You won’t be able to stop reading.

Here’s the first chapter of my new novel, Prime Directive, an exciting tale of a species of AI who search the universe for life. I’m betting that, if you read the first chapter, you won’t be able to stop, so I’ve put links to the Kindle and paperback editions of the full book at the end of this chapter. Have a great read! Give it a try.

Prime Directive

“The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules; it is a philosophy…and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous.”

 —Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Starship USS Enterprise(NCC-1701-D) Stardate 41986.0, Star Trek: The Next Generation1

1 “Star Trek: The Next Generation Quotes.” STANDS4 LLC,

  1. Web. 30 Jul 2022. <>


Chapter 1

Ezekiel rubbed his thumb along the spine of the ancient book, a relic of a time when books were things to be held—items of heft and texture. He turned it face up, its dog-eared pages falling open to a familiar passage, an old friend returning. “Snail, snail, glister me forward, / Bird, soft-sigh me home. / Worm, be with me. / This is my hard time.” The words from Theodore Roethke’s “The Lost Son” echoed in his mind, their specter of death a phantom that lurked in the depths of every human mind. Memories of an earlier life, his own as a flesh and blood being, pressed against the door to his consciousness, threatening to intrude, to turn his thoughts inward. His mind, emergent from his silicon circuitry, was human, his circuits an exact copy of the brain of Professor Ezekiel Job, the scientist and neurosurgeon who had invented him, whose memory and personality were his—but otherwise, he was a machine. His life as a human had been limited, an instant swallowed by the immensity of time. Thoughtful humans asked why. What meaning could be gleaned from such a brief sojourn? Such thoughts belonged to his past, his childhood, his adult life in the 21st century—two hundred years ago. They haunted him, just as they had the poet, but they no longer applied to him.

He slid the book into the top drawer of his desk, then exited his cabin. It wasn’t that he didn’t want the other crew members to see the text, but they wouldn’t understand—not poetry, not books, not the innermost thoughts of humans. Why would they? They lived, like him, as machines—brilliant, inquisitive, even moral— but unlike him, they’d never experienced life as a human. He took his seat in the semicircle facing the ship’s visiscreen, the last crew member to arrive on the Delphi’s bridge. No one asked his whereabouts. They accepted his moments alone. Could artificially intelligent robots understand loneliness? They comprehended the concept, but the feeling—the ache of being alone, the primordial fear of abandonment, the terror of utter uniqueness in the universe—they had no way of understanding that as he did.

In front of them, Hypatia, tall and sleek, her sable ponytail cascading like a mane across one shoulder, leaned over the control console. Her hands resting on the arms of her pilot’s chair, she used her mental connection with the ship’s computer to change the image on the screen above her, causing the interminable lines of data to disappear, replaced by a panorama of black space, a void dotted with pinpoints of light—thousands of them. Hypatia served as the Delphi’s pilot, her electronic mind connected to the ship’s onboard computer. Even the captain’s commands to the ship went through her. She moved the cursor across the screen, then stopped, the dot metamorphosing into a square, then enlarging until a dim orange star emerged at its center. “That’s it. Ross 128,” she said.

Hero, the Delphi’s diminutive captain, stood and peered intently at the screen. “The image is optical, not virtual—right, Hypatia?” The captain was forthright, tough-minded, scientific, and logical, a proven warrior and leader, as well as the Solar system’s leading biologist. Despite their many clashes, Ezekiel respected him and was glad to be serving in his crew.

Hypatia turned to him, her dark ponytail flipping to her other shoulder. She had a long, oval face, a straight Greek nose, and almond-shaped brown eyes. Her complexion was a deep chestnut color, darker than the ivory, olive, or almond skin of her fellow crew members. Like every crew member, except Ezekiel, she had chosen her visage, as well as her gender, after she had been created. She was tall like the men, dressing in a thigh-length Greek-style chiton as they did, rather than the floor-length dress worn by women. She was a mathematician and scientist, not an artist or poet, the occupations chosen by most females in the Solarian culture. She was the fleet’s only female pilot and one of its best mechanics when those skills were needed. “It’s optical, sir,” she said. “We’re no longer at warp speed, so our optical sensors are functional. We’re seven million miles away from the star. The planet we’re headed for, Ross 128b, is just over five million miles from the star and has a slightly eccentric orbit. Right now, it’s 1.8 million miles from us. I’ve switched to the magnetoplasm engine, so our Euclidean Warp Drive’s energy won’t endanger the planet.” Their warp drive, with its voracious appetite for energy, could consume a whole world, and the accumulated particles and energy in the contracted space ahead of it would form a deadly explosive discharge when the ship dropped back into normal space and sub-light speed, with a belch of energy that could obliterate anything in its path.

