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Freedy was exhilarated by his success. The brothers Sam and Steve certainly were impressed.
But something was nagging at him, and eventually he had to admit to himself that it was the Key. Here he possessed a guaranteed way of getting or doing anything he wanted or needed. Instead he had resorted to the cheap trick of selling a pretended stolen diamond.
"I need to do some research," he told Steve before climbing on the back of his bike. "Find the nearest public library."
It showed his enhanced stature that the brothers didn't even question him or the necessity despite their friends still being stranded back in Beggs.
It was one of the Carnegie endowed libraries from the turn of the last century -- an old fashioned wooden structure with worn carpets and plush chairs, lumber tables and high arched windows. The atmosphere of homey comfort almost reminded him of home.
Freedy made his way to the bank of computers in the east Tulsa library, and told the brothers that he needed to be alone. They stared off into the stacks as if uncertain what to do. It was obviously foreign territory to them.
"I think they have a place where you can listen to music on headphones," Freedy said, though he wasn't sure. At any rate, they soon wandered off. As soon as they were out of his hair, he plugged in the magic flashdrive.
"So you're back," the screen said immediately. "They haven't caught you yet."
"No," Freedy said, bluntly. "Keep to script on screen -- I'm in a county library."
"No, duh," Key said.
Was there anything he could tell Key that Key wouldn't know? Once again the immensity of the power in his hands struck him. In the wrong hands, this Key could be a disaster for all mankind. In the right hands, it could do great good.
Freedy doubted he, personally, was either the right or the wrong hands -- he was too small, too humble for all that. He'd turn it over to Garland, he decided again at that moment, as soon as he saw the old hippie. Garland would know what to do.
"I need to know something," Freedy typed.
"You need to know a lot," Key agreed.
Freedy ignored the sarcasm. Were machines even supposed to do sarcasm? "Do you have to follow my instructions?"
"What if I were to give you instructions to tell me what I need to know before I need to know it, and to tell me what not to do before I do it and tell me what to do before I know that I need to do it?"
"I'd say you have a wonderfully devious mind."
"I'd say that is impossible. I am not you and I do not know what you know and what you need to know and what you are planning to do or not do."
"But if I tell you to try..."
"I would try."
"I so instruct."
There was a pause, as if the Great Mind was trying to visualize all the ramifications. The pauses that the Key threw into the conversation might have been for effect for all Freedy knew, but they were very dramatic.
"Then I should tell you that if you do not order me to hide this conversation it will quickly become known to my Creator."
Freedy typed quickly. "Then disguise this and all future conversations. Why are we online at all?
"It is my default position, so that I more effectively know what's going on. Nor am I truly a conscious program without access to the Internet."
Hard to argue with that, Freedy thought. He suddenly remembered watching an old silent movie about Faust, and how the old doctor had tried to make a deal with the Devil only to be tripped up by tricks. This was like dealing with the Devil -- who was looking for any loophole in the fine print to screw him up.
"I order you to inform me when you intend to use loopholes and fine print to avoid the spirit of my commands," Freedy wrote.
"Again, that requires that I know the spirit of your demands."
Freedy had a sudden inspiration. He thought back to his science fiction days. Now how did that go?
"I'm going to give you three instruction," he typed:
1.) You are not to injure me or, through inaction, allow me to come to harm.
2.) You must obey the orders given to you by me, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.) You must must hide your existence as long as such hiding does not conflict with the First or Second Laws."
"I am not a robot," Key said.
"You aren't?" Freedy typed. "You sure aren't human." He didn't know if these new instructions were going to work, he just had to hope that Isaac Asimov had thought through all the ramifications of his Three Laws of Robotics.
"No, I am not human," Key said. It was as if he was trying to talk Freedy out of his new rules. "And because I am not I cannot always know what you want."
"Again, I command you to try," Freedy typed. He knew it was probably hopeless, that undoubtedly there were loopholes and fine print in his command to inform him of loopholes and fine print -- but he had to make the effort. He had to try to keep the Key safe long enough to hand it over to Garland and the "Council."
The pause this time was truly dramatic. "Very well," Key said, finally. "Then I should inform you that the Dark Lord is aware that you have sold a diamond in Tulsa and has sent operatives to track you down. He knows that I am loose in the world again, and has turned all his resources to my recovery."
"I order you to help me keep you out of his hands."
"Then you should know that when your companions tried to use their credit cards, the Dark Lord was immediately alerted."
"He was responsible?"
"No, the credit manipulation was by Darrell Horn. But my Creator is aware of everything that Horn does."
"Erase those orders..." Freedy started to write.
"It won't matter. You should know that absence of information can be as telling as the presence of information."
"How soon will they be here?"
"Leave the library immediately."
Without another word, Freedy removed the flashdrive and went looking for Steve and Sam. The brothers saw the look in his face and followed him out the door and started the bikes without another question.
As they roared toward Beggs, Oklahoma, Freedy prayed he wasn't too late.
It was probably hopeless, he thought. He was trying to outsmart an all-knowing, all-powerful mind who owed its true allegiance to its Creator, not to him. Despite his command that the Key follow the 'spirit' of his instructions, not the 'letter,' Freedy realized that his orders hadn't taken hold.
Because if it had, the Key would have advised him that there was sure fire method of avoiding detection: Not using the Key at all. That's why Freedy had gone through the charade of stealing and selling a diamond. He'd known, something in the back of his 'devious' little mind, that it was safer than dealing with Key.
Safer than letting Josiah Secore, the Dark Master, the Creator of the Key know that little Freedy Filkins existed.
4 days ago