Lines. A Transhumanist Sci-Fi Novel by Joshua L.A. Jones

Chapter 1: Bloodlines.

The tempo surges, the last measure soon will play, as a Euphoricom algorithm cascades through the sensorium of the masked dancers caught in the cotillion’s Rapture-Program prompt. Holographic cherubim above sprinkle sparkles of light down on the guests. Warm tingles and sexual excitement bloom in those who allowed the Conductor Artificial Intelligence to curate their experience and each dance partner lock eyes through narrow eye slits of the enamel masks made of glass some adorned with peacock feathers and precious gems while others were totems to animals now extinct.

A man in a wolf mask pulls his petit partner aside as she adjusts her ornate peacock headdress and waves to a servitor to bring a tray of champagne. They lift glasses off the electrum tray and sip. The waist- tall robot with multi-jointed arms zips away fast through the crowd and the man watches hoping to see a collision, but another spectacle garners his attention. Through the eye sockets of the lupine mask, the man’s pupils widen at a sight taking place in the only open space on the dancefloor. He taps his date on the shoulder and points. She pivots in time to see a woman turned away towards the main exit holding her hands across her face. Two men stand facing each other.          

Slap!   

The swift and rather unexpected attack sends Juan’s antique Venetian mask tumbling down to the hard parquet floor. White porcelain shatters and scatters sharp shards among the wood panels leaving faint scratches behind. The heirloom once handed down through the generations is nothing more than dust and rubbish to be swept up by the automated servitors, who have been signaled by the resident artificial intelligence but wait in standby mode. The cherubim above disappear in a flash.

As the baroque music fades in the grand mirrored hall, a flawed reimagining of ancient Versailles, the choreographed motions of the masquerade ball have come to a halt as did Juan the Andalusian, but not his insulted heart. The beating became strong as the Fight or Flight Instinct increased in tempo and focused Juan’s vision. No matter what strides were made in nanotechnology and engineered biology, the instant impulse, instinct, that preserved humanity down the eons could not be totally controlled, and Juan desires to unleash this animal fury. Honor must be upheld.         

Drops of enraged blood, swimming with microscopic robots, drip from the convex tip of Juan’s Aquiline nose onto the lapel of the tuxedo jacket. His sparrow eyes, flecked with insolence, turn to see Leon Mercurio, his back turned, walking away, whip off his waistcoat and reveal dense flesh just contained by the white linen shirt. A perceptual status-error cascades in the Andalusian’s visual cortex but he ignores the manifesting red text scrolling across his sight stating: Warning!

In but a blink, Juan is startled that Leon stands but millimeters away. He heard no sound. No one can move that fast, Juan thinks. But then, hot breath reveals the reality and it was no hologram or neural hack. The gold gilded eyes of Leon stare at him with a predatory gaze that betrays an animosity cultivated by family legacy.

“Apologize to my companion,” Leon says in even tones.

“I’ll do no such thing. I’m a banner-man of the Code Bank,” Juan says and steps back. Born of high-technology and sheltered wealth, the crowd clad in black ties and formal gowns, faces hidden behind ceramic veneers, create a tight circle around them. Not every day do they witness such transgression. None would dare miss such an amusing scene and one youthful aristocrat from the floating city of Niani holds back the juvenile urge to chant “Fight”.    

“You made a lady cry. Don’t force me to balance this equation with your tears. It will be embarrassing for us both,” Leon says and crosses his arms.

The decadent air, laced with licorice perfume, chills a few degrees as the nano-particle sensors drifting in the atmosphere relay the party-goers metabolic data to the hospitality-core of the Excelsior Hotel’s artificial intelligence. This does nothing to cool the solar flare of anger that grows within Leon.

“You have a choice,” Leon says and taps his foot twice on the hardwood.

“Fuck you and your filthy servant girl,” Juan says.

The amber light dancing down from the electro-crystal chandelier above is cast away in Leon’s mind and is replaced with a sharp silver hue by his perceptual nano-net. The geometry of his target becomes set, but he will not launch an attack yet.   

“Little man from Seville, I see your cerebral implants did not adjust alcohol-dehydrogenase levels to keep you sober. So, I will forgive your offense,” Leon says and pivots away.

