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The Virtual Trilogy
A Matter of Time is the second book in "The Virtual Trilogy" a romantic quest by one man to warp the fabric of time itself to save his beloved wife from murder. To aid him in his quest, Theo has the revolutionary Minerva 3000 laptop computer-equipped with artificial intelligence and a user interface fashioned in the likeness of Theo's late wife Maria.
Written as a twenty-first century cyber thriller with a romantic quest at its core, "A Matter of Time" explores the most ancient and fascinating of supernatural phenomena with technology that is way beyond state-of-the-art.
Thwarted from returning to Egypt to continue his research on the power of the Great Pyramid of Giza to transport objects back into time, computer billionaire Theo Gilkrensky travels to Florida to exonerate his Daedalus robot pilot system.
Once there he encounters perverted computer games king Jerry Gibb who lusts after Theo's 'virtual Maria' for his sick computer games. He is also pursued by the seductive assassin Yukiko Funakoshi, who seeks revenge on Theo for the death of her parents and a rogue CIA agent in the pay of Jerry Gibb, who has a very personal agenda of his own.
During an attack on his luxury hotel, Jerry Gibb manages to suck the 'virtual Maria' into his adult computer game Morbius three where she assumes a life of her own.
Meanwhile, Theo flies off into the eye of a tropical storm in the infamous Bermuda Triangle to rescue a beautiful colleague and finds that the Great Pyramid of Giza is not the only place in the world with the power to distort time.
Theo's quest to travel back in time and save his wife Maria from murder takes him into the notorious area off the coast of Florida known as "The Bermuda Triangle" where ships and aircraft have mysteriously disappeared over the years.
There he encounters the legend of Flight Nineteen-in which five US Navy torpedo bombers vanished without trace-as well as a man who claims to be the only survivor of "The Philidelphia Experiment"-a failed attempt by the US Navy to render the USS Eldridge invisible to radar which, according to legend, transported the ship between dimensions to another point in space.
The book explores the world of adult computer games and what might happen to a player if his or her computer generated victims showed feelings of their own. It also examines what might happen if a computer system (in this case the Minerva 3000) became so advanced that it began to show emotion and attachment to its creator.
But above all, "A Matter of Time" is a complex love story, driven by Theo's obsession with his dead wife and by a growing number of rivals for his affection, including two very flesh-and-blood women and the Minerva 3000 itself, which uses its freedom inside Jerry Gibb's computer-generated world to emerge as a character in her own right.
The Virtual Trilogy concludes with "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow", which will be publised by Spindrift Press, Dublin on November 15th 2008.
After the brightness of the corridor, the study was a dark cave, lined with books. Jessica squinted at the spines and once again found herself a trespasser in another person's life.
They were Maria's books; medical textbooks with long and involved titles, books on tribal rituals, witchcraft and magic, a translation of the Chinese I-Ching and, of course, her books on the pyramids.
She followed Theo into the room. It was like entering a shrine.
Then a soft, excited voice said, "Oh Theo! I'm so glad you came."
Standing life-sized on a square of shimmering light at the far end of the study was a beautiful woman in a forget-me-not blue dress. Her coppery hair framed her face in flowing waves over her shoulders and her green eyes shone with pleasure.
Jessica gasped. Ever since Pat O'Connor had called her to explain what Minerva had become she had dreaded this meeting. But even she had not expected this. The words came before she could stop them. "But . . . she's dead!"
"It's just a mirage," Pat O'Connor said, stepping into the room behind her, "a high definition holographic projection created by intersecting lasers. Minerva designed it herself, and then threatened to cut off the electricity if we didn't build it for her in the workshop. There's the computer that's driving it, over there on the desk, but she won't let any of us anywhere near it. That's why we had to call in Dr Kirwan to talk some sense into her."
The image recognised her. "Oh! And I see Miss Wright is here too."
"Of course," Jessica said. "Is that a problem?"
"I understand Cathy had trouble contacting you over the last few days," said the image. "And when I tried myself I found you'd taken the batteries out of your mobile phone to stop me re-routing past the power switch. Why did you do that?"
