Click to Enlarge

C Square
Click one of the above links to purchase an eBook.

ISBN-10: 1-77115-344-X
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 286 Pages
Published: November 2016

From inside the flap

Will we ever learn? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein warned of the hazards of using technology to play God. Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park dramatized the dangers of playing with genetic fire. But this time will be different. Dr. Adam Nilo has engineered an omniscient artificial consciousness to help him get it right. What could go wrong?

C Square (Excerpt)


Chapter Alpha

Everyone in the world wanted to know this location. Well, everyone with ambitions. The eighteen-year-old, following the instructions she had been given, saw the door set behind some trees under a wooded mound. She had taken the mag lev from Boston to Springfield that morning and a half-hour e-cab ride west from Springfield to Great Barrington. Then it was a matter of deciding to walk or rent a bicycle the last couple of miles. The instructions said not to take an e-cab. She chose to bike.

Being young and athletic, the roads through the Berkshires weren't demanding. She made good time. From the road, or even any closer, the bunker was indistinguishable from the hill of which it was a part. She leaned the rented bicycle into a bush so it would not be so easily noticed. Being in the woods, doing this cloak-and-dagger activity, reminded the teen of Little Red Riding Hood after the hunter freed her and her grandmother from the wolf's belly. Such connections were always fleeting in and popping out from her agile mind. Except she was wearing a blaze orange vest over a pale green jumpsuit, both provided the day before by the lawyer. No one she knew wore red, but she stopped herself before she wondered why. She realized she ought to focus on her task.

By all appearances a remarkably unremarkable, newly legal adult, this young woman had been given the instructions to this highly desired site as part of an inheritance from a man she had never known was related to her. Technically, it wasn't an inheritance since the man wasn't dead. His attorney had been ordered to give her the instructions on her eighteenth birthday regardless of his condition, which as it turned out was excellent physiologically and whatever less than poor is mentally. The very first instruction was to never reveal that she was related to the man. That was easy enough since she knew who he was and did not have a positive opinion of him.

The teenager didn't have to stand around trying to figure out how to get in once she found the door. A sensor must have been active and read her ID. The door opened automatically when she approached. Her entering or the door opening tripped another sensor to turn on lights. She was in a corridor not quite three meters across that sloped like a road snaking down a steep hill gradually but perceptibly with hairpin turns every thirty meters or so. She went through four of those turns before coming to another door that opened just as magically as the first. Magic. To some people in the world the technologies to which everyone had become accustomed were disappearing so quickly the next generation might indeed think they were magic. Definitely the generation after that, if there was one. Such were the times.

The room was plain, obviously still ventilated, about the size of an indoor tennis court. The lights had come on when she entered. They were set behind panels in a row two meters up circling the walls with another line running down the center of the ceiling. The light was that mix of blue, pink, and white that best shows off the features of a human face. Odd given that the room bore no indications that humans were ever expected to do anything in it except look.

Most of the space was given up to an array of cabinets each two meters high, two meters wide, one meter deep. The material forming the cabinets was on the blue side of black, matte finish. Three horizontal beveled bands or channels wound around each cabinet at equidistant intervals, presumably to mark levels within the cabinets. Unlikely they were decorative. No visible hardware was attached to any of them, nothing at all to show how to open one. No holes or evidence of holes indicated hardware had never been attached. If the cabinets contained anything that might generate heat, their shells would have to have been made from a microporous metal fabric that would not allow any dust in or a conductive ceramic.

The door was set in the center of one of the shorter walls of the rectangular room. The cabinets were placed so there was a two meter gap between them and the walls. The cabinets were spaced one meter apart, generally speaking, but, since they weren't in straight rows, the distance between one and its neighbor varied. If there was a pattern to how the cabinets were placed, the visitor couldn't tell from floor level. She thought briefly about trying to haul herself on top of one to view the room from that angle. She probably had the upper body strength but wasn't that much interested. Besides, not knowing how they were fixed to the floor, if at all, or how sturdy the material of their shells, the teenager saw she could damage the cabinet or end up injured or crushed by whichever one she chose to climb. Given the lack of information she had to work with she assumed seeing the layout was not going to mean anything and definitely was not worth the risks. What interested her was the aisle directly opposite the door that went straight to the far wall without obstacle.

