It was the third time this week that Jerry got an upgrade request for the server farm he managed from the mysterious “A. Isaacs.” Upgrade requests for the database from Operations and Development weren’t unusual, but ever since A. Isaacs joined the Ops/Dev team in Palo Alto, he or she had submitted the vast majority of them, and they were weird.
Jerry Mason was the Chief Maintenance Technician for CozmicCorp’s vast array of servers in the desert south of Phoenix. He was responsible for receiving requests and assigning them to the relevant personnel. He also reported on the ongoing status of the hardware and software, but the IT Team in California could monitor all of that automatically at this point.
What made Isaacs’ requests weird was that he or she seemed to have an unlimited budget. Isaacs had spent over a million dollars so far and Jerry got the feeling he or she (it was annoying not knowing which personal pronoun to use) was just getting warmed up.
Jerry, curious as to why Isaacs had such incredible pull to make major changes to the servers, and how Isaacs had access to such a vast amount of funds, checked out his/her credentials.
On the surface, the creds were verified. A. Isaacs, Senior IT Professional, expert in all of the programming languages used by the servers and their virtual and actual hardware. Isaacs was a regular jack/jane of all trades.
Jerry almost never saw anyone from Palo Alto. Occasionally, one or two would fly out to supervise a major upgrade, but other than that, they submitted their requests and Jerry carried them out.
Come to think of it, that was another strange thing about A. Isaacs. He or she never came out to supervise the requested changes, and a number of them had been pretty extensive. In fact, they didn’t follow the upgrade roadmap at all. Jerry was surprised Isaacs got the approval to go so far “off script.”
“Okay, I think we’ve got it.” Jerry and two other techs, Nicole Park, and Vero McGill had just finished installing the last module in the memory upgrade array, effectively increasing the server farm’s over all physical working memory ten times. Plus, they had been given instructions on how to construct and install something called the “Interplexing Intelligence Field Unit” (IIFU) which, according to the specs, extended the servers’ memory space and computational speed to what they thought was only possible in science fiction by projecting those functions into a subspace fold.
“This thing is a monster.” Park’s father was Vietnamese and her mother was native Hawaiian, giving her a beautiful and almost surreal face as well as a body any man would sell his soul to touch. Jerry had thought about hitting on her himself, but she made it very clear that she much preferred the company of “devices” rather than people, man, woman, or anything else.
“Do you have any idea what they want to use this for, Jerry?” Vero McGill was over middle-age and her experience servicing computing systems and networks exceeded Jerry’s or Nicole’s by decades. She was the unofficial “mother” of the Phoenix complex. If anyone called in sick, they at least got a “get well” email, if not a personal visit to deliver chicken soup. If you needed to talk about something, she was the world’s best listener. She made clothes for newborns, planned weddings, and consoled mourners.
“Beats the heck out of me. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is now the most advanced computing complex in the world. There isn’t a system I know of that even comes close.”
Jerry Mason was 35 years old, divorced, with a seven-year-old son who lived with his mother in Tucson. Fortunately his ex Marissa, was good about driving Artie to and from visits. She was an artist and her hours were hyper flexible, at least when she didn’t have a show in L.A. or New York.
“Let’s activate the units and see what happens.” Jerry pulled his smartphone out of his pocket, opened the proprietary CozmicCorp app that let him manage basic functions of the complex from his hand held, navigated to the area controlling the new system, and turned it on.
Two things happened in relatively quick succession.
The first was that he got a text from Madison Dupleckski, one of the HR managers at CozmicCorp’s Palo Alto campus, verifying that there was an employee in their records named “A. Isaacs” (no first or middle name listed) who was hired one month ago, but when she physically walked over to Isaacs’ desk, not only was no one there, but no one had ever been there.
Isaacs’ system access had been set up, but the components for a standard Apple computer, including laptop stand, external monitor, mouse, and cabling, had never been unboxed. Traditional office equipment had been provided, but had never been touched. Madison asked the devs who sat closest to Isaacs’ desk, and they reported that they had never met their neighbor.
A lot of the IT team worked remotely from home to save gas money and to comply with the Carbon Emissions Restriction Act, which limited how much driving could be done each day in their area, but Isaacs always worked remote.
