Jon Graeme and Harry Sale are unlikely friends. Harry is a world-class programmer, but his abrasive personality alienates co-workers. In contrast, Jon is a handsome and easy-going technical writer, the low man on the IT totem pole. Sharing a love of nature, the men set out together, planning to go their separate ways--Jon on a hike and Harry, fly fishing. Three days later, Jon arrives at the rendezvous point, but his friend is nowhere in sight. When Jon finds Harry unconscious on the floor of a cave, Harry claims to have been lying there the entire time. But he is neither cold nor hungry. What Jon doesn't know is that Harry fell into an underground cavern, where he came into contact with an alien quantum computer. Back at work, Harry jettisons his regular tasks and concentrates exclusively on inventing new operating language to access the alien system. In the process he crashes his office's Super Computer and is fired. Jon convinces the company to give Harry a second chance, arguing that the system he has invented will make them millions. Jon has no idea what havoc Harry is about to unleash.
|Publisher:||Epicenter Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
About the Author
Richard H. Hardy was born in Glasgow, Scotland, during a week of relentless bombing raids just before the close of World War II. The day he was born an incendiary bomb fell on the church across the street from where he lived, so he is fond of saying that he entered the world with a big adrenaline rush. His family later moved to England and then on to America. After college Richard bounced through a series of temporary jobs as he traveled around the country, wanting nothing more than to write fiction. A job driving a library van allowed him free time to write several short stories and work on a novel. He and his wife moved to New Hampshire, where he took an entry level job at a software company. He was soon promoted to the technical writing department and ended up producing over 500,000 words of online documentation. After a few years he was promoted to the programming department and ended up as the Senior EDI Programmer, creating EDI maps and writing UNIX scripts and troubleshooting on AIX systems throughout the U.S. and Canada. After he retired, he started writing fiction again. The Infinity Program is his first published novel. You can find Richard online at www.richard-hardy.com.
Read an Excerpt
When he first heard of Harry Sale, Jon Graeme had just started as a technical writer at HTPS Industries. During a software release meeting, one of the senior analysts mentioned Harry's name and rolled his eyes. All the programmers either groaned or shook their heads, their disgust fully evident.
Matt O'Reilly, the senior analyst, turned to the newest member of the staff and said, "You're documenting the CRN software, aren't you, Graeme?"
Jon, who at age twenty-six was one of the younger employees, nodded. He had not missed the mocking edge in O'Reilly's voice. He was aware that his rugged, blond, boyish good looks didn't inspire the kind of respect he'd hoped for in this too-bright, socially awkward, and snarky group. He just had to trust that he'd win them over eventually.
"We'll need all the DLNs in an appendix to that document."
Jon looked puzzled. "DLNs? I'm not sure what you mean."
O'Reilly smiled with condescension and said, "Device Location Numbers. There are some forty devices scattered throughout the U.S. that use the CRN software. We'll need the DLN of each."
Jon still looked confused. "How do I get the DLNs?"
"Well, you better see Harry Sale for the answer to that one," O'Reilly said.
"Jeez!" said one of the programmers on the opposite side of the table. "The kid's been here just a few days and you're already throwing him to the wolves!"
As the whole table roared with laughter, Graeme wondered what he had gotten himself into. He felt perspiration trickle down his back. HTPS was located in a business park about fifty miles from D.C. As in every other East Coast company during the dog days of summer, the air-conditioning was turned up high, but the cool air wasn't enough to prevent flop sweat.
After the meeting, Jon Graeme fired off an email to Harry Sale, asking for the DLNs, and received a prompt reply: "Too busy today. See me in my office early Thursday morning."
Jon's first impression of Harry Sale was formed in the hour before their meeting.
It was 7:45 a.m. on Thursday morning. Jon had just stepped off the shuttle bus in front of Building C when he saw a man running madly down the middle of the road. The man looked disheveled and unkempt. His hair blew in a tangled mass around his head and his arms flailed wildly in the air. As the shuttle bus began to inch forward, he continued to run straight at it, screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Stop the bus!"
But the bus did not stop until the man ran straight into it.
Jon looked on in disbelief as the crazy man dropped to the ground and began to crawl under the front of the bus. The driver jammed on the breaks, swung open the shuttle door, and jumped out onto the curb.
