Laserwatch V: Checkmate

~ a written anime action series | I | II | III | IV |

Check. Again, The Grandmaster had him on the edge. Exen sighed, surveying the board.

Wow. I’m fucking terrible at chess.

Exen reached for his queen.

“Child please, don’t do that. You will doom yourself and I’m not finished with you yet.”

Grandmaster’s voice dripped with the condescension of a thousand burning suns. Exen glanced up to him, and his bodyguards behind him. Sunglasses… He looked from their faces towering over The Grandmaster’s seat, and then to the screens in matrix formation around the setup of the table they played at.

“The audience awaits your move now, Exen. But please, make it a good one. We don’t want to disappoint all of my fans and followers, and advertisers.”

The Grandmaster again made it known that the game was being broadcast live to the entire city, to his patronage. To his multitudes of “fans”… and yet, we are the only two living, breathing human beings in this entire city. “Creations” was a better term for them. Could code appreciate art, gamesmanship, humiliation?

Exen blinked away the distracting thoughts. This abominable place will soon meet its maker. Perhaps some of those questions might be answered.

Exen turned his gaze to the window overlooking MegaCity-909. It was dusk. The skyscrapers making up the skyline lit up with the computerized filaments of cyber-activity, blinking in and out of existence in automated activities unknown. The only city run completely on neural-networks. A greyed-out, simulacrumatic nightscape. It was a lie to consider it a “city.” This entire planet was a nightmare. But I have my orders…

His right wrist and both legs were securely restrained to the chair in which he sat. Only his left was free, for the moves to be made in the game before them. He turned back to The Grandmaster, looking to his resolve and the move to be made. He weighed possibilities within options inside of outcomes.

Exen smirked while The Grandmaster continued his rambling rant. Eventually it swelled to its imperious finale.

“…and that is why you can never be considered a true hero. You care just as little as I do. Do you know how we knew where you would be-”

“Chess is stupid. You’ve wasted your life. Also, your name is even worse, “ Exen interrupted him.

The Grandmaster harrumphed. “I used to respect you, Exen,” he pulled out a cigar. The bodyguard to his left leaned over, provided a light.

“You delivered to all of us… a paragon of sorts. In a reverse way. We had to compete with your own brand. It wasn’t easy, but we all adjusted, each in our own way,” he expelled the smoke across the small table and into Exen’s face. His expression remained firmly defiant. The Grandmaster chuckled, “and it’s still your move, boy.”

Exen made a sudden, obvious effort to strain against his chair-prison.

“Fool, there is no escape from this. We will play this game out, you will lose, and then you will be killed… unless, I can find some other use for you. Nevertheless, understand that you will be relinquished from the only thing that makes you relevant, the only reason you are a player in all of-”

Exen hocked and spit directly into The Grandmaster’s face, measuring the right distance with precision. In that brief span, he treasured the shocked and repulsed look on his wrinkled face. But just before the moment of contact with The Grandmaster’s right eye the bodyguard to his right shot out his hand with inhuman speed, catching the projectile in flight. The motion jostled the shades from the guard’s face. Exen capitalized in an instant, letting his gaze fall upon his true target.

“You will pay for that little stunt, you wretched bastard,” Grandmaster spat. He motioned his ancient frame as if to stand. His robes became disheveled with even the slight movement. But he stopped when he took note of Exen’s face. He was angled up and staring into Cy’s face. He grinned like a demon. What immobilized The Grandmaster now was the laser-like focus of his visage. And his eye. That wretched eye!

“The Dōjutsu… NO!” Grandmaster shrieked. But it was too late. Exen’s left eye filled with a red hue of spiralling magicks lost to this world, but not to The Grandmaster’s wide memories of times long past. Cy, the cyborg bodyguard was being engulfed by Exen’s Kontorōru. Geas. Control. An ancient technique. The guard was simply a conduit, an entry point. To the larger picture, Exen mused. I am in. Exen only needed one unabashed look into his unshaded eyes to access his neural network, and subsequently the entire city’s. The sheer level of interconnectivity on this planet allowed Exen unfettered access. He continued to lock his gaze upon him while he finally spoke at length.

“That’s right, you ancient fool. You just activated my Sharingan,” Exen purred coolly.

“You were playing checkers here before us, while I played chess among the pillars of those digital kingdoms you have brought forth within this world. And now you have lost everything.” Internal monologue begins now.

~

The truth of MegaCity-909 was that it consisted of a single organism. Code. Nothing more than a language which could be understood, and manipulated, under the watchful mind of one who could speak through to it. It was useful but only in the right hands. The neural networks which ran the city were designed and under the ebullient control of The Grandmaster. The game he ran here in this city, and throughout his vast network of multi-galactic organizations, was not one of elegance. The networks collaborated to repetitively try to crack cryptography via computational math. The other sides of these digital doorways housed intel, of which was both useful and useless. Nevertheless, The Grandmaster had his buyers, ranging from cesspools looking to exploit, to multinationals looking to get a leg up on their endless competition. He and his precious code molested the cyberhighways for information, gathering this data for little more than the monetary benefit to his own complex cocktail of interconnected organizational detail. For years, almost a century now, he had done this. A steady ROI on all manner of mundane and obscene projects. Despite his wicked nature, Exen had a tinge of regret considering The Grandmaster had built something of a beautiful new ecosystem and all for the sake of meaningless capital he hoarded like a tired dragon.

