Chess Chat

by Andy Morrison

Chapter 1 : October 14 

    Lexington, the gargoyle, loved cold rains in October. 
    A cold rain meant fewer crimes happening on the street because most muggers preferred to remain dry and warm. It also meant not going on patrol because it would be impossible to glide and there was the possibility of being hit by lightning. Gargoyles could only glide on air currents. A rainstorm meant moisture would form on a gargoyle's wing, making it difficult to glide easily. 
   In the old days on rainy nights like this one, the light-green gargoyle would have played tag or other games with his rookery brothers and sisters. Lex smiled at the passing thought. 
    Lex looked around at the castle room, marveling at how he and the building had changed. Once, Castle Wyvern had been located on the Scottish coast and Lex had the privilege of guarding it with other gargoyles. But due to the betrayal by the Captain of the castle guard to raiders, most of the gargoyles had been killed while during their stone sleep after sunrise. 
    Lex remembered how he, his rookery brothers' Brooklyn and Broadway, and their gargoyle dog Bronx survived because they were guarding the hatchery as punishment for frightening a child. Because the hatchery was concealed underground, Lexington, his rookery brothers, and their pet escaped being smashed. Goliath, the gargoyle clan leader, also managed to survive the raiders’ attack. The Captain of the Guard lured him away from the castle. 
    Lex recalled how the Magus, the court magician, wouldn’t let them explain where they’d been. Angry with the survivors for not defending the castle, the Magus, cast a spell locking Lexington and his rookery brethren into a stone sleep. When the Magus found Goliath, he learned that he had had not shirked his responsibilities, but that he had left the castle because he believed that was where the danger lay. When dawn came, he could not return because of his stone sleep. The Magus then realized too late that he had been wrong to be angry. 
    Unfortunately, the raiders had destroyed the counter-spell which would awaken the gargoyles. The original spell could not be lifted until the castle rose above the clouds. 
    When they awoke, they discovered the castle had a new master, David Xanatos, and its location had been changed to New York atop the Eyrie Building.  All were shocked to learn that one thousand years had passed since the spell had been cast. 
    Now, months later, as Lex looked out the window at the rain, he winced, recalling how Xanatos had faked an attack on his castle, manipulating the gargoyles into stealing property from a rival corporation. Yet, if it weren't for him, they would never have met Elisa Maza. 
   Elisa Maza was a New York City police detective who had heard and seen the explosions during the fake attack on the top of the Eyrie Building; the building where Castle Wyvern was located. She wanted to find out what had happened and discovered an angry Bronx growling at her. 
    Nervous, she nearly stepped off the building. She would have fallen, but was saved by the gargoyle clan leader, Goliath, who reached out his arm and pulled the detective to safety. After that, she and the clan had become friends. 
    Elisa had uncovered Xanatos' scheme. When the gargoyles realized Xanatos would not let them live peaceably in their own home, they moved to the clock tower over the 23rd precinct where Elisa worked. 
    There, they had enjoyed safety for a while… until Hunters, fanatics determined to kill the gargoyles, came and tried to destroy them by firing missiles at the attic. Fortunately, they survived. After saving David Xanatos' son from being kidnapped, David had allowed them to return to the castle. That was where Lex lived now. 

Chapter 2 : October 16 

    Two nights ago, some Quarrymen, the newer replacements of the Hunters, had nearly shot him. Lex would never get used to these attacks. 
    He had been doing a routine patrol with his rookery brother Brooklyn when they heard a high-pitched scream. Both gargoyles dove into the dimly lit alley, brightened by an unvandalized street lamp. 
    Lex had hunched down on all fours, eyes glowing to locate the screamer. Brooklyn stood erect, looking for any movement. He saw a trenchcoat fluttering in the alley. Striding toward the coat, Brooklyn lifted a talon, ready to tap it, asking, "Are you all right?" 

    "Not for long, gargoyles!" came a nasty reply from an unfamiliar voice at the back of the alley. 

