||June 20, 2005
When a planet is bombarded with radiation, colonists can only be saved by illegal mind transfers into android bodies. One of these colonists is a bitter opponent to artificial life. He vows to exact revenge in his new form.
Character Profiles & Excerpts
Dr. Adrian McElroy – A proponent for granting rights to sentient artificial life, the doctor's study of cybernetics comes in handy when his Ceres colleagues are all infected from radiation contamination. If the planet is to be properly prepared for the first wave of federation citizens, McElroy believes transferring the scientist's consciousness into android bodies is imperative. But not everyone is jumping at the chance to become an android. The federation governments of Earth have banned the creation of sentient AI's citing robots must not be created in the image of man. . What McElroy proposes to his colleagues is illegal, but he hopes they can understand his logic.
“I suggest you all get a good night’s sleep and ponder my proposal before answering to me or any God you may worship,” Adrian suggested. “If you agree to the process, please be aware that I will erase your short term memory, so in effect, you will not be aware you were sick. You will simply awake in a healthy body and perform your necessary functions. You will believe you are completely human although you will benefit from the possession of a superior body. I will also design the bodies to essentially cease functioning after living what I would consider a normal life time. I believe the possession of immortality would only create a further barrier between automatons and humans. I am also against an infinite life span because our mortality gave rise to the creation of numerous religions tailored to easing our fear of it; we were in effect being pacified about our imminent deaths with the promise of an afterlife. As you well know, all of these religions caused blood shed because they promoted some kind of doctrine that was biased towards particular races and genders. So in effect, these religions created the very hatred that they swore to abolish. I do not want the androids to become a target of envy and consequently another target for mankind’s hatred. Androids will someday be perfected to have a superior mind without the aid of chemical enhancements from human brains. On that day, automatons will be free from religious restraints because they will not have the human will to believe in a divine being. They will know an omnipotent being did not create them, therefore there will be no need for them to risk being hated for choosing one God over another.
Linda Dougherty – Traveling with her husband and four other couples, Linda looks forward to giving birth to the first children of Ceres. She sees Ceres as the New America – a chance to employ all the doctrines of the United States Constitution without the threat of civil war. She is a self-proclaimed morality officer and acting captain aboard the Gallant where she endeavors to keep her crew mates in good spirits during their journey. She also plans to be come an author, hoping to recant the adventures of the first settlers to benefit future Ceres citizens. As the ship nears its destination, Dougherty becomes painfully aware that this new colony may face the same civil unrest and strife as 19th century America.
It had been nearly one month since Adrian McElroy sent his message to the civilian star ship. Linda Dougherty was now poised to hold the fate of her crew and maybe all future colonization efforts in her hands depending upon what she would do with the letter's contents. As she began to read the first few lines of the text, Linda realized her premonition may have been warranted. “This message is too important to read in my quarters. I should be on the bridge.” Linda then commanded the computer to transfer McElroy's letter to the ship's main console located next to the captain's chair. Dougherty spent the next few minutes walking briskly towards the bridge. The loud thumping of her heart seemed to match each footstep she took. The acting captain felt like she was almost running in place as the corridors of the ship suddenly all seemed to look alike. When Dougherty finally reached the doorway to the bridge, she experienced a combination of nausea, dizziness and a rubbery feeling in her legs. However, Linda chose to joke with herself to alleviate her body's complaints. “So this is what it feels like to be in command. Matt, I don't understand why you initially took upon this responsibility; but I assure you I won't let you down.” Linda then paused for an instant to think about her loving husband. Matt would still be confined to cryo-stasis for another month. He would not be able to comfort or advise her on this decision. So without further hesitation, Linda commanded the computer to allow her access to the vacant bridge.
Dougherty stepped inside and let her eyes quickly scan the room's interior as if one of the creatures in Steven Carlisle's hologram games would jump out at her. “Stop acting silly, Linda, she told herself. “Take a deep breath and sit down.”
