(The Juno Trilogy)
by Larry Kilham
Saving Juno, the third volume in The Juno Trilogy, has just been released. Also available: Love Byte (read my blog post) and A Viral Affair: Surviving the Pandemic (read my blog post).
Super AI computer Juno has been taken over by an international computer genius. NSA’s major computer center is also being taken over. Dr. Tom Renwick, Juno’s developer, is kidnapped. Civilization as we know it is threatened. What to do?
In this fast-paced thriller, Tom’s super brain computer scientist son, Primo, is thrown into the fray. With mysterious agent, Wildflower, and trustworthy officials in Washington, Primo strikes back. Their trail to Tom is through a hall of mirrors and continuous plot twists. It ends in an orbiting computer satellite.
Written in the genre of the late Michael Crichton and the late Tom Clancy, Saving Juno presents and action-packed adventure and new ways to look at national security.
The next morning, right after my Cheerios and coffee, I checked my laptop for new developments. Sure enough. Wildflower had left me a message. “Login, Primisimo.” I did. There she was in a new Snapchat photo. It was vertical, showing her breast and hip under a diaphanous shirt. Sort of like I was peeping through her window. “Oh.” I wrote.
“No other comment?”
“Actually, I meant to write oooooooooooh.”
“That’s nice! Now your friend Moe will be by in a few minutes. You’ll be learning some interesting stuff today. We’ll talk more tonight.”
This was bizarre. I tried to refocus on getting ready to be picked up.
Moe showed up with a McDonald’s coffee for me. “Cream, no sugar, right? You’ll need this.”
“Thanks, Moe,” I said, trying to shake my fantasies of Wildflower. I didn’t dare to ask him about her, because I still didn’t know who knew whom in this weird bunch.
We drove directly to the NSA complex. A man appeared out of a side door with his hand extended.
“Dr. Dimitri Kamenov. So pleased to meet you, Dr. Renwick. Come on in. The Red Queen is waiting.”
A breakfast of orange juice, hot cinnamon rolls and coffee was set out for me.
“Did you sleep well?” Red Queen asked.
“Like a log.”
“Did you meet Wildflower?”
“We talked by texting,” I said, not wanting to mention our texting and Snapchat connections.
The Red Queen frowned. I suspected that they were monitoring my texting and found nothing. She relaxed again, and said, “Pardon me for not introducing Dr. Kamenov, our director of operations. He is trained in evolutionary biology and for some years was the deputy director of the Institute of Molecular Genetics in Moscow. He came over to our side when the politics in Russia and at the Institute became overbearing. Continue, Dimitri.”
“Welcome again, Dr. Renwick. Let’s drop the formalities. We’re all comrades…friends…let me call you Primo. She is always Red Queen, however.
“We in Russia have been pioneers in behavioral studies, beginning with Pavlov. We know now that the science must include genetic structure and DNA coding. There is an evolutionary theory called the ‘Red Queen hypothesis’ after the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. Was that on your reading list? Probably not. Well, anyway, she said that her country is a place where ‘it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.’ In the kingdom of plants and animals, this means they face constant change. They must continually adapt and evolve new species merely to survive. Now I would add that the same applies to the human species and their inventions of all kinds.”
I think I must have looked puzzled.
He picked up on that and continued, “As to the species of things, for example, your smartphone design is effectively a genome, and other models of smartphones have similar genomes but with variations in their design DNA. The mechanical genome carrier we all are learning to live with is the robot.”
“What does all this have to do with me? Why am I here?”
“Because,” Dimitri answered, “you are endowed, shall we say, with an extraordinary brain—an IQ over 200—and you’re trained in computer science. We want you to direct the writing of computer programs so that we can efficiently and most usefully put the genomic information of every single person and every human creation in our database.”
“But isn’t that information already stored elsewhere? The human genomic information is stored in FBI criminal records and related medical information in health records.”
“True, true,” Dimitri answered, but we want it all here.”
“Under whose control?” I knew no fear.
“Here, here, young man, let’s not go there now. Let’s meet your programming associates.”
“But I haven’t agreed to anything yet.”
“You will,” Dimitri said.
The Red Queen spoke up. “And don’t forget that we’re always tracking your whereabouts. You are one of us now.”
