The Contest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: All Star Story Writers

Chapter 5 (v.1) - CYBER PROGRAMMES

Submitted: October 13, 2016

Reads: 252

Comments: 2

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Submitted: October 13, 2016

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“Am in office, bring list, can go thru it 2gether,” said a script from Pop, so I went straight over.

After studying it intently for a few moments, his serious expression turned into a broad smile. “I must say Emmy, you don't mince words. Let's make a start straight away.”

We worked closely together writing the multiple choice questions. When we were both satisfied that only the highest scoring answers matched my demands exactly, Pop decided to shut himself away to make a start on the cyber programmes.

As you have probably gathered, I’m not known for dishing out compliments to Pop, but have to admit, he is an extremely skilled cyber programmer, having successfully devised and installed programmes to co-ordinate and streamline the running of the various palace business ventures. So a system to analyse and score the completed questionnaires, presented no problem. But, the most complicated task of all was the lie detection programme, which was the first he had ever attempted.

He worked tirelessly, researching and analysing data and developing complex, high-tech work sheets, before linking all three programmes together.

“How is it going?” I asked, peeping round the door. He yawned and rubbed his tired red eyes. “I need to test it out for a trial run, but it might be useful if someone else did it for me.”

Trying my best to be helpful, I offered. “I can do that for you.”

“I don't think it would be a good idea at all, you're too involved with it. We need someone who is completely new to the idea.”

“What about Edward?” I suggested. “He is the exact opposite of everything I am looking for in a prince, and would be perfect to test out the programme.”

Edward is our elderly butler, who has become increasingly grumpy, rather smelly and is well known for his intolerance and quick fiery temper.

He dislikes all TV reality programmes, particularly Fame Factory, with a reputation for selfishly switching off the TV, while others are watching. His fear of horses has always prevented him from going anywhere near one, and his allergy to dogs brings on his asthma.

Having no sense of rhythm or co-ordination, dancing is (and never was) his thing and his ‘better-out-than-in’ attitude is notorious. Over the years, the thunderous effects of his flatulence have rattled noisily around the palace corridors with alarming regularity and particularly obnoxious consequences.

“Brilliant,” Pop said. “I couldn't think of anyone better.”

“You rang Your Majesty,” Edward said solemnly, shuffling slowly into the room, looking decidedly grey and crumpled.

His once purposeful strides along the palace corridors have long since been replaced with a slow, lop sided shuffle, but despite his advancing years he remains a loyal, hard-working butler.

Although my parents have been forced to reduce the number of palace staff to make savings, Pop could never bring himself to sack Edward, because without his position in the royal household, he would have nothing and no-one to live for.

It was obvious that he had just finished his supper, as scraps of it had congealed in the grey wiry stubble of his unshaven chin, and splashes of gravy decorated his tie. His clothes were creased and stained, and as he shuffled into room, brought with him an aroma faintly reminiscent of a tom cat. In his younger days he had always been immaculately dressed and it was sad to see just how much his personal standards had dropped.

“I have been working on a cyber-programme and need your help to find out if it works,” Pop explained. “Just imagine you’re entering a Contest to become Eemay’s perfect prince.”

“But Your Majesty, with all due respect, I am far too old for your beautiful daughter.”

“Exactly!” If you complete the questionnaire truthfully and honestly then, if the programme works as it should, it will automatically calculate a zero score.”

Edward sat down at the screen, with a puzzled look on his face. “Excuse me Your Majesty, but surely you must realise I have no keyboard skills.”

We had both overlooked this vital point and noticing Edward’s anxious expression, Pop printed off a copy for him to complete in pen. When he had finished, I keyed in his answers and pressed enter. Within seconds a score of zero flashed on to the screen, with the accompanying words ‘not matched’.

“So far so good, now for the lie detection programme. Right Edward, I’d like you to complete the questionnaire again, but this time I want you to be deceitful, and tick the answers you think would impress her the most.