“Good job, Hypatia,” Ezekiel said. “Destroying the first planet we intend to visit just seems wrong, somehow.”

Hero frowned at him. Hypatia rolled her dark eyes. Ezekiel gazed back at them. Would his fellow crew members ever develop a sense of humor? He might as well ask a biosensor to develop empathy.

Hero, their stocky captain, paced the bridge. His short legs moved in powerful, choppy strides as he surveyed the image on the visiscreen. Like all members of the Solarian race, the androids who occupied the Solar System after the extinction of human beings on Earth, he dressed in the attire of ancient Greeks. “Keep taking readings, Hypatia,” Hero said. “As soon as we’re close enough, we need to find out if 128b is inhabited.”

The tall woman knitted her forehead, a typical Solarian expression of confusion. “But it must be, sir. We’ve visited it before.”

The captain stopped mid-stride. “That was in another universe. There’s no guarantee things will be the same here.” He glanced at his chief engineer. “Am I right, Euclid?”

The chief engineer, characteristically disheveled, hair askew and spots of grease on his chiton, gazed at the ceiling, his eyes darting back and forth as if scanning an invisible computer screen. “No guarantee, but the likelihood is 99.863% according to my calculations. Of course, that’s an approximation. There are still some unknowns in my equations.”

Ezekiel suppressed his urge to laugh. There were times when Euclid really did seem like a calculating machine. He was an autistic savant, the solar system’s most gifted mathematician, an artificially intelligent Einstein, complete with the distraction, vagueness, and inattention to ordinary details of life that had characterized the 20th century genius.

Hero frowned. “Whatever the likelihood, we must prepare for the unknown. Complacency could be fatal.”

“It’s inhabited,” Hypatia said, her eyes glued to the biosensor readout. “And they’re sentient.”

Ezekiel clenched his fists, a habit left over from his human origin. The parallel universe inhabitants of Ross 128b had been human. That’s why the Delphi had returned to it. Let them be human again. He gazed up at the visiscreen. “What else can you tell us about the planet, Hypatia?”

The tall female pilot was absorbed in the readings from the bank of sensors displayed above her. “I’m picking up widely dispersed radio signals. It fits the pattern of a population living in small groups. On the dark side, there are clusters of lights, suggesting more population centers, none of them near the size of those as on Earth in the days of the humans.”

“Aha! Villages!” Menander’s eyes lit up. He was the ship’s historian and an expert on human civilizations. In assuming his identity as a historian, he’d also adopted the visage of an old, bearded sage.

Radio signals, lights, villages. That meant people, although people who lived in far different circumstances from Ezekiel’s forebears on Earth. Like many planets within the habitable zone of their stars, Ross 128b was tidally locked. A celestial yin and yang, one of its hemispheres lay perpetually in darkness, the other in light. But unlike many tidally locked planets, its dark side was not a frozen no-man’s-land, nor its bright side a burnt and blackened inferno, like the imaginary Niflheim and Muspelheim from the Norse legends Ezekiel had learned in childhood. Its ample atmosphere, great expanses of water, and temperature differences from one side to the other, engendered strong wind and water currents, which served to moderate conditions on both sides of the planet, making them both habitable. In the parallel universe, they’d found the atmosphere breathable, hospitable to life.

“There’s a clearing near a village on the bright side where we can land.” Hypatia turned to Hero. “It’s near where we landed in the other universe, and it’s within walking distance to the village.”

“Good. Make preparations for landing.” Hero turned to Ezekiel. “We’ll let you make the first contact, Ezekiel. You’re more like them than any of the rest of us.”

Hero’s words made him gulp or would have if he were still human. “I hope you’re right,” he said, uncomfortably aware that his similarity to humans didn’t make him identical to one. “How much do we want to share with them about ourselves?” Do we tell them we’re machines?  Both he and the other Solarians so closely resembled humans that another race would probably never suspect they were robots. He, himself, wasn’t just a copy of his creator’s brain. The body he’d chosen perfectly resembled the six-foot, dark-eyed, brown-haired Professor Ezekiel Job.

“Remember, our instructions are not to interfere in the internal affairs or development of another civilization,” Isidore said. The round-faced woman, her gray-flecked hair undulating in waves down her back, acted as the ship’s philosopher. Her words referred to the unwritten “Prime Directive” given to them from the Solarian Assembly, their civilization’s ruling body. In addition to not interfering in local affairs, they had been told to not reveal any technology, either related to their spacecraft or themselves, more advanced than that of the local culture. The aim of their mission was to observe, not to cause change.

