Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 35 seconds

Introducing "The Connected Agenda"

We're introducing a new segment we hope you'll find entertaining. This is a serial novel from new author Kristie Leonard. This story is being released as a serial novel that will appear here each week for the next 10 weeks. The story is about Kay who programs chatbots, lives in the near future where AI, big data, robotics, and digital life is the norm. In this first season (she plans to write a few more on the same theme) Kay uses her skills to rescue a friend from a scammer. Have fun with this read.

“Tracey, lunch. 10-12 minutes,” Kay Whatley said at her normal audible. By now her personal assistant knew how much money she had to spend, that she was a vegetarian and that she was allergic to shellfish. It had also learned the days of her menstrual cycle and on those days her appetite increased. Tracey even helped celebrate her birthday with a cake and candles delivered to her front door. Kay thought of the good old days when she’d actually order her lunch off a menu and sometimes pay with a credit card. Her mother told her she remembers when cash was still accepted. Her grandmother had stories about coins. “Tracey. Leave lunch on front steps.”

“HR, calling out,” Kay informed work that she’d be away from the office. At ViaTech they made employees activate an app in their phone when they left the home-office for lunch or appointments so they could be tracked. Rumor was that employees in the future would be bio- chipped when they worked at ViaTech. They said electronic tracking would be turned off when the employee clocked out at the end of the day, but everyone was skeptical about that. Telecommuting was the norm and almost exclusive at ViaTech. They had developed ways to monitor employees as if they were working at a physical HQ.

Reminders to call her Dad had been coming daily and Kay was always finding excuses not to call him. It was time to stop avoiding and she had a few minutes before lunch arrived. “Hey Dad; how are things in the Windy City?”

“Not very windy at the moment, TK. It’s great to hear your voice. I was beginning to think that you’d forgotten you’re Mother and me. Is it Will that’s been occupying your time or ViaTech?”

“A combination, I guess. Work is busy because there is so much growth in the creation of chat bots. They want me to take on more responsibility so I must be doing something right.”

“I had no doubt you’d flourish in the tech industry; you’re your Patsy Whatley’s daughter. I just don’t want your career to become your life. Your Mother was dedicate to her career in tech, but she didn’t know when or how to pull back.”

Kay rubbed her eyes. She realized why she hadn’t called home – lectures. “Message received Dad. On the subject of Mom, how is she?”

“She’s still sharp as a tack but her energy level sucks. Treatment takes its toll but she’s battling, and the doctor is hopeful. He’s guarded too because this is a recurrence. He says keeping a positive attitude is vital, which is why I beg you to visit,” Kay’s father said.

“I know Daddy. I’ll make it a priority; I promise. I have to go catch some fresh air while the sun shines. I love you and I love Mom.” Kay disconnected the call. Her Father was resorting to guilt, which meant she was really needed in Chicago.

At 27, Kay Whatley was apparently experiencing the best years of her life. She was living independently without a load of responsibilities like a mortgage, marriage or children. Her rented condominium was near her friends, bars, restaurants, and shops that appealed to her lifestyle. Kay walked outside and used her fingerprint to lock her door which she'd use again to gain entry. The lights on the entryway flickered on and lights dimmed when Kay left the house.

Her best friend and neighbor Bryce was just coming back from a run when Kay spotted her. "Hey, slacker. What are you doing out like you haven't a care in the world on a weekday? Doesn't Beauty Tech keep tabs on you as ViaTech does me?"

“Not anymore. I quit this morning and they’re in the process of taking all my devices off-line. I couldn’t be happier about that because the company was “learning” too much about me. Do you feel that way with ViaTech?”

“I do but it’s normal if you want to make money and pay rent. I’m having lunch dropped on my steps.” Kay pointed up and the drone was depositing it as she spoke. “Anyway, I’ll eat when I get back. I was going into downtown Leland– Care to join?”

Leland was a renewing town. It was a depressing place to walk through only a few years ago, but there were signs of revitalization. Most of the shops had shuttered and the fabric mill was abandoned when most of the production was taken overseas. There was also Arrow which dominated everything from clothing to home goods and food. Mom and pop stores were a thing of the past and local grocery chains had been gobbled up by Arrow. Glitzy hair salon and spa started in New York and opened outlets across the country. It was upscale and the town of Leland thought of it as a sign of things to come when the doors opened. They were proved right when a few sit down restaurants opened and were filled most nights. There was still a lot to be done with shuttered office buildings unable to attract businesses. Zombie homes dotted the streets in some neighborhoods, but the heights told a different story. New developments were popping up like daisies. It was hoped that the close-in neighborhoods saw new construction in the coming years.

“Sure whatevs. I have nothing else to do since I’m unemployed. I might fall back into bartending. It’s not a bad job if you’re single and on the prowl. It’s like working at a boutique and getting a first look at hot fashions. I see the men when they’re fresh and before they’re picked over at the end of the night,” Bryce said as she checked her snail mailbox.

"You are the only person I know who holds out hope that you'll find Mr. Right the old-fashioned way. You're also the only 27-year old I know who still gets magazines in the mail," Kay joked.

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Kristie Leonard

Kristie Leonard is an American author who writes fiction about technology and the people who make it work.

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