Proof Of Concept: Cover Memo

A year-long scientific expedition to the deepest cavern in the world.
The Plot: The Giewont Abyss is a bizarre phenomenon: a staggeringly vast drained magma chamber, recently discovered (by satellite survey and advanced geophysics) deep in ancient rock under the Giewont Massif, Western Tatras, Poland (one of the few remaining Highly Protected Wilderness areas in the world). The expedition has a dual objective. Dan Orsted, the Great Popularizer of 23rd Century space science, will be running one of his Very Long Duration Mission Training programs. In a break with tradition the VLDMT show won't be transmitted live: complete isolation is the rule. But it'll be a global entertainment event worth waiting for, the most extreme VLDMT test yet. Meanwhile Margrethe Patel, veteran Post Standard Model Physics diva, will be preparing, with her team of scientists, for the first live test of a tiny volume of precisely mapped Information Space, nicknamed "The Needle".
The two tribes couldn't be more different, but they both offer hope, however unlikely, to a sinking, overcrowded world. Unexpectedly, they settle down well together. Then somebody dies, and then there's another death, and then a third . . . Someone's picking off the Needle Experiment's senior physicists. But why?
Dan and Margrethe refuse to abort the mission: there's too much at stake, for both of them. The teams are trapped in a locked box with a murderer, and have no way of signalling for help.

The Characters: There are three central characters in Proof Of Concept
Kir, the scavenger kid Margrethe Patel rescued from the dirt heaps of Earth's heavily polluted zones, to act as the human host of the most advanced quantum computer in the world. Twenty two years old, and possibly a budding genius, Kir describes herself as "ridiculously small"; "a scrawny young woman with wispy blond hair and yellowish brown skin". She generally wears a plain, drab coloured outfit of pants and tunic, with a fresh coloured "inner" showing at wrists and throat. Like the other Needle scientists, Kir uses a "Direct Cognitive Procedures" skullcap in the lab. She probably shaves, or braids her hair into locks, to allow the cap to connect with the sensors implanted under her scalp. In the Abyss she wears a headset, for light and information feed, but she can also be bare-headed. She needs no breathing apparatus or mask; the air is good.
Altair, the quantum computer himself. Altair is a quaai, a "quasi-autonomous artificial intelligence": and that's all he can ever be, in the eyes of the world, although in reality he is fully sentient. Planet Earth's human masses are deeply resistant to the idea of a computer being a person. Even Margrethe will maintain that the "he" pronoun is purely sentimental. He has no physical body, but when he talks to Kir (which is dangerous to his survival, but he's desperate), she sees him, in her mind's eye, as "a seated figure, in the same pose as herself. But taller, different in build and his skull was gleaming smooth."
The Abyss The third central character is the Giewont Abyss itself. When I outlined this story I thought I'd set the experiment at the bottom of a salt mine, but then I found out about post-volcanic "drained magma chambers", and the image of a really huge volcanic chamber, with its roof still intact, way down deep in ancient rock, was irresistibly spectacular.
Kir, who hates confinement, finds a way to sneak out of the sealed Installation where everybody lives and works. She starts to explore the floor of the Abyss, and her discoveries (tiny but thrilling) in this pristine, utterly mysterious darkness became, for me, an image of science exploring the vast unknown quantities of the universe.

Target demographic: Science fiction readers; female science fiction readers; from YA upwards.
Typical scenes: One image stands out to me as most typical: small Kir in the huge Abyss, sitting on the floor, arms round her knees; the towering blued-out darkness all around, and Altair's "imagined" figure sitting beside her, in the same pose.
Alternatives: The interior of a deep underground installation: sleek corridors, brightly lit vegetable garden-rooms; labs, a meeting hall; everything a little claustrophobic. The Needle scientists at work, in labs strangely devoid of conventional equipment (they seem to be playing with toys, but they're all wearing DCP skullcaps). The exterior of the same installation, a tiny hollow square of labs and living quarters, strung with marker lights, set on the floor of a phenomenally huge rocky cavern.
The VLDMTs (Dan Orsted's team) are described as "lean and honed", "Although physical disability clearly wasn't a veto", and physically boisterous. They wear jumpsuits decorated with moving images.
The scientists are not ideal physical types. They can wear lab clothes or whatever they feel like wearing, but like Kir, they may have accommodated the DCP skullcaps by partial shaving, or divided hairstyles.
I've attached a book cover (Kay Kenyon's Maximum Ice) that seems to me suggestive, plus a few images from the web, related to the quantum or "entangled" universe, and an "information man" from a New Scientist article. Plus here's the link for a site (with pictures) about a real world (maybe the only real world . . .) drained magma chamber.

and another about very deeply buried relict magma chambers:

I hope these notes are of some assistance.