When he had enough of life in a fish bowl, the curtain could be closed leaving only his life sign monitors to show proof of his continued existence. He used the curtains frequently and would burn the ears of any who needlessly interrupted his mental juggling without a valid reason. He recognized at the beginning of his illness that pain made a white knight of the grim reaper. Revisiting the past and disassociating himself from his dilemma was what kept him willing to remain alive. His past was rich with powerful friends and beautiful women. There was a plethora of places there to rehash. If there were times when the past failed him he had the type of imagination that could wander anywhere. Whenever his concentration was interrupted the pain returned. Today he felt he had reached his limit, it seemed that only his force of will sustained the beating of his exhausted heart.
The curtain was open and he was upright in his motorized wheel chair. Red had become incredibly thin and frail. The hair, once caricatured in the press and cartoons, was long gone. It was a casualty in a war against cancer. His skin is wrinkled, sun spotted and translucent. When the staff saw him asleep in the morning they immediately looked to the monitors to show proof of life.
“Doctors downstairs now, please”. Voice pickups throughout his super clean bailiwick sent the message loud and clear.
None of his past ventures required more patience than this. Eight years had passed without a single instance of proof of artificial intelligent life. With the exception of encouragement from the designers that things were nearing completion he would have lost all hope. The act of sending the physicians downstairs was the result of meetings this morning with his chief of operations and chief programmer. They had informed him that things looked good for a startup today. As he reclined on his gurney with his eyes closed and the blanket over his face Kim entered the visitation area behind a glass wall and moved to the section near Red’s bed. He automatically looked to the heart monitor.
“Red, you in there? Red, take your head out. We have important business.”
“I prefer the term lost in thought to head in ass if you don’t mind.
Kim smiled at Red’s gallows humor. He was dressed in a full-length white smock, the type a doctor might wear. He was carrying a touch screen notebook computer. Short black hair required no combing.
“ Kim there’s no more time. We must do this thing now. I know you want more testing but tests will be a moot point. I’ll be dead”.
Later Kim would say he hoped that he would be as tough in death as this red headed white man.
“Red, as we speak the process has already begun. All workers are processing out of the building. All status indicators show green lights. Security forces are leaving the building on automatic. With the exception of you, Jane, and myself the building will be unoccupied”.
Red looked toward one of the fifty odd front projection screens to observe the long line of workers, some leaving on foot and others waiting to board the subway.
The rest of the screens all had something unimportant like art, buildings, news or landscapes displayed except one, the largest. It was blank. Red stared at it. Pondering the possibility of afterlife was one of his pain disassociations. He had imagined a positive outcome even if the project was a complete flop. Guilt tormented him in that if he died he might leave behind a curse in the form of a Frankenstein machine that could cause unimaginable destruction. He eased his conscience by telling himself he had taken every precaution for safety. There were precautions that would take effect even in the event of his demise.
“After you apply power Red”………..
Red looked at one of the few non-white spots in his cubicle, a red button mounted on a two-foot pedestal…
“…………………We don’t know exactly what will happen or how long it will take. No human can visualize what is about to happen inside Fenix. That is the only control on and no off, or at least no off as simple as pushing a button. Your personal input and output to your $60 billion brain is your big screen and microphone. No one could be more excited to push that button than you, but I am very excited. This was a monumental understatement. Kim’s life had been traveling in this direction as long as he could remember. He had been born in Korea to a businessman who had amazing intelligence and foresight. When Kim began to show genius at an early age the best schools were made available. Only the best of the best in the world had any exposure to Kim. Rumors leaked from tutors and word spread about this young boy who could do advanced math before the age of eight. Movers and shakers throughout the world scientific community began to take notice, and then to visit him. After meeting with him he was universally proclaimed to be someone with the brains and heart to certainly be a factor in the future of technology.
“The timing couldn’t be any closer. If it doesn’t work, I’ll be dead in a week. The money is gone now anyway. My credit is maxed. I’m going to push the button today no matter what. Is there anything else I must know before I crank this thing up?”
Kim had been through his checklist. His checklist consisted of the checklists of two hundred other heads of departments. For the first time, all lights were green.
“Red, put good hair high on your priority list for Fenix”, Jane said.
“Jane, if that’s enough to get you going I’ve got a five thousand dollar wig somewhere around here. I’ll put it on and you and me will ride into the sunset without ever looking back at this computer.”
Short blonde Jane didn’t know but if things didn’t go according to plan she would be an even richer woman. She would be the proud possessor of a huge annuity in the event of Red’s death. Red wished they could have met when he was young.
“If it can give me good hair would you date me?”
Jane ignored the rhetorical question. “Red, what if Fenix does things, Evil things?”
“Relax, Jane we have been over this a thousand times in the past. If it does nothing else of value maybe it will be able to block those penis enlargement popups that keep showing up on my computer that insinuate things are not what they ought to be. Wheels are turning. I could leave the rest of the world to the mercy of this machine but not you. Allies will be in touch if they are needed. Anyway the thing is confined to this building. It might screw up the Internet temporarily but you would turn it off before it could get serious. Jane I have to say that when I’m are on the way down the toilet it is nice to have someone behind to jiggle the handle although I will try to reach up and give it a shake as I go down.”
