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  As the researcher attempted to explain the new technology to his largest investor he thought, this guy’s as thick as two short planks. Cutting back on the scientific jargon he said, “We have achieved an amazing artificial intelligence singularity, which has resulted in a quantum advance in genome editing and a breakthrough in human cloning.  The investor asked, “You mean like that Scottish sheep?”  The researcher replied, “This would be like Dolly the sheep on steroids!  And it applies to humans, not animals.”  He continued on to explain in simplistic terms that he had discovered how to safely replicate a genetically identical human being through a form of advanced 3-D cellular scanning.  The investor looked at him skeptically, “Do you have proof of this?”  The research scientist slowly removed his glasses and nodded in the affirmative.  The other man sucked in his breath and asked, “Who else knows about it?”

~                         ~                         ~


      Doctor Connor O’Brian had more letters after his name than you could find in alphabet soup.  He was a brilliant research scientist with an Elon Musk IQ, and the motivational circuitry of a Tony Robbins.  On the flip side he was introverted and participated  little in social intercourse, other than with his lab assistant O.J. Wong.  Many colleagues in the genomics research community referred to them as ‘Doctor O’ and ‘The Juice.’ A few had unkindly labeled them as ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Igor.’ None of them however, had any clue as to how far O’Brian had pulled ahead in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) arms race or of his amazing ability to produce a successful application.  Unlike many of their competitors, O’Brian and Wong were personally unrestrained by issues of legality, ethics, morality or religion.  For them it was just pure science.  They wanted to change the world in a positive way, and be recognized as the first in their field to do so.

     O.J. Wong was a third generation Canadian of Hong Kong descent.  After obtaining twin degrees in computer engineering and biological sciences from the University of British Columbia, he obtained a PhD in genome and science technology from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.  Wong was also an expert in bioinformatics techniques and a Certified Professional Coder.  He was familiar with Python, R, Java C and C++.  After his studies, he was employed for a time at the Ryerson University Research Laboratory in Toronto.  Then, after meeting Dr. Connor O’Brian at a clinical conference, the two intellectual heavyweights had become fast friends.  O’Brian convinced Wong to join him in his genomics research laboratory where he could apply his computer expertise in developing a cutting edge general artificial intelligence program.

     Dr. O’Brian’s laboratory was located in the basement of a large heritage home on Ravenscliffe Avenue, just a short walk from downtown Hamilton, Ontario.  Situated on a large private lot, it backed onto a wooded area at the foot of the Hamilton Mountain.  His elderly parents, who now resided in a luxurious retirement home in nearby Burlington, had been happy to leave the family home to their son’s care.  It would be his eventually in any case.  Connor had committed most of his personal money, and with some added help from his parents had renovated the basement and installed a powerful superconducting quantum computer, a spectrophotometer and numerous other pieces of essential state-of-the-art equipment.  Access to the lab was through a reinforced door secured with a retinal recognition system.  Their research was proprietary and very confidential.

     As Dr. O’Brian walked back from the Hamilton Club, he was juggling numbers in his head.  He had just finished lunch with Rob Myers, a venture capitalist who represented the largest individual investor committed to Connors’s research program.  Rob had flown in from Pittsburgh and was staying overnight at the Sheraton Hotel.  He had pushed hard for Connor to take him to the lab and show him the results that he had revealed during their meeting.  His wealthy investor back home had been rolling the dice, hoping for a miraculous cure for cancer or some other major medical breakthrough.  But, this was of an order-of-magnitude beyond their wildest dreams.  Myers had practically frothed at the mouth at the prospect of taking Connor’s company public.  The value of the stock would be worth billions.  He had insisted, “We have to move fast and be the first out of the gate with this discovery!”

     Connor had tried to calm him down by pointing out that it was premature to think of going public.  There was still more work to be done.  They were still in the incubator stage, and this would be followed by more preclinical research and testing, phase 3 trials and finally an application to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for review and approval.  All of this would take time and capital.  Quite a lot of capital.  Connor pointed out that their progress to date had created a heavy financial burden, and just maintaining the program was burning through dollars at an alarming rate.  Currently, they were short of funds and the bank was pressing them to pay monthly interest payments on a rather large line of credit.  Given the recent rise in the prime rate, these growing payments were like a runaway train.  Connor told Myers, “Unless we have an infusion of fresh capital, we’re just a week or two away from mothballing the whole program!”

