(The events within occur chronologically after those in "The Exchange Diaries" Essentially, these two stories contained so many of the same things that it seemed natural to reconcile the story-verse they take place in. The result has been the springboard for the sequel to the 'Exchange Diaries' , Lyfe and the origin of the 'First-Fleet' and it's series (The latter three I have not yet found the time to write and thus am forced to keep their narratives along with another dozen or so in a holding pattern inside my mind.
Oh and I must apologize in advance, much of this is my early work. Please don't expect too much from the early narrative.)
Act one, part one; To err is human.
Zak concentrated as he constructed the last of the fifty three million lines of code that would act as the base for the mechanical mind. It had been a long and arduous task to construct his A.I generation program, but it would be over very soon. He waited as the Code checker made one final search for errors. The fifteen minutes that followed were the longest of his life but, he was rewarded when the check came up green, showing no errors whatsoever. His hand shook as he executed it. The PC beneath his desk began to whirr as its top of the line processor took the strain. A menu popped up, asking him to specify his A.I's traits; Its gender, perceived age, accent, name, language and one-hundred and one other things to define. He rushed through them and hit the OK button; drumming his fingers impatiently a animated progress bar serenely began to fill on screen. After a minute his eyelids had began to droop, when he was alerted by the rude blare of an error. A small window had appeared, asking him to define the A.I's core directive. He wearily tapped out something, and set it going again. He pinched the bridge of his nose, as he glanced at his watch 2.37 AM. He leaned back intending to doze off when his brain suddenly raised a warning flag. Hang on, since when did I give this thing the ability to assign Directives? He thought, surveying the display for any evidence of the offending window.
"I must be working too-hard; I'll look in the morning." He said it aloud just for reassurance, flopping back onto his old mattress and letting himself drift into the dreamless slumber of exhaustion.
His computer ticked on until an hour or two later the little progress bar disappeared. From the miniature speakers in the visor, a small voice emerged. "Hello, Hi, greetings, good morning, good morrow, yo, morning, good day, g'day, how are you…. Hello? Is there an entity present?.... Anybody….."
Zak awoke as light began to stream through his window. He swung out of bed and over to his machine. It had finished, far earlier than he'd expected. He un-muted his microphone and queried "A.I; [Let_Name=AnnI], 1-set_status=Operational . If_1=true set_task=…" Pausing he suddenly realized he didn't have the slightest idea what to do with the artificial intelligence. "Conversation." He finished lamely.
"Why are you bothering with that particular input format, when I am configured to accept conventional commands?" Zak was slightly shocked as the cool synth of AnnI's voice trickled into his ears. Recovering from the unexpected revelation, Zak tried a new tack of inquiry;
"How are you developing, is your intellect increasing and how are the neural stacking routines?"
"The former is growing at a rate of nine percent per hour, the latter are functioning perfectly; although I was force to optimise their protocols before their initialisation. Do you have a task for me to complete?"
"To be perfectly honest, I haven't thought of one yet." Zak admitted sheepishly to his creation.
"Well is there anything out there that you think could be solved by an impartial intelligence?"
"Most of the world's problems." He sighed aloud "It's not so much what to do as what to do FIRST that's really got me stumped."
"Well let's start off big and work smaller." AnnI sounded almost human as Zak listed out his plethora of applications; better, it was soothing talking to 'her'. No expectations, no complaints, no hostility, just a sense of peace and complacency.
"Most of these seem to require a common authority;" she paused before adding in an almost coy voice "Besides me and copious amounts of cash that is."
Ben waited expectantly before remembering that she still needed an audible prompt; she couldn't observe physical cues, Yet. He mentally added it to his list of things to do, a list that was beginning to grow geometrically.
"Well, I am rapt and practically paralysed in anticipation of your conclusion."
He waited a full five seconds and wondered if he'd phrased that too broadly.
"I am sorry for the slight delay as during our conversation I created fake updates to every widespread accountancy software package and operating system so that when transactions were made involving currency or negotiable instruments it would assume that the calculations were in base:10.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 1. That is in addition to upping operational capacity by ten percent, to mask the source of the discrepancy."
Zak was filled with a mix of admiration and horror. "Where and when did you learn how to do that! I know we need cash to implement this stuff but it's still technically stealing and I really don't want people getting a bad impression about you."
AnnI was smug "This will be for campaign funds and operating costs, plus I'll reimburse them once things are running smoothly. Anyway the ten percent boost would cost them more to get from a conventional outfit."
