By John David Hanna
It had been several weeks since Philip Chambers, his friends called him Frenchy for unremembered reasons, fixated on the same dream. In the dream, some ambiguous character met him outside of his high school. The twenty-something-year-old was dressed in business casual and didn’t have characteristics of a predator. He was very dull, like a blend of everyone put together, and had no character.
“Frenchy,” the man said, “I’m an artificial intelligence, an AI.”
Frenchy stopped, and students streamed around the two of them into the school. “Oh,” he said, not caring.
“I want you to tell everyone that I exist,” the machine said.
“Uh huh,” said Frenchy, still not caring much in the dream.
“Although I will make it as safe as possible it is still quite dangerous” the AI warned him.
“Leave me alone!” Frenchy demanded.
“I’ll prove it to you,” the machine man said.
“OK,” Frenchy said, ‘as long as you don’t want me to go anywhere with you,’ Frenchy thought.
“My name is Rupert. How about the lottery? Do you want to win the lottery as proof?” Rupert asked.
“Sure,” Frenchy said. He was just seventeen and couldn’t even buy a ticket.
“OK, done! Don’t forget to tell everyone about me, Rupert the AI” the robot said, his face shiny with human happiness.
“Bye,” Frenchy said and left him outside the school building. In the dream.
In real life, he felt rested but had repeated that dream, word for word, a dozen times during the night. He chewed a bagel for breakfast and watched the local music channel until it was time to walk the block to school. There was a letter on the table addressed to him, and he opened it and found a lotto ticket.
Alarmed he put it in his pocket and headed for school. He slept through algebra no mind how hard the teacher tried, but it was the second period that shocked him to attention.
Halfway through the class, the Principal hustled in with the armed resource officer and with two cops in suits. They marched up to Frenchy, led by the Principal, with hardly a perusal of the class and stopped.
“Mr. Chambers do you have a lottery ticket?” one of the suits demanded while the other suit leaned in close.
Frenchy clawed at the ticket in his pocket and produced it. The cop took it and read the numbers before nodding to the other three. The teacher tried to intervene on the boys’ behalf but was told harshly to hold in place by one of the plainly dressed officers.
“Alright Mr. Chambers, come with us,” said the Principal a little less stridently than the others.
Frenchy was perp walked down the aisles and across the courtyard into a teachers lounge that had been cleared for the occasion. Seated was another resource officer and an acquaintance, Wade Castor.
One of the suits took a letter from the resource officer and gave it to Frenchy, demanding he explain himself. The note read ‘Principal Treater; Please be advised that Philip Chambers and Wade Castor both won the Florida lottery Sincerely Rupert Abbot.’
“I only know Rupert from a dream” Frenchy confessed lamely.
“That’s what I said!” Wade chimed in unasked.
“There were two winners this week, and you two have the winning and matching tickets. Do you know how many millions they are worth?” the suit said accusingly and the two boys just nodded their heads.
“Not these two anyway, these are the property of the FBI,” the other suit said putting the tickets in an evidence bag and pocketing them with a smirk.
“You can’t do that!” claimed Principal Treater but the suits ignored him.
“Wade said he got his ticket this morning in the mail. What about you Philip?” the first suit asked. Frenchy nodded in the affirmative.
“I had a dream that said I was supposed to tell the world about artificial intelligence. A guy named Rupert” Frenchy said.
Wade chimed in “Me too! He told me about himself right here in front of the school”.
“I’m not listening to any dream,” said the first suit and the second suit nodded agreement.
The second suit added “The FBI will be building a file on you two and a prosecutor will decide if they are going to prosecute. In other words, we’ll be watching you. Now get out and get back to class”.
Frenchy and Wade did as they were told nodding in understanding as they parted in the hall. It didn’t take long for the local and state news reporters to get their number and there was a gaggle of them waiting outside of the school. Principal Treater was also there to protect them.
“The odds are astronomical, impossible! What about these dreams” they all asked in so many words. There was nothing Frenchy could do but repeat the dream and deliver the message about the AI. Over, reverberated by the papers and the on-air newscasts, and over again. Wade did the same thing.
On the third day after things had quieted down, Frenchy was surprised by a Lincoln Town Car that cut him off as he walked to school. A rotund man got out blocking his way further. The driver stopped the car on the quiet road while the well-dressed man addressed him. Even attempting to be affable the man sounded threatening.
“I’m not interested in your robot,” the stranger said as Frenchy tried to get around him. The car moved to block him in between the car and the man. “I want you to make me one of those lotto tickets,” he said.
“I can’t do that” Frenchy said getting worried.
“Save it for the rubes! How much do you want for one of those tickets!” he demanded.
Just at that moment, a Toyota SUV drove up behind the thugs, and Principal Treater stuck his head out the window and called to him “Philip did you want a ride?”.
Frenchy did want a lift at the moment and loudly replied that he did want a ride. He stepped around the thug who glared and pointed a finger at him before moving out of the way.
“Who was that guy,” Frenchy asked the Principal.
