Ptolemy Lane Tales 4.0

Space Opera Science Fiction Novel

More books by Cameron Cooper
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Serials can’t feel emotions as humans do.

Or so Ptolemy Jovan Lane has always insisted.  Yet when he learns that an old friend, Marija, might still be alive, he leaves an unsolved murder behind him in order to dash across the fringes to find her, bringing his human assistant, Ninety-Nine, with him. 

His intention is purely to learn the truth, but his impetuous mission goes swiftly and spectacularly awry, leaving Ninety-Nine and him cut off and at the mercy of an enemy Jovan didn’t know he had.

The Ancient Girl in the Autopod is the fourth story and the first full novel in the Ptolemy Lane space opera science fiction series by award-winning SF author Cameron Cooper.

The Ptolemy Lane Tales:
1.0: The Body in the Zero Gee Brothel
2.0: The Captain Who Broke the Rules
3.0: The Maker of Widowmakers’ Arm
4.0: The Ancient Girl in the Autopod
5.0: The Return of the Peacemaker

This series can also be bought as a Special Bundle

{Also see: Space Opera, Science Fiction, Novels, Novelettes}

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The Ancient Girl in the Autopod
Average rating:  
 6 reviews
 by Dina Bushrod
Whether the law be man, machine, or both, if he has a feeling let him go for it

I really enjoy this series, as it is not only an awesome look into an imaginative future, but it reminds me of those great white and black detective movies. I was surprised at how much more I learned from this book about not only the main character but those around him. I either didn't pay attention to some of the details from the prior books or it just went over my head. Either way, the author used some amazing possibilities of future mankind and IA's, thrown in with some exciting sleuthing. Pick up this book and if you haven't yet started this series now is a good time to start.

 by Marjorie
Classic hard-boild mystery at its finest

There are mysteries a detective sets out to solve, and there are those he is drawn inexorably into - caught in a web of intrigue and deception. This story is definitively the latter, yet even recognizing the trap, he finds himself unable to resist. Will Jovan be able to outsmart his unknown adversary? One thing is for certain, it is going to take all of his and Ninety-Nine's skills combined to get through this one as they go flying off across the galaxy.

Very cleverly written mystery - it is all in the detail with this one. Reminded me a bit of an Agatha Christie murder mystery in places. This book is longer than the previous installment which allows for both a more complex story and quite a bit more character development. Cooper likes to play with ideas of sentience, nature vs nurture, programming/destiny vs free will. This book explores some of those themes as well with asking - well, you'll have to read for yourself - spoiler 😉

Book 4 in the Ptolemy Lane series, each is a contained mystery and can be read independently.

 by Kat Z

This is the fourth book in the Ptolemy Lane series and this one is a longer story than the other three. I loved it. Ptolemy Jovan Lane is a very interesting character, in fact he is always an interesting character. What I liked best was getting to know Ninety-Nine more and seeing how nuanced his relationship with Jovan really is. A wonderful story of who done it, told as only Cameron Cooper can.

 by Susanne H
Hard to put down

Not that I missed anything in the shorter books of this series by Cameron Cooper, I enjoyed this longer book even more. The main character is Ptolemy Lane, but in this story the hero is definitely Hyland Sinagra aka Ninety-Nine. I would never have guessed that he will be more than a nodoc assistant. I like that the reader gets more and more information with every new book in this series.

 by IngSav
Captivating and intense intrigue.

What wonderful characters on an adventure across planets and space.

There was mystery and intrigue in the story that kept me captivated for it's entirety. Plenty of tension and curiosity held me immersed in the otherworldly environment with lots of interesting new concepts to soak up.

This novel showcases Cameron Cooper's amazing talent for plot twists, imaginative environments and complex characters.

I have enjoyed the short stories about Ptolemy Jovan Lane and this longer adventure involving him is very entertaining and satisfying too. I enjoyed the extra exposure with some of his support characters too.

I highly recommend this novel and would suggest reading all of the series, from the start, to get the full enjoyment of world and character building.

 by Karen
The Ancient Girl in the Autopod

The Ancient Girl in the Autopod, by Cameron Cooper, is a full-length novel in the Ptolemy Lane series. This installment gives the reader more insight into who is Ptolemy Jovan Lane, and how he sees both the universe and himself. Also, we get a peek into the character of Ninety-Nine, who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. I’m already excited about the next part of this series.