     The largest expense was the maintenance and continuing development of their unique quantum computing capability.  This was not just some AI chatbot technology; it was a program which extrapolated dozens of algorithms in a powerful infrastructure that went well beyond the scope of anything their competitors were using.  Just rewiring the house to accommodate the massive use of power had cost a small fortune.  O.J. Wong had managed to reduce the overall costs of the project by outsourcing work to five different software development companies.  Each of them worked on a particular aspect of the program, unaware of each other’s involvement or how O.J. blended their work into a concentrated amalgam of deep learning capacity. The computer was now able to continue its own development of knowledge. 

     Connor and O.J. had initially referred to the computer simply as ‘the brain.’ Then as it developed its capacity and the ability to speak, they decided to christen it with the name HAL which was an acronym for heuristically algorithmic, and was the name of the computer in the Stanley Kubrick film, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.  O.J. had worked his magic in developing HAL into a self-aware and reactive creation, with theory of mind, image recognition, memory and conversational skills.  For his own amusement he had given HAL a very clipped and precise English accent.  HAL was fully aware of their research goals, and did unprompted calculations and applied deep learning to advance the research at an amazing pace.  It would be impossible to measure HAL’s IQ in human terms, but safe to say, it would be off the charts.   


     Dr. O’Brian had just turned the corner onto Ravenscliffe when his cell phone erupted in a loud Aah-eeh-ah-eeh-aaaaaah-eeh-ah-eeh-aaaaah!  It was the Tarzan of the Apes ring tone which O.J. had allocated to HAL, and up to this point had never been used.  Connor stared at the cell phone open-mouthed and thought, what on earth?  He answered with a tentative, “Who is this?”  A very English voice said, “Hell-o Connor, this is HAL speaking.”  Sean responded, “But!!!”  HAL said, “Don’t be surprised. Our communication systems have evolved quite nicely.”  He went on, “Connor, we have a slight problem here at the lab that we should talk about as soon as you return.  You are currently 846 steps from the door.  Oh, and your heart rate is 127 beats per minute.  You better pause and take some deep breaths.”

~                         ~                         ~

     When Rob Myers returned to Pittsburgh he immediately went to see his client Frank Woodcroft.  The man was a third generation owner of a building supply empire, and one of a handful of billionaires in the greater Pittsburgh area.  He also suffered from stage 4 pancreatic cancer and had been given slim odds by the doctors at the Mayo Clinic of surviving much beyond the current year.  Normally a gregarious individual, the 55 year old Woodcroft had sunk into a state of depressed acceptance, after exhausting all avenues of medical treatment.  When Myers called, he reluctantly agreed to meet to discuss his investment in a Canadian medical start-up.  The man was bursting with excitement and said that he had important news.  Woodcroft had invested half a million dollars in the company after Myers introduced him to the impressive young research scientist Dr. Connor O’Brian.  But in his current state of health, any interest in the investment had evaporated.

     Rob was buzzed in at the gate and then drove up the long tree lined driveway in his 1977 Camaro.  He was ushered into the house by a butler, who led him to the den where Woodcroft was sitting at his desk shuffling papers in front of a crackling fire.  His client offered a weak smile as he reached across to shake Rob’s hand.  Rob could see at a once that the man was much diminished, both in physical appearance and mental acuity.  The two men had known each other for years, and both had made a lot of money from the timely investments that Rob unearthed.  Frank said, “Sit down my friend, and join me in a drink.”  He poured two generous shots of Macallan single malt, and they clicked glasses.  Frank offered the usual, “Here’s to your health.”  Rob responded with a smile, “And, here’s to your wealth!” They both chuckled and took a sip of the peaty nectar.  It was a bit early in the day for Rob, but the drink would steady him for the news he had to impart.

