Here's the opening sequence to an ambitious alien artifact, human AI, hard science, space opera series of short stories based on the Holographic Universe Theory. Are you sufficienty hooked? Any fundamental flaws? Any major confusion?
Dr. Johnson looked at the name on his phone screen and immediately knew Dr. Rogers would be late.
“You’re going to miss the big moment,” he said.
“Can’t help it. There was rail damage in the subway. I’m in a taxi. I’ll be there soon for the second big moment.”
The monitor flashed the message, “Acquisition compete,” then the command ”Learn” above a password request.
Dr. Rogers looked down at Buck and said, “Satisfaction delayed.” The dog didn’t understand AIs or subway systems, but understood his master all too well and whined his concern.
“Too bad about Dr. Rogers,” he heard a voice behind him say. He spun around and saw a man sitting in a chair that had never been in the lab until that moment.
Dr. Johnson quickly put two and two together. “You damaged that subway rail. One voice command from me or him and there will be a complete and irreversible meltdown. We’re not going to let our life’s work - ”
“I’m not interested in stealing your little mechanical friend. The problem is with Dr. Rogers. He’s never shared your interest in the Holographic Nature Theory.”
“It’s not a theory. And who are you and how did you get in here? And what have you done with Dr. Rogers?”
“I’m not interested in harming Dr. Rogers either.”
“What do you want?”
“I’m here to give you what you what want. That robot isn't your ambition as a scientist.”
“It’s not a robot. And how do you know what I want.”
“We’ve been watching you for a while.”
“I’m afraid we’re going to have to leave Dr. Rogers out of the equation this time.”
Then the stranger held up his thumb and index finger with two inches of space between them. It was insider sign language between the two scientists. Others always assumed it was a dirty joke.
“Dr. Rogers doesn’t have a small mind.”
“He has no interest in how the universe works.”
By this point, Buck, who could see neither the being nor the furniture, nor hear a second voice, was becoming curious who his master was talking to. A split second later, his master was gone. The dog sniffed where the scientist’s feet had been.
Dr. Johnson found himself in a different room. In the corner, same stranger, same chair. On the floor, the AI. In the center, a chamber. In the chamber, protruding from the ceiling, a ring the size of a human head.
He picked up the AI. “Where are we and how did we get here? And where’s my dog?”
“You’re on the verge of tapping into the holographic nature of the universe and you’re concerned about your dog?”
Dr. Johnson tried to call Dr. Rogers and got no reception. “I can’t leave Dr. Rogers wondering what happened to me and Robbie.”
“You can have the universe or you can have Dr. Rogers. And you don’t have all day to choose. I’ve got other appointments. Step into the chamber.”
Dr. Johnson circled and inspected the device, but did not enter the chamber. “What is this thing? Who built it? What does it do?”
“It enables your mind to explore and exploit the universe by tapping into the universe’s holograph nature.”
“What’s its power source? Are there no instruments? Doesn’t it require maintenance? Has anyone ever taken a screwdriver to it?”
“Neither you nor anyone else is ever going to take a screwdriver to this device as long as we are its custodians. We’ve been studying your other questions for eons and have only vague clues. From what we can tell, it draws its power from the universe through the holographic connection and is self maintaining.”
“Has anyone ever suffered any adverse side effects? Has it ever rejected anyone?”
“The device has never melted anyone’s brain. And candidates are carefully selected, so the acceptance rate is nearly 100%. But a few candidates have been left behind because they asked too many questions. As I said, I have other appointments. Curiosity is natural, but you’ve reach your saturation point. Now step into the chamber.”
Facing the alien and backing into the chamber, Dr. Johnson said, ”First you said mind, then you said brain. There's a difference, you know.”
“Last chance, place your head under the ring.”
Dr. Johnson finally complied. The ring moved down. “I’ve got to leave a message with Dr. Rogers.”
“Dr. Rogers is on his own until he unglues his mind. But I’m sure he’ll take good care of your pet.”
“I mean about Robbie.”
“You, your invention, and your theory are a package.”
The ring began to tighten. “We’re partners. I couldn’t have done it without him. Robbie’s just as much his project as mine. And I need his password to activate the learn mode.”
“We know your invention has an emergency protocal,” the recruiter answered as the ring finished tightening. “We don’t have a customer serivce department, but I don’t want you calling out to me from wherever you’re going next, so I’ll have your fourlegged creature drop a hint.”
“A trip wasn’t part of the deal.” He tried to pull his head out of the ring, then tried to pull the ring off his head. “Shut it down! Take me back to my lab!”
“Initiation has its consequences. I could have explained everything to you, but like so many others, you wasted my time by letting your curiousity get the best of you. For future reference, explore rather than inquire.”
“There has to be a way to reverse this!”
“Apparently the device acts according to the candidate’s truest and deepest desire and ignores the complexity of mixed and contradictory thoughts and feelings.”
“Where are you sending me?”
“I’m not sending you anywhere.”
“Where is this contraption sending me?”
“It’s not sending you anywhere either. With your enhanced abilities, you’re going to send yourself somewhere.”
“Where you belong.”
“Are we still on Earth?”
“So many questions. And the answer to that one is classified.”
The last thing Dr. Johnson remembered thinking was how the recruiter was going to use an animal to communicate with a human.
Then the ancient, mysterious device activated and the rest of the universe overwhelmed his mind. He ceased any consideration of the scene in the chamber room and the scene in the lab.
Or Dr. Rogers or Buck or the recruiter. Or the device. Or himself.
He closed his eyes, lifted his index and middle fingers to his temples, and mumbled to himself, “It’s connected ... it’s all connected.”
“I never get tired of watching that reaction,” the recruiter said to himself.
Then Dr. Johnson was gone.