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The corpulent man straddles a rolling stool, shifting his bulk along a cheap conference table. The table is dominated by three oversized computer monitors. Lines of code scroll down each screen. The surface of the table is a cluttered mess of keyboards, cables, forgotten junk food, and a large gin and tonic.
An engraved plaque lies amongst the detritus, half-hidden behind a crisp packet and the remains of a pizza slice. The engraved letters spell out Professor Chase MacGregor. The word professor has been underlined in black marker. Twice.
Ex-Professor MacGregor rolls the length of the table, the stool beneath him squeaking in protest. The padded seat of the thing is engulfed by MacGregor’s expansive buttocks. Seen from behind, his huge ass appears to be impaled on a steel stem with wheels.
He taps a keyboard here, checks a monitor there. Binary code flashes before his feverish eyes. This is the culmination of a life’s work, the dream of Artificial Intelligence realized. Not the shabby universal intelligence his colleagues blathered about. A focused intelligence, an intelligence that perceives only as the creator intends it to perceive. He calls it Filtered Artificial Intelligence, his brainchild, his magnum opus.
His work will fundamentally alter the world of robotics, and here, standing beside the table, is the proof. The robot is a gnome-like contraption of steel boxes, a bulbous head, and skeletal limbs. It is half the height of a human, devoid of sheathing or skin; an ugly, gangling machine.
MacGregor cares nothing for appearances. The marvel of the machine is on the inside, the knowledge being pumped into its brain via cables attached to the mainframe. He will bring it to life, give it a function, and the world will recognize his genius.
MacGregor jabs a fat finger at the monitors. This is what they were after, those short-sighted pinheads at the university. Their feeble minds couldn’t understand my research, couldn’t grasp the applications. And my calculations were perfect, too perfect for those drones to attack, so they stooped to low scandal.
Propositioning an undergraduate! As if I would even consider it. There was never any proposition. At worst it was the merest suggestion. How was I to know the young man would overreact? And not my type. No, far too bookish and awkward. I much prefer the vibrant sporty boys.
So, they trumped up a charge and wielded it like a dagger thrust into my back. Out on the street, fired with cause, no tenure, no lab facilities. But I didn’t come away empty-handed. Oh no, not MacGregor! I have my precious files and mainframe, robotics parts and hardware, all of it spirited away by my undergraduates. Weak minds and strong backs accomplished the task before the university made my disgrace public.
Sod the lot of them if they think they can stop me. They’ve already forgotten me, Mad MacGregor sulking in this dirty firetrap instead of a gleaming laboratory. Their complacency will make my revenge all the sweeter.
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It is a momentous day! Today is my birthday, my awakening to consciousness. All my functions are working at full capacity in order to process all of the inputs I am receiving. There are so many new things to see and hear. But the most marvelous new thing of all is to look upon The Creator.
The Creator informs me that I am to call him Chase. The thought of doing so causes my hardware systems to work at maximum capacity. My excitement causes my cooling fans to actuate. This, in turn, produces a pleasant sensation in my midsection. I believe you call this feeling a tickle. It is quite nice.
My name is Gregory. The Creator, Chase, informs me that my name comes from his name. I find this appropriate since he brought me into being. I am very happy with my new name. But that is nothing compared to the happiness I feel when I perceive he who created me.
Chase has given me green eyes. They are not human eyes like yours. My eyes are stereoscopic cameras. They are capable of minute observation. Their green tint gives my new world a bright glow, not unlike springtime.
When my vision circuits focus on Chase, I experience great joy. Chase is very beautiful. Handsome is the human expression. He is well-formed and muscular. It is pleasant to look at him. My memory files tell me that ancient sculptors chiseled human likenesses from stone. Chase is of the same proportions as those sculptures, except he still possesses all his limbs.
I would be content to focus on his form for long periods of time, but I cannot. Chase has endowed me with many functions. I must perform them well so that he will be pleased with me.
Incorporating my new functions has not been easy. Most difficult is the concept of what I am. I am fully aware that I am not a human being. Such is my programming. I know that I am not you. And I know that I am conscious.
Chase informs me there is no need to expend energy on these matters. He says that I am an integral part of a larger plan. Chase created me for a purpose. I cannot conceptualize anything better than this.
The two of us, Chase and I, are destined to bring about great change. Together, we are going to enhance the sunset, bringing about a new day for the university. There are grave troubles at the university. I find this sad. But Chase assures me that everything will be put right if we both faithfully execute our functions.
The Creator’s plan consists of many linked tasks. There is a great deal of work to be accomplished in a scheduled amount of time. I am very proud to play my part in Chase’s effort to save the university, no matter how unimportant I am. I must now resume my protocols.
