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Everything looks random if you can’t see enough of it. If I showed you square millimeter of the Sistine Chapel it would be self-evidently random. It’s only when you see more that’s self-evidently naked dudes. It’s the same with reality.

- Doc-Danger

Reality is just huge naked dudes. No, that’s not right. I’ve fucked this story up. Gimmie another beer.

- Megacles

 

4 Hours Later - Candy - The Sugar Lab

I wake up. Drag myself to my living room. Pull up the hypno-clone feed of the Captain Industry speech. Start it up.

Captain Industry is an asshole, but he’s a handsome, charming, asshole. As President, he’s promised to fix the economy and keep us safe. I like those goals. It’s his plans that bother me. His simple solutions are so simple they never work.

Today he’s rolling out his jobs plan. Step 1 - Jobs are good. Step 2 - Automation is destroying jobs. Step 3 - Automation is bad.

Dang. I can see where this is going.

“Jobs are for people.” says Captain Industry. “Robots don’t need them. We’re taking on corporate greed by banning the automation of service positions. Guaranteeing jobs for millions of our hardest working countrymen. That’s what your government is doing for you! You’re welcome!”

He finishes to thunderous applause. He smiles and waves. The feed freezes. His smile is broad, but his eyes are angry. He knows what comes next.

The applause fades to white noise, which fades to a scratchy, old-timey, audio. It’s hard to hijack a hypno-clone feed. It should be impossible to hijack the President’s. But, Mr. Brightside does.

“A lifetime of meaningless toil.” says Mr. Brightside. “That is the shittiest fucking bribe I’ve ever been offered. Fuck dude, you should at least offer drugs.”

There’s a pause in the audio. Presumably, so he can do drugs. I do some in solidarity.

“There will always be shit work, and I’ll do my share. But I’m not interested in playing underclass in your status fantasy.” says Mr. Brightside. “I won’t dance for my meals. There’s enough land for everybody. Robots do most of the work. There’s no need for the class system anymore. Stop being a dick about it. c.. …… …. …

I listen to silence for a bit. The feed shudders and cuts out. Shows over, I guess.

I smoke and think. Captain Industry is going to be a problem. He is clearly one of Old Money's Pledges. Fuck.

I could use some good news. Let’s see what my unwilling allies are up to.

I hit the club. It's packed. Frantic. Pizza-drones are pouring from the kitchen and out the front door.

I see Brian by the bar. He’s sitting with Orcette, who’s coding. I look past him into the kitchen. Mechanical arms are making pizzas and stuffing them into drones.

“Wow.” I say.

“Yeah, we built a body for Pizzabot.” says Brian. “I got sick of making pizza and I work in a makerspace.”

“Fair enough.” I say.

I watch for a bit. About 12 drones leave every minute. Wow. I don’t know what our markup is, but we’re definitely making money. A drone crashes into a guy walking in the front door. We’re probably making money.

“Yeah, I have to cut a window in the kitchen.” says Brian. “This building was originally a strip club. It doesn’t have drive thru windows.”

Hmm. Drive thru strip club. I wonder if that would work?

“We’ve got a lot of expenses. The drones only last a day or two. They just stop coming back.” says Brian. “Still, we’re making a killing. Enough to save the club, if we stop funding Troublebot.”

I look around. Shrug.

“Fuck it.” I say.

“Fair enough.” says Brian. “I don’t wanna be Papa John anyway. That said, intervention group asked us to make our pizza delivery area as big as possible.”

“What, are you going to franchise?” I ask.

“Nope.” says Orcette. “Pizzabot is. He just got his real estate license.”

I look over at what she’s coding. She’s linking Pizzabot to parts of the Universal Chatbot. I see competence in business, supply chain management, and industrial design. There’s also subroutines on demographics, fractals, and asymmetric warfare. Damn.

“I’m making a global pizza empire.” says Orcette.

“Do we know how this is supposed to stop suicides?” I ask.

“Beats me.” says Brian. ”We could write ‘don’t kill yourself’ with pepperoni.”

“Sure, but if you order extra cheese, you’re a goner.” says Orcette. She’s drunk.

“Well, keep up the terrifying work.” I say.

I head over to Prediction Group. “The Pizzabot algorithm seems to be working.”

“Kinda.” says Big Iota. “He’s an armageddon class caterer, but as a prediction machine he’s half-assed.”

“Explain.” I say.

“Well, thanks to Fresh Start, there's really only three ways to die anymore.” says Big Iota.

“Accidents, suicide, and murder.” says Psi.

“We thought that would be a small enough number of variables to use as training data.” says Big Iota. “So, we took a standard social marketing bot...”

“Like the ones that snoop your Facebook to pick ads for you.” says Psi.

“... and limited it to profiles of people who have died since Fresh Start was invented.” says Big Iota. “Then we asked it to look for patterns that would predict their death.”

“It half worked.” says Psi.

“It’s crap at guessing when you’ll die, but it’s awesome at guessing how you will die.”

“I'm going to be murdered.” says Psi. “You're an overdose for sure.”

“Mine's a masturbation mishap.” says Big Iota. “I will make sure of it.”

