RedDevil 4 is a spine-tingling techno-thriller based on cutting edge research from surgeon and inventor Eric C. Leuthardt. Check out an excerpt below, and pick it up February 4th from Forge!
Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Hagan Maerici is on the verge of a breakthrough in artificial intelligence that could change the way we think about human consciousness. Obsessed with his job and struggling to save his marriage, Dr. Maerici is forced to put his life’s work on the line when a rash of brutal murders strikes St. Louis.
Edwin Krantz, an aging, technophobic detective, and his partner, Tara Dezner, are tasked with investigating the horrifying killings. Shockingly, the murders have all been committed by prominent citizens who have no obvious motives or history of violence. Seeking an explanation for the suspects’ strange behavior, Krantz and Denzer turn to Dr. Maerici, who believes that the answer lies within the killers’ brains themselves. Someone is introducing a glitch into the in-brain computer systems of the suspects—a virus that turns ordinary citizens into murderers. With time running out, this trio of unlikely allies must face a gauntlet of obstacles, both human and A.I., as they attempt to avert disaster.
2053, FRIDAY, 2:01 PM
“Have a seat, Hagan.” The man gestured toward the black leather sofa in front of his desk. He was tall and bony and wore a white coat that was impeccably ironed and creased. With his broad bald dome of a head and small pallid ice-fleck-colored eyes, he had an annoyed look that suggested an irritable impatience. His chin was barely distinguishable from his thin neck, his face was small and pale, and the residual hair of his eyebrows and thin mustache were all a white blond. To Hagan, he looked more like an asshole than usual.
Sighing to himself, Hagan sat down. The pitch of the seat always tilted him slightly back so that his knees were higher than his buttocks. He never could position himself to sit up straight and always had to lean to the side or with his legs bowed out to lean forward, making him feel like was sitting on a toilet. Like he was a kid in the principal’s office, the conversations always began with “have a seat.” He prepared himself for the usual preamble.
“Hagan, I have been looking at your numbers, and they are not good.” Hagan’s chairman put his fingertips together and touched the tip of his nose for a long pause. “You are not generating the revenue you ought to be, either in clinical fees or in grants. Some things are going to have to change, Hagan.”
“Simon, you and I both know the market is down. Elective surgeries are always the first to take the hit. It’s a small downturn, and cases are sure to pick up in the spring.”
“Are you giving me excuses, soldier?”
Hagan rolled his eyes. Simon Canter, his boss, loved to take on military lingo when they would argue. Hagan knew Simon thought it made him sound tough or commanding or something. To Hagan, it just sounded silly.
“Simon, Jesus, no. What am I supposed to do—pull people into the OR against their will?”
“Market or no market, if it takes more work beating the bushes to get patients, then that’s what you gotta do. Less time in that little closet and more time out in the community talking to the primary care docs. If there is less water in the towel you gotta wring it harder, got me?”
“You know that’s more than a little closet, Simon.” Hagan could feel the heat rise on the back of his neck.
“To me, since your research isn’t generating any research dollars from Uncle Sam, it may as well be a closet.”
“I’m close, you know that, you’ve seen it, for Pete’s sake. I just need to take it a little further, and we’re not going to have any complaints about money for this department, I promise.”
“You promise, you keep saying, ‘its gonna happen, its gonna happen.’ ” Hagan watched as Simon put up his fingers to form the annoying quotation marks. “I need more than empty air—I need results. I need you to say to me, ‘mission accomplished.’ You keep saying neuromorphic artificial intelligence is the future; well, I need to pay bills in the present.”
“Dammit, Simon, do I really need to spell it out for you? If we were having this same conversation thirty years ago, you would be arguing against all the work that went into neuroprosthetics. Look what changed—every human’s mind is connected and augmented in every way possible. You and I, and about ninety percent of the human population, have a neuroprosthetic implanted. We can use our thoughts to engage the world beyond the limits of our bodies, brainto-brain communication has changed the way humans interact, we can fix almost any brain injury, and the virtual reality—it’s changed the way we do everything. It’s what fucking built this city.”
