wow. It really is. We'll get to spend more time together.”
Chris raised an eyebrow at Janique, but said nothing.
“Ready to go?” Kiki asked. “I'm taking you out to dinner. Our engagement dinner.”
Brad smiled.
When they had left, Chris said, “Well?”
“Smell my fingers,” Janique said.
He did. Then her hand. Then her wrist.
“Yum,” he said.
“Want her?”
“I kinda do,” he admitted.
“She's yours. Ours, rather. She's going to make movies for us on the sly. We'll have to help her hide her money.”
“I'm not questioning your judgment, but she's hiding money from Brad, Brad's hiding Dana's money from him. Is that a good idea?”
“What they don't know won't hurt them, in this case. Plus they all benefit. So do we.”
“Win/win, I guess,” Chris said.

“Right. Now make love to me. I'm on fire...”