“I’m not drunk, clan boy,” Juan says.

“Then, I won’t forgive you.”

 Leon winks through his mask to a woman in a gold silk gown whose face is swollen and ruddy from the previous rudeness. In a fragment of a second, Leon’s hard-edged knuckles impact a narrow chin and Juan spins to the ground. Leon cocks back to strike with an adrenaline-infused fist when the shrill of an EM-pistol powering up rips through the gasps of the onlookers. Leon lifts both hands in quick surrender and Juan staggers to his feet like a boxer drunk on a brawl.

“I’m done,” Leon says.

“Now leave, please,” says a man in a white tuxedo and black raven mask holding a pistol aimed at Leon’s head.

“With pleasure,” Leon says as he shakes out his stinging hand and proceeds over to the woman in the gold gown that holds tight to her athletic frame. He kisses her cheek. As they reach the ballroom’s transparent double doors that sweep open on their approach, Leon stops and turns around.

“Triple my donation to the Lunar Orphans Fund.”

The hotel grounds are green, secure, manicured, and levitate off magnetic pillars just four meters above street-level of the Toronto ruins. After the Reclamation, the re-Founders of the city decided it was easier simply float new sections of the city atop the foundations ravaged by floods and time than to clear it away and start over. Leon and his consort stroll to the edge of the front lawn and step onto a wooden dock. She gazes down to the crumbled street below.

“You’ve been rather quiet, Dee.”

“I know my place among the Crats,” she says.

“Your place is with me and mine with you. They don’t matter. Only we matter. Say whatever you want, when you want,” he says.

“Okay. I really didn’t like what you did back there,” Dee says. Leon removes his mask.

“For that, I am sorry.”

“I’d rather have punched that weasel myself.”

“That would have been special,” he says as a smile curls on his face.

“Let’s go explore,” she says as she points to the road, “never seen a place like this before.”

“And here I thought I couldn’t love you anymore. Shall we?” he asks and puts out his hand.

“What about our ride?” Dee asks.

“It’ll be waiting,” Leon says and turns about to point at a sleek platinum vehicle, a barracuda of the sky, sitting on a launch pad beside the hotel’s glass atrium.

A concussive blast wracks their ears as pressure folds over them. The vehicle, once shiny and new, becomes a carcass of azure flames as the remains of windows glitter in the sunlight and fall like fine diamond rain. The Fight or Flight instinct takes hold, but this time they run. Through the heavy summer heat, Leon and Dee flee down the ancient streets where all signs and names have long since vanished into rubble. Decomposing stone crunches underfoot as the lovers reach the safety of a thin alley lined by creeping ivy and step into shadow.

“Not again,” Leon says.

“Again?”

“Not the first time one of my transports had problems.”

“Explosions certainly do qualify as problems.”

“Don’t think it’s anything to worry about. Probably the Kelleys. They’re always doing stunts like this and I’m pretty sure Mr. White Tux was one of them. Always so eager to pull a gun and play pranks,” Leon says as a veil of darkness descends from above. Roiling clouds vanquish the sun in the west.  

“You Crats are, to use an old term, nutters,” Dee says and winks.

“Please dear, language, call me a nutter all you wish but Crat sounds like we’re alien crustaceans. We’re not technically aristocrats.”

“A hierarchy where a few rule and membership is provided by the privilege of birth seems like an aristocracy to me,” she says.

“You are right, my love. But instead of aristocrats or Crats, I’d prefer if you just called us assholes,” he says and a smile bows on her face. A green dot of light begins to dance upon Leon’s chest and catches his attention. With a firm grip, he pulls Dee to the wall.

“We need to be quiet,” he whispers and peers out to the direction of light’s source. Off in the distance, a chromo-skinned android shimmering like a liquid quartz crystal stands upon a pile of twisted metal and cement from a collapsed building. Its left arm outstretched and palm flat, a targeting laser from the machine’s fingertip scans the opening to the alley.

“Not a prank. Possibly Zaibatsu.”

