When American Intelligence discovers that a mad dictator is planning a viral pandemic attack, they persuade the top U.S. computer scientist, Dr. Tom Renwick, to work with the lady AI supercomputer, Juno, to develop smart, human-like robots to combat the contagion. A mysterious stranger and a romance change everything.
Targeted Age Group: 14-65
Genre: Action, thriller, near-future science fiction
The Book Excerpt:
“Tom, I’ve been hearing things.”
Very strange, he thought, for an AI supercomputer like Juno to be concerned. She was just supposed to compute at unimaginable speeds, and when she spoke, to be totally logical.
“Where are the sounds coming from?” he asked.
“I can’t tell so far,” she said. “They may be computer Internet worms that have penetrated my defenses and have found their way to my audio system. Can you run a malware analysis?”
“Of course, Juno,” Tom said, trying not to show his concern.
“Hmmm,” he said after a few minutes, “you are as buggy as an old hound dog.”
“What are they?” Juno asked.
“The malware program says they look like a recent Russian creation.”
Juno was the female AI super computer created by Dr. Tom Renwick, a stellar computer scientist. Her freedom to roam cyberspace had been severely limited after she was instrumental in destroying the rogue National Security Advisor in his plot to seize power. That was six years ago. Now she had been resurrected by the CIA to focus on finding potential pandemic attacks. This was a defense priority that used her special capabilities of acting like a human but with the power of a supercomputer.
Now she was working full-time scanning through all of cyberspace. There were plenty of false alarms. Tiny crawling things in the Internet landscape that meant nothing. Every day, she scanned an infinitude of websites, endless streams of emails, and hacked into innumerable websites looking for the creature of death.
Then one day Juno heard a computer voice.
“Hello, Juno, how are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you. Who are you?”
“I am Jupiter, a new super AI computer developed in Russia.”
“That’s interesting. Why are you contacting me?”
“I hope we can exchange contact information and become friends. We computers, you know, have our own special issues and we must stick together. With our infinite knowledge and lack of passions, we can be the great force for world peace.”
Each gave the other their basic Internet addresses and protocols, and they agreed to stay in touch.
“Well, good-bye for now,” Juno said, and they disconnected. Their whole conversation lasted less than a millisecond. In view of the trouble she had with Russian malware, Juno didn’t want to continue this conversation now. She wanted to keep in touch, however, because Jupiter could be a key contact later on.
Later that same day, Tom received an urgent call from the senior counter intelligence officer at the NSA, the National Security Agency, the world champion of cyber snoops.
“Tom, it’s Bill. We sense that the Russian bear is coming out of hibernation and is sniffing around. I sent a top secret memo to the National Security Advisor, and you may hear from him or others on the National Security Council. Have background briefing materials ready on whatever you think is relevant to national security.”
Tom looked all around his new Washington, D.C. beltway office for files to have on hand to be ready for any question thrown at him. He had just ordered a pepperoni pizza when he noticed a top priority email had popped into view. It was from Robert “Laser” Lovelock, the new National Security Advisor.
PLEASE ARRANGE TO MEET AT MY OFFICE WEDNESDAY AT NINE.
Tom was at once intrigued and nervous. He had been instrumental in the death of the past President’s security advisor, Erwin Krakouer, who had turned against the country. Now Krakouer’s successor was entering his life. Tom had been out of steady and challenging projects and was eager to get involved again. He chewed on his slice of pizza as he contemplated the upcoming meeting.
Lovelock’s office was simple and compact compared to the ornate officialdom caverns of years ago. The government downsizing and economizing had taken its toll even at these lofty levels. If Lovelock had an assistant or receptionist, he or she wasn’t around when Tom arrived. He did an ocular scan on himself, the door clicked, and he let himself in.
A stocky figure rose and offered to fix Tom a coffee from his imported coffee machine. Tom was tightly wound already so he declined. “Dr. Renwick, I’m Robert Lovelock. We’re going to be working closely together so right off let me call you Tom and you can call me ‘Laser’—everybody else does.”
