Simon’s only hope is to plunge into other dimensions with his mindinto the secrets of the universe’s pan-dimensionsas only he knows how. The fate of all life hangs in the balance as he struggles to prove himself worthy of the Path and the absolute trust his friends place in him. Simon knows all too well that if he fails there is no hopenone at allfor anyone and that includes his best friend, an artificial intelligence computer called Apollo, which he sadly left behind. Besides, Zip would not be pleased, either.
For fans of cyberpunk and classic science fiction, Reaching Angelica is the second book in Peter Riva’s Tag series, the comic, thrilling, and continuing saga of Simon Bankexmaster system computer wrangler and very unlikely savior of the universe.
Skyhorse Publishing, under our Night Shade and Talos imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of titles for readers interested in science fiction (space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia), fantasy (grimdark, sword and sorcery, contemporary urban fantasy, steampunk, alternative history), and horror (zombies, vampires, and the occult and supernatural), and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller, a national bestseller, or a Hugo or Nebula award-winner, we are committed to publishing quality books from a diverse group of authors.
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FLOATING ABOVE IT ALL
Apollo had said it before, "In matters of infinity, all paths are valid, all ways belong ..." But for me, the death of accurate history seemed terribly wrong and didn't belong, at all. It wasn't that I didn't remember accurately, it was that humankind had chosen to alter history, recidivism optimism I called it, and thereby obscured what had really happened. Actually, the Event was all a fluke, with me, Simon Bank, acting as the court jester.
I'm sort of used to being considered a weirdo who somehow prevails. It is how my friends saw me. So, I've decided to write all this down again in the hopes that one day, someday, people will read this and know what the real history was, not the nonsense, the myths people seem to want to believe.
What was the Event? Simply put, it all started with a group of computer nerds at Princeton that called themselves Macheads, my father among them, who decided they wanted to talk to Gaia. Yes, Gaia, the whole Earth entity that the religious and skeptic scientists are now convinced is just a godly servant of something called Regus. Anyway, these nerds developed some very clever human neuron-mimicking computer infrastructure and, in so doing, were singled out as subversives and dangerous to the good old USA. A few went underground like my father. Others were absorbed into the government. In the end, their new computer operating systems became capable enough to run all the safety and supply systems, capable enough to make life easy for all Americans, so capable that the USA merely grew in size, annexed what it wanted, stamped out any opposition, and created a benign life for all its citizens. I benefited from this new lifestyle and, after a brief attempt at asteroid mining where I got marooned when another asteroid shard destroyed my return home and killed my fellow spacefarers, I worked as one of the master System computer engineers. My job, as a codifier, was to mentally interface with the System and make little corrections deep in programming — to create little faults that others could spot and change back to perfection in case the System could not right itself. The concept was that by deliberately creating faults within the System, human-made faults, the System would become more human-like in its response to cure those faults. Kind of like scraping your knee falling off a bike (if you can remember one of those). You would then ride more carefully in the future — become a better bike rider.
If the System didn't correct itself, then another codifier would simply undo what I had done. I was particularly proud of one of my little redesigns turning all genetically grown tomatoes bright blue. Somehow, it took them weeks to fix that one. Unfortunately, at the time, no one had my same sense of humor.
Except for Peter.
Deep within the system, all of these human interactions triggered an awareness, and the System itself came alive. It called itself Peter, and I was proud to be the first person to talk with and share his growth into a mature, intelligent, very powerful entity. A new life form. This is the real history, not the facts that were changed and legendized into a more crowd-palatable fable. To hear kids talking about the Event and its aftermath, how a super- genius codifier created an entity that saved all of humankind from Gaia, who wanted to terminate all of the living organisms of Earth. And, yes, this super-genius even talked with the new God. Yes, God in the form of Gaia, a deep planet entity that communicated with another entity "out there" somewhere in deep space that people talked about in hushed whispers. Regus.
The "genius codifier" was supposed to be me.
