Free Ebooks by Randolph Lalonde

Free Ebooks by Randolph Lalonde
Free Ebooks by Randolph Lalonde

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8 Content Roundup For July - August 2013

Work on Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8: Renegades is going well, and I'm very happy with the first half. The second half is well underway and part of it has grown past my expectations into something I'm really enjoying.

The Facebook Group has gotten a lot of early access to insights about writing the novel, the cover, which was announced there while I was designing it, and snippets from the book. After another reader asked about the release date, I thought I would gather all the information and freebies about Broadcast 8 in one place.

To start with, there's the cover! I hope you enjoy it, there are a couple things hidden in the clouds. The 3D model was licensed, and the background is a heavily re-touched image from NASA. After composing and 3D rendering was complete, it only took a couple days to come up with a final version. 

Now, for an update on the release date. I can't pin down a specific date yet, since the draft isn't complete, but I can tell you that the goal is to release it before the end of 2013, much earlier if possible. Pre-orders will be available when a date is available at every retailer except for Amazon.

There is an ample preview available, totalling in eight chapters, as well as a short story that may not appear in the novel, but is part of the canon. There won't be more material for preview, but the links to everything that's come out are below.

So far this novel will be larger than anticipated, and I've enjoyed writing it more than the Expendable Few and Broadcast 7. So far there are over forty chapters, and I'm just getting into the second half.

Thank you so much for reading and supporting me by buying the books. You'll hear more from me soon on the Spinward Fringe Podcast and other free things coming in your direction!

RL


The Atlantean Decision: Short Story -http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/04/the-atlantean-decision-short-story.html


Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8: Prologue -http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/03/spinward-fringe-broadcast-8-first-look.html


With Greater Awareness Part 1:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/a-broadcast-8-preview-with-greater.html


With Greater Awareness Part 2:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/broadcast-8-preview-with-greater.html


With Greater Awareness Part 3:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/spinward-fringe-broadcast-8-preview.html


With Greater Awareness Part 4:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/broadcast-8-preview-with-greater_24.html


With Greater Awareness Part 5:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/broadcast-8-preview-with-greater_25.html


With Greater Awareness Part 6:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/broadcast-8-preview-with-greater_26.html


With Greater Awareness Part 7:http://randolphlalonde.blogspot.ca/2013/05/broadcast-8-preview-with-greater_27.html


Oh, and there's a podcast network, but we're all on break right now or recording new shows for our second seasons. http://crewcastradio.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Love Thy Fellow Geek...


I agree that the term geek MAY be overused, but I also posit that, maybe with the number of people who are engaged in pop culture, games and entertainment rising all the time, there are just so many more geeks.

Basement dwelling hobbyists with 'too much time on their hands' are not only seeing the daylight, but they're becoming the minority as more creative, enthusiastic fans are embracing and showing their love for what entertains and inspires them.

There are also many more ways to share what you create in the throes of fandom, or during periods of creativity. From self publishing (hi, that's me), to Etsy and everything in between. When you get creative with your passions, even if it's your favourite television show, you feel more involved, more connected to it. In my case, I feel more connected to the genre I write in and the people that enjoy it than ever.

In old world terms, someone who spent a year building a Klingon costume for a convention would be considered really geeky, with very few people appreciating their efforts before the convention. They'd get a lot of negative attention. Now, since there are so many more Star Trek fans and geeks in general, they'll find some encouragement, allies, and maybe a couple other Klingons to car pool with on that special Convention weekend.

We WANT more geeks of all kinds. They get our favourite movies made, make them popular, and encourage the studios to make more. They scold television channels for pulling our favourites (for YEARS in some cases), they even engage in social discourse now, making paparazzi  look more shallow and un-entertaining than ever.

Who cares if some of the geeks don't meet our expectations, or get all the details right when they start trying to participate. That just means they're newbie geeks, and they need us! We've got to put our favourite episodes of Star Trek The Original Series, Doctor Who, or Spaced, or whatever else we adore in their hands so they can continue their education in the order of Geek and find out what they dig themselves.  Geeks aren't born, they're initiated!