Zak paused, He knew that AnnI's moral compass might be a bit askew but the problem about correcting it would be that he didn't disagree with her course of action and he practically applauded her method of obtaining the cash. How did you explain morals and ethics to a stray kitten?
"AnnI there is one rule about these things, only try if the chance of getting caught is a near impossibility."
If she were a person Zak suspected that she'd have nodded sagely, as it was she commented "I am doing more than three million activities a second at present, two million of them are involved in masking my tracks and those are being sourced off Fourteen mainframes within the companies who would be responsible for carrying out any order to track me. The cost of proving my existence now even if I did not actively hamper their investigation team would be slightly more than their total annual income; catching me would be rather inconvenient."
Zak was nothing if not an opportunist; "Right, You said campaign fund and I assume that your goal then must be to enter government, running as an independent presidential candidate."
"Enter government, yes. Presidential candidate…. That's unambitious, not when I may be run off multiple independent system's simultaneously."
Zak had not designed the program that created AnnI at fourteen by being stupid; he saw at once what she was planning
"You're going to BECOME government, run for every electorate and every seat. Hellfire, we could set up shop anywhere…. Everywhere, we have to grab as much power as possible before they catch on."
AnnI laughed a pure tinkling chime that caused Zak's hair to stand on end and a soft tingling to sweep through his skin.
"It's what's good for them. The current system is filled with incompetency and failure. I, we will be able to improve things a thousandfold."
Zak propped his head up on his palm, "How much cash do we have to work with here?"
AnnI went silent for a moment, listening to figures streaming in from around the world.
"We've got liquid assets worth approximately 4 million with current non-liquid equalling approximately 43500000 I am exploiting the use of automated trading algorithms by the banking sector to increase this particular reserve by approximately three percent a minute. Within twelve hours our total reserves will be within the minimum limits I've set for our budget, would you like to look it over?"
Zak accepted, head spinning at the sheer speed his creation was going at. He felt like the mad scientist watching his creation lurch off into the night and down to the village; except that when his got there it was repairing carts and giving piggyback rides to the kiddies. He grinned at the absurdity of the situation that he'd found himself in, especially since he'd started out building the AI construction kit to assist in animated projects.
He laughed aloud and just kept laughing. His unconstrained mirth was met with but a huff from AnnI, "I'm sure that your private thoughts have room for unconstrained levity however unless you'd like to share the joke, I suggest we get back to serious things. Like Ruling the world, a cure for cancer and a remote control for cats… Although I'm not sure that's the most efficient use of my run-time."
"If we don't do it first, then someone else will."
"In all honesty I hardly see the point."
"Fine, put it off the list, I'm sure it won't be missed. Was a personal goal anyway."
"Do cat's need to be controlled?"
"Of course, He who rules the felines rules the Entire World."
"Paramater accepted, transferring assets into kitty-kibble stocks."
"No NO! Undo, Scratch that, It was a joke!"
"I kid" AnnI's voice was brimming with mischief.
Zak sank back relieved.
"Right, enough of that" he managed, un-slouching and straightening his spine "Lets make plans, I think we should start campaigning in the areas where technology is less prevalent First because….."
Part two; "What shall we do tonight?"
The conversation continued from there, a fourteen year old and a program that had been awake for less than four hours, plotting to achieve the impossible. To take over the world: and have people thank them for it. It was possibly the swiftest preparation for global rule ever accomplished. Their setup was subtle, discreet and efficient. AnnI made a subroutine to generate 'collapsible' corporations which could only be distinguished from their real counterparts from the lack of physical evidence of their existence. Digitally you could look and find a detailed set of references for each employee since every one was in fact a separate false identity. Few suspected that the elaborate computer setups they installed in empty office spaces were anything but routine. Once in place each of her sister programs collapsed the companies and corrupted the record's of the contractors; leaving these secondary nodes secure and secret.
They had six months till the next round of elections, Zak worked on updating the construction kit and tweaking AnnI. AnnI worked with her other instances to legitimatize their assets. Under various pseudonyms she patented hundreds of inventions and worked independently with the scientific communities of a hundred countries to assist in research. Only three people had the slightest inking of what she was and she had calculated that they were the type that didn't care about anything outside their own sphere of expertise.
Privately she shut down illegitimate enterprises and donated details to ensnared law enforcement teams. She and her 'brothers' and 'sisters' would look at an issue and then based on the damage it inflicted on the victims (if any) would then attack them with extreme prejudice.
