What would a science fiction story be without a robot? Whether it’s a Robbie kind of mechanical clunker, shouting, “Danger, Will Robinson!” or a sophisticated bit of circuitry a la Mr. Data, robots, or androids, have always fascinated people. Why? Perhaps because they encourage the “God-sense” in Man, allowing us to pretend for a moment that we, too, can create life, not as Dr. Frankenstein did, but one that is far superior, strength and intelligence-wise. In novels and movies, at least, the android is nearly always superior to Man, even his own creator. And then, we go and imbue him with our own weaknesses and make him as human as ourselves, and therefore, immediately inferior…
I’ve dealt with androids before. Remember Darius, the most perfect artificial intelligence in the world? Physically, he was a replicant of his creator, the 25-year-old duplicate of Dr. David Marx, never growing older while the original aged. Darius also had am empathy chip, enabling him to experience emotion, and, much to his dismay, to fall in love. He also had the power to end his own life when that love wasn’t returned. Darius was featured in Icy Snow Blackstone’s novel Earthman’s Bride and its sequel, When the Condor Returned, and it was because of him that Earthman’s Bride won first prize in the Maryland Romance Writer’s “Inner Vixen” contest in 2008 in the “Alternate Fiction” section. A good many readers seemed to have fallen in love with Darius, as a matter of fact, liking him better than the hero.
This time around, I’m dealing with another android, this one a Federation hitman named Moondeath, aka Marcus Adler. Adler has a strike against him when the story opens: For all intents and purposes, he’s deceased, having been the victim of a car-bomb. He also has one thing in his favor: His love for Rena Pearson and her love for him. And he hopes that love will help him survive as she hires Private Investigator Luc Kai’Leel to find all that remains of her lover…his brain…
Only trouble is: Luc’s fallen in love with his client, and he’s determined to prove to her that a man with warm blood pulsing inside him is superior to any mechanical look-alike with protein-plasma being electronically pumped through his artificial veins.
With more than a little disbelief, Luc Kai’Leel looked at the young woman sitting across from him.
She’d appeared sane enough, a definitely attractive little blonde looking almost boringly normal, until she made the statement that now forced him to question his assessment.
“You heard me!” she snapped. “You may not be Terran but you understand our language well enough! Why should I repeat myself?”
Luc flushed and felt a slight surge of anger. He might have been born on war-conquered Felida, but damn it, he was a naturalized citizen of Earth now, having given up all ways of life as practiced on his home planet and done everything possible to make himself accepted here. Under casual inspection, he could even pass for a Terran, and now t-this ditz was looking down her pert little nose at him!
“Would you mind doing it anyway?” he asked, swallowing his anger and attempting to keep his voice at a higher pitch than his usually gravelly growl. “Just to make certain I didn’t miss something in the translation?”
“Oh, very well.” She made a sound that was a cross between a gasp and a sigh of impatience. “What I want you to do, Mr. Kai’Leel, is find my fiance’s brain.”
“That’s what I thought you said.” Luc looked a little unhappy. He, too, sighed. “It isn’t inside his head, I take it?”
“Marcus was killed three weeks ago. Someone spot-bombed his car.” For just a moment, she looked tearful and, whether she was crazy or not, the sight momentarily tugged at his heart. “They didn’t find enough to bury.”
“We can’t assume his brain went the way the rest of his body did?”
She ignored his remark. “I think the Federation was behind it.”
Oh, great! So she has a government-persecution complex on top of everything else. Silently, he wondered if this was a punishment of some kind. Out of all the investigation agencies on the planet, why did she have to choose his to bring her delusions to?
“The Federation?” he echoed, thinking just how stupid he sounded.
“There were Marshals everywhere immediately afterward. One of them found something in the wreckage. I saw him put it in a small plasticon-baggie.”The picture she was painting displayed itself luridly in his mind…twisted remains of what had been an automobile… black uniformed agent holding a soft, bloody object in his hands. “Later, when I asked him about it, he denied having found anything but I know better. It was Marcus’ brain. I know it was.”
A hand brushed at her eyes.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Marcus told me!”
Uh-oh! She’s worse off than I thought. Definitely certifiable, positively winged-out. Maybe dangerous?
Slowly, Luc’s left hand inched toward the red Emergency button in the telephone console on the left side of the desk. One tap and the med-techs at the local psychiatric hospital would be alerted; they and their air-borne ambulance could be here in three minutes, armed with tranquilizer guns and restraining gear. He had a moment’s regret at what he was about to do, but the girl definitely needed help. And not from me.
“I wouldn’t do that!” She saw the movement. His hand stopped, but as he started to deny the action, she placed her own on the little purse resting in her lap. “You might not like what would happen if I give this a squeeze.”
“What’ve you got in there?”
A bomb? Some type of poisonous gas in a capsule which would break when pressure was applied? He wasn’t going to do anything to find out. He placed both hands in the center of the desk, one over the other.
“Miss Powell, just tell me what’s so important about your boyfriend’s brain that someone would want to steal it?”
“It’s a positronic brain, Mr. Kai’Leel.” With her hand still on the purse, she relaxed a little, settling herself as she went on, “Let me explain.”
“Please do.” He almost bit his tongue as he realized she might think he was being sarcastic. No matter what she said or did, he had to keep her calm, get her out of here, and then call the Psych-Unit. At the same time, he took a deep breath, nostrils crinkling slightly as he inhaled the girl’s scent. A very pleasant female fragrance, clean, none of the usual vile perfume to insult his senses. He could detect worry, anxiety, even fear, but none of the emotion-twists madness always wrought in a person’s chemical makeup. That’s definitely confusing.
“Marcus is an android,” she began.
Oh Lord! She’s one of those women preferring synthetic men to real ones. Luc couldn’t keep the surprise or speculation out of his cat’s-pupiled eyes. She was so young, not more than twenty-two. He wondered if she’d ever had a human lover.
“An EHR-1, to be exact.”
“Never heard of that model.”
“No reason you should.” She shrugged. “It means Exact Human Replicant. He was the prototype and only one created.”
“What’s your boyfriend’s last name?”
“Adler, after his creator.”
Turning to his desk unit, he typed in the two words. In a moment, he looked back at her. “There’s no Marcus Adler listed, deactivated or otherwise.”
“There wouldn’t be.”
She gave him a quiet, triumphant stare. “Have you ever heard of Moondeath, Mr. Kai’Leel?”
Of course, he had. Everyone had heard of Moondeath…the Federation’s ultimate killer, with a perfect record, the only assassin whose identity was a well-kept secret. No one knew his human name or what he looked like, and because of that, he’d achieved near folk-legend status among the civilian population, as well as making millionaires out of several men who’d bet their every tangible bit of property on his kills.
If Marcus Adler was Moondeath, and Moondeath was now defunct… She certainly had his attention now. “Maybe you’d better tell me everything.”
For the Love in Adler’s Brain is available from Class Act Books.