“Do you also want to tell me about how my car works? I already know all this. What’s your point?” Canter asked snidely.
Hagan sighed. “Creating truly artificial intelligence based on the human brain’s architecture is the next step. After three decades of implants we have the data—all we need to do is apply it. Again, Jesus, you know that. Once we get there, we can make armies of virtual scientists to solve every problem in medicine. We can have enough intellectual resources to answer pretty much every question that the human species can’t currently figure out. It’s worth the sacrifice.”
“Show me the money, Hagan, show me the money. We are living in the here and now in 2053—not thirty years in the past, not thirty years in the future. And here in the present, no grants, no science, no cases—no salary.”
FRIDAY, 4:30 PM
The old man looked down at the gravestone. Tall and thin in a rumpled suit, he stood there for a few moments in silent contemplation, holding a handful of pink flowers.
“Hello, April, I brought you some daisies today. These are the pink ones with yellow centers. The lady at the flower shop called them Strawberry Blushes.” He slowly kneeled next to the headstone and carefully placed the bouquet in the adjacent basin.
“Thought you would like them—not your typical yellow or orange ones. Something a little different this time.” He sighed as he looked at the silent stone.
“Gonna cut the grass tomorrow. The yard is looking pretty good, though not much in the way of flowers the way that you used to like it, but I’m still keeping it tidy.” As he spoke, he brushed the letters and the runners free of pebbly dirt and bits of bark. He let his fingers linger on the words—April G. Krantz, 4/23/1985–11/4/2050. God I miss her, he thought to himself.
This was his Friday ritual. He had kept it for the several years since her death. Every Friday after work he would bring her flowers. It was what she had always loved, bright colorful flowers.
“So, typical stuff this week. Young punks broke into some ninetyfour-year-old Asian guy’s home and beat him senseless. Guy died a few days later. Apparently stole about two hundred dollars. Tragic—got DNA traces on all of ’em. Probably bring ’em in on Monday. The forensics guys are telling me they are probably fifteen by their epigenetic markers—whatever that means.
“I know I’ve said it in the past, but God, how young are criminals gonna get…” As the old man continued to recount the week’s events, blue letters appeared across his field of view.
DETECTIVE KRANTZ, COMMUNICATION REQUESTED. CONFERENCE CALL WITH SERGEANT ORTIZ IN 10 MINUTES. MATTER CONSIDERED URGENT. PLEASE CONNECT WITH DIVISION HUB 3. THIS IS AN AUTOMATED MESSAGE.
Krantz sighed. “Honestly, April, I don’t know how you convinced me to get these things put in.” The lawn, stone, and flowers remained silent in response. He could still hear her voice in his head. He remembered how she browbeat him into getting these neuroprosthetic implants—“Nobody is using cell phones or laptops anymore,” she had said. “How are we going to communicate with people? How are we going to shop? We need to keep up with the times,” she had said. She was always the modern one. Change was always exciting for her. Finally he had acquiesced, and after about thirty minutes, a few patches of shaved scalp, a little bit of lidocaine, and a brief pinching sensation, his mind and the outside world were forever connected—his thoughts were accessible—for better or worse.
“April, how are we gonna get any peace? That’s what I say.” He felt the small lump behind his ear where the power source was. He was almost tempted to turn it off for a few moments of mental silence.
MEETING IN 5 MINUTES. MATTER CONSIDERED URGENT. PLEASE CONNECT WITH DIVISION HUB 3. THIS IS AN AUTOMATED MESSAGE.
“Well babe, looks like I may have to cut this visit a bit short. Work is work, no escaping it. I’ll be back to see you next week.” The detective lifted himself up and walked toward his car. Amid the trees and shrubs and carved stone, blue-lettered highlights, names, and advertisements all floated in the air. Today it bothered him more than most; he reached behind his ear and pushed on the small bump. I need a break, just for a few minutes. He felt a click and all the images disappeared.
RedDevil 4 © Eric C Leuthardt, 2014