And again, in my private email to you, I made a special offer--so you wonderful first backers can take me up on that. Thanks.
And, I confess, the 42 backers here got me a bit wonderfully confuzzled. I think I still owe about 6 rewards, and as each is hand done, they are taking me a bit. But if you did not get your reward email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!!!
Thanks all! This was an amazing ride, and I thank you all for your incredible support. Thank you. Here is the last page of this chapter--tune in for the next :)
The sky was just beginning to show a false dawn as Pistil and Stamen returned with fresh coffee refills from the automated coffee station.
Stamen was putting her charm away, showing her long v-neck, inviting glimpses into a barely-there curve of cleavage.
She pursed her lipstick-full lips at Thorn, who was still going over the MD Foundation rules for the Spark Prize.
Thorn looked away from Stamen’s posing and showed them the port screen.
As they read the rules silently for a few minutes, Thorn wiped the remains from the tomato and pickle off of Potent’s claws, careful not to get any finger caught between those maws. The hermit crab scuttled back inside the opened backpack and Thorn gently rearranged the other possessions to make sure that the crab was on top and not harming anything—or that anything was harming it.
Pistil reached over to the next table and dumped that table’s powdered creams and sugars into his coffee, stirring the by now super-saturated solution.
“You ready to enter on Tuesday?” he asked, almost too casually.
Thorn nodded and sipped the fresh coffee, black, feeling the caffeine tingling nerves, telling them that it was ok to wake up and face a day—even without sleep.
“You don’t think you could…enter Pistil’s Spark as well?” Stamen leaned over, her hand cradling the side of her cheek, her body arched to provide the best view of a flawless neck.
“How many accounts do you think I can get?” Thorn snorted a bit. “I had enough trouble finding just the one.” Thorn was already a bit worried about the tracers that could be on that GoldenEagle account, as it had not been active for so long. Salting with false data and dates could only go so far, but the thin trail would stand up to some basic scrutiny. Doing that again on short notice would be difficult, and they all knew it.
“We’d pact with you. Give you the cash you’d need. We can spange a lot over the next few days—and Stamen has some tricks up her sleeve. Also, sleeping alone isn’t very wise. We’d watch your back through the whole Spark Prize. Make sure nobody messes with either of us. You’d be crazy to go through this alone.”
Pistil urged and traced an I: ingroup, team on the table with some of the spilled sugar.
Thorn sat for a while, considering. The dangers of someone else stealing that Spark were pretty high, and having someone awake, watching the lines, watching the tracers they could put on the accounts, monitoring traffic for any hint of a stolen idea or identity made sense. It would be worth it. “
How long have you been running?” asked Thorn, as if the pact also bestowed the right to know.
Stamen shrugged. “Little over four months. We ran together—ain’t no way the families would let us stay together at 16. We are both jail bait. Both SOs now, just from age. And it was more a matter of I quit you are fired, if you know what I mean. The families…” here she glanced at Pistil and touched his hand as if to ask permission to continue, “didn’t approve of us, of who we really are, of what we wanted to become.” She held out her wrist, which showed diagonal scars, and Thorn did not ask where these had come from.
Pistil traced the word:
Love (L love, o wonderful, v value, e now and forever) under the I: ingroup.
Without taking his eyes from the tracing of the “e: if then of a potential future,” Pistil asked, “Why did you run? What were you escaping from?”
Thorn drained the cup and set it down. “I never ran. I was never registered to begin with. The brass catches me and they’ll get themselves a nice blank slate to throw away. My patterns aren’t in their database. My mother died hiding me when I was eight and I have been on my own since then. But I’ve had…” the break was long enough for Thorn to assume a defiant posture, setting shoulders back, stomach in, “a friend or two show me the ropes. I know what I’m doing. I can cover our tracks.”
“And I’ll watch our backs.” chimed in Pistil, miming guns.
“Deal then?” returned Stamen, and the three put their hands out on the table, covering the I: in group. Team. Family.
KS Update: We are down to the wire--need $43 to get to the goal within 60 hours! Please ask your friends to order their greeting cards with a special meaning in Love. http://www.tinyurl.com/greet-rose
And here is the next installment on the Thorn of the Rose--the fictional story I am weaving every day we do this Kickstarter. Tune in tomorrow for the final issue in this chapter! Thank you!
Reviewing the Rules
While waiting for Pistil and Stamen to finish their whispered consultations and came back to the table, Thorn drew out a Port and plugged it into the diner’s power and wireless system, feeding the receipts for their sandwiches and coffees into the maw to prove they had the right to access the net.
Thorn’s receipt was from GoldenEagle@gmail.com. As this abandoned account had at least 500 credits on an old PayPal charge, Thorn figured that whoever actually had owned the account must have been retired and then died without an heir looking for that. Of course, 500 credits would get you just about 60 lunches—not a bad deal—food for two months. But not really enough for someone to go detecting it.
