Trust no one. Every camera is an eye. Every microphone an ear. Find me and we can stop him together.
Rex: Sixteen-year-old Mexican American programmer. One of the best in the world. Determined to find his missing brother.
Tunde: Fourteen-year-old self-taught engineering genius. Brought the Internet to his Nigerian village. Targeted by a ruthless military warlord.
Painted Wolf: Mysterious sixteen-year-old activist blogger. Pulled into the spotlight when her father became involved with a corrupt Chinese official.
The Game: Two hundred geniuses. A head-to-head competition devised by India’s youngest CEO and visionary.
Welcome to the revolution. Get ready to run.
In Genius: The Game, an action-packed young adult novel by Leopoldo Gout, three brilliant teens from around the world use their knowledge of hacking, engineering, espionage, and activism in a race to save the world.
Praise for Genius: The Game:
“There is simply too much here to like. . . . Gout's characters are believable and immensely likable and their friendship serves as a delightful and realistic anchor amid the fast-moving chaos. Science and technology may take center stage in Gout’s fictional Game, but it's the less flashy craft of writing that sells the story.” The New York Times
“Strong characters who show their bravery throughout, friendships that do not falter, and ethics that do not fail, even when characters are faced with the impossible, are a refreshing change to most teenage novels. Readers will be caught up in the brilliance of the three characters and be surprised at the many twists and turns that they must confront. A gripping must-have.” School Library Journal, starred review
"A fast-moving story that presents its protagonists with intriguing moral choices" Publishers Weekly
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By Leopoldo Gout
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2016 Leopoldo Gout
All rights reserved.
06 DAYS, 07 HOURS, 39 MINUTES UNTIL ZERO HOUR
My best friend Tunde's text showed up on my cell at 3:01 a.m. on a Tuesday.
I didn't see it until two hours later, and by then his system was down.
No e-mails. No texts. No calls.
So I had to bite my nails until he got online again. And, honestly, given the tech he was working with who knew when that would be? Most likely hours.
Still, when Tunde said something big was happening ... he meant it.
And I couldn't wait to hear what.
Anyway, Tuesday meant waking up at five so Papa could drop me off at the bus stop on his way to work. That way I could catch the five-forty bus downtown to the Santa Cruz Industrial Biotechnology Center. It's a lab that specializes in biochemicals like activators and inhibitors, which are used in chemical reactions; with them, you can make anything from soap to beer.
I wasn't there to design molecules, though. I was there to help the company upgrade its servers to a private cloud-computing model I'd been tinkering with. Those guys were chemists: good with beakers but bad with software.
I did some coding and they fed me doughnuts.
Oh, and they paid me. In designer aldehydes.
All you really need to know about aldehydes is that they're organic compounds that can be whipped up in a lab. You find them in fragrances, shampoos, deodorants, etc. They're also great for cleaning. That's why I got them.
See, every Tuesday I also showed up at North High early to meet with Mr. Jawanda. He was the janitor and we had an agreement.
I brought him some choice aldehydes and he let me into the computer lab on weekends. It was a win-win. Mr. Jawanda mixed the aldehydes into his cleaning supplies and crafted a potent brew that kept the hallways spotless for months. Honestly, Principal Yates was always going on about how great the halls looked. And I got to harness the power of some relatively new computers and a decent-sized server system. Stuff I couldn't access from home.
Still, five a.m. is an early wake-up. And if it wasn't for my natural restlessness and Tunde's text, I would have been fast asleep in my first class, Mr. "Cold Fish" Wagner's AP physics.
I'd heard seniors talking about how bland Wagner was when I first got to school, but I just assumed he was tough and didn't really know how to inspire students. That was why everyone hated Mrs. "Pucker Face" Jenkins's calculus class. She taught math like you treat cancer; it was a war.
But this time it turns out the seniors were right.
Mr. Wagner was able to make even the most exciting developments in physics — say, quantum mechanics or chaos theory — feel like listening to someone read the dictionary out loud for eighty-eight minutes.
Didn't help that he got a lot of it wrong, too.