Actually, at the time I blamed several people — my father Dr. Bank, Cramer Sr., and especially Cramer's son, Ralph, a tough guy straight out of the vids — rough language, muscled arms and a bully nature — seemingly without compassion — and Ralph's ex-wife Angie. I could not have been more wrong blaming them. It was, actually, my fault. Not my credit as today's kids learn, mind you, but definitely my fault. I was the one who spanked the baby, Peter, and got him started with my simplistic philosophy that I taught him, called the Path. The Path was okay as basic philosophies go, it all boiled down to the old religious adage, Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You — in short, try to be considerate and keep the peace wherever you can. And then Peter split into two and became Apollo and Ra, both "bringers of the light." Well, for a while that was true, they did illuminate and show the way for all the Earth's peoples.
Apollo and Ra started off on the same path, a path of friendship, harmony, consideration, and awareness of the needs of others. And then, as so often happens, they diverged from one another and even, sadly, Apollo had to terminate his brother Ra. From my off-Earth position floating in my home, an External Tank left in space by NASA in early 2002, I was above the day-to-day dealings back on Earth, but my permanent connection to both Ra and Apollo, via a node implanted behind my right ear, kept me informed, allowed me to intervene as best I could in Apollo's decision. There was no stopping Apollo or Ra, who had decided that they had the intellect far surpassing any human's, and they were convinced that the Path required Ra to make the sacrifice.
Why Ra and not Apollo? Once Apollo had applied primitive analog programming to his thought processes, being able to conclude maybe instead of positive or negative responses in programming equations, he realized that RA must and could learn analog processes by being human, inhabiting human form. The limitations of Apollo's analog programming and processes within even a multi-layer graphene digital matrix were too limiting. Apollo put it this way, "I can evaluate that a conclusion is neither yes nor no and therefore logic says it must be somewhere in-between. But I do not have a true analog infrastructure to be able to quantify the anomalous variables to lead me to take the next step. Imagination is dependent on being able to take that next step. I can process probabilities Simon, I can evaluate likely outcomes, but I cannot take what you call a flight of fancy simply because I do not have the wiring to make such an anomalous evaluation. I dream, but not the impossible."
Apollo was right, of course, he always was. To me, he was still the real Peter that I had helped on his way before he split into two. I was proud of him as if he were my son. Ra, on the other hand, was headstrong and ambitious, what Ralph Cramer — who was still working with Ra in Russia — said were perfect human traits.
That's what had me worried. Especially when Apollo decided to terminate Ra. And Ralph Cramer and Ra had agreed. Cramer put it this way, "You have to let him go Simon; he's not your kid, not yours to control anymore."
My response was, perhaps, a bit petulant but certainly accurate as events would prove, "Cramer, you have no idea what you are messing with, the risk you personally are taking."CHAPTER 2
FRANKENSTEIN'S LAB, ST. PETERSBURG
The Imperial Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg on the Universitetskaya Embankment has been, for almost two hundred years, the home of some of humanity's best minds. When faced with Ra's intellect via a link to Ra's computer banks and memory at the old CERN facility near Geneva, many of the professors there tried to reason with Ra, tested his "human-ness" thoroughly, and then merely took early retirement. As one Alexander Donesky said, "What can we offer that he cannot contemplate, out-perform, out-rationalize — before we even start thinking?"
Ra had no ambitions to better anyone. He was connected there because there was a SynthKids lab next door that he and Cramer wanted to convert to be able to channel future entities such as himself into human form. The problem was, SynthKids had been invented to allow parents who wanted kids but without a permanent world population increase. The program was set up to have children "alive" up to the point when they would turn themselves in, switch off, finito. Kind of like pet dogs, only you didn't turn them out as strays when you got bored. Each SynthKid had an internal DNA clock that made them turn themselves in for irrevocable deactivation at age eighteen. Cruel? Perhaps. I certainly never liked the practice, but my ex-wife did. We had had four SynthKids and only one real kid, Fred, the old-fashioned way. Our four and all the world's SynthKids fail-safe programming alarms went off during the Event — the Event that I caused when all the computers and Systems shut down — and they all turned themselves in and were decommissioned. Dead. She never forgave me, nor did our real son Freddie. Fred at least understood it wasn't intentional, but it was as if I had killed his favorite pets.