Edward interrupted abruptly. “Your Majesty, with all due respect, if you are asking me to lie, then I am afraid I cannot co-operate, I never have and never will, tell lies.

Tired and tetchy, Pop began pacing the room. “Look Edward, it’s only to test the programme, it’s not as if I’m asking you to lie under oath. Please, just do as I ask.”

“Very well Your Majesty, if I must, but it goes against my better judgement.”

When he had finished, Pop snatched the completed questionnaire from him and frantically keyed in his answers.

To his utter disappointment and horror, Edward had managed to attain the highest score and was apparently an “exact match.”

“Oh no, I’ll have to go back over my graphs, formulas and calculations to find out why it has failed.”

Edward quickly intervened. “Why don’t you take a break Your Majesty, you’re looking extremely tired.”

Pop’s stubborn side kicked in. “No, I won’t let it beat me.”

“I agree with Edward, Pop. You’re tired, leave it overnight and come back to it with a clearer mind.”

For once, Pop agreed, and wearily turned in for the night.

With an advanced cyber programming assignment to finish for College, I thought it might be a good opportunity to do a bit of research. So, after they had both left, I sneakily clicked open the work sheets.

I carefully studied all the formulas and calculations that Pop had used, including graphical analysis, extrapolation of measured data, trends and standard deviation, as methods of identifying contradictions and irregularities in the questionnaires completed by the princes. As often happens, you don’t always spot your own mistakes, so I corrected a few errors that pop had missed and became so absorbed that, before I knew it, the first light of dawn began to break. All it needed was another trial run, so I quickly keyed in Edward’s false answers from the previous evening and pressed enter.

A few moments later a score of zero flashed on to the screen with the words ‘Not Matched’.

I squealed, I danced, I jumped for joy! Not only had I fixed the programme, but in doing so, had also completed my high-level problem solving assignment for College – result!

“Emmy, what brings you here, so early?” Pop asked, breezing into the office ready to resume work on the programme.

“I’ve been here all night analyzing your worksheets and, after making a few adjustments, I actually got it to work.”

“Emmy you must be absolutely shattered.”

“Well no. Actually I’ve never felt more alive, I’m buzzing with excitement. I’ve just re-entered Edward’s false answers from last night, and the score is still on the screen. Here, have a look.”

He peered over, and his face lit up into a beaming smile. “Well done Emmy, I’m so proud of you,” he said, slapping my palm in a high five.

“Brilliant, all I have to do now is to design an invitation, setting out the details of The Contest, so there will be no misunderstandings. While I get on with it, I suggest you, young lady, get some well-earned sleep.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It took me a while to drop off, but when I did, slept longer than I had intended, and woke with a start. My cyPhone was practically steaming with missed calls and messages from Pen, asking why I hadn’t turned up for College, so I phoned her straight away, to explain.

“That’s amazing, I always knew you were meant to be a computer whiz. It must be in your genes. I wish it was in mine, I’m hopeless.”

“Everyone has their own talents, I wish I had your flair for English.”

“Well, I’ll help you write your essays if you help me with my cyber programming assignment.”

“OK, it’s a deal. Sorry Pen, I have to go, someone’s knocking the door. See you tomorrow.”

It was Pop. He had finished the invitation and had brought a copy for me to read through.

Please don’t go blabbing all the details across your usual social networking sites, as it could compromise the situation, and spoil the surprise for everyone.”

“Why? I’m sure when the invitations have been sent, it will soon be all over Pacebook and Jotter.”

“Exactly, that’s why I want you to keep a dignified silence. Please do as I ask.”

“Ok, Ok, don’t worry, I will. But if you’re that concerned, why don’t you add a sentence warning contestants they will automatically be disqualified if they try to contact me, either in person or on-line, before the ball.

“Damn good idea, Emmy.”

“So, that’s it then,” I said, as excitement and dread, battled for control of my mind.



© Copyright 2020 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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