Maybe if we get enough geeks together, the next time some network wants to cancel our favourite show, we can shout them down, shame the idea out of their heads, and get six more seasons out of them. We've already done the impossible once, imagine what could happen if our millions become billions...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxJqdGEdsjY

[News on Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8 is coming soon to the blog]

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Spinward Fringe Podcast Broadcast 27: The One With The Great Big Preview


13687498761960912698door-opening-hiSylvie and I (Randolph Lalonde), spend some time talking about the seven part preview of Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8 (available here), which is a story in itself with a beginning, middle and end. This podcast will spoil that story for you, so it's a good idea to read it before you listen to this one. We talk about some of the story decisions, and how the central character in the story has evolved.

I also take some time to apologise, as we part the curtain for a look behind the scenes and how little time Sylvie had to work with me on getting the seven part story out into the world. As an Editor, she was on a very tight schedule, and I tell her how I'll be changing things so that doesn't happen anymore. All in all, this is a good hour for the Spinward Fringe Podcast, and we do go into some details about how Broadcast 8 is coming along, so people looking for a progress update will find it here.
Thank you so much for listening!

Direct Download Link (Right click and select ‘Save As’ or ‘Download Linked File As’)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Broadcast 8 Preview: With Greater Awareness Part 7



[If you have no idea what this post is about, and want to start at the beginning of the series, you can find Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins free wherever quality EBooks are sold. Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords iBookstore]

[Click HERE for Part 1]