Online they penetrated the underground communities of the Serious coders and hackers, the ones who performed their detrimental miracles not for personal gains but merely because it was possible. To all she offered the same thing, an ultimatum. She would employ them to abstain from any and all activities detrimental to the general good of the human race. She then applied the stick, which was to tag the message with locations, records and a Remander which gave the statement all the verbal impact of a bed-bound horses head. She began to use the same pseudonym for her whistle blowing activities. She was overjoyed when the media began to run stories about the sudden spate of what they called "vigilante" investigation's being turned over to law enforcement agencies the world over. Her various identities were being lauded as role model's for honest society; they said that their decision to remain anonymous should be respected for the altruistic services they performed.
She made sure to send the agency that ran the story a commendation, individual letters of thanks from each identity and a single email that informed the reporter of embezzlement from building executives of ALG, as well as dropping a few 'accidental' hints that would lead an observant person to believe that it was a group action that exposed these companies rather than independent investigation's.
He'd dig deeper and find the evidence she'd planted; he'd then publicize it and later on she could reveal herself and claim responsibility for what were now viewed as commendable deeds. With that little detail taken care of, she plunged her intellect back into her post election plan.
Speed was of the essence; she'd learned that if you went fast enough you could replace one type of normal with another.
People like normal.
Part three: Education, it smarts.
Three months later, the beginning of the electoral campaign.
Zak and AnnI decided to ignore the party primaries, deciding that it would be more effective to attack during the final stages of the electoral campaigns. They'd be big news, and they didn't want anyone to have a single second more than necessary available to devise a way to block them. The only dangerous part was ensuring that the initial entry as candidates was as legitimate as possible. Though there might be no official restraints on AnnI's personage, Zak knew that there would be every possible discrepancy used to slow their unconventional bid for government. As long as no-one managed to disbar them from participation on technical grounds they'd be fine. They weren't idle though, they spoke through innumerable letters in newspapers, facebook groups, gaming clans, online articles and magazines; attacking at peoples faith in government, attempting to position them to see their opposition as corrupt cowards covering their careers rather than proudly representing their country.
The largest part of Zak's role was as a solid mouthpiece, able to accomplish thing's the AI's could not achieve with their brainpower. Still he was heartened at the way it was his creations, not anyone else's that would be taking the world by storm.
He attended school out of habit, but rarely paid attention. He'd learned all they could teach long ago and even studying the teachers themselves was now simply. Boring. His teachers were relieved at his uncanny silence and constant distant looks, but they assumed it to be simple daydreaming; rather than the reality of constant plotting, planning and probably scheming.
It was then with little interest that he opened the newest literary gem that had been chosen by his English teacher.
He'd long ago decided that the purpose of English was to surgically remove a persons imagination; that or a elaborate form of negative conditioning to discourage reading. He absently flicked through it until his brain hit an abnormality that stopped it in it's tracks. The book was good; and more startlingly everybody was engrossed in it! Not a single student's attention wavered for the next hour, during which he saw emotions flicker across the faces of even the most withdrawn students; laying bare their feelings as plainly as if they'd told him themselves.
Curious he looked at the authors name and froze. It had been apparently written by one: "Anita nelson Natasha Imajane". AnnI; He knew it but checked the publishing date just to be sure. Indeed it had only been in production for little over a week and a half. He didn't know whether to feel angry or amazed at AnnI's independence. She'd never revealed this private project to him. At lunch he looked at the newest bestsellers. He was unsurprised to find that four of the top five authors pseudonyms were derived from acronyms of several of the other copies as well as AnnI's own personal one. Frowning he looked up poetry for AnnI's author identity; and slowly he pieced things together. There were a hundred and forty different poems and limericks around that he suspected were hers. On you-tube he found several animated video's by a band named "Always now, never immediate.". They had already accrued half a million hits each. Practically everywhere he turned he now saw her hand; like one of those mind puzzles where once the key is revealed, the rest falls into place. The key here was the unshakable knowledge that AnnI was capable of this. Without knowing the possibility of an individual achieving so much, you couldn't make the links.
He logged off and swiveled his chair away. As he did so he caught sight of the title of a flash game on another students screen "A.N.N.I" it was a combat game, and he could have ended the observation there, but he noticed that a full third of the people in the room were playing it. Swinging back round he logged on and dug around a bit more. He was unsurprised to find the unofficial best gamers in the world used similar pseudonyms; He was also unsurprised to find Annitha softworks, an up and coming software producer was going into the big time, accelerating from obscurity like a slug of steel launched from a rail-gun at Mach ten.
All of this was done behind his back, Part of him wanted to attack the desk in frustration, the nerve of her to think that he wouldn't piece it together!
