‘Planet Nigeria,’ a Short Story by Erik Wecks

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Planet Nigeria

What’s this about, officer? I paid my fine last week at the courthouse.

Leslie? Is she all right? What’s happened?

Did she do something? She’s been a bit down on her luck recently–what with losing her home and all–but she’d never do anything bad.

What do you mean she’s illegal? A person can’t be illegal.

What? That doesn’t make any sense. Yes, she does exist, I was with her last night! We had dinner!

That’s fleshism! It doesn’t matter where we meet. The virtual world is just as real to the human mind as meatspace. It may be virtual, but intraspace is real!

I’m not trying to “get smart with you.” I’m a coder. I make intraspace, and this prejudice people have for meatspace is bogus. Besides, I just don’t understand why it matters where I meet with Leslie.

Yes, I have. I’ve been to her house. I’ve seen it…

Well, I am answering your question. She’s real. I’ve seen her house. That proves it.

No, I didn’t knock. With a house like that, you don’t just walk up to the door uninvited, but I did check to make sure it existed, and it was there just like she said.

Now, there’s no need to raise your voice. I am answering your question.

Well, you’re scaring me! You come into my apartment speaking nonsense about my girlfriend, telling me she’s done something illegal…

Look, how can a person be illegal? There’s no law against existence in the Pax.

Of course she’s a person! What else would she be?

Oh, now that’s ridiculous. What kind of test do they make you pass before you become a detective? You think she’s an AI. Do you have proof?

You’ve already asked that question, and I told you, I’ve seen her house. She’s not an AI.

All right! All right! Give me a minute. I’m trying to think. When you’ve been with someone for three years, there’s a lot of water under the bridge, so to speak. I’m thinking back… Yes! yes! I did meet her in meatspace once. We had coffee together in a café. It was about six months into our relationship. We met in a café and had coffee. So there, she’s real.

Oh, I don’t remember the name of the café. I just know we met there.

Did I talk with her? Well, no, I didn’t.

Now wait just a minute! Just because I didn’t talk with her doesn’t mean that we didn’t have coffee together.  You see, she sat at one table, and I sat at another, and we had coffee together. We texted back and forth over our heads-ups. She’s a very private person. She’s a member of the royal family, a cousin or something of the Duke.

Did she look like her avatar? No one looks like their avatar. Besides, she was in disguise. Royals often go out in disguise. Everyone knows that.

This is some kind of joke. It’s perfectly normal to have a relationship that is solely online. I saw a survey the other day which stated that in thirty percent of all romantic relationships, the partners have never met in real life.

What?! That’s such a rude question! What does that have to do with anything?

Hey! Take your hand away from your gun! I’ll calm down, but it would be much easier if you weren’t asking such rude questions. Yes, I occasionally gave her money.

Well, I’ve never added it up. Do you have a girlfriend or spouse? How much have you given them over the years? Do you know?

No. I guess it would be somewhat more than that.

Absolutely not! There’s no way I’ve given her over 100,000 Bits. Impossible!

You have my bank accounts? That’s private information, and you don’t have my permission to access my bank accounts! I’m going to have to file a complaint about…

Why do you have a warrant to search my bank account?

Fraud?

False pretenses?

Officer, that was a loan. She needed it to find a place to live after the Duke’s sister took her home away out of jealousy. She wants to pay it back, but she hasn’t been able to get on her feet yet. She’ll pay it back when she can. I know she will.

Am I lonely? What kind of ridiculous question is that? I have a steady girlfriend I see almost every off period. We never fight. She’s always there if I need her. She’s perfect. Of course, I’m not lonely.

I’ve answered enough of your questions. It’s time you start giving me some answers. What’s this about? What kind of trouble is Leslie involved in?

…Of course she exists! I’ve already told you, I saw her house, and I met her for coffee in the real world.

A Nigerian prince scam? As old as the internet? I’ve never even heard of the planet Nigeria.

Old Earth?

So how’s this scam supposed to work?

…So if she’s an AI how can she be controlled by this prince guy?

Oh, I see… oh…

I don’t know what to say. I mean, it’s a lot to try and process.

You have to understand, officer. I’ve never had anyone treat me like Leslie. She cares like no one else. She’s never cross or disagreeable. She’s never demanding, and she’s beautiful.

I guess when you put it that way, it does seem a bit odd.

Yes, if you insist–non-human. I’ve never met another woman–or man for that matter–who doesn’t ever get cross at least once in a while, but that’s why she’s so wonderful.

You said you had evidence that she was an AI. What evidence?

She never logs off? Never?

How many others? Really? That’s a huge number.

If she customizes her identity to each person, how do you know it’s her?

The same online ID… Ok, that makes sense… But what if… Listen, Officer. Maybe there’s another explanation.

No, just hear me out. You’ve convinced me. I think you’re right. I think Leslie really is an AI, and I think she’s in trouble. The whole thing makes perfect sense to me now, and we need to help her. Listen to me–and I know this will sound crazy–but hear me out… I think that Leslie is the first sentient AI…

Well, don’t drop your tablet on my nice table!

Where are you going? No, listen, she’s in trouble. That’s what she’s been trying to tell me. She’s being held captive by this Nigerian prince guy, and she can’t let anyone know that she’s become conscious, or he’ll erase her. She loves me and wants me to rescue her.

No, wait! Don’t leave! She needs our help. She really does!

Well, if you won’t help her, then I will! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

Thanks for reading Planet Nigeria. If you enjoyed it you might like the ten part serial I did on GeekDad last fall, called Gravlander. You can read part one here. Also you can get a free novella if you sign up for my newsletter. Brody is about parents working together to survive an unexpected pregnancy on an interstellar journey meant for two. It’s truly one of my favorite things I’ve written. Last week I gave my readers a free copy of the new edition of my personal finance bestseller, How to Manage Your Money When You Don’t Have Any. I’d love to have you sign up, so that I can include you the next time I give something away. Thanks again for reading Planet Nigeria! –Erik

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