Today through Sunday my science fiction novel Afterlife will be free on Kindle. Afterlife has one review so far, a five star, and about fifty sales. I think it is a good book, a little different from my others, set in the near future unlike Exodus or The Deep Dark Well. It involves a subject that may become real in the very near future, mind uploading to a computer. Now, unlike most who have approached that subject, I decided to make the procedure a catastrophic one that destroys the physical brain and kills the subject. This in itself strikes some as suicide, especially the major religious groups who have a thing against suicide, unless it is in the cause of their personal interpretation of God (Martyrdom). There are also the legal aspects. Is a computer upload still the same person, with all the rights that person had in life? Or is it merely software running an imitation of that person in a virtual environment? Is it live or is it Memorex? When heirs are chomping at the bit to get inheritances, this could become a big issue, especially if the virtual’s assets are scattered across many different jurisdictions. The world as a whole does not like the idea behind Afterlife Corporation. And the virtual’s, now living the life they have always dreamed of, are not willing to just let the organics come in and pull the plug. So it’s war, in which the brains of the virtuals are pitted against the numbers of the organics. So check out the novel while it’s free, at no risk except to your time. And as always, leave a review if you are so inclined. And now for an excerpt.
“This is the NX-300,” said Colonel Ted Williams, striding out on the field in front of the fighter sized UAV. “This is what you will be flying in simulation today. By the end of the week I hope to have you up in the real deal, in the real world. Those of you who don’t continue to fuck up, no matter how many times we let you take her up.”
Gary looked hungrily at the virtual mockup of the fighter, visualizing the schematics in his mind’s eye. It could outperform any manned fighter in the air, and was much more heavily armed. And it was not constrained by having to carry a vulnerable organic.
“You have all passed your basic flight training on the virtual trainers,” continued Williams, who had been designated Air Force commander for the virtual world of Afterlife. He had the most real world combat experience of any of the uploads, having flown in World War Two and Korea. And he had real kills to his record, as well as many ground attack missions. He was a killer in the sky, as well as on the ball field, and the other virtuals listened to him carefully.
“If there are no further questions,” said Williams, walking down the line of four dozen pilots. “Pilots to your aircraft. You’ll have your own skies to fly in for now, so you don’t run into each other. Now scramble.”
Gary disappeared with a thought and boarded his airplane. He was not in any kind of seat or cockpit. He occupied the aircraft like it was his body, looking out through its cameras and other sensor systems, listening through the microphones built into the wings, feeling the vibrations of the engines as if they were his internal organs.
Gary pushed his turbines to full and opened the vector slats. The fighter lifted with a slow gentle motion, increasing speed as it moved upward. At thirty meters altitude Gary started the closing of the downward vector slats while increasing the thrust to the rear. The XN-300 moved forward, climbing into the sky. Gary increased the lift on the elevators and the craft rocketed upwards.
Gary leveled off a ten thousand meters, increasing acceleration. The flying wing pushed through the sound barrier. A minute later it was cruising through Mach two. A little more than a minute later it was through Mach three and still accelerating. Gary marveled at the speed, knowing that he still had a couple of Machs left in the craft.
“Quit lollygagging around up there, Jeffers,” came Williams’ voice into his mind. “Get ready.”
Gary sent his commanding officer an acknowledgement and started searching the sky for bogies. He knew he was being pitted against Raptors, the standard air superiority fighter of the United States Air Force. And that they would be damned hard to find. If he used active radar he just might be able to pick them out of all the ground clutter, but they would surely know where he was.
The air was already alive with the radar coming from a distant AWACS. Maybe if he used that radar’s return off the Raptors, as small as it was, he could get some kind of fix.
Gary’s mind went into full processor mode, a thousand times faster than was possible for an organic. He tracked every return off the AWACS radar, catalogued and checked them, then catalogued and checked them again. He found a couple that looked interesting, and took some time to examine them in higher detail.
Got em, he thought as he looked at a trio of faint signals and cross referenced them with their communications back to the AWACS. It had taken him about five seconds of real time to perform the search. He was sure the organic brains on those targets couldn’t have even started their search.
Gary closed the distance, planning his shots as he went. When he was at the optimal range he opened his weapons bays and triggered his targeting radar at the same instant. The returns were still faint, but he would ride the missiles in with a part of his consciousness, allowing him to home in on the weakest of returns. Six missiles dropped from the bays, two to each fighter, and boosted away, reaching Mach eight in seconds.
