The trilogy continues

Part 2 of my Spider Solitaire story. They say that having said ‘A’, one must say ‘B’ (and perhaps ‘C’) so here goes:

ACT I

<sarcasm> Great </sarcasm>

I am no longer a rectangle-shaped card. I have been reduced to a black letter Q on a White background. I live in a bland world of letters and numbers. This has nothing to do with a game show based on Countdown. I miss the Green Screen already. I knew I shouldn’t have swallowed the blue and orange pills at the same time. What was I thinking?

“I told you so”.

I wish that stupid voice at the back of my head would Just. Shut. Up.

Without warning, a cute monkey suddenly appears out of nowhere.

Enter Ninja Monkey

“Monkey is happy!”

“Why are you-”

“Monkey write the complete works of Shakespeare!”

Ninja Monkey reveals a large wad of papers. I glance at the contents. I immediately recognise a passage from “Twelfth Night”. All the words are correct. The punctuation is perfect and words are all formatted nicely. Now that is impressive.

“How long did it take you to complete all works of Monkey Shakes is speare? diligent! Monkey is hard working! When monkey don’t succeed, monkey try try again!”

“Which part of how long did it take you to complete Ooh! all Ooh! works Monkey of wants Shakespeare to don’t win you at understand? Four Suit Spider Solitaire!

It’s hard to communicate effectively when the monkey is jumping up and down and opens his mouth before I have a chance to complete my sentence. Not to mention Monkey failed to answer my question and wants to change the subject. At least he mentioned Four Suit Spider Solitaire, one of few things I am good at. With a bit of luck, I might be able to teach him a thing or two. I wish the monkey would stop simulating fart noises with his armpits though.

“You see,” continues Ninja Monkey. “Animal kingdom says it can’t be done! Nobody has managed to win with four suits! Monkey want to prove we can do it”.

Gathering some courage, I ask the monkey how many times he played Spider Solitaire.

“Fifty quintillion games!”

“But – but that’s more than the number of But permutations Monkey on never Rubik’s gives cube up! Monkey is diligent! Monkey fail! But Monkey try try again”.

I do a double-take. I managed to beat Four-Suit Spider Solitaire on my first attempt. But the monkey has played more games than permutations on a Rubik’s Cube and hasn’t won a single time. I feel the urge to exercise my free will and punch the little 70,85,67,75,69,70 in the face. But I can’t escape the voice inside my head that squeals “he’s so adorable”.

Hang on: I’ve just noticed I no longer have a suit. I am not the Queen of HEARTS. I’m just a queen. Why didn’t I pick that up earlier? I feel stupid.

“Waitaminute” I say.

“Wait a minute what?”

“Areyouplayingonesuitsolitaire?”

“Yes”.

At least we’re not talking simultaneously anymore. I’ve figured my best chance at civil communication is talking really fast and pretending every sentence is a three-syllable word.

IthoughtyouwanttobeatFourSuitSolitaire”

“Grand Master wants monkey to play one-suit! Monkey always obey the Grand Master”

Enter Spider GM.

Let me get this straight: I’m in a sans-free-will virtual reality created by the Ninja Monkey. Meanwhile the Ninja Monkey is in his own sans-free-will virtual reality created by the Spider Grand Master.  Somehow this state of affairs is less than satisfactory.

First things first: let me try to work out why Spider GM wants his pet monkey to play games at the 1-suit level. My best guess is that playing a simpler version of the game will give Ninja Monkey some valuable insights for strategies required to beat the game at the highest difficulty level.

“Import Numb Pie As N. P.” intones the Grand Master.

Monkey nods, eagerly waiting further instruction.

“For Foo In Range One Thousand, Game State Initialise Underscore Random.”

I don’t recall foo ever being in the English language. Even if it was, I wouldn’t understand what Spider GM is saying anyway.

Spider GM is a human being. His voice is firm but polite. I have no idea what the incantation means, but at least there is no animosity between the two. I have to remind myself that this simulated reality inside a simulated reality could have been worse.

After what seems an eternity SpiderGM clicks his Right-hand fingers

“Eek! Line Twenty-nine Syntax Error!” squeals Ninja Monkey.

“Oh for 70,85,67,75,83 sake!” says Spider GM. “Let’s try that again.”

“For Foo In Range One Thousand SEMICOLON, Game State …”

Yawn. Last time we were in the Green Screen and I thought my fellow friends are weird. I have since revised my opinion.

Finally after many syntax errors, incessant cussing, unsuccessful finger clicking, and immense frustration Spider GM has everything working. He clicks his fingers one last time the monkey gets to work.

Exit Spider GM

ACT II

Spider Monkey moves the Three in column 2 onto the Four in Column 10. He turns over a King. He then slides the Jack in column 3 to the Queen in column 4 revealing an Eight. Everything is a blur. I don’t even have time to verify the monkey is making legal moves. After what appears to be juggling 104 cards without a single mistake, Ninja Monkey has sorted all the letters and numbers into eight complete sequences from K to A. All this in less than two seconds. But Ninja Monkey ain’t done yet. He shuffles the cards and deals another hand. Again he has all of us neatly arranged in eight sequences. At this rate he will have completed 100 games inside three minutes. They don’t call him the Ninja Monkey for nothing. Unfortunately the monkey doesn’t win every game.

The something strange happens. In one game everything seems to freeze. I soon register that Ninja Monkey is oscillating an Ace between two adjacent columns. It turns out Ninja Monkey has only one legal move on the tableau and he has already exhausted the cards in the stock. The poor thing is stuck in an infinite loop but doesn’t realise it. After half a second Ninja Monkey concedes the game and starts a new hand.

At least Ninja Monkey doesn’t throw a tantrum after losing, something humans could learn from. None of the letters and numbers show any signs of wear and tear. He is a fast player and has won more than half the time. So I have to give NM credit for doing something right.

Finally after a thousand games all is said and done. I have a chance to survey the game state of the final hand. Ninja Monkey has removed two suits, but the tableau is a mess and the game is indeed unwinnable. But the monkey is content with his efforts. I ask the monkey if he can rewind back a few moves for some good ol’ post-mortem analysis and see where he went wrong. But to no avail of course.

 Enter Spider GM

“Monkey win sixty two percent! Sixty two percent!”

Ninja Monkey runs towards the Spider GM and gives high five. Then he jumps into the air and gives Spider GM a high ten with both feet. His hygiene is perhaps not the greatest but Spider GM doesn’t seem to care. One of the number Fives jumps up and Ninja Monkey gives him a high five as well. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a high queen. Spider GM gives him a reward of 621 peanuts.

I always knew the one-suit level was ridiculously easy, but I never expected that a player with very poor strategy could still win more than half the time. Despite the monkey’s atrocious record of zero wins and fifty quintillion losses at the four-suit level I still managed to learn something from him. I’m not sure how that will make me a better player, but it is a fun fact to know. Spider GM seems especially pleased with his experiment also. Maybe there is hope for humankind, monkeykind, letterkind, numberkind and all other kinds of kinds in this world after all, and it’s not all doom and gloom (if you pardon the cliché) just because we live in a virtual reality controlled by someone else.

Spider GM moves his hand towards the three icons on the upper right corner of the White Screen and clicks his fingers. Everything disappears into nothingness in less than half a nano-second, leaving me wondering where me and my fellow Letters and Numbers will end up next time. At least I have a new friend to root for. Here’s hoping Ninja Monkey can finally win at Four Suit Spider Solitaire and do the animal kingdom proud!

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