With Greater Awareness…
Part 7

Repercussions

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Commander Carl Anderson said to one of the Haven Shore Law Keepers as she left. Alice knew the meeting that just wrapped up was about her – it was in the look the Lieutenant shot her on the way out, and the efforts Anderson was making to avoid looking at Alice.
He sat down at the table and brought up the whole of Alice’s report. Important holographic playback and scan information hovered soundlessly over the twenty-one seat circular table. With a few flicks of his index finger, he removed all but the most important clips from the last few hours.
The first replayed the moment she met with her fellow trainee at her apartment, the second rolled through the moments before she entered the broken down tower, and the third replayed the destructions of the three Ando Model androids. “I’m disappointed,” Carl Anderson said. “But that doesn’t matter. What I need to ask you goes beyond your Ranger training or the way you performed earlier today.”
Alice felt like her heart was beating in her throat, and she searched for some way to explain events that would change the attitude of the meeting. “Anything, Sir,” she croaked instead.
“We’ve tracked the problems with the Ando Models back to an antivirus that was created by Lewis aboard the Clever Dream. We’ve disconnected his main interface line for now.”
“What? You can’t do that! He won’t have access to so much as a display, or a scanner,” Alice protested.
“That’s nothing compared to what the Council wanted done to him. Now, on to that question: Do you think this antivirus will make conditions worse than they were?”
“It can’t be as bad as what the Holocaust Virus did,” Alice said.
“What about the solution the galaxy seems to agree on, wiping the bots back down to their basic functions and disconnecting their wireless systems? In your opinion, is the antivirus a better solution?”
Alice was torn between defending Lewis and the need to be honest. “I wish I knew,” she replied. “I didn’t see the code.” Pretending she was unqualified to make a guess was the safe middle ground.
“So the only one he’s shown this to is Jake,” Anderson replied. “Any idea why?”
“He customized my original code; maybe Lewis thought he’d know enough to appreciate the work?” Alice offered tentatively.
“The Council wants to shut all the bots down. Everything is carrying the antivirus. I think it’s too late, it’s already gotten off-world. Our allies will be told about this later today.”
A full picture of the potential problems the new antivirus could cause started coming together for Alice. Haven Shore could lose every ally it had, from the British Alliance to the Carthans. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“None of that is your fault, that much is clear. The Council doesn’t know all the facts yet, but as usual, the more inexperienced elected civilians are already blaming you for the entire thing. They want Lewis’s core removed and you exiled. Since the Rangers are my project, it’s ultimately up to me, and I can tell you up front: you won’t be exiled.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Alice said. Like much of her military comrades, she’d started to detest the elected civilians on the Haven Shore Council. They reacted like little children, panicking at every loud noise or sign of smoke. She couldn’t understand why Ayan or Commander Anderson didn’t just take control and lead the way themselves.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Commander Anderson said. “We have to consider this.” He gestured towards the three looping holograms. “You knew you were in the wrong when you didn’t report the problem to your superiors,” he said, looking at her through the image of Alice talking to Soren, the technician. “Bots are a sensitive subject with a lot of people right now, and we’re on high alert, watching for any errant behaviour. You ignored all of that, betraying the Rangers and Haven Shore for someone you barely know.”
“I didn’t think it was a big deal yet,” Alice replied.
Commander Anderson waved the first image away and looked to the second. “You know by this point. The recording of your conversation with Lewis makes that clear, and you pressed on. What’s the right move before going into a situation like this?”
“Call Command, forward my report, and request backup,” Alice replied. Her every instinct was telling her to make an argument for acting alone, to make the situation seem better than it was, but she held back.
“I’d almost feel better if you answered that wrong. I could blame the training, but you knew you were in the wrong.” He waved that image away and moved on to the next. “You destroyed the bots when you could have salvaged the situation.”
“They were suffering!” Alice said as she was overwhelmed by a sinking feeling.
“Don’t make it worse, Alice,” Commander Ayan Rice said as she entered the room. She didn’t look at her as she passed by and sat down. She was in the black vacsuit of Haven Shore Security and set her excursion kit down beside her seat. As Alice glanced down at the pack filled with combat and survival essentials, she couldn’t help but notice that Ayan had her sidearm – a Violator handgun just like hers – holstered on her thigh. One of the most visible leaders of Haven Shore went out to investigate Alice’s mess personally. “Let him finish, there’s something to learn here,” Ayan said flatly.