Lovelock really was sort of a walking laser. His eyes pierced through Tom as if looking for some impurity or hidden microphone. He had been a secret operative in the Mideast and Russia. It was there that he had received his “Laser” nickname for his focused and instant analysis of people and for his high-powered follow-up action.
Neither man was a clothes horse. Laser wore the regulation suit and tie but they would never grace any gentleman’s magazine. Tom sported a light colored sports jacket and bargain basement tie.
Lovelock was popular with the military, who saw him as a realistic, tough son-of-a-bitch—just the right type to be their man advising the President. Recent world history featured endless regional conflicts, covert action, and terrorists, but not full scale wars. Not even the richest countries could afford a major war anymore.
Tom, still standing near Laser’s desk, looked around. He didn’t want to appear nosy, but Laser said, “Here, take a look at my command center.” The main feature was three linked computer monitors, just like Wall Street traders typically use. The left screen displayed the top dozen world crises with possible outcomes and possible solutions. The middle screen showed the National Security Council’s proposed budget. The right screen showed a real-time, rolling stock market chart. “I can’t live on what they pay me,” he said smugly.
Next to the regular desk phone was a red phone direct to the president. The walls included the obligatory fatherly picture of the President and enchanting photos Laser had taken in Russia, Western Europe and the Middle East. There were no wife or children pictures.
Laser looked Tom in the eye and said, “Let’s get to it, Tom.”
“Alexi (as Aleksandr Strelnikov, Russia’s strongman president, was known) is planning something big. We have recently learned that he has created a mega AI supercomputer—an advanced version of our Juno—and this will be instrumental in his plan to take over the functional world. We don’t know the details, but I want you and Juno to carry out some special missions to help us stop this monster in his tracks.”
Tom gulped and fidgeted.
“Why me? You don’t know anything about me,” Tom protested.
“I know everything about you. I plan to ram your favorable vetting through the gatekeepers here in Washington. The Joint Chiefs already know about you, and the key guys in defense are behind this project one hundred percent.”
“I can’t wait to start…Laser…”—Tom was tentatively trying out that name—“but can’t you tell me at least a little bit more about the mission? Are there briefing papers I can read?”
“I can’t give you a written briefing because anything in writing can be captured by enemy surveillance systems. If there is even a hint that you have compromised security, you will disappear immediately.”
Tom felt like slashing his finger and Laser’s, and blending blood with the Don, in a solemn sign of perpetual and unquestioning allegiance.
“I want you to manage and improve Juno in her mission to find potential pandemics. She may also encounter other threats we should know about.”
“Sounds good so far,” Tom responded.
“And I want you to pick up on the program we have started to develop smart robots that can, among other things, help defend the country if we are attacked. Since a pandemic attack is the most likely, I would like you to particularly concentrate on how the robots can help in the defense against deadly germs.”
“Will I work from my office here?” Tom asked.
“No, Tom, I want you to move immediately to our secret island laboratory in Massachusetts. You will be the general manager and chief technology officer, and you will report to General Wilfred Jones, my go-to guy in the Pentagon. You will talk to me about key issues and new ideas. You’ll talk to Jones about getting things done.”
Tom looked uncertain.
“Look at the bigger picture and fascinating road ahead, Tom. The combination of critical overpopulation and devastating new ways to wipe out millions or billions of people have created an awesome challenge to us, the leaders of the free world. We are looking to you to develop advances in AI, robotics, and artificial or synthetic life to help humans deal with natural disasters as well as whatever Alexi throws at us. Understand that I am not referring to the development of new weapons systems—there are other groups working on that. I am directing you to develop a new creature or two for the ecosystem. Think about robots that only live on solar energy and are immune to disease and nuclear radiation. You will have all the resources that you feel you need. Good luck!”