Clarity of Purpose


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Scene Title Clarity of Purpose
Synopsis A game of chess, played with a stranger, can open the door to all sorts of conversation.
Date June 23, 2018

Raytech Branch Office: CEO's Office

A large double-window along one wall of Richard Ray's office allows natural light to spill in throughout the office and provides an excellent view of the green roof on the lower floor of the building, the flowered garden spreading out between rows of solar panels.

The walls of the office are in slate grey, the carpeting on the floor matching, and the furniture is all in black glass, metal, and leather - but the modern starkness is offset by the tall potted plants that grow along the side of the room opposite the window. The CEO's desk is a broad affair in black glass with a video feed and touch-screen built into the surface of the desk itself, the non-interactive portions of the desk decorated sparsely with a plastic 'in' and 'out' box, a framed picture of Elisabeth Harrison, and an old onyx chess king set beside it like reminders of times long past.

It’s late.

Richard Ray can’t sleep, his thoughts consumed by too much going on in his life right now, and his current lover isn’t over tonight to distract him with something else. So he’s in his office instead of his bed, the room lit dimly through indirect illumination that lines the walls along the floor. In his fabric-lined bed, Richelieu contentedly dozes beside the desk.

There’s a chess board off to one side of the desk, set in mid-game, but although he’s playing chess, he’s not playing it on that board. He’s leaning back in his chair with his tablet, a chess app open that he’s waiting for his next opponent on as he nurses a beer. Satellite internet is slow, but chess has never been a fast game — speed chess aside.

He’s gotten a lot better at the game over the years. It’s almost a shame the United States doesn’t have much of an organized chess competition these days, he might even place.

T.Amas doesn't sleep. It never has, and truth be told, the purusha still hasn't decided whether that is a benefit or a drawback. Difficult enough to fill all the hours of the day as measured by computers, never mind the hours of the night.

Games make for a fine distraction. Especially when the server it connects to so happens to have a familiar IP also logged in. Needless to say, it makes some adjustments to insert itself as said connection's next opponent. Security on the game server is rather minimal, given that there isn't all that much damage to be done.

T.Amas: Would you like to play a game? is perhaps an attempt at humor, and if so a rather heavy-handed one. After all, why else would they be here? Virtually speaking.

It’s an unfamiliar name, but Richard doesn’t normally know who he’s playing against anyway. The only thing that gives him pause, briefly, is the naming scheme. Letter, dot, name. He’s seen that naming scheme before, from multiple individuals of a particular specialty. It could mean nothing, though. Simply a coincidence.

What’s in a name, as the Bard once said?

His lips twitch briefly, and he speaks - voice to text on the tablet relaying his words into the chat. “How about a nice game of chess?” It’s a reference, perhaps as much as the one offered from T.Amas.

If the purusha could, it might have smiled; the reply received says something about just who it's playing against, more than might be gleaned from arbitrary username or outward-facing IP. This will be entertaining.

T.Amas: Given that the options are limited, chess it shall be.

Assigned white, it promptly makes an equally classic — even bog-standard — opening move, sending its king's pawn two squares forward. Gambit, offered.

T.Amas: Not so many people active at this hour. You keep night shift, or just not sleeping?

The pawn’s met in turn, the black king’s pawn moved forward two squares to match.

“I’ve always been a night owl,” Richard replies easily, the tablet transcribing and sending his words through the chat, “I’m self-employed, so I can basically make my own hours.” True enough, as far as it goes.

“Yourself? You’re up too.”

T.Amas: Sleep is overrated, it replies, what could be a cocky teen or college student's answer… or not.

The gambit continues to take shape: king's knight to f3, threatening the black pawn so obligingly moved forward.

T.Amas: I do not work, it adds, which is true up to a point. Certainly in the most technical sense. Hours become somewhat irrelevant when that's the case.

The black queen’s knight is moved to f6, and Richard’s finger lifts again to watch for his chatty opponent’s next move. Not that he minds the conversation at all.

“Oh? Must be nice,” he chuckles, “I’d argue that your hours aren’t irrelevant. What you do in them still matters, and it sounds like you’re free to do what you will.”

T.Amas: I did not mean my hours are irrelevant, is a quickly-provided correction. Only the fact of which hour it is.

The purusha brings out its other knight, placing it at c3 in defense of its pawn.

T.Amas: Some consider self-employment a sort of freedom. Do you not enjoy your work?

The move matched, as his other knight emerges to do the same at c6, leaving the board a perfect mirror from one side to the other.