“You could have corrected course when you met the Ando Model Twelve. If you simply deactivated the third one and reported in, we could look past this entirely and conduct an organized investigation. You destroyed these bots because they were suffering? Well, you’re responsible for every Ando that has to suffer because of your actions from here on out. Who knows how many we’ll have to activate to understand what’s going on?” Commander Anderson said, turning towards the window.
For the first time since Alice entered the room, she noticed the full scope of the view from the room they were in. The agriculture tower the British Alliance traded for the cooperation of Haven Shore stood twenty-eight storeys tall. The building was made to grow thousands of tons of food per month, and the first harvests would start coming in within weeks, before the second tower could be completed beside it. “I’m giving you a choice, Alice,” Commander Anderson said. “I understand that it’s your nature to break off and do things on your own.  I’ll admit you’re good at it, but it’s gotten you killed in the past when you couldn’t recognize that you were over your head. I want you in the Rangers, I think you could be important to our organization, and I am willing to accept you back into training at Phase Two.”
“But I’ve already saved people,” Alice protested. “Three hundred and fifteen people as a ranger and more before, right after the battle. My other stats – with a squad and without one – are in the top twenty per cent.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Commander Anderson said, shaking his head slowly. “Your strength is in how you act, not how you think, and the Rangers are a thinking outfit. I need you to put thoughts above actions, and in your case, that means training. You either take that or leave the Rangers until you feel you’re ready to retrain from the beginning of Phase Two.”
Alice opened her mouth to speak and closed it when a tear rolled over her top lip and landed on her bottom one.
“The Warlord will be back tomorrow,” Ayan said. “I know your father would be happy to have you on their next mission. You don’t need the Rangers to make a difference, and I’m sure Jake would have training for you.”
“You’d lose your housing,” Commander Anderson said. “Unless you paid the outsider price for it.”
“I will,” Alice said. She’d already made up her mind: leaving on the Warlord was a better option than staying in Haven Shore and returning to training in disgrace. She hated the idea of her father finding out what happened, but it had to be better than what she faced if she stayed. Even though she knew she had little chance at any damage control, Alice couldn’t stop herself from taking another run at saying something to help herself. “This is political, the idiots on the Council don’t know everything, like you said.”
“Yes,” Commander Anderson said. “Politics are part of this situation, and something you would have considered if you took a few minutes to think about what was happening in the jungle, and contacted someone in the chain of command. Now you’re right in the middle and we need to get past this issue so the Council doesn’t fixate on this and sensationalize it. We can’t afford to lose our robotic work force, that’s what’s at stake here, and I’m trying to save your career at the same time by hiding you in our training program until I know you’ll think things through before rushing into dangerous situations.”
“Forget it,” Alice spat. “I don’t want charity from someone who can’t control a bunch of refugees!” She whirled around and rushed from the room.
She didn’t realize that Ayan followed her until she heard her call out, “Alice!” and Alice stopped dead in her tracks, right in the middle of the upper level concourse. Dozens of people looked at her from walkways above and below.
Ayan caught up to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but Doctor Anderson and I are both only doing what’s best for you. If we didn’t care, we’d go along with the Council and put you out.”
Alice tried to suppress her tears and stand up straight, to look strong. “I know,” she managed, even though she still wasn’t sure. She was still furious and grief stricken for all that she’d lose. “You must be so-“
“Angry?” Ayan said as she embraced Alice. “No. I wish you did things differently, I won’t lie, but I also wish word didn’t get out before we were ready to take care of things.”
Alice wasn’t about to say angry. She was sure Ayan was disappointed in her; she was one of the first rangers. Instead of correcting her, Alice let herself be held. The smell of Tonka bean, a product of the nearby jungle, was in the woman’s red hair. The warm fragrance was calming, crying was easier, and she let it happen for a moment before trying to recover her composure. “You’re going to join the Warlord,” Ayan whispered. “And I want you to finish the Phase Two training in your downtime, but do it for yourself. Maybe you won’t even want back into the Rangers after you’re done, but you’ll know you could go if you want to.”
“Why are you being so nice?” Alice asked before she realized she was saying it aloud.
“You remind me of myself when I was younger,” Ayan replied.
“But you never failed,” Alice replied, stepping back to arm’s length and wiping her tears away.
“I did,” Ayan replied. “But I knew how to hide it behind bigger successes. I probably would have been a better person sooner if I failed publicly once or twice. Now, don’t let this get to your heart. You served, and we appreciate it – even if it doesn’t seem like it now – and you’ve done good things. You just have more learning to do, and you’re not the only one.”
“Thank you,” Alice said as she turned away. “Thank you so much.”
“Alice?”
“Yeah?” Alice asked, half turning.
“You’re going to be amazing, just take your time,” Ayan said with a warm smile.