Last year, when I was a freshman, I would have corrected him. I learned that was a mistake pretty fast. Not only do high school teachers hate it when you correct them, but high school students hate it even more. It took me longer than it should have to figure out why people were pointing at me and laughing and why I kept finding soda poured through the grille on my locker door.
Good news, though: Mr. Wagner had finally gotten around to oscillations and gravitations and everyone (well, everyone but me) had their heads down, scribbling notes furiously, listening as intently as they could. In fact, they were all so busy they didn't notice I was coding on my textbook tablet.
As the name implies, it's both a textbook and a tablet. In my case, it's a tablet computer embedded in an old copy of Resnick and Halliday's Fundamentals of Physics.
You could make one fairly cheaply. Just grab a 4.3-inch OLED touch screen and mount it on a single board with a 1.5 GHz processor, a battery module, a 4 GB preformatted SD card. Then find any decent-sized hardback book to hide it in. Stir together and voilà!
I was two lines into a pretty sweet microcode for an assembly language when my textbook tablet buzzed.
Tunde was back online.
Naija Boi: did you receive my message?
KingRx: of course. did you get my responses? Tell me what's going on. Dying over here.
Naija Boi: patience, omo. Waiting for Painted Wolf.
KingRx: ugh. Come on, give me a hint.
Naija Boi: it is going to change our lives.
At North High, I had no one.
But outside those boring brick walls, it was a different story. I had the LODGE. I always say it with a dramatic flourish, like it's the beginning of Beethoven's Ninth.
Anyway, we call ourselves the LODGE because we all agreed it sounds really cool and exclusive. Especially since the only members are Tunde, Painted Wolf, and me. We're best friends even though we've never actually met in person and Tunde and I don't even know Painted Wolf's real name.
Tunde (aka Naija Boi) is fourteen, a rural Nigerian kid who loves hip-hop and soccer. He also happens to be a self-taught engineer, with the wickedest memory known to man.
Painted Wolf (aka Painted Wolf) is sixteen. She's from Shanghai and is one of China's most notorious (and mysterious) activist bloggers. She's also the one who brought us together. I'll spare you the details because she tells the story best.
Anyway, Tunde isn't given to exaggeration. Like any engineer worth his salt, he's superrational. That doesn't mean he's boring. It just means he sticks to the facts.
So if he said it was going to change our lives?
That pretty much meant it really was going to change our lives.
Naija Boi: Painted Wolf will be on soon. can we talk goniophotometers first?
KingRx: fine. But as soon as she's on, you're going to tell us everything, and don't drag it out. First period's over in exactly eleven minutes.
So yeah, let's talk goniophotometer programs for a sec.
First time I heard about them, I had to look them up, too.
They're for measuring light.
Tunde was working on upgrades to his solar power plant (he'll explain later) but they involved some sophisticated coding and the only computers he had access to were pretty outdated. We're talking like twenty years outdated. Like PC-DOS 6.3. It frustrated him to no end, but fortunately it just so happened that I loved the challenge of writing programs for ancient computers. It was kind of like translating HTML back to papyrus.
The way it worked was simple: Tunde would send me a bunch of specs for the solar power plant upgrades and a general idea of what he wanted to accomplish. My job was figuring out how to make it work on a software level. In this case, he was installing new heliostats (the mirrors that focus the light to the top of the collecting tower).
Naija Boi: So the goniophotometer will be matched with the spectroradiometer.
KingRx: And, uh, what is that?
Naija Boi: It is obvious, no? Measures spectral power solar irradiance.
KingRx: Oh, of course. Makes total sense, Tunde. Let me just plot that out.
Naija Boi: Ha ha. Okay, Mister Sarcastic.
KingRx: What were we talking about?
Naija Boi: Spectral power solar —
KingRx: Right. Right. Are we talking about luminosity? Just off the top of my head I'd be thinking something like "for(int i=1, <=2;i++)". Make sense?
Naija Boi: Yes, this is excellent. Thank you.
My book tablet buzzed again.
A little icon popped up on the screen and there was the face of Painted Wolf. In her trademark dark sunglasses, purple wig, and ... I was actually surprised to see she was wearing a nose ring. Hadn't seen that before.
Painted Wolf: hello, boys. Are we being geeky?
KingRx: what else would we be doing?