    Four Quarrymen surrounded the gargoyles in the alley, dressed in their dark blue hoods. Instead of electrically charged hammers, their usual weapons, all were carrying guns. 
    Perhaps, Lexington thought bitterly, the Quarrymen were planning to make them into trophies, stuffing our heads so Castaway can gloat over us. 
    Brooklyn reached for the coat. It fell in his talons. Apparently, the Quarrymen had rigged the trenchcoat as a lure, hoping to catch them. It worked. 
    Brooklyn leapt to the nearest wall, letting his talons carve handholds for his escape. Lex remained on the ground, scurrying in the opposite direction. He focused on a nearby fire escape, hoping to climb it. 
    One Quarryman attempted to shoot Brooklyn, aiming his Colt automatic. He managed to make a quick escape. The rest focused their aim on Lex. ‘They probably think I'm an easier target to hit on the ground’, Lex mused to himself. 
    Lex zigzagged as bullets ricocheted around him. When he was about five feet away from the fire escape, he leapt. 
    The ricocheting stopped. Lex was wondering why, when he felt something grasp his tail. 
    He turned to see one Quarryman taking a bead for his head with a laser sight. The rest were following close behind. Reflexively, Lex aimed his talons for the Quarryman's hand grasping his tail. 
    Lex scratched the hand, which quickly let go of his tail, allowing him to climb up the escape and leap into the inky night. He smiled, satisfied by the loud oaths of the Quarryman below. 
       Lex shook in his chair, glad to be free of the horrifying memory. He wanted a game that could be exciting, but not violent. He certainly didn't want a game like Doom or Quake, letting their graphic images disturbing his stone slumber. 
    He booted up the new computer, one of Xanatos' finest PC's. It had the fastest CD-ROM, a 3.5-inch disk drive, and a color monitor. He felt a wave of nostalgia for the old laptop computer Elisa had given him, destroyed by the Hunters. 
    Lex's talons hesitated on the keyboard. He wanted to play a game. Yet, he was unsure of what kind. He certainly didn't want any games dealing with shooting. That caused him to shudder involuntarily. 
    He thought about the games that he used to play in Castle Wyvern. When he recalled how the elders, the older members and parents of the hatchlings, taught them to play chess for future training in battles, he typed "chess" into the search engine. Finding an interactive chess tournament, he tried to find another player. So far, everyone had another opponent. 
    Maybe he could wait awhile. 

Chapter 3 :October 15 

    Paul Marsden hurried home. 
    It hadn't been a bad day at work. Yet, shelving books was drudgery. The owner of the bookstore where he worked was preparing to take inventory next week. He knew that he’d be really busy then. 
    He didn't mind his job, but he wished for the extra pay that came with promotion. 
    "Oh, sure," his mind chided, "and how would you handle the responsibility?" 
    He couldn't. He didn't have the ability to size up talent or balance the books. But it would be nice to afford even a few more books for own his enjoyment. 
    He looked at his house. It wasn't bad. There was a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. A good size, but sometimes he felt the house was too large, almost empty for just one person. He often wished he could find someone to share ideas with and bounce them off of but it seemed not to be, at least for now. 
    He had to admit he was handsome, although he probably needed to lose a few pounds. Well, having 280 pounds wasn't exactly being fit, but he took long walks and bicycled. 
    He was shy and reserved, preferring to listen and watch others from a distance. He felt ill at ease when talking to other people. 
    People, in his opinion, seemed only to want to hear about the weather and sports teams and to interminably lecture about themselves. 
Few were interested like him in science fiction, time travel, or castle architecture. So, Paul remained silent and alone, by choice. 
    Well, not exactly alone. Paul grabbed some wheat bread and some roast beef from the fridge, making a sandwich. He chewed the sandwich as he headed for his bedroom. 
    Paul looked at his computer. Sitting down, he clicked on the power strip with his big toe. After clicking on "Dial-Up Networking", his modem beeped as it logged onto his Internet service provider. 
    Paul stared at the blank search engine on his Internet service provider's homepage. 
    What should he do? 
    He could look up some new fan fiction. Or he could start searching for the latest conspiracy news. 
    No, he wanted something exciting. He'd heard of interactive games, so without a second thought, he typed, "Chess." 
    A few minutes later, hits appeared on the screen. 
    Selecting randomly, he found himself in an interactive chessroom. 
    Paul looked for any free opponents. The computer typed, "One is available, Lex_G. Play?" with gray buttons marked "Yes" and "No." 
    Paul clicked on Lex and the chessboard was set up. Paul played white while Lex_G played black. 

