The professor’s gaze was bored and yet cutting as he pointedly addressed his sight at the student presently in question. Asuka was eager for her turn to say what she was all about – one more unimportant student and she’d be next. Nao tried not to notice how obviously self-absorbed her bodily energy was, and centered his mind down on his breath again and again. Vajra was plotting world domination, and everyone knew it.
Had the boy barely finished when Asuka lunged forward from her desk. “Can I stand up?” she asked without asking, and took to cheerily waving at her audience. Then she raised her arm like she had struck victory in the recitation of her own name, “I’m Scarlett Asuka Smith, but call me Asuka.” She then turned to the professor, whom she’d be blocking from the class’s view if she hadn’t been so slim, “So what questions are you going to ask me?” “Same as the other students.” Her indignation flashed away in a second as she began prattling about her life story and goals for the future. By the end of her speech she was crying, “…That’s right, nothing less, nothing more than understanding the true nature of reality. To rise united in the beautiful fire that breathes life into the equations of physics. That is my ultimate goal.”
Nao had caught only a few things from Asuka, as he was deliberately eschewing the realm of conceptualized sound for that of diffuse breath. However, he caught this final crying, for it was dramatic, even relative to the rest of her. He caught that she was half-British and half-Japanese; how she’d ended up that way was less clear to him. And he caught that she was a model who had made a million dollars from solving one of the Millennium Prize Problems.
“You may sit down, Asuka,” said the professor. She looked at the next student, Nao, as if it was his fault that her turn to speak was over.
“Introduce yourself and tell us about your goals after finishing school.”
“My name is Nao Nakai and I have no ambitions tethering me to this world,” Nao spoke calmly, somehow with a maturity much more profound than that of the professor.
The boiling strangeness in this batch of students was enough to propel the professor’s eyebrows upward despite how tired they were.
“So what will you do after your career in school is over?”
“Like an elephant in a forest, hurting no one, uttering no word, I will be free.”
“I hope that’s metaphorical. A monk or something? Okay. Next.”
Vajra was busy in thought, but as if a parallel stream in his mind had detected this disrespectful ‘Next,’ his eyes sliced like lasers at the professor. Old and arrogant, the professor hesitated to reveal feeling intimidated and twisted his mouth to the side awkwardly. The boy who had been so unnotorious just some moments ago was now exuding overbearing levels of arrogance. He stood stronger than a jock. “My name is Vajra Kleos. You are looking at the man who will summon an artificial general intelligence so powerful that it will build structures that blot out the stars. It will turn me from a being of flesh into a god fashioned from pure data as I create whatever I desire in the galactic computer system. The appropriate response to finding yourself in my presence is awe, reverence, and fear. Those who are smart enough to follow me are welcome to do so,” he swayed his muscular arm aside as an orating pharaoh would, “those who refuse to help me raise my empire, shall crumble at your self-betrayal.”
The professor was about to sputter something authoritative from the reck of bewilderment he was experiencing, but Vajra dominantly asserted his actual voice over that which was merely intended. “And you old man, feel free to retire. I’m taking over this class now.” This command was bold, serious, with no hint of attempting to put on an entertaining show. “Such insolence. You, you dare address with subordination… but you will be expelled, suspended,” he almost mentioned the police when he got a hold of himself, “you’ve taken this little joke too far young man.” “This is no joke. I said I’m taking over.” “And just how do you plan to do that?” his heart was beating faster, cooking under the lion’s gaze. The professor took to the intercom but his wrist was swiftly clenched by Vajra. “You have committed assault!” wailed the professor. Vajra pulled out a stack of Yen almost too thick even for his large hand. “What you make in three lifetimes, I made last week. Buying you off is nothing to me.” The professor was slowly becoming pleasantly surprised, “But how did you make this money?” “The details don’t concern you. It involves machine learning algorithms, high-speed trading in the markets. It’s way over your head. We’ll set you up after class,” Vajra said with condescending impatience. The professor looked rapidly back-and-forth from the wide-eyed students and back to Vajra who was smirking and pressing the absurd stack hard against his chest. He looked at Vajra one final time, allowed his hands to be a platform for the cash, and scurried away with the money huddled under a black jacket.
Vajra’s smirk vanished. He turned to address his subordinates. “Lesson one. Money kills rules.”