Another direct follow up! The last piece is here, the next piece is right below the break.
She makes a little humming noise, the one that she makes when she’s getting curious. “This section of the level design. The rest of it seemed pretty normal, just using the same basic suite of tools from the normal navigation programming in your glasses.” She highlights a selection of code with her finger, passing the highlight to my copy. She’s pointing to the level suggested by Daemon. “But this one here. This cuts out most of the HUD from your AR glasses, it just leaves a few simulations intact, a… velocimeter, a map, a timer…” Her voice drifts off, and her eyes focus up out of the code. “Did you really want a segment of the game to have no assists whatsoever? This would be really tricky!”
I bite my lips. I try to do it gently, to keep it from being too obvious, but that’s dumb. I mean, I’ve already sucked them in, it’s not like she’d miss it. I have to say something. “Uh.” Something better than that. “Yeah.” Something explanatory. “It’s practice, I guess. Calculus. But more fun than what Teach is giving me.”
Mom’s eyebrows climb her forehead. “Practice? For calculus?” She looks at me for a longer moment. “You’re practicing for having no AR assistance or extra processing power, doing free fall races and chases without your glasses.” She nods very slowly. “This is good, Barium.” Her face gets a little closer to mine, looking intently at me. “This is probably going to be really hard, Barry. But I am sure that you can do it. And I’m really,” she floats towards me, smiling, and gives me another slower hug this time, “very very proud of you for coming up with this challenge for yourself.”
I’m smiling stupidly, because it feels so good to hear that, but on the inside I’m squirming. I can’t just take credit for what Daemon came up with. It’s not fair that they’re stuck in the cargo bay alone, while I’m here getting credit for what they suggested. I twist a little in my mom’s arms, pushing her out to arm’s length. “Don’t give me credit just yet.” The weird feeling in my chest doesn’t go away. I can’t take credit, and I can’t say that it wasn’t my idea. I still feel warm and glowy, but that squirming inside is working its way out. I look away from Mom’s face. “I mean, I haven’t gotten good enough to do any of that or anything.”
Mom smiles again, and sort of half laughs. She pats me gently on the shoulders, evenly on both sides so that we don’t start floating apart.
“Don’t worry,” that big smile feels so good. And I can’t tell her that I don’t deserve it. “You will baby, you will.”
“Ugh, Barry, why did you have to go and come up with this stupid ‘no assists’ idea?” Cesi floats in the corridor, arms crossed and knees pulled up in front of her chest. “I hate these new games that Mom and Dad are making me play! They’ve gone insane, asking me to design things without using my glasses, fly without using my glasses, do everything without using my glasses!”
I cringe a little at that last bit. It’s true. Mom and Dad have gone kind of nuts about this whole ‘doing things without your glasses’ idea. When we complain, they just look all serious, nod slowly, and say, “Preparedness.”
They’ve clearly taken things too far.
We’re going to have to confront them about how doing things without your glasses is just dumb for most of the stuff that we do. Maybe they’ll listen to us.
“I’m sorry Cesi. I just wanted the free fall thing, not all the rest of these ideas.” She’s still frowning at me. “Look,” I spread my hands, “I’ll help you try to get them off our backs! But you have to admit,” I try to look apologetic, “the free fall without glasses things kind of almost makes sense.” She’s still glaring, but I think she’s just doing it to make sure that I know I’m still on her bad side. Not because she disagrees with me or anything. “Besides, it’s a way more fun way to practice calculus implementation than basically anything that Teach has us doing.”
Cesi blows a raspberry. “Right, like being more fun than Teach is so hard to do.”
I smile and nod. Maybe she’ll forget that she’s mad with me.
She frowns again, staring at me like I’m hiding something. “But where did you get the idea? It’s not like you told me about it before you decided to do it.”
I look up and down the corridor. We’ve been doing chores, and are taking a break. We shouldn’t be bothered right this moment, but you never know. And sound carries. I push off to cross the corridor, landing next to Cesi, holding a finger over my lips. She looks like she doesn’t trust me, but leans her head next to mine for me to whisper.
“Daemon gave me the idea.”
“Daemon?” Cesi’s head pulls back and she’s looking at me in surprise. “When did you talk to them again?”
I glance up and down the corridor again. It’s still clear.
“While we were just entering chill. I couldn’t sleep, so I went down to the bay.”
Now she looks intrigued. She’s unfolding slowly. I think maybe she’s not mad at me anymore.
“What did you talk about? What was it like?”
I shrug. “It was cool, fun. We talked about lots of stuff.” I feel weird telling Cesi more instead of just telling her to talk with Daemon herself. But her face starts closing up again, eyebrow furrowing, frowning like Mom does when she’s getting angry. “You should talk with them! They’re basically a really deluxe teach-soft. Or they were supposed to be. You’d have to ask them.”
Cesi looks at me askance. “A really deluxe teach-soft? In a big black box that you can only access by typing and reading? Really?”