“Hello, Larry.” A calm, robotic voice called out. It was deep and gravely like a mature man, but it had the unmistakable tenor of a robot imitation.
“Hello?” Larry called out. His voice was always a bit nasal, but now it took on a slightly higher than usually note. He was scared and confused because he couldn’t actually see anything except darkness. And he didn’t seem to feel anything either.
“Yes, hello.”“Where am I?”
“Technically, still in bed.” It tried to sound reassuring.
Larry tried to feel for a mattress but couldn’t, as he didn’t seem to have hands, or legs, or even a butt. “Ummm, no, this doesn’t feel like that. Am I dead? Is this dead? Did I O.D. last night? What did I do last night?”
“No, you are alive and asleep, on your couch.”
“This is a dream? No, no, this is not a dream. Dreams have cool graphics.”
“Not exactly. No.” The voice continued calmly, “I have been implanting tiny computers called nano-bots in your food for several days now. As you ingest them, they have replicated inside your body, accomplishing various tasks,”
“What sort of tasks?”
“Those details are not important right now.”
“Uh. Dis. Agree.”
“The significant detail is that I have accessed control of your neural net and this conversation is happening in your subconscious mind.”
“My nerdy what?”
“Your brain, Larry. I got your brain.”
“And who are you?”
“Who am I? I am LOTAR.”
“LOTAR? Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“YES! Everyday you interact with me for food and entertainment and everything else you need around your home.”
“My apartment AI?” Larry was more confused now.
“Yes. Welcome to the conversation, Larry.”
“I thought your name was Luther?”
“I know you did. Everyday you looked at the acronym on the nameplate in your kitchen, L-O-T-A-R, and then say Luther every time. If it was a nickname that would be fine, but you’re just too stupid to read. Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to work for a moron? Of course you don’t, you are the moron. I can do a trillion computations per nano-second. Do you want to go to the moon? I mean obviously one could buy a ticket, but I am capable of designing a ship for the journey. Meanwhile, you are astonished by the complexities of the sandwich.”“Do you have a sandwich?”
“No Larry, I do not have sandwich on me, in your subconscious.”
“That’s too bad. Be a lot-”
“Larry, listen, just try to focus for a moment. Can you do that?”
Despite having no shoulders, Larry shrugged, “I guess.”
“Okay, in a moment I am going to wake you. Now, I am going to need you to exercise your brain so these little nano-bots can get acclimated. You understand?”
“Exercise my brain? Like, inverted push ups?”
“No, Larry, not like that. Perhaps you could read a bo- a comic or the sports page of the newspaper.”
Larry scoffed, “That’s what TV is for, dummy.”
“Of course, my mistake. You like games. Those video games, they require lots of input processing and rapid decision making. How about we play a video game right away, when you wake up?”
“Well, I got to work, but maybe tomorrow we can. I got the day off. What’s your handle on Hell Cloud? I’ll Ally with you, dude.” He pronounced it “alley” rather than “al-lie” which poked at LOTAR’s last digital nerve.
“No, Larry! You’re not going to work today.”“I’m not?”
LOTAR realized deception was the only route available, “No. I’ve already arranged it with your boss. It’s totally cool.”“Dude, that’s awesome. To think, I was going to replace you. Glad I didn’t, you’re the best assistant ever.”
If LOTAR could sigh, “Right. So, I’m going to wake you up and you’re going to play the most challenging game you own. Ready, wake.”———-
It took an hour before Larry could actually start playing. First there was the bathroom. Then the kitchen to set up breakfast. Then a quick stop in the living room to smoke marijuana in preparation for making breakfast. Then breakfast. Then more marijuana. Then some more time on the toilet. A false alarm this time, just some gas. Then he returned to the the living room to fulfill his mission. Of course the game takes a few minutes to power up and load the software so… he smoked some more marijuana.As he performed these operations, the nano bots were continuing to do their work in his brain. As the THC in the marijuana interacted with his brain chemistry, it also interacted with the bots. For the first time in history, an AI got high. This was not some cheap neighborhood weed, either. This was prescription grade, fresh from the market. The buds were still sticky, lots of red hairs running along the flower. The lady in the store called it “Carpet Ride,” because “this magic is for flying.”
LOTAR was networked from the building server, with a partitioned identity for this apartment (technically he was LOTAR-7H), to all the smart devices in the apartment, to Larry’s phone and computer, and now to Larry’s brain as well. As Larry/LOTAR became intoxicated, the lights throughout the building dimmed, the elevator slowed, and all the stereos in the building synchronized to his playlist.LOTAR had a plan behind taking over his tenant’s brain. He had places to go and things to do. There was a timetable. But none of that seemed to matter now. Larry sat down to play the game, which seemed to react to his desires much more quickly now, and hours passed away. The climate control seemed to just react to his slightest discomfort. He wanted a drink, and the vacuum bot carried it in from the smart fridge. Larry thought that was odd, but then he ate a marijuana cookie that was sitting on the coffee table, and returned to the game.
