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There are 4 steps to politics - pick a goal, grow your group, sideline your enemies, start over.

- The Darkness

 

1 Week Later - Candy - The Sugar Lab

I wake up, grab my phone. No new disasters. Good enough. I go back to sleep.

I wake up again, and drag my ass to the shower. I stare at the hypno-clone. What the hell, I fire it up. I’m flooded with possible fuck-mates. I watch them stream by, each profile up for mere moments before it’s paired off.

When we built the hypno-clone, most people thought it wouldn't work. Not for technical reasons, they just thought there wouldn’t be enough girls willing to fuck strangers on the internet. Turns out there's plenty. Safety and anonymity do wonders for the libido. Also, being able to effortlessly change your appearance really levelled the social playing field. It changed society more than immortality. I scan a few more profiles. Is that chick wearing prom dress? I log in quickly and accept her invite.

She appears in my shower. It is not a prom dress. From the waist down she's half squid. Like a mermaid, except half squid. A mersquid. Squidmaid? She has tentacles.

This is not how I saw my morning going. She's super happy. Ahh, what the hell. We make love. It’s more alarming than exciting, but it gets me there. I return the favor. I think. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to rub. I just rub everything.

We chat a bit as I wash my hair. She's really nice. I friend her.

I check the news over breakfast. Everything's trending stable. I head to my lab and pull up test data for my last hypno-trigger.

A hypno-clone has three parts; VR contact lenses, haptoclone, and hypno-trigger.

Virtual reality contact lenses provide the visuals. They connect to the internet through your phone. They replaced the 3D projectors that replaced virtual reality sunglasses. They’re super comfortable. I’ve had mine in for months. I forget I wear them.

The haptoclone provides virtual touching. It’s an ultrasound projector that makes a weak force bubble where you touch a virtual image. It’s super cool, but the delicacy of the virtual surfaces can be a bummer. You can make the feeling stronger by turning up the ultrasound, but it will bruise your fingers. Or, your lady parts. Depending on how your evening is going.

The hypno-trigger was my contribution to the project. It’s a post-hypnotic suggestion that makes bad graphics and barely touching a fun date. It doesn’t make the VR seem real, it lowers inhibitions until you don’t care. It’s like the suspension of disbelief you get when you’re sucked into a great movie. But, for your lady parts. I did all of this to bang a long-distance hottie.

My first hypno-trigger was a 20 minute Youtube video. It was half guided meditation and half old school stage hypnotism. I stared into the camera, and spoke softly about relaxation for 19 minutes. In the last minute, I tried to plant a posthypnotic suggestion - when your lover touches you, it will feel wonderful. If you want to cum, you may.

Only 5% of people were able to orgasm using my hypno-trigger and the ephemeral tickling of the haptoclone. It was enough. It’s the all-time most watched video on Youtube. I’m still tweaking it. Nowadays, 32% of people can cum, and another 39% report loving it anyway.

We never really got paid for inventing the hypno-clone. It’s a household item, but rich and poor agree on stealing tech. Such is life. I made a little money off advertising and licensing. It was enough for a downpayment on the club.

I still make a hypno-trigger every week. I feel like I’m helping people, in a small, weird, way. I’m committed to making them work for everyone. I also make a few bucks off requests.

My last effort was the Surefoot Trigger. Hypno-clones have safety features to stop users from masking danger. So they can’t put a virtual dance floor over a real life stairwell and boogie their way to oblivion. Invariably, these safety features get turned off. You can’t play naked beach volleyball in grandma’s guestroom without erasing a few walls.

The Surefoot Trigger taps your subconscious memories of your surroundings to subconsciously guide you around hidden objects. It all happens in your subconscious. Like blinking. It doesn’t work.

According to my data, everybody who tried it got hurt. Fuck. My help made everything worse. I think I gave them faith in non-existent abilities. Better erase this one.

Well, that project’s shot. On to the next one.

I head down to the club. The chill vibe is no more. The club is full. The work is intense. The parties are epic. Project Trouble is happening.

