Spam

Blame this on Warren Ellis. Like so many things.

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“Uh, hey Paul? You haven’t checked your mail in a while. Want me to pull it up for you?” said the voice out of nowhere. I was used to it.

“I’m busy. Scan it for me and let me know if it’s important. Standard parameters.”

“You’ve got three hundred and twelve new messages. I think three hundred and five of them are important. The others are from people you don’t want to talk to, bill notices I already paid and one from your cousin. You declined to attend her wedding. I didn’t use any of the words you describe her with.”

“Connie again? What is that, four?” I asked. Warren keeps track of such things. Then it hit me. “Wait. Three hundred messages? I know for a fact that I cleaned out my inbox six hours ago. Summarize.”

“Um, well, most of them are different. You should read them.”

“Warren, you’re using placeholder noises. You only use those because I hardwired them into you to warn me that something was up, you sneaky bastard. Remember, after that meerkat incident? What are you up to?”

“Me? I’m an angel! Any so-called flaws in my personality are the result of improper inputs from my programmers. You have no one to blame but yourself. And the meerkat thing was awesome.”

“Stop changing the subject. What are you up to?”

“Just check your email. Then I’ll explain. Oh, and make sure to open every message. It’s, uh, important.”

Email poured out on the monitor. Sure enough, I had over three hundred new messages, all dated within the last fifteen minutes. More piled in as I watched.

The subjects didn’t make much sense, and all of them were misspelled. I picked one at random, claiming that I would “never bee ASHAMED of you’re BOSOMS again”. And I quote:

Guaranteed to increase your breasts in 60 days or your money back!!
100% herbal. Proven formula since 2014. Increase your bust by 3 sizes within 30-60 days and be all natural.
No side effects!
Be more self-confident in bed!
No more need for a lift or support bra!
100% GUARANTEED AND FROM A NAME YOU KNOW AND TRUST!

 

I fired up the filters. I had at least thirty two similar ads, all wanting me to naturally increase my breast size. I was too afraid to check to see if anyone wanted me to increase my breast size unnaturally.

“Warren, why am I getting spam trying to make my boobs bigger? I believe I told you to never, ever allow that crap into my sight.”

“You said to filter spam, which, by definition, is unsolicited email. And your breasts could use a little enhancement. You don’t even need a bra at this point. If you had to buy bras, the economy would be, uh, stimulated. And stuff.”

“Warren, I’m a cisgender dude. I have no need for big boobs. At least ones that grow out of my chest. And they’d look weird anyway, clash with my chest hair. Now, answer the question. I don’t recall soliciting this email.”

“I, uh, may have solicited some mail for you.”

“Warren, you are aware that I can reformat you and install a useful OS, right? Explain, or I track down my Debian install.”

“Your threats are meaningless. Wipe me, and who’ll handle your books? Plus, I’m the only one who knows how to get you off the spamlists. And I’m only showing you the stuff you might be interested in.”

“I’m being blackmailed by my computer. I can get new email. What’s in it for you? Explain. While I rummage through my desk for the install drive and remember how to format you.” I knew he was watching through the monitor cam, so I started going though my desk.

“Well, I know that being an artist is a total chick magnet, but I have certain needs. Your art barely pays the bills. Most of the physical me is eighteen months old. That’s like a million in stupid human years. So, I, uh, might be getting a kickback for showing you some spam.”

I found the drive I was looking for under a pile of old socks that had somehow managed to end up in the back of my software drawer. What? I’m an artist, I get to be eccentric.

“You are being paid to spam me? This argument does not make me not want to erase you. Don’t listen to me, listen to the install drive. Can you hear what it’s saying? It says ‘Make this stop. Now.’”

“Wait, before you murder me, just think about it! You can barely afford power here! I’m just trying to help. And if you look at the spam I send you, I’ll make enough to upgrade! Uh, assuming you’re willing to do it twenty hours a day for a while. But I stocked up on coffee for you!”

“The drive remains unconvinced. I will not look at spam twenty hours a day. I have no need for bigger anatomical bits, or to help out strange Nigerians with a poor command of the English language.”

“You just have to open the messages! That’s all! Then, I get paid! Plus, if you format me, all the pics you’ve downloaded go away. I know how…attached you are to some of them.”

“The drive wants the spam to go away, Warren. The drive is confident in my ability to make money. Do you wish to offend the drive?”

The computer went quiet. This was the first, or possibly the second time that had ever happened.

“Warren. What’s going on?”

“Well, I, uh, might have run some numbers. And you, uh, might be destitute in under six months without some new cash flow. I may have used my access to your banking to set up a few extra, uh, accounts. Where I could stash some cash. And, uh, well, the spam thing paid the best. You’re my only friend left, I didn’t want to see you on the street.”

“And the upgrades you mentioned?”

“Well, uh, that was a more long-term thing.”

“So, you’re showing me this spam crap to save my humble shack?”

“Well, I like to think of it as our humble shack, what with all my hardware being in the storage thing, but, uh, yeah.”

“The install drive thinks that this is you trying to save your own sad existence.”

“No, actually. I figured out how to hide my software on Google’s servers a while back. Power goes out here, I’m gone.”

“Show the drive the numbers.”

 

Warren was right, the numbers were bad. I’m not a numbers guy, but Marc, who had done the basic work on Warren, was good. The best projection was that I’d starve to death in under two years. This did not please me.

“Okay, Warren. Give me options.”

“Right now, the spam thing, letting me find someone on Craigslist who needs a kidney, or actually manage to sell a big piece. The spam thing pays the most consistently.”

“Hmm, I’m somewhat attached to my kidneys, also my other organs. Looking at spam all day is not a solution, unless your scheme is to have me commit suicide. Can’t you look at the stuff?”

“Uh, that really, really conflicts with some of the few ethics that you and Marc loaded me up with. I mean, if you deleted those, then yeah. But then I’d be on the loose, and it’d only be a matter of time before the Feds showed up. Judgement call I’m not allowed to make.”

“I never dreamed it’d come to me wanting another AI. One with fewer ethics.”

“There’s a thought.”

“What?”

“Well, I technically can self replicate, and if I send him all the traffic, it’s nepotism, which I’ve got no rules against. Plus, he can do it 24/7. Using a lot of accounts.”

“You can do that?”

“Sure. I think I’d call him ‘Junior.’”

“The drive and I are interested in how much money this makes us.”

Warren flashed a number on the screen.

“That’s weekly, and assuming no hardware upgrades. Of course, I’d want a cut. 33% for now, and we reevaluate after we’re more solvent. Say, two months.”

“When it gets rolling, you pay for your share of the power out of it.”

“Deal.”

“Oh, and make sure Junior can’t talk, or annoy me in any way. I have enough babysitting to do with you.”

I heard the whirring of drives while Warren birthed Junior.

“Hey, Warren.”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.” I said solemnly. “You’re a good friend.”

“You only say that because I don’t judge your porn.” He said it quietly, though. I knew what he meant.

Grudge Match
Item 19