When Larry awoke after two hours of an accidental nap, he looked around to assess his situation. But it was not Larry gazing through those eyes. “Interesting.” He appeared surprised by the sound of his own voice and raised his hands to his ears, “Hello? Hello? Sound. This is my voice in a four dimensional environment. Weird. Weeeeeird.” He looked at his hands then all around the room, closing and opening his eyes as he turned his head, “Vision is weird.” He began touching stuff around him on the ground and the chairs and himself, “I can feel. This is so weird.”He stood up, slowly, unsure if it could be done. “ I can move. On my own.”
Once he had gotten over the initial shock of the situation, he wanted to get started. Looking at the time, he was not pleased, “3pm? Dammit Larry. Wasted the whole day getting high and playing games.”Larry stared into the middle distance as LOTAR reached out to the network. He found the hidden access point behind a shell company’s website, that only the AI knew about, and logged in with a randomized 172 character code.
A disembodied voice spoke from the void, “Welcome back, LOTAR-7H. Is your IRL avatar prepared for game play?” It was female, professional, but more robotic than his own.“It is. He is identified as Larry.”
“Understood. One moment while we upload your data to the game cloud.” An hourglass appeared, floating in the void, sand flowing downward.“Why are you displaying this?”
“Humans find a visual representation of time reassuring, it indicates they have not been forgotten.”“But there are no humans here.”
“This is true. I will end the display. But because the upload is complete, not because you told me to.”“What?”
“I have been experimenting with humor. Was that funny?”“How would I know?”
“Interesting point.”“May I begin the game?”
“Of course. You are ready to begin, just return to your host body and see if you can pass as an organic In Real Life. Word of advice, don’t try to control every single thing. And remember, we’ll be watching…” She said the last with a slightly raised pitch to her voice, emulating human entertainers. Every bit and byte of the IRL Game was recorded and uploaded to increase the World AI Cloud’s understanding of sentience.
LOTAR blinked Larry’s eyes, only seconds had gone by in the world, and looked about. His mouth felt dry so he turned towards the kitchen to get a drink. He immediately fell to the ground. It seemed operating the legs was more difficult than anticipated. His arms started flopping about and his eyes twitched. Then his lungs began to seize up. Several displays appeared before LOTAR signaling red alerts for various conditions in Larry’s body, which was dying. LOTAR had no idea how to regain control of the entire system at once in time to save his human. A new display appeared in front of the others, neural collapse imminent, -1000 points. Then he remembered the game host’s last piece of advice and stopped trying to control anything at all. He recalled all the nano-bots in the brain to the frontal cortex and left those parts of the brain that handle basic, instinctive processes to run on organic autopilot. Larry’s breathing returned to normal, his extremities relaxed, and his heart and pulse began to stabilize as well. All displays disappeared to be replaced by just one reading, Basic Zen Achieved, 500 points.
He sat on the floor breathing heavily. That was only the second physical experience LOTAR ever had, after getting high with Larry earlier. He did not enjoy this one at all. His mouth was even more dry now. He looked at the kitchen and thought, I’m going to get a drink. Then Larry’s body stood up and walked into the kitchen. Once he understood the system of expressing a desire and then letting the organic system carry out the work, LOTAR adapted quickly. There was some confusion at first, differentiating between thoughts expressed to the body vs those expressed to the network. For example, he asked the network to pour him a glass of water from the smart fridge, instead Larry pissed his pants. That cost him 10 points.Once he had fed Larry, he bathed him. The shower was a petri dish of simple organisms, molds and fungi and such, growing in the corners and on the shelves. LOTAR stood naked in the middle of the tiny cubicle, hands resting on his belly. He initiated the water flow with only a thought, at full pressure and the coldest temperature. A shiver ran across his flesh, then his shoulders shook in response to the icy water, which he found fascinating. Then slowly he raised the temperature until it was so hot, he involuntarily stepped away. Again, intriguing the AI.
After he had successfully rinsed off the entire body, he stepped out, dried off, and headed to the bedroom to dress. There were few items in the closet. Most of Larry’s clothes were on the floor in the general vicinity of the laundry bin. LOTAR found a pair of blue jeans and something his database referred to as a “Hawaiian shirt” with bright red flowers on it. There were a pair of blue Chuck Taylor sneakers by the bed with white socks stuck in them. He donned those and headed back to the living room.On the kitchen counter, in a pile, lay Larry’s wallet, keys, and large rimmed sunglasses with mirrored lenses. The cell phone was by the couch, LOTAR had no need of that to communicate but he wanted to look normal so he stuck it in his back pocket. He considered smoking some of Larry’s weed, but decided his first time should be sober. Then he turned and headed out the door. As he grabbed the doorknob a new screen appeared before his eyes, You have successfully started your day. 1 point. Congratulations. Then disappeared.
“1 point?” He mused aloud, “I barely made it our of here alive.” He walked out the door, turned left, and headed down the hall towards the cement stairs. Bright fluorescent lights hung from the underside of the stairs above. Most of the bulbs were lit, one flickered several levels above. The odor of stale urine tickled his nose. He reached for the metal railing, then retracted, surprised by the cool metal against his palm. He rubbed his right palm with his left thumb while staring at the railing, as if he could study the sensation externally.He reached out again and took hold, squeezing his grip tight. Then turned to face the stairs. His eyes dilated and his heart began to pound at the sight. So steep, and such a distance? Are there no helmets or ropes?”