Chapter 4: The Game 

    Lex_G> Hi, there. I'm Lex_G. Who are you? 

    Pauli> Just call me Pauli. 

    Lex_G> Why Pauli? 

    Pauli> I just like it. How did you choose your handle? 

    Lex_G> It's what I am. 

    Pauli> Lex the Gardener? J 

    Lex _G> Nope. But, it's a good start. J 

    "Knight to King's Bishop 3," announced Paul Marsden clicked with his mouse before writing it down in his notebook. After he penciled in the notation 1. N-KB3, he chewed on the eraser. Paul decided to try another approach and typed another message to his online opponent. 

    Pauli> So, how long you played chess, Lex_G? 

    Lex_G> Quite a while. I learned it from my elders… 

    The computer screen showed the black Queen's pawn move from square 2 to 3. 
    Paul mused to himself, "Elders. Strange thing to call his folks. He can't be someone who hates technology, though." 

    Pauli> Good for you. I learned mine from books. 

    Lex_G> You read a lot? 

    Pauli> Yeah. I like to read about legends and folklore. Especially folklore. I found a new site, that I'm reading now. 

    Lex_G> Really? What you reading about now? 

    Pauli> Oh, just some legends about Scottish castles. There's one that's quite interesting, Castle Wyvern. 

    Lex_G> Really, what's so interesting? 

    Pauli> Legends have it that it was a castle guarded by gargoyles that awoke at night and slept during the day. The gargoyles were fearsome warriors, capable of frightening trained warriors into jelly. 

    Lex_G> That's an exag…interesting viewpoint. You could say that I've heard about that legend also. 

    Pauli> You have? 

    Lex_G> Let's just say that I heard the gargoyles were just good warriors who could hold their own with any human. 

    Pauli> Yes, Lex, but people love legends that frighten them. Some just love to hear vicarious tales to chill their blood. 

    Paul moved his mouse, clicking the white King's pawn to move from square 2 to 3. 

    Pauli> So, where do you live? 

    Lex_G> NYC. And you? 

    Pauli> Dallas, Texas. So, you live in NYC. Have you heard about the gargoyles? 

    Lex_G> Who hasn't? 

    Pauli> Well, what do you think about them? 

    Lex_G> I personally think that everyone's blowing them out of proportion. They haven't hurt anyone. 

    Pauli> I still think it's a bunch of bull. Someone's trying to pull another publicity stunt, only this time instead of a giant fire-breathing lizard, they're having people dressed as gargoyles. 

    Lex_G> A fire-breathing lizard? 

    Pauli> You never saw Godzilla? 

    Lex_G> No. Is it a television program? 

    The computer screen changed, showing that a black Knight moved to Queen's Bishop 3. 
    Pauli laughed to himself, "Lucky man, to have survived without television! He must be sheltered." 

    Pauli> (laughs) It's really a movie. Japanese filmmakers made the first one and many other sequels, but some American company decided to try their hands at a remake. 
    The American product could never live up to the Japanese one. 

    Lex_G> Why? 

    Pauli> I dunno. I think I just liked how the Japanese made Godzilla seem human for a monster. 

    Lex_G> What would you do if a gargoyle came up and wanted to talk to you? 

    Pauli> Idon't know, Lex. I'd guess I'd be scared at first. 

    Lex_G> Why? 

    Pauli> Well, I've never liked people bigger than me. Reminds me too much of the bullies that I knew in school. But if it meant no harm, I would probably listen. I know what it's like to be judged. 

    Marsden moved his Queen's knight to Queen bishop's 3. 

    Lex_G> How come? 

    Pauli> Just because when I was growing up, I first went to a prep school. I stuck out because I was the middle class kid among the rich snobs. And boy, did they rub it in. 

