The boy who had earned his halo sits, staring at the board, considering his opening sequence. The King’s Gambit was what Michael had called it, and though the boy had tried many opening sequences during his time with the Archangel, this was easily his favourite.
‘Ugh, you and that bloody Gambit. When oh when are you ever going to learn?’ Michael says, opening a space for his bishop. The boy leans forward to trace the potential threat along its diagonal route, careful to display a demeanour of quiet concern. As Michael glances up, the boy allows him to absorb the expression for only the smallest moment, before drawing down a mask of confidence. Michael narrows his eyes only slightly, testing the double bluff with his piercing gaze. The boy holds his features firm, yet works his memory with invisible fervour.
The boy had played this game a few times now, and would have to be very careful to appear surprised as the sequence of moves played out. For if he was to carry the game to the exact location of his previous mistake — committed precisely twenty-four games ago, three Gambits back (two of those he had used as smokescreens to hide what he had perceived in the particular game in question, whilst the other — seven games ago — had been his first (dismally failed) attempt at recreating the game) — he was certain he could conjure the requisite checkmate.
Yet if Michael twigged even in the slightest…
The boy who had earned his halo suppresses this thought with a sharp hail of nothingness, nervous at the potential of this thought. As if by just lending such constructions his imagination, the idea might transcend its dimension and manifest itself here. One of the watchers leans over to whisper to his neighbour then, causing the boy to grind his teeth in mild annoyance. Michael notices the twitching cheek and turns over his shoulder in time to see the watchers lean back into place.
The boy can almost sense his smarmy smirk.
‘I know, right?’ Michael says to the watchers, but as usual, they offer no response. The boy straightens up then, shaking all consideration of the audience from his mind and taking a strict measured breath.
Memory is the key.
Memory and patience.
We have all the time in the world.