Jan adjusts in her seat as she leans in towards Xavier in preparation for the next topic of discussion. Xavier remains stoic in his rarely granted interview.
Jan: The most famous, some claim infamous, AI so far has been that of your late business partner Richard Aryu. While the world is a safer place because of that AI, it got off to a rocky start, landing your business partner on trial for his life! However, your company has developed AI for identifying cancer, improving traffic in major cities, reducing the costs of energy production and distribution, increase crop yields, reduced costs of internet service, eliminated bank fraud… and as we’re seeing in Europe, it’s started to replace human representatives in government.
Xavier: It wasn’t me who personally wrote those programs. The honor belongs to the teams, not me.
Jan: And we can’t forget that your AI has virtually eliminated police brutality and political corruption in America and several other countries around the world. Many experts are saying we are on unfamiliar ground as humans with such high life expectancy, high economic productivity, high levels of life satisfaction, and the lowest levels of violence and warfare in all parts of the globe. And those same experts are mostly placing this prosperity at the feet of the AI Xavier Labs has produced.
Others are concerned that we’re destined for a massive world war as humans are unable to manage their lives peacefully for too long. Still others are saying that the corruption your AI helped uncover is merely replaced by a corrupt organization with unbeatable AI technology behind it. What do you say to those critics?
Admiral Marshall folds his arms as Xavier reviews the memo he just received from the decorated retired Navy Admiral. Xavier finishes reading the letter and looks up at Marshall.
“You’re a good writer, Donovan” Xavier says to Marshall as he hands the letter to Richard Aryu. Marshall squints his eyes, and the left corner of his pursed lips reveals his disdain for Xavier.
“What’s this bullshit!” Richard says as he points to several lines on the letter.
“Creative license, Rich,” Xavier says as he doesn’t even look back at Fredrick to see his gesturing. Xavier smiles his signature smile at Marshall as he watches the anger simmer within Marshall.
Fredrick Prophet enters the room with two other men that Marshall recognizes. Fredrick walks up to Marshall and extends his hand and waits for Marshall to shake his hand. Marshall continues to pause while Richard tries to hand Fredrick the letter.
“Don’t worry what’s in that letter, Richard. Marshall is going to tow the line.” Fredrick says as he stares at Marshall, waiting for his handshake. “After all, we’re all on the same team.”
Marshall stands arms akimbo and lifts his chin to appear taller than Fredrick. He breathes in a short, deep breath through his nose and lets out a mild growl under his out breath. “If you want me out, I’m speaking exactly what’s on that piece of paper. I have already filed it with the precinct clerk.” Marshall firmly states.
Fredrick looks surprised and presses his lips together while nodding his head. Xavier continues to smile and pats Marshall on the right shoulder. Marshall has a sudden look of fright, or at least the closest someone as hard as Admiral Marshall can have to fright as Xavier violates his personal space. Xavier tilts his head, “Something wrong, Admiral?”
Marshall’s body is frozen standing in front of Fredrick. His breathing is level, and his pulse is as if he’s relaxing in a lounge chair; but his eyes are telling a different story.
Fredrick looks at Marshall with pity. “You were chosen for a reason, Donovan, and it wasn’t your artistic writing skills. You knew your position. You’re a linebacker. You take the orders and give them to the troops, and if they don’t follow the orders…” Fredrick shrugs, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to behead you.” Fredrick smiles.
Xavier: I welcome well founded criticism. The source of the criticism you mention is who? Or more importantly, what?
Jan: It’s true that much of the criticism has come from the business leaders of the very same corrupt organizations your AI helped bring down.
Xavier: I certainly understand the animosity the heads of corrupt organizations would have towards me and my teams who helped bring them to justice.
Jan: Let’s review the numbers. A dozen high level business executives serving on average a decade in jail for massive conspiracies to defraud the United States government and consumers. The massive scams of quantum supremacy claims that were made in the early part of this century being some of the biggest examples. These scams cost consumers trillions of dollars and nearly lead to the biggest financial collapse in human history. Some say that if it wasn’t for you, the collapse was imminent.
Xavier: Again, I can’t take credit for that. It was teams of people who brought about this justice.
Jan: Also, 60 members of the United States Congress who were part of the internationally backed assassination plot that your AI thwarted and more than 1000 actors in other government agencies and the Navy who were part of the conspiracy; all brought to justice thanks to your AI. While these are impressive numbers, and bringing down this massive international ring of corruption was unprecedented, there are some who have said that the corruption was manufactured and that Xavier Labs stood to catapult itself into virtual kingship with a conspiracy to bring down this other ring of corruption.
Xavier: Those allegations were investigated. We are not above the law either.
Jan: That’s correct! One of your very top military consultants was indicted and remains a fugitive. Which has lead some to point out that maybe your AI isn’t all knowing after all. Does Donovan Marshall haunt you?
All of the men except Xavier, Marshall, and Fredrick exit the room. Xavier looks at Fredrick while Fredrick looks at Marshall and Marshall looks at Xavier. Xavier presses a button on his hand computer, and Marshall can feel that he has regained control of his body. He folds his arms high on his chest.
“Look, Admiral,” Fredrick addresses Marshall, “You get the five star reassignment when you tow the line, but this guy here,” he points to Xavier, “This guy right here is the only reason you’re still breathing, and I’m pretty sure he could kill you with the press of a button.” Xavier shrugs.
Fredrick continues, “I’ll hand it to you. It’s shits like you that make this entertaining for me. You had your entire military career handed to you by guys like me. You think someone of your inferior intellect is truly capable of making it to the position you are in on your own? Your own grand merit gave you those stars?”
