by Donna S. Frelick
In the course of promoting my latest novel in my contemporary SFR series, Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4, I’ve talked a lot about how contemporary SFR turns a protagonist’s “cozy” world upside down. Or the difficulty of writing authentically about dementia or therapy dogs (both of which figure prominently in this story). But I haven’t yet addressed a key aspect of this story and one of its more intriguing characters: artificial intelligence and sentient machines.
BiN (a rubric for Binary Nanoplex) is part machine, part biological construct, a creation of the alien slave-trading Minertsans. It was created to serve the needs of the Empire, in particular those of the slave trade, now under threat from both outside the Empire (from abolitionist Rescue fighters) and inside (from those who would give up the old ways). The machine/creature was made to be super-intelligent, in fact, to use information in digital form as its lifeblood. Because of this, BiN poses the ultimate threat to the free galaxy.
But even its creators could not predict the development of the creature’s intellect and the final direction of its thoughts. In this excerpt, the telepathic Thrane half-brothers Gabriel Cruz and Trevyn Dar encounter BiN’s mind as they approach a showdown with the Minertsans in a distant sector of space.
Excerpt from Not Fade Away
—Who are you?
Trevyn froze, his body motionless, his mind silent, waiting. He could sense that Gabriel had done the same. No one—no thing—should have been able to intrude on their conversation. Their connection was inviolate, a thread born with them in the womb, as essential and unique as their DNA. It was impossible.
And yet the presence made itself felt again. How are you here? With me? No one comes here. I am alone unless the Creator speaks with me.
Trevyn could sense the creature’s—for it was a sentient being, not a computer-generated voice he was hearing—excitement, its astonishment. We often speak to each other this way. I am Trevyn. The other is my brother, Gabriel. He put aside any questions he had about how the creature had found them. That was no longer important. On the emotional plane he shared with his sibling, he sensed agreement.
—Do you have a name? Gabriel asked.
—My Creator calls me BiN.
The full text appeared in Trevyn’s mind—Bi[nary] N[anoplex].
—You are Thrane?
—Yes, Gabriel answered. How did you know?
—You are not like the Creator, or the slaves, or the guards. There is much data available about your race. Your minds are not as anticipated, however.
Trevyn asked, though he thought he already knew the answer. How so?
—Thrane history relates many incidents of extreme violence, betrayal and greed. The planet had an extensive bloody imperial period in which it attempted to invade and rule its more peaceful neighbors until the Imperial Fleet was defeated by Consys Forces at the Battle of Zortan in the reign of Emperor Galt II. Even now—
—Thank you, BiN. We are aware of our planet’s history, Trevyn interrupted. We do not condone the acts of our ancestors. My brother and I have sworn to defend the innocent throughout the galaxy.
He felt a squeeze of warning from Gabriel at the deepest level of their connection. But what was much more fascinating, he felt a wave of conflicting emotion from the creature—guilt, shame, confusion. And, perhaps, a tiny spark of hope.
—It is possible to escape the past, then? To atone for past mistakes with good deeds in the present?
There was a long pause before Gabriel answered. Some acts of atonement require greater sacrifice. Some require the ultimate sacrifice.
—You mean of self, BiN replied.
There was another long silence. Trevyn kept his mind empty, free of images or words that would suggest anything to the creature.
—Are you here to destroy me? A wave of deep sadness washed through Trevyn’s mind from the creature, and a loneliness as vast as the space beyond his ship.
His brother’s weary sympathy rose up in reply. Will you make it necessary?
About Not Fade Away
Earth shielded his secrets–
Until her love unlocked his heart.
Rescue agent Rafe Gordon is human, though Earth has never been his home. But when his legendary father Del becomes the target of alien assassins, Rafe must hide the dementia-debilitated hero in the small mountain town where the old man was born—Masey, North Carolina, USA, Earth.
Home care nurse Charlie McIntyre and her therapy dog, Happy, have never had such challenging clients before. Del’s otherworldly “episodes” are not explained by his diagnosis, making Charlie question everything about her mysterious charge and his dangerously attractive son. Rafe has the answers she needs, but Charlie will have to break through his wall of secrets to get them.
As the heat rises between Charlie and Rafe, the deadly alien hunters circle closer. The light they seek to extinguish flickers in the gloom of Del’s fading mind—the memory of a planet-killer that threatens to enslave the galaxy.
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About the Author
Donna S. Frelick has been a journalist, a Peace Corps Volunteer and an author of STAR TREK fan fiction. She was an RWA® Golden Heart® Double Finalist in 2012 for the first two novels in her contemporary SFR Interstellar Rescue series, and a 2016 SFR Galaxy Award Winner for the third book in the series, Fools Rush In.
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12203924.Donna_S_Frelick
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