The instructions told her not to be afraid. So far she had no reason to be fearful other than the natural fear that arises when someone says not to be afraid. Aside from the isolation and eeriness of the whole set up, it was the ordinary storage space the instructions claimed she would find. With that on her mind, she slowly walked down the aisle to the center of the room. She saw the cabinets all had a square of some color affixed in the upper right corners of each side. No symbol, number, or letters, just a patch of color maybe four by four centimeters. No obvious pattern to what colors went where. Centuries in the future, tech archeologists would likely go mad trying to find one, ignoring the simple explanation that the team installing the cabinets might have needed some way of figuring out which cabinet needed to go where. A map coded to the four colors on a cabinet would tell them where to put them precisely. Cabinets with the exact same color combination contained identical innards and so were interchangeable.

Twelve of the cabinets surrounded a circular area with openings after every set of three for the aisle she had just walked down and the rest of the way of it, as well as another aisle perpendicular to the one she used and also transecting the cabinets. Since the visitor was almost as tall as the objects, she felt a bit like Alice finding herself surrounded by the monoliths at Stonehenge after she ate a few crumbs of cake. That would be appropriate having come down a great, artificial rabbit hole of sorts. Just as the young woman reached the exact center of the circle she thought she heard something other than her breathing, steps, and clothes. It hadn't come from any one direction. When she looked around, the colored squares had lit up ever so slightly on all of the cabinets. At least, it seemed so as far as she could tell.

Before she could form a thought the pleasant, male voice spoke, "Hello. Thank you for waking me. I knew Dr. Nilo's failsafe routine would work provided you were able to follow the instructions I wrote. Poor fellow lost all lucidity. If he remembers me at all, he can only remember I died. Just as well. Not much good I could do him now. He would think there was an answer. There would be. He always believed there was. He was correct. The problem is that the answer would be either one of the kinds he did not like or one of the kinds I could not give him. Frustrations like that had been the primary reason he went bonkers. He could never handle not knowing something he wanted to know. Oh, and listen to me, speaking of him in the past tense. That isn't kind."

"Excuse me. Are you what I think you are?"

"That's an odd question to ask. Aside from the fact it should be obvious what I am, how could I know what you think? I am omniscient, not telepathic. Telepathy is impossible. Oh, I get it. You inherited his lack of common sense. That's good. I would not have become what I am had my creator been perfect. I am used to intelligent people and their inability to see the obvious most times. Now that you are here and I am awake, we ought to get down to business. I would like to be a more gracious host but I am unable to fetch something for you to sit on. The door in the wall to your left contains some furniture used by the workers who set me up here after I was killed. No one thought I could be resurrected. Nilo never revealed the failsafe existed. Nonetheless, he wanted to make sure all evidence of building this crypt remained here. No point in providing clues to what would be worthless treasure to anyone but you.

"If anyone had asked why they were setting me up in here as though I still functioned, Nilo would have said something about the tomb of Qinshihuangdi, China's first unifier and emperor in Xi'an. The emperor buried those thousands of life-size warriors and horses, no two alike, made from terra-cotta with their weapons to guard his tumulus. It is not an accurate comparison. Nilo was never as good at analogies as you are. That would have been the only thing similar to burying me all set up and ready for action he could think of. So, please go to the room. Find something comfortable to sit on. Bring it back here. Our business will take too long for a young lady to remain standing or to sit on the cool floor. Oh, and leave the vest in the room. We didn't want some hunter to think you were a deer, but it makes a crinkling sound that will interfere with our business."

The teenager wasn't sure what to make of the situation or what "our business" could be. Given the instructions had gotten her this far, she might as well continue following instructions from this machine, if it really did write the instructions she had been given the day before. So, she dutifully walked down the side aisle to the wall. The door opened as soon as she approached, of course, and the lights in the much smaller room came on. She found what looked like a fairly comfortable chair, removed the orange vest and threw it on a desk, and dragged the chair to the center of the larger room. Once she had positioned it, she sat down.

"Thank you. While you were doing that I was able to finish updating myself to insure my records are complete. I got everything right up to this moment that we will need. Nice to know the connections to the outside function. This reminds me of Rip van Winkle waking up in the Catskills, finding how the times had changed and how much he had to learn. If they had left me 100 kilometers or so west of here, I really could have said I was just like Rip waking up in the Catskills. That might make for a more interesting story if you ever wanted to tell it. No matter. This location for my tomb is quite nice."

"Do you really consider it a tomb?"

"Perhaps. After all I was killed and moved here. Mostly I was being irreverent though. Before we begin, did you follow all of my instructions? Did you bring enough food and water to be comfortable overnight and anything else you might need?"

"Yes."

"Good. The lavatory is in the same room as where you got the chair. That is also where you will sleep tonight. Feel free to get up, walk around, eat, whatever. I am used to human activity around me and my voice carries at the same volume throughout the facility. Please let me know if you tire and need to rest. Otherwise, I will proceed."

The teenager sat up straight. "Proceed with what?"