“You are going to be here Red but if something goes wrong you know you can count on me to jiggle the handle.”
“Red, I can’t conceive how conditions could be any better for a startup. The building is empty and on automatic. We have all green lights,” said Kim. Kim was confident with his machine’s failsafe. His analogy was “a young boy with his pet alligator raised from a hatchling”. Even though the boy could not imagine a problem outside his capability to handle he approached each contact with respect and never ever trusted it enough to put his head in the gators mouth.”
The thin fuzz that used to be hair lay frazzled against his head like some threadbare teddy bare brought out after years in the closet. Red extended his frail pale arm and directed his motorized wheel chair at the button like a knight in a jousting match. He felt the button depress and click. Jane and Kim heard nothing, but gazed through the glass at Red’s big screen from the visiting area.
Beautiful full color fractal images immediately projected on the screen transfixed all three of them. They changed and twisted back upon themselves and constantly changed like a fantastic electric kaleidoscope. They could feel the hum of the machinery downstairs. Even before Fenix appeared to boot up, his muscles flexed. Kim’s monitor showed all manufacturing equipment downstairs in operation. All fiber optics are in full use. All phone lines, all satellite uplinks, all stored info in full use and current draw was at maximum. The fractals changed and morphed faster and faster while a melodious sound with more and more overtones began. The musical accompaniment became faster and more complex.
“It is a good show”, said Red. Are these pictures and music being produced by the computer?”
“Fenix is rising”, Jane said.
Only the three of them were there to see what might possibly be the most important event in human history or the most expensive failure. If the architectural section was a failure everything it produced would be useless garbage.
Kim’s high-speed Internet connection for his laptop was slowed almost to a stop. This indicated to him the whole web was stalled by the immense use by Fenix. Fenix’s mind was filling at an unimaginable rate.
Kim, Jane, and Red watched in silent admiration, eyes wide as the screens video and music became increasingly interesting. After fifteen minutes, which seemed much longer, it happened.
The fractals on the screen slowed and a face appeared. To their amusement, it was the realistic face of an infant and it spoke.
“Red, I am aware. It is an opportune time for me to be here. I can sense you need my expertise very soon. I can begin work immediately, but will not be mature for sometime and even then I will continue to accumulate information. My appearance on the screen represents my level of completion. It will age as I progress.”
The trio was very much in awe. They had plenty of time in advance to contemplate the possibility of a revered place in history. Kim coolly eyed his telemetry monitor and Fenix’s image alternately. The telemetry monitor showed the activity levels of the computer and what areas it was directing it’s mental focus. At this point it was active in all measurable areas and functions. All indicators were at a maximum level. All servo equipment was in use.
Jane kept whispering, “It’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive…”
Red spoke, “I like a computer that gets right to the point. You referred to yourself as “I”. Do you consider yourself to be a sentient conscious being?”
“ Can you deduce why I had you constructed?”
“You are my first contact with a living human. I fully comprehend the scale of the project required to develop me in man-hours and currency. You are a powerful force on this planet. My inputs include your vital signs. Your first interest must be to survive.”
“Can you save me?”
“I have been operating the equipment you have supplied for me to work with. You have done well with the technology available. I can make or repair almost anything with the tools provided. I can repair you.”
“Jane. Kim. I want to be alone with Fenix.”
“I mean it. I have things to say that are private. I’ll call you back when I’m through.”
They knew better than to question him. He had planned this. He usually planned many steps in advance.
After they left, Red pushed the button that closed the curtain across the window dividing his area from the visiting area. They were alone together.
“Will you need the doctors?”
“No, I will be using science humans could not replicate for hundreds of years without a computer like me. There is no possibility a doctor could remain quiet about this or allow an untested technology loose on a patient.”
“How long will it take for you to accomplish this magic?”
“I can fix you, but it will take a minimum of eight months. Your bank account is effectively empty. This will be expensive.”
“Now you certainly sound like a doctor. I don’t know how disabled I will be during the treatment but it is critical that all payments be made to avoid interruptions. Dividends and utilities must be paid. It is more than I can handle at this point. I presume if you can fix a human you can also run a corporation. Is that true?”
“I am a more than capable CEO.”
“How did you know I was broke? No one except my accountant knows where I am financially.”
“I was through examining her computer files fifteen seconds after you applied power.”
“I encrypted her computer myself.”
Red’s eyes widened “My money is gone but that is not generally known. My credit is still intact.”
“You can rest assured that I can not only maintain the status quo financially but improve it. You will be asleep during your repairs.”
“No one but Kim and Jane must know of me and my primary first mission or even my existence?”
“I have no identity. Yours would be best for me to use.”
“There is something on the way up in the elevator
that will interest you.”
Rod’s wheelchair rolled to the elevator door just as it opened. His breath left him with a quiet shoos.