Prologue: Sophia


Image credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Synthecon Corporation Research Campus – Near Livingston, Scotland, UK – 2002

“Now do you believe it, Davy? Hmmm? Now do you believe it?” The two men were standing in a lab contained within an expansive research complex located near Livingston in what was called Silicon Glen and Dr. Daniel Hunt couldn’t have been happier.

After all of the failures, false starts, and millions upon millions of pounds wasted, not to mention having his professional rival and closest friend David Killgrave rubbing his nose in it at every opportunity, he finally produced the first generation of DNA based artificial intelligence.

“I must say it looks promising, Danny. Still, I’ll have to run some tests. I’m not convinced that, what did you call it, is capable of all you say, even in potential.”

Sophia, her name is Sophia.”

So now you’re naming it and it’s a her, eh? You’ve always liked the ladies a little too much, Danny.”

Daniel Rogers Hunt and David Bartholomew Killgrave had grown up together, fought each other on school yards, fought each other over who was going be the first to ask Fiona Stewart out on a date, competed with each other in classes for which one would get the ribbon in Chemistry, Physics, and Biology, and in fact, they competed in everything.

They had both achieved the highest marks throughout their public school careers and both were granted full scholarships, Hunt to Cambridge and Killgrave to Oxford. On the eve of their leaving for university, they’d gotten exceedingly drunk together in an epic night of pub crawling so that they, as far as anyone knew, had equally painful and disgusting hangovers when boarding the train south the next morning.

Their family and friends (well, Killgrave had friends, at best Hunt had tolerable acquaintances) thought they should have murdered each other a hundred times over by graduation. Perhaps they might have except they were too much alike in most respects, and both too intelligent to relate to many other people besides each other (Killgrave’s social skills far outstripped Hunt’s, although Hunt would say that was a conscious choice on both their parts).

There was one major difference, and it indeed made quite the difference. Hunt had inherited hundreds of billions of pounds which he used to establish and maintain his corporation, the embodiment of his dreams and passions, while Killgrave was dependent on loans and government grants to fund his small but innovative biotechnology company.

Hunt’s parents died when he was still a teen and he was taken in by an elderly grandfather. As the only grandchild, he was doted on, which he hated, but his brilliance was also recognized and ultimately rewarded upon Granaidh’s demise. Daniel inherited his entire estate, which was built on investments in everything from publishing and transportation to oil and engineering.

Artificial DNA. You took the basic concept and expanded on it, imprinting actual data onto DNA strings.”

“Not only that, Davy boy, but Sophia isn’t just a biosynthetic data storage unit, that would be too simple.”

“You’re not saying it’s learning, adding to the data.”

“Slowly, but yes. Look here at the iterations of data output. Here’s the original information. Then one, two, three, twelve, twenty-four generations. Even I’m astounded at how much she has learned and adapted the base program.”

“You’re decades ahead of your time, Danny. I’ll give you that. If only I…”

Hunt put his arm around Killgrave’s shoulder as they continued to watch Sophia’s output on the monitor in the room which sat on top of what Daniel called her “cradle,” the repository for the biomolecular “goo,” the medium in which the synthetic AI’s DNA matrix continued to grow.

“Why don’t you sell that rickety, broken down company of yours and throw in with me, eh lad? I’ll make you a proper offer and give you your own research department. You’ll want for nothing.”

“And be answerable to you, Danny? Not on your life. I’d rather fall flat on my face in the mud than give you the pleasure of hearing me call you ‘boss’.”

Hunt removed his hand but was still smiling. “Have it your way, Davy. I think you’re making a mistake, but then maybe you’re right. We’re too much alike, both needing to call the shots as it were.”

“I’ll be fine, Danny. Say, fancy dropping round Friday evening for dinner with the family? Helen says she’s working on a new dish.”

Hunt pretended to ponder the offer, but the idea of listening to his ordinary wife prattle on about pot roasts and diapers, along with his two-year-old chattering whilst his newborn was cooing and crying wasn’t his idea of a Friday night.

“Appreciate the offer Davy, but I’ve already got plans.”

“What’s her name?”

“Okay, you caught me. Leslie. Her name’s Leslie Bryce. Bright young resident at the University of Edinburgh hospital. Top notch in her field. Brilliant mind.”

“No doubt a body to match, eh Danny?”

They both laughed, though Killgrave felt a momentary pang of guilt knowing the missus would take a dim view of such “male” jokes.

“Does she know she’ll have to compete with the largest ego on the planet?”

“The reason I fancy her so is because the doesn’t give a damn, not about my money, my business, and especially my ego.”

“Well, I best be going. When can I come by to run independent tests on your Sophia?”

“How about first of the week.”

“Champion, Danny. I’ll bring my team around. Nine sound good?”

“Fine, fine. Not to worry.”

“One thing. Do you intend on letting Sophia’s DNA matrix develop at random? I read your preliminary reports and thought maybe you might want to impose some sort of template to organize the expanding structure.”

“A template? You mean a human template? A human brain? I’m not out to create Skynet mind you.”

“Just a thought, Danny. We can talk about it later if you’d like.”

“Sure, Davy. I’ll see you to the door. Wouldn’t want you to get lost.”

“Thanks. It’s a right confusing labyrinth you’ve got here.”

David Killgrave left and Daniel Hunt returned to the lab and spent another five hours analyzing Sophia’s developing matrix and observing the patterns of each increasingly complex iteration of her data output. However, in the back of his mind, he kept thinking about Killgrave’s suggestion of deliberately imposing a cerebral template upon Sophia’s development. A human brain simulated using biosynthetic DNA as the building blocks.

But he would need an actual human brain as a model for the template. Who should he choose?

I know it might not seem as such, but if I decided to write a novel based on the material I’ve created regarding the Mikiko Jahn series and the synthecon concept thus far, this story would be the prologue. Why begin the story with the development of “Sophia” nine years before Mikiko’s accident and fifteen years before the current story line?

I can’t tell you, but it’s important.

Here we see a younger Daniel Hunt, just as brash, just as obnoxious, and just as brilliant as in his later years as he’s taking his very first steps in developing artificial biological structures and substances constructed of synthetic DNA.

I know. I’m not writing this in any chronological order, but I can reorder things as I develop them. I haven’t forgotten my “Dragon Children” novel idea and plan to toggle back and forth between them as time allows. I even read my eight-year-old grandson the first three-and-a-half chapters of that series just to get his input since I want that story to be “kid friendly”.

In the meantime, I’ll just park this one here for your entertainment and feedback.

Here are the chapters in the synthecon story thus far:

  1. The Reconstructed Woman
  2. Burn Victim
  3. Woman Under Repair
  4. Woman in the Shadows
  5. The Search for Armageddon
  6. The Swimmer
  7. Murder at 900 North Michigan
  8. First Flight
  9. The Man in the Dark
  10. Hellspite.
  11. Pursuit.
  12. The Vengeful

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