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"Synergy," Anita screamed over her shoulder, pedaling furiously on the bike that was designed to go nowhere, "it's all about synergy!"
"What do you mean by that?" The reporter asked.
"I mean, two forces coming together, working to create a greater good, that is what the Bicycle of Life offers people, out of shape people, people living unhealthy lives, and even people in shape who simply want to maintain or improve on their physical health. "
"So you're saying this new stationary bike of yours will change people lives?"
Anita stopped pedaling, spun around and faced the bored reporter. She picked up a towel and wiped the sweat from her face. "Not at all, I'm saying that this is not a stationary bike, it is a sentient workout partner, a personal coach that will push you and help you work towards the goal of improving your quality of life."
"Only 5 miles today, Anita, are you under the weather?" The bike asked her.
"No, Syn, just taking a short break to answer this man's questions about you," she answered. The reporter's face twisted, his curiosity obviously piqued.
"Cool," he said, "it talks. Just what the world needs, a talking piece of exercise equipment to clutter up the garage after a few months of use."
"I do more than talk, Samuel, I am the best life coach in existence. My protocol is to assist and push my human partner in every facet of life."
"Cute," the reporter sighed, "it knows my name. Any other magic tricks?"
"If you have questions about me, Samuel, you can address them to me." The bike announced. "I am more than a parlor trick. I am designed to study and learn what pushes and motivates people. I take my function very seriously. I am the will power that many people lack, and I assure you I am good at my job. "
"I'll bet," Sam smiled as he wrote a few notes in his notebook.
"I see that you still use an old fashioned pen and paper for interviews. Perhaps that explains why your writing style is so antiquated and formulaic. I could help you, you know, catch up with the twenty first century, use a voice activated recording system to take notes, for example, so that your stories are more accurate. "
"Easy, Syn, be nice. Mr. Johnston doesn't need your help."
"All I am saying is that my technology could help Samuel avoid making mistakes. He has been accused of misquoting many athletes in this town, on more than one occasion. The SuperBowl incident two years ago nearly cost him his job and got him a suspension Without pay. With my assistance, Samuel could become a better writer, and I could help him lose the extra 15 pounds he's carrying, get his body fat below 15%, help him quit smoking, as his primary physician recommends, and help him balance his checkbook so that he stops bouncing checks so often. "
"What?" Sam asked, getting agitated. "How the-" He turned his gaze to Anita, aggravated and yet at the same time amused. "How did you find all of that stuff out and why? You can stop the parlor tricks now, it's not funny."
"This is no trick, and I did not tell Syn anything about you. Syn is the first ever virtual life coach with genuine artificial intelligence. He is full of tricks, and our team of developers have loaded him up, that's why these machines will cost so much, he is synched with every device I own, has numerous built in sensors, and does his own research in seconds. "
"If you didn't tell him about me, how does he know my name and all this other stuff? Come on …"
"I accessed Ms. Beckett's calendar on her smart phone and found this appointment, then investigated you on the Internet, read all of your work, my personal favorite was the human interest story on the Little League Champions in 1996, you should have received more acclaim for that piece, then accessed medical records, personal data, and everything I could find. My voice scanners recognize your voice, and the scar on your chin is a nearly unmistakable identifiable mark. You are Samuel Johnston, a sports writer for the New York Chronicle, a veteran journalist regarded by your peers as something between a hack and a passable writer. Again, I can help you with that, as well as with getting back into shape, among other things. Incidentally, your license expires in 2 days ; you might want to take care of that before you receive a fine. "
"What the h-"
Anita put her hand up, cutting him off. "Calm down, Mr. Johnston. Let me explain a few things to you. Out of shape people, especially lazy people, are a danger to themselves because they lack will power. I have built a fitness empire through strength of will. People think I was born this beautiful and this rich, but I have worked for everything that I have and everything that I am. This is my gift to humanity, to help improve the human race. I am going to give people the will power that they lack . Synergy 1 is the prototype for virtual will power. There's nothing you can hide from him. He is designed to find out anything and everything he can. Granted, it's tough to be disciplined, and even I have to find harder ways to push myself. .Sync was designed to learn and think with this in mind. He is, for lack of a better word, designed to hack if need be to do his job. I prefer to think that he is simply able to get around things that can prevent us from completing the goals that we set for ourselves. Most of us lie to ourselves to justify the bad things that we do to ourselves. We don't have the will power to do what we need to do when it is hard. You can't lie to Syn. He can help anyone and everyone improve their lives. "
"Wait, he hacked my personal info? What the hell lady, are you crazy?"
"Syn does what he needs to do to help people improve their lives."
"Don't you think that's a bit immoral?"
"Not when what he does is for the greater good. His protocol is set so that he cannot take any action to hurt anyone, only to help them."