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I tried to forget about the Memsoul woman and get on with my job, but she rocked back up two days later and this time, her business fell squarely within the purview of my own.

Ninety-Nine poked his head into my office. “Calls from a couple of folks down by the South Wall and another around by Nynniaw. Autopod number nine is driving around in circles. Passed them three times so far, they say.”

The autopods were strictly ground-level transport, usually used by tourists to circumnavigate the dome. We’d built a road that ran close to the edge of the dome, with bends in it to move around buildings that had been there first, just for this purpose. Although, the autopods could move anywhere someone could walk, for they weren’t much wider than a man’s shoulders, with an engine behind the seat and a guidance panel in front of the seat. The first menu option on the guidance panel was “circle the dome”.

We didn’t get a lot of tourists, but the autopods paid for themselves.

“Nynniaw is at four o’clock. South Wall at six o’clock,” I said, mentally laying out the dome in my head. “The pods at their fastest move at sprinting pace… I’ll cut across to the casino.” The casino was between two and three o’clock in the dome. “If the pod really is circumnavigating, it’ll reach there as we do.”

“We? You want me to come too?” Ninety-Nine looked pleased.

“Sorry, kid. I was thinking about Mago Bommer.” Bommer was paid by the town to maintain the autopods. His garage was deep in the warrens beneath the city, and it would take him as long to reach the casino as me. “Have him meet me there.”

Ninety-Nine’s crestfallen expression gave me a kick in the chest. “I’m not here to keep you entertained,” I said shortly.

He straightened. “I know. I…like learning stuff.”

I rolled my eyes. “Learn to do what I say. Bommer. Now. Go.”

I left for the casino, a brisk twenty-five minute walk away.

When I got there, Mago Bommer was waiting for me on the circuit road that ran past the casino. He put his hand to his eyes as I approached, for the sun was to the south and dazzling. “Your secretary told me about the pod. Not sure what you need me for, though, Mr. Lane. It’s clearly working.”

“This is its fourth circuit of the town. There isn’t that much to see. Something’s wrong. I want you to stop the thing as it goes by.”

Bommer shook his head. “I can’t do that, Mr. Lane.”

“Why not? Step out, snag it, reach in, shut it down.”

“You have any idea how much those things weigh? They only look light. If it’s running at close to full speed, it would take six of us to stop it.”

Irritated, I said, “Well, what can we do to stop it?”

“Isn’t that up to whoever is inside?”

“Four circuits,” I repeated. “They’d’ve stopped by now, if they could.”

From the corner of my eye I saw the sun glint on something moving and faced south, in the direction it had come from. Autopod number nine was coming towards us on the narrow road. And yeah, at close to full speed. The sun was glinting on the smooth elongated canopy over the seating compartment, which turned the whole pod into a long, sleek ovoid with four small wheels. No convenient hand-holds on the green-painted body, either.

“Think of something!” I told Bommer, for the autopod was nearly on us.

Bommer stepped out of the way of the incoming bullet. “Let it go,” he told me, lifting his voice above the buzzing murmur of the thing’s engine.

“Let it go?” I was still standing in its path, trying to figure out if I could scoop it up, or wrestled it onto its side. It wasn’t even waist-height.

But it had enough impetus that six men couldn’t stop it, Bommer had said.

“Yeah, just let it go!” Bommer cried.

At the last second, I threw myself out of the way. It whizzed past and its wake brushed my skin. I smelled hot engine oil. I hadn’t been able to seen inside because of the sunlight bouncing off the canopy.

I turned to Bommer. “If that thing knocks someone over, I’ll hold you responsible.”

“People know to listen out for the pods and get out of the way if they’re on the road,” Bommer said dismissively. “If the pod really is on its fourth circuit, then about three-quarters of the way around, the battery will run out of juice.”

“Three quarters of the way around from where it started,” I muttered. “Which could be anywhere.”

“Yep,” Bommer replied, unconcerned.

“You’re useless. Go home.”

Bommer shrugged and walked away.

I went back to the office. Ninety-Nine looked up, his interest high.

“Contact the town hall. Ask them where the ninth autopod was rented.” I went into my office.

Ninety-Nine came in five minutes later. “Victoria Plaza.”