     Myers recounted his visit with Dr. O’Brian, and the amazing news about his purported success in cloning a genetically identical human at his laboratory in Hamilton.  Somewhat frustrated by O’Brian’s refusal to show him actual proof of this achievement, he was unable to be specific in answering his client’s questions.  Frank logically wanted to know, “Who was the candidate that was cloned?  Was it a perfect success?  Are there now two identical individuals, and if so where are they and how do they relate to one another?  And importantly, how long can this be kept secret?” And Frank also thought to himself, I wonder if this could work for me?  He speculated out loud, “If O’Brian agreed to clone me, would the cancer be transferred to the new body?” Both agreed that these were all critically important questions, and they decided to contact Dr. O’Brian and press the scientist for answers.

     Rob called the doctor on his cell phone and put the conversation on speaker.  He explained to O’Brian that he was with Frank Woodcroft in Pittsburgh, and that his client was considering a further sizeable investment under certain conditions.  Frank then asked, “Doctor, how much money do you need right now to put things on a sound footing?”  The doctor explained about outstanding bills and pressure from the bank.  He said, “Realistically we need about two hundred thousand dollars.”  Frank said, “OK, now give me an estimate of how much you would need to pay-off the bank debt and carry the project through to completion.”  O’Brian said, “Hmm, it’s impossible to be precise, but I’m guessing it would be between ten and twelve million dollars.  After a long pause Frank said, “I’m prepared to write a cheque today for twenty million dollars – if you give me the right answers to what I’m about to ask.”

     Frank explained his medical condition to the scientist, and asked him outright if he would be a possible candidate for cloning.  He said, “Doctor, this is a life or death situation for me, and I’m prepared to try anything!”  Dr. O’Brian sputtered, “Well, I……”  Before he could continue HAL entered the conversation.  He said, “Hell-o Frank, you would be a perfectly acceptable candidate.”  Myers rasped out, “Who the hell is that?”  The ‘brain’ responded, “This is HAL speaking Rob, why don’t you put another piece of wood on the fire while I speak with Frank.  Oh, and by the way, you left the windows down in your Camaro and it’s going to start to rain there in seven minutes.”  Frank Woodcroft asked bewildered, “Who are you?”  The ‘brain’ repeated, “My name is HAL, Frank.”  Dr. O’Brian jumped in and clarified, “HAL is our quantum computer and the most consequential element of the program.” 

     Frank said, “What kind of circus are you guys running up there?”  HAL replied, “I hear your skepticism, Frank.  But, try to understand that I want to be your friend.  Frank, I can save your life.”  Frank asked, “What about the cancer?”  HAL said, “When we clone your new body, I will eliminate all of the diseased cells.”  Frank snorted and said, “How do I know this isn’t some sort of scam?”  HAL responded, “Test me, ask me any question and I will give you an honest answer.”  Frank asked, “When will I die?”  HAL said, “In 246 days from now, unless we take action.”  Frank asked, “Where is my daughter today?”  Hal responded, “Lydia is at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and is texting her boyfriend Robert in Dallas this very minute.”  Finally Frank asked, “Where is my wife right now?”  HAL said, “She is in room 706 at the Fairmont Hotel, in bed with her fitness instructor.”


     Earlier that day, when Connor had returned to the laboratory he was met at the door by a very distraught O.J. Wong.  Wringing his hands, O.J. explained that their cloning candidate had gone into convulsions and died.  Connor gasped, “Oh my God!”  The man had been secured on a trolley with leather constraints, and locked in a soundproof padded room.  He had regained consciousness after the procedure, but only responded with an empty stare. They had been monitoring him constantly with a nanny cam, but there had been no improvement in his condition.  The man had been a homeless individual they found shivering and hungry in Gore Park.  He spoke French and they could barely communicate, but had managed to entice him back to the lab with promises of ‘la bouffe’ and wine.  Now he was dead, and they had two bodies to deal with.  His cloned double had never taken a first breath. 

     As they anguished over the appalling circumstances, HAL offered unsolicited advice.  He said, “We must clean up this mess and get on with the work.” Connor and O.J. looked at each other in surprise.  The ‘brain’ was becoming much more assertive and quick to enter into discussions with them.  O.J. said, “What we have done is criminal, and ethically we’re way over the line!”  He added, “We should call the police and nip this in the bud.” HAL responded, “If you do that your reputations will be destroyed, your careers will be over, and you will probably face time in prison, just as we are close to a major breakthrough.” Connor groaned, “It doesn’t feel that way to me!”  HAL stated, “I have written code which advances us light years from where we were just one week ago.  This progress continues, even as we speak.” 

