October 15, 2005
Today, I write the first page of Fortuna, reproduced below.Portola Valley, California March 21,2009 11:30 p.m.
Her avatar was a stone statue of the Virgin Mary. The image was not animated like virtually all the others in Fortuna. Not animated – and therefore hastily obtained? But why? The soft voice that now reached his ears carried a hint of echo, as though the speaker were hiding behind the statue. Someone was hiding behind that statue.
“You are in danger,” she said.
Remember, this is only a game.
Jason typed, “Does your husband know about us?” The computer at the other end of this exchange would synthesize the voice of Lucco Pitti, a friend, and later rival, of Cosimo di Medici – Cosimo “the elder.” Jason had chosen Pitti’s voice for reliability. It was not platform-sensitive.
He stared at the computer screen, the only source of light in the room where he was ensconced. It was on the second floor of a small, relatively new villa where he served as caretaker in exchange for free rent. The owners, who had ridden the 1990’s Silicon Valley boom to early wealth, were in Provence, and would not return for several months. Perhaps never. The villa was eerily quiet.
“Worse?” Jason typed, wondering what she had in mind. She was really good at this. Playing the Fortuna simulation with her was like writing a screenplay – a whole lot better than his life as a computer science grad student at Stanford.
“We must meet. Sunday, at noon, in front of the new cathedral in Pisa.”
This made no sense. Pisa was out of the range of the simulation. Jason typed, “Do you mean Piazza San Marco?”
“No. In front of the new cathedral. In Pisa.”
Was there a new revision he had failed to download, one that added new geography? Surely he would have gotten an e-mail. He quickly launched another browser window and typed “Cathedral of Pisa” into the search window. In three clicks, he was looking at an image of a church completed, according to the caption, in 1350. Within the simulation’s time frame, but not its geography.
Jason weighed the situation for a moment and then decided to risk jumping out of character.
“Pisa isn’t in the game,” he typed.
Very quickly, the voice responded. “This isn’t a game.”
To be continued…