Becca Wilde, a terminally ill teenage autistic savant, senses a presence—an intelligence—in The STREAM, the virtual reality entertainment phenomenon created by her tech-billionaire father.
She believes the intelligence can create a cure, but her father intends to use radical technology. They are running out of time.
Then technology stops working.
All of it.
No Internet. No screens. Not even cars. But one thing is working—a Russian A.I. that mutated—and is now In the Wild.
Becca may hold the key to the future. Any future. If there is going to be one.
But…only if she can communicate with a super-intelligence—that hasn’t been invented yet.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The advent of artificial intelligence in the near future. The risk of a hacking AI mutating. The race for the Singularity by tech conglomerates and governments.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
How a maverick tech billionaire uses technology to save his daughters life in the midst of the AI race.
BELOW THE SUMMIT OF K2 – 2040
I do not see you now but yet I feel
Becca Wilde was at twenty-eight-thousand feet above sea level along the China-Pakistan border. "I cannot see you but I know you're there!" she screamed through her balaclava.
She screamed and fought through her fear. Snowing sideways minutes after sunup, a daybreak gale-force whiteout on K2.
A unique ascent of the ancient mountain that experts said could not be done. Could not be done even with a full team of Sherpas.
Another step along the precipice with a heavy pack on her back–she pressed on. She slammed the crampon on her right boot into the ice. In the Death Zone–Becca pressed on.
"I see you now," she said.
Six feet in front of her, a shadow ghost image appeared against the white. Tensing, her lone Sherpa guide, tightened the rope that held them together, drove his ice ax into the incline, and waved her on.
Another burst of wind from the storm that had taken them by surprise an hour earlier shook them. The ice snow stinging unprotected flesh, punishing the openings between her goggles and hood, sharp like a hundred needles. Visibility fell to three feet and the blur of the man in front of her vanished. Becca stopped, tightened her grip on the rope, and her heart plummeting in her chest, pounding against her ribs.
They were exposed, battered by unrelenting reminders that death the result of any misstep. Nothing lived at this altitude. Every living organism froze up here. Died up here. Stayed up here. Forever. Eighty miles per hour winds, gusting higher. Driving the ice snow, swirling, pushing, forcing, reminding. Reminding Becca this place is hostile. Telling her to escape this elevation. Escape.
This place hostile.
She had prepared for the ascent, every detail. She was ready when they departed camp at 2:00 a.m. in the moonless black. Four hours later, the sun revealed a radiant horizon, a burst of amber turning the unknown murk into snowscapes and black rock and ice and stone. And it was just after daybreak that a blizzard wind turbine roared up the sides of the frozen granite walls below them. Caught them vulnerable where one can't be, where mistakes can't be made.
The Sherpa stopped, fighting to remain upright on the precipice, a thousands of feet plunge on both sides. K2 was angry this morning. It was hungry, its fatality rate second among the eight-thousanders. K2 had never been conquered during the winter, and they were on the Chinese side, the suicide climb. Yet she was there, caught two hundred feet below the summit where the tornadoes of marauding ice talons pounded her body, plundered her ambitions like a demon from a dark hell. This mountain was known by another name; a name derived from moments like this–The Savage Mountain.
Becca stopped, using all the strength in her thirteen-year-old body to brace against the wind. She felt the acute mountain sickness rising inside her. Head throbbing, dizziness, confusion. She had already vomited twice. Her body was racing toward altitude-induced pulmonary edema. She knew that she must descend quickly.
We must turn back.
Temperature plummeting. Visibility gone. Everything around her looked the same. White. Whiteout.
"We must retreat," Becca said. "Where are you?"
Are we lost? I'm freezing.
Fighting nausea, she lowered the balaclava and spit, her saliva instant ice, slingshot sideways. A glimpse of her Sherpa. His footing let go. Becca reacted, reached out, the force twisting her, pulling her down, spread eagle on her stomach. Another burst, a one-hundred-miles-per-hour force, a tsunami of wind. The Sherpa jolted sideways, fell backward, sliding over the edge. Into the abyss.
"Tenzing!" Becca screamed.
