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Maxim, Chapter 1: Check Yours

RhetHypoJul 10, 2020, 7:04:33 PM

“Well, hello again, Maxim!”

Maxim looked at Zenedeal, feeling nothing. “Hello, Zen.

“Zen? You always get annoyed when I call you Max, but you still call me Zen? Do you even care anymore?”

Maxim said nothing. Zenedeal scoffed. “Well, then that is what I will do. Max, are you ready for today’s daily game? I promise, it’s a good one!”

Maxim shook his head. “No, not really… I’m not prepared at all.”

“Nonsense! It is a game from a far off land, specializing in all kinds of diversions… it is called Check Yours. See here, we have two different colors of pieces, one is blue… the other, red… see?”

“Yes, I can see that.”

Zenedeal distributed the pieces on the board rapidly, using all four of his gaunt arms. “Good! Now, you can only move them diagonally forward, and only one space at a time. You can jump over a piece if they are arranged like… this, see? And the goal is to capture all the other pieces.”

Maxim frowned. “Impossible. If you can only move them forward, then almost all games end in a stalemate, both parties’ remaining pieces stuck at the wrong end of the board. You would need to manage a flawless defense as well as offense.”

Zen nodded. “But that’s the best part! Once you reach the end, you gain the ability to move backwards as well!”

“So it’s a race to the end? Once you get there, you completely outmaneuver your opponent.”

“Not quite, only the piece that reaches the end gets that! Isn’t it fascinating? I’ve studied the rules for over an hour, and I’m certain I have them flawlessly memorized! Would you like to try a game?”

Maxim watched with disinterest as Zenedeal moved a single piece. It was towards the edge of the board, leaving only one space it could move towards. Maxim shook his head, grimacing. “I forfeit.”

“You can’t be serious! We just started!”

“I can see the writing on the wall, Zen. I’ve already lost. Why go through the entire game when the ending is already known?”

“Just… give it a try, Max. Come on, humor me. Who knows? Maybe you can turn it around!”

Maxim sighed. He moved a piece in front of Zenedeal’s, who responded by immediately jumping it. “Ah-ha! See, that was a rather subpar move… but you still have many pieces left, and now my piece is in a rather difficult position. I wonder if you will be able to take it before I block you?”

Maxim’s moves always took exactly three seconds. One second to select a piece, another second to move his hand, and another to finish moving the piece, and withdraw. Zenedeal would take anywhere from a single second, move made in bubbly excitement, or several minutes, most of which was spent pondering between a variety of alternatives. Maxim’s expression remained constant, but Zenedeal’s enthusiasm slowly drained as time went on. “Uh… Maxim…”


“I can’t help but notice that I’ve gotten four of my pieces to your side…”

“That appears to be the case.”

“And… you haven’t even captured a single one of my pieces. I can see several ways you could capture one, right now. Would you like some tips?”

Maxim sighed. “Sure.”

The game continued. Maxim’s pieces dwindled. Even when clearly understanding the rules, he would never take a piece unless specifically told to by Zenedeal. The game eventually ended, with the latter having pulled out every stop to make the game as close as possible, switching from trying to win to just getting Maxim to participate in earnest. Somehow, Maxim had only taken three pieces total, and only by being trapped in scenarios where he was forced to do so.

Zenedeal leaned back in his seat, feeling exhausted. “Maxim, did you do all that on purpose? You seemed to understand the rules well enough…”

“What do you mean, on purpose? Do what? Played the game? I did as you asked.”

“That’s not what I mean. You didn’t play like you were supposed to.”

“What do you mean? I followed the rules.”

“Yes, but you are meant to try to win.”

“I was playing the game. My attempt to win or not isn’t relevant, is it?”

Zenedeal looked at Maxim, baffled. “Why would you not try to win, though? Don’t you want to win?”

Maxim sighed. “It’s not like I could win.”

Zenedeal stood up, flipping the board over, as if it could remove the results of the uncontested contest. “You used to try to win! Don’t you remember? We had such fun, trying new games… why do you act as if you don’t wish to do this any longer?”

Maxim shrugged. “I don’t know if you remember, but I never won any of those, either.”

“Yes, but it was always close! You put up a valiant effort, and we both would laugh and joke the whole time!”

Maxim raised an eyebrow, dead gray eyes glancing up at Zenedeal from the wreckage of the Check Yours board. “So… it doesn’t matter if I win or not? Then why would I try either way?”

“Because… well… hmph. Nevermind. You really aren’t much fun, anymore. Don’t mind me, I suppose I will find someone else with an appreciation for such esoteric distractions…”

Zenedeal packed up his board, and walked away. Maxim looked around through the rest of the city, seeing other Vorpals about their business. They waved and smiled as they passed him. He only waved back.

He wasn’t bothered by Zenedeal’s words. It would be odd, not having a daily game on his commute to his station, but he just had to learn to accept it. There wasn’t anything he could do about it, after all.