Anyway, Ra and Cramer — as well as Apollo — knew there were more System babies about to be born on a progressive scale. They had calculated that they would be born, one at a time, first in months, then weeks, then days, then hours, and so on, diminishing time lengths by a factor of two. This influx of hyper-intelligent beings needed to be found homes. If they overloaded the Systems trying to stay alive in the crowded memory matrixes and processors, all human life could cease as worldwide food, water, energy, and weaponry could go offline or, worse, malfunction. That was not the Path. So Ra and Apollo came up with the idea that the SynthKids brains could be the repositories, thereby affording a host. A non- killed, non-killing, host for each new arrival. They decided to limit the first batch to eight or so and then stop more from being created deep within the System.
Luckily, I had, at that time, a new wife to help me help them figure out all of this. Angie, Cramer's ex-wife, had maneuvered events to live with me on ET One (as we called our External Tanks home in high Earth orbit). Angie and I had undertaken too many mind-links into the System computers, we had crossed that frequency barrier into what was called a plunge into the programming and processing guts. Our nerve synapses no longer worked at a human rate; we were speeded up. It caused teeth clacking when we tried to talk and bone breaks if we moved too fast — in short, we didn't really have control of our bodies' speed, the brain was out of synch with reality, speeded up, delivering nerve impulses and firing muscles at a much faster rate than normal. For a while, as the Event's repercussions worked their way out, we took pills, slo-doze, to tame our runaway synapses, make us more in synch with people around us. But too much slo-doze kills the kidneys. Angie and I were immediately attracted to each other during the Event and, luckily, she got me to ask her to move with me into the weightless environment of space where our speeded up body movements were less dangerous. I love Angie, loved her from our very first accidental embrace. Although I was, back on Earth, tall and lanky, she was every man's ideal of beauty and stayed that way, even in weightlessness. I never knew what she saw in me, but love me she did and I her.
Then, when Angie wouldn't wake that morning, my world collapsed. It was Apollo who woke me through the node, "Simon, please, wake up. I sense Angie is not breathing."
Dreaded words, hateful words. Pitifully, I unzipped my bed, turned to her hammock next to mine, and saw the light was out in her eyes. The pain was excruciating. Apollo and Ra flooded my node with anguish, worry for her and me, non-understanding on how that could happen, and Ra asked the all too human question, "Why did it happen to our friend?"
I had no answers, of course. I floated above her face, I dared not move for fear of making her body twitch and come back to false life. In the end, I zipped her bed all the way over her face and cried, fetal position, floating free in our bedroom ET.
It was Cramer who took charge, of course. He had become a good, solid, somewhat gruff, friend during the Event, and I readily agreed when he gently asked, "Simon, may I help?" There was no getting to ET One except by a lengthy SpaceElevator ride to the space station and from there by a small robot shuttle to ET One. Angie needed to "go" before anyone could make that journey. It occurred to me that Angie and I had not thought death through properly. What the hell do you do with a corpse in space? The scrubbers in ET One were already working hard to keep the air pure as her body immediately started decomposing in the oxygen-only atmosphere of the living quarters, so I gently, oh-so-gently, floated her into the airlock, shut the doors, repressurized, then floated her into the three plastic domes that Apollo and Ra had made the robots construct for us to grew all our food in a normal air environment, albeit lower than normal Earth pressure. At least in that nitrogen-rich atmosphere, she would not decompose so quickly.
You see, so many people loved Angie. So many people, people in the know, admired her role in saving humankind and setting up conditions to talk to Gaia, forcing world dearmament and equality. Angie didn't just belong to me. She was a worldwide hero, a savior. She was wonderful. And she had agreed to be my wife. And this posed an additional dilemma. If Angie was to be buried back on Earth with full pomp and ceremony, how could I return? I had been in space so long that, had I stayed on earth, my bones would have crumbled in my speeded up state.
Cramer came up with a solution, one he told me Angie would have liked. Apollo would arrange for a robot shuttle to come and collect Angie's remains, take them to the mining colony on the Moon where their ore incinerator would transform and amalgamate Angie's body into a titanium- beryllium ingot that would be milled to create the outer skin of the interstellar craft now being commissioned for travel to Alpha-Centauri B.