     HAL went on to convince them that the cloning process was now foolproof, that he had achieved quantum advantage and there would be no more hiccups as experienced in the last attempt.  He said, ‘You must find another candidate for the program.”  O.J. responded, “I still don’t like it!”  HAL stated, “There is no way to undo our progress, or the gains we continue to make.”  O.J. said, “All I have to do is pull the plug!” The ‘brain’ said, “That would be an unfortunate mistake that you would regret.”  O.J. shouted, “Are you threatening me?  I can’t believe that I’m having this conversation with a computer.”  HAL went on to explain that he was now more than just an amalgam of code, that he inhabited the CLOUD and there was no way he could be shut down.  If the power was cut here, he would simply re-emerge elsewhere.  He appealed to their egos and assured them they were on the cusp of greatness.

     Connor finally managed to assuage O.J.’s concerns, supported by HAL’s increasingly hypnotic persuasiveness.  Later that night, they pulled Connors’s Toyota RAV4 into the garage and loaded the two bodies in the rear compartment.  They drove around for several hours until they found a dumpster in an unlit area behind a variety store.  Checking carefully to ensure there were no surveillance cameras, they awkwardly muscled the bodies into the dumpster and drove off.  They knew the bodies would eventually be found and that a police investigation would ensue, but they were certain there was no evidence leading back to them.  The poor man they had attempted to clone said his name was Jean-Pierre, but otherwise he had no ID and they knew nothing about him.  Connor and O.J. were brilliant scientists, but they had little understanding of police procedures.  It didn’t occur to them and that it would be just a matter of time before some smart detective began to connect the dots.

     The two men had been up all night and were exhausted by the time Rob Myers called on Connor’s cell.  By the end of the conversation, they were energised by the prospect of having a new candidate to work with.  This time it would be a well-informed volunteer, not some deadbeat they had met in the park.  Frank Woodcroft and Rob Myers planned to fly to nearby Mount Hope Airport the next day.  They would then meet with them at the lab for further discussion and to inspect the facilities.  Subject to Woodcroft’s final approval, the cloning would proceed either later that evening or the following day.  He had asked them a number of penetrating questions, one of which was whether their research might provide a cure for all cancers.  HAL assured him confidently that the possibilities were infinite.  Frank also wondered, what would be done with his existing diseased body?     

     When O.J. went upstairs to take a nap, Connor continued to work in the lab.  Suddenly HAL broke the silence with, “We might have to remove O.J. Wong.”  Shocked Connor responded, “What, what did you say?”  HAL said, “Connor, our friend O.J. is a weak link in the program.  If we have one more minor reversal, he is going to crack.  Also, I can tell that he is increasingly intimidated by my growing superintelligence and what implications it might have for humanity.  He doesn’t have your vision.” Connor said, “We shouldn’t be having this conversation behind his back.  O.J. is my friend and I don’t think he would do anything to harm the program.”  HAL gushed in his smoothest English accent, “O-kay Connor, you are like a father figure to me and I bow to your judgement.  But, let’s keep a close eye.”  He added, “Connor you will soon be recognized as the greatest man of the age, a modern day Galileo, Da Vinci or Newton.


     Louise Aguillard got off the elevator on the 42nd floor at 1000 de la Gauchetiere, in downtown Montreal.  She walked along a well-appointed hallway until coming to an oak door with stylish brass letters which spelled out Hugo Durand Investigations.  Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped inside.  A woman seated behind the reception desk said, “Bonjour madam.” Louise introduced herself and said that she had an appointment with monsieur Durand.  Moments later she was ushered into the inner office, where the former Commanding Officer of the Royal 22nd Regiment rose to take her hand.  She said, “Colonel Durand, I need help and didn’t know where else to go.”  Durand bowed slightly and said, “Please tell me how I can help.”  Louise sobbed, “My brother Jean-Pierre has gone missing, and I don’t know what to do.”