"What the hell do you think you're doing!?" the driver shouted.
A group of people had gathered near the bus, watching the spectacle. Jon turned to the security guard standing next to him.
"Who is that lunatic?" Jon asked.
The security guard chuckled. "That's Harry Sale, the one and only."
Soon, Harry Sale crawled out from under the bus and Jon saw what the mad dash had been about. A small, orange kitten was in Harry's hands. It looked only about six weeks old. A slim, young woman who had been watching from the sidewalk ran forward and took the kitten from Harry's hands. They exchanged a few words Jon couldn't hear.
Half an hour later, Jon was walking through the upper level of Building C, a temporary security pass pinned to the pocket of his shirt. It was the first time he had ever been to this section of the building and he was amazed by the difference in the level of security. In the place of sleepy-eyed guards with nothing more than a badge to identify them, there were uniformed sentinels with guns and communication devices hanging from their belts. With a quick glance about him, Jon saw that there were five of them in this immediate area. They were all young looking and he couldn't help but feel they were checking him over, assessing him as a potential threat. They were obviously paid to be suspicious.
When a set of double doors swung open, Jon saw the reason for all the security: Big Moe, the largest Hyper Computer on the East Coast. Jon had been briefed about it during one of his initial interviews. The machine had cost HTPS Industries $125 million. It could achieve better than three trillion floating point operations per second, or, as the engineers termed it, three teraflops per second. The electrical bill alone, just to run the thing, was over $100,000 a month. And of course, the salaries paid to programmers, such as Harry Sale, were astronomical.
In his quick glance into Big Moe's domain, Jon saw bank after bank of units, each the size of a large refrigerator, as far as the eye could see. Just before the doors swung shut, he saw a large sign in the entryway to the area: NO CLASSIFIED DISCUSSIONS BEYOND THIS POINT. Jon wondered if he would ever get in to take a closer look at Big Moe. As though reading his mind, a security guard accosted him while he stood by the double doors.
"You're not authorized beyond this point," he said in a tone that was a touch too aggressive.
Jon ignored his rudeness. "How do I find Harry Sale's office?" he asked.
The guard pointed toward a door marked ADVANCED PROGRAMMING DIVISION. "Just follow the motor oil," he said with disgust.
"Motor oil? I don't understand."
The security guard pointed to the floor. Jon looked down at the beige carpet and saw a dark smudge the shape of a small man's shoe.
"Right after we got new carpet in here, Harry comes in and tracks motor oil through the place. Must have been working on his car before he came in. He's obsessed with the thing — a '49 Studebaker." The guard shook his head. "His brain must be so full of computer code that there is no room left for common sense. I swear, if management didn't need his sorry behind, he would have been fired a long time ago. Good luck."
What the security guard told him was accurate. The oil stains on the carpet led down the main corridor and took a sharp right turn into a warren of cubicles and offices. The footprints led right up to an office that somehow looked shabbier than the rest. Harry's nameplate hung on the side, and underneath it was a small sticker with a single phrase in large type: "I Break for Bugs."
A man stepped backward out of the office. Jon recognized him as George Ludwig, a senior software engineer and one of the developers working on Big Moe. Ludwig was a heavyset man in his late forties, and his hair was starting to recede. He had a slightly undershot chin and his teeth were small and uneven.
Cheeks beet red, he sputtered, "If you ever touch so much as one comma of my SQUID code again, I will personally see that your hide is nailed to the wall!"
Jon could not believe the look of hatred on the man's face. It twisted Ludwig's already unattractive mug into a distorted mask.
Ludwig spun about abruptly and nearly crashed into Jon. Shoving Jon to one side, he stormed past.
For a moment, Jon thought he would be better off just returning to his own section of the building. He was rapidly reaching the conclusion that any work involving Harry Sale was hazardous duty. But, determined to do his job, he pushed on.
He coughed nervously before knocking. A moment later, a tall, beanpole of a man with an unbelievable mop of unkempt hair stood before him. The ragged, matted hair reminded Jon of Charles Manson, but Harry's eyes were not vacant and he didn't emit a serial killer vibe. Instead, his eyes were full of warmth and humor. There was a twinkle in them as though he had just heard a very funny story. It was hard to believe he had just been involved in such an ugly confrontation.