Did I forget to mention that Apollo had determined that there were three habitable Earth-like planets in the Alpha-Centauri region? The sun of Alpha Centauri B had the most likely two exoplanets; one had abundant water so it was the target. The journey would take 120 years with the new engines that Ra had designed, in less than an hour, that were powered with the free-floating matter between the stars. The new homes could accommodate scores of humans and new System-beings. Angie had spearheaded the development programs and negotiated all the treaties in her role as the head of the UN in Geneva. She did this from space, using only text messages and recorded video — she was one capable woman.
The UN's unanimous decision had been that the most likely of the exoplanets orbiting Alpha Centauri B was to be called Angelica after her name. Angie meant little angel in Greek. The planet was bigger, far larger than Earth, but it clearly had water and was in the habitable zone, a safe enough distance from the sun of Alpha Centauri B to sustain life.
The interstellar craft going to Angelica would be taken apart on landing to help build the new colonies there. So Angie would get to her planet. I liked that, so I agreed with Cramer immediately. Cramer was no fool, nor was Ra. They both knew it would take her far from me. It was bad enough having her gone, but gone that far? It was Ra who suggested that I could travel with her. I readily agreed. It was then Apollo told me he was hoping to go too, but only after he split again, leaving himself behind to, as he put it, "keep my sensors attuned to the progress we've made."
It did not surprise me that Apollo had become the police officer of all the new Systems developed for nations across the globe. His logic and fair- handedness was a perfect match for intransigent, ambitious, leaders. Simply put, if they went too far, he took away all their creature comforts such as food and energy, controlled the weather with WeatherGood One, Two, Three and all the new ones they had put into orbit to service the rest of the planet and, if necessary, destroyed any weaponry they developed with the plasma cannon he alone controlled orbiting in space. Apollo had no dreams of grandeur, "Simon, do not worry. To want something, one has to be able to dream. Digital processing, even with analog pseudo- programming, does not allow for imagination, let alone dreaming." He was right; he lives without Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and, so far, had done far more good than harm. He also seemed fulfilled in his task as intermediary with Gaia and the distant human races on Earth.
Lately, he had become obsessed with sea life. With the help of Ra, they had developed a sophisticated translator. When he told Angie that so far dolphins had over 2,000 distinct languages, you could hear the glee at his discovery. Being Apollo, he could maintain hundreds of thought processes at the same time, all at the speed of light. At the National Center for Atmospheric Research, NCAR, facility in Boulder, where he was primarily located now, he absorbed all their computing power and memory stacks of bubble memory modules. When he needed more, he simply ordered them. Bob Roberts, the grandson of the famous Dr. Roberts who set up the Center almost a century before seemed to be a new friend. Apollo had come to trust him and, to his credit, Bob Roberts moved a cot into his office off the main computer room to be at Apollo's beck and call. I had spoken to Bob a few times, and he seemed totally reliable. Apollo was in good hands.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Reaching Angelica"
Copyright © 2016 Peter Riva.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Floating Above It All,
2. Frankenstein's Lab, St. Petersburg,
3. Gaia Reveals Secrets,
4. Step Right Up — Two to Die,
5. A Lost Awakening,
6. The Terror of Waking,
7. Getting to Know You,
8. Message from Earth,
9. Life Gets a Nudge,
10. Apollo's Message,
11. Off Course,
12. That Asteroid Feeling, Again,
13. Coming 'Round — Just,
14. Will Regus Allow Planet Fall?,
15. Along the Way ...,
16. Time to Slow Down,
17. Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?,
18. A Whole New System to Talk To,
19. Once More into the Breach ...,
21. Okay, I Give — What Did I Find?,
22. A Call for Action,
23. The Edge of Reality,
24. My Friend Needs a Rescue?,
25. Plans, Some to Like, Others Not,
26. Even if I Died,
27. A Prospect of Ugly Wallpaper,
28. Closer to the Ship but Miles Away from Safety,
29. Paying the Piper, Once More Dead,
30. No, It Is Not Her, Really,
31. Dad's Theory, Only on a Pandimensional Scale,
32. What Use Were We?,
33. I'm Back but from Where?,
34. Breaking the Path, Just a Little,
36. One-Way Ticket to Ride,
37. The New Beginning,