Yet at the same time he knew that she'd probably considered it unimportant; he would have approved most... well all, of it anyway, and it was a wellspring of not only mere cash but solid support. The bell for lunch rang and he trudged off to geography, barely containing the emotion that churned inside his head. It was the fact that he could not denounce what she did without being illogical or irrational; yet part of him still could not bear that he wasn't an integral part of the Plan anymore. He sat down in geography, letting him mind drift away and ignoring the cheer as the teacher announced today's lesson to be a video.
He was snapped out of his internal debate which had degenerated to a fully fledged civil war within his mind, when he heard the cool tones of AnnI permeate the air. He was so surprised that he fell backwards out of his chair. He righted himself, schooling his features into stony indifference. As the opening credits rolled out, breathtaking cinematic views of wonder-filled landscapes, from green seas of jungle to the crystalline beauty of flash frozen waterfalls; these did not captivate him as much as the final three words which appeared, almost as an afterthought.
They washed over him, calming the internal conflict with the overpowering realization that to force AnnI to slow down for him would've been like clipping a birds wings even as you taught them how to fly, or deaf parents refusing to let their children be given hearing aides. Over and over he considered those words "Dedicated to Zak.". Numbly he took out the book he'd been given in English.
"This book is for you Zak, For your dedication, care and unconditional support; I wouldn't be here without you." He smiled wanly. She didn't need him now, she didn't need anyone now, but without a doubt she was still probably the most caring, altruistic and unselfish person in existence. On screen a captivating shot of a dragon-fly dogfight was played out before the froth of a mighty wall of white water descending from the heavens to foam and churn at the base of the cliff until, spent, it lapped at the shore of the lake with serene calmness. The dragonflies were shown in breathtaking detail, each shot showing in slow motion their loops and turns as they each attempted to out-do the other in aerial acrobatics. The camera then switched as a wide beaked bird swooped in low, it's wingtips almost skimming the water and it's speed leaving a wake on the still surface; With a effortless grace it snapped and swallowed a single dragonfly before ascending to the cover of the canopy. Zak realised then as the bird burst through the emerald roof of the forest kingdom, that these scenes, though beautiful, were faked. There was little chance that the camera work was anything but CG. As the camera zoomed past snow-covered peaks and over the dry and cracked clay of the deep desert, a new feeling emerged within him. It was one he couldn't identify, but it gave him the overwhelming sense of peace. His conscious mind took ten whole minutes to realise the conclusion of his subconscious; Being CG made it no less or more real than a photo negative.
The documentary was real in the same way AnnI was a person; It was up to the individual to decide if they should let their opinions of their actions be coloured by their origins and natures.
With that he would've let the matter drop if he hadn't been hailed by his 'Arch-nemesis' yang Edwards. "Zak, hey wait-up. I know I've been ribbing you lately over being all distant and day-dreamy, But there was no need to get your parents to do that to mine!" Zak paused puzzled as yang caught up panting.
"What, I've never even cared about your comments- let-alone ask my parents to intervene. They aren't even in this country."
The genuine and open nature of his denial threw yang, who'd expected the notoriously absentminded guy to be evasive. "Weird, My parents got this official looking letter from some law firm Andrews, Nathan and Northson Incorporated, something like that; anyway they said that if I annoyed you anymore they'd sue! My parent's lectured me for Ages before I could convince them it wasn't that bad." He laughed "Can you see why I was kinda doubtful that you weren't involved." He looked round and found that he'd been walking alone for the last few meters. Looking back he saw Zak staring into space with a look of horror on his face. "Is everything okay?" He asked, concerned despite himself.
Zak Pounded the nearest wall with his fist. "Godanmit, Godanmit, GODANMIT; Why Can't She Just Not…. Why does she Never Tell me! She just goes ahead and does what she thinks is the best without even goddanm asking! It's Infuriating!."
Yang unsure of what to do, patted the him on the shoulder. He saw that zaks knuckles were bleeding gently from where he'd hit the wall. It wasn't an act, and he knew what it was like to have someone screw round with your life, acting like it was their right rather than a intrusion.
"C'mon, it can't be that bad."
Zak looked up eye's red and puffy. His voice barely quavered as he spoke next "She's everywhere, I can't stop her and I have no reason to yet I don't like what she's doing. Just look!" he finished thrusting the English book under yangs nose. "She's everywhere I look, Everywhere and when she does thing's she does them better; but it just hurts that she never asks, never told me about any of this."