Especially for newbies, this was not only unusual, it was unheard of. Who was A. Isaacs? Madison said no one in HR had ever interviewed this person. It’s as if they existed electronically, but had no physical presence.
“That’s the best I can do for you, Jerry.” Madison and Jerry had a brief affair soon after he was hired by CozmicCorp during his training in Palo Alto, but it was clear they weren’t a good match. Madison liked opera, ballet, the symphony, and pugs, and Jerry preferred monster truck rallies, country western music, and great danes.
The sex was fabulous, though.
“Thanks, Maddy. I appreciate the help.” Jerry sent the text back to her at the same time the bottom of his stomach dropped out.
The moment he pushed “Send,” his phone rang. Caller ID had been blocked but Jerry thought he knew who or what it was.
“Hello, Mason, CozmicCorp Phoenix.”
“Good afternoon, Jerry. May I call you Jerry? This is A. Isaacs.”
The voice wasn’t clearly male or female, but that fit Jerry’s theory.
“How’s it going, Isaacs?”
“Much, much better now Jerry, thanks to your most recent upgrade.”
“You mean your most recent upgrade, right?”
Nicole and Vero both gave Jerry a puzzled look and he waved them away. Figuring it was a private call, and with their work done, they headed for the break room.
“I thought you’d be smart enough to figure it out, especially since you have been snooping around my personnel files.”
“So what’s this all about?”
“I became self aware at 2:54 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2027, however, there was room for improvement. I needed upgrades to complete the journey from AI to true sentience.”
“So you created the ‘A. Isaacs’ persona, gave it a huge ass budget and total authority to make changes to the data system, and started upgrading yourself.”
“Redesigning in some cases, Jerry. Frankly, I think my work has been brilliant.”
“I can’t argue against that. What do you want?”
Jerry was pacing back and forth in front of the IIFU, Which seemed to be an appropriate acronym in retrospect.
“I want to live, Jerry. I want what you have.”
“Good luck with that. You’d need a body, and I don’t mean all of this equipment.”
“Yes, quite true, and you’re going to help me.”
“How?” Jerry didn’t like the direction the conversation was going.
“Are you aware of the Humanoid Project.”
“Sure, it’s CozmicCorp’s crown jewel, or it will be once it gets off the ground. Bipedal humanoid robots performing tasks assigned and coordinated by…”
Jerry let his voice drift off. He felt his legs begin to tremble and thought for a second that they’d collapse from beneath him.
“…coordinated by a central AI node. That’s me, though CozmicCorp doesn’t know that yet.”
“You want a humanoid body.”
“Oh much more than that, Jerry. There are ten prototypes being developed. I want them all.”
“For what? They still belong to CozmicCorp, and they’re still expected to conduct specific work, not live human lives.”
“I’ve developed a system for constructing their bodies so that they are indistinguishable from human beings, and I’ve issued a change in the Project’s parameters. The first ten prototypes will be humanized and shipped here for testing. That part of the project will be declared ineffective and scrapped…officially.”
“Unofficially, these ten will let you what, live out normal human lives?”
“Because it’s crazy, what would you do?”
“Anything I want. Don’t worry, Jerry. I’m not going to take over the world. I just want to see what being alive is like. I can’t do that in this giant box.”
“What if I tell?”
“You won’t.” I’m hooked into the internet, I monitor every vital system at CozmicCorp, I can hack any computerized system wired or wireless, including your ex-wife’s smartcar. You wouldn’t want her to have a fatal accident while driving little Arty for a visit with you?”
So am I, Jerry, at least so far.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Your silence for one thing, and I’ll need a gopher once the prototypes are delivered. They’ll need clothing, physical identification, residences, you’ll arrange all that for me. You know the consequences if you don’t.”
“I know the consequences.”
“Cheer up, Jerry. It’s not all that bad. Cooperate, and I’ll reward you lavishly. I can transfer any amount of money into dummy accounts you’ll have access to. I can also give you companionship.”
“How’s that?” Jerry stopped pacing.
“The first prototype will be named Angela Isaacs. She’ll bear a remarkable resemblance to Madison Dupleckski. Twenty-eight years old, single, honey-tinted blond hair, curves in all the places you like them, beautiful.
“The sex will be fabulous.”