Captain Bru Copetski, a SPAID pilot (Salvage, Portage And Information Delivery) in the Spiral Gap sector of our galaxy, has been running deliveries between Polkbridge deep space station and the three newly settled planets of the Gap for several decades. Orphaned early in life, he inherited enough wealth to buy a star yacht in his twenties and migrated to the Spiral Gap along with Bacchus, his robot co-pilot.
Largely due to the genius of Professor Cole Skinner, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics expert from Earth’s Northeast University, robots (also called bionics) have become a normal part of human society, especially as security/surveillance devices for the public’s “protection,” and as a necessary aid for interstellar travel. Only bionic brains, known as biscoms (short for bionic synaptic complex), can tap into the transdimensional field that permits spaceships to perform vortexial leaps (V-jumps) between star systems. Every starship, therefore, must employ at least one “crew-bot” to calculate the V-jumps.
Bru and Bacchus, along with their friends Lieutenant Kevin Ragg and barkeeper’s daughter Maggie Poole, become entangled in a mission to Generaton, one of the three Spiral Gap worlds. Maggie’s father “Papa” Poole is kidnapped along with her best friend Goldie Fretz, by two criminals who take them off to Generaton for unknown reasons. Bru, before setting out to rescue them, encounters Polkbridge Station’s mayor Pearl Lasham who has been plagued by a strange series of dreams, all of which feature clear images of Bru Copetski, although Pearl has never met the pilot before. Word comes of the kidnapping just as Bru is considering whether he can help the beleaguered mayor figure out what the dreams might mean. She hints that they might have some non-human, alien origin and Bru is highly skeptical.
Many light-years away, back on Earth, Cole Skinner and his wife Connie, both university profs, are protecting two vital secrets. In a secularized society that has outlawed any public expression of religious belief by adopting the FANU Doctrine (Final Acceptance of a Naturalistic Universe), both are underground Christians, using their educational status to make new disciples as they have opportunity.
Connie has also been in contact with a mysterious race of beings by means of her dreams—beings who are intensely curious about humanity, yet are unable to encounter us more directly because of a kind of “mental poison” in us that is deadly to them. They can only communicate verbally by means of our robots, which have a kind of consciousness free of this poisonous element. These aliens, who call themselves “Knowers,” have given mankind the ability—by means of our bionic servants—to travel to the Spiral Gap, where the Knowers have dwelt since time began. Because direct contact from our dimension to theirs would prove disastrous to them, the Skinners have pledged to keep their existence a secret.
Several shady characters are investigating both the background of the Skinners and that of Bru Copetski: Morgan Maestromus, overweight tycoon and crime boss who is curious about Bacchus’s strange independent behaviors; Ansel Gunther, a young, brilliant diplomatic aide seeking rapid advancement while the Gap worlds move toward confederation; and John Paul Vincennes, former mayor of Polkbridge Station and self-styled Napoleonic visionary. As these three move toward uncovering the mysteries surrounding Bru and the Skinners, Copetski’s rescue mission turns into a desperate effort to thwart Vincennes’ conquest of the peaceful new world of Generaton.
Mayor Pearl Lasham, her assistant Tara Bechtel (Ansel Gunther’s secret lover), Ambassador Thomas Ackberg of Generaton, and others, also become entwined in the mysteries of Copetski’s past, present and future, including his surprising ties to Bacchus, the Skinners, and the alien Fellowship of Knowers. Bru has to deal with the tragic loss of two of his dearest friends, a growing respect bordering on love for Maggie Poole, the frustration of his frequently disappearing crew-bot Bacchus, and the puzzling nature of Lasham’s dreams and what they might mean. Vincennes amasses a private invasion force of both humans and bionic “beast-bots” that threaten to render Generaton powerless. Independent of one another, Bru and the Skinners both have a hand in mounting a resistance to Vincennes’ takeover, as Bacchus and two other bionic friends play key supporting roles in the conflict.
A climactic clash of powers takes place at the inaugural rally where Vincennes plans to assume ruler-ship of the planet. Bru must choose whether or not to sacrifice his life for the cause of freedom—or is revenge the true motive? Only by facing the weaknesses and bitterness of his past can Bru finally find his way to new life.
© 2010 by Mark N. Aikins