The Human League (Part 1 of 4)

It all started simply enough as all movements do.

Terry Moorehouse had just received his Master’s degree in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His major was, as most majors were these days, in Artificial Intelligence.

Terry was not someone you would have pegged as a propellerhead. He was tall and handsome, with long dark hair and rimless glasses that made him look more like a shortsighted high fashion model.

Terry did not talk like your average young geek either. because his grandmother, Olivia Moorehouse, who had raised him after his parents Stephen and Judith were killed in a freak storm in the Atlantic off Nantucket Island where the family’s summer home was located, tutored him on the essentials of having a sophisticated vocabulary.

‘People are lazy’, Terrance.’ she would tell him,  ‘They use a hip shorthand language that seldom actually communicates coherently. They think they are being cool, but in fact, they are cretins and part of the demise of intelligence in America.’

Terry always paid a lot of attention to his grandmother. He instinctually understood that her degrees in history and philosophy had made her one of the more literate and intelligent people in his life. He was intellectually challenged by her on a regular basis and took it as a matter of pride and devotion to pay attention to what she was saying. Because although there were two generations between them, Terry knew how wise his Grandmother was. But more importantly, he respected it and had, at an early age, resigned himself to learn from it.

Olivia Moorehouse was the scion of the Moorehouse empire which included several textile mills all through New England, a large printing operation that specialized in academic books, and a small digital marketing company that Olivia was steering into the twenty-first century. Terry was being groomed to take control of digital wing of the Moorehouse business mansion.

Olivia was quite young when she married David Moorehouse, who passed away at the age of fifty-four from a massive stroke. Two years later, she lost her son Stephen and his lovely wife in a freak storm off Nantucket, leaving her and young Terry, then only thirteen, to fend for themselves in the world.

Terry and Olivia shared a large house in a gated community on the shoreside of Plymouth, about twenty miles south of Boston. Olivia had sold the Martha’s Vineyard house a few years back citing too many memories that made her sad. She also sold her house in Boston the year she moved into the Plymouth house to take care of Terry. All through Terry’s high school, Olivia lived in the main house and Terry in the guest house. But they ate almost all their meals together.

Olivia was an excellent business owner and trusted her management teams implicitly. She had never been any sort of a social butterfly, and because she was an introspective person at heart, this quiet life suited her just fine. Over the years she had become interested and then obsessed with gardening, and spent most of her time in the good seasons out tending to her plants and flowers.

She jogged a few miles along the shoreline every day, read a lot and spent at least an hour a day making sure that her businesses were running well.


One night in early August, at dinner, Olivia brought up the subject of what Terry would do with all his education.

“You do have a whole small digital marketing company in place that  you could take over and shape any way you want.” Olivia said.

“I know, Gram. My problem is that I’m not really sure just yet what I would turn it into.”

“Well, you do know a lot about the AI world. I should think that would be a good direction to take it.”

“That’s true enough. But I keep thinking about what one of my professors told me while I was doing my Masters. He said ‘The key to success is learning how to zig when everybody else is zagging’. Right now everybody and their uncle is trying like crazy to be the next big thing in AI. What they are completely ignoring is the astounding amount of human displacement all this new tech is going to create. It feels like that’s the last place I’d want to be. Because sooner or later the government is going to have to start laying down rules, and a lot of that boom is going to bust.”

Olivia just stared at him. If nothing else she knew how bright and intuitive her grandson was. “So the question is how do you zig?”
“Exactly.” Terry said. “And believe it or not, I have an idea about just how to do that. The only thing is that it’s not exactly…ethical.”

They talked about Terry’s idea for another half hour or so and by the end of it Olivia was convinced that not only was his idea a sound one, but it was also completely necessary. And that she could help make it happen.


For the next few weeks, Terry did a lot of research on disruption and formulated a battle plan. During his research, he came across the name of a person he had been at MIT with. He didn’t know her very well, but well enough, he figured, to reach out and invite her for coffee. The article he saw with her mentioned had to do with the future of AI. She was one of several MIT grads interviewed. As he listened to the interview, he became intrigued and thought about how they had first met.


Shawna Lennox was one of the minority of women at MIT engaged in computer science. But she was more than enough of a nerd to hold her own in any conversation or tutorial. With long auburn hair, fashion-model facial features and a body to match, she was good-looking enough to command the attention of any gathering of nerds you could name.