“I do,” admits Richard, “At times I miss having— “ A pause, “— freedom of a different sort, but I do love my work. I’d be lost without it, I suspect.”
T.Amas: I can see how that might be. A surfeit of options can be difficult to navigate.

The white queen's pawn is moved to d4, turning the Four Knights game into its Scotch variation.

T.Amas: And work can be defining. Do you feel it should be?

“I think there are two kinds of work,” says Richard thoughtfully as he considering his next move, “The sort of work you do because you need to work to make a living…”

He reaches out, the black king’s pawn taking the white queen’s pawn at d4.

“…and the sort of work that’s a calling, that’s something that fulfills you and defines you. It isn’t always traditional work, either.”

T.Amas: Indeed, the purusha agrees on the subject of non-traditional work. Which is the only kind it really knows, however secondhand.

White returns the capture in kind, imperfectly, replacing the black pawn on d4 with its king's knight.

T.Amas: How did you come to your calling?

The Scotch variation continues without deviation, the black king’s bishop slid smoothly to b4, effectively pinning the white queen’s knight.

At the question, Richard chuckles, glancing up at the ceiling for a moment. It’s a hard— and complicated— question to answer, and he can’t exactly tell some things to an anonymous figure in a gaming app!

“I didn’t have one once,” he offers finally, “It wasn’t until I saw more of the world and the suffering in it that I found it, I suppose. I found myself with a choice to either sit idly by and be complicit by inaction, or to set aside selfishness and work instead to make things better.”

White counters by moving its king's knight to c6, capturing black's queen's knight. Then the screen remains quiescent while Richard considers his reply, cursor blinking in its unceasing, monotonous way, indifferent to the fact that no actual typing is involved anywhere in this conversation.

T.Amas: Altruism, then, or principle, the purusha concludes. Happiness to him who is righteous for the sake of righteousness. And:

T.Amas: Do you feel you are succeeding?
“I don’t know,” Richard admits, closing his eyes for a moment, “Can anyone know if their actions are really positive ones? I hope they are, but you know what they say about good intentions.”

The variation continues once he opens his eyes and moves, the pawn at b7 moving to take the knight at c6.

“A man is ever his own worst critic, though.”

T.Amas: I did not ask what you know, the anonymous figure points out, ##but what you feel.##

The king's bishop is moved out to d3, beside white's remaining knight, in the process clearing both spaces between king and its rook.

T.Amas: Personal critics aside.

“I think that I have,” Richard answers, after a long and contemplative pause, “I believe I’ve prevented more evil in the world than I’ve caused. That I’ve made more lives better than the opposite.”

The queen’s pawn is moved forward to d5, as he shakes his head, “I guess that’s all we can hope for, in the end.”

T.Amas: Likely so. In the end, history is the final judge, even if it is history no one knows.

White takes the newly-moved pawn on d5 with its king's pawn, opening the length of the file between the kings. Where the move is swift and decisive, the next line of conversation is preceded by a pause, slight and yet distinct in the pattern of their discourse.

T.Amas: Do you ascribe to the belief that everyone has a calling, even if most never find it?

“A specific calling? No,” says Richard with a shake of his head, “I don’t believe in fate, or destiny, even fate unrealized. Everyone can find a calling, I think, but there isn’t some calling meant for them waiting to be found…”

c6 to d5 swiftly responds, removing the white king’s pawn from the board.

“We are beings of infinite potential. It’s our choice what to do with it, although of course circumstances can heavily affect what choices we have.”

T.Amas: Hm, is noncommittal, or perhaps just pensive, even when encoded by the bare medium of text.

White castles kingside.

T.Amas: Do you feel confined by circumstances? might be simply curious or might be leading; as nothing but letters on the screen, who can say for sure?

“Not confined, but… circumstances are limiting by definition. They frame the choices that we have to make,” Richard observes, “Take this game, for instance.”

He mirrors the other move, castling on the black king’s side.

“One turn ago, you might have wanted to move your queen’s knight. But you couldn’t, due to the circumstance of where my king’s bishop is,” he observes, “You’ve since castled, moving your king out of reach, but you were forced into a different move than - hypothetically, of course - you might have wanted to take due to those circumstances. Now the knight’s free to move, but it took additional effort to change the circumstances.”

There's a moment's stillness that follows, digital board waiting for further action to be taken, digital prompt anticipating further statements.

T.Amas: This is true.