Each of the components being put to work in the skyscraping towers of the skyline were little more than super-computational servers, floor upon floor of them. A light-minded artificial intelligence was the basis of what Grandmaster had built here in his techno-compound turned metropolis. This grid of power all connected to a controllable AI program The Grandmaster, a chess prodigy who coded in his pastime, had built in his youth. Still today it connected to this growing city of lights and performed its rote duty which he wrote for it so many years ago. And each instance of this techno-mind was playing chess, unironically. Their objective: to unlock secrets using the math within chess. Truly, each instance, upon which there were thousands, were playing nigh infinite games of 3D chess with shadowy cyber-opponents from all corners of the known galactic empire, and even beyond it. At least those with internet connections and sufficient advancement for strategy-laden probabilistic board gaming. The games were a means to an end, a computational processing methodology to determine real-world probabilities. The Grandmaster’s game was nothing more than statistics, Exen understood. Chess was a practice not in future-sight, but in math. And each game being wielded by an instance of the AI program, and as an off-shoot generated excess guesswork on what person X, organization Y, or army Z was likely going to do next and how successful they might be in that decision point. The supercomputers waded through the enemy code of every logical / mathematical / mental infrastructure throughout the wide swaths of finite cyberspace.

As a result of all this grand computational power, educated guesses about the things to be done and things to happen, and for what reasons, became known to The Grandmaster instantaneously. He could pull the strings of a thousand empires, dictating real, external outcomes from the seat of his pants. And that is what he had done, for over a hundred years now. The cyber-enhancements which kept him alive seem to have shredded what little humanity he had started with. The chess games were an ingenius little ruse to produce an efficient algorithm for predictive actuarial modeling of a kind. The Grandmaster’s true endgame — was to harvest the universe of its information and appropriate his own game of intergalactic-chess, in every room where people did work, had conversations, or lived out a choice. Exen sighed, and finally blinked his left eye.

~

“So beautiful. And all of this to make money. That’s it. What a shame,” Exen breathed out, having done the necessary work. He released Cy from his technological stranglehold. Both bodyguards collapsed into their mechanical husks, breaking apart and spilling all over the floor at The Grandmaster’s feet.

“Wh-whaat… what have you done!?” The Grandmaster howled. He must feel its tremendous absence. Must be painful for his ego.

Over the course of their game, even before connecting to the cyborg, Exen had been hacking The Grandmaster’s program, the operative fibres and bones of the entire system were being continually unpacked and mutilated to his own designs. He had been tasked with finding The Grandmaster, populating his own AI systems housed in his brain to this very building, and finding a way to uplink to the core of the network. He had known without a doubt The Grandmaster’s arrogance and flair for dramatics would allow him an audience. The finishing touch would simply be to deploy the jutsu on one of the network’s own denizens. Using his own laser-neuro tech residing throughout his biology, he had the mind to combat such an AI and on its own home court. Exen just needed time, the game allowed him this. He ran the numbers on draw games, learning their strategies.

In retrospect, it had actually been incredibly easy. Once the connection was induced, he had used his own interface to autonomically play 10,000,000,001 games of chess simultaneously with the program at the core of the city — consequently, the optimal number of games which would need to be won in order to wrest control of the code from The Grandmaster’s own neural uplink. He barely understood chess, luckily for him — this thing inside him could do the math. And so, he had won every game.

“I am The Grandmaster now. I just completed the last game of chess that will ever be played, by you or your cyber-delegates. Get fucked,” Exen laughed with triumph.

The Grandmaster fell to his knees, looking out over his city newly burning with electrical fires, blubbering like a child. Exen stood up in comfort, the restrains falling easily from his released form. He stepped over and looked into the old man’s eyes, zooming in on the reflection of the inferno now residing where tears fell unresolved. He took a screenshot and forwarded it to his email, to be added to his art collection. Ah, nothing better than real-time art. He spoke as his body began to digitize, teleporting to his next mission area.

“My superiors ordered this world destroyed, namely this technology. ‘No such thing should be allowed to exist in this universe. It’s too powerful. And then we’ll hope it cannot be recreated.’ Lucky for the rest of civilization, you were a bad villain who only used this whole setup to enrich himself and set up televised chess games with celebrities. As my first, and last, official act as God of this godforsaken planet — I bid it to burn itself to cinders. Hopefully, something better will rise from the ashes of this world,” Exen said easily.

“Please… kill me,” The Grandmaster pleased.

“No.”

Exen finally ported away, leaving him alone.

A small piece of metal clanged against the flooring where Exen had just stood. The Grandmaster waded through the broken pieces of his bodyguards, guarding his mind against the static sounds of the now disconnected TVs surrounding his pitiful form. It was the white queen, his own favorite piece. He flipped it over with care as new tears filled his eyes. He breathed in, distressed but recovering from the whole ordeal, considering his new position and what he might do next. Just before surmounting the ridge into a refreshed sanity, The Grandmaster felt something. He turned the piece to its base, where he cried out, his heart and mind blasted into new oblivion. The TVs flicked back on to witness the scene. Once again, the live broadcast played to audiences throughout the galaxy.

On the bottom of the queen piece, which had been pulled from a fresh, unopened chessboard to play their game just hours previous, was the micro-laser-etched phrase:

Checkmate, bitch. ~ Exen