Marshall remains stoic as Fredrick continues, “My team put you high on the hog. My personal choice would be to make your life drag on and on and on. Cut out your eye lids and make you watch your wife and kids and soon to be grandchild suffer agonizing deaths. Throw in a busted kneecap and some razor blades under the fingernails and toenails, followed by a nice salt mani-pedi. Then perhaps punch you in your kidneys until they begin to fail so that you die one of the most excruciatingly painful deaths possible.”
“Why would that be your choice?” Xavier asks.
“That’s a good question, Ned.” Fredrick asks, looking back just long enough for Marshall to get the drop on him.
But Marshall’s body is frozen again, and he has no way to take action. As Fredrick continues on with another personal choice by which he’d like to subject Marshall to an agonizing death, Marshall looks over at Xavier. Almost as if Fredrick’s tirade is taking place in slow motion, Xavier lifts his hand and gives Marshall an enthusiastic thumbs up with an equally excited, teeth grinning, ear to ear smile.
“Could he be trying to tell me something?” Marshall thinks to himself. He looks down confusedly. “He couldn’t possibly be trying to tell me something other than he really thinks Fredrick is disturbed… is he?”
Right as Fredrick says “Do you understand me, soldier? Towing the fucking line is your only option,” Marshall snaps to immediate attention… As he’s still looking at Xavier smiling ear to ear and giving him a big thumbs up, he simultaneously hears Xavier’s voice in his head say “Yes, I am trying to help you.”
Xavier: Mr. Marshall remains a wanted yet untried man. I have confidence that justice will be served in time.
Jan: That’s not the response I was expecting.
Xavier: Then you should have asked a different question.
Jan: It seems hard to believe that you’d have no issues with a man that our government proved masterminded a Naval coup against the President of the United States and the rest of the military. A man that nearly started World War 3 if it wasn’t for the superb work of the CIA and the AI system your company built for them. Surely, you cannot suggest that he is an innocent man when there are such mountains of evidence against him that your very own company helped our government procure. He’s the most wanted terrorist in the world!
Marshall turns away from the television that’s showing his press conference from earlier that day. He clenches down hard on his teeth as he hears his own words. Xavier turns off the television.
“You ready?” Xavier asks.
Xavier and Marshall take Xavier’s personal flight vehicle that flies them to a secret lab that Xavier has in the Rocky mountains. While flying, Xavier fills Marshall in on the plot he’s uncovered to execute a hostile military takeover of the United States. He heaps data on to Marshall who soaks it all up. With the nanobot neuro-enhancers that Xavier has been giving him, he’s able to digest more information faster and link data points together on levels that exceed any of the AI that Xavier Labs has in place. The deep plot becomes clear and obvious to him, but it’s virtually unknown to anyone other than a handful of people who have stumbled upon the data that’s been leaked by an unknown third party that Xavier hasn’t identified but knows is within his company.
The neuro-enhancers allow Xavier to communicate with Marshall almost exclusively without any speaking. The thoughts are encrypted and then received via a large helmet that each of them is wearing and transmitted to the other with a direct wire link between the two helmets. The occasional spoken word is used just to break the awkwardness of silence.
As they arrive at the secret compound, Marshall becomes aware of what Xavier’s plan is, and why Marshall is so important. Marshall will be a scapegoat mastermind of the coup attempt so that Xavier can out the conspiracy and help bring it down. Xavier will have evidence planted to implicate Marshall as well as the real conspirators that include Fredrick. Xavier will then help Marshall evade capture.
Xavier shows Marshall the sprawling estate. It’s upscale but not lavish. “So, this is where you’re putting me up?” Marshall jokes with Xavier, knowing his actual safe house will be of no such upgrades.
“Marshall, you have the most thankless job. In fact, I’m likely going to be the only one who ever thanks you for your service to your country and your planet. I truly mean this with the utmost sincerity…” Xavier pauses for a moment and then vocally says, “Thank you.”
“Don’t be some mushy pussy, Ned.” Marshall smiles as he feels the genuine sentiment from Xavier. “There is one thing that I am going to require”
“You name it.”
Marshall smiles ear to ear, “I want one of them bots!” Marshall points to the patrol bots that Xavier has made a few upgrades to since Richard passed away.
Xavier: Jan, I understand this is an emotional topic, and I don’t take lightly any of that emotion. Our justice system affords everyone a right to trial, and that includes Donovan Marshall.
Jan: What do you say to those who suggested that he was just a patsy and that there is a much larger plot in play? A plot that some suggest Xavier Labs is at the heart of it.
Xavier: Allegations were levied against Freddy and proved false. It’s a side effect of success.
Jan: It has been said that one of the biggest signs of success is how many people want to hurt you.
Jan: I’m not suggesting that a lot of people want to hurt you.
Xavier sits down at a bar in tropical paradise and orders a club soda with lime. While he’s waiting for the drink, a man sits next to him and orders a tonic water.
“You really should try the tonic water here. It’s the best in the world,” the man says to Xavier as their drinks arrive.
“Can I get a tonic water instead?” Xavier asks the bartender. He then turns to the man. “I can’t thank you enough,” Xavier says to the man as he gets up and walks away.
Xavier: I’m certain I have a fan club.
Jan (laughing): You should see the emails I received heading into this interview! But let’s talk asteroids. You donated your first ever haul to the people of Earth, setting up the largest entitlement program in the world, and creating what some have called the universal answer to increased automation.