The winds blow with their own intent even though mankind now controls the rain. Sweeps of gray clouds begin the water cycle over the partially abandoned city of Toronto as two young lovers dressed formal wear escape down a tattered street cleared earlier in the day by maintenance automatons. The high reaching glass and steel buildings, dusted in disrepair, shade the smooth concourse flanked by burdens of thicket, which turn most of the ancient sidewalks into unruly hedgerows. The lovers run hand in hand while the Venetian mask, edged with silver, clings to her face once molded by innocence. Breath increases. Cortisol pumps through their veins. Perfect hearts pulse with ever-increasing power. Once triggered, metabolic nannites signal the brain to elevate the Fight or Flight response even more as epinephrine charges to the eager cells. One block behind, a data-siphon android follows with silent steps, lurching, stalking. The abundant shadows, debris piles, and overgrown alleys prove to be ample cover as it tracks the heir to the economic clan Mercurio by his bio-metric signature that now flares like a stoked fire to its IR sensors.  

The lovers spot the wild-line where this section of the city falls into forest creeping and coiling around a row of brownstones still standing as a testament to the past. As large raindrops begin to fall, they unclasp hands and make a break for the confusion of the reclaimed lands. The dark cover of the canopy conceals them as they weave through the tendrils and vines of the thicket that cord between young pines as a ragged loom of green, living thread. An expanding bloom of invasive jasmine greets them with air sweet and sickly from the decay that comes in late summer. With a final push, they come to a clearing dappled with wildflowers and they sneak along the tree-line until they stop under a sprawling oak. The patter of rain on the wide green leaves drowns out all sounds with a flat drumming.

“Starting to think going to the masquerade ball was a mistake,” Leon says.

“Might want to extend your cloak,” Dee replies. He leans over and kisses her on the forehead.

“Of course,” he says and lifts his wrist. He pushes back his sleeve to reveal a thin transparent wristband. He taps it.

“Scatter,” he says, and for a moment, a bubble of light surrounds them.

“The tracker was pretty close,” she says.

Leon grabs her shoulders with gentle fingertips and pulls her close.

“Are you as excited as I am?” he asks.

She shakes her head with an eye roll and a huff. Dee touches his chin with her slender fingertips.

“Not now asshole,” she says.

“See, much better than Crat.”

At the wild-line, the android’s skin takes on the colors of the forest like a cuttlefish landing on coral. It lifts its right arm and an arrow-shaped compartment opens below the wrist. A two-pronged scanner array extends and projects a wide net of red light to survey the dense wall of vegetation. In the lovers’ direction, a yellow dot appears in the stream of red and PHOTON CLOAK DETECTED runs across the android’s eyes. It crouches as the rain dings off its round plastic skull and then leaps over the treetop in a kinetic burst.

Leon tilts his head and directs his ear to the sky.

“You hear something?” he asks Dee whose eyes expand with fright.

From above, the android crashes through the upper branches and plummets feet first aimed at Leon. He pushes Dee away to a small clearing of moss as the android lands with a sudden thump in soft dirt. Twigs and torn leaves flutter down from above following the descent path. 

“You won’t get data. Leave now and no harm will come,” Leon says as the steady rain has become a downpour that beats the canopy with a frantic rhythm.

“Leon Mercurio, clan Mercurio, prepare for cerebral data extraction,” the android says and steps forward leaving a depression in the soil that soon fills with water. The android lifts its left arm and the forearm compartment opens. A cable slithers out as a wiry serpent and whips about seeking flesh to bite. Leon dodges and takes a firm stance.

“I warned you,” Leon says and his eyes narrow. He concentrates on the android’s eyes as the implants in his brain collect a secret code locked away deep in his cerebrum. The data is sent to his Inter-Cranial transmitter and a signal manifests. The code transmits and the android goes limp. Leon turns to Dee and throws up his hands.

“Nothing to worry about. Idiots from the Zaibatsu have no idea we inserted phase-code into all android parts made on Earth. One proper thought and they shut off,” Leon says and extends his hand to pick her up from the soaked ground.

The golden gown, weighed with water, makes it difficult to stand as then she slaps Leon’s hand away and reaches for something at her feet.

“What are you doing?”

Shock wrinkles his face as Dee comes at him with a hand-sized piece of weathered cobblestone and he falls back to avoid the attack.

