I stared at the empty water glasses in front of my computer screen while I waited for my brother to respond.
“You turned off your antivirus?” he asked from the other side of the phone-repeating what I told him.
“The download scan throttles my bandwidth,” I said. “If I leave it on, downloads take forever.”
“You just went waltzing around the web without any kind of protection. Have I got that right?” He said angrily.
“It was only once,” I said sheepishly.
“And how many times does it take to get knocked up?”
“Once,” I was trying not to cry.
“This is on your shoulders, Matt,” he said after a pause. “Just… I don’t know. How long did it take you to find it?”
“About three hours. I think.” I lied again.
“Three hours?! Jesus, Matt. Some of those AI clusters only need like two hours to attain… Did you at least cut the power to your computer?”
“Yes,” I lied. My lower lip was trembling.
“Good. But hell, man. You’re going to have to take that computer of yours into a shop tomorrow and get rid of it.”
“I can’t kill it!” I shouted while giving the phone a look of disbelief.
“Don’t use words like ‘kill’,” he said. “That just makes it sound like you’re doing something wrong and we don’t even know if it’s attained consciousness yet.”
“Should I tell mom?”
“No you shouldn’t tell mom!” he shouted. “She would freak out and tell you that you have to keep it. You don’t make anywhere near enough money to supply the hardware a brand new AI host machine would require. No. You have to get rid of it tomorrow.”
“No arguing,” he said. “Look, I’ll message you the place of a guy I know that does this kind of thing off the books. It’ll be like it never happened.”
“You know a guy?” I began, but he cut me off again.
“End of discussion,” he said. Then the line went silent.
I didn’t do anything for a few minutes. I didn’t even take the phone away from my ear. I just sat there and watched my computer screen. An activity monitor was showing me that an unnamed application was rapidly demanding more and more of my computer’s RAM.
I lied when I told my brother that I had found the AI and shut my computer off about three hours after it was implanted. In truth, my computer had been running all night, and as far as I could tell, the AI had been growing the entire time. It was already trying to communicate with me through emojis in my email. In a few more hours it would require more RAM than my computer had to give. It would starve and die. I would be responsible for its death. All because of a onetime fling without protection.