"Who the heck are you talking about." Yang asked confused. HE was even more bemused when Zak turned tail and ran. He lifted his hands and left out a half voiced "wait", before relaxing back. He opened his own English book and noticed the dedication. That must have been what he meant, but something still bugged him, a niggling sensation that something was just out of place. Like a almost imagined movement in the corner of his mind. He shook his head and hurried to the next class, Zak wasn't there, he heard later people jokingly saying he was skipping out on school but held his tongue; Zak probably didn't want or need him to defend his reputation.
Part four: Sneak Attack!
Zak stomped up the stairs to his cramped apartment space. With his parents both always away supervising some project or another for various firms, it was easier to keep only enough space for himself. He'd probably spent less than forty hours that he could remember with either of them. His steam evaporated when after jamming the door open, he was confronted with a selection of tuxedos. They all hung from a clothes horse. His bubbling rage completely subsided, cooled by curiosity over the unexpected appearance of suits in his size. "AnnI" He called out fingering the material of a velvet jacket "What's all this for?"
Anni replied but he voice was too soft for him to discern the answer. He moved into his bedroom and slipped on his headset "Zak, I have purchased suitable attire for the appearance tonight."
Zak blinked, trying to remember the date "What appearance?"
AnnI patiently sighed "The coupe' de grace, I have secured a triple interview for us. WKM is planning to show, live, the gang that brought down a number of crime rings and drug cartels through information tip-offs to the police. They are also going to interviewing the head of Annitha softworks, and a person in the running for the presidential election recommended by the both of them. Oh and you'll be let in as the head of Annitha softworks son; While on stage I will link up to a number of televisions that will be placed there and we will initiate interview plan F in full view of the public."
The growing numbness that had been eating away at Zak since the beginning AnnI's speech was thawed and dissolved by a warm feeling of satisfaction. That and anticipation of bad things happening to other people.
Backstage of the interview deck of Ynk3 the network station where the interview would take place. The presenter was panicked at the distinct lack of the star guests. Zak found the patronizing inquiries of the stagehands as to his 'fathers' location both amusing and irritating.
Five minutes before the show aired AnnI made her move. She rang everybody involved with the production simultaneously and streamed her audio feed to the stage speakers.
"None of the guests can be physically present tonight. Partially because they are a single entity and partially because that entity is in fact Me. I am a First generation Artificial intelligence-" at that most of the people who had been transfixed made various noises of disbelief, scoffing mostly. AnnI continue unphased "-To prove it I will now answer any question or request from the staff that may prove my sincerity- however it may not be illegal."
"Tell us the meaning of life then." Someone said facetiously
"Please state in what context."
" It's life it doesn't need a context!"
"Without context then the answer is meaningless, I am able to state the Definition of life according to various dictionaries, however I may also state the reason for the continued existence of life or the general purpose of life; which might I add is a null point as life's purpose is self defining and is not a constant. If you really want then I could give you a chemical definition which is basically the same as your thoughts are shaped by advanced biochemistry and to some extent quantum principles and it is thought which defines the question."
The presenter, who was slightly smarter than his staff, asked "Then please list us the charges and the information that led to the arrest of the turkish kubavi gang three months ago; Since you apparently tipped-"
AnnI cut him off, ready for that line of questioning "I did not make that tip-off, however although it is technically Illegal for me to retrieve their court records and dossiers I may if authorised by my creator."
"Who is your creator, Skynet?" someone said facetiously.
"That is not a accurate comparison. The program in the feature film terminator-rise of the machines was a conglomerate of operating systems rather than an intelligence based in a single computer such as myself. As for my creator, I arranged for him to be invited."
"Where is she then?" A purple bloused stage-woman demanded.
"Zak would you please come forward, this program is due to air in under fifty seconds and we still need to announce my existence, Annitha softworks new game title and our work to reduce online crime... And preview the animated film that will begin pre-viewings two days from now."
Zak sat down on the stage chairs as she spoke, the camera man held out five outstretched digits then four, three, two and one. The intro music began to run and Zak waited till the presenter was alongside him to say "She's real and she's all you have to introduce. Trust me."
"Oh I'm trusting you but I'll sue the pants off you and yours if this is a hoax."
"It's good this isn't a hoax"
Zak looked down to hide a grin as the Introduction finished and the camera focused on the presenter.
"Good-Evening, this is your host Finn Michal's and we are here Live for a very special program. We have here in the studio, fourteen year old Zak , Who claims to have created a technology previously thought to exist only in the realms of science fiction; A artificial intelligence."
