Anna, part 21

“Edible Monopoly?” Bob looked lost.

“Surely you’ve heard of it!” Alec was warming up to the theme. “It emerged from theories by noted game designer Rob Daviau. A game of Monopoly costs maybe $15 to make, about the same as a box of pizza. Yet players lovingly tend to the parts of the Monopoly game — the shoe and the car, the plastic houses and hotels, the Chance cards and fake money in all its denominations. If the little dog goes missing we grieve for it, as though something precious has been lost.”

“Yes,” Jill continued, “but when we order a pizza, which has the same economic value, we eat the pie and toss out the box. Gene saw an opportunity — Monopoly as a consumable. Play to people’s hidden fears of impermanence, make it part of the game.”

“You guys totally get my work,” Gene said admiringly. “And of course it’s a lucrative business. Instead of selling a Monopoly game just once, you can develop a continual revenue stream through extras and add-ons. The chocolate hotels alone paid most of the cost of my summer place in the Hamptons.”

Bob was slowly absorbing all this. “I take it you are now a wealthy man.”

“Well yeah, but all I want is Jill.”

Jill blushed. “Thanks dear, but I don’t think I would have been happy stuck away in that summer place. Fourteen rooms is too many for me. All I need is a computer and a whiteboard for my lifestyle of choice.”

Alec looked from Gene to Jill. “What about Jack?”

Jill gave him a warning look.

Gene looked confused. “Who’s Jack?”

“Um, just a little inside joke between us,” Alec said quickly. He knew that look meant danger. “It comes from a nursery rhyme.”

“Um, ok, but what’s been going on here? Who burned down your lab? I mean, that’s crazy. And what’s with all the cloak and dagger? What the hell are you guys up to?”

“Oh, not much,” Bob said, “just using artificial intelligence to defy the laws of physics.”

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