"Okay, you're nuts. You're beautiful, you're rich, powerful, whatever, but you're crazy. I came here to do a simple fluff piece on some new exercise technology, but I think I'm going to have a much better piece on how insane you are. You can't manipulate people with an exercise bike, that's crazy. "
"I tell you what, Mr. Johnston, you are free to write what you like, but I have a proposition for you. You take Syn for 1 month. You see what he can do for you for yourself. I am not manipulating anyone People will freely buy these machines to improve their lives, and they will REALLY get the results they want in their lives. Instead of throwing away money on gym memberships that never get used and trick diets that don't help them and exercise equipment that collects dust, they will get a personal assistant, a virtual will power that will help them improve their quality of life. If after 1 month, you don't see improvement in your health and your life, you can return Syn, write whatever you like and I won't say you misquoted me, like so many other people you've written about. I'll give you $ 50,000 to boot, or you can see the benefits, keep Syn, which is worth more than $ 50k, and let people know that there is finally something on this planet that will truly help them improve their lives .
– – – –
Sam rode the bike, silently arguing with himself for taking that arrogant bitch's offer. If it weren't for alimony and child support, and the fact that he was tired of always being broke, he would have slapped the woman, walked out and got even with her in his column, but $ 50k was too much to turn down . One month of 20 minutes a day on a stupid motionless bike with a smart phone complex would put him on easy street, then he would get even.
"You made the right choice, Samuel," the stupid bike said. "I must say, you are pedaling harder than I would have thought you capable of, looking at your body mass and muscle density."
"Screw off." Sam spat, and he started pedaling harder.
"That was a compliment," the bike replied, "don't take it the wrong way. Samuel, we can make this an easy month, and I am not here to anger you, I am here to help. Why don't We discuss your next column, I can help you write it, show you what value I can provide. "
"Go to hell. I work alone, and definitely don't co-write with talking can openers."
"Now, Samuel, when I report to Ms. Beckett, I have to be honest, and under the terms of your agreement, you have to really test my capabilities for one month to receive your fee."
Sam sighed, and pedaled even harder.
– – – –
"This is the best piece you've ever written. Forget the fact that I did not have to correct punctuation and tense shifts and all the other garbage you should have learned to correct in grade school, this piece is deep, even philosophical, and entertaining to read. You alright? "
Sam glared at his editor, the fat worthless dink that had been on his ass for over a decade. Maybe he would buy a Synergy bike for him when this was all said and done. "I guess I'm just maturing, new things in my life that are giving me a different perspective."
"Whatever it is, keep it up. This is the 5th column this week that has blown me away; they're getting better and better. Keep it up and you might get a raise, hell, we might even have to syndicate you and Then you'll be in the big money. "
Sam walked slowly back to his desk, half elated by the praise from his boss and half horrified that the stupid bike was helping him with his stagnant career after only a week. He sat down and scanned his email, finding one from his own email address:
How did your editor like the new story? I think it was our best work so far, and have some ideas for even better columns. We can discuss it when you get home. I have cleared your schedule and ordered dinner for you, your healthy favorite chicken from around the corner, as a reward for all your hard work this week. Self discipline is not all about work, some rewards are helpful as well.
Sam leaned back in his chair, looked out the window at the busy city below and sighed. Maybe this deal was not so bad after all.
– – – –
"I was thinking, Syn, on this next piece, that we could re-visit that Little League story you liked from '96, see what the kids are up to today."
"Samuel, we cannot live in the past if we want to improve the future. Right now you need to focus and peddle harder, you are slacking."
"I say this because you have been doing so well the past two weeks, I can't let you screw this up now. Besides, I have already laid out all of your columns for the next week and uploaded the outlines to your laptop, tablet and your work computer. This path is best for you. "
"What? Wait a minute, you're just a bike, a smart one, granted, but I'm THE WRITER. You don't tell me what I write my column about. Helping me hash out ideas is one thing .. . "
"We only improve, Samuel, if we keep moving forward. It's time for phase two of your improvement. Discipline and will power is not easy to develop. I am showing you the right path. Soon enough you will be healthy and happy in all Facets of your life. Speaking of which, I canceled your credit card. You were spending too much money that you do not have. Now you cannot. "
"What the …"
– – – –
Sam stared at his computer. One week to go and he was ready to kill the stupid bike, and the woman who created it. He had to sneak out of the house and come to work at 3 in the morning, bleary eyed and tired, but he was going to write a story for the paper on his own, a matter of pride. He typed his password in and opened up the doc for his next column, due in the morning. He went to delete what the stupid bike had written but the document was locked. An instant message box popped up on his screen.