    Lex_G> Sounds rough. 

    Pauli> It was. But, I survived. 

    Lex_G> To be teased unmercifully… Did you have any friends? 

    Pauli> Only one. But they picked on him and he left for another school.(Paul changed the subject to get away from his painful memories.)Funny you should mention about gargoyles, because just this afternoon I was thinking about something. 
    We picture angels with feathers and demons with batwings. But these are just images. Their outer skins don't show good or bad intentions. We depict angels with wings to show that they are beings more powerful than we are. 

    Lex_G> And that means? 

    Pauli> Well, if these gargoyles have this appearance, maybe I should conquer my fear and hear what he has to say. Maybe he's not so different from me on the inside. 

    Paul saw the screen change. The black bishop had moved to King's 
bishop 5, threatening his knight. 

    Pauli> Going for the kill, already? 

    Lex_G> You shouldn't have left it alone. 

    Pauli> Sage advice. So, what do you do? 

    Lex_G> As in work? 

    Pauli> Well, that's usually what's meant when someone asks the question. You should be a lawyer. 

    Lex_G> Well, it's a little hard to explain… but I think you could say I'm building security. 

    Marsden felt glad by the exchange, moving his King's bishop to King 2. He winced as he knew that he would be sacrificing a knight for a bishop, a lousy trade. 

    Pauli> Which building? 

    Lex_G swooped on the white Knight with his bishop. Paul countered with his King Knight's pawn, capturing the bishop. 

    Lex_G> The Eyrie building. 

    Pauli> The one that what's his name… 

    Lex_G> David Xanatos. 

    Pauli> Yeah, that's the name. David Xanatos owns that building, doesn't he? Thanks, Lex. That's the building that been in the news a lot lately. 

    Lex_G> Yeah, too many times for me to count! Do you know that it's the tallest building in Manhattan? 

    Pauli> You work in that building? Must be a headache to guard. 

    Lex_G> Well, it's mostly quiet in the night. 

    Pauli> So, you work the night shift? Sleep all day? 

    Lex_G> Yes. 
    Lex moved his Queen to Queen 2. 

    Pauli> Must be pretty interesting. I don't think I could do night work. I'd miss the sun… 

   Lex_G> I've never seen the sun. 

    Pauli> Why haven't you? 

    Lex_G> Well, it's difficult to explain… 

    Pauli> Say no more. You're like that hero in Dean Koontz's novels, who can't go into the sun because it would burn his skin. I knew someone who had that condition. 

    Paul castled his king. Not a wise move, but better than nothing. 

    Lex_G> Something along those lines. What do you do? 

    Pauli> I work for a bookseller. Mostly stand up and help the customers try to find what they're looking for. 

    Lex moved his queen to King's bishop 4. Paul moved his pawn to King 4, threatening Lex's Queen. 

    Lex_G> I've always wanted to visit a bookstore. I've read a few good ones. 

    Pauli> Not on my job, you don't! J But if you want to, I can give you my bookstore's website. You can order books from the web. Don't you have books at the Eyrie Building? 

    Lex_G> Our cla… I mean, family has moved a bit. You know how it is. 

    Pauli> Things get lost. I hate that when it happens. You think you packed something in this box, then it disappears. So, have you played chess online before? 

    Lex_G> A few times. 

    Lex moved his queen back to King 3. Paul moved his Queen's pawn from Queen 2 to 3. 

    Pauli> You must be an expert. 

    Lex moved his Queen's knight from Queen bishop's 3 to Queen 5, able to rake any piece it desired. Paul cursed himself for giving Lex the center squares. Paul's retaliation was to move Queen bishop to King 3, threatening the Knight. 

    Lex_G> Or a very lucky amateur. 

    Pauli> No, you've got a method to your madness. I've never played online before. 

    Lex retreated with his Queen's knight to King's bishop 4. Paul looked at his tactical situation. If he kept his Queen's bishop 
where it was, Lex's Knight would capture it. In desperation, Paul moved the Queen to Queen 2, defending his bishop. 

   Lex_G> ‘A method to your madness’… That's from Shakespeare, isn't it? 