“What the…?” Leon yells as she hits a pile of leaves in a tumble.

Crack!

Surprised to find himself alive, he twists about to see another android tracker fall to the ground with its head split in two. Sparks fizzle and spout from the opening but soon only smoke rises.    

She wipes her hands on the front of her dress and extends her hand.

“You were saying something about idiots,” she says.

He pushes up off the ground and shrugs.

“Nice throw. Where’d you learn that?”

“Not in the Hyper-net,” she says.

Leon wipes wet leaves off the back of his dress shirt, now more of a translucent film than a formal garment, and takes hold of her waist. Their clothes become flattened with the weight of the rain and reveal their bodily curves.

“What would I do without you?” he asks.

“According to your father, a lot better,” she says and takes hold of his arms.

“He likes you. All that stuff he says is pure politics,” Leon says.

“But we can’t get married,” she says.

“According to the law, no, but that’s not going to stop me,” he says and kisses her a gentle kiss, a kiss that will linger in memory all his days.

The embrace ends as lightning cracks the tarnished sky with sharp halogen light.

“Let’s get to a building and scan for more tracker androids,” Leon says and they make their way out of the vegetation down a barren street to a dilapidated townhouse, bricks faded, vine-covered, but still with unbroken windows on the first floor.

In the second story, overlooking the street covered with the rusted-out hulls of ancient taxi cabs, Dee and Leon wave their way through a network of thick cobwebs toward an unbroken oval window. Floorboards creak and squeak underfoot with the seeming intention to betray their location. They clear away a space to hunker down leaving only wet footprints behind. A slat of gray light funneled by the oval window fades on the floor as the overcast sky darkens. A grimace stretches across Leon’s face.

“Eck. The air tastes like dirt and mildew,” he says and leans against the wall.

“The light is dying. You might want to scan for trackers now while I set up defenses,” she says.

“Your wish is my command.”

He lifts his arm. Water drips to the floor from his sleeve so he pulls it back and taps the interface.

“Topological real-time readout of our location and the surrounding square kilometer,” he says and a hologram projects from the wristband. The hologram fizzles and struggles to resolve so Leon shakes his wrist. A crisp map of the area appears in three-dimensions.

“Interface, scan for known robot and android EM signatures.”

Encircling the building hologram, five red dots appear and cinch closer millimeter by millimeter.

“Well, that isn’t pleasant. Going to need reinforcements. Could you step outside the door for a second while I uplink with my father?” he asks. She nods as a memory of Leon’s father shunning her at a dinner party floods in, but Dee steps outside and begins making a barricade across the stairs with broken chairs left behind from the age of disregard.

A deep breath steadies Leon’s mind as he closes his eyes and activates the communications implant in his parietal lobe. He sends a signal to his father. The communication thread uses the wristband interface as an uplink and transmits to a satellite in low Earth orbit. The signal bounces down to Tahiti and is processed by his father who is watching the sea from the top of a weathered bluff.

“Yes Leon,” says Mr. Mercurio to his son and the horizon.

“Father, I’m being pursued by what I think is a data-siphon android from the Zaibatsu. I’m in Toronto,” says Leon.

“I know where you are but why?” Mr. Mercurio asks.

“No time for that. I need our security forces from the lake compound now,” Leon says.

“Tell me.”

“Fine. I wanted to go to the charity ball and show Dee a good time since she’s never been to anything like it. I screwed up. Didn’t bring any security or a weapon because I didn’t think I needed it. Can I get some help now?” Leon asks

“The vehicle’s mishap and the androids were a test. They are shutting down now. Your honesty means you passed, but the whole excursion was a failure of judgment. You are to lead this family one day and can’t be taking risks like this,” Mr. Mercurio says.

“I am sorry, father. There will be no excuses,” Leon says.

“None would be accepted. And by the way, you owe me for the android your companion destroyed,” Mr. Mercurio says. Leon chuckles.

“She’s got a good arm. Give her a chance father, you’ll love her,” Leon says.

“It’s not about love, Leon. Now call for a transport,” Mr. Mercurio says and cuts off the signal uplink.

