Can two men co-exist inside one mind? Andrew Caine and Joshua Scherrer can barely co-exist outside, on the same planet. After they're involved in a fatal car accident, the enigmatic native Phoenicians have sent someone to "help" them blend together, into a new man. Can they accept the new existence together, or will their minds collide as fatally as the car crash that killed them?
William Harrington froze, his hand just short of opening the door to the lab. He hesitated because he knew there’d be a fight once he went through that door. He stopped and procrastinated another minute in the hallway. Despite being Director of Security for the Community, a surly bunch of independent thinkers, William Harrington did not enjoy arguments. He enjoyed peace and quiet. He definitely didn’t relish the thought of arguing with his husband, Andrew Caine, today but that was almost definitely going to be the case. Drew had a long-practiced tendency to argue with people who told him he couldn’t have what he wanted.
Drew would succumb eventually, he always did. William had won many an argument over the years just by weathering the storm with the silent treatment, but today there would be an unpleasant interchange to get past this, and Will wasn’t sure he wanted to endure it today—not that he had a choice. The entire Membership of the Community had gathered and unanimously voted. William was officially tasked to shut down Drew’s research lab. The cowards.
William thought closing the lab was a bit harsh. They could have let Drew pursue some other line of research but William had completely agreed on the need for limits, even for the great Andrew Caine, Father of all Artificial Lifeforms. Especially for Drew. He’d bestowed that illustrious-sounding title onto himself and if he was allowed to move forward with the Artificial Lifeforms, or ALs, that he was designing right now, it wouldn’t turn out well. It was bad enough Drew thought of himself as God, creating a new life form; but these things Drew was making, the Ronningers, weren’t life. They were death, personified. Literally.
Named after Alfred Ronninger, Drew’s mentor and the real founder of the field, these things were a blend of Organic and Inorganic Lifeforms. The term cyborg would be more appropriate than AL but words like “borg” elicited unprofessional giggles in some while making others run screaming from the room. Better to use the innocuous term “AL.” While previous “smart machines” were called ALs, none had actually been alive or capable of independent thought. Instead, they’d merely used sophisticated algorithms to emulate human thought—and done so with entirely Inorganic designs.
The Ronningers were actually alive—or had been before they became Ronningers. They were a grotesque realization of the Frankenstein story and completely unethical, which was why Alfred Ronninger, himself, had abandoned the project. He’d never figured out a reasonable method for creating the things. They had originally planned to have Ronningers running the ship for the long journey from Earth to wherever they ended up but instead, they’d been forced to manage the sustainment of over a dozen humans. As a result they’d had to bring the rest of humanity with them in vitro. So to speak. The genetic samples in the Vault represented over a million unique human profiles, enough to re-establish the human race if they could just create a viable settlement into which to introduce new people. To date, however, the Community Membership was too busy with mere survival on the Phoenician home world to start a selective breeding program.