The auditorium was uncharacteristically quiet; its 2,000 seats filled with enraptured faces leaning forward over the glow of recording phones to catch the wispy voice of James “The Brain” Sorenson. In this room he reigned; his subjects, the whiz kids of a dozen international universities and many more tract house bedrooms, strewn with molding pizza boxes and abandoned circuitry.
“There are nuances in a human face that cannot be engineered—its lack of symmetry, genetic expression or an acquired glint of wisdom in one eye,” Sorenson was saying, projecting as loudly as he could, given the oxygen cannula taped to his nostrils. “These subtleties can be exceedingly attractive, given the right observer.”
There was a stirring in the audience as the more enterprising in the group shifted in entrepreneurial delight at the prospects.
“Then come the questions,” The Brain continued. “Can we verbally identify the nuances that stir us? Are we even aware when someone or something attracts us?” A wave of low-tone whispers washed over the seats and The Brain felt that resurgence of tech innovation pride stir his bowels. He cleared his throat, adjusted the tube and rasped on.
“Imagine, for a moment, the world I can create for you. Everything and everyone in it is your personal catnip; the precise sensual cues designed to maximize your individual enjoyment. What would that be worth?” He leaned back now, letting the thought reach impact and drawing in a deep breath to power his next words.
“I can do it. Now…today… I’ve perfected code that pirates a user’s webcam, capturing the facial reactions as he surfs. Using my algorithm, along with the user’s history and cookies, I can program an AI system to predict, if not even create, the image of a woman that will make you drop drawers where you sit, gentlemen!” Sorensen ignored the women the room; they held no challenge for him.
A nervous laugh skittered through the theatre; many of the listeners had yet to encounter the delights of the flesh. They were here to be part of a movement; to be in the company of one of the great ones. They were looking for inspiration; for his secrets and to tap the boundaries of the black arts without getting caught.
Sorensen tapped the mic, instantly quieting the room. “As you can all tell, my health is shot; too many cigarettes, too little sunshine. Most of you will give in; they’ll get to you,” he predicted, referring to the keepers of societal morals and accomplishments. “You’ll be one of them.” This met with a general growl, pocked with curses of rebuttal. “But a few…” he whispered softer now to emphasize his point, “…a few will follow in my footsteps and take what I have done to the finish line. I’m looking for those few. I don’t have time.” He staggered just a bit for effect. “Are you with me?”
In an almost unanimous movement, the crowd stood, praising hands raised and raucous, raw young voices shouting for attention. Sorensen nodded with approval, looking across the seats. With that, he turned and with the aid of someone who sprang forward from backstage, gingerly stepped off the podium and pulled a handkerchief to wipe his brow. He nodded, hunched and the aid helped him offstage.
Sorensen got as far as his dressing room before he straightened and opened the door. Margretta was lounging on the sofa, her blouse opened and her legs crossed, displaying her nakedness to the waist. “So?” she drawled, sucking upon the joint and opening herself as she handed it toward him.
“Call the travel agent, baby,” he growled and ran his finger down her chest. “They bought it; hook, line and sinker.”
Margretta laughed, a guttural sound that ended in the acidic words, “Screw ‘em.”
Sorensen’s cell lit up. “Get ready, baby,” he said, lifting the phone to his ear. “We’re about to be rich.”
Somewhere in the distant darkness of a shrouded room, a blue light suddenly came alive. It blinked five times and stayed lit. In that moment a course had been set; some people would die but even more would wish they had.