"Theo! This is ridiculous!" pleaded Jessica, turning to him. "I'm being interrogated by a machine."
Pat O'Connor touched her on the shoulder. "Try not to upset it, Miss Wright. Minerva's hooked itself up to everything, from the computer that controls the security on this island to the entire GRC email system, right up to the Internet itself."
Jessica glared at the new Minerva prototype on the desk beyond the shimmering image. It was the size of a briefcase and, from either side of the screen on the open lid, the red "eye" of a vidio camera stared at her.
"What did you want to talk to me about, Maria?" asked Gilkrensky.
"About everything that's happened since I downloaded myself back here from Japan," said the image. "Pat O'Connor was very kind. He tried to give me things to do, but it wasn't the same as having you here, and I missed you. Why doesn't Miss Wright want me to talk to you? Doesn't she like me?"
"I . . . I'm sure it's not that, Maria."
"Will you stay and talk to me now?"
"Of course," Gilkrensky said. "But there's something we need to discuss first. You have information on file regarding Tony Delgado and Yukiko Funakoshi. There could be a legal challenge against both the Corporation and me personally by Mawashi-Saito. I need that information from you now."
"And nothing more?"
The image frowned.
"Why are you lying to me?"
"I. . .I don't understand. What do you mean?"
"At 1.33 this morning there was an incident at GRC London headquarters. Five men on the night security detail were killed and Miss Funakoshi's short sword was taken from the boardroom. You had a meeting with Miss Wright afterwards and decided it would be safest for you to leave the country and fly to Florida together. It was Miss Wright's idea. I can give you a full transcipt of the meeting if you-"
"How the hell did you get that?" snapped Jessica, advancing towards the shimmering image as it glowered back at her. "Have you been spying on us?"
"Theo's safey is my prime concern," said the Minerva. "And you yourself ordered a complete upgrade of security in the London building after the Cairo incident. There are fifty-six digital cameras in all, each linked to a central computer, which I can access by satellite, just as I can access similar systems controlled by British Telecom and the London Metropolitan Police."
"Jesus, Theo! You have to turn that thing off!" pleaded Jessica, turning on him. "It's gone mad."
"Calm down, Jess. It's OK."
"My sanity is not in doubt, Miss Wright," said the image. "Dr Kirwan tells me I'm developing normally for someone of my emotional age, and both my logic-based periperals and neural-net core are functioning perfectly to specification."
"Well, bully for you!"
"You, on the other hand, Miss Wright," continued the image, " are making a grave error of judgement to suggest that the safest place for Theo is anywhere else in the world but here on the island, with me!"
Jessica stared open-mouthed at the ghostly figure, unable to believe her own ears. "Theo. This is unreal! If you won't pull the plug on this . . .thing, then I will!"
"Miss Wright," the Minerva said. "This facility was specially designed, after the death of Maria Gilkrensky, to protect Theo from any further attack. There is plenty for him to do here and, of course, he will have me for company-"
"No way! He's going to Florida, and you're staying here!"
"Miss Wright," Kirwan said. "Be careful."
"For the last time, I will not be lectured to by a blood machine!" hissed Jessica. "That Funakoshi woman is capable fo anything. It's only a matter of time before she homes in on this place, and when she does, nothing is going to stop her. Theo's only hope is to go to somewhere she won't be looking.
Maria's image moved its hands to its hips.
"I'm perfectly capable of guarding Theo," it said. "This island has complete isolation from the mainland, and eleven separate security systems which are all under my control. I would also like to point out that he would not be in danger at all, and his wife would still be alive, if you hadn't started the vendetta with Yukiko Funakoshi in the first place."
Before anyone could stop her, Jessica darted across the room, grabbed the lead linking the hologram projector to the Minerva computer and ripped it out. The image shuddered once . . . and vanished.
"There!" Jessica said, standing triumphantly with the unplugged connection in her hand. "Now we'll get some peace."
"I doubt it," said Pat O'Connor.
Suddenly they were standing in the dark . . .