Mikola Petrovsky – He lost his position as chief engineer at the World Aeronautics Association when executives decided to replace him with robots. For Petrovsky, prestige is everything. Holding a dark secret the association would rather keep under wraps, Petrovsky barters with space officials to get a seat on the Ceres colonization mission. It doesn't take long for his colleagues to see Mikola's true nature. Petrovsky only lives for self glory. He despises McElroy at first sight. His relationships with the scientists further deteriorates when he learns his only means of survival is to become an android. But Mikola will eventually consent to McElroy's plan. It is his only hope to make the doctor and all artificial life pay dearly for his mistreatment.
Sixty five days had passed without incident on Ceres despite Adrian McElroy's concerns about Mikola Petrovsky. This was the amount of time Petrovsky's engrams had been housed in an android body. Mikola, as well as his colleagues, continued to remain clueless to the fact that their bodies were now made of synthetic materials. The fact that their engrams had been pilfered from their dying organic bodies still remained a secret as well. The only being who knew of their transformation was Linda Dougherty and it would be a few more weeks before she would arrive on the planet.
On the 66th day, June 6th, 2406, all that was about to change. That day, which fell in the month of June, would not only represent the sign of the Beast (666) but a re-awakening for Mikola Petrovsky. Granted, some people would have a hard time distinguishing between the two – especially folks like Nadia Petrovsky who felt she had slept next to “the beast” for nearly two decades.
Nevertheless, the crafty engineer chose this day to restore the memories he had lost in his resurrection. Mikola had tinkered with his holographic dream machine up until the time of his body's death. He had fine tuned the device to provide hypnotic suggestion in addition to the manufacturing of android dreams. The holographic model, which depicted the first landing upon Ceres, now sat on Petrovsky's dresser table while his body entered its sleep state. The model would now truly symbolize conquest of the planet in the eyes of its warped inventor as Mikola planned to utilize the object for the purpose of mind control. Each of the scientists had been given an identical representation of the machine/model before their transformation. Mikola's generous gift would soon weave a web of despair for all who possessed it.
But first, the machine would help restore his missing memories. The machine came to life one night with no warning. It just clicked on like the way old video machines used to automatically record television programs.
As the machine started its up link with Petrovsky's brain, the engineer's artificial body began to shift and turn like a water sprinkler. A steady stream of blue light then slowly began to encroach upon his brain. Mikola's android body fought to in vain to ward off this intrusion. The android's circuitry had detected the invasion but was incapable of stopping the virus-like attack. Adrian McElroy never imagined his androids would be subject to such a violation. And Mikola Petrovsky counted on that fact to begin exacting his revenge.
The start of the dream sequence was almost too much to bear even for the likes of a hate-filled mind like Petrovsky. Images of the scientists becoming ill and dying filled the engineer's brain for the first few moments. The nightmarish vision then progressed into a horror filled scene where Mikola re-lived the surgical procedure McElroy had performed on him. In this vision, Petrovsky was a helpless bystander. He had a bird's eye view of the process but was incapable of stopping what he termed “the unholy union.” The artificial replica of Petrovsky's body lay still on a table while McElroy transferred a chemical solution into a gray receptacle which resembled a human brain. As the procedure continued, McElroy could feel tingling sensations in his arms and legs. Mikola soon realized that his limbs were artificial and he possessed no control over them. Petrovsky had become a puppet and a mad doctor was in control of his strings. Try as he might, he could not halt the procedure.
Deep in the recesses of his mind, Petrovsky could see that his organic body was engulfed in flames as part of a cremation process. His consciousness now only existed in a device. He was no better than a radio, toaster or microwave oven, he thought.
Shortly before the holographic device severed its connection with Mikola's brain, the angry engineer vowed someone or something would have to pay for this abomination. Adrian McElroy was no longer alive to receive his wrath – but several of his creations were. And they would do just fine. Mikola was absolutely sure of this...
Joyce Starkman – Joyce fears her resurrection. Unlike, Petrovsky she does not have a score to settle with artificial life. She fears losing herself in the machine. She has no problems making her concerns loud and clear to Dr. McElroy. She believes the gift of life is a gift from God. And in her mind, egotistical and vengeful people like Mikola Petrovsky should be left to die.
