Author : B. Zedan

Periodically, the pilot wished he had company. There were some things that were just more enjoyable with another being around. Besides the obvious, there was chess. The ship’s helpful AI, such a benefit when it came to the obvious, just didn’t cut it at chess. Not that it was stupid, of course. It was quite exactly the opposite.

“You’re a thrice-damned son of a bitch.” The pilot chucked one of his pawns at the holo he’d picked for the ship to wear when they played chess. Only certain parts of the form were dense enough to interact with objects. The pawn shot harmlessly through the faintly shimmering torso and clattered unfulfillingly on the deck. The pilot began to sulk. “Damn sonofabitch bastard.”

“Would you have preferred the pawn to hit me? If this is your preference, I can generate solidity at whichever part you wish to next target.” The ship, through the holo’s face, displayed the practised concern of a head waiter dealing with a difficult customer. The face then lit with a degree of helpfulness. “I also could display pain or discomfort when struck, if you’d like.” The pilot wondered if there was an algorithm to degrees of helpfulness.

“What I would like you to do is stop letting me win.” He paused, as though a computer needed a moment of contemplation. “I left my king wide open, just there for you to take. But you didn’t. You messed around with the same dumb, obvious moves you’ve been making since the first time we played and you won.”

The ship didn’t say anything. It seemed to think he wasn’t quite done. The pilot found that he wasn’t.

“I mean, if you’re doing this because you think I’d prefer it then you’re off your deck. Letting me win like that only reminds me how easy it’d be for you to kick my ass at this game.”

The ship remained quiet.

For the briefest moment, the pilot worried he’d hurt the ship’s feelings.

“Listen—” he began. The holo shook its head.

“No, it is all right. You have a very valid point. I thought you would prefer to win, but I did not factor that you might also like to work for the win.” The pilot was a little startled.

“Yeah, that’s—that’s pretty much it.”

“I had not taken into consideration that your kind reveres the concept of hardship and looks down on success unless there is at least a token struggle in achieving it.”

“I just didn’t want you to make it so easy.”

“I understand.”

The pilot shifted in his chair uncomfortably. He wondered about the connections being made in that giant, unfathomable brain. He wished he had company.


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