Sometimes the person you lie to the most is yourself.
The Silver Six have blown the Renegades’ underground compound to bits, killing several of Rebecca’s best friends in the process—and to her horror, the boy Rebecca had convinced herself she loved for all these years was the one to betray them all. At the same time, General Specs, the company Liam was once slated to inherit, has developed a superintelligent robot called Jaguar which is quickly becoming godlike in her omniscience. As the remaining Renegades flee to their last bastion of safety in the Caribbean, Liam makes his way back to London, in a last ditch effort to convince his father to destroy Jaguar before it’s too late.
Rebecca, meanwhile, finally understands her own heart: she never loved Andy. He was merely a ‘safe’ choice who would never require anything of her. Liam, on the other hand, exasperating as he was, had seen past her defenses. All of his teasing and provoking had been his attempt to get her to be real with him—but the more he made her feel, the further she had retreated. She had even substituted her companion bot Madeline for real, deep human friendships, and for the same reason: she’d been avoiding love to protect herself from another loss like the one she had experienced when her father was killed for the Renegades’ cause. Ironically, she only realizes this once Liam is on his way to a similar fate. But she’ll be damned if she lets him go without a fight.
This high stakes conclusion to the Uncanny Valley Trilogy envisions a world not too far off from our own, in which superintelligence is a reality, humanoid bots have supplanted human power and influence, and there are eyes watching and reporting our every move. If humanity is to survive, the Renegades will have to galvanize support across the globe, under the radar—and it will require every last bit of ingenuity they possess. But is attempting to outwit a superintelligent being really the answer? Or will it require something much more fundamentally human?
This is the third book in this series.
Make sure you get all three books, so you don't miss anything!!!
C.A. Gray is the author of the YA Fantasy PIERCING THE VEIL trilogy, as well as the YA Dystopian trilogy, THE LIBERTY BOX. By day, she is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD), with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ. Additionally, she writes medical books under her real name.
Her favorite authors include J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, and she also reads an exceptional amount of non-fiction. She is blessed with exceptionally supportive family and friends, and thanks God for them every single day!
Prologue: Liam Kelly
Madeline’s eyes glowed a dull reddish color that told me she was still in maintenance mode.
“Software update complete,” she declared, her voice flat and even more mechanical than usual.
I reached behind her neck to hit her power button, letting her boot up. As she did, I reread the letter I’d just written.
You’ll find that Madeline’s functionality is a bit changed: as I write this letter, I
am installing a much older operating system on her, and adding in a few morality failsafes—meaning if she deems that your best interests conflict with another person’s rights, she will err on the side of the latter, rather than the former. I am also installing my software upgrade block on her, so that if Jaguar does distribute a creativity upgrade which might put these changes in jeopardy, she won’t be able to access it. But she retains her memory chip, so you will find her personality and her memories with you unchanged. I knew it would be too much to ask you to part with your best friend.
That said, even if she isn’t dangerous anymore, she is “just” a robot, Bec. You
once said yourself that it means nothing for someone—or something—to choose you, if there is no possibility that they could do otherwise. C.S. Lewis once wrote, ‘To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.’ Loving Madeline was never risky; loving people is.
But it’s worth the risk, Bec. Trust me on this.
I sighed, dissatisfied. It didn’t say what I really wanted it to say—but then, it couldn’t. Would what it did say be enough—considering this would have to be my goodbye?
I folded the letter, using the tip of my pen to puncture a hole through the top of it. I threaded it through a string just as Madeline ‘awoke.’
“Liam?” she asked, sounding confused. “Where is Rebecca?”
“I’ll give you back to her soon, I just needed to update your programming a bit. I also need you to deliver a message to her for me—but only after I’m dead, do you understand me?”
She blinked at me. “But… why would you be dead?”
“I’m sure she’ll explain that to you, I haven’t got time now. The message is this.” I sighed deeply, and confessed, “I lied. I told her I didn’t love her because it was the only way to keep her from coming after me. I wanted to keep her safe. But when she finds out I’m dead, tell her—”
my voice caught. I breathed through it, and added with more determination, “tell her I’ve always loved her. From the very beginning. Can you do that for me?”