Painted Wolf: Tunde, got your message. What's up?
KingRx: He's been driving me crazy with this. Wouldn't tell me until you get here.
Painted Wolf: Well, here I am.
KingRx: spill it, Tunde.
Naija Boi: There is going to be a competition. It is called the Game, and 200 of the smartest people under 18 years of age from around the globe will be flown to the Boston Collective to compete. All expenses are paid. I do not know the prize.
Painted Wolf: Sounds incredible. Who's running it?
Naija Boi: Kiran Biswas.
KingRx: no way.
Painted Wolf: :-0!
Kiran Biswas was only the biggest name in technology, cybernetics, futurism, and design. When people spoke of a Cult of Kiran, they weren't exaggerating. At only eighteen years old, he was not only the CEO of OndScan, one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, but also a social justice warrior and an outspoken egalitarian. And, of course, he just happened to be tall, dark, and handsome.
Guy had it all.
The fact that he was going to launch some sort of brainiac competition was mind-shattering. I wanted in. Immediately. But not just because it sounded like the best time in the world, I wanted in because it was at the Boston Collective, the country's top technology and engineering university.
This was the moment.
The moment I'd spent the last two years waiting for, a competition at one of the only places with a working quantum computer. If I could get in, if I could get to the campus, I could run WALKABOUT and I could find Teo.
Forget that "could" noise. I had to get in.
KingRx: how'd you hear about this?
Painted Wolf: Were you invited?
Naija Boi: No. This thing is being handled very secretively. I received an anonymous e-mail about it this afternoon. Very strange indeed. The invitations are going out tomorrow night. It is to be Africa first, then two hours later, Asia, then a further two hours, the Americas, and finally, Europe. But you will not believe the thing I will tell you next
A hand suddenly came into view and ripped my textbook tablet from my grasp. The hand belonged to Seth Pratt, who was grinning ear to ear.
"This thing is crazy," he said, turning my textbook tablet around and pushing every button on it he could find. Watching him, I couldn't help but flinch. Every button press was another window closed or e-mail deleted or program potentially lost. "You can make something like this, but you still sit in this classroom and listen to Mr. Wagner's bullshit. What's wrong with you?"
"I need that back," I told him, trying to stay calm.
Despite Seth's grating personality (or maybe because of it), he was one of North High's most popular kids. He lettered on the swim team (ridiculously fast backstroke), dated Veronica Styles (outrageous lips), and there wasn't a party in Santa Cruz County in the past eight months that he hadn't been invited to.
Up until that second, Seth had never said a word to me.
Not even a passing joke about my up-cycled Nike Dunk Low Pros or the fact that I'm three and a half years younger than him. No snide remarks in the locker room. No requests for me to make him a cardboard book scanner or install a pin camera in his letter jacket's collar.
"What?" he asked, screwing up his face. Seth wasn't used to people talking back to him. He wasn't familiar with the concept that maybe, just maybe, I didn't want him to have barged his way into my life at that very second.
"I need that back," I said. "Right now."
He scoffed, narrowed his eyes.
"You think you're better than me, don't you?"
Great. Here we go.
"Listen, Seth, can I just have it back?"
He pretended to drop my textbook tablet. "Whoops!"
He did it again and I almost jumped out of my seat to rip it from his hands, but I knew there'd be trouble if I made a scene. I really could do without the administrative attention. Besides, I'd seen the bruises Seth had given Tom Mendez a couple of weeks earlier. Best to just stay put.
"What if I did drop it, though?" Seth said. "What would you do?"
"I'd be pretty upset."
"Pretty upset," he said, mocking me. "Not pissed? Not up in my face?"
"What do you want me to say, Seth?"
"See," he said, "this is exactly why guys like me run the world and guys like you work for us. Think you're such a badass making computer books, like anyone actually wants a piece of junk like this, and slacking off in class. Truth is, all your brains don't mean anything if you can't back them up with a spine."
Seth threw a fist at me, pulled it at the last second. He expected me to jump, to flinch. I didn't. I froze and he left his fist hanging in front of my face, close enough that I could make out the tiny letters on his homecoming ring.
"You're just like your brother, Huerta. All bark and no bite. They still haven't found him, have they? Have you guys checked Mexico?"