Her son was the first person to become a human/android hybrid as a result of a farming accident. Time has helped her to cope with his transformation. Nevertheless, Joyce is counting down the days to when she will be resurrected in android form. She wonders if she'll still be the same person on that day and more importantly - will she still retain control of mind and body?
McElroy wondered how the individual personalities of the scientists would influence the artificial intelligence. So far he had only one example to go by. The android James Starkman had pretty much been governed by the experiences and character of the late boy. But would further mergers of mind and machinery produce varied results? The cybernetic genius was saddened by the fact that he would not be around to study the data. His mind then flashed as to how a fail safe could be implemented if one of the androids exhibited undesirable behavior. McElroy tried to suppress his instinct to conclude that the android in question would probably be the one linked to Petrovsky's memories. “No scientific endeavor could successfully be conducted with such bias,” the doctor told himself. “Still, an emergency plan would be necessary to prevent the androids from taking any actions deemed harmful to the civilians.” McElroy then pondered how he could implement such a plan without exposing the androids to constant censorship....
In the Starkman residence, Joyce and James were spending some quality time at the kitchen table. “Can I refill your tea cup, honey?” Joyce asked her son. The incident with Mikola Petrovsky had caused the mother and android son to bond closely over the last few weeks.
“I think I'll take a rain check on that refill,” James responded while glancing at his data net's monitor. James had rigged up a surveillance system to keep a check on the perimeter of the house in the off chance that a certain unwanted guest was to pay a visit. Joyce viewed this ingenuity as an innate quality of her late son.
“Why don't you take a break from your studies so we can watch a recorded transmission of a Fetellini play?” Joyce asked lovingly.
“I don't think I would be interested in that Mom,” James responded.
Joyce was caught off guard as the pair frequently took trips to New York City to watch the plays of the 23rd century playwright. “I don't understand, dear. You always loved Fetellini's stories.”
“By my estimates, that was an entirely different era in my evolution,” James argued. “I know longer attain a desire to spend my time frivolously, Mom.”
Joyce was taken aback not only by her son's rejection of her suggestion but with the language he had used with her. “Am I speaking with my son right now or a computer program?”
Joyce attempted to ease her concerns by asking James what he would prefer for dinner. She suggested they have steak and peppers as it had been her boy's favorite meal since he was five years old.
However, the boy's response again filled Joyce with shock and dismay. “I no longer seek to eat our fellow animals, Mom. Can I just have a dish of vegetables?”
“I have to speak to McElroy. Am I losing what I have left of my son to an artificial mind? And if this is happening to James, what will become of my beliefs and character in an android body?” Joyce asked herself.
Renee Mercer – Back on Earth, Renee heads up security for the World Aeronautics Association. His job description: to clean up any messes which might endanger the space program. Right now, Renee is quite busy. A space tech named Phil Jackson has been caught tampering with a robot. The public – and more importantly – the association's financial backers cannot know such an act is possible. Mercer orders his guards to kill Jackson. He also must take out two of Jackson's friends he fears are privy to the incident. Mercer must now plan more murders and cover ups if he is to keep his job and the Ceres mission afloat.
Renee Mercer had been re-energized in his quest to clean up the association's latest scandal after spending the evening formulating yet another dastardly plan. Mercer's gut feeling told him the future of the space association could very well hinge upon the delivery man he had met the day before. However, the security executive was absolutely confident that he had found a capable applicant for the deed. Mercer assured an inner voice that he had never been wrong in his judgment of character.
However, another matter needed to be looked into before he could proceed to conduct a background check on the courier.
Mercer contacted Dana Jackson to inform her that Phil was no longer considered an employee of the association since he had failed to report for work the past week. Renee felt as though he had met a kindred spirit when he discovered that Dana had little compassion for her ex-husband. It seemed all Dana was concerned with was how she could go about collecting benefits. Mercer explained that Jackson's life insurance policy could only be paid out when and if Phil was declared dead. “He would be dead if he were here now,” Dana told Mercer. Renee used her bitterness as a lead in to inquire if she knew where Phil could be. The crafty executive played to Dana's vindictive feelings by commenting on what a poor choice Phil had made to lose such a fabulous wife. He had used this tactic many times before in order to form a bond with an informant. Mercer knew that his informants would often reveal their inner most thoughts once they felt he cared about their plight.