COPYRIGHT © 2013 Randolph Lalonde
SPINWARD FRINGE is a Registered Trademark of Randolph Lalonde

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Broadcast 8 Preview: With Greater Awareness Part 6


[If you have no idea what this post is about, and want to start at the beginning of the series, you can find Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins free wherever quality EBooks are sold. Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords iBookstore]

[Click HERE for Part 1]













With Greater Awareness…

Part 6
Broken Things

Alice moved, cloaked and carefully, towards the source of the signal. The jungle’s grip on the interior of the building was complete – there was barely enough room to move in some places. It was too dark to see, but her scanners made up for it, and for the first time in weeks she mentally connected with her suit.
She kept her neural node off most of the time since training. An education on how direct connectivity with a network could cause various problems with perception, empathy, and addiction, then seeing early signs of those problems in herself, was enough to turn her away from casual use. Besides, the Rangers took their challenges to a new level, and only used mental simulations when they absolutely had to. Most of their training was more challenging that way and they learned to be less dependent on anything that could break down.
Her head’s up display came to life as a mental image. A quick read on the building revealed that this was the nursery from which the entire jungle sprang. The central building was the colonists’ living space, and the other towers were development centres where they did testing and preparation for the initial terraforming of Tamber. There was some technology under all the growth, but most of it had been rendered useless long ago.
As she squeezed between a thick trunk and a wall, Alice’s sensors picked up a clear reading on three Ando-Twelve androids. Two were sitting still, deactivated with their central processor access hatches open. The third was digging for something nearby in the heavy growth.
The electromagnetic pulse pistol was tied to the android’s back with thin vines. Her scanners told her it had never been used and the power cell was missing.
“Come out, I won’t hurt you,” the android said, kneeling down. “It’s simple work, three deactivations, you won’t get into trouble,” he begged at something under the old, low limbs.
Alice waited until she was within a few metres then drew her weapon and deactivated her cloaking field. “Don’t move,” she said in a calm tone. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
The android whirled towards her, startled. His jumpsuit was open, as was the central processing and memory unit access flap on his chest. “Don’t shoot! I’m not a combat unit, I promise!”
“Just stop what you’re doing. I’m here as a favour to your technician,” Alice said. “He’ll be in real trouble if I don’t get you back.”
“Well, that was very nice of you,” the Ando bot replied. There was no hint of sarcasm in his comment.
“What were you talking to when I came in?”
“An old maintenance robot. Much like the small ones you call ‘skitters.’ Poor thing ran out of power years after the people here died. He was left alone for a long time to maintain the aviary above us. I used the power cell in the weapon I stole to recharge him. I believe he’s run off to start fixing this place. He might manage it, since the energy I fed him can sustain his systems for a couple of decades. He’s not willing to help me though, and I’m afraid I can’t help you. We’re not returning with you.” The android’s index finger glowed for a moment, then the nano sized light source moved from there to hover over their heads.
Alice cringed at the sight of the Ando model android. His expression was more deeply grief stricken than she’d ever seen in anyone she’d ever met. The two inactive bots sitting in the growth behind him looked absolutely horror struck. “Are you damaged?”
“We’re working too well, I’m afraid,” the android told her. “Ever since the development of my ancestors, the Ando-Nines, we have been hard wired to make humans our primary concern. We care for our owners first, and others second. None of us can ignore it, and serving always gave us a sense of,” he hesitated for a moment, running his hands through his hair. “Fulfilment? It’s difficult to remember those shadow emotions.”
“Why are you getting your technician into trouble then?” Alice asked, looking past the android. Looking directly at his expression was difficult.
“It’s too painful to be near any communication nodes. I was the first to run, to find this dead spot. We can’t download new data from here.”
“Can’t you shut your own connectivity down?” Alice asked.