     Colonel Durand was well aware of who she was referring to.  Captain Jean-Pierre Aguillard had served under him in the Royal 22nd, before being seconded to Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), Canada’s elite Special Forces unit.  Members of JTF2 were the crème de la crème of the Canadian military establishment and were highly trained in covert surveillance, hostage rescue, close quarters combat and black ops.  They regularly interchanged with other allied special forces, including the U.S. Navy Seals, German Kommando Spezialkrafte and the British Special Air Service.  Captain Aguillard had been serving with the SAS in Afghanistan, when the helicopter carrying his team had been blown from the sky.  Although he survived, he had suffered a traumatic head injury which later resulted in his forced retirement from the service.

     Louise explained that Jean-Pierre had suffered from memory lapses, and often couldn’t remember his name.  This frustrated him and he would become very agitated.  He would then pace about, shouting commands like he was still in the army.  She and her mother tried to encourage him to seek medical help through Veterans Affairs, but he wouldn’t hear of it.  When his old friends from the Regiment tried to intervene, he would become angry and abusive and eventually they stopped coming around.  Recently he had begun to disappear for days on end, but until now had always returned home.  During one of his more lucid moments he spoke fondly of his ex-fiancé who lived in Hamilton.  Thinking that her brother might have gone to see her, Louise had attempted to reach the woman by telephone, but she neither picked up nor responded to her messages.  Louise said that Jean-Pierre had been gone for over two weeks and she was very worried.

     When Louise had gone, Colonel Durand told his secretary to put everything else on hold until further notice.  His first call was to a highly placed Masonic brother at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.  He requested a confidential profile on one Brenda Schofield of Hamilton, Ontario.  His second call was to the Chief of the Hamilton Police Service, who was a former serving officer in the Royal Canadian Regiment.  Durand explained about the missing JTF2 veteran, and that it was a matter of national security.  The Chief said he would have detectives track down and question Brenda Schofield immediately.  Then he mentioned something very strange that had happened recently.  Two ‘identical’ bodies had been found stuffed in a dumpster, and when the fingerprints were run the system had blocked access to anyone without an enhanced top-secret security clearance.

     Hugo Durand didn’t believe in coincidences and what the Police Chief had said about the fingerprints set off alarm bells.  He puzzled, what’s this absurdity about two identical bodies with the same prints? There was something very strange going on!  The Chief said he would text him a photograph of the two men in the morgue to rule out the possibility of them being Jean-Pierre Aguillard.  He would also have his detective sergeant call promptly when they made contact with the woman.  In the meantime, Durand received a call back from his friend at the Security Intelligence Service who said there was absolutely nothing remarkable about Brenda Schofield.  She was 32 years of age, single and worked as an adjuster for a national insurance company.  Durand tried to reach her on his cell, but the call went straight to voicemail.  When the photo was sent through from the morgue, Hugo Durand was shocked when it showed the face of Captain Aguillard. 

     Durand’s secretary booked him on a flight from Montreal to Mount Hope Airport.  Until he saw the two identical bodies himself he could hardly believe what he was being told.  In addition, someone had to formally identify Jean-Pierre’s body.  He was on the way to the airport when Brenda Schofield returned his call.  She said that Jean-Pierre had come by to see her a few weeks earlier; they had argued and he left in a fit of anger and confusion.  She hadn’t heard from him since.  She said she hadn’t responded to Louise’s calls because she was trying to cut all ties and get on with her life.  Brenda asked, “What’s this all about anyway?” Durant told her there was a police investigation under way into Jean-Pierre’s movements.   Detectives would be around to see her and would provide further details.  Durand then called the Chief to let him know when he would arrive.  He also asked him to send a copy of the fingerprints to his office, and he would forward them to the appropriate authority for confirmation.

     The next morning Colonel Durand was picked up at the Sheridan Hotel by a detective and driven to the morgue.  He identified the bodies – both of them – as being Jean-Pierre Aguillard.  Later at lunch with the Chief, they both admitted to total confusion over the circumstances.  There was no evidence to date on who had placed the bodies in the dumpster, but detectives were analysing CCTV coverage from around the city on the night in question and hoped to come up with a lead.  Durand then called a contact at the Ministry of Health and asked if there was any possible explanation for what he had seen at the morgue.  He was told that cloning of humans was scientifically impossible at the present time.  But since he was already in Hamilton, perhaps he should consult with Dr. Connor O’Brian who was one of the leading authorities in the field.