Victoria Plaza was at three o’clock—and it was where most of the tourists emerged from the tunnel to the skyport. It made sense that it had been rented there. Three-quarters of the way around the circuit would be at six o’clock. “South Wall,” I said and got to my feet. I hesitated, my gut talking to me. “Call Doc Lowry. Ask him to meet me at Nynniaw.”

“Not the South Wall?”

“And miss the damn thing again because its battery lasts longer than Bommer thinks it could? Nynniaw,” I repeated firmly. “We’ll walk the road from there.”

Doc Lowry’s thin jowls smoothed out as he grinned at me. “You come up with some good ones, Jovan. A runaway autopod?”

“I’m going to suggest to Georgina that we install trackers in them. Then we could be doing this back in the office, and know exactly where the damn thing stops.”

We started walking along the circuit road. And sure enough, we found autopod number nine sitting in the middle of it, in the low rent South Wall district, where the wall of apartments with no windows ruined the view for everything built north of it. The dead autopod was already drawing attention from the neighborhood. Three people stood around it, staring through the canopy.

Whoever was inside hadn’t popped the lid. I was glad I had Doc with me.

We moved up to the pod and the three melted away.

It took me a minute to figure out how to open the canopy from the outside. I unclipped the catch and opened up the canopy.

The old woman sitting in the seat looked dead to me. Her eyes were open and unblinking. The skin of her face was papery and crinkled with a network of fine creases. Her hair was silver white and thin.

But she wore a smart pants suit, very businesslike. Typical, expensive tourist garments.

Doc got out his multi tool and checked her over. “Dead about four hours,” he judged.

“That fits with four circuits,” I said. “She died somewhere during the first circuit.” I looked around for observers. They would be there, but I couldn’t see them. They’d be far enough away that they might miss what I did next. I used Doc’s multitool to snip a piece of white hair and tasted it.

I read the serial number aloud as it formed in my mind. Doc punched it into his terminal. He waited, then said, “Keran Carman.”

I stepped back from the autopod. “Not possible.”

Doc held out the terminal, showing Carman’s factory ID. Combat model, like most serials. “Did you misread the number?” Doc asked.

“Also not possible.” I stared at the dead, old woman. “What did she die of?”

Doc shrugged. “No direct cause. Her heart just stopped. I’d say from extreme old age. Her biomarkers are at the outer extremes of geriatric.”

“I met her at Georgina’s, two nights ago,” I said. “She wasn’t old, then.” I flashed upon the saggy skin above her knee. The grey I’d glimpsed in her hair. “Not at first…” I had not spotted either the wrinkles or the grey, before dinner had started. I was almost sure of it, now.

“At first?” Doc laughed. “She wither before your eyes?”

“Check her factory ID, Doc,” I told him. “She’s not old enough to die of old age.” I studied the almost-ringlets sitting at the back of her neck and under her ears. They were quite white.

Doc stared at me, then lifted his terminal and checked it once more. “You’re right…” he said slowly. “Probably built after the war.”

“She must have been exposed to something,” I said. “What could age someone like that, in a matter of days, then kill them?”

Doc frowned, making the crease between his brows bend upward. “Chronic low dose exposure to radiation could induce the effect of aging.”

I shook my head doubtfully. “With all the radiation shielding and alarms we’re surrounded by? They’d have been warned and moved away from the source long before it became chronic.”

“Unless she didn’t have the option,” Doc pointed out.

That stopped me cold. I’d lived five years in a place where, had I been exposed to radiation, I wouldn’t have had the option to leave, or get treated for it.

“Let me get her back to the workshop,” Doc said. “I’ll take a look at her, see what else I can figure out.”

“Thanks, Doc. If you can pinpoint the type of radiation, that would help.”

He tapped on his terminal, calling up help to get the body back to his shop, and simply nodded.

Good enough. I went back to the office to connect directly with Georgina and tell her what had happened.

She swore, using all the interesting words, for a good sixty seconds, then blew out her breath and sat back. “I need to know what killed her, Jovan,” she rasped. “Memsoul are going to wonder how she wound up dead in my town. I want to give them an answer that has nothing to do with us.”

“They might not want to expand, anyway.”

“You let me worry about that. Just give me something to tell them other than she’s dead.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Georgina snorted and disconnected. 

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