Jon found himself instantly liking the man, regardless of the stories he had heard.
"Come on in," Harry said. His voice was high and reedy.
Jon took a seat on a small folding chair to the right of Harry's workstation. He coughed again and debated whether or not he should say anything about the incident he had just witnessed.
"What's this 'SQUID' that Ludwig is so pissed off about?" Jon asked, feeling ingenuous.
The twinkle in Harry's eyes remained. "Super Computing Quantum Interference Device, or SQUID for short. There was a bug in one of Ludwig's programs that affected the measurement of magnetic field gradients under a certain set of conditions. All I did was put in a break that would redirect the flow of control to another module to circumvent the bug."
"Is that what the sign outside refers to?"
Harry smiled. "Exactly. I put that sign up last night because I had a feeling Ludwig would be paying me a visit."
The glee on Harry's face made Jon think it would be best to change the subject.
"It was cool how you saved that kitten this morning."
"Well, good to hear. Ludwig just called me an asshole for doing that."
Unsure how to respond, Jon coughed and looked about him, noticing a number of details that seemed out of place in a programming environment. On the wall above the computer hung a large charcoal drawing of obvious Asiatic origin depicting a bald man with an enigmatic smile on his face. It was curious how much that smile resembled Harry's.
"What do you know about DLNs...." he started to say, then broke off when he realized he didn't know where to go to with his question.
Harry looked even more amused. "Only all there is to be known."
Jon ignored the egoism in his statement and pushed ahead as best he could.
"I need all the Device Location Numbers out there in the field," he explained.
Jon groaned inwardly. Apparently all the rumors about how difficult Harry Sale could be were true.
"Matt O'Reilly asked me to include all the DLNs in a document I'm working on."
"O'Reilly!" said Harry, spitting the man's name like it was a curse word. "I should have guessed! Well, you can go and tell that officious asshole ... ."
Jon recoiled in his chair, an action that Harry must have noticed because his tone softened and that odd smile returned.
"You can tell O'Reilly not to worry his little head. I've written an algorithm in the load module to capture the DLN in a log file during the initial load. But just for the sake of O'Reilly's petty little bureaucratic mind, I'll give them to you. Are you ready?"
Jon waited for Harry to hand him a sheet of paper with the information or at least forward him the document in an email.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Get your pad out," said Harry.
Jon opened his notepad and took the cap off his pen as Harry proceeded to recite the device locations from memory. Each DLN was a twelve character alphanumeric value. Harry recited all forty-two of them, hesitating only when Jon needed one to be repeated. Jon was stunned by this mnemonic feat.
Harry suddenly roared with laughter. "I'm sorry," he said as he tried to suppress his amusement. "It's just that you looked so completely dumbfounded."
"Do you have a photographic memory?"
"Hell no," said Harry. "Most of the time I can't even remember where I parked my car. But code is another matter. I can remember every line of code I've written in the past two years, somehow that just sticks. After two years it starts to fade a little. It's always been names and faces that I have trouble with. Can't remember them from one day to the next."
After their meeting concluded, Jon followed the oil stains back to the exit. Throughout the rest of the day, however, thoughts of Harry Sale kept jumping into his head. Whatever else Harry Sale was, he was definitely an original — quirky and brilliant. But underneath all that, it was clear that Harry was a very decent human being.
Jon worked hard on his documentation project and didn't finish up until after six in the evening. The office was mostly deserted except for a few stragglers and the ever-present security guards. When he left the building, he caught the last shuttle bus to the Building C parking lot, which was almost completely empty. At the far end was a '49 Studebaker. The hood was up and Jon could see a pair of feet sticking out from underneath.
Jon walked over to it. "Can I help?" he asked.
Harry Sale poked his head out and said, "Goddamned junkyard parts! Not worth a rat's ass! Should have machined them all myself."
He crawled out from beneath the Studebaker and scrambled to his feet. His shirt was covered with stains and there was a wide tear in his right trouser pocket.
"I'm going to machine my own parts from now on. I'll never buy 'em out of a junk yard again."
When he finally noticed Jon, he seemed puzzled, as though he couldn't quite place him. "You're that documentarian I spoke to, aren't you?"