Dimitri and I went into a large, darkened room where 10-20 people could work comfortably. I don’t know about creatively. There were eight or so programmers working during our visit. Most of them were standing up stabbing with light pens at glowing images floating in the darkness. They were developing computer code based on the manipulation of three dimensional objects. Such objects could be spatial representations of a person’s DNA and other personal data.
I asked Dimitri if it was okay to talk to one of them. He agreed and pointed to a senior-looking person who stepped into an outer office with us. Dimitri introduced us, without giving my proposed position, and asked me to give my impressions.
“It looks like you have the very latest programming technology here,” I said. “Apparently no paper or screens. You just interact with your program in space.”
“Not all of the time,” the programmer said, “but the spatial mode of programming gives us a much better way of visualizing the manipulation of complex 3D objects. We are developing a large cache of information about every person in the country—their history from the day they were born, their medical record, their complete genome, school and professional records, criminal history, family and so on.”
I pressed on. “Why would you want to do that?”
“We use those data as criteria for sorting people into various risk categories. The DNA…”
“Thank you, Sam,” Dimitri interjected. Clearly, Sam had ventured too far. And then turning to me, he said, “That’s enough for today, Primo. I hope and trust that you will find this an exciting place to use your matchless talents.”
We returned to what I began to think of as the Red Queen’s salon. She smiled at me benignly and tried to be as non-threatening as possible. “I think you are now seeing the great mission we are on, Primo. There are millions of bright minds who would kill for this opportunity, and you are the one chosen.”
“Thank you very much,” I said bowing my head a little. I wasn’t ready to be anointed, but I thought it best to play the game.
“Get plenty of sleep tonight.” Red Queen said. “Tomorrow we will have a nice surprise for you.”
“Will I see Tom?”
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”
That sounded to me very much like I would see Tom tomorrow. I had no idea why they waited so long. Dimitri showed me out to the car where Moe was quietly waiting.
I told Moe to skip shopping for today—I had enough food and beer in the house. I grilled a nice steak and wolfed it down with beer and potato chips. What more could I want? I dozed off, wondering where my dad was. I had a dream about rescuing him from some dismal place guarded by foreign agents. We’d be reunited with Mom and forget about this horrible adventure. Democracy would be saved, and I could start an exciting career.
I woke up and starting thinking concretely. How can I find my dad? Laser must know. I will have to contact him and go from there. But how do I get out of this place? I guess the best thing to do is to let a day or two pass and see if any information presents itself here. Maybe Wildflower has heard something about dad. What is she doing here anyway?
The next step was to check for Wildflower text messages. There was one to visit her Snapchat. A new photo greeted me. A beautiful leg stepping out from under a shimmery skirt. “Ooooooooh!” I typed again.
“Did you miss me? Tell me about your day.” Wildflower almost purred out of the screen.
“I saw some way-out, almost sci-fi computer technology where they program.” I think I was excited as I wrote, and I had to temper my excitement with consideration of what Wildflower might not know about this project. I realized I was falling down the rabbit hole and should say no more.
“It’s your turn, send me a photo,” Wildflower wrote, seeming to sense my predicament.
Using the camera in the laptop and the timer, I took a picture of me from waist up, shirtless, and flexing my muscles. I sent it to Wildflower with the note, “Check out this dude!”
“Ooooooooh!” she wrote. “I must go now. Login tomorrow at six. Moe will be by for you at ten.”
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About the Author
Larry Kilham is an inventor, entrepreneur, author and consultant. He has received numerous patents and awards and has published two books about inventing and high tech business development (Great Idea to a Great Company: Making Inventions Pay and MegaMinds: How to Create and Invent in the Age of Google) .
Larry has returned to his native Santa Fe, New Mexico and is now focused on writing about future society, ecology and artificial intelligence. He has just completed The Juno Trilogy involving AI and robots 40 years hence (Love Byte and A Viral Affair: Surviving the Pandemic, and Saving Juno). Saving Juno is about a plot to take over the NSA computers as a way to dominate the world.
Larry is trained in engineering and management with a BS from the University of Colorado and a MS from MIT. He belongs to several professional societies and has published widely in the technical and business media.