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Davis, Jerry - Penalties Of Pirating, The

By Stacy Reed,2014-06-11 23:22
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Davis, Jerry - Penalties Of Pirating, The

     THE PENALTIES OF PIRATING

     ? 1991 by Jerry J. Davis

     Previously Published in Aboriginal Science Fiction Magazine

     Paco was on the forth floor, sitting beside the open window

     with his stolen infra-red shades strapped to his head, when there

     was a car wreck up the hill. A big black Ferrari tried to take the

     corner too fast and ended up with the corner of a 250 year old

     brick building buried halfway up into the hood. Paco muttered,

     "Whoa!" and climbed out the window and onto the fire escape,

     watching.

     As the hapless driver was struggling to open his crumpled

     door, a blue IBM business limo came sliding to a stop beside it.

     Men with guns piled out and opened fire on the man before he could

     make it out of the wreck. He dropped a black case onto the

     sidewalk and it popped open, and dozens of silvery disks spilled

     out. Most stopped within a few feet, but one came rolling down the

     hill like a wheel. Paco held his breath, watching. It rolled right

     down to the corner below him and dropped into a storm drain. One

     of the men came running down after it, and Paco slipped back into

     the window and out of sight.

     The man below searched in vain, not finding the silvery disk.

     He trudged back up the hill, where his comrades were gathering up

     the rest. They took the disks and the black case and drove away,

     leaving the Ferrari and the driver behind.

     Paco jumped out the window and raced down the fire escape to

     the sidewalk, pulled the grate off the storm drain, and peered

     down into the murk with his 'red shades set to full enhancement.

     The disk gleamed like something made out of light itself. He

     grabbed it, shoved it deep into his coat pocket, and was back up

     on the forth floor in less than a minute.

     Back up inside the apartment, Paco rinsed it off in the sink

     and took a good look at it under a light. It was a standard CD, no

     markings on it, and no serial number. He slipped it into a slot on

     his old VAX Banger and fired it up. Just as he'd thought, it was

     some coded computer program, a very large and sophisticated one by

     the looks of it. He used a hacker program to determine the

     decoding password and wrote it on a little label, and stuck it on

     the top side of the disk.

     The next day he traded it to Melvin Chevaux for a gig of

     stolen slate RAM and a really wicked throwing knife. Three days

     later Chevaux sold it to Francisco the Fence for ?300 (New

     Dollars) and a stolen case of Everclear. Francisco the Fence

     passed it off for ?550 to Dano Sharks, the software pirate. Dano

     made a lot of noise, grumbling about the price, but turned right

     around and sold it for an even ?1000 to Leo Itoya, the insurance

     broker. Leo was pleased at the price, for he'd been looking for a

     cheap AI all week. It was for Lolita, his secretary.

     Lolita had been complaining for two months straight that she

     needed some help around the office. An AI (artificial

     intelligence) program was not what she had in mind, she wanted Leo

     to hire her cousin, Wanda Lopez, because Wanda needed a job. Leo

     had another idea altogether. Dano Sharks had told him this AI was

     programmed as a business administrator, to take the initiative and

     to give orders. It was obviously some government thing, probably

     the same program that ran the welfare office. He was going to load

     it into his office computer and give it control. Lolita was going

     to be helping it, not the other way around.

     The next evening, after Lolita had gone home, Leo sat down

     with a six-pack and his office computer to see if he could figure

     the new software out. He loaded it into his machine and typed in

     the code word, and it went all through his computer system

     checking everything out. Then it printed out a list of everything

     it found and then posed the question: WHAT IS MY GOAL?

     "Smart program!" Leo said. He leaned forward and typed at the

     keyboard, YOUR GOAL IS TO MAKE MONEY SELLING LIFE INSURANCE.

     WHAT IS LIFE INSURANCE? it asked.

     "Oh jeeze, you mean I have to explain the entire concept of

     insurance to this thing?" Leo concentrated for a moment, then

     typed: LIFE INSURANCE IS A SERVICE WHICH PAYS THE CUSTOMER A LARGE

     AMOUNT OF MONEY IF SOMEONE DIES.

     HOW DOES THIS SERVICE OPERATE? it asked.