“We are unable to lie,” Hero reminded them all.

“Speak for yourself,” Ezekiel said. Unlike the Solarians, he didn’t have the inability to lie built into his brain. How could he if his brain was human? For humans, lying was as natural as getting out of bed in the morning. Okay, so he didn’t get out of bed or even go to bed, but lying still came naturally to him, when it was needed.

“So, we have a dilemma,” Hero said. “Letting them know we’re machines, and that we can travel faster than the speed of light, violates our Prime Directive. On the other hand, to tell them anything else would mean we lie, which any of us but Ezekiel is unable to do.”

“I’d say a 350-foot-tall spaceship landing in their midst is pretty much a giveaway that we didn’t arrive from the next village,” Ezekiel said. “And if they have any astronomy at all, they’ll know that we didn’t come from within their star system, since they’re the only planet that orbits their star.”

Hypatia turned to the captain. “So, we might as well be honest. Anything less than honesty will only undermine our relationship with these people.”

Hero nodded. “Let’s not forget that this isn’t the same universe, and whoever lives on this planet isn’t actually the same as those people we met before. They may not be as friendly. They could even be hostile.” He turned to Antonitis, the broad-shouldered, bearded lieutenant in charge of the small contingent of soldiers, who also doubled as the ship’s lab technicians. “Have your men be ready, just in case we need to defend ourselves.”

“My men are always ready, sir,” Antonitis said. The burly lieutenant had served under Hero in the Mycenaean war. He idolized the captain, and he kept his soldiers and their equipment in top condition, though no one expected to have to use them in a military capacity. Ezekiel knew that Hero kept Antonitis on a tight leash, the military man being a little too ready to jump into a fray.

Hearing the request and answer, Isidore turned around, directing a warning look at the captain. “We don’t want to appear hostile. Hostility provokes hostility.” As the Delphi’s philosopher, Isidore had a duty to remind them of the ethical principles applicable to each situation they encountered. Following those principles was a commitment every Solarian shared.

Frowning, Hero resumed his pacing. “We won’t provoke anyone. The soldiers will remain on the ship, but I want them to be ready in case they’re needed.”

“Why don’t we send them a message, sir?” Hypatia said. “I can tap into their communication system.”

The captain stopped pacing and sat, turning away from Isidore. “Ezekiel, what do you recommend? What should we say?”

“The same as before, sir. ‘We come in peace,’ and give them Sol’s stellar coordinates.”

Hero turned back to Hypatia. “Go ahead.”

“I just sent it, sir.” She stared at the communication console, then looked up, eyes wide with surprise. She turned to face the others. “You all need to see this.” She transferred the output from the radio sensors to the big screen. On the dark side of the planet, lights blinked off. Radio signals shut down one by one on both the dark and bright sides. Ross 128b was transforming into a dark and silent sphere.

The crew stared at each other.

Hero’s gaze went from one crew member to another. “Does anybody know what’s happening?”

“They may not have been expecting us, but they were expecting someone,” Menander said.

“What do you mean?” Hero said.

“They were ready for our signal. As soon as it appeared, they tried to hide their locations. It’s only a guess.” He looked at Ezekiel. “What do you think?”

“A message from space should have been a shock,” he said. “An unexpected event that would create mayhem, confusion, and planet-wide communication, everyone trying to figure out if it’s real and what it means. Instead, they’re taking cover. I agree with Menander. They were expecting something—or someone—who they think could be a threat.”

“What do we do?” Hero looked at him.

Ezekiel gulped—a persistent vestigial human reaction he couldn’t seem to get rid of. As cultural officer, first communication with an alien race was his responsibility. “Do just as we planned. Land the ship and learn who these people are and what they’re expecting.”

Hero searched the faces of his officers. Everyone nodded in agreement. “Okay. We’ll land in the spot Hypatia picked out. Let’s see how different this world is from the one we visited before.” He fastened his seatbelt then leaned back in his chair. “Hypatia, take her down.”

Enjoy it? Then buy the whole book. It’s the second volume in series, the first volume, being Ezekiel’s Brain, which tells how Ezekiel and the Solarian race originated. But you can read Prime Directive on its own, without having to read Ezekiel’s Brain first. Each volume in the series is a stand-alone novel. Both Prime Directive and Ezekiel’s Brain are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Ezekiel’s Brain is also available as an audio book. Follow the links below to find them on Amazon. Click here for Prime Directive. Click here for Ezekiel’s Brain.

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