Posted September 4, 2021

The Brilliant Boy Billionaire

The Amazing Journey of a Remarkable Kid, by Altimexis

PART SIX – World Traveler

Chapter 3: J.J. v2.0

Come Monday, I dressed in a business suit, as I’d become accustomed to wearing, and exited the hotel to find the company limo that had been sent for me. I always wondered what kind of impression I made as a smartly dressed executive who was clearly only in his teens. The look on the driver’s face was priceless, however, and because he was obviously not that old himself, I greeted him with, “I know I’m strikingly handsome, but I’m undoubtedly too young for you.”

Laughing hysterically, he replied, “I’m sorry, Dr. Jeffries. We do tend to get them young in our industry, but you look far too young to have a doctorate degree.”

Laughing in return, I replied, “I’ve been working for Applazon for three years now. They hired me when I was barely legal at sixteen, and I finally can call myself an adult, even though I don’t feel any different from the kid I’ve always been. I was joking about the ‘strikingly handsome’ part, by the way.”

“I know that, but I wasn’t,” the young chauffeur replied with a deep blush. “I hope that wasn’t too forward of me.”

“Not at all,” I responded. “We’re family, after all.”

The drive to corporate headquarters was short enough that I could have actually walked it in under a half hour, but that would’ve never been permitted; besides which, the weather was typical of late-winter weather in Seattle, with a steady, cold rain. I was there in just over five minutes. It was obvious I was expected as I was greeted by a young woman at the door and ushered through the complex of buildings, directly to Jitendra’s top-floor office. As I approached him, he extended his hand, but he shocked me by pulling me into a hug. I hugged him back.

“Breakfast will be here shortly, J.J.,” he began, but it’s a light meal – just some bagels and shmear and, of course, coffee. We have the best coffee. We’re having lunch with Jeff and Andy at one.” Jeff? Barlow? Who else would he refer to as ‘Jeff’?

“Before we get started, you might be interested in this,” he continued as he handed me a paper copy of an article taken from the Indianapolis Star. It was dated January 4, 2022, and the headline read, “Mysterious body found in woods outside of North Vernon.” That sure got my attention. Intently, I read the article.

The charred remains of a man were discovered among the ruins of a burned-out shack deep in the woods near Muscatatuck Park yesterday. The state police were called to investigate reports of a mysterious fire on what is state-owned land. The fire had been noticed more than a week ago but had been deemed a low priority during the holiday season. Investigators discovered the remains of a dilapidated shack with a tin roof that had been added more recently. The cause of the blaze is thought to have been from a short in a kitchen appliance. However, it was evident the fire spread quickly to engulf the entire dwelling. An electrical line was discovered that had been spliced into a branch line that supplied a nearby farm. Investigators have not commented on whether or not the fire might have been the result of arson.

Among the remains of the dwelling was found the body of a man whose identity has not been confirmed. However, investigators noted that it was evident from mummification of the remains that the man had been dead for quite some time prior to the onset of the fire. A bullet was recovered from the remains, and a shell casing was recovered from nearby that was traced to a string of bank robberies committed from 2006 to 2007. The gun itself has not been recovered.

Tears came to my eyes as the truth slowly began to seep in. “He kidnapped me,” I said under my breath.

“Almost certainly, J.J.,” Jitendra replied. “He was a pedophile. He used you all those years for his own gratification, and it’s likely he intended all along to kill you when you reached your teens. You’d become too old for him, and his anger probably had less to do with a stupid bicycle than it did with the fact that he didn’t find you satisfying anymore. You were useful to him as slave labor in his business, but you’d become more trouble than you were worth and would’ve only gotten in the way of his plans for another kidnapping.

“Indiana isn’t even looking for you, and even if they do manage to figure it out and track you down, they won’t be looking for you as a murderer. They might try to find you if your birth parents were to come forward and pursue it, but otherwise they’ll just drop the case.”

“Adam probably wasn’t even my real name,” it dawned on me, “and god knows when my birthday really is.”

“You were almost certainly living under an assumed name and identity,” Jitendra continued, “and your birth parents are probably still out there. If you wish, we could have an investigator look into it. It may still be possible to find your birth parents through your DNA. Even if you’re not interested, it might at least bring them closure.”

Shaking my head, I responded, “Until I’m eighteen for real, it could open up a huge can of worms regarding charges of identity theft. Maybe next year I’ll pursue it, but not now. Maybe when I’m older or maybe not ever. I’m not sure how I feel about birth parents that are total strangers to me and me to them.”