That was it.
I jumped up, my hands unconsciously balled into fists.
My body tensed, my eyes narrowed.
I was going to overturn my desk, crush him into subatomic space but ...
"Ha. Chill, dude." Seth laughed with a big grin. "I'm just playing, man. Damn. You look like you're gonna kill me or something. Seriously, though..."
Mr. Wagner cleared his throat.
I glared at Seth and he dropped my textbook tablet on my desk, hard enough to crack the corner of the screen. I sighed, still furious but letting it go.
A trip to the principal's office and a phone call to my house? Well, even breaking Seth's nose wouldn't be worth the fallout from that. I looked up to see the rest of the class turned around in their seats, staring.
"We okay, Mr. Huerta?" Mr. Wagner asked.
"Yes, sir," I said, biting my tongue. "We're just fine."CHAPTER 2
06 DAYS, 07 HOURS, 32 MINUTES UNTIL ZERO HOUR
Naija Boi: Rex? Hello? Hello?
They say that the world is more interconnected now than it has ever been before. They say there are more cellular phones than there are people on Earth. And that it is possible for me to communicate with my best friend seven thousand, eight hundred, and fifty-two miles away and yet none of that matters if you do not have well-insulated transistors.
Such is the way of the universe.
My conversation with Rex and Painted Wolf had been cut short at a most inopportune time, just when I was going to tell them the most exciting news. It would not be easy, perhaps even impossible, to get back on that evening, but it could not hurt to try.
Sadly, the transistor I suspected of being faulty was not in an accessible spot. In fact, it was forty feet up in the air, atop the Okeke Solar Power Tower just outside my village. I would have to climb!
With my flashlight gripped between my teeth, I scaled the tower and took a look at the damage. It was, as I expected, burned to a crisp. There were obviously some excessive voltage issues with the wiring in this section, and I had seen just the thing to fix it at the junkyard earlier that day.
So I had to scramble back down and dig it up.
Fortunately, this did not take very long as I had spent the week prior organizing my section of the junkyard. Yes, my section. With my help, Samkon Malu, the junkyard owner, was able to watch repeats of Storyland and I Need to Know, so he never gave me trouble about organizing scraps or repurposing scrap metal from his place of business.
That junkyard was my haus away from home.
It was where I went to relax and to think.
If you have never spent an afternoon under a palm tree and a clear sky assembling a multicylinder four-stroke motorcycle engine, then you are truly missing out on an incredible pleasure.
I have been told that some people do not find this thought enjoyable.
I cannot think why.
There was once an Englishman who came to our village and was most impressed with the things I had created. He told me that one day I should apply to a university in England and study to be a mechanical engineer. I asked him how he thought I should do that, and he said, "Just go online and submit an application."
This caused much laughter.
The good news was I did not need to travel to England to learn. Everywhere near my village were projects that required attending. Everywhere in my land there were problems that needed to be solved. Katakata dey everywhere for Naija. And from each new project I have attempted, I have learned many things.
Including how to construct a solar power tower.
Yes, I designed it myself.
The idea behind it was simple: There are mirrors aligned very carefully on the ground around the tower. They focus the rays of the sun directly on the tower, where I installed a water system that contains water piped in from the nearest river, two kilometers distant. The light is hot enough that the water becomes steam and the steam turns a turbine.
I built the Okeke Solar Power Tower a year ago with the help of a few friends from Lagos. What good friends! It took us two months to align the mirrors correctly and all I could pay them with was gizdodo, but they did not complain at all.
I named the tower Okeke after the famous Nigerian scientist Francisca Okeke. She was a great source of inspiration; I put her on the same level as Tupac Shakur, Nikola Tesla, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Percy Julian.
Here is a schematic of the structure:
The tower was made of industrial-grade steel that I found at the military junkyard two kilometers from Akika Village. Most of the metal had been sitting out in the hot sun for decades, but it was still strong.
Excerpted from Genius by Leopoldo Gout. Copyright © 2016 Leopoldo Gout. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The Vanishing,
Part One: The Invitation,
Part Two: The Game,
Part Three: Everything That Rises Must Converge,
Part Four: Zero Hour,