Edited on July 30 to add:
The book is being released (official date is Aug 1) and both the opening paragraphs and the blurbage have changed since the below was posted.

Get When Minds Collide (A Phoenician Series Short Story) by Marjorie F. Baldwin When Minds Collide free exclusively at Smashwords until Aug 1, then it'll start shipping to eTailers everywhere (note to Kindle owners: because Amazon prohibits Indie Authors from pricing books as "free" unless we agree to grant exclusive rights to Amazon, I'll have to charge 99c at the Kindle Store but you can get a Kindle format file FREE at Smashwords and use SendToKindle to get it onto your device)


Here are the opening paragraph or three for the short story that will precede Conditioned Response by about 400 years. This short will be released in July, 2012. I'll be giving it away for free to introduce people to the series. The blurbage (still being tweaked so feel free to wordsmith blurbage too if you like) is as follows:

When two brilliant scientists die together in a careless traffic accident, the Community, a fledgling human colony on an alien world, suffers a devastating blow. Joshua Scherrer and Andrew Caine might have loathed each other personally, but their collective knowledge was vital to humanity’s survival on this Phoenician world. Without them and their contributions, Administrator Stafar Baghendi fears for the very survival of humanity’s last stand.

In a desperate attempt to salvage both men, Stafar Baghendi uses an untried, theoretical gene therapy process, infusing the genetically-encoded memory of Andrew Caine into the DNA of Joshua Scherrer. The two men awaken to find themselves living together inside one mind, but their clashing personalities might prove a more fatal collision than the one that killed them the first time.

What none of the humans realize is that here on the Phoenician home world, nothing happens that isn’t in the Plan of the Seven Chiefs. There’s always a Plan—and this time, the Plan will change the course of human history forever.

Please tell me what you think of either the blurbage or the story or both. Remember, the following is an excerpt from an early draft so some of the content here may have changed by the time the story is published. In fact, I can tell you now, the content has changed but you'll get a sense for my style and voice from reading this. If you like the following, please download the eBook when it's published--then buy Conditioned Response! :)


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 want to argue with his husband, Andrew Caine, today but it was almost inevitably 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 by just weathering the storm with the silent treatment, but today there would be an unpleasant interchange to get there, one Will wasn’t sure he wanted to endure—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.

William had to concede the artistry of the Ronningers but artistic though they might be, they were also completely unethical. That’s why Alfred Ronninger, himself, had abandoned the proposal before constructing a functional model. And that’s why they hadn’t Ronningers to manage the ship for the long journey from Earth, instead opting to manage the sustainment of over a dozen humans. The most-obvious problem with Ronningers was, you couldn’t simply turn them on and off. You couldn’t even retrain them as you would a real person. You had to actually open up their skull and literally replace the hardware to stop them from performing their designated tasking. A Ronninger’s Inorganic “brain” would literally work its Organic body to death. A recursive loop would be better in William’s opinion. He didn’t see the sense in hard-wiring a person with an AI for a brain—not just to force it into a dedicated tasking.

At the very least, these things should have been re-programmable. Like his Proctors. They were people, sort of, and they could be retrained. Future generations of Proctors would be programmable—or that was what he’d proposed when he’d pitched the Proctor Program to the Community Membership. Ronningers, however, had no humanity left in them. Ronningers didn’t think, didn’t feel, didn’t have a conscience. At least William’s Proctors, even if they ended up so brainwashed they lost all perspective, would be people not machines.
That was what bothered William the most: how Ronningers were made. They started with a normal human design but then, the human had to die for the Ronninger “brain” to be installed. After all, you had to scrape out the human skull to make room for the hardware. It was untenable, from cradle to grave—literally, for the human. He simply couldn’t believe Drew, his Drew, had bought into this plan.

Drew was trying to make a Ronninger that could be reprogrammed in vivo, one that could learn. To Drew, it was more of an AI question than an AL design flaw, so he’d tried to enlist the help of their resident AI expert, Joshua Scherrer. Of course, Russian Orthodox Fundamentalist Scherrer would have nothing to do with the Ronninger project. He might share a building with Andrew but he didn’t want to share his work ethics. William didn’t blame him. William didn’t want to share Andrew’s ethics at the moment either.

Without Scherrer’s assistance, Drew had forged ahead alone. He’d already failed through two versions this month. For those, he’d used the shells of people who’d been dead before the crèche could be opened to attempt resuscitation, but this last one hadn’t been dead yet. Drew had actually terminated the man—still inside the crèche! That was murder, plain and simple. It was hard for William to believe that Drew had actually crossed that line. The man he’d fallen in love with all those years ago could never kill someone in cold blood that way.

A gathering of the entire Original Membership had called William in and confronted him, as though he’d know what Drew was doing in his lab--no, as though he were responsible for what Drew was doing in his lab. William had insisted there had to be a mistake so they’d sent him here to find out. If he opened that door and found a dead Proctor lying on the table, there’d be no denying it, no turning back. William would have to kick Andrew out of his own lab and lock it down. Worse, William would have to accept that the man he’d once loved had turned into a murderer and end their marriage. William wasn’t sure which would be harder.

William had caught the cowardice bug and called to ask Drew to lunch, just to spend a little quality time together. That way, he didn’t have to interrupt Drew unexpectedly. Drew got irritable when he was interrupted without warning, and William wanted to at least try to talk before the shouting began. Drew probably thought William wanted a little nookie time, a romantic mid-day rendezvous. While he had to admit that’d be nice, really nice, William wasn’t at all interested if there was a dead man on Drew’s table.