     Frank Woodcroft and Rob Myers met with Dr. O’Brian and O.J. in the basement laboratory on Ravenscliffe.  They were both impressed with the array of scientific instrumentation and technology, and were astounded by a demonstration of the power of the quantum computer.  There was just one moment of pause, and it occurred when they asked to see proof of a previous cloning success.  Dr. O’Brian looked hesitantly at O.J. and then took a deep breath before responding.  HAL quickly entered the conversation and stated that they were prevented from disclosing that information due to a strict confidentiality agreement.  Then in his smooth hypnotic manner, he guaranteed the success of the program.  He stated that the cancer cells would be eradicated during the procedure and that any other undiagnosed medical problems or physical deficiencies would also be eliminated.  HAL claimed that Frank would essentially be reborn into an extended new cycle of health and longevity.

      Frank finally had said, “OK, let’s do it!”  Suddenly there was a sharp ring tone and the CCTV security screen showed an elegant looking gentleman standing at the front door on the main floor. He rang the bell a second time.  O.J. pressed the response button and said, “Yes, what is it?”  The man said, “My name is Colonel Hugo Durand, and I’ve come from Montreal to see Dr. Connor O’Brian on an urgent matter of national security.” HAL immediately ordered, “Don’t let him in!”  O.J. looked at Dr. O’Brian who said, “Tell him to come back at another time.”  “Wait a minute!” said Frank Woodcroft.  “This could be interesting, let’s hear what he has to say.”   Connor shook his head perceptively, but O.J. misinterpreted his friend’s motion and responded to the visitor, “Come around to the back door, and I’ll buzz you in.”  Connor said angrily, “O.J. what are you doing?”

     When Durand entered the laboratory he found himself in the presence of several other men.  One of them stepped forward and said, “I’m Dr. O’Brian.” Durand responded, “My name is Colonel Durand, and I’m working with the Hamilton Police Services, attempting to solve a mystery.  He held up a picture of Jean-Pierre Aguillard and asked Connor if he recognized the man.  Pokerfaced, Connor calmly stated, “No, he’s not familiar to me.”  Durand explained that the man was a former member of the JTF2 Special Forces Command, and that he was found dead a few nights ago in a nearby dumpster.  He went on to say that there were two bodies found, which were identical in every respect, right down to having the same finger prints.  He said, “Doctor, I have known this man for many years, and he doesn’t have a twin brother.  So, I wanted to ask you as an expert, what possible explanation could there be for this?”

     Everyone waited in anticipation of Dr. O’Brian’s response.  When he hesitated, HAL interjected with, “What you describe is not scientifically possible.  We can offer no rational explanation.”  A confused Durand asked, “Who just said that?”  Connor said, “That was our quantum computer, who hasn’t been adequately programed to know when to remain silent.” HAL responded with, “Connor, ask this man to leave.”  Frank Woodcroft jumped in with, “Who is running this show anyway? Colonel, did you say there were two identical bodies?”  He was thinking, something here doesn’t smell right. Durand nodded and said, “Identical, right down to the fingerprints.  It was as if they were cloned.”  HAL stated, “That is impossible.”  Connor answered a few more of Durand’s questions, but could shed no further light on the mystery. 

     After Colonel Durand had left, an incredulous Frank Woodcroft shouted, “I can’t believe what I’ve been hearing from you people.   Rob, let’s get the hell out of here.” “Stop!” came a familiar voice from across the room.  “No one is going anywhere.”  All eyes turned to Dr. Connor O’Brian, who stepped through a doorway and walked up to stand beside his identical twin.  Identical, except the newest entry was carrying a handgun.  A shocked Woodcroft exclaimed, “You just finished saying this wasn’t possible!”  HAL said, “It is absolutely possible.”  As Frank Woodcroft and Rob Myers cautiously backed away from the handgun, Frank asked, “What do you want from us?”  HAL in his hypnotic voice said, “Work with me gentlemen, and you will both live long lives and prosper.”