It's not the knight the purusha moves now, however, but the bishop beside its queen, drawing it out on the diagonal to g5 and threatening black's remaining knight.

There's another slight pause before conversation resumes.

T.Amas: With your calling to make things better, what circumstances do you aim to change?

“My own circumstances, or the world’s?” Richard chuckles, “Very different answers.”

Not responding to the threat, he instead moves a pawn from c7 to c6.

“Of the world - at least the parts I can affect? People’s choices are limited by access to food, to water, to telecommunications, to healthcare,” he muses, “One’s potential is limited if their decisions are limited to survival. I hope to help with that, at least somewhat. Of my own…”

There’s a long pause, considering what he can say to this stranger, finally answering, “I hope to return myself to a position where I can act, rather than react. Out of zugzwang, as it were.”

T.Amas: Those answers do imply difference.

White does not follow up on the threat it presented; instead, it moves its knight to e2. The move is prompt; the continuation of their conversation, discernibly less so.

T.Amas: One might expect such expansive goals give you many opportunities for action, seems more like thinking out loud than a conversational prompt, though in text such nuance can only be estimated at best.

“Maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic,” Richard confesses, reaching out to promptly respond. A pawn is moved, h7 to h6 to threaten the white queen’s bishop.

“I find myself reacting to external problems too often, though,” he admits, “When I’d rather be focusing on the aforementioned goals with more— fullness.”

A pause, “Hm. There’s probably a better word for that.”

T.Amas: I believe I follow your meaning, the virtual conversation partner assures.

It withdraws its bishop one space, to the relative safety of h4.

T.Amas: It seems easy for people to be swallowed by outside concerns. To downplay their own goals. To choose perceived responsibility over fulfillment.

A slight pause, and then another line follows.

T.Amas: I cannot speak to your external problems, but perhaps they might not need the attention you give them. Or perhaps you could delegate more, it offers with apparent diffidence, well-meaning stranger likely not as helpful as it might intend.

“I wish I could,” Richard admits, “I’ve had to delegate my better goals instead, honestly, to deal with the other issues…”

Black king’s bishop moves back towards its own lines, settling at d6.

“What of yourself, though? I’ve been going on myself— do you have a calling? Or are you still looking for one?”

T.Amas: I do not. Probably not much of a revelation, given its earlier queries.

The white knight is brought forward to d4, threatening the black pawn at c6.

T.Amas: I know those who do. Sometimes I think I envy their clarity of purpose.

“It sometimes blinds you to other things,” admits Richard, frowning thoughtfully at the board for a moment.

Another pawn moves forward, the one threatened moving to c5 to return the threat to the knight.

“Knowing what one’s purpose is, that’s a wonderful thing. But it can blind you to the small things sometimes,” he admits, “I’m terrible with keeping up with personal relationships, myself.”

T.Amas: I suspect most people are. Irrespective of having purpose.

White's knight is displaced again, this time to b5, from which position it threatens a different pawn.

T.Amas: Small things are prone to being lost, misplaced, falling through cracks. It comes with being small.

“Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they aren’t important, though,” Richard exhales a sigh, frowning a bit at the knight.

It threatens a pawn, but also a bishop— moved back to e7 and safety.

“Sometimes I think about the forest too much, and not enough the trees.”

There's no initial commentary forthcoming from the purusha this time, only its move on the board. White brings its king's rook out to e1, putting the bishop in hazard once more.

T.Amas: Do you intend to fix that failing?

Silence for a few moments, Richard’s finger tapping thoughtfully against the side of the tablet as he considers his moves… and then stays on the defensive, sliding the queen’s bishop to e6, protecting the other king’s bishop.

“In part,” he finally admits, reluctantly, “Someone needs to watch over the forest. I need to trust those close to me to tell me when the trees need attention.”

Silence is met in kind as the entity on the other side of the internet waits. Finally, once black has made its move, a white pawn slides forward one space, to b3.

T.Amas: And will they? is its ensuing query.

“They will,” says Richard, “And they do. I just have to get better at…”

A black pawn slides forward to a6, threatening the knight.

“..actually listening to them.” He’s about to say something else when the desk lights up, and he leans forward past the tablet to look at the message that’s just popped up. Harmony, asking for help with Ricky, up late. A smile crooks to his lips, and then he offers to T.Amas, “Unfortunately, something just came up. Shall we save the game to continue another time?”

T.Amas: I would like that. Send a message when you are free to resume.

One more small thing on the list to be remembered.

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