Thorn looked up the rules again for submitting a Spark Idea to the MD Foundation. The computer would not let you skip past the introduction (and Thorn had tried every way to bypass it known to computer science, to no avail). So Thorn sipped coffee slowly and fed a pickle slice to Potential while the video droned on about how Mark Devallier had made his fortune on the VeRity game and had turned both the game and his money into a foundation to make “all those bright ideas about how to save the world a reality—for your kid’s future!” Prophets and profits, the MD motto went.
Let’s save the world and keep the change, Thorn muttered to Potent, who merely waved a claw, splattering the pickle juice against its shell. The rules hadn’t changed much this quarter. The game plan was to submit your spark (non-disclosure guaranteed). You would get half the net profits, and the Foundation, as your backer, would get the rest. The Foundation would, of course, actually getting the idea to reality—you just had to have the plan and then the drive to make it work within their budgets and their rules. (The rules didn’t mention failure after this point, and Thorn didn’t want to think about that just yet).
The Spark entry day was every quarter, and the next one was coming up this Tuesday. If the MD Foundation board passed your proposal on, then you got an invitation to do the Rose Essay in person. This was supposed to help prove both that you owned the idea and that you understood it so thoroughly and had such a passion for it that you could flex-change it when needed—and still accomplish the goal.
If PD (Pauline Devallier, Mark’s wife) said that you passed the Rose essay, then you could go on to the Thrilling Grilling, the public show where experts and the public would tear your idea apart and you had to put it back together again as a plan. The What If scenarios they could throw at you were never short of amazing.
At this point, the Intellectual Development and Foundation Act applied, so that anyone who went to market with your idea (or as close a replica as the court said counted), you would get half the profits there. So, usually, this kept all but the deeper MD Foundation pockets away.
Thorn calculated the odds for the fifty-millionth time. The ideas were complex, but doable—the math finally worked out right a few weeks ago, and Thorn had spent most of the days since just searching for similar ideas. No one had entered a similar spark. People had tried various AI algorithms, and quantum computing had offered a tantalizing potential to do more than an on-off switch for bytes—an indefinite quantity a neither no nor yes. Thorn had worked out a way to go one step better—to make the quantum computers, with their superpositioning potential think in Rose.
Until now, no one had thought of using the Rose language as a way to teach computers how to determine value or non-value. Love or hate. Enlightenment or delusions.
Pistil shrugged, and sandwiches coming from the servo distracted them. They ate in silence, hungrily. Pistil opened a ham sandwich and slathered it in the ketchup and mayonnaise on the table—“Free fat and sugar, anyone?” he offered the condiments around.
Stamen shuddered a bit, and Thorn shook a slight, bemused no.
Stamen gestured with a fry at Potent, Thorn’s hermit crab now swallowing the last of the lettuce and swinging antennae around in search of other things to munch. “That isn’t why you look at your backpack that way. There is something else in there. “ She turned to Pistil. “I still want it.”
Thorn slipped Potent a slice of tomato, leaned back, shoes tipping the chair back almost to the breaking point, hands never leaving the pack. The crab tore into its tomato, red juice dripping down and into the side of its claws, seeds sticking to its shell.
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
Without even an excuse us a sec, Pistil pulled Stamen aside, moving toward the coffee refill station on the other side of the deserted diner. As they went, he whispered, his s’s hissing into bites: “Look, which do you want more, that pack or help for me entering the Spark Prize? You know we can’t touch a port to enter—the brass would be on us so fast they’d melt their own tails. And that drop we were going to use—dropped out on me today. The deadline is next week, baby doll, and I am ready for it. I can do this now, Love. Thorn could be our ticket, our entry into fame and fortune, dollface. Please. Leave the pack, leave his Spark out of this. We’ll get you a Spark later. Something will show up. But I gotta get this in now, please, huh, love, babydoll?”
Lips pursed together, Stamen struck a dramatic pose, her lithe arm twisting over the top of the coffee maker like a celebrity greeting her fans. “Tell me again you love me.” She said, loud enough for Thorn to hear across the room. Pistil traced the letters on to her arm and said their litany, a bit more softly, so that Thorn would have to strain to hear at all:
L: I love and care for you, more than anyone else in the world.
O: you are the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me
V: I will get you anything you want, anything at all.
E: Now and forever more, baby doll. You and me together from now till eternity.
Her neck arched toward him, she leaned over to purr against his shoulder like a cat stretching into its muscles. “Ok, she said. I’ll wait. You have first shot, then. See if you can get yourself entered into that Spark Prize—and get us all the fame and the fortune we can handle. But then, since you love me now and forever and always, then you gotta help me get my own Spark.”
Pistil nodded, and they continued to talk on the other side of the diner.