“What if you have brothers and sisters?” Jitendra asked. That thought gave me pause.

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I admitted. “Perhaps someday I’ll pursue it. I’m kind of overwhelmed by the knowledge that my life was never as it seemed. It’s kinda like the way my plans for an automated server didn’t work out as planned,” I pointed out. “I came up with the circular design as a strategy for automated-server replacement, but then I needed a way to keep it from overheating. In the end, we have servers that don’t need to be replaced and that use far less energy, but the circular design remains, even though it’s probably no longer necessary.”

“How many times have you seen a square thermos?” Jitendra countered. “If you’d started out trying to invent a liquid-nitrogen-cooled server, you’d have still ended up with a round design. You just got there in a roundabout way, no pun intended, but project development’s like that. You follow the various leads until you come up with the best solution, but the route is often circuitous; seldom is it a straight line.

“If it’s any consolation, the Feds will never pursue an identify-theft case against you,” Jitendra said, adding yet another shock. “The NSA is well aware of your situation and of your critical value as one of our top computer engineers. At the age of fourteen, you invented a new server design that will be critical to national security in the near future. At sixteen, you designed a super­conducting quantum computer that works at room temperature and will be the basis of a new generation of servers and supercomputers.”

“You built it?” I asked in surprise, and Jitendra nodded his head. I was shocked.

“We built it, we tested it, and we built a sixteen-thousand-server, data-mini-center prototype,” Jitendra confirmed. “It performed exactly as you predicted it would, and we were able to fit all those servers into a cabinet about the size of a large fridge. It used about as much power as one, too. We sent your research on super­conducting ceramics to our solid-state group, and they were able to tweak the crystal structure to make it super­conducting at up to sixty degrees Celsius, making it functional at real-world server temperatures. I hope you don’t mind, but we took the liberty of submitting papers to some of the top physics journals and to Nature, with you as the senior author. You can expect the news media will pick up on it once the papers are in print or online.”

“How can I mind when I was too busy installing servers in the far-flung corners of the world to write up the research, let alone vet it through corporate? Besides which, having real data is a billion times better than only having a concept or a simulation. I just hope it doesn’t compromise my identity.”

“Not likely,” Jitendra responded. “The news media will go after the primary authors. Rarely do they bother with the last author on a paper, since senior authorship is often honorary. The literature is full of notable exceptions, as in time they’ll come to realize, but by then you’ll be beyond the statute of limitations.

“In any case, we built another prototype 16k server in a cabinet the size of a dorm-room fridge. It used about as much power as one, and it didn’t even need a fan to keep it cool, and of course, it was even faster than the first prototype. However, the new design offers little threat to the existing data-mini-center design for now,” he continued. “The cost of fabrication per server is nearly two orders of magnitude greater than for the current design, which makes them prohibitive, even in our data centers. No one is willing to spend a quarter billion dollars for a data mini-center, no matter how efficient.

“The folks in Cupertino are exploring other ways to grow the crystals at lower cost. There’s a method using 3D printing that looks promising, but I doubt we’ll see a significant improvement for years, if ever. Don’t expect to see your ceramic chips in our personal computers, laptops or phones anytime soon, either. The Feds, on the other hand are eager to buy a ton of them for military use, among other things. When it comes to shooting down incoming nuclear missiles, your server design is just about the only computer platform capable of tracking thousands of trajectories and plotting solutions in real time.”

“I thought I’d have to spend years trying to sell you on the concept of quantum computers using super­conducting ceramics,” I responded. “I tried to sell Frank on the idea before the accident, but he balked at the development costs.”

“And Frank couldn’t see past his nose, and he managed to incinerate himself and everyone around him,” Jitendra countered. “I read the report. You wanted to vent the oxygen once it became clear you wouldn’t need it. It was an accident, but it was avoidable. It wouldn’t have happened if you’d been in charge. Frank nearly torpedoed the whole project, and Andy was ready to pull the plug until you rescued it with both short- and long-term solutions. You were in an impossible situation, and you didn’t have the experience to have known you should’ve come to me.”

“And I was dating Frank’s son,” I added. “I should’ve followed my instincts and avoided getting involved.”

Smiling, Jitendra replied, “They say love is blind, but in truth, love makes us blind. It’s always best to avoid entanglements at work, but who else are you going to meet?”

“Is there a way you could find out how Shaun’s doing?” I asked with what I was sure was a bit of trepidation in my voice.