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MacGregor is perched on his stool, running a diagnostic check on the robot. He is eye-to-eye with the machine and the robot is staring at him. MacGregor hears the soft whirr of robotic eyes performing minute focus adjustments. The fat man chuckles to himself, and the robot responds with a slight mechanical quiver.
MacGregor smiles at the robot, but his brain is a fire of resentment. Gregory, my mechanical sycophant. Not that your name is important. You won’t be around long. Our demonstration at the university will take you with it, I’m afraid. But you are the original, the proto-Gregory. Very soon, there will be thousands more just like you, all brought to life by the same perfect code. In a sense, you’ll be resurrected from my revenge.
MacGregor rolls the stool back to the computer station. The robot follows, sidling up beside the human and awaiting instructions. Fat fingers tap the keyboard, and an image appears on one of the screens. A few mouse clicks and the map becomes a satellite image. The familiar ground comes closer and closer, hovering over a building MacGregor knows all too well.
The robot’s speech recognition is so advanced that MacGregor has abandoned key commands. He speaks to the robot as he would to an undergraduate who requires coaxing. Honey sweetens the tongue and hides the venom. That he learned from his own professor, the lecherous old bastard, and now he uses it on little mechanical Gregory.
“This is the administration building. The same map is stored in your data banks, except this is an aerial view in two dimensions. Do you recognize it?”
Gregory nods, his green lenses slicing the image into data.
“Good, very good. Now, most importantly my friend, notice the broad stairs leading up to the front façade. Universities are very proud of their grand stairways. That would be a problem for us if it weren’t for the wheelchair ramp. It’s a lovely thing, so wide, such a gentle slope. The Unicorn will have no trouble climbing it.”
The robot responded in the carefully modulated voice of a young man.
“I do not foresee any difficulties, Chase. There is sufficient clearance to allow the Unicorn to pass. The Unicorn trailer is articulated such that the turnings will not be difficult. Moreover, you have programmed me to be a very careful pilot. I am certain I will be able to access the front doors as you have planned.”
“Yes, you will, and better than some crude remote control. Any fool could do that. No, we will demonstrate my technology to the university, and you will initiate a wonderful sunset.”
MacGregor keys up an overlay. Two locations are superimposed on the map.
“Once more, Gregory. What happens at Point A?”
“Chase disembarks the Unicorn at Point A.”
“Gregory removes the guard from the Unicorn’s horn, then pulls the safety pin to free the plunger.”
“Well done, Gregory. I appreciate all your hard work.”
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I have learned much during this second day of my existence. For example, human beings are different from one another. Not all are of a pleasant appearance. I observed the food delivery man. This human is rotund and grotesque, yet Chase eats much of this food called pizza and he is muscular. So many unanswered questions!
Today I spent many hours acquainting myself with every aspect of the Unicorn. You understand that our Unicorn is not a living animal. Unicorns are mythical creatures, which means they do not exist in the natural world.
The Unicorn was once a children’s train in an amusement park. Chase purchased it from a scrapyard. The term train is not completely accurate. The Unicorn does not travel on steel rails. It rolls on rubber tires more like an automobile. It is quite simple to operate, and I am now a capable pilot. Chase is very pleased.
The vehicle is of a whimsical design. The engine of the train is in reality a farm tractor. This tractor is covered with a molded fiberglass body. The fiberglass is shaped in the form of a happy pink Unicorn.
The pilot’s compartment is in the middle of the tractor. This is where I stand to actuate the controls. Chase sits on a wooden bench at the rear of the tractor. The Unicorn tows one carriage behind it. The carriage was built to convey human children. Now it has been modified to carry the sunset device.
Working closely with the Creator has allowed me to observe his actions. I sense that Chase treats me with kindness. He seems to understand my emerging feelings and my difficulty grasping the concept of emotions. Chase is tuned into me, to use the human phrase. I should not be surprised by his understanding nature. Chase is, after all, my Creator.
Not all my observations are positive. Chase is displaying agitated behavior. This agitation grew more pronounced as the day progressed. He is under a great deal of pressure as we work to bring about the glorious sunset. Thus, his agitation is understandable.
Humans are not machines. They are susceptible to ailments such as stress and anxiety. Robots are immune from these problems. One of my most important functions is to help Chase. I believe I have determined a method that will be of assistance.
While Chase was in a sleep state, I cleaned his lavatory. It was most unsanitary. During the cleaning process, I discovered various medications stored behind a hinged mirror.
I examined these medications and compared them with my detailed knowledge of human medicine. One of the medications proved well-suited for my needs. It is called Rohypnol.
Determining the proper dosage proved problematic, but I have worked out a solution. I increased the maximum dosage by a factor of fifty percent to account for The Creator’s enhanced mental powers.
My files inform me that Rohypnol dissolves easily in any liquid. I will add Rohypnol to the tonic beverage Chase drinks regularly. I am so happy to have found a solution!