    Pauli> Yeah, but I don’t recall which play. 

    Paul was glad that he had happened on Lex as a chess partner. It seemed he had found an interesting companion. 

   Lex_G> Hamlet. Act 2, Scene 2. Polonius. "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it." Like this. 

    Lex moved his Queen to King's knight three. 

   Lex_G> Check. 

    Pauli> Oh, great. ‘A hit, a very palpable hit.’ 

   Lex_G> Act 5, Scene 2. Osric. 

    Paul moved his king to rook 1, the only spot. Immediately, Lexington moved his King's pawn to King 4. Paul moved his rook 
to King's knight 1. 

    Pauli> How do you know so much about Shakespeare? Pardon me for asking, but you sound more like a renaissance man than a security guard. 

   Lex_G> I found a paperback copy of Hamlet, the cover torn off when I was patr… strolling around Manhattan. I collected it and a few more books. Why would anyone tear the cover off a good book? 

    Lex moved his queen to King's rook 4. Paul moved his Queen's pawn to Queen 4. 

   Pauli> Paperbacks can't be resold. They're too cheap to produce. The owner tears off the cover to remind anyone else that they are purchasing a stripped book… no refunds, and prevents anyone else from making a quick profit off the storeowner's loss. 

    Lex_G> That's interesting. Broadway was puzzled by that… 

    Pauli> Broadway? 

    Lex_G> My rook… brother's chat handle. His real name would be too embarrassing. 

     Pauli: Something like Upton Grice Preston the Third? 

    Lex_G> Along those lines. Is there someone with that name? 

    Pauli> No, but I've met some with strange ones… 

    Lex's counterattack came in short order. He took the Queen's pawn, moving from King 4 to Queen 5. Paul retaliated with his Queen, taking Queen 4. Lex's knight retreated to Queen 2, only to have Paul's Queen move to Queen 6, taking his pawn. 

    Pauli> You must have an interesting name also… 

    Lex_G> Well, it's Lexington… 

    Pauli> I suppose it's your middle name. 

    Lex_G> No, it's my first name. 

    Pauli> Unique name. 

    Lex moved his Queen bishop diagonally, taking the queen. Paul moved his bishop from King 3 to Queen 4. Lex placed his King's 
knight to King's rook 3. Paul dropped his queen's rook at Queen 1. 

    Pauli> (chagrined) Looks like the game may go to you. 

    Lex_G> Maybe. 

    Lex responded by moving his Queen's rook to Queen's bishop 1. Without thinking, Paul moved his King's pawn to King 5. Lex seized the initiative, using his queen's pawn to remove the pawn. Paul retaliated with his King's bishop, losing it to the Queen's knight. 

    Pauli> Oh, no! 

    Lex_G> The beginning of the end. 

    Paul threatened the Queen's knight with his Queen's rook, but Lex had a queen across the knight. Lex responded with his King's bishop moving to Queen's knight 5. Paul retreated with his Knight to Queen's knight 1. 

    Pauli> So, is it a wild guess that you're Lex the Guard? 

    Lex_G> Almost true. 

    Lex's rook smashed the Queen's bishop's pawn at Queen's bishop 7. Paul moved his Queen's rook to Queen's Knight 5. 

    Pauli> Maybe I should have gone into poker. 

    Lex_G> Maybe. 

    Lex's bishop artfully dodged to Queen 3. Paul attacked the pawn at Queen's knight 7 with his rook. Lex countered with his Queen's rook taking the white King's bishop at King 7. 

    Pauli> I’m in trouble, aren’t I? 

    Lex_G> You said it, not me. 

    Paul moved his rook to King 1. Lex moved his queen to King's bishop 6. 

   Lex_G> Checkmate. 

    Pauli> Maybe we can play again. 

    Lex_G> Count on it. 

    Both signed off. 

    Lex looked at the keyboard, wondering if he would hear from Paul again. He seemed like a nice person, considering what he saw over the Web. Maybe he was what he seemed to be.

    Paul stared at the keyboard. He had met a new friend and had a scintillating discussion. Perhaps they could meet on-line again. 

End of part one.