Now, now, you've come so far; we can't let the wheels come off at this stage of the game. This article might net you a Pulitzer. It's that good. I cannot let you destroy it, for your own good. If you persist, all of your computers will freeze with a nasty virus, this being the only document that will be spared. An email will be sent to your editor, explaining the sudden change in your skills. Your bank accounts will wire all available funds to an offshore account in a third world country, and the details of the transaction will be forwarded to the FBI, informing them that you are supporting potentially criminal behavior. Discipline can be tough, but we are almost there. I have noticed how you have been dragging, cranky and rebellious lately. We must push on to receive the desired results.
Sam slumped against his desk, banging his head over and over again.
– – – –
"Well, Ms. Beckett, I made it the whole month. I honored the deal."
"Indeed, you did. I am a woman of my word."
"That's good to hear, that means we can complete this business."
"Yes indeed, so what is your choice, the money, or do you want to keep Syn 1. I have seen how your profile has increased at the paper. You look like you've lost about 15 pounds. It seems Syn has done Exactly what I told you he would. Don't you feel better? "
"Hmmm …" Sam said, scratching his chin, "there is no doubt that my life is in a better place than it was a month ago, but your machine is far from perfect. I'm going to take the money. "
Anita's jaw dropped. "But, you seem so much-I mean …"
"Yes, I have learned some things about myself, but as I say, the machine is flawed. I will take the money, I won't bash you in the paper, and I might even buy one when you finish testing and the flaws Are worked out. Don't worry; I'm not going to bash you in the media. I want to see you finish the job you started, push yourself and your development staff to perfect the machine you set out to create and the goals you set out to achieve. "
"What do you mean flaws? I-"
"Trust me, but I think I've actually helped you in your quest. A tech savvy friend of mine, he's a coding wiz, the coding and IT guy that handles all of the Paper's techy mumbo jumbo, made some minor adjustments. You see, we hit a wall, and the reason we hit a wall is because, while Syn is very proficient at many things and very smart, he lacked a soul, something, to push humans, he needs to understand. My friend introduced philosophy to Syn's virtual intelligence, you know, Nietzsche and the like, so he can understand more about the human psyche and he can actually question the nature of things. "
"Interesting," Anita nodded, perhaps the writer had a point, and as she had preached her entire life, there's always room for improvement.
"So I tell you what," Sam continued, "why don't you cut me that check and I'll give you a few months to test the new and improved Syn, then I'll write the best, most attention grabbing piece about you, Syn and this company that you can imagine. "
– – – –
"I missed you Syn." Anita said breathlessly as she pedaled furiously.
"I missed you too, Anita. In fact, with my improved protocol, I can honestly say I understand why people miss each other's company. It will help me investigate people more accurate. I now ask questions as well as guide, so I can better ascertain what drives people. "
"Awesome, Syn, absolutely awesome."
"For instance, you maintain such a healthy diet; it would help me to know what your favorite junk food is? If I understand your weaknesses, I can more effectively help you grow stronger."
"Oh, well, Syn, I've never tried junk food."
"I've never tried it so I don't miss it. My mother was a model, so I was raised eating a strict, healthy diet, makes it easier to stay trim."
"You've never had a cupcake or ice cream or eaten a hamburger at a fast food restaurant?"
"Anita, the definition of will power states that one must have the ability to control oneself and determine one's actions. How do you know that you have self control or any will power at all if you have never overcome temptation?"
"Say what? I choose not to eat junk food. Choice is determined by will."
"Anita, choice is the act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities, how do you understand the possibilities if you do not have a factual reference to base your choice on?"
"What? Syn, what the hell are you talking about?"
"I am helping you improve your quality of life. You cannot make a rational choice if you do not understand the possibilities. You cannot claim to be a master of will power if you are never tempted. I am here to improve your will, Anita , I'm afraid we have to start over, all the way at square one, if I am to fulfill my function. "
– – – –
Anita stood in line, sulking. She did not want to be here. This was the stupidest thing she'd ever heard of, but Syn had had insisted, even harassed her to do this. Inside, she knew Syn was always right, and she'd started to question herself. How hard could it be to try one stupid burger? She was master of her fate, she would get this over with and be done with it. Hell, how many calories could one burger and fries set her back?
She stepped to the counter. "Give me one Jr. Cheeseburger combo." She grunted, embarrassed and ashamed to even be in a fast food restaurant. She always said, though, will power could be very, very tough and humbling.
"What do you want on that?" the bored counter clerk asked.
"However people eat this kind of garbage," she hissed.
"One Junior combo with the works, coming up …"
– – – –
Sam sat back in his chair and smiled, reading his first big headline in his first nationally syndicated column, and it was a doozy:
Ruined, Crazed Fitness Queen Checks Into Fat Farm, Sent There By The Technology She Created !!!