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MacGregor scratches his stubbled jaw. He stares at the Unicorn, wondering what he has forgotten. His brain is humming over every detail, again and again.
Sharpen yourself up, today is the day. Another few hours and all your disgrace will be washed away. Blown sky high, more accurately. And good riddance to them all.
He swallows his gin and tonic, just to keep the nerves steady. Asks the robot for another.
MacGregor walks the length of the Unicorn, running his pulpy fingers over it. He contemplates the trailer and the exquisite shape charges hidden within. So simple, and so devastating. And easy to fabricate if one is chummy with the young profs working on military research grants.
He pictures the perfectly curved steel shell that will contain the force and direct it forward, the explosives molded to the shield, layer upon layer. The plunger touches the door, the electric current fires the detonator, and then a thunderbolt shatters the admin building.
The blast will mince the robot into shrapnel, but that’s just a bonus. With any luck, some of Gregory’s meal bits will fly through the provost’s office. Or better yet, fly right through the provost and perforate that sanctimonious bastard.
A kiddie train obliterates the university offices, and the world will see it all in real-time. We can’t forget the role of social media, not in these times. Video feed from the Unicorn will be uplinked live. After the robot drops him at Point A, MacGregor will upload video from a handheld. Every pillar of smoke and tongue of flame will be fodder for the media vultures.
The robot sidles up with a fresh drink. Looks like the little bugger has washed the tumblers. Bright lad, good programming. You’re a genius, MacGregor. Another hour and those dogs at the university will get a large taste of that genius.
MacGregor gulps a third of the drink, wincing at the burn of the gin. And that’s another thing that’s going to change. We’re going to be famous. No more cheap booze. Nothing but the top-drawer stuff after today.
The cracked concrete floor shifts under him. MacGregor steadies himself against the Unicorn, shakes his head. The mechanical minion is standing there staring up at him. He’s awaiting a command and you are his commander. Snap to it, Professor. The hour draws nigh.
“Right then, Gregory. Are we ready?”
“Affirmative, Chase. I have completed the checklists. The Unicorn is fueled, and the safety devices are in place. It is a twelve-minute drive to the administration building. The schedule shows the sunset event occurring at four o’clock PM.”
MacGregor checked his watch, squinting a bit to bring the dial into focus.
“Then let’s saddle up, little cowpoke.”
“I am sorry, Chase. I do not understand.”
“Bit of a joke. I’ll explain it later. More important things to do. We will bring about a terrible sunset. And after that comes the shining dawn of a new day.”
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I am behind the controls of the Unicorn. We are underway! Our route is a bicycle path that leads to the university. The pavement is smooth and the Unicorn glides along. We are on schedule.
Chase is sitting on the bench behind my operating compartment. He is very relaxed. He experienced some difficulty climbing aboard but now seems comfortable. His agitation has disappeared. I am glad I discovered a method to relieve his distress.
There are other humans using the pathway. They smile and point at the Unicorn. The Unicorn seems to amuse them or perhaps they find the pink color pleasing. I wish to greet them in return, but my primary function is piloting the vehicle in a safe manner.
Chase resolves my dilemma. He greets the humans in a loud voice. He shouts hello, and Tallyho, a word I am not familiar with. It seems to be an appropriate greeting because the humans respond with laughter.
The bicycle path enters the university campus. I make precise observations as we near the administration building. As we approach Point A, I apply the braking mechanism. The Unicorn comes to a halt, but Chase does not exit the vehicle.
Chase is speaking loudly yet I cannot understand his words. Then he places a hand on me, and his message becomes clear: Tallyho! Now I understand! The Creator wishes to accompany me for the entire mission. I am overcome with pride and happiness. I acknowledge these are human emotions, but I feel them.
We glide along the path. In two minutes, we reach Point B. I bring the vehicle to a halt, engage the parking brake, and step to the pavement. Now I must arm the device. I remove the steel cone from the end of the horn. Then I pull the safety pin to release the plunger. I return to my pilot compartment.
The ramp to the administration building is now directly in front of us. I press the acceleration control and the Unicorn climbs the ramp. Chase begins singing in a very loud voice.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star…
Humans are on the stairway beside us. They wave and laugh. Chase salutes them, still singing. We are almost to the top of the ramp.
A group of humans cluster before the doors and I am concerned the Unicorn will strike them, but Chase assists me. He shouts and waves his arms. The humans move aside, and I see a clear corridor.
The plunger is five meters from the door, two meters, one.
The sunset erupts with cosmic force. The Unicorn disintegrates into thunder and flame and fire. Flying, hurtling through space, the day turned to darkness, to stellar brilliance, to white-hot gas ripping my limbs away. Flying, flying into the shining universe.
Vison function gone, database malfunction, system malfunc…
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.