Sighing, Jitendra answered, “He had a rough time of it at first. There had been an incident with his sister when they were younger, so he couldn’t live in the same house —”

“He got his sister pregnant?” I asked.

“He told you about that?” Jitendra responded in surprise.

“No, but he never discussed his sister, nor did he ever attempt to contact or see her that I knew of. My foster brother figured it was something like that.”

“Smart boy,” Jitendra replied. “Was that Roberto?”

“No, it was Henry,” I replied.

“Enrique!” Jitendra replied. “He’s the youngest, right?” I hadn’t realized Henry’s real name was Enrique, but it made sense. All the Gonzalez children had Spanish names and Anglicized nicknames.

“One of his sisters is the youngest. He’s the youngest boy – and the smartest,” I explained. “He’s in his senior year of high school at the age of fifteen, and he’s been accepted to graduate school in mathematics at M.I.T. in the fall. He already has enough college credit to graduate and get his bachelor’s, believe it or not. His dad insisted he get his high-school diploma first – otherwise he’d already have his undergraduate degree. He’s a math whiz,” I added. “He puts me to shame.”

“Sounds like someone we should keep our eyes on,” Jitendra replied. “And in answer to your question about Shaun, his mother sent him away to a boarding school back East, but he didn’t keep up and was sent home. His father’s girlfriend took him in and helped him get past his father’s death. They both had some unfinished grieving to work through. He just finished his first semester at Stanford.” I suddenly felt guilty for not keeping in touch with Lauren. That she was a genuinely nice person was borne out by the way she took Shaun in when his own mother had sent him away.

“Would you like me to tell him you’re interested in seeing him again?” Jitendra asked.

Perhaps Shaun had gotten past his father’s death by now and would be receptive to resuming our relationship. I thought long and hard, but then I thought better of it. No matter what, he’d always resent me for the death of his dad.

“I think that ship has already sailed,” I replied. “Much as I still love him, I think our love would be doomed to fail. I wouldn’t mind keeping in touch, though.”

“I think that’s very wise, J.J.,” Jitendra responded, “but I’ll tell him you asked about him.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

Then getting another flash of an idea, I suddenly asked, “Holy crap, what about NASA? What about the whole communications industry? A quarter-billion-dollar expenditure would be well worth it for a reliable, high-capacity data center that’s small enough and light enough to be launched into space, particularly one that uses only a few watts of power. I can think of dozens of applications off the top of my head. It might even make a manned mission to Mars practical.”

“We actually did have some preliminary discussions with NASA,” Jitendra confirmed, “more in the hypothetical sense given that the new server design is being kept under wraps. Jeff is interested in launching ceramic super­conductors into space as part of his grandiose dream of colonizing space, so you’ll likely have his strong support. It still comes down to the question of how we make our servers robust enough to tolerate the intense vibrations of a rocket launch, let alone G-forces several times that of Earth’s gravitational acceleration, and how would we dispose of the excess heat in the vacuum of space? Would black-body radiation be enough? How would you actually test it in space?”

“You need to partner with someone in the aerospace industry who’s already solved those problems,” I suggested. “We can design a ceramic super­conducting server on a chip that can handle the G-forces. It’s the vibration that poses the greatest problem, but firms like Lockheed-Marietta long ago came up with solutions. I’d be willing to bet they already have working microgravity refrigeration systems. They have to. They probably also have a way to simulate microgravity for testing purposes, perhaps with parabolic flight.”

“We just might do that, J.J.,” Jitendra replied. “That’s definitely something worth pursuing, but probably not the best use of your abilities. I’m only telling you about it because it’s your invention, but the work is highly classified. For you to become more involved with it would require that you have a top-secret security clearance. It wouldn’t be possible to get that without delving into your past. Eventually, there will probably be no choice in the matter no matter what you do. but if we can hold off on that for now, eventually the Feds will have an overwhelming interest in preserving your identity.”

“You mean like witness protection?” I asked.

“Witness protection involves creating a new identity,” Jitendra explained. “You’ve already done that, but there are holes and conflicts with the real boy whose identity you took. The Feds can fill in the holes and make the conflicts go away, but that can’t happen until you are indispensable. Besides, I have something else that I think might interest you.

“Before our luncheon with Jeff and Andy, we have a lot of ground to cover. As you know, Jeff is stepping down as CEO of Applazon —”

“Yeah, what’s up with that?” I interrupted. “He’s going to be the executive director? What the ‘f’ does the executive director do? So, Andy will be the CEO. Pardon my skepticism, but what does Andy know about retail?”

