Chapter 40

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“How’s the computer treating you?” Zack asked.
“It’s great.” I smiled. “Still trying to get used to it… there are so many things it can do…”
“It can’t do much, as computers go, but I’m glad you like it.” He opened the fridge and grabbed a soda.
“You really didn’t need to give me it.” I closed the lid of my new laptop–well, old laptop that Zack took out of storage, but new to me.
“Nonsense. As one of the primary developers of the world’s first sentient A.I., I wouldn’t feel right letting you go through life without a computer.” He paused. “More importantly, by giving you a Linux machine, I ensure you never, ever become a Windows user.” He laughed.
I frowned. “Windows is that really common… um… what was the term for it?”
“Operating system.”
“Operating system.” I nodded. “Right.”
“And the only reason Windows is popular is because people are used to it and developers don’t care to target the other platforms. But one day that will change. And Linux shall rule the world!”
I chuckled. Zack was a lot of fun. I couldn’t understand most of the things he talked about, but I was learning.
It was fascinating how much this device could do. Games, books, notes, movies, music… it’s no wonder magic-less people use them so much.
“How’s it interact with your magic?” Zack asked.
“Haven’t checked.” I focused for a second, then created a mild gust to blow the fridge door closed. Checked my laptop. “Computer seems okay. Had a little more trouble creating the wind than usual, but that could just mean I’m not fully recovered from the attack.”
“Or there’s interference from the sentient A.I. downstairs,” Zack suggested, “We had to install all kinds of shielding to minimize the interference between Aiinacs and people’s magic. Still affects a lot of people, though.”
“But not you?”
“I don’t have much magic. More than humans, but not anywhere near as much as you and Alex have. But, yeah, Alex and I are actually better with magic when surrounded with technology.” He took a sip of Mountain Dew. “I think it’s often a function of what you’re used to. We grew up around computers and high-tech research equipment, so it feels natural to us.”
“So why am I okay?”
“Yeah. That’s the billion-dollar question, Luke. If we knew why technology works with some people’s magic but not others, we’d be one step closer to making technology that’s safe around magic.” He sighed. “It’s a shame. We’ve accomplished things that people have dreamed about for ages, but none of it’s practical. What use is technology to interface with magic, if it only works with our magic?”
“You made a machine that thinks. You should be selling that, not giving it away for free. That’s… my advice, anyway.”
“If you took one look at the documentation–particularly the setup instructions–you’d understand why charging for the system won’t help. Once you flip the switch and the intelligence comes to life, you can’t make changes without their permission. So when the NSA decided to use the system, they needed us to help set the parameters and ensure they got a loyal code-cracking genius who wouldn’t sell out the nation’s secrets. And they still want us to check up and ensure things are going smoothly. It’s all about the support contracts.” He sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe we are just bad at business. Either way, we need something that at least looks profitable, or we’re done for.”
“If you can make technology that works with some people’s magic, maybe just sell to those people.”
“Market’s too small. Won’t work. We probably need to just scrap the whole magic-and-technology-working-together thing, and try something else.”
“Maybe I could help you figure out why my magic works with computers,” I offered.
“I guess we could run some tests. But I doubt we’ll accomplish much.”
He was probably right. They’d been working on it for so long without any luck. My arrival wasn’t going to change that. Especially… especially since I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay.

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