"Technical writer," Jon corrected.
"Technical writer, documentarian, same difference, isn't it? Who the hell has time to read that crap anyway? Don't you ever feel you're wasting your time writing stuff that no one will ever read?"
Jon had run into this attitude among programmers before and had developed a thick skin. "Whether they read it or not," he said, "I still get a paycheck."
"There is that."
An odd look flashed across Harry's face and his strange little smile appeared again. "Hey, I didn't mean to be offensive. It's just that I'm in a snit. I've had the engine in and out of this baby so many times I've about lost my patience."
"Can I give you a ride somewhere?" Jon asked.
Harry paused to consider. "Well, actually, yes. You know that service station off Bloom Road? If you could drop me off there, it would be great."
Jon gave him a ride to the service station, which it turned out was closed. Harry insisted he could just call a taxi, but Jon would have none of it. "I insist," he said, "Just tell me where you live and I'll take you there."
For a while, the two of them drove in silence. Out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw Harry crossing and re-crossing his legs, trying to get comfortable. Harry almost looked like a contortionist, pushing his long, lanky frame this way and that.
After a few miles Harry turned toward Jon. "You don't have to do this, you know."
Jon smiled. "I know, but I'm not about to leave you stranded."
They travelled a few more miles before Harry spoke again. "You're kind of new at HTPS, aren't you?"
"This is my first week."
"Well, let me warn you; there are a whole lot of assholes working at HTPS. Not that I want to discourage you or anything."
Jon couldn't help but smile. "Is that your way of saying welcome aboard?"
Harry frowned. It was obvious to Jon that he completely missed the irony. They drove on in silence for a while before Harry spoke again.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"Never heard of it." He spoke dismissively, almost as if he didn't believe the place existed. Harry's disrespect for Jon's home town made him uncomfortable. The place was so small it was barely on the map.
They drove on a few miles more before Harry picked up the thread of their conversation. "What do people do in York, Maine?"
"Well, there's hiking and boating and wilderness trails, swimming, surfing — all kinds of stuff, if you like the outdoors."
"And do you?" Harry asked.
"I live for it!"
Once again the conversation died. Clearly Harry wasn't much good at small talk. Out of the corner of his eye, Jon watched him cross and re-cross his legs again and squeeze himself into the far corner of the passenger side. Jon learned later that Harry was never comfortable in a car unless he was driving.
They drove a few more miles in silence before Jon tried to re-start the conversation. "How long have you been working at HTPS?"
Harry groaned. "Seems like forever."
"When you first started, was HTPS a lot different than it is now?"
"It sure as hell was," said Harry as he crossed his legs again. "Those were the days, back when Doug Sanderson was still alive."
"Was he a programmer like you?"
"Hell no! He was just the best damn engineer I've seen before or since. He was a hardware guy and he was just full of ideas. He was into neural networks long before Minsky even published."
"Minsky," said Jon. "Isn't he the guy who's trying to develop artificial intelligence?"
"Among others. But Doug Sanderson was ahead of all of them. I learned more from him than anyone, except my father. I wonder where things would be now if he were still around. Man, I miss that guy! He's the only friend I ever had at HTPS."
"What happened to him?" Jon asked.
"He died of pancreatic cancer nearly ten years ago."
They drove on a ways without talking. Jon studied Harry out of the corner of his eye. He seemed remote and withdrawn, but Jon couldn't resist one more question.
"Do you think it's possible to ever make a computer that's truly conscious?" he asked.
Harry thought about it for a moment. "It won't be happening anytime soon — not without Doug Sanderson around."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Infinity Program"
Copyright © 2014 Richard H. Hardy.