Laughing, Jitendra responded, “What did Jeff know about books when he founded the company? I think the choice of Andy to run the company reflects how important ACR has become to Applazon’s business. Even our retail business is nothing without our presence on the internet. What good are all the fulfillment centers and stores without the web? Andy’s highly respected in the organization and has been a key player since the very beginning. He was the natural choice for CEO.

“As to what being the executive director means, Jeff merely wants to focus on new technologies that will be critical to earth’s future, and you’re a big part of that. You’ll probably be seeing a lot more of him now.”

“Who’s taking over as head of ACR?” I asked.

“That would be me,” Jitendra answered.

It took a moment for it to sink in, and then I responded with, “Congratulations! At least I think it’s congratulations, but you have my condolences, too.”

“It’s a major promotion for me that involves a lot more travel, but I’m more than ready for it at this stage in my life,” Jitendra related. “Now getting back to the lunch meeting, we need to discuss your ideas, starting with your opinions on Applazon’s point-of-sale practices regarding third parties. You need to choose your words carefully when you speak with the boss, meaning Andy. He needs to know in no uncertain terms your perceptions of the risk Applazon’s taking with the current approach.”

As I’d long ago predicted, the courts had ruled against Applazon when it came to the sale of defective third-party merchandise, and we were headed to the Supreme Court, where I expected us to suffer a humiliating defeat. We desperately needed to reform, but any time I’d brought it up with anyone in Seattle, I was quietly told to put up and shut up. The subject wasn’t open for discussion. Sooner or later, that stance was gonna come back to bite us in ways far more consequential than financial. We’d become an impediment to global competition, but that was an opinion I had to keep close to my chest. The Justice Department had already initiated antitrust action against Google and Facebook under the Trump administration, and it appeared they were ready for a lengthy battle.

We’d been battling the European Union for more than two years, and that effort wasn’t going well for Applazon. The proposed settlement had been deemed unworkable. Requiring Applazon to restrict its sales operations based on local laws would have meant tracking every customer’s I.P. address, which many customers felt was a violation of their privacy rights. Maintaining a database of local restrictions would have required an unprecedented effort in which the burden fell on Applazon and not on local officials to notify Applazon whenever the laws changed. Further, in an era when anyone could use their own VPN to get around local and even national restrictions, it would have made little difference anyway.

“What do you know about Project Zero?” Jitendra asked.

“Very little, actually,” I replied. “It’s nice to see Applazon taking fraud seriously, but it seems like a Band-aid solution for a gaping wound in Applazon’s sales structure. It’s going to take a lot more than a dedicated work staff to catch and prosecute counterfeit and fraudulent sales. Fraud detection and mitigation need to be baked into every aspect of the sales operation.”

“No matter what changes there may be in the future,” Jitendra continued, “I have my own doubts about how the Supreme Court will view our past business practices. And I fear that once the Justice Department finishes with digesting Google, or whatever’s left of them, we’ll be next —”

“Facebook,” I interrupted. “Don’t forget that they’re also going after Facebook, and that venture will take a very long time given the free-speech aspects of it. That doesn’t mean we can expect a reprieve, though, and there’s always the possibility that Congress will intervene and pass legislation restricting the way we market third-party products and services.”

“That’s what I’m the most afraid of,” Jitendra related. “Look at what happened with Microsoft. By the time the antitrust case wound its way through the courts, Microsoft’s monopoly position became moot. The PC became irrelevant as smartphones came to dominate the market. Think what might have happened, however, had the Congress passed legislation restricting the bundling of computer software with hardware. The target might have been Microsoft, but can you imagine how it would have affected the products that came out of Cupertino?”

“To me, the antitrust case against Microsoft is ancient history,” I responded. “It’s almost laughable now to think that Justice’s target was the Internet Explorer browser, an app that was long ago relegated to the dustbin of history. Who in crap cares about browsers anymore? However, if it weren’t for the bundling of the operating systems with hardware, the modern smartphone might have never been invented. We might be making smartphones more like the old Blackberry, with physical buttons, if that had happened. To my generation, those are devices you’d only find in a museum.”

“I don’t think any of us want to see Congress getting involved with us in any way, shape or form,” Jitendra chimed in. “Politicians never really understand the tech, and they usually try to apply yesterday’s solutions to tomorrow’s tech with disastrous results. The judiciary isn’t any better; it’s just slower, which is often a good thing. You know, there are those who say the breakup of AT&T was necessary to the world we have today, but I’m not so sure. I think that by the time the ruling came out, AT&T’s market position was irrelevant. There were already third parties providing discounted long-distance services, and with the rise of cable, satellite, fiber and cellular networks, AT&T’s monopoly on communications would’ve been unsustainable. So tell me, J.J., how can Applazon get out ahead of whatever the government throws our way?” Jitendra asked.