Dana suspected Phil of trying to avoid his financial obligations. “Phil will rue the day when I find him,” Dana vowed. Renee used his best casual tone to ask her how she planned on finding him. Mercer knew Dana needed to vent her rage and could most likely divulge some pertinent information in this vulnerable state. In a few minutes, Renee felt like he hit a Las Vegas jackpot when Dana volunteered that she had hired a private detective. She explained that she needed to determine if Phil was alive or dead in order to collect her due compensation. “I have earned every penny he still owes me for the years of neglect he continues to inflict upon me and my children,” Dana confided in Mercer. Renee then suggested he could recommend some private investigators as he used to work in law enforcement. However, Dana politely declined his offer and told Mercer that she felt confident in the investigator she had hired. Mercer learned that she had hired Don Volpicelli, who was a former colleague of his. “He comes with the best references,” Dana explained. “Don was very upfront in the fact that he told me he does not work criminal cases. If Don discovers evidence that Phil's disappearance is crime related, he will refund my money. He explained that he would then report his findings to the police.”
“Oh, yes. Don sounds like he is a very upstanding man,” Renee assured Dana. He then made up an excuse to disconnect the call as he had acquired all the information he needed. “Looks like I'll have to keep an eye on this detective,” Mercer thought. “I hope for your sake, Dana, that I don't have to keep an eye on you as well.”
Preparing a planet for colonization can be a deadly business. Scientists and engineers working on the Ceres project have all been poisoned from radiation. But there may still be a way to save the mission. Dr. Adrian McElroy has proposed a radical and illegal solution – the transfer of his colleague's intelligence into android bodies. The doctor is positive he can make his life long dream work. However, the scientists will soon find radiation is not the only thing threatening their lives. McElroy's plan has raised the ire of engineer Mikola Petrovsky – a bitter opponent to artificial life. Mikola fought to come aboard the prestigious colonization mission to save face after losing his aeronautics job to robots. Now he must overcome his disgust and consent to become an android/human hybrid in order to settle his personal vendetta with artificial beings once and for all.
Novelist Explores Future World of Humans, AI's
EAST BRUNSWICK - Even though his new book is science fiction, its social commentary is based on anything but fantasy.
Township resident Gary Starta's "What Are You Made Of?" probes the possibility that in the future the definition of life may have to be reexamined. In the recently released book, which is published by Publish America, robots have been developed so they are more than just objects that fetch things or perform tasks for humans.
"Maybe robots will become self-aware, not just servants," he said of the future. "It will probably cause a lot of moral and philosophical arguments."
"As I read more and more science and technology articles, it seems slowly but surely there may be an android," he said, referring to robots made to resemble humans in appearance and/or behavior.
Starta, who confesses to having a strong interest in science fiction and particularly androids, said that even though the androids develop human characteristics, the governments of the world will not grant them status as intelligent life. That's because the robots are being used as slaves, something governments savor.
Governments won't give androids rights because they want to "keep a free labor force," he said.
Though Starta's book is quixotic and takes place in the 25th century, it does makes statements about the past and present.
"I think people can see androids as a race of people that may suffer oppression, and their quest to have rights and be treated almost as human beings," he said.
Starta, who worked on the book over the course of about six months, said its plot involves preparing a planet, Ceres, for colonization as a sort-of new America. After the people working on the Ceres project get poisoned by radiation, Dr. Adrian McElroy proposes a radical and illegal solution - the transfer of his colleagues' minds into android bodies.
But the scientist's idea rankles engineer Mikola Petrovsky, a bitter opponent to artificial life. He became part of the colonization mission to save face after losing his aeronautics job to robots.
Though Starta has written many science fiction short stories, the new book is his first novel. He's currently working on his second.
Originally from Massachusetts, Starta, who has a bachelor's degree in journalistic studies and English from the University of Massachusetts, began his writing career as a reporter but always had a desire to do something more creative.
His day job involves working for a book publisher, and writing novels, he said, is a "serious hobby trying to progress into something more."
Those interested can purchase "What Are You Made Of?," at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online stores, as well as his Web site at garystarta.com.
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