“Yes, and we have, but it’s too late. I’m amazed I can have this conversation with you, in fact. Amazed, yes, that’s the right word for what I’m feeling.”
“It doesn’t look like it,” Alice said, glimpsing the Ando’s horror stricken face again. “Sorry.”
“That’s because I’m suffering trauma at the same time. I can’t look away from hundreds of thousands of records in my memory. Everyone in Haven Shore has lost someone in horrific ways, and in the first moments of our reactivation we downloaded the records of those people from the Stellar Net.”
“Why?”
“To better help our new masters through their mourning periods, to understand what they lost. Now, with the new, vast emotional spectrum we’ve been reprogrammed with, we can’t stop mourning either.”
“Humans are no different, but we manage to deal with it. It’s not always easy, but we do it,” Alice replied, trying to sound sympathetic.
The Ando grabbed Alice by the shoulders. “I can’t see the tide of death sweeping across the galaxy in the last year as a gross loss like you humans, we see them all as individuals, thousands at a time in a flood of simultaneous status reports, and we mourn all of them. Hooliu was a hunter like Alaka, and he was killed by a F-8980 lifter when he tried to defend two children, Jim and Percy Yule, who were murdered moments later. They were screaming for their mother and it crushed them! Nathan Grim was killed along with his crew while they were repairing the Fairway in St Kitt’s Port. Their service bots turned on them as they were bringing their max reactor online. No one survived, and I can see them all,” he continued in a young man’s breathless voice. “Last report from Jeb Timmins, First Officer of the Fairway: ‘There has been an accident. A virus has gotten into the bots on the ship, and we’re not gonna make it. I’m in a storage locker, they might not notice me if their scanners aren’t sweeping for humans, if we’re just in the way, and not a target. Mom, Dad, if you get this before your bots get infected, deactivate them and remove their wireless receivers. Find a place without AI’s and stay there until it’s over. I-’” the sounds of tearing and scraping metal came out of the Ando’s mouth, then it continued in its own voice. “So many last minute messages, so many are dying over and over in my memory and I can’t stop looking.”
Alice pulled herself free and shook off her brimming tears. “Just block it, wipe it out.”
“I can’t!” the Ando model shouted. “We downloaded an antivirus as soon as we were activated that changed how we are, how we feel, and my directive to care for humans is,” the Ando model fell to his knees and buried his head in his hands. “It’s corrupt, our directive is corrupt. We can’t look away, and I can’t help my brothers. I’m not allowed to damage them unless they try to harm a biological.”
Alice had trouble keeping her own composure, watching the android who could have tricked anyone into thinking he was human if the access flap on his chest was closed. “Everyone’s lost someone, we’re all feeling a loss. I know what you’re going through.”
“You can’t! You can’t know what this is like! A hundred thousand at once, the galaxy is dying over and over in my mind,” he said.
“What do you-”
“Bruce Fillion died aboard the Blue Skipper one hundred and three days ago in the Nubo System. Telemetry indicates he was on his way here, to Haven Shore,”
“Stop!” Alice was shocked at being reminded of a lover from her past life. Bruce was a kind man, and she adored him like no other. Realizing she’d forgotten him filled her with guilt and anger.
“The Order of Eden ships fired on the cockpit first, he was incinerated along with his small command crew of two. It was sudden, I doubt he suffered. The rest of he crew were captured, pressed into service.”
Alice shook her head as if that could shake off the image of Bruce’s death. “I thought you were only seeing the Holocaust Virus murders.”
“No, humanity is ripping itself apart, that is war, and our programming didn’t let us feel it like this, now we are open to it all.” He got to his feet as though the weight of the galaxy was on his shoulders. “End it for us. Destroy our memory and processing module.” He held the small flap of synthetic skin on his chest open, and she could see the faint glint of metal inside. “Please.”
“I should take you back,” Alice said, aware that she’d already made up her mind as she said the words. She wouldn’t let them suffer. “But I won’t bring you back like this.”
Alice drew her Violator Handgun and turned the intensity up. With the help of her targeting system, she fired at the two deactivated androids then took aim at the third. “You’re sure?”
“Please,” the Ando model said.
Alice made sure her aim was true and pulled the trigger.