“I know you don’t want to hear it, but we should split up our operations preemptively, before the government does it for us. The consumer-electronics division’s strong enough to stand on its own. Our media empire is a lightning rod when it comes to antitrust regulators. It would be far less contentious if it competed with, rather than augmented, our retail sales. It can only do that as an independent company. We should spin off our cloud services, too. ACR is better off without being tied to our retail operations or our media empire.”

“If we go that route, we should spin off the servers and supercomputers as a separate entity as well. Frankly, your hardware development’s being held back by ACR. What about Applazon Organic Market?” Jitendra asked.

“Applazon Organic Market is fine where it is as part of the retail division. It complements rather than complicates Applazon’s sales. Your quasi-third-party branded products that are exclusive to Applazon are another story though. Those will ultimately get you in trouble. The main thing is to put the customers’ interests first,” I replied without hesitation. “Anytime we attempt to maximize profits at the expense of the customer, we’ll run afoul of the government and open ourselves up to unwanted competition.”

“I’m certain that Jeff and Andy will tell you that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Jitendra countered. “Jeff tends to see things as he wishes them to be, so we need specifics if we’re going to open his eyes. Andy’s always been more practical, so there’s a real opportunity for change.”

“While you’re at it, take a good hard and long look at how you run the fulfillment centers and delivery stations,” I added. “I know you don’t want to let the unions in, let alone allow employees to have their say, but I had a chance to see how things ran all around the world, and in no country were they more efficient than in Germany, where the labor unions are strong.”

“The labor regulations in the EU in general are ridiculous and made us think twice about setting up operations on the continent, but then it was impossible to ignore the potential market there,” Jitendra countered.

“You need to look at productivity and efficiency by country and even by region,” I challenged him. “You can’t pool data from the entire EU or you’ll lose the trees for the forest. Italy, Greece and France will drag the numbers down, no matter how hard you push them to improve, but if you adopt the German model worldwide, you might actually improve productivity at the same time as reducing staff turnover. Their workers get more time off than almost anywhere else, yet they’re still more productive per worker per year. The main difference is, they work in teams rather than in isolation.

“You also need to look at merchandise returns in your productivity figures,” I continued. “Damage during shipment is the most common reason for returns, but it’s not because of the ineptitude of those delivering the packages but the way the packages are packed. It’s an epic fail in your fulfillment centers because employees don’t have the time to pack things properly. You might want to dust off a proposal I submitted early in my career for using computers to show our associates how best to pack boxes for each order, so as to reduce waste and minimize damage in transit. That proposal obviously went nowhere.”

“That was before we knew anything about you, I’m sure,” Jitendra replied. “I’ll have to look that up. In the meantime, we’re trying to talk our suppliers into letting us replace existing packaging with our exasperation-free packaging. If only we could talk book publishers into packaging books for individual shipment rather than still boxing them by the case as if they were going to be unpacked and lovingly set out for display in brick-and-mortar bookstores.”

“Pardon my French, but it comes with having spent so much time overseas,” I began, much to Jitendra’s laughter. “What the fuck does any of this have to do with my future? I had thought that’s what this meeting was supposed to be about.”

“Your future, I hope, will be an integral part of this company,” Jitendra replied. “You’re young, inexperienced and naïve, yet your life experiences have given you a natural skepticism and realism that’s unusual in one so young. You’re well aware of what the world can do to people and quick to recognize when Applazon is mistreating its customers, but you haven’t lost the idealism of youth. Your blend of skepticism and exuberance is what this company needs going forward, and your innate intelligence makes you uniquely suited to the development of the technology that will fuel our growth.

“Your contributions to our cloud-resources division have been immeasurable, and you’ve been handsomely rewarded for it, as I’m sure you’d agree. However, the wealthier you become, the harder it’ll be to keep your secrets under wraps. Therefore, I have something in mind that I think might interest you – something that could be a good fit for your talents, although you’ll need to go back to school for a bit. Yes, you could live quite well for the rest of your life from your stock accumulation, but you’ve already shown that you’re driven by more than personal wealth.”