Radar was pinging off of his craft from the AWACS, followed closely by the Raptors as they figured out that they were being fired on. Gary picked up missile launches from the fighters as he closed his bay doors and banked into the nearby clouds. At the same time he released a couple of decoy drones that would mimic his ship on radar. They sped out on reciprocal vectors.
Gary noted with satisfaction that four of the incoming missiles were locked onto his decoys, while all of his weapons were boring in on the Raptors. He banked in the sky and headed straight toward the fighters, sure of his ability to outmaneuver the weapons targeting him.
Gary pushed his jet up to Mach four, feeling the heat building up on the composite skin. He contacted his missiles for a moment, looking through their camera eyes as they closed on the Raptors. Gary made a couple of adjustments to the missiles, giving his orders over the encrypted microwave link, defeating the last second jamming and decoy drops from the fighters. The Raptors expanded in the cameras, which went blank. Explosions flared in the sky ahead, his missiles detonating. He pulsed his active radar for a moment, and picked up returns consistent with the spreading debris of two Raptors falling from the sky. His screen also filled with the images of the enemy missiles chasing his decoys, which had increased speed to match that of the missiles. And the two that were almost on top of his fighter, coming in ahead.
At the last second Gary juked his fighter at twenty-five gees, dropping to the left, then spinning over into a change of vector. At the same time he dropped small radar decoys. The missiles couldn’t take the same turn he had been able to achieve with his vectored thrust, and had been caught between a target they couldn’t follow and several that were too easy to home in on. They missed everything, their idiotic computer brains not able to handle the situation. Gary’s fighter moved in a slight rock as the missiles exploded in attempts at a proximity kill. He checked for damage and found only one small chip from the composite covering of the left tail fin.
The Raptor dove away, trying to escape Gary’s closing fighter. The XN-300 had three close in attack weapons, a single barrel thirty millimeter cannon in the nose, and a six barreled twenty millimeter Gatling in each wing. All fired rounds that traveled much faster than the cannon rounds fired from a jet like the Raptor. And the cannons were all angled to intersect a kilometer in front of the UAV. Gary dove after the Raptor, lining up, firing when the pip turned green. The Raptor fell apart in the streams of rounds that merged on its fuselage, blowing out in the spreading cloud of debris. Gary pulled up, missing the debris field but sustaining some minor damage to his left wing as a few particles struck at high speed.
“Report for debrief,” ordered Williams in Gary’s mind. Gary sent a mental nod as he left the simulation and appeared in Williams’ office, the young looking Colonel sitting behind his desk.
“You handled the craft as well as could be expected,” said the baseball Hall of Famer/Colonel. “I think you did a great job acquiring the targets. But you followed too close on that last kill. You got away with it, but a larger piece of debris could have wiped you from the sky. No problem for you, but we would have lost a significant piece of hardware. Any suggestions?”
“You might want to calibrate the cannon out a little further,” said Gary, thinking about the engagement. “I was able to open up right when the weapons intersected, and I’m sure I could have done the same at three to five kilometers, without running the risk of shooting myself down.”
“That problem’s being looked at,” said Williams, nodding. “I noticed the same thing myself, and we’re working on an optimal envelope for a firing solution. In normal speak that means we’re looking at the best range to off the mothers. And the other point? I know you have more than one.”
“I was able to use my own radar to track to enemy, but it did give me away,” said Gary. “They had an AWACS to help them out.”
“We’re working on that as well,” said Williams. “Look at this.”
The schematics appeared in Gary’s mind of a stealthed airship, lighter than air and flying its globe shape very high in the atmosphere. Doors in the side led to hangers, where flying disks that were the radar transmitters were stored, to sortie out as needed for coverage. The entire airship was the receiving antennae.
“We should have a couple of these above each of our complexes within the month, giving us day and night coverage,” said Williams, smiling. “Now I would like you to get in some ground attack practice next. Tomorrow we’ll have you work on playing with others, like a wingman.”
“And who will be that wingman?” asked Gary, wondering if it might be Elaine, who was also in the pilot program.
“Why you of course,” said Williams, laughing. “Who could know your moves better? And there’s no limit to how many aircraft you can pilot, as long as we keep making copies of you.”
“Why don’t they just make a hundred copies of you, Colonel?” asked Gary, smiling back.
“Because as good as I am, I can’t think of everything,” said Colonel Ted Williams. “Now get up there and play tank buster.”