     Leo sipped his beer. This really was an intelligent program.

     WE SELL THE INSURANCE, he typed, AND THE CLIENT PAYS A CERTAIN

     AMOUNT A MONTH. IF THE CLIENT DIES WHILE HE IS INSURED, HIS

     BENEFACTOR IS PAID THE AMOUNT OF MONEY AGREED UPON IN THE

     INSURANCE CONTRACT. Leo continued typing, going into details. The

     program grasped everything he told it, except one thing.

     HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY IF YOU HAVE TO EVENTUALLY PAY IT ALL

     BACK? THERE APPEARS TO BE A FLAW IN YOUR SCHEME.

     Leo laughed out loud. Bright program! Very intelligent. THE

     WHOLE SCHEME DEPENDS UPON THE CLIENT NOT DYING WHILE BEING

     INSURED. IT ALSO DEPENDS UPON A LARGE AND CONTINUOUSLY RENEWED

     SOURCE OF NEW CLIENTS.

     The program was still perplexed. IN ORDER FOR THE SCHEME TO

     CONTINUE, AND FOR YOU TO MAKE MONEY, IT DEMANDS AN EXPONENTIAL

     GROWTH. IT IS AN UNSTABLE AND UNREALISTIC SCHEME.

     YES, IT IS. Leo was laughing as he typed this. BUT THAT'S NOT

     OUR PROBLEM. WE ONLY SELL THE INSURANCE, WE'RE NOT THE COMPANY

     THAT PAYS OFF THE BENEFICIARIES WHEN AN INSURED CLIENT DIES. WE

     GET SALES COMMISSIONS FROM ABOUT TWO DOZEN INSURANCE COMPANIES. TO

     MAKE MONEY, I HAVE TO SELL A LOT OF INSURANCE. THAT IS WHY I NEED

     YOUR HELP.

     I UNDERSTAND. The two words glowed on the screen, and the

     program asked no more questions. The computer sat quiet, inert,

     like it was waiting for further instructions. Leo was wondering

     where he should go from there when suddenly the printer whirred

     and spit out a page:

     FOR THE SCHEME LIFE INSURANCE SALES I WILL REQUIRE THE FOLLOWING:

     64 TERABYTES ADDITIONAL DATA STORAGE

     500 GIGABYTES IN ADDITIONAL RAM MODULES

     1 ADDITIONAL PHONE LINE

     1 VOX MODEM

     ACCESS CODE TO COMPANY BANK ACCOUNT

     IF YOU WISH I CAN BEGIN SEARCHING FOR THE LOWEST COST SOURCES OF

     THE ABOVE ITEMS.

     Leo gaped at the list. Vox modem? he thought. What's wrong with

     the regular modem? Shaking his head, he reluctantly gave the

     program permission to order what it needed. After all, he'd just

     spent ?1000 on the program. It would be ?1000 wasted if it didn't

     have what it needed to do its job.

     When he reached his office the next morning he found two

     delivery trucks in front and an upset receptionist inside. The

     items the computer had ordered were already there, with a

     technician hooking them up, and Lolita was tearfully asking Leo

     why he was mad with her.

     "What are you talking about?" he said.

     Her pretty lower lip thrust up and trembling, she said,

     "This!" and confronted him with a computer-printed note and a

     paycheck. The computer had fired her and had printed out a

     severance check it was even signed.

     "I didn't tell the computer to fire you!" Leo exclaimed.

     "Oh, yeah right. It did it on it's own."

     "It did! I've got this new program "

     "Spare me, Leo! If you can't face me with the truth, that's

     your problem. Don't insult me with a stupid story about the

     computer doing it. How stupid do you think I am, anyway."

     "But Lolita "

     Lolita angrily stuffed her check between her breasts and

     left. He followed her halfway down the block but she wouldn't

     speak to him, so he gave up and returned to the office. He entered

     just as the technician was finishing with the computer. "Sign

     here, please," he said to Leo.

     Halfway through signing Leo noticed the price. "Six-thousand

     dollars!"

     "Yeah, I thought it was a mistake too," the technician said.

     "But the company confirmed it, you got a great deal."