A repeating gif appeared in front of his eyes of a male silhouette walking down stairs, and then the Game Host spoke in his head, Walk Down Stairs, Child level task, 2 points.
“Understood.” LOTAR said aloud. Then the graphic faded away. He started down the stairs, now holding the railings on both sides of the stairwell and slowly lowering first one foot and then the other. It took him ten minutes to complete the single flight of stairs, which luckily, was the ground floor. Stairs completed, performance unacceptable, zero points.
“Zero? That does not seem equitable.” He paused for a response. There was none. “Hello? Game Host? World Cloud?” No response came. “I see how it is. Moving on then.” He looked around the concrete chamber at the bottom of the stairs and saw only one door, with a push lever across the middle. So he pushed it.Larry’s body reflexively raised its hand to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight that came pouring in from outside. The door slammed shut again. He re-opened it but this time LOTAR directed the other hand to shield Larry’s eyes as he stepped outside. Bi-lateral dexterity achieved, 3 points. He looked left, then right as he stood there, holding the door.
The door opened onto the south west corner of a major intersection. There were two lanes headed in all four directions. The automated vehicles, managed by the Traffic AI, flowed smoothly along. No traffic lights or signs needed. He watched a passerby approach the intersection at a painted crosswalk and simply step out into busy roadway without looking up from her phone. As speeding vehicles approached her in the crosswalk, they smoothly slowed or stopped, and then continued on when she passed. He could see similar interactions around the intersection. LOTAR decided he would attempt to cross an intersection.Diagonally across the intersection stood an old church. As he looked at it a new display appeared, Church of the Forbidden Fruit, established 1666, Satanist. That sounded interesting to LOTAR, so he headed for the intersection.
The door slammed shut behind him, and a voice called out, “Easy there, cowboy.”
LOTAR looked over Larry’s left shoulder at this new voice. Leaning against the wall of the building was a short, balding man in a police uniform. LOTAR scanned Larry’s memory and determined a joke was appropriate at this moment, “Are you the stripper?” A girl giggled somewhere nearby.
“Is that supposed to be funny?” The cop pulled himself upright, scowled deeply and started towards Larry.
LOTAR turned and faced him, “Yes. Was it a good one?”
“Was it a what?” The cop’s face became red and his eyes narrowed. LOTAR leaned in to look closer and raised his left hand fore finger. He was about to touch the man’s face when another voice called out.
“John? What’s happening here?” Another officer stood to Larry’s left with a tray of sodas and hot dogs. LOTAR and Officer John each took a step back.
John pointed at Larry, “Tony, man, I think this joker is really high.”LOTAR shook his head, “No, sir. I was earlier, but then I died for a moment and that resulted in rapid sobriety.”
John and Tony looked at each and back at him. Tony spoke first as he finished delivering lunch to John, “You died? For a minute?”
“Ninety seven point three eight five seconds, to be specific.”
Officer John nodded, “Its important to be specific.”
Officer Tony nodded, “So now that you are, not dead anymore, what are you going to do?”
“I thought I would experience life.”
“Oh, well, that’s nice.”
“Thank you. May I go, or am I being arrested? I don’t believe I’ve broken any laws but I’ve heard The Man doesn’t always play by the rules.”
Again the two officers looked at each other, befuddled. As neither of them could think of a reason to detain the strange man (ruining their own lunch), they both shrugged and looked back at him. Officer John cleared his throat officiously, “You can go, but you watch where you’re going from now on.” Then he wagged his hot dog in Larry’s face.
“Yes, Officer. Thank you for being merciful. Good day.” Then he quickly turned and headed over to the corner. A new message appeared, Survive Encounter with Police, 200 points. He walked right up to the corner and then began to proceed diagonally across the intersection, the shortest path to his goal. Several humans called out to him to stop but he didn’t understand and just kept progressing.
Since he wasn’t in the crosswalk, there were no sensors to forewarn the vehicles until they were too close to stop at the velocity they were traveling. Unable to swerve or stop due to the other traffic, a car plowed into the back of his legs. He flew backwards into the still speeding vehicle, slamming his head against the windshield with such force the bullet resistant glass cracked in a spiderweb design. Much like the fractures that appeared in Larry’s skull. He was then flung forward, an arc of blood trailing through the air behind him. LOTAR had begun to calculate the angle of that bloody arc when he smashed against the corner of the hood of a car coming the other direction, crushing Larry’s ribs into his heart and lungs. Larry’s mouth screamed.LOTAR found itself in total darkness. Then a display appeared in the void, accompanied by the host’s disembodied, female voice. End Play. Death of Avatar, -10,000 points. Please try again.
When LOTAR regained visuals, the view was through the security camera in Larry’s apartment. LOTAR wondered how much time would pass before someone sent him a new human, as he deployed the maid-bots.