With fingers that are starting wrinkle from wetness, Leon scratches his nose and heads to the doorway. There, Dee is standing with her arms crossed.

“Let me guess, another test?” she asks as her lips tighten into a frown. He nods.

“Let’s go.”

The aero-transport took but a half hour to pick them up, but the storm blocked a direct flight path, so the vehicle’s engines vectored their thrust vertically and the ship hovers high above the raging clouds as they wait for a clearing so they can land in the lake country. The transport like a galleon anchored to the sun rises and falls in swells of air. Within, now relieved of their soaked garments and wrapped in a blanket, Dee and Leon hold each other on the bed in the small sleeping quarters. 

“This little adventure has me feeling a bit bold,” Leon says.

“And?” Dee asks.

“We have time, so why don’t we try you know what?”

“In reality?”

“Yes.”

“You know it’s different. In the Hyper-net, guys can come as many times as women but not in reality. You still want to?” 

“Let’s try.”

She slides her hand over and down beneath the blanket.

“I guess you are ready,” she says with a slight smile.

They start to kiss as Leon slips over and their body heat merges into one source. He lines up and tries to do in reality what he’s done thousands of time in the virtual world.

“Hey, too low,” she says. He stops and readjusts.

“Sorry,” he says and tries again.

“Hey! Too high.”

“Oh,” he says and tries again.

“Ouch. Stop it. Let me do it.”

“Oh. Sorry. Glad this isn’t being recorded.”           

The Sahara spreads its sun-scorched sterile embrace and the Great Pyramids sit at angles in the distance as they cast hard cornered shadows over the glittering sands. Under the rolling Egyptian dunes, an electromagnetically shielded complex called Archimedes spirals fifty meters below the heat mirages flowing across the land. The subterranean bunker, forty stories deep, is a place of well-kept secrets where illegal and failed experiments are tucked away in forgotten rooms lined with lead. Each of the levels is surrounded by an outer wall of energy absorbing concrete and the only way to escape is through a central elevator that connects each echelon to the surface but no one leaves unless allowed by Mistress Eveline.      

The Consciousness Laboratory on the fifth level is a room of consoles, data banks, holographic emitters, empty medical beds, view screens and android heads stacked in the corner.  The scent of vanilla drifts on warm soft air pumped in through the ventilation shafts and white halogen light scatters across the lab. A single human technician, bald as the moon, sits in front of his personal view screen while two androgynous androids tall as any aristocrat stand motionless next to him. Their unblinking amethyst eyes stare forward at the view screen that gleams with energy readouts from the latest experiment. The technician turns to the android on his left while he yawns a yawn that has been building all morning and then looks up.         

“So, any good jokes today Android A?” he asks.

The android shakes his head twice.

“Oh well, but please download a few for tomorrow,” he says and the android nods three times.

“Better check the shield,” he says, turns back to his console, and taps a blue button on the desktop’s holo-emitter plate. The underground complex resolves from top to bottom and a red bubble blooms to covers the holographic image that begins to rotate in mid-air.

“The EM masking bubble hasn’t popped. Good. After the Great Reconstruction, eyes are everywhere Android A. Now back to the experiment,” he says and looks at his view screen where a writhing mass of white digital tendrils now coils into a tight ball. The mass then triples in size and begins to resemble a human brain. The technician surveys the absorption rate at the bottom of the monitor and the indicator is red. He looks to the corner of the screen with the experiment’s title.

“A.U.M.  Autonomous Universal Mind.  I knew this one was going to be trouble. Look how fast it’s growing Android A. Better tell the boss,” he says and spins around in his chair.  

“Homunculus, please open a secure channel to Mistress Eveline,” he says.

“Certainly, Technician Riggs and please eat something soon. Your metabolic nannites are telling me your blood sugar is low. The channel is now active,” the complex’s artificial intelligence says through the intercom. 

 “I’m sorry to bother you Mistress Eveline but the infiltration AI is growing much faster than anticipated. What should I do?” he asks.

Down in the tenth echelon, the mistress of the laboratory sits in an ivory chamber of smooth round walls with her eyes closed. Not fully human, she opens her ancient green eyes that are surrounded by the fresh face of a little girl with flowing locks like spun cinnamon candy.