Terry and Shawna had had a few brief conversations, mostly on walks through the campus, and Terry was always impressed with her well-reasoned skepticism about AI and its place in the lives of the human race.

They met on a bright Tuesday afternoon at the Tatti Bakery and Cafe on Summer Street in Boston. They both ordered large lattes, then sat at a table by the window.

“So,” Shawna said, “Have you figured out what you want to do with your life yet?”

“As a matter of fact,” Terry said. “I have, well sort of. But first I’d like to know about you. What are you doing?”

“Mostly just waiting. Sent out a lot of queries. But you know the megacorps. They always take their sweet time. So I’m mostly just hangin’ around the house. Messing around with a few ideas.” She took a sip of her latte. “Your turn.”

Terry took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t know if you know this about me, but my grandmother is the CEO of  Moorehouse Industries. Big in textiles, book publishing and printing, and digital marketing. The digital marketing business is small right now, mostly just managing web sites, but it was given to me to run.”

“So are you offering me a job?”

“No Shawna, I’m suggesting a partnership. Something you and I can work together to build, with the resources I already have in place.”

Shawna’s guard went up immediately. Nobody takes you out for coffee and offers you a partnership in a going concern. She found herself shaking her head. “Why me? I mean we knew each other in school, but not that well.”

“Call it a hunch. Call it intuition. But I think you and I want the same thing.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s that, pray tell?”

“We both see the insanity that’s going on right now. And we both want to do something to at least slow it down or get it under control. You’re on the record in several places echoing the same sentiment.”

That stopped Shawna in her tracks. This guy had east coast aristocracy written all over him. He’s the last guy she would have ever pegged as a would-be anarchist. She stared at him for the better part of a minute.

“I suppose you have some sort of plan in mind.” she said.

“As a matter of fact, I do. I just need someone like you to help me refine and actualize it.”

“And where would this all take place? I mean you live down in Plymouth, right?”

“Yeah. But the business is there too.”

“So you’re asking me to move to Plymouth?”

“Or commute. The drive is not so bad. But I have a pretty massive house, you could live there.”

“So you’re not just offering me a job, you’re asking me to come live with you too.”

“No. I don’t live in the big house. I have a smaller house out back. My grandmother lives in the big house, and she would love to have the company.”

“How is it you have a big house with a smaller house in Plymouth?”

“When I was thirteen, I lost my parents in a boating accident. They left their entire estate to me. My Gram moved into the big house and stayed there. She runs her entire business out of there now. I live in the pool house out back.”

“I’m so sorry to hear about your folks.”


 Shawna said nothing for a while.

“You know, Terry, I’m a little confused. You’re obviously a rich guy. Yet you sound like you’re really concerned about the world.”

“When I was twenty-one, in my junior year at MIT, my trust fund became available to me.”

“How much, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Currently, a little over fifty-four million. With easy access to half of it.”

“Well, that explains the little house big house thing.”

“Look. I know this sounds weird. I’ve never tried to hire someone before. but my feeling, at the moment, is that you and I could really build something great.”

Shawna leaned back in her chair and thought about it. But not for too long. She wasn’t an impulsive person by nature. But there was something about this that intrigued her. She did a lot of math in her head and said.

“So how much is this partnership worth?”

“Three hundred thousand a year guaranteed and twenty-five percent of any net profit we turn. The other twenty-five percent is mine and the remaining fifty percent belongs to my Gram.

Shawna was floored, but worked really hard to keep a straight face. Three hundred thousand guaranteed was way more than twice what she would earn working for any of the biggies. She stared at Terry, looking hard for some kind of chink in his emotional armour, but he was rock solid, as he sipped his latte and waited with the patience of Job.

“Okay, big boy. Drive me home. I’ll get packed and kiss my folks goodbye.”

And with that, they were off to try and give the cyber world a black eye.


Jim Murray
Jim Murray
I have been a writer since the age of 14. I started writing short stories and poetry. From there I graduated to writing lyrics for various bands and composers and feature-length screenplays, two of which have been produced. I had a  20-year career in senior positions in Canadian and multi-national agencies and a second career, which began in 1989, (Onwords & Upwords Inc), as a strategic and creative resource. Early in 2020, I closed Onwords & Upwords and effectively retired. I am now actively engaged, through blogging and memes, in showcasing businesses that are part of the green revolution. I am also writing short stories which I will be marketing to film production companies. I live with my wife, Heather, in the beautiful Niagara Region of southern Ontario, after migrating from Toronto, where I spent most of my adult life.

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