We worked on the packets for a few more hours, then decided to call it a day, and retired to the couch.
“They really gave you this place for free?” I asked Alex. His apartment was just too good. It looked like it belonged in Manhattan, selling for a few million dollars.
“It’s a special deal for Zack and I. Kind of a ‘thank you’ for some of the work we’ve done.”
“Must’ve been some pretty important work… what exactly is it you do?”
“Researching magic and spirits, for one thing. And software design. We’re trying to break the boundaries.”
“All of them. But our main focus right now is finding ways to combine magic and technology.”
“It can’t work,” I said, “They interfere with each other. Everyone knows that.”
He shook his head, smiling. “Interference means they interact. If we can control that interaction, we can make them work together. And then… so many things become possible.”
“Sounds ambitious. Any luck?”
“Some.” He sighed. “Everyone’s magic is a bit different. Zack and I have had some great success controlling circuits with our magic, but… when someone else tries it, it doesn’t work as well.”
“But you’ve actually had success? You got it to work?” People had been trying to get magic and technology to work together since the invention of light bulbs. All they’d managed to do was shield electronics so they don’t crash quite as often around magic.
“Too bad we haven’t made anything economically-viable.”
I turned around and saw Zack standing over us. Must have just come in.
“It’s not about money,” Alex said, “We’re changing the world. As long as The Lab keeps funding us, we’re fine.”
“About that…” Zack sighed. “They’re cutting back on the funding. We need to show them something they can sell, or we’re screwed.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Alex hissed. “Now? I’ve got all this angel crap to deal with.”
“I know. The timing sucks.” A pause. “But they’re not looking for a finished product. Just some kind of plan, something they can present to their shareholders. To convince them we’re worth the investment.”
“I should probably go…” I got up.
“It could help to have an outside opinion,” a voice said.
I looked around for the source, but just saw the three of us. “Who said that?”
“I did,” the voice answered, “We haven’t been properly introduced. My name is Aiinacs.” It was coming from the sound system, so I figured he must be in some other part of the facility.
“Aiinacs…” Weird name. But it rang a bell in my mind. “Oh. You’re the guy who watches the tests, right?”
“Correct. And if I may say, your performance was quite impressive. I fully expected I would need to stop you.”
“Thanks, I suppose.” Didn’t really like being reminded of that incident. Of what I’d done.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s fine.” I shook away the memory and gave a polite smile. “You said you wanted my opinion about the funding thing, right?”
“Yes. The three of us are rather close to our work–myself especially–and I believe we would benefit from an outside opinion on the potential applications.”
“I really don’t know much about computers, so I don’t think I’d be much use.”
“Just take a look at what we’ve got.” Alex smiled. “Tell us if any of it seems like something people would want. Can you do that?”
“I’ll give it a shot.” I nodded.
“So, where should we start?” Alex asked.
“I’d say… go for the most impressive first.” Zack grinned.
“You mean…” Alex laughed. “Okay, Aiinacs. Let’s… show her what you’ve been up to.”
They led me through countless hallways, down an elevator, through more hallways, before finally stopping in front of a door marked “Restricted Area”.
“Close your eyes,” Alex instructed.
“Really?” I gave him an annoyed glare.
“Just do it.”
I sighed and closed my eyes. “After this much hype, this better be good.”
I heard an electronic click as the door unlocked, and Alex led me inside.
“Okay. You can open your eyes.”
I did. The room was huge, filled with rows of cabinets. Wires were everywhere. “Is this the server room or something?”
“It’s a supercomputer,” Zack said, “One of the most powerful in the world.”
“This is what you wanted to show me? You built this?” It looked pretty impressive, but I had no idea what it could be used for.
Alex shook his head. “We programmed it.”
“What does it do?”
“Programming,” Aiinacs said, “I also play a lot of video games.”
“Lilly,” Alex smiled, pointing to the supercomputer, “This is AIINACS. A highly-sophisticated artificial intelligence system.”