The Membership had sent William here as the harbinger of doom because they knew William could quell any temper tantrum Drew might throw. Not to mention handling anything else the large and passionate Scotsman might throw. There’d probably be a few objects sent across the room, maybe a punch at something—or someone—definitely some fair number of swear words would be used before Drew calmed down again. No, Drew would definitely not be in a nookie kind of mood once William walked through the door. William was afraid what he’d find would kill his own nookie kind of mood as well. Permanently.

William procrastinated another minute by straightening his perfectly straight, knee-length, royal blue tunic. Then he adjusted the collar, which was buttoned up so tightly around his neck it was hard to adjust. He moved it back into perfect alignment and checked the toes of his spit-and-polish boots, hoping to find a mark he might have to clean off—anything he could use as a means of delaying the inevitable. Over a century of military-regimented habitual behavior had left him with a level of personal care and attention beyond reproach. Always. His long, dark hair loose down his back past his waist. He’d gathered it into a bunch at the back of his neck with a silver and gold filigreed clasp Andrew had given him as an engagement gift. He checked the clasp, touching it as though it would put him back in touch with the man who had given it to him all those years ago, then he opened the door against hope.

Andrew Caine looked up when the door opened and saw William hovering in the doorway, holding the door open staring with intent at Drew’s lab table. As always, Drew’s heart skipped a beat and he felt his face breaking into a smile, almost of its own volition. He always smiled at the sight of William Harrington. He couldn’t help it. The man was such a beautiful sight, like a sunrise or a rainbow. Well, a rainbow back on Earth. No rainbows here on the godforsaken Phoenician world. With less than six inches of rainfall a year, there wasn’t enough moisture in the air to make a rainbow. William was better than a rainbow.

Today, Andrew’s smile wasn’t just at the pretty little man standing in the doorway. Drew was actually happy his husband had come for a visit. They’d barely had two minutes together in over a week, mostly due to this project of Drew’s finally coming together and Drew had missed Will’s company. He’d been afraid William was going to give him the silent treatment again when he finally got home. He couldn’t bear that right now. He was so excited to tell someone about the results of this last test run. This new Ronninger design was going to work. It’d be the first of its kind, a brand new life form—and he’d created it! It would be theirs, together, their child. After all, William had helped by way of all his support this past year. This achievement would make up for everything Drew had put him through.

When William remained in the doorway, silent and unmoving, Andrew asked, “Are you early or am I running late again? I just had to finish this last recording, Will, you won’t believe what I’ve got here!”

“I need you to stop,” William said quietly. He sounded a little odd today. He was probably angry about Drew’s noticeable absence back at the house this past week. Once Will saw the results of last night’s tests, he’d understand. Will always understood the importance of Andrew’s work. Drew was making history, after all.

When Drew opened his mouth to explain, William repeated, “Right now, Drew, please.”

That’s when Drew saw the seriousness of William’s expression. Will’s mixed ethnicity and Asian heritage in particular made his face look so peaceful half the time, Drew never even noticed when he was “getting the look” as Will put it. He was definitely “getting the look” right now so he set the stasis field over the open skull area of the body on the MedTable before him.

“What’s wrong, Will? What happened? Is someone dead?”

“That man on the table in front of you appears to be dead, yes.”

“He’s not a man, Will.”

“He was--before you killed him and gutted out his skull.”

[to be continued]

There's WAY more of this ... Coming Soon!
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Published on July 06, 2012 09:15 • 749 views • Tags: conditioned-response, cyborg, scifi, thriller
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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen St. Onge What I wonder at the moment is what ever made William fall in love with Andrew, given that all we know about A. is that he's obsessive and sees people as objects to be used?

And why do they call the dead-people-made-into-cyborgs Ronningers?

message 2: by Marjorie (last edited Jun 07, 2012 04:26PM) (new)

Marjorie Friday Baldwin Stephen wrote: "What I wonder at the moment is what ever made William fall in love with Andrew, given that all we know about A. is that he's obsessive and sees people as objects to be used?

And why do they call [these things] Ronningers"

Hmm, two interesting points which may or may not get addressed in a short story (though they would if this were a full-length novel--it's definitely NOT, sorry!) but I'm glad you are actually interested enough in this to WONDER :-)


message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen St. Onge "Stephen wrote: "What I wonder at the moment is what ever made William fall in love with Andrew, given that all we know about A. is that he's obsessive and sees people as objects to be used?

And why do they call [these things] Ronningers?"

Marjorie wrote: "Hmm, two interesting points which may or may not get addressed in a short story (though they would if this were a full-length novel--it's definitely NOT, sorry!) but I'm glad you are actually interested enough in this to WONDER :-)"

[St. Onge:]
        I think it probably would be a good idea to address those points, if only in passing, as it would remove an obstacle to connecting with the story.  At least it would for me.

        Just a few words in passing might help, such as 'the constructs that had been dubbed "Ronningers" back on Earth' might settle that one.

        The Andrew Caine as lovable person question would be tougher, since what you've shown us in the first part of the story argues that he's a sociopath at best.  It may be that the remainder of the story will just roll over the question, but so far, if I were a member of the Community, I wouldn't be thinking of telling him to stop, I'd be thinking of killing him before he killed me.  Drew is the kind of person I'd call dangerous, if Donal Graeme hadn't convinced me the word is meaningless.

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