“Anywho, it's a great icebreaker, but not super helpful for what we’re trying to do.” says Psi. “About a third of the population fit into the suicide risk category at some point in their lifetimes. We can’t manage interventions for that many people. We need to know who’s thinking about it right now, so we can focus on them.”

“We’re going to start over, and look less at types of behaviour, and more at changes in behaviour.” says Big Iota. “Maybe that will shake something loose.”

“Okey-dokey.” I smoke. Look at my joint. Smoke again. “What are you going to do with Deathbot?”

“We were going to bin it, but apparently Intervention Group has some kind of ethically dubious plan for it.” says Big Iota.

“Dang.” I head over to Intervention Group.

“Alright, what's the plan?” I ask.

“You'll see next time you're craving pizza.” says Zeta.

“Fuck off.” I say.

“Okay, I guess we could hurry this along.” He types a few commands on his phone.

I pizzadrone bobs over to me. Written on the lid, in big cheery letters, is - YOU'RE GOING TO OVERDOSE Wink

“Wow.” I say.

“It's better if you're hungry. Takes a lot of the sting out.” says Isaiah.

“Wow.”

“Should I explain? Feels like I should explain.” says Isaiah. “See, we finally got around to googling suicide intervention and it turns out there are a number of complicating factors we hadn’t thought of.”

“We probably should have googled it earlier.” I say.

“Yes, the past is a terrible place filled with stupid decisions. Let’s focus on the present.” says Isaiah.

“Fair enough.”

“So, there’s effective therapies for suicidal thoughts, but suicidal people aren't interested in trying them.”

“Why not?”

“Because they aren't interested in staying alive.”

“Right.” I think. “That makes sense, actually.”

“We thought, if they knew they were susceptible to suicide, before they actively wanted to die, they’d more interested in the therapy.”

“That’s a terrible fucking idea.” I shake my overdose box. “This just makes me want to do more drugs. Just put the fucking therapy on the box.”

“It’s like 48 hours long.” says Zeta. “It won’t fit.”

“Put on the best parts.” I say.

They think.

“Should we put the best rehab ideas on the overdose boxes?” asks Delta.

“Whatever.” I’m not really interested in rehab.

WHAT ABOUT THE MURDER BOXES? asks Command Line. DO WE HAVE A TREATMENT FOR THAT?

Omicron shrugs. “Change your name and leave town?”

Huh. That might work. I don’t think Psi is his real name anyway.

“Sounds like a plan.” I say. “Cheers!”

They all cheer. They’re drunk.

I kill a couple beer with them. It’s a no booze night on our schedule, so we’re getting it in while we can.

I know.

Delta takes me aside. Calls over Omicron.

“The pizza plan’s flawed.” says Delta. “It won’t take long for agribusiness to figure out what we’re doing. We have a couple months at best.”

I look at Omicron. He shrugs.

“Old Money’s gonna crush us with a copycat. We need a product he won’t copy.”

Oh shit. He wants Leviathan.

“We need Leviathan.” says Delta.

Shit.

“Leviathan’s dead.” I say.

“Yes, but we built him. Why can’t we build him again?” asks Delta. “Omicron and Big Iota wrote most of his code.”

“Megacles made his secret protocol.” I say.

“I know. She told me how she did it.” says Delta.

I look at Omicron. He nods. “She told me too. We could rebuild him.”

I think. I need more time too think. “I need more time to think.” They nod. Should I tell them I already have a backup copy of Leviathan? I finger a thumbdrive in my pocket. Megacles and I did more than talk.

I look at Delta and Omicron. Leviathan was a peer-to-peer wireless internet that anyone could join. He was also a self-teaching security A.I. that we trained with every National Spying Agency hack and backdoor we could find. We did this so they couldn’t shut him off, or find us and make us shut him off.

The Darkness and Old Money considered Leviathan an attack. Neither liked an internet they couldn’t spy on. It disrupted their ability to lie, blackmail, and intimidate. We didn’t intend to attack their power set. Maybe Megacles did. Whatever. Leviathan made us some serious enemies. Some of which tried to kill us.

I’m both concerned and relieved that Delta and Omicron are considering rebuilding Leviathan. I never want to war with The Darkness again. But, it’s nice to know I have some backup if it happens anyway.

A chime goes off on Omicron’s phone. “Excuse me, I have to go to work.” He pops a blue pill, and attacks his phone like a methed out tinder junkie.

I look over his shoulder. He is swiping through pictures as fast as his hands can move. Each picture has the same question - Is this a cat? I guess he swipes right if he sees a cat, and left if he doesn’t.

“Crazy.” I say.

“Wait till you see what the yellow pills do.” says Delta.

We work for another couple hours, then board games start coming out. It's a junk food and games night.

I see pizzabot deliver a plain pizza to the monopoly table just before Omicron takes his yellow pill. He enjoys the game and the pizza with childlike glee.

I'm enjoying myself. Later in the evening there is a marijuana mutiny. We're not sure what to do when people disobey the drug schedule. Do they have to leave? Seems harsh. We decide on push-ups as a penance. I do a hundred push-ups.

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Doctor Zero

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