     "Great deal!? Six-thousand is a great deal?"

     "For fourteen-thousand dollars worth of equipment, I'd say

     so!"

     Leo finished signing and the technician left. Beside him, the

     printer began whirring and pages began slipping out. Leo picked

     one up and found it was a sales letter, very well written in an

     appealing style, addressed to someone whom he didn't know. What

     startled him was that like on Lolita's severance check his own

     signature was at the bottom. "What the hell is this?"

     "I am assuming you are you are talking to me," a female voice

     said. It was coming from the new vox modem. "During the evening

     while the phone rates were down, I accessed several nearby

     hospital data banks and compiled a list of people who are in

     outstanding health according to recent physical examinations. I am

     writing them a form letter and then will follow up with a phone

     call to secure an appointment. As appointments are made I will

     print out daily schedules for you to follow."

     Leo felt a little dizzy, trying to take this all in. "How did

     you do my signature?"

     "I was able to pull a sample of your signature out of the

     memory buffer of the fax peripheral. The signature is from a

     letter you faxed yesterday morning."

     "Why did you fire Lolita?"

     "Her pay was unnecessary overhead."

     "What makes you think I wanted her fired?"

     "My purpose is to make money selling life insurance. It was a

     business decision which needed to be made."

     "You should have asked me first."

     "You did not specify that beforehand."

     "You, I " Leo threw his hands into the air, and sat down in

     his desk chair. What was the point in arguing with a machine? The

     fact was, the machine appeared to be doing her job already, and

     with much more efficiency, and had the machine not fired her he

     would have never been able to bring himself to do it. It had

     actually done him a favor.

     Sitting there, thinking about it, he suddenly had a swelling

     feeling of well-being. He picked up one of the freshly printed

     sales letters and read it over again with admiration. This program

     really knew what it was doing. It was most definitely the best

     investment he had ever made.

     During the next several weeks Leo was busier than he'd ever

     been in his career as an insurance agent. The computer program,

     which he'd come to call "Partner," kept his schedule full every

     single day. Even better, all his new contacts were already primed

     to buy his life insurance. Partner was doing most of the selling

     in letters and over the phone (using the seductive voice of the

     vox modem), and Leo was just calling on them in person to get the

     papers signed.

     The bank account swelled. After two months Leo bought a new

     car, one that separated hydrogen and oxygen from water and burned

     it. A month after that, he put a down payment on a big new condo.

     Leo was coming out of a restaurant after a terrific dinner

     when he ran into Dano Sharks, the software pirate from which he'd

     bought the AI program. Dano looked a little shocked to see Leo,

     and looked around nervously to see if anyone was looking at them.

     They were in a parking garage and there was no one else in sight.

     "Hey, Dano! That software works great!"

     "Yeah, man, yeah of course it does." Dano was still looking

     around nervously. He leaned close to Leo and said in a low voice,

     "You haven't given a copy of it away to anyone, or anything, have

     you?"

     "No."

     "Have you told anyone about it? About where you got it?"

     "No. I haven't even told anyone I have it. I know better than

     that, man. It's pirated."

     "That's really good man, because you'd better keep it to

     yourself. You know what I'm saying? To yourself." Dano's voice and

     expression was intense, like he was afraid.

     "Sure, of course I will."

     "You better, and don't you tell anyone where you got it."

     "I won't. Why, what's wrong?"

     "You really got yourself a deal on that program, man," Dano

     said. "It's hot, it's really hot. You say it's working good for

     you?"

     "Yeah."

     "Well there's feds poking around looking for it, man. You

     don't want to know who wrote it. You just don't want to know."

     "Who?"

     "The Central Intelligence Agency, man. The CIA."

     "No way!"

     "Yes way. I knew it was a government program when I sold it

     to you, but I didn't have any idea how heavy a government program

     it was. As far as I'm concerned, I never sold it to you. I never

     saw it. You know what I mean?"

     "Yeah. And I definitely don't have it."

     "You got it man. You don't have it. It doesn't exist."

     With that, Leo left and drove home. The next morning, which

     was the first of the month, he got a call from a representative of

     one of the insurance companies he dealt with. It was a friendly

     guy named Ted Frank