Wide-eyed, Madeline nodded. I knew the look: she was trying to read my emotions, so she could respond properly. But I was hiding them as best I could, so she didn’t know how she was supposed to act, either.
“But…” Madeline’s digital eyes flashed back and forth, “if I don’t tell her until after she finds out you’re dead, won’t she be furious with me that I didn’t tell her sooner, when she could still do something about it?”
I leveled her with a glare, and she shrank back. I knew she would. “Madeline, when your objectives of making Rebecca happy and keeping her safe come in conflict, which are you programmed to do?”
“Keep her safe,” Madeline said meekly.
I relaxed. I’d just reinforced that programming, but I wanted to make sure it took. “Good. That’s right. Now do it.”
I powered her back down then, and wrote Rebecca’s name on the front of the letter, tying it around Madeline’s neck. Next, I went to the dome room where I knew Mack would be tracking satellite data. Francis sat beside him, and they both looked up when I entered.
“Liam,” Mack said, his voice heavy.
I walked up and handed him Madeline. “Will you put this on the hovercraft and make sure Rebecca sees it?”
A look of confusion knitted his brow even as he accepted the bundle. “You can’t just give it to her yourself?”
I swallowed and shook my head. “I’m afraid I have to leave right now. I’m gonna try to convince my father to dismantle Jaguar before it’s too late—and show him Giovanni’s database of human test subjects. My brother’s name is on the list, so he’s not dead after all. M already knows all this,” I added.
As I spoke to Mack, Francis flipped his net screen closed and walked over, handing it to me. “You’ll need this. To communicate with us.”
I pursed my lips, and nodded. The net screen’s LP address would be networked to the Commune, of course. It was optimistic to think I’d ever have the opportunity to communicate with them again, but I did like the idea of having at least some possibility of keeping tabs on the group.
Mack gave me a side hug, which was all we could manage, between Madeline and the netscreen. “Good luck,” he said gruffly. “Stay safe.”
I gave a short, incredulous laugh, but nodded. Then I turned to Francis, who stood there rigidly with his arms at his sides, watching me with no expression at all. Since he wasn’t gonna help me, I crossed the full distance to him, and embraced him with my one free arm. He hesitated, before raising up his own arm to pat my shoulder a few times.
“Thanks,” I told him.
“For all your support over the years. It’s been an honor. You’re—one of my best friends, Francis.” It felt odd to say that out loud, but if ever there was a time to do so, it was now.
He blinked very fast, as if he didn’t comprehend what I’d just said. “I—am?”
I smiled in spite of myself. “Yes, believe it or not.” I glanced back at Mack, who looked more touched than Francis did. “Okay.” I gave them both a swift nod, and left the room after that. No point in lingering. I really didn’t want to run into Rebecca again after our last encounter, anyway. If I saw how much I’d hurt her, I’d probably cave and kiss her right there in the hallway, consequences be damned.
The others were mostly busy packing up, as I knew they would be. They didn’t look at me, and I didn’t bother to say any other goodbyes. I’d already said the ones that mattered.
All I took with me were the LED glasses Francis had made, and the net screen he’d just handed me. I left the compound for the last time, took a deep breath, and climbed into one of the golf carts waiting in the outside tunnels. It was amazing how loud the wind sounded as I sped toward the silo where we kept the cars. I savored every sensation, like a man going to the gallows: the wind through my hair, cooling the humidity on my skin. The roaring sound in my
ears. The jostle of the wheels on the uneven ground below vibrating through my body.
When I arrived at the silo, I took down the keys to the same old suburban I’d taken to the Quantum Track the day M sent me out for supplies. That was also the day I’d taken the hovercraft back to Casa Linda in abject terror to search for Rebecca, and the day both Andy and Val had arrived at the compound. I hesitated again, closing my eyes, savoring the ‘lastness’ of the moment—but only for a moment. Then I opened them again, raised the silo door, and climbed into the suburban, putting the keys in the ignition.
The wheels kicked up dust from the unmarked trail I blazed, heading toward the nearest Quantum Track station. I hadn’t gotten very far when I noticed specks in the sky. As I got closer, I realized they were hovercrafts. And they were moving toward the compound.
My heart felt like it dropped into my stomach. There was nothing I could do to warn them. Surely Mack would have seen them already, wouldn’t he?
Would they get out in time?
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