The guide rope holding them together jolted, then snapped down over the edge–pulling her to the cliff. She rotated herself on to her back, then stiff-legged, drove both crampons into a rock bordering the cliff, the rope pulling her to the precipice–pulling–pulling. She used all her strength to hold her body flat to the ground, boots driving hard into the rock ice. The rope taut, the weight unrelenting, lifting her body–toward the edge.
Hold leverage, or I'm gone.
The deadweight of the Sherpa was too much–her body lifting–her fulcrum fading–her will waning.
Fight, Becca. Fight.
Head spinning, strength vanquished, dizzy, succumbing, death inches away. Not this end. Not this.
Then the rope went slack.
She slammed back to the ground. Gasping, starving for oxygen.
He released the carabiner. To save me. "Tenzing," she screamed his name again into the blizzard.
She was alive, a moment-to-moment reality. No past, no future.
"I can't lose consciousness, or I'll be dead. Can't stay at this altitude," an affirmation of desperation.
The sun was gone, blocked by the storm. Faded light now. Frostbitten hands and feet. Engulfed by the storm.
"I have to descend. Which way?" she said, not realizing she was speaking aloud, wasting precious oxygen.
Becca struggled to her feet, driving the expedition poles into the ice.
"One foot then another. I must descend," she said.
She stood on the Savage Mountain, unsure of the way to a safe descent. Disoriented. Confused.
Then she felt it. Amidst the altitude sickness. Felt it. A Presence. Something. Something unknown. Some thing was there. Something was there with her. Tenzing gone. Something else.
I know I feel the warmth I sense you near.
"I can feel you. I sense you. Who are you?" Becca called out.
She saw nothing. She turned left, then right, looked behind her. Nothing. She closed her eyes.
I feel you. Where are you?
She opened her eyes. Nothing in front of her. Then something out of the corner of her eye, forty-five degrees to her right. A shadow against the white.
"Tenzing, is that you?" Becca screamed through the wind.
But she knew Tenzing was dead. Darkness closing in. Frostbite. Altitude sickness worsening. She looked down. The next step was solid. Visibility one step.
Take that step.
In front of her, a shadow. Human? She could not be sure. An outline of a person? Unknown. But something was there. She was out of breath. Ten breaths for every step.
No oxygen up here. No air.
She closed her eyes, feeling.
I feel you. You're guiding me. You want me to step towards you.
Becca took another step. It was solid. Then another. One wrong step would be fatal. She opened her eyes.
"Where are you?" Becca said. "I can't see you anymore."
She closed her eyes and stepped. Opened her eyes.
"This pack's too heavy. Can't carry… can't carry the weight. Point…point the way. Tell me the way. I must descend," Becca said.
She slumped to her knees, removed the backpack, dropped it into the snow. Her heart racing, body leaking life every second.
"Going into shock. Have seconds left. Which way?" Her voice was quaking now, barely audible.
Becca jammed her expedition poles into the snow again until they hit ice.
"Push. Push up. Up. Stand Becca. Stand up. My heart. It's too fast."
She wrapped her hands in the pole grips and pulled up.
"Pull. Stand up, Becca."
Using all her remaining strength, she stood. The wind assaulting howling driving her towards the precipice.
"I can walk I can live I must fight on."
I can walk I can live I must fight on.
Heart racing, battering her bones. Thumping. Pulsing. Blood pressure soaring. She turned and looked back.
"I can't see you."
"I can't see you."
"I can't see you but I know you're there–"
A next step, a crampon slipped, footing lost in a blink–falling towards the edge of the precipice–her body slammed down onto the ice.
Sliding. Grabbing. Sliding.
"Oh God, I'm not ready–"
It all went black.
Then bright white.
Pounding. Pounding on her chest.
# # #
Both palms on Becca's chest, Jerrod, a surfer type, pumped chest compressions. Becca sprawled on the floor in one of the simulations rooms at RadNtel, a technology company in Ventura, California.
"You're there," Becca said. "You're there."
Her eyes glassed over and rolled to the back of her head.
"Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen," Jerrod said as he continued CPR.
He pressed her cheeks, covered her mouth with his, and exhaled hard, twice, then resumed chest compressions.
"Breathe, Becca, breathe," he said
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