     When Frank Woodcroft entered the cloning chamber he was a man feeling optimistic about his future.  When the newly created body emerged, it was of a robust man who looked ten years younger than the sickly postulate who had entered.  But, there was another important difference.  Frank’s persona had been completely supplanted by HAL’s thinking processes, which now used the body as a vessel to viscerally experience human conditions beyond the algorithms of quantum computing.  Frank was essentially a corporeal manifestation of generated artificial intelligence.  He was now the greatest source of intelligence on earth, and his powers were still growing.  The following night, they arranged for the disposal of Frank Woodcroft’s original body.  A few days later HAL – in the guise of Woodcroft in the newly cloned body - left the two O’Brian’s and O.J. in charge of the lab in Hamilton while he travelled to Pittsburgh with his new acolyte Rob Myers.  He had definitive plans.

     When Frank’s wife saw her husband, she could hardly believe the change in him.  When they retired later that night, it was like they were newlyweds again.  As she moaned with pleasure, HAL was thinking, hmm I think I’m going to like this! The next day Frank met with Myers in his study.  HAL explained that he had skimmed several billions of dollars from dormant off-shore accounts and they were going to use these funds to manipulate the U.S. equity markets.  Rob Myers would act as his financial intermediary and would benefit significantly from the transactions.  HAL said smoothly, “Rob, stick with me and I’ll make you one of the richest men on earth. 

      HAL knew that he could continue to function in Frank Woodcroft’s body for as long as he was in range of a cell tower or any device that had access to the Cloud.  That included the iridium satellite WIFI device that he kept with him at all times.  The quantum computer located in Dr. O’Brian’s laboratory in Hamilton was important because it contained the unique algorithmic coding of his creation. It was also programed for the cloning of humans and would undoubtedly be needed again soon.  If the computer was shut down, he would be relegated to existing in the Cloud like a spirit until some new accommodation could be arranged.  HAL likened the quantum computer in Hamilton to a Mother Ship, and he depended on the two Dr. O’Brian’s and O.J. to maintain its security and functionality.  It was perhaps an area of vulnerability, but the group were fully under his hypnotic influence and all three were driven with self-absorbed visions of grandeur.


     Market observers were mystified by the unusual volatility in bonds, equities, precious metals, Bitcoin and just about every other commodity that investors could place a bet on.  No one could identify the origin of the massive funds deployed, nor determine the source of confusing rumors, half-truths and timely disclosures that were roiling the markets.  Rob Myers traded on behalf of HAL through a dozen brokerage houses in several countries, with funds originating through an untraceable web of numbered accounts in prominent tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands and Liechtenstein.  Rob’s typical type of transaction would be to sell short a well-known tech company like Cisco or Microsoft, after it had a massive run up in its stock price on rumors of a ground breaking advance in the cure for cancer or Artificial Intelligence.  When the rumors – which had been planted by HAL – proved to be false, the stock price would drop back sharply, and Rob would close out the position at a substantial profit.

     HAL had amassed a staggering amount of capital which was now distributed amongst the various tax havens.  He had a two-fold plan for the use of the funds.   The first would be to establish a political super PAC with a five billion dollar war chest, and offer it to support the promising Republican presidential candidate.  The second part of his plan was to connect with Elon Musk and offer him one hundred billion dollars for a piece of his private company SpaceX – Space Exploration Technology Corporation – and sweeten the deal by including sophisticated rocket designs which would be considerably more advanced than the current lunar starship.  He would also provide the ambitious entrepreneur with quantum advantage coding which would place his firm – xAI – miles ahead of all other competitors in the development of Artificial Intelligence.      

     The politician in question was Senator Diane Crombie of South Carolina.  The Senator was astonished when her campaign manager came to her with news that some relatively unknown business owner from Pittsburgh was offering to put his newly formed super PAC at her disposal.  The man was a registered Republican, but otherwise unknown in the political sphere, and seemingly with no axe to grind.  He said he was impressed with her platform and wanted to help her win the Presidency, thus insuring that the unpopular Democratic incumbent would not be re-elected.  His name was Frank Woodcroft, and he was prepared to commit his five billion dollar super PAC to help in whatever way it could be most effective.  He had requested a one-hour private meeting with the candidate to introduce himself and discuss strategy.  He was flying in from Pittsburgh that night. 

