Psychic Go

Lissajous pauses, looking at her, but she won't meet his eyes now.  A question I should be asking?  It sounds like a weak gambit from someone who doesn't have anything to gamble with.  He weighs his options, and decides that he'll play anyway.  He's come looking for someone to play against, and the stakes aren't so high that he'll walk away now.  Whatever question she wants answered can't be that bad, and if he can't answer it, then there's nothing for him to lose.  He nods, then remembers that she's not looking at him.

"I'll play," he says, and pulls the seat out.

The game starts slowly, neither of them placing an actual piece on the board for the first eight moves.  The grid shimmers oddly, slowly warping with the predicted positions of pieces, and some lines starts to merge together at points on the board.  When the woman finally shakes her box of pieces and places one on the grid it seems to stabilise a little, and Lissa starts to see how the game is going to play out.  A headache is starting near the back of his skull, a tiny pulsing star of pain.  Suddenly he gets a glimpse of the board in the mid-game, a pattern of pieces scattered like warring constellations across the board.  He concentrates, trying to see who is winning, and the view is shattered.  The woman has placed her hand on his.

He pulls his hand away, shocked.  Etiquette demands that the players do nothing to interfere with one another during the game, precisely because it can shake precognitive visions.  He stares at her, but her eyes are down, staring at the board, and she's refusing to look up.  He almost speaks, but that's just a big a breach of etiquette.  Instead he concentrates again, but the vision is gone.  Numbly he picks up a piece and lays it down where there was a large concentration of white in the vision: if he can't see it, then at least he can make sure it doesn't happen.

More pieces are played, fewer predicted positions are named, and the board keeps warping, well past when Lissa would have expected the pieces to have consolidated it.  His headache is getting worse, it's becoming a band of pain running round the inside of his skull, constricting his brain, and more importantly, his vision of how the board will turn out.  Then the pain subsides again, and a new vision of the board appears before him, a strange spiral swirl of pieces like matter being sucked into a black hole.  He tries to lift his eyes from the vision of the board to see who he's playing against, and there, sat across the table from him--

"I think it's your turn."  Her voice is flat, quiet, and again breaks his vision.  The pain from his headache returns like a door slamming shut and his hand spasms, stirring the pieces in his playing box.  He looks at her, and still her face is turned downwards, studying the table with the intensity of a lepidopterist with a new specimen.

"That's a forfeit," says a new voice, and Lissajous tries to see who's here now.  His head struggles to move, as though he's immersed in some viscous liquid, but he sees the woman opposite him snap her head round and snarl.  Something bright and animal is lurking behind her eyes, and her teeth are reddened and sharpened.  She swings a hand around, her arms stretching out and out, unnaturally, inhumanly long, black insectile claws spiking out from her fingertips.  Another hand catches her wrist and holds it, and she snarls again, now shaking violently.  Whatever's holding Lissa's head breaks, and he can move again.  He realises he's not been breathing, and drags in a shaky breath; his lungs feel like they're on fire and there's a numbness in his legs.

"I'm impressed," says the voice, and without the viscosity engulfing him Lissa recognises it as Asian Steve's.  "You would probably have won.  If she weren't killing you while you were playing."

"What...?"  Lissa's still disoriented, he's having trouble remembering what he's doing here.  The board in front of him looks unfamiliar, the pieces are not where he remembers them being.  It does look like he's winning though.

"Never challenge an Oni, or accept a challenge from one."  Asian Steve's face is serious, and the moustache seems less porn-star and more Magnum P.I. now.  "It should be enough of a warning that an Oni wants to play you."

"What's an Oni?  Or... who?"

Asian Steve raises an eyebrow.  "Best you find out, kid.  Looks like you've been marked out."

Across the table the woman is still being held, now by two of the security guards.  Lissa can see that her skin has a rich blue tinge to it that he never noticed before, and that there's a kanabo leaning against her chair, previously hidden by her legs.

"I won," he says, "by forfeit, but it's still a win.  What question should I be asking?"

There's a look of weariness on her face, and her shoulders slump.  "You didn't beat me, you had help," she says.  "For that, I'll tell you only that all prophecy is what you make it.  Even the prophet doesn't control it."

"I wanted to know that?"  Lissa looks astonished.  "That's... that's not even profound, I could get better than that from a fortune cookie!"

"You should definitely stick to them then."  Asian Steve waves a hand and the guards escort the woman away.  Lissa sees behind them that Steve won his game, the white assault broke at what must have been the last minute.

The End

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