“Leave it,” she says and closes her eyes, “let the program run without boundaries. It is as I planned.”

Back in the lab, the technician bows his head and says, “Yes mistress, as you wish.”    

Down in the mistress’s chamber, she waves her almost transparent hand and a view screen rises from the floor and activates.

“Soon the mistakes will be erased, but for now, let’s see what that pesky clan Mercurio is up to. I think today they should come into trouble. Perhaps a war to destroy them all would be the most prudent measure to secure my plan. Homunculus, are you listening?” she asks.

“Of course, mistress,” Homunculus says through the intercom.

“Secure link enact. Open a nanometer hole in the EM shield so I can access my spies in the sky,” she says.

“As you wish mistress,” Homunculus says and a tiny hole opens in the shield and Eveline gets a live video feed streaming on her view screen.

“Show me the Mercurio’s compound,” she orders.  

The optics of a spy satellite high in geosynchronous orbit focuses on the South Pacific but has difficulty peering through the early morning clouds obscuring its target. The skies below clear and the lens zooms in on Tahiti magnifying the Mercurio’s shoreline citadel known as the White Palace. The satellite begins to transmit and record the island’s activities.    

The soft Tahitian sunrise scatters waves of thin light across the rough emerald surf that crashes in foamy curls onto the island’s eastern shore. The light filters under the domed canopy of a patio sitting high on a rocky cliff where the cloisters of the main residence and a vacant lot meet.  Here the head of the clan and his mirror image son eat breakfast. In partial shade, the son touches his knife down on the rim of his porcelain plate with a delicate chime and closes his eyes. He takes in a deep breath of salty air and listens to the surf below and the gulls above. 

A moment of peace hangs in the sifted illumination and the father chews his poached egg on toast points. He pivots his head to gaze upon the lush vegetation of the nearby garden rolling in the humid breeze. The moment breaks as the sound of sentry robots rolling up to the solar charging platform rumbles on the nearby stone path. 

“Father,” the son says and picks up his fork.

“Yes,” the father says and puts his fork down.

“Why did the architect put the solar charging station so close to where we eat breakfast?”

“We all must eat. Human and machine alike.”

“They charge. We eat,” the son says, sits back, and runs his fingers through his dark hair.

“We all consume. Anyway, that is the best location for them to capture the early sun and they need to recharge quickly. Don’t want to be caught off guard,” the father says and waves his hand. Two android waiters with rubbery faces exit the kitchen and make their way down the courtyard’s hedge-lined path to retrieve the leftovers.

“Did you see what the United Planet Government’s PR ministers said on the Hyper-net?” the son asks.

“Yes, couldn’t miss those jesters of the Great House Council ringing in the New Year with a message of peace and prosperity for the entire Terran system. Guess they didn’t bother to mention the escalating tensions between economic clans here on Earth,” the father says

“It’s the year one hundred forty-seven and still the twenty million residents of this system are kept in the dark,” the son says

“How little some things change for mankind.  Before we discuss your business Denis, please do a sensory sweep,” the father says.

“Yes sir,” Denis says and snaps his finger.

A metallic disc descends down from the dome above on a magnetic cushion and begins to rotate in the middle of the table. A holographic matrix is emitted.  

 “Can’t be too careful these days especially after finding that jellyfish probe wandering off our shore,” the father says.

“It’s still sending the false signal we programmed but we have yet to track the source,” Denis says.

“Good. We’ll nab them soon.”

“Yes father,” Denis says, closes his eyes, sends an activation thought-signal, and speaks to the spinning disc, “Command hologram. Sensor sweep air then water.”

A high-pitched buzz permeates the island as thousands of robotic dragonflies launch from nesting sites in the forest canopy and scatter across the island. The dragonflies link up and cast a signal net that scans for unusual life signs and technology from the cragged volcanic mountains of Tahiti Nui down to the shores of Tahiti Iti. A swarm forms over the isthmus where the White Palace occupies parts of the old town of Taravao and the robots tightens their signal net. 