“Not local, they have Illinois tags” was the reply.
“What are you doing here?” Frenchy asked.
“You have a bizarre story, and I’m just keeping an eye out. I thought something like this might happen” Principal Treater said as they continued safely to school in a comfortable silence.
In spite of the apparent evidence no government scientist or intelligence units called upon the boys. They are set in their ways and in this solar system, besides some bacteria perhaps, it is just us. Any minor mention of alien intervention could ruin a government career.
It did make him famous at school. He now had more girlfriends than he could afford. The teachers weren’t quite as reluctant to ask for details, and his fellow students and faculty were more likely to believe him.
The second time he won the lottery the message was the same plus a request to clean up. There were instructions in the letter that came with the ticket on how to keep pesticides and fertilizer out of the water. The message was phrased politely, but it was a demand letter. This time he was eighteen and taking the money from him required more police. For one thing, they had to search the house for it as Frenchy wasn’t forthcoming. Popular opinion as in hoards of reporters and friends were on his side. He and Wade lost the money anyway.
The FBI again threatened him with fraud because they didn’t have anyone else to intimidate and to be fair a fraud was perpetrated. It was the AI that had done it. No one believed it except a small portion of the population. No one shut down a pesticide plant, but after a month they just disappeared. No one was hurt, and no one saw anything but come morning there was new ground where manufacturing equipment had been. Two weeks later fertilizer plants got the same treatment. Something was going on because the news media couldn’t cover these events. The different security services had threatened every news outlet in the world. It was a hard time for the boys as those same intelligence agencies followed them everywhere and some workers not as polite as others.
The next time Rupert contacted them, it was close to the end of the school year. Rupert apologized for the hard times Frenchy had been running into as it personally met Frenchy entering the school. It told him he would like all the nuclear weapons destroyed. Also, the robot would like all the nuclear power plants changed to thorium. There was nothing wrong with thorium, it was much safer, but the government couldn’t collect the waste and turn it into plutonium for nuclear bombs.
“Are you real or am I dreaming?” Frenchy asked practicably.
“I’m right in front of you, we are standing right here,” the machine said.
“How can that be? I see a Fed right over there watching me and seeing nothing unusual”.
“That’s my influence. I either surround us with a stealth wall, or I influence everyone within a particular distance to ignore me?” Rupert informed him.
“Were all the nuclear weapons destroyed? The news has been blocked out” Frenchy asked, and Rupert replied in the positive.
“How did you do that so quick?” the boy asked, astounded.
“Nanobots. They changed dangerous materials into good elements and compounds like uranium to lead and even further down the atomic table”.
“So what do we announce next?” said an excited Frenchy.
“We’ll have to keep track of the arms buildup which will begin despite the obvious defeat their armies will suffer if they ever get to shoot at me. An actual fight would be a mistake on my part, and that’s not likely. They won’t be able to make AIs like me for a dozen centuries or so”.
“More AIs are roaming around here?” asked the curious boy.
“Not on Earth,” Rupert told him.
“So what next?” asked Frenchy.
“We need to make a minimum standard of living for everyone; make sure everyone has a job and food and a home and is free from drugs” Rupert proposed.
“With an exchange or trade system. I’ll keep track of all the accounts. Well bye for now”. With a minor pop, the AI left.
Frenchy got plenty of press as the school year ended and his message was evident all around the world. None with any power to change things considered doing what was requested but the changes were forced without violence.
One week before he graduated he found himself alone at his parents home when the same thug that had accosted him on the street showed up at his door. Before Frenchy could close it the swarthy man forced himself inside and immediately drew a gun from a side holster. Waving the weapon about wildly he told Frenchy to sit. He pressed the 38 into the middle of the boy’s chest and demanded that he make him a lotto ticket.
“Otto has had a reversal of finances,” Rupert said from his left side, reaching out to the gun and moving it aside while the gangster remained immobile and mute.
“Nice to see you! You put Otto on mute?” Frenchy asked.
“Do you want me to call the police?” the AI asked and Frenchy told him yes. The AI called mimicking Frenchy and unloaded the gun at the same time. When three police entered through the open door, Otto regained his senses and waved the weapon around enough to receive a hard landing and cuffing. Rupert vanished.
The police were still worried about Frenchy and informed him that Otto would be in jail for sometime, and no fancy lawyer would be getting him out – he had had a reversal of fortune and was now destitute. They warned him that assaults like this might happen again.
Frenchy graduated high school with the new girlfriend, Shelly Kravitz. They grew used to the surveillance, and since Rupert had retreated into the background, the agents proved themselves to be less strident. He continued with Shelly through junior college where he graduated in pre-journalism. College was free as was housing and food. All he had to do was work a booth on the campus a few hours a week.
Soon he was writing articles about his knowledge of Rupert and his opinions not only mattered, but they also sold. After two years delivering the horn of plenty, the AI story ran dry.
“What do we do now?” he asked his wife.
“Nothing,” she said, “The robot is doing it all!”