of the puzzles that Alec had to solve.
and Jake made a great team in the pod. Alec's sharp, critical thinking
skills led him to quickly solve most of the riddles and puzzles. But his slow,
deliberate manner was no match for the quickly morphing pod controls that
would disappear from one location and reappear in new shapes and patterns in
another virtual place. His quick eyes easily tracked the wandering controls and
status indicators, but his slow hand usually pointed at the last place the
controls had glowed. That’s where his old friend and college pal, Jake,
came in. Jake, a bit of a slouch when it came to solving the puzzles,
excelled when it came to putting a fast finger on the right control. So,
Alec shouted out answers above the Sarnk’s stereophonic hissing, and
Jake punched them up in just about the blink of an eye.
dynamic duo," Lenore often called them. The regulars at
the Pizza Heaven arcade knew it too. That whole corner of
Heaven crowded around to watch them play at the awesome Ring
13. Almost spellbound, they watched Alec’s mental agility
and keen persistence cut through the Sarnk’s puzzles while
Jake’s coordination and quick energy made fast work of the
energized by the Sarnk’s
challenges. Unlike the sluggish classes at Sundance,
the game's stakes seemed real and urgent. At Sundance, Alec felt
aimless, listless, with no passion for his studies and no
relish in imaging his future. Although a bright and astute
student, some of Alec Booner’s college teachers had accused
him of, as a wizened English teacher had put it, "…satisfied with
doing just enough to get by."
shuffling the broom, Alec's imagination transported him from
Ring 13 to his
of Dynastic Chinese Culture
class with Professor Wong. It was conveniently scheduled from 8:30 to
10:00 on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and it did count as
credit hours toward his summer studies requirement.
Unfortunately, with topics as interesting as popular dynastic
table etiquette, plus Dr. Wong’s utterly monotone English (a
regrettable consequence of early language studies with a
tone-deaf teacher), the convenient summer class had turned
into an exercise in mind-numbing, suffocating boredom.
yes, now, where were we, oh yes, the early Ming perspective on
Son-Jin-Yuan civil examinations. Now it is Professor Elman's
theory that the barbarian conquest plus a certain cultural
apotheosis were the two main, oh, oh, oh causes for the…omm…transformations
between 960-1280 C.E. in…omm…Song China."
mind's eye, Alec saw
the lethargic Wong drifting around in the delicate ocean foam
swirling around an early Ming dynasty vase. Then the vase
settled on a narrow ledge
under a patio window. It wobbled and tipped. Wong’s figure cracked into fragile
shards—right at the feet of the nimble Dr. Max.