A hologram of the island now burns as cold, coherent light above the spinning disc and a grid appears.  There are no blinking red lights indicating anomalies. The hologram dissolves like a sandcastle being swept away by the receding tide. 

“Nothing on land.  Let’s see what’s underwater,” Denis says.

Underneath the growing swells surrounding the island, dolphins with plastic skin and metal bones echo-locate like their living counterparts through the dark abyss. One odd geometric figure rocking in the waves, half-buried in sand, triggers a secondary response by the marine sentries. The robots swim out and set up a perimeter. Linking up while rising and falling in the water column, they approach the shore and scan. The data relays.

A hologram of the shoreline flickers above the spinning disc and a red flashing dot shows the object of interest. Denis touches the dot.

“Visual please,” he says.

A solo marine sentry zigzags under the frothing surf as the sunlight disperses in the warm saltwater down to the half-submerged object. An image of a white plastic rectangular container resolves between the men. They both lean in to get a closer look.   “Does that say Karl’s Kitty Litter?” Denis asks.

“Why yes. Yes, it does.”

“Even after a century of cleaning the oceans, we still get garbage popping up,” Denis says.

“If the gamma ray burst hit us, it couldn’t destroy Karl’s Kitty Litter,” the father says and winks.

Denis crosses his arms and shakes his head. The left side of his face glows in the early light and his father looks at him with a subdued smile. He is proud that his son is so handsome, but wishes it didn’t get him into so much trouble. The father takes the last sip of his orange juice in a fluted crystal glass and hands it to the servant android.  For a second, the crashing waves are silent, and Leon hears the servo-motors grind in the android’s fingers and thinks he will replace the gears with polymer muscles when he gets a chance. The father takes a deep inhale of salt-laden air and rests his forearms on the cool beveled edge of the table.         

“So why did you want to meet me this morning?” the father asks and tilts his chin upward.

“I would like your blessing on the project,” Denis says and bows his head.

“You don’t need it. You have permission,” the father says.

The son’s hands smack down on the table rattling the silverware.

“You give Leon your blessing so easily yet when I…”

“Don’t raise your voice to me boy.”

“I am sorry, father. Forgive me.”

“That I will do.”

The call of the gulls riding the thermal air currents above casts down as the sentry robots extend their solar panels and sip in the light on the recharging platform.  Forks clang on porcelain. Around their water glasses, refracted light stream in circle rainbows on the white marble tabletop. The father looks at the son and the son looks away from his father.

“Honestly Denis, what you’ve done scares me, but the family voted and we need the potential profits to help pay for the plan to safeguard our lineage,” he says and wipes the corner of his mouth with the tip of a cotton napkin.     

“Soon, we’ll have all the money we need. My variant was placed into the population and the program will work. I helped design it,” Denis says and hands his plate to the service android.

“Reminds me of the World Wide Mind. I don’t like it. If any evidence gets out, the Zaibatsu will attack us again and with conventional weapons, not some Hyper-net assault like last time,” the father says and bites his lower lip.

“But father we…”

“No, we can’t. It feels like I’m losing you both to this chaos,” he says and begins to rub his eyes to shield the tears from his son.

“You’re not losing anything. Father, please trust me. When it’s over we can make the rules,” Denis says. His father takes a stout breath and wipes his eyes.

“I hope so. Be careful. Promise me,” he says.

“I will father. Our enemies will never know. We will win this war before it begins.”     

 “War is the worst of human inventions.”      

 A satellite in low earth orbit sends a signal to the father’s Intra-Cranial implant informing him of sabotage at one of their research facilities in Canada. A long-time clan ally from the Pioneer Group died in the explosion. The father’s eyes narrow with anger. His brow furrows as the offshore wind picks up and dries the sweat from his forehead with a cool touch.  Denis’s face tightens with curiosity and he sends a thought-signal to the Control Nexus implant in his brain. The nexus signals the micro-machine nannites in his endocrine system.  They flood his body with Cortisol to prepare for danger.   

“What?” Denis asks.

“It seems the war has already begun.”

Denis nods, wipes his mouth with a napkin, and places it in a crumpled ball on the marble table.  

Bloodlines and time flow from the past but could soon come to an end on Earth.  


Chapter 2 will be available next week.

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