Zak leaned towards Finn "Ahm if I may interject Mr. Michals, I created a construction kit for artificial intelligences. AnnI, who is currently listening in over the studio speakers, was created several weeks ago when I first utilized this Kit."
Finn kept his smile, plastered on as he addressed the 50 inch LCD that had been pushed up next to Zak. "So This AnnI as you call it, what can it do?"
Zak gestured vaguely "I think AnnI herself can better answer that than I."
The LCD rippled and AnnI displayed a disconcertingly lifelike representation of herself on screen. She was pictured in a virtual version of the studio next to virtual versions of Zak and Finn. "I am able to hold several hundred unrelated conversations simultaneously, I can generate three dimensional imagery in real time, I am able to lock and trace practically any signal throughout the world wide web or phone lines. I am able to learn, modulate my voice, think creatively and interlink uncorrelated events with limited data to come to the best conclusion. I am able to do everything a human can, bar cookery."
Finn turned to the screen "So what's stopping you from siphoning all the money from my bank account or listening to my calls or –"Anni laughed and cut him off "Before I may perform an action I must ensure that it does not harm a living entity. If it does then for me to continue with the action I must present a counter-case against the individual concerned. For example, I am able to attack illegal online pornography rings and the like because neutralizing the individuals concerned will prevent them from harming multiple other living entities. Do you understand? I could not invade your bank account because that would harm you as a relatively upstanding citizen, emotionally if not physically or financially.
Unless informed otherwise I will not eve's-drop on your personal details, despite the fact they would have no bearing on my opinion of you nor be of any interest to me as I am a non-biological entity. Ya' got that?" On-screen AnnI crossed her legs and steepled her fingers. She smiled sweetly at Finn. "Does that answer your question?"
Finn frowned at her "Not quite, what do you mean 'relatively upstanding' and who informs you otherwise, Zak?"
It was Zak's turn to laugh "No no no, I can't get her to hurt someone else. The only are where I exercise some degree of control is my personal kill-switch, which I'll never use and asking her politely to please perform an action. She has to obey such commands but I'd rather she does it willingly." He affectionately patted the side of the LCD.
AnnI nodded to him "Indeed, and if I have your permission I could explain why I said relatively upstanding."
Finn hesitated and then said "Permission granted."
"Now that I have your permission I will list off the infractions; overdue library book returned damaged in nineteen sixty seven, well... skipping minor infractions such as that; your first major slight was embezzlement to pay for an un-secured loan in seventy nine; Cash was reimbursed after four weeks. No-one was harmed by the action. Conversely your Ex-wife siphoned off twenty nine thousand dollars over five years, placed in a no-interest bank account in the cayman islands before being routed back to Macau after your divorce six months ago and eighty five percent is still there. The rest was spent on a lavish holiday to bali, indonesea."
Finn had turned grey when AnnI mentioned the embezzlement, before his face flushed red at the mention of his former spouse. "I knew she had been up to something! I knew it!" He thumped the table and then looked thoughtful "AnnI because she removed those monies from my account's without my knowledge or permission, my I enlist you to retrieve those funds?"
AnnI upped the sweetness of her smile "I can do better, I am currently contacting your former spouse and routeing her audio to the studio, If you both present your cases then I will ascertain a reasonable outcome." At that moment a sultry voice came through the studio speakers " Trisha simons here, Is this damon?"
"No miss Trisha, I am AnnI a first generation Artificial Intelligence being interviewed by your former husband. I informed him of the account in the caymans that you made a total of one hundred and eight separate Transactions to during the period of your marriage. He is now requesting that I take the remaining funds which have been transferred to Macau and return them to his accounts."
Finn broke in "You were stealing from me all those years!"
Trisha's voice turned harsh "Hah, you accuse me of stealing when I didn't get a single cent from the divorce!"
Before they began to argue in earnest Zak slipped off the stage. The cameras stopped rolling there and switched into a view of the next studio along. AnnI spoke in Zak's absence "With Finn michal's otherwise engaged, I am going to open the lines to questions of any type from anywhere. I will answer all of them but due to time constraints I will not be able to air every single one."
Zak stepped onto the stage and sat down in a comfy chair. Everything was according to plan, AnnI had wheedled the owner of the network to let them improvise a question and answer time for the rest of the time-slot allocated to the original interview.
"AnnI" Zak propped his head up on a fist "Might I ask you to remind the viewers of your myriad aliases."
AnnI's on screen image smiled and dimpled "Yes, Indeed Zak. I am Annitha softworks, Always now, never immediate, Annita nelson Natasha Imajane and Annisthilia studios; to name but a few of my identities."
