QSFer K. Aten has a new queer sci fi book out (Bi, Lesbian, Non-Binary, Pan): “Remember Me, Synthetica.”
What happens when a woman loses her memory but gains a conscience?
Dr. Alexandra Turing is a roboticist whose intellect is unrivaled in the field of artificial intelligence. While science has always come easy, Alexandra struggles to understand emotional cues and responses. Driven by the legacy of her late great-uncle, she dedicates her life to the Synthetica project at her father’s company, Organic Advancement Solutions (OAS).
Her life is rebooted when she wakes from a coma, six months after being struck by a car. Traumatic brain injury altered Alex’s senses, her memory, and her personality. Despite the changes, she feels reborn as she navigates her way back into her old life. Part of her new journey includes dating the alluring Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Emily St. John.
Emily is enamored with the hyper-intelligent scientist, but there are things about Alex and OAS that don’t add up. With Emily’s prompting, Alex undergoes testing that leaves her with more questions than answers. What she discovers changes more than her life, it will change the world around her.
I quickly grabbed the little cat and the bag of cat food and made my way to the utility room, then placed Anna in the freshly filled litter pan. She scratched around for a few seconds but didn’t use it. Instead she ran over to where Fal had filled her dishes with food that I had just bought and water from the laundry sink. There were small crinkly balls among the cat toys so I grabbed one from the bag and threw it into the living room. Anna immediately sprinted after it and I followed the kitten so I wouldn’t miss any of her antics. I sat on the couch and Fal took a seat in the nearby chair, watching me as much as I watched Anna. Fal’s gaze felt heavy even though I knew it was merely my reaction to seeing her watch so intently in my peripheral vision.
I didn’t question her curiosity, instead I spoke about how I was feeling, which was one of the recovery exercises that were recommended by Doctor Jones. “I’m really glad I brought her home. Watching Anna play makes me feel strangely happy.”
“How does it make you happy?”
Her question was difficult to answer and it took me a minute and fifteen seconds to find a starting point. “Happy is hard to explain. I feel lighter, though I know that neither my mass nor Earth’s gravitational pull have changed. It’s like I have multiple emotions running through me at once whenever I look at her. Tenderness, protectiveness, joy, and worry. I’ve felt some of them for my work before, haven’t I? I remember saying things that would indicate such.”
“I’d like to get back to work as soon as possible.” Fal started to speak and I cut her off. “I know that you’ll be staying with me this coming week and that you took it off to help me acclimate to life here at home. However, I think the Synthetica project would be best served if you used the time to update me on all that I’d missed during my absence. Work is the majority of my life and the thing I most need to feel whole. I want to feel vital…normal again.”
Fal frowned. “I suppose we could do that. I have my laptop upstairs and yours is locked in the safe in your office. Your father put it there himself after the accident.”
I touched the skin between my brows where I could feel a crinkle form with my thoughts. Memory was a complicated thing and I did my best to recall my final actions in the project before everything went dark in front of the coffee shop. “I remember that we’d just made a breakthrough on neural mapping for the positronic brain on the day of the accident.”
“That’s correct. Reconfiguring the various lobe networks allowed for a seamless simulation of human thought and even increased the learning instinct that was programmed in by Doctor Venga. That allowed the android to take whatever base program it was given and evolve it exponentially, from intellect to emotion. However, despite those advancements, the chemical synaptic gel that encases the primary CPU lobe requires a regular influx of Trichlorosilane. Without it the positronic brain suffers rapid memory degradation and eventual system collapse. The more the brain is taxed, the faster the decay. Trichlorosilane is a colorless and volatile inorganic compound. It rapidly decomposes in water to produce silicone polymer while giving off hydrochloric acid. The small amount of acid clears the circuitry and neural pathways and the silicone adds a protective layer after to help prolong the life of the system.”
“Fascinating.” Motion near the bookshelf caught my eye. Anna had jumped up to the third shelf and readied herself for the big leap to the mantle above the gas fireplace. My gaze moved with concern to the glass candle holders interspersed evenly along the dark stained length. “No, Anna!”
Fal began laughing. “She’s not going to listen to you.”
I looked at her, curious how she could know such a thing. “Why not?”
Her expression indicated that I was being particularly dense. “Alex, she’s a cat. They do what they want.” Both our gazes were drawn back to the fireplace when the little tawny tiger leaped from the bookshelf to the mantle. “You better stop her before she breaks your candles.”
“I’m certain she won’t damage any—” I stopped speaking as a little paw hooked around the candle holder and pulled it toward the edge of the wood. “Perhaps I should—”
My words proved too late as the glass holder dropped to the stone tiles in front of the fireplace with a crash.
“Oh, format me!” The remembered favorite exclamation slipped out before I could think about my reaction, and I jumped from the couch to retrieve the cat before she caused more trouble. Fal laughed but made no move to leave the chair to help me.
“You were saying?”
I scolded the kitten. “Anna, you’re a very bad cat!” She rubbed her head against the index finger I’d been shaking at her and I smiled. Then, realizing the effect she was having on me, I walked over and deposited her in Fal’s lap. “She is entirely too cute for me to function properly. Please hold her until I can clear the broken pieces.”
As I used a vacuum to remove the glass pieces from the floor, my attention was drawn back to the chair. The smile returned when I witnessed my cat-opposed best friend stroking Anna’s soft fur.
Kelly Aten-Keilen is an award winning author who lives in Michigan with her wife, two kids, two cats, and a dog. She’s written 12 novels across multiple genres, with the 12th set to publish at the end of 2020 through Regal Crest Enterprises. She brings heroines to life in a variety of blended LGBTQ fiction genres, specializing in speculative fiction. Kelly’s works focus on extra-ordinary women who are as flawed as they are compelling. Her goal with each new novel is to make people #Think, #Feel, and #Discuss.
“Some words end the silence, others begin it.”