“Advancements in a bevy of industries are helping intelligent digital voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa become more sophisticated and useful pieces of technology.” There seems a leak. One anonymous chap posts in my private chat group and alerts me that he knows I am carrying the latest AI digital voice assistant as part of my English Lord boss’ experiment. “Enough of acting like some comic character from horrible history! We are not amused! Why don’t you activate your SiZu? This is a millennial short story, FOCUS!” He even knows her name! Is he the spy my English boss uses to check on me? Of course I am not easily swayed by any such illicit comment. How does the boss know I am here? FOCUS. This is the usual word my boss uses on me. We millennials multitask in our mind. Focus is something that requires double brain cell efforts. Well, I better not take this too lightly in case it is really the boss’ command. So my great escape plan to go solo after the football field of gold is not a piece of cake.
To be precise, I mean killing this half dead royal goat in the middle of the desert is not a piece of cake. The unearthly piercing scream does not stop even after I drop the pathetic looking tiny outdoor survival knife kit on the dust. The two german French girls and the Generation Z kid look quite calm and serene presumably waiting for their goat stew supper by this self-proclaimed impromptu chef of the Sahara.
The scream has words that form a sentence,
“You nincompoop, stop your cruelty to wild animals. I will report you to the PCRDGS which stands for Prevention of Cruelty to Royal Desert Goats Society!” The screaming voice comes from my chest.
“But, but, but… (not the goat butting as it is 50-75% dead), who are you?” I stammer.
“I am SiZu of course!”
“But, but, but… (I begin to sound like a vocal goat) I haven’t activated you…”
“O, you have. Otherwise why am I speaking to you?”
“But, but, but… (this goat language seems a stop gap to allow me to recharge my thinking process) I haven’t addressed your name so how can I have activated you?”
“O, you have. When you clicked the chat board message that displays my name.”
“What? I can’t believe this!”
“Well, what is your question?” SiZu is back to official business.
“OK, how to kill and cook a goat in this desert?” I have regained my cool, bold and mastery millennial nerd self.
“SiZu, how may I …” I repeat my question. But all I receive is silence.
After I issue my command for the third time, I receive an equally cold reply, “Thou shall not kill.”
“What?! Unbelievable! Come on, this is only a goat! And a near dead one for that matter.”
“No. She is not a mere goat. She is now under the protection of the PCRDGS. Your duty is to carry her and deliver her to an important person.”
“How come you are issuing me command? ” I suddenly realize that SiZu and I have switched role.
“My master has reprogrammed me to do that.” Sizu replies.
A thousand thundering blizzards. My English Lord boss has the upper hand again. So this is his latest experiment on AI. Not only that it can see human action and assess decision making perfectly it can also issue command to human. When the boss reprogrammed my robot he has added this SiZu into it. Where is the old chap?
SiZu seems to read my thought, “When you activated me, your old chap is auto off. He will stay dormant until you complete your assignment.”
The German-French anthropologist walks toward me and says cooly, “We are not surprised. We already know. Now that you know we cannot eat this goat, take my advice, eat the vegetables and sleep. We have a long march tomorrow.”
So they (The two girls, the Gen Z kid and my boss who is comfortably lazing about, seeping English afternoon tea nibbling buttered scones in his garden party catered by Harrods talking about weather surrounded by the latest socialites) are in this together. That is why they are not shattered by SiZu’s inhuman scream. The worst nightmare is that they seem to share a common agenda to which I am not privy. What can an uncomplicated nerd like me do? My lightning fast mind seems racing to ten thousands directions at once.
I can pretend to cooperate and watch for an opportunity to escape.
I can simply refuse to do anything they want me to do.
I can remove the robot from my body if it cannot be deactivated by my voice command.
I can discard the goat and leave it to die in the hot sun.
I can dislodge the kid and her basket and leave her to her towering aunt, the librarian.
I can sit by the road side and wait for a vehicle to thumb a lift.
I can…O dad, why did you abandon me again? (I feel like the seven year old again.)
“No, junior, I didn’t abandon you.” Dad suddenly speaks.
“What? Where are you, dad?” I cry out.
“I am here, virtually communicating to you through your robot.”
“But how do you know my thought?”
“I stick a chip on the plasma.”
“What?! You heard the ten thousands thoughts of escape?”
“No, I have programmed it to start transmiting to me only when you use the key word “dad” in your thought.”
“Dad, I am in hot soup. I need help.”
“I know. That is why I came to your aid just now.”
“But dad, you have all those movie-like people with real weapons. Are you in some sort of trouble?”
“Hahaha, I like you putting it so mildly. No, I am not. I am in a big thing after a great reward. Listen, junior, you just cooperate with the girls. Do not be afraid. I know what they are after. I am on the same route too and shall keep an eye on you, son. Any question?”
“Is the goat really special?” I have to ask.
“Well done, boy, you have hit the jackpot! It is indeed special. Guard it well. Make it stay alive and you will not regret the effort.”
This has been the best news since I started this journey to Timbuktu to meet an impossible goal of saving a friend stuck in a football club of former cannibals. I sleep without another thought. How little do I know what is going to happen the next moment…the Silence is broken by another unearthly piercing scream…(to be continued)