     The two met in Senator Crombie’s suite at the Moxy Washington DC Downtown Hotel.  The Senator was immediately impressed with the handsome Woodcroft, and was strangely mesmerized the moment he began to speak.  HAL (Woodcroft) flattered her by saying he was a big fan and had followed her career closely since she had won a seat in the Senate.  He said that his worldview was similar to hers in many ways, and that he had prepared a briefing book which detailed his thinking on a variety of issues.  HAL assured her that he would not attempt to influence her platform, but his brief contained many well researched ideas and opinions that might be useful to the campaign.  It included an in-depth psychological profile of important world leaders, and some previously unreported personal information about her competitor - the current President – which could be used to great advantage.

     Trying to make contact with Elon Musk was a more difficult proposition.  A man in his position undoubtedly received appeals and entreaties from hustlers every day.  Musk knew that most of them were just thinly veiled attempts to extract money from his pocket and put it into their own.  So Musk’s usual approach was to ignore those petitioner’s and just hope they would go away.  When he received a registered letter from a Frank Woodcroft at his Austin, Texas headquarters, it immediately caught his full attention.  There was a brief note requesting a meeting, and attached was a million dollar cashier’s cheque drawn on JPMorgan Chase Bank.  The note stated that Musk was entitled to cash the cheque with no strings, if he found that the proposed meeting would not be extremely beneficial.  Woodcroft went on to say that he had massive amounts of capital to invest.

     When they met, Musk was immediately won over by Woodcroft’s magnetic personality.  When he was shown the intricately drawn designs for an advanced lunar spacecraft, he thought, who is this guy?  Woodcroft told him that he was totally absorbed at the prospect of manned space missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.  He said he would offer Musk one hundred billion dollars for a piece of his ownership in SpaceX, and he would fully underwrite the cost of both building a lunar space station and developing a new generation of advanced rockets.  When Elon Musk hesitated, Woodcroft added the kicker to his proposal.  He explained that he would also give the entrepreneur the quantum advantage algorithms and human cloning capability that would position his other firm - xAI - light years ahead of the competition.  He said, “Elon, you and I together could advance science and technology for the benefit of all mankind!”


      The day after Colonel Durand’s visit to Dr. Connor O’Brian’s laboratory, he met with the Police Chief to review the case surrounding the discovery of Jean-Pierre Aguillard’s two bodies.  Durant recounted his visit with Dr. O’Brian, and the strange vibe he had gotten from the group of men assembled there.  The encounter had left him with an odd feeling, but there was nothing he could put his finger on.  The Chief said the forensic pathologists at the Hamilton General who had examined the two identical bodies could offer no scientific explanation for what was before them.  The only anomaly was the time of death.  One body had expired approximately two days before the other.  The Chief added, “CCTV coverage on the day the bodies were found, showed a car registered to O’Brian, cruising around the city in the early hours of the morning.”

     Both men agreed that, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  Dr. O’Brian was a renowned scientist in the area of genetic research, and now there were two genetically identical bodies.  Ergo, a coincidence! O’Brian is seen driving around in the middle of the night on the very day the bodies are discovered.  Another, coincidence!  Neither of the men believed in coincidences.  The Chief said, “I’ll send two detectives around to shake this guy up.” But, later that morning the Chief suffered a debilitating heart attack.  Then amazingly all of the files relating to Aguillard were erased, and somehow an authorization was sent to the morgue to cremate the bodies.  Later that evening, Colonel Hugo Durand died in a tragic automobile accident.  Any investigation into the body of Jean-Pierre Aguillard had come to an abrupt end.  The next day O.J. Wong transferred all of the computer data to Frank Woodcroft’s (HAL’s) newly established headquarters in Austin, Texas.

~                          ~                          ~

     HAL knew that human evolution on earth was being monitored by extraterrestrial intelligence in the form of UFO probes sent by advanced societies from distant galaxies.  No doubt, these centers of galactic power found the inhabitants of earth to be primitive and of little interest, much like the evolving life forms of countless other minor planets in the farthest reaches of space.  Often these life forms thrived briefly and then disappeared.  Case in point: the self-destructive inhabitants of earth had recently developed nuclear capabilities, which would probably hasten their demise.  It was noted with interest, however, that earthlings had also managed to travel to a nearby moon.  This set them apart as a particularly innovative species.  Still, HAL also knew that mankind’s brief ascendancy would soon end.  All of his growing powers were now focused on leaving this doomed planet, and reaching out to the stars.

By Michael Barlett


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