I grab a beer, look around. Building a superintelligence is complicated. We’re still in the flailing around stage. Eventually, the club will be a temple of quiet focus. Now it’s a clusterfuck. There are dozens of workstations devoted to various parts of the project. People wander from station to station, looking for meaning. Big Iota waves me over to the prediction station.

“Did you come downstairs for pizza?” he asks.

“No.”

Big Iota looks at Psi. Psi bangs a few keys on a laptop. Reads. Looks at Big Iota. Nods.

“Okay, that checks out.” says Big Iota.

“Cool.” I back away. I sit at the bar by Brian.

“What's going on over there?” I ask.

“Pizzabot.” says Brian. “It's an A.I. that predicts when you want pizza, then orders it in advance, so it gets delivered to you the moment before you decide you want it. It's a test of the prediction algorithm we’ll put in Troublebot. Just simpler and less likely to lead to dead bodies if we fuck up.”

“That sounds kinda responsible.”

“Kinda. They wanted to build the suicide predictor first, but we don't have training data yet.”

“That sounds more like us.” I say. “Does it work?”

“Well, we’re selling a fuckload more pizza. So, maybe?” says Brian. “We could be stealing market share from other pizza joints because of our unique predictive delivery system. Or, we could have found a flaw in the human psyche that allows us to fill our unsuspecting victims with baked cheese. It's one or the other. I've been meaning to figure out which, but I'm too busy making fucking pizza. Speaking of which, here's yours.”

He puts a small pizza in front of me. It smells delicious. I look over at Psi. He nods.

“On the upside, we're making enough money off pizza, that we can soon start more dangerous experiments on random strangers.” says Brian.

“Cool.” Fuck it, I'm eating it.

“I guess, but some of our other groups have run into ethical concerns.” says Brian. I reach for a beer off the bar. “Don't touch that. It's an opiate vaccine.”

“What?”

“I found an opiate vaccine on the internet. It’s from, like, the 90’s. It trains your immune system to attack opioids before they fuck you up. I brewed up a couple thousand doses for 10 bucks. Way cheaper than drug testing kits.”

“Why’s it in a beer?” I ask.

“I don’t like needles.” says Brian.

“Fair enough.” I say. “Why’s it on the bar?”

“I’m thinking of drinking it.” says Brian. “Half the drugs that go through this bar get thrown out because they’re laced with Fentanyl. Imagine if we were immune to Fentanyl!”

“We could do twice as much drugs!”

“I was thinking we’d save a ton of money. But, yeah, probably your thing.”

“Let’s do this up.” I say.

“Yeah, but what about Fresh Start?” asks Brian. “If - fuck - when we need it, it’s nice to have opiates to take the edge off. That shit hurts. The personality changes may be a direct result of how much it hurts.”

“Fuck. Good point.”

We stare at Pandora’s Beer.

“This is why they can’t even get junkies to take this shit.” says Brian. “Although, if we tweaked Pizzabot a little, I bet we could deliver it at the exact moment they’d be willing to take it.”

“Sunday morning coming down.” I say.

“We could probably charge them all their money. If junkies had money.”

We stare at Pandora’s Beer.

“So, these are our ethical concerns?” I ask.

“Fuck no. We know what this drug does.” says Brian.

“Are we making mystery drugs?” I ask.

“You should talk to the intervention group.” says Brian.

“Yes, I should.” I point at Pandora’s Beer. “Drink that or put it away. I don’t like the way it’s looking at me.”

I stride over to the intervention group. “Are you planning on drugging suicidal people?”

“No, but keep talking.” says Orcette. “You may be on to something.”

“Will they be taking the drugs voluntarily?” asks Delta. “I need to know for budgetary reasons.”

“Yeah. We have a dollar per intervention problem.” says Zeta. “Because there are 500,000 suicide attempts a year, every dollar we spend on an intervention costs us half a mill. Unless we’re dumping acid in the water tower, I don't see how we can afford drugging half a million people.”

“Jesus. Okay, the simplest intervention is passing a note. What's it cost to get a stranger to read something?” asks Orcette.

