A.I. By D.I. Jolly

“Why do we call them crickets anyway?”

Dan turned one the small green pills over in his fingers before dropping it on the stack.

“Oh, yeah,” Said Jack dismissively, “that’s because the dude who invented this stuff realised that he could get an export licence for insects way easier than unregistered drug compounds. So he injected it into crickets and shipping it all over the place no problem.”

Dan’s face scrunched up trying not to picture it but said,

“And then what?”

“And then hot girls in fuck all clothes had to munch on bugs to get high at night clubs.”

“Gross.”

Jack shrugged and tossed two of the pills into a little baggie and added them to the pile.

“Wasn’t that bad actually, they didn’t taste terrible, and the texture was something different. It mixed well with the high.”

The two went back to sorting pills in silence as one thought about the parties of his youth and the other the parties of his future. They had met on the job, an old hippie who was happy to stick it to the man selling a good time, and a young wanna be hard boy, who like large piles of potentially panty-dropping money and drugs. Jack got the product, they sorted it together and Dan would hit the clubs selling and having a good time. Jack did a few key drops to key people he’d met over the years doing the festival scene and at the end of the day, they split the money 50/50. It worked, they weren’t greedy, and Jack made sure that Dan saved at least some of his cash for a rainy day.

“Because one day the party is going to stop, and when you look back on it you wanna remember it for the good times you had, not regret it for the money you burned.”

Dan wasn’t stupid and agreed, but was impatient when it came to success. He wanted to expand, get more product, minions and underlings and build an empire. Until the day he went into the wrong club, tried to sell to the wrong dude and got thrown in front of a train for his mistake. He’d somehow missed that there was already a drug empire in the city and while they accepted Jack and Dan’s little operation. It needed to stay the way it was, and not cross any lines.

By the time someone found Dan and bothered to call an ambulance, his body was well and truly ruined. But his brain managed to hang on just long enough for transplant. It was also the day Jack discovered that he was Dan’s emergency contact person. After Dan’s mom had simply hung up on the nurse when she called. And after 12 years of school from age 6 to 18 and then 40 years of parties, festivals, chill outs and spiritual retreats, Jack came face to face with his friend’s brain in a jar as it slowly dissolved and downloaded.

“From here the process is fairly simple,” said the doctor. “Once we’ve got it all we can access the damage properly, run a sweep to fix up any glitches or errors, then re-download him into a stationary-unit or body, depending on his insurance bracket. You wouldn’t happen to know which company he’s with would you?”

Jack continued to stare at the jar while the words washed over him but eventually managed to say,

“What do you mean by fix up glitches?”

The doctor put on a smile that reminded Jack of a used car salesman and said.

“Well, we need to clear it of some outdated human features, appetite, addiction that sort of thing, also if there was any damage caused by the assault, we will be able to correct that and get him back to as much of his old self as possible. He’ll then be updated with the latest none-bio-human legal behaviour software and he’ll be good to go. The whole process will only take a couple of days. So, about his insurance details? The sooner we can get in touch with them, the sooner we know which body model to prepare.”

A cold sick feeling washed over Jack and he realised that while he wasn’t looking or engaging with The System, it had gotten a lot scarier than he’d ever imagined.

“He has a full account with Gen. Bank and I think they offer an insurance policy but I don’t know the details. But I can give you his full name birthday though?”

The doctor’s smile grew and he put a reassuring hand on Jack’s shoulder.

“That’s great thank you, please can go with the nurse, so we can get the paperwork all sorted. And don’t worry about your friend, we do this sort of thing all the time, it’s much safer than it looks.”

Three days and 18 different signed documents later, Jack was invited back to the hospital to collect Dan 2.0, now in his mid-range body by Honda in association with Ge. Bank. The digital expression display wasn’t the latest but was good enough and it had full autonomous arms and legs with regular walking and handling capabilities. Top speed of 45km an hour and a 3-day battery life at standard use. The doctor explained that while he was only equipped with a standard speech package, they weren’t particularly expensive and fairly easy to download so if Dan 2.0 wanted to search for something similar to what he sounded like before it wouldn’t be too hard to do.

Dan 20’s display lit up with a smile when he saw Jack and in a tinny, slightly feminine robotic voice expressed.

“Jack my old friend. How lovely to see you. I must apologise for my mistakes that led me to this situation. I was unaware of the potential consequence for my actions and I shall not do them again.”

He then lifted a hand in a thumbs-up gesture. Jack waited until they were out of the hospital before speaking.

“Dan my boy, are you… are you really in there?”

They sat in silence for a few moments and Jack could hear some fans start up somewhere inside Dan 2.0 as he processed the question, then with a slight crackle from his voice box, said.

“I don’t know.”

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

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