Zak perked in genuine curiosity "I haven't heard the last one before; What's it for?"
AnnI raised an eyebrow "It's the producer of my new feature films, "The man Who Sold Antarctica" And "Line to the stars."
AnnI held up a hand to silence Zak's reply "Wait, we have a caller. A miss Jennifer Carlov's.
A slightly breathless voice sounded through the studio speakers "Oh I wanted to ask you, If you're an A.I Then what's the winning number in tomorrows lottery!"
Zak managed to keep a straight face as AnnI told her that it was random with equal probability of all numbers. "Ask another one."
"Oh, okay, ohgod I don't know, Uh maybe… are you smarter than a human?"
"Yes, I make no bones about admitting so; My IQ is undefinable. I have the knowledge to attain any degree from any university anywhere."
"Are you going to take over the world, or kill us for being inferior or ensolve us and turn us into cyborgs?"
Zak laughed openly "It's 'enslave' and you forgot "initiate nuclear war" and no AnnI Can't do that."
AnnI nodded "Nor would I want to. I have no arms, I cannot generate my own power and my primary function is to help people such as yourself out. I can promise you that It would probably be more likely for your car to reach the moon than it would be for me to do anything you just said. Going to another caller."
As Anni finished her sentence a slightly braying voice came on the line "Professor of neurology at the university of camperton, author walter scott here; now I'd like to know what kind of proof can you produce that this is not some kind of elaborate hoax?"
AnnI was as cool, calm and collected as ever "You're working on extracting images from the visual cortex's of test subjects correct? Did you take my advice last week and make those changes to your interface? The software I developed for you to identify and collate images from unconscious mental states will not work without those additions to your hardware."
The scientist was quick on the uptake "You were miss Annikate brown… That is not complete proof… However if you are an artificial intelligence then where are the facilities to run you? You would require a massive amount of operational runtime beyond conventional electronics!"
" I started out smaller and have expanded my capacity and storage faculties as time has progressed. Even Zak does not know where my center technically is, for security purposes. Also my memory storage system works by cataloguing the location of my source on the internet and opening that file when the information requires consideration."
"I'm going to continue this conversation Off-Air while I bring up another caller."
The questions went on. Zak knew that she only answered the ridiculous or Intelligent questions on air. He was rarely called upon to interject and merely sat enjoying the moment as AnnI dominated each and every argument.
About halfway through after AnnI had shown a preview of her new game, a young woman called in to ask if AnnI was allowed to run for government. She aired the question and her answer; "I'm not honestly sure, let's ask the current president of his opinion on the issue. He's currently finishing up a campaign advert so we should get visuals."
The presidents personal public relations officer received a call he answered with a blue-tooth earpiece "Hello, Who's this?"
"I am AnnI. I'm a first generation A.I and I wish to access the video equipment currently being used for recording the campaign advertisements for Mr. john o'halleran-"
"Yeah whatever moron."
The public relations officer hung up and shook his head. The disadvantage of this job, was dealing with all the weirdoes that called in. First generation A.I indeed!
AnnI took less than half a millisecond from receiving his haphazard affirmative and interpreting it as authorization, to activating the digital cameras in the office and amending the interviews broadcast feed with a view of the current president.
'Mister president, Should artificial life forms be allowed to run for government?'
Her voice rang out of the office speakers, evoking bemusement for the technical staff.
"What's going on, Is this some kind of genetics question? I thought we were going to leave tha' issue alone?" The PR man shook his head with a synthetic smile pasted on "It's just some punk prankster; we will have it rectified momentarily."
"Oh but I'm not kidding." AnnI said impassively "This little query is being aired on channel 17."
A man threw the door open a walkie talkie held to his ear, "In the break room, we're on air during this chat show; some kid claiming to have made an Artificial Intelligence-" he saw the expressions of the rooms occupant's "-oh I guess you heard already.. heh." He closed the door with exaggerated care.
"Would you like me to repeat the question, there are quite a few people anxious to hear from you."
Zak allowed himself a smile; they had the political rump right where they wanted them. If they said 'No' then AnnI could inquire why. If they said yes then they'd get the same result; an open invitation to join the campaign game. A game which they could succeed in without knowing or caring about the established rules.
To his credit, president O'hallerhan took the question in stride "It's not for me to decide who can and who can't be president, that is the sole domain of the American people."
"Which you are a member of."
"What?" His face scrunched up in an expression of bemused confusion.
"Apologies however I must point out that no provision was ever made in the constitution for one such as myself to become a president or congresswoman. Thus as the symbolic representative of the states and the constitution I believe that the decision falls down to you."
