Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sudden Short Story 59

A noise came from the book at the center of his study.  He eyed it, warily.  Another, similar noise came again.  Sighing, he closed the book that he was reading, stood, and carefully replaced it on its shelf.  He looked outside, seeing that it was mid-afternoon here, and that there was no sign of rain.  Even basic information like this could become vital - the people of Earth were utterly lacking in scruples.
He removed the key from its hiding place, opened the lock on the book, and hid the key under the lectern.  He opened the book, and saw through its window the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen.  This was a mistake:  By choosing the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen, they had already given away their hand, revealing that they had a complete psychological profile on him, one more impressive than could have ever been formed before he left.  Perhaps they thought that they were being subtle because she was clothed.
"You know why I am here, and I understand that you've been wont to dispense with pleasantries for some time now," said she, ever formally.
"You're here to negotiate," he answered.  "You want me, or access to me - it's all the same to you, really."  Despite his extended periods with no direct human interaction, he had lost all patience with the rest of humanity.
"We are willing to accept lesser terms.  Perhaps if you would permit us to spontaneous complex detailed dimension creation science...  As the first known discoverer controlled science, it would help us greatly in our attempt to understand the phenomenon."
"'Spontaneous complex detailed dimension creation science'... I suppose that that is direct and sufficiently detailed to serve as an adequate name."
"You call it something else?" she pretended to not know.
He played along.  "Heh," he let out, with a slight smile.  "'Age Science', though not officially.  I've gotten a bit poetical in my time alone, I suppose."
"'Age Science'?" she asked.
"Did you make that much noise just to play Pretend-We-Don't-Know with me?  It bears such a resemblance to what happened in the Myst series," he said, grabbing the cover and three-quarters-closing it.  "I did put the gate between worlds into a book, after all," he finished, opening the book fully again.
"I'll get right to the point, then.  Regardless of whether you can, we know that you will not create other people with your science.  Thus, unless and until you rejoin us, you will lack anything and everything that comes from other people.  There will be no novel recipes.  Nobody will act as your sounding board.  There will be no stories besides those that you write yourself.   And you will never have sex."
"I know," came his immediate reply.  He made sure that he was looking at his negotiator's face when he said it, though.  The stillness of her face during that brief moment of silence told him more than any tell.  After all of their simulations, all of their possible logic branches, had they missed the possibility that he'd say simply 'I know'?  Perhaps all of their supercomputers weren't nearly as smart as they thought themselves. "If that is all," he began. 
"It's not."  This answer wasn't entirely unexpected, though he knew that pretty much anything could happen now.  A case was placed upon the desk in front of her, and she opened it.  Three brittle scrolls looked like they might break at the slightest provocation.  "These appear to be a rather unique archaeological find.  The location of their discovery, as well as their condition, make it likely that they come from the early Han dynasty.  However, they have specifically not been scanned or otherwise inspected, but were brought directly here for our use.  Return to Earth, and we promise to examine them as thoroughly and as carefully as possible, learning from them as best we can.  Refuse, however, and they will be incinerated." 
They could have offered or threatened almost anything else ... .  For the first time in... perhaps ever, he was visibly shaking with rage, unable to control himself.  "So....  It has come to book-burning, has it?  Then let me start."  He slammed the book shut, locked it, and hurled it into the fire place.  Then, he sought out the materials to create a fire.  There was nothing left for him on Earth, not even hope. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Reading Update: Late April 2014

I thought that I should give an update on my reading progress this month: 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:  Well, I don't think that I'm going to finish A Feast for Crows by the end of the week, especially since I've got such a busy weekend coming up, but I'm so close to the end that I'm pretty sure that I'll finish it sometime next week.  Then, I'll start on A Dance with Dragons.  
  • Shadowrun Core Rulebook (5th edition):  I've barely scratched the surface of this mighty tome, but it's thankfully a reference book, so I don't really have to read it cover-to-cover or anything.  
  • The Great Webcomic Catch-Up:  This has completely stagnated this month, but I'm going to give it the old college try, as they used to say, starting next weekend. 
That's all for now.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hearthstone: It's Highly Addictive!

So, I've seen ads for Hearthstone, a new online CCG from Blizzard and spin-off of their ever-profitable, ever-addictive World of Warcraft game, all over the place for the past several weeks.  However, it was actually hearing about the game from some addicts players on an unrelatd podcast that got me interested in it.  In particular, the fact that it's free to play convinced me to give it a shot. 
It plays similarly to Magic: the Gathering, but with a lot of differences, if that makes sense.  (I could list the differences, but that would be a wall of text that wouldn't convey much meaning without more details.) 
The main thing to note is that in-game gold can be earned both by winning normal matches and by doing daily quests.  Furthermore, daily quests seem to exclusively involve winning matches under certain circumstances, which overlaps nicely with the 10-gold-per-3-wins thing that's always on. 
Gold is used to buy booster packs, and also to enter the Arena - an asynchronous tournament similar to what SolForge uses - which guarantees a booster pack as a final prize, even if you completely wash out, so it's never really a waste - though one doesn't keep the drafted cards, just the after-tourney booster & possible other prizes. 
I also like the way that they do classes:  Each deck starts w/ a class, which has its own unique once-per-turn 2-mana ability, and the available cards are those specific to that class or the large set of neutral cards.  This allows each class to feel different, not just because of its ability, but also because of what cards are available to it.  For instance, it looks like only the Druid has any kind of mana acceleration available to him, while everyone else has to just gain 1 per turn until hitting the universal limit of 10.  Warlocks have Demons, Hunters have Beasts, Priests get lots of strong 1-off effects, Paladins suck, Rogues stab, etc.  I assume that this also somehow correlates to what they do in WoW, but I've never played that, so whatever.  Though, I do apparently get a free mount if I ever sign up for it. 
So, that's my overview of Hearthstone:  quite fun, pretty addictive