Web Surfer ANI: All Natural Intelligence
The enslaved king of 22nd Century cyberspace has come of age and seeks to regain control of his life and escape his father’s cybernetics lab. Since babyhood, Alex McGregor has been the human host of an AI, Sander, thanks to a man-made retrovirus that converted Alex’s cells into biological supercomputer components. This is kept a secret, lest the public deem him a high-tech zombie and panic since Sander remotely operates most of Earth’s machines, providing vital services. Now nineteen, Alex plots to uninstall himself from Sander and marry his technophobic girlfriend, Manna Jenkins. Sander predicts Alex’s bid for freedom will end in his death in a global tech catastrophe. Sander will protect his beloved users at any personal cost.
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Alex-Sander McGregor seeks to be reunited with his kidnapped foster daughter, Mercy. In the Catastrophe, her conscious mind and her avatar become lost on Canidae Mundus, a planet in the alternate universe generated by Alex-Sander’s cybernetic second brain. Canidae Mundus is home to the Labrans and the Jackals, humanoid canine races created in cyberspace for a fantasy franchise. A loving Labran family adopts Mercy from an animal shelter. After her kidnappers’ abuse and neglect, she soon forgets she needs to be found. Meanwhile, their tech brand’s new rival, Nimbus Rider acquires Alex-Sander’s ex-users, including his estranged younger brother, Chance, who signs a lifetime contract obligating him to work for Nimbus Rider. It’s Chance who needs to find Mercy, but he resents her stepdad, Elisha Gabrielson, for being raised with Sander.
Alex-Sander McGregor buys back his digital universe, replicates 20th Century Earth in it, and plants there the living duplicates of dead babies from his generation. One child, Malcolm, has been duplicated before and used as a digital actor forced to follow a show’s script. Alex-Sander sets Malcolm up for a good life and raises a planetary shield that blocks even him out. Fifteen years later, the shield fails, revealing the life alterations robbed Malcolm of vital parts of himself. Restoring those requires taking Malcolm to the 22nd Century and breaking him without killing him. Sander must also face why he avoided beloved teammates from a superhero show he hated. He also risks again rankling Elisha, who was mad that Malcolm is his duplicated stillborn twin.
Malcolm embraces his true identity, Malachi “Kai” Gabrielson, and reconnects with his brother Elisha through King Sander. Now Kai and his friend Justin must get their team back together to defend Digital Earth from a real threat. Xanubis, the Jackals’ king, seeks to add their planet to his empire, when Xanubis has earned a gruesome, violent reputation. Justin and Kai’s first hurdle is convincing Alex-Sander, Chance, and Elisha to empower and equip them to defend their home rather than raise the planetary shield that had blocked out even King Sander. Meanwhile, Justin exposes Sander’s darkest secrets and this destabilizes him to a point where everything is at risk.
Note Bear has published the related anthology, Avatars of Web Surfer, a collection of eight prequel stories and two stories concurrent to the climax of ANI, you’re welcome to read it the order you prefer.