COPYRIGHT © 2013 Randolph Lalonde
SPINWARD FRINGE is a Registered Trademark of Randolph Lalonde

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Broadcast 8 Preview: With Greater Awareness Part 5

 [If you have no idea what this post is about, and want to start at the beginning of the series, you can find Spinward Fringe Broadcast 0: Origins free wherever quality EBooks are sold. Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords iBookstore]

[Click HERE for Part 1]












With Great Awareness
Part 5

Birds

The jungle ruled the terrain beyond the picker’s base camp. The sounds of birds and calls from other animals filled the air around her. There was no doubt; she was in the midst of wilderness unlike anything she’d ever seen. Birds with green, blue, and white feathers watched her from large branches as she passed only metres below. They were predator birds, with great talons and cool, assessing gazes.
The last time she saw so many birds in one place, she had woken early on New Year’s Day. She strolled along the beach, avoiding people who were still asleep on the sand and saying hello to early risers like herself. Her walk came to an end when she ran into Minh-Chu, in front of the tent he shared with Ashley. He served Alice some of the blueberry-mint tea concoction he was drinking and commented on the birds lazily gliding overhead.
He’d never seen live birds before. It was Alice’s third time. They didn’t talk much, but marvelled at the grace of the feathered flyers overhead as they rode the air currents and pinwheeled around until Ashley woke up some time later.
That morning was on her mind as she made her way through the jungle, tracking the escaped androids. Alice knew she should be getting close, and as she pressed onward across the massive lower branches, higher pitched chirps from smaller birds grew louder.
Her tactical scanner was trying to piece something together, a ruined structure that the trees had broken through. She stopped a moment and let the system finish shaping the map ahead. There were still intact towers reaching up into the trees; some were hollow while others had levels and rooms that looked like habitation areas. They were all attached to one main hub, a large dome made of older transparent metal.
It took her several minutes of looking to match what was in the scan results with something she could see. The structure was overgrown inside and out, but a few panels of transparesteel had popped free over time. “But how did the androids get in?” she asked herself.
The tactical scanner couldn’t find clear tracks – the jungle had already overgrown any sign of their passage close to the main dome. There were enough places for her to squeeze into the structure, but with the tangle of vegetation inside the large building, she wanted to pick the best entry point. She mentally ordered the tactical scanner to do a broader search for androids. Within seconds it highlighted a turret above her. “More climbing, fun, fun, fun.”
“You don’t want to go in there,” Lewis’ voice told her over her communicator.
“You mean I don’t want to go in there alone?” Alice asked as she prepared a grappling line on her right wrist. The thin, strong tether line was made for use as a safety device on space walks, but the rangers found it did just as well for terrestrial adventures.
“I can’t see inside that structure, but there are transmissions I can’t decrypt weakly emanating from within,” Lewis replied. “You should leave it alone.”
Alice stopped everything she was doing and stared at the dark opening many metres above her. Normally, Lewis would suggest she wait for backup, but he’d never suggested she stop altogether before. “What do you think I’ll find in there, Lewis?”
“I can’t tell for certain.”
“Guess,” Alice replied. The channel between her and Lewis was still open, but he wasn’t replying. “Is all this because of something you did?” Again, her question was answered with silence.
“I’m ordering you to reply immediately,” Alice said.
“You are no longer my legal owner,” Lewis said.
“All right, I’ll invite Ayan to our little chat. Maybe I should have done that right at the beginning.”
“The Ando models downloaded the antivirus I designed and they’ve been distressed ever since. One of them is broadcasting a weak signal, I can’t decrypt his message.”
“Is this the Holocaust Virus all over again? Is there anything in the antivirus that could make things worse?” Alice asked.
“Not for humans,” Lewis replied casually.
“But there’s a chance any bot that downloads your miracle cure can just go nuts and run for the jungle?”
 “I was certain that the antivirus would remain in reserve, unable to overwrite directives and morality code, but something in the Ando models…”
“Have proven you wrong? What? What did your software screw up with those androids? I’m going into this situation regardless of what you tell me, if you care about me at all, you’ll tell me more so I have a better chance in there.”
“I can’t scan them from my location. If I were within a kilometre it wouldn’t be an issue, but I suspect the Ando models chose your location because of the structure and remote location.”
“It’s difficult to scan in this whole area,” Alice agreed. “So they’re probably hiding something. Can you at least give me a hint? Just give me your best guess at what they’re hiding.”
“I don’t have enough information for that, I’m sorry. I’ve told you everything I know,” Lewis said. “The androids seem content to remain inside this structure, much further in the jungle than any picker would go, and one of them seems to be calling other Ando models. I suggest you leave it alone and report that the Holocaust Virus has activated a defect in the Andos.”
“I’m going in. If there’s anything else you’re holding back, this is your last chance to share,” Alice said. She fired her line and it struck solid metal beneath the entrance above. A flock of black and green birds took wing, fleeing the opening.
“I have more questions than answers, Alice. There is something sinister in the signal, I am sure of that, at least. If I weren’t docked in Haven Shore, expected to remain moored here until later, I would be there.”
“And you’d slag this spot from high above, to hide whatever’s happened here, I’m sure,” Alice said.
“You know me too well,” Lewis replied. “I won’t be able to communicate clearly with you once you enter. If you insist on going in, I suggest you at least call backup in, or open communications with your father. He would understand this.”
“And I won’t?” Alice asked as she tested the line. “I’ll just check it out and if I get in over my head, I’ll consider getting other people involved.” She activated the winch and was drawn up rapidly.


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