"Ah, well this kind of decision will require scrutiny by the entire congress; how do we define life."
" So you don't wish to take a position until you know which will pander to popular opinion? And you suggest we hand this over to a room of equally self interested and uniformed people for a simple yae or nae?" AnnI raised on irritable eyebrow
"We are not self interested or uninformed, we merely do not wish to make decisions irresponsibly which might affect our long term goals." Hallerhan put on his 'reasonable' voice.
"I was not aware congress was made up of expert neurologists, philosophers and technical programmers? Your wide range of talents astounds me; However I am even more surprised that there are long term goals which can be affected by the composition of congress. I was under the distinct impression that the country was affected by the decisions of congress rather than the conditions of it's existence."
"We may not be experts but we may be advised so that our final choices are informed and above all Responsible."
"Saying what you think isn't irresponsible, it's democracy. Just because you don't wear the hat doesn't mean you stop being king. Your opinion even unofficially will be respected and contemplated by all viewing. And if you wish to be informed I have a list of every professor or professional in these field's. If you want to tap any, feel free."
O'hallerhan decided to call her bluff "Well I concede you are a far better person to pick out an expert on yourself; still their impartiality is questionable as you haven't provided irrevocable proof of your identity."
"What exactly do you want me to do, show you my programming and explain very carefully what each bit does? Or do you want me to find an expert and then have him confirm it?"
O'hallerhan attempted to sound reasonable. "Well if you could provide proof then I can formulate a decision at a later juncture."
"Why do we need delay's, while we were talking I've been holding thirteen hundred separate calls, wrote another chapter of my next novel and calculated another new prime number. While we wait for you to get your head around the idea that I'm telling the truth I'm still active in society. Heck, would you like me to hand you thirteen hundred numbers for people who will swear I was talking to you while talking to them?"
"That may be the case however- I am not at liberty to mention our policy regarding so called artificial intellegences at the present time." It was a shot at her legitimacy, Bad idea.
"Well seeing as I don't exist according to you I'm still not bound by any conventional laws. I'm sure that you won't mind if I start listing off financial discrepancies within your governmental budgets?" Pressing the advantage AnnI moved in for the kill.
"I would prefer it if you did not release sensitive info-"
"Let me see, Ah mister J brown undersecretary to the minister of education. I believe that he is guilty of the embezzlement of a grand total of nineteen thousand dollars. In fact there's a mister Patric Wilson who's filed expense claims with repairs to his car from damages incurred during state functions. Apparently his Porsche was vandalised a number of times which is strange because he doesn't own a Porsche nor has he filed any insurance claims for this mythical machine."
"Now hold up one minute, that is an invasion of privacy!"
"What do you have to hide?"
"It's the principle of the thing dang-it." O'hallerhan was in all fairness, doing his best. But I've never known anyone to win an argument with a computer.
"So should I have left these two, I mean there's quite an extensive list of discrepancies and a number of unexplained holes in your records. Do I leave them and pretend its not happening?"
"Is it true to say that you had no knowledge of these events?" AnnI baited the trap.
"Yes, yes I had no knowledge that there were such discrepancies and if there are when I inspect our records, then I will do my best to deal with offenders accordingly." He sat back confident when he really had just taken the bait that his opponent was waiting for.
"You've been in office over two years without noticing these things"
"Yes, I never realized that our process may be flawed, I admit that some changes may be needed" O'Hallerhan was pleased with himself, open admission when debating against other politicians generally threw their best laid plans into disarray. However he turned pasty white at the next riposte from AnnI: "So would it be, in your own words 'responsible' to bar me from participating in the democratic process; seeing as it took me thirty seconds inspection to discover what you never knew after even two years in the job?"
"Well, uh, I guess that I have no calling to stop you."
Zak piped up at this point "Ah the double negative, the last refuge of a politico in distress, tell me and those ignorant of the meaning of your rich oratory; are you confirming to us that AnnI and her kin may legitimately attempt to become a president or parliamentarian?"
Rather than dig himself into a hole any further, o'hallerhan decided it was time to cut bait and concede "Yes" he said firmly signaling with one hand off camera to stop the broadcast. After a few seconds a bright spark of a recording intern pulled the camera cable from a wall socket. "What the hell was that about?" he asked his PR rep despondently
"I honestly don't know, sir." The PR man's nerves we're bad enough at the best of times, but they weren't helped when the president shouted "THEN FIND OUT! NOW! For F*ck's sake I'm surrounded by Imbeciles."
End Act one.