Invoke, by Adrian Perez

Charlie looked out the window of his office at the kids on the other side of the street. There were three of them, all raggedy looking and about the age of twelve. Charlie hoped they would not cross in his direction. His negative thoughts beckoned them across the street and Charlie slammed his keyboard.

Ever since he had published the article on his new programming language this stuff happened all the time. Maybe the kids would skip his building. He was in an obscure part of town so most of the Teen Swarms stayed away. They walked near the industry museums and took classes at the Gymnasium, surrounded by artificial forests. The kids stayed in their part of town, and Charlie stayed in his hacker commune.

He heard the door of the building suck open and closed, creating a pressure ripple. The teens were in the building. Charlie sipped his coffee and scooted his chair next to the whiteboard, so it would be hard to see him in his office.

“There he is,” he heard from his doorway, “Are you Charlie Roth?”

“Yeah, you caught me,” Charlie responded, still not turning around.

“Hey dude,” he heard a female voice chime in, “It’s not so bad. We’re only going to be here an hour.”

“Yeah, but you plus two more groups in the morning means six hours out of my day.”

Charlie turned around. He looked at the teens and his overlay lenses told him a bit about the kids. Mik, Jef, and Kina. All born in the thirty-forth district and subscribing to the North American Standard, and the Former-US Coda. Charlie wished the Invocation Protocol did not pass into the Standard last year.

“I Invoke Charlie Roth,” Kina piped.

Charlie stared at the girl. Not saying a word. Things had gotten bad in the last twenty years. Peak oil happened. The Great Recession turned into the Big Suck. Society fell apart pretty badly. Low grade warring persisted in the background of mass personal depression and impotence. Twenty years later, truly efficient solar started to get everyone back on their feet, but the Big Suck had left a giant scar across the system. Most nations did not exist anymore. Everyone got used to driving bicycles. People did not travel long distances and this resulted in huge swathes of economic stratification mixed with cultural divides that for a brief period made the world a very scary place. The girl in front of Charlie didn’t remember any of that. She was just excited to exercise control over someone older than her.

Jef asked insecurely, “Do you accept Invocation?”

“Of course I accept,” Charlie answered, “I don’t want to get sued. I’m just thinking of…the past. How much programming do you know?”

“We’ve all learned to modify our Interface Lense Profiles. The last program was an intelligence plug-in for our Autonomous Assistant which is how we found you,” Mik told Charlie, “And we’ve all written Coda.” Coda referred to the law of their particular Enclave.

“That’s mostly human stuff,” Charlie answered, “Have you written any mechanical stuff?”

All three of the young men and women looked at each other quizzically. They had come here to Invoke Charlie Roth, to force him to teach them, as was their right under the new law passed from Coda to Standard. They had not thought long enough or been polite enough to do research.

“Well, as is my right under Invocation, I can send you away to do research I know can be found, but seeing as you’ve already interrupted me and that you’re already here. Let’s get started with a ‘Hello World’ for Assistant Speech Comprehension for past tense narratives.”

The children glowed and vibrated with enthusiasm. Sitting straight down on the floor of Charlie’s office to listen and learn.