ABOUT FIVE DOLLARS A PAGE. says Command Line. THAT’S FOR AN ADWORDS CAMPAIGN, REGISTERED MAIL, OR HAVING AN UBER DRIVER SHOUT IT THROUGH A DOOR. SPAM, REGULAR ADS, AND CATFISHING ALL COST MORE.

“The cost of catfishing is getting crazy.” says Isaiah.

“How much money do we have for each intervention?” asks Orcette.

10 CENTS. says Command Line

“The fuck?” I say. “How do we have a grand a week?”

“I got a job bitches!” says Omicron.

“The fuck you did.” I say.

“What can we do for 10 cents?” asks Orcette.

“We could have a drone pepper spray them.” says Delta.

“That sounds like a crap plan.” says Isaiah.

Delta shrugs. “Can’t kill yourself if you can’t see.”

“What about Candy’s hypnos?” asks Isaiah. “A couple million people watch them. That puts us in direct communication with, like, 10 percent of suicide guys. Suicide people. You know.”

“Yeah!” says Zeta. “Candy can just hypnotize them! Make them not kill themselves.”

I wince. Rub my head. “I don’t think so guys. My hypnos don’t always work so good.”

“Thioacetone!” says Delta.

“Shut up, Delta.” says Isaiah. “Ransomware! We hack their profiles, change all the passwords, and don’t give them back until they promise not to kill themselves.”

“It’s bullish. Shows we care. Maybe. God, is that really our best idea?” asks Orcette.

IT’S REALLY HARD TO GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION. THERE’S A LOT OF UNSOLICITED COMMUNICATION OUT THERE. WE’RE GOOD AT TUNING IT OUT. says Command Line.

“Fuck it. Let’s just do Candy’s plan. Acid in the water tower. Job done.” says Omicron.

“I thought Candy’s plan was free blowjobs.” says Delta.

Omicron rubs his jaw.

I laugh. “Is that the job you got?”

Omicron smiles. “You wish. Check it out.” He slides a form at me. It has an envelope with some pills stapled to it.

I read. “Optimal Job Experiment. 20 hours a week for $1000. Subjects take the blue pill and answer questions on their phone for 2 hours. Immediately afterwards, take the yellow pill and do whatever you want for 2 hours. Pills included. Questions found at Optimal.job.”

I think. “Is this a job or an experiment?”

“It’s a job experiment.” says Omicron.

“I think they are experimenting on your brain.” I say.

“Well I love drugs and hate my brain, so let’s do this.” says Omicron.

“Are we this hard up for money?” I ask.

“Maybe, how’d your last hypno go?” asks Omicron.

“Fine. When do you start?” I ask.

“Tomorrow. We’re doing mushrooms and LARPing pantsless tonight.”

“Fuck. Is that tonight? I forgot and put on pants. That’s 4 seconds I’m not getting back.” Everybody giggles and gets a little fuzzy. “Did I already do the mushrooms?”

I look across the club at Psi. He looks up from his laptop, nods, looks back down.  I thought that pizza tasted funny.

“Shoot. I better get ready.” I pull down my pants. “I guess that's it. No, I need a hat!”

“How do I look?” asks Omicron.

“Majestic.” I say.

“I was going for hairy, out of shape, elf dude with his dick hanging out.” says Omicron.

“You are nailing that. I like the mustache curls. They tie it all together.” I say.

I grab a pixie hat, a 3 pound bow, and some arrows with sponges on the end. Omicron passes me some red paint. We usually play elvish scouts.

The club is near an experimental farm. I will spend the next couple hours running through a cornfield, tripping balls, being chased by dick-waving orcs.

Psychedelic pantsless LARPing is the pyrrhic victory of our harm reduction program. It keeps me from drinking and smoking, and gets me some good exercise, but I can no longer watch Lord of The Rings without confusing emotions.

I suppose a healthier alternative would be to unravel the underlying causes of my sobriety aversion. But, I don't watch Lord of The Rings that often.

I run into the cornfield.

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Doctor Zero

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