Jitendra’s comments were becoming more and more bizarre, but when he mentioned my stock accumulation, they went completely off the rails. I interrupted, “Jitendra, what in the universe are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about finding a new angle for your future with Applazon that avoids raising questions about your past, at least for now,” Jitendra explained. “Your present trajectory will require a security clearance very soon, and that would result in pulling off the scabs of your life at a time when you’re still vulnerable, particularly with all the Applazon stock you own —”

“Jitendra, I still don’t understand what you mean,” I again interrupted. “I don’t own any Applazon stock. I don’t own stock at all unless you count the mutual funds in my 401k. Maybe you get stock options as part of your compensation package, but my contract doesn’t contain anything like that. I’m what my Japanese colleagues euphemistically refer to as a salaryman.”

“Surely, you’re aware of the clause regarding intellectual-property rights,” Jitendra countered. “Rather than cash remuneration, we disburse royalty income in kind as equivalent shares of Applazon stock. Doing so allows you to accumulate wealth tax-free, and when you do pay taxes, it’ll be at the lower rates charged for capital gains. Although it was meant as more of a benefit to the typical older employee, your heirs can avoid paying taxes altogether on the stock you leave them.”

“That’s all good and well,” I countered, “but the development costs have to be paid back first, and Applazon shelled out nine figures to settle the wrongful death lawsuits from the accident. Plus, we’re only now starting to realize a profit from the sale of the data mini-centers. It’ll be quite a while before I see any stock from the patents generated by my server design.”

“J.J., you’ve made some colossal assumptions that are blatantly wrong,” Jitendra responded, “and spectacularly so. Firstly, just because Applazon is the purchaser of your intellectual property doesn’t mean you won’t be paid for it. When Applazon installs one of your data centers, they still have to purchase it. They pay themselves the fair-market price of the data mini-center. They have to from a legal standpoint. It’s required by standard accounting practices. You’re entitled to your fair share of that.

“Secondly, legal claims don’t count as development costs. Even in the event that our patents are challenged, we don’t penalize the stock already awarded. We certainly don’t penalize you for personal-injury claims resulting from an accident. That’s workers’ comp! However, in the case of this particular accident, we paid what you might have perceived as generous settlement offers, not because we feared there would be major lawsuits, but because it was the right thing to do. Those deaths occurred in part because of Frank Cole’s negligence. I think even Shaun recognizes that now. Even so, it was an accident. The media outlets would suggest otherwise, but we take care of our own. In any case, the cost of the awards doesn’t come out of your royalties. That’s a separate pot of money. Yes, the development costs were very high, and that’s reflected in what we charge for the sale of one of our data mini-centers. We paid back the development costs after our first thirty installations —”

“That’s like two or three data centers,” I interrupted.

“Exactly right, J.J., and we’ve already installed a couple hundred of the units so far, with no end in sight,” Jitendra related. “If you do the math, you’ll see that your cut is not insignificant. I think that on paper, you’re now worth quite a bit more than I am, and you earned every penny of it. When it comes to the development and sale of the quantum-ceramic design, we’ll bake the development costs into our first sale, so your cut will not be insignificant after all subsequent sales. If the manufacturing costs ever come down enough and ceramic chips make their way into consumer devices, you’ll be wealthier than all the rest of us combined.”

“I —” I began, but I was truly speechless. “I don’t know what I’d do with that kind of money.”

“You might want to get a decent broker, someone you can trust, to manage your stocks and move you into a more diversified portfolio. I can make some recommendations if you’re interested. You might also want to use some of it to purchase a penthouse apartment or a brownstone in New York,” Jitendra continued. “You can set up a corporate trust to buy the apartment so as to avoid paying taxes, and you’ll need a place to live anyway —”

“Why would I need a place to live in New York?” I asked.

“I’m getting to that, but first of all, how do you feel about the prospects for artificial intelligence in Applazon’s operations?” Having experienced my share of Applazon recommendations for products of absolutely no interest to me, the potential to drive sales with intelligent recommendations was self-evident, but that was just the beginning. A.I. had the potential to give the customer what they wanted when they wanted it without subjecting them to inferior products from those trying to game the system. It also might provide a way to avoid antitrust allegations by presenting options from our competitors on an equal footing with our own. Properly done, customers would choose to buy from us because we offered the best web access, the best user experience, the best product offerings at the best price and with the best overall customer service. If we ever failed our customers in any of those aspects of the user experience, they could buy from one of our competitors without ever leaving our website. To do that, we’d hafta out-Google Google, and that meant having the better A.I.

I was intrigued.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope and vwl-rec in editing my stories, as well as Awesome Dude and Gay Authors for hosting them.

Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.