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Knowledge Engine

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“Mr. Montgomery? Good morning! We’re with Knowledge Factory, and we’re here to check your unit.”

Jason sighed and held the door open. He’d been expecting this for weeks. “Sure, come on in.”

He led the women to his bedroom, which is where he now regretted installing his Knowledge Engine. It made sense at the time: a few minutes before bed, a few before he got up in the morning–but that was during one of his up periods, when the world seemed bright and his room stayed clean. This was not an up period, and he suspected it was about to get worse.

Now that he was seeing his bedroom with visitors, it was worse than he remembered. Quite a bit worse. He had a theory that the state of his house reflected the state of his mental well-being. When had he let it get this bad? “It’s, um… yeah, it’s under that plate there.” She raised an eyebrow and didn’t move. “You know what? Let me just… get that.” He nearly fell into the fish tank as he kicked a path through the clothes on the floor, then stood in the corner clutching the plate and watched the techs work. They were professionals and didn’t comment, but he could see a shadow of disgust on the short one’s face, amplified when she fished the headset out of a pile of socks and candy wrappers.

It didn’t take long to find the problem. “Mr. Montgomery, it looks like someone’s tampered with your Engine. It seems to be installing knowledge correctly, but it’s not able to uninstall.” She looked at him pointedly. “Do you know how this could have happened?” He shrugged, unable to meet her gaze. “Well anyway, it’s working now. It looks like you have several subscriptions that are up, so we’ll just stay here until we’ve verified that they’ve been removed, and we’ll be on our way!”

She said this in such a cheery voice that for a moment he forgot how much he was dreading this. For a second he considered making a break for the door, but he realized it was useless. He sighed and slid the headset on. It was significantly cleaner than he remembered.

“All right, sir, let me do one more test. What’s the capital of Texas?”

“Austin.”

“Okay, something a little harder. Cambodia?” He shrugged. “Good. How about… now?”

“Phnom Penh.”

“Great. And now?” He shrugged. It now seemed like something he should know but couldn’t remember off the top of his head. He knew that feeling would fade. “Excellent. We’re all calibrated and uninstall is fully functional. Now let’s just take care of these overdue subscriptions and we’ll be out of your hair.”

He closed his eyes and squeezed the plate just a bit harder. He was desperate to hang onto something, anything, even though he knew it was no use. He ran through precedents, terminology, everything he could think of. Larceny: the taking of property of another, by trespass, with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of that property. Still there. Maybe they didn’t really fix it? Accessory after the fact: when an individual enables parties to avoid… to avoid–

“There we go sir. All done!” She was so cheerful he could have just punched her. “You don’t have to pay today. We’ll just add it to your monthly statement.” She moved a little closer and added, in a conspiratorial tone. “Just between you and me, we’re aware that you made the modification. But, this is a first offense, and,” she looked around the destroyed room, “it looks like you might be in a bad place right now. So I’m going to conveniently forget to note that part.”

She put her stylus away, and the two techs carefully picked their way back to the door. “Have a wonderful day, Mr. Montgomery.”

“You too,” he said without meeting their eyes.

He shut the door.

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