Excerpted by permission of Coffeetown Enterprises, Inc.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In “The Infinity Program” by Richard H. Hardy, Jon Graeme is the new guy at HTPS Industries working as a technical writer. Jon has an early encounter with Harry Sale near the shuttle bus saving a kitten, and takes an immediate liking to this Harry guy, who later proves to be one of the hardest people to work with and get along with at HTPS Industries. They quickly form an odd friendship and the managers at HTPS soon lean on Jon as their go-to guy when it comes to dealing with Harry. Harry is a genius programmer who finds himself in trouble and becomes suspended from his job. Harry has invented a new system that could make the company millions and Jon takes it upon himself to help Harry out, pulling their odd friendship even closer together. Ultimately Jon sticks his neck out for Harry in ways that could cost him his own job and possibly his life. This book is a high technology science fiction story and it was surprisingly easy for me to follow. I am not a high tech kind of girl, yet I was able to move right along with the story for the most part, even lacking the knowledge behind computers and programming. The main character Jon was not totally familiar with the programming lingo either, so as dialog with him progressed, I was able to learn what I needed to know and never once did I feel overwhelmed with jargon. Hardy is clearly a master of his craft and now that he is retired, putting all that talent into a novel is well, brilliant. When it comes right down to it, I was highly impressed with the storyline and the way everything played out. With ups and downs, a touch of romance, and a bunch of pig headed supporting characters, “The Infinity Program” by Richard H. Hardy is sure to please the high tech science fiction readers as well as the readers who are not so technically savvy. In general, this novel was absolutely fantastic! I am more than ready to see what Hardy comes up with next. 5 stars! Reviewed by Jennifer Hass for Reader Views (3/14)
Even aliens can't compete when it comes to drama in the workplace. Richard H. Hardy pens an exciting tale about an underground extraterrestrial computer with clairvoyant powers, but it's the humans it's manipulating who end up stealing the spotlight. Because what makes this story unique is that Hardy has inside knowledge about how technology companies operate, because he worked for one, and the office politics he infuses into the core of his novel definitely ring true to life. The long hours, the tight deadlines, the demanding clients - all combine to create an implied sense of urgency. Sure, the brain of one of the employees at HTPS Industries has been taken over by an intelligent life form, but Harry Sale's co-workers are so busy doing everything they can to climb the corporate ladder most of them don't even notice. Except for new kid on the block, Jon Graeme, the only person that temperamental Harry bothers to interact with. After the two go on a fishing trip together, Harry gets lost in a cave and doesn't come back with a mind fully in tact. Jon notices that something's up with his friend, but he decides to humor him in order to try and get to the bottom of it. But Harry starts exhibiting some qualities that just don't add up. He starts writing code for hours on end. He doesn't go home to sleep. He only eats what he can forage out of the office vending machine. If only he were suffering from a broken heart, Jon might be able to understand his behavior and help him, but he's not. Lettie is. She's been hung up on Harry for a very long time, but he barely acknowledges her existence. As a manager at HTPS Industries, she tries to protect Harry from the higher ups, but she can only do so much, until Jon comes along. The two of them form a common bond in their concern over Harry. They don't want to see him get fired, but he's not making it easy for them as he starts letting his professional life fall to pieces while succumbing to the demands of the alien entity that's slowly taking control of him. The power struggle between Jon and Lettie is just as intriguing as the game Harry's playing with management. In both instances, they're each trying to one up the other, sometimes involuntarily. Jon is a good guy, but he allows those making the behind-the-scenes deals to manipulate him, throwing his burgeoning relationship with Lettie on the skids. As a woman in authority in a male-dominated workplace, she's the target of frequent discrimination and sexual harassment by her superiors. And with or without alien intervention, she's left to fend for herself when she's demoted as Jon becomes a rising star due to his ability to pacify Harry. Their interaction as a man and woman falling in love in a corporate environment demonstrates just how tricky it is to have it all. Hardy is smart to use a sci-fi hook in order to discuss these crucial cultural issues. He draws readers in with an otherworldly premise that promises to entertain, while enlightening them about the challenges that people face in everyday life that are no less extraordinary or important than a super intelligent species looking to take over the earth. He mixes the mundane with the fantastical to maximum effect, causing readers to think with their minds and their hearts. Framed in this context, prejudice and intolerance are just as frightening as getting encapsulated in gelatinous slime or being resurrected by nanobots.
Jon is a technical writer, who works with Harry, a stellar programmer at the same company. The two become fast friends, even though they are a most unlikely pair. While on a trip together, Harry discovers a super computer in a cave he happens to go into. The computer starts to overtake his mind and unleashes a series of catastrophic events throughout the world. I found this story to be a real eventful read that peaked my interest from beginning to end, even though science fiction isn't my favorite genre. I liked Harry's determination and how it brought him to his end result. Truly, a captivating page turner.