Day 98: Nanobots on the Brain

Ethan Baker gasped when he realized what he’d done. By injecting the nanobots into his brain, he’d become the first person to experience a completely non-mammalian sense. This must be what a newborn feels like when he sees outside the womb for the first time.

He’d intended to enhance his computational power with dynamically organized, self-assembling neuro-integrator bots—nanobots that used the Relative Nanogrid Algorithmic System (RNAS) that he invented and developed. In order to bring his explorer nanobots to the next level he wanted just a little kick to his brainpower to figure it out.

He’d enlisted Sarah Bundy’s help, tracking her down in the John Von Neumann room.

“You’re crazy.” She threw her notepad on the table. “You’ve never tested these on a live person.”

“Yes, we—”

“Farnsworth doesn’t count.” They stared for a minute.

Ethan grabbed the edge of the door in a show that he was leaving. “I’ll find someone else to be the first scientist ever to implement them.”

She caught up with him halfway to his personal lab. “I still think you’re nuts.”

“That makes you, my psychiatrist, and some girl in Allen Town.”

Inside his lab he already had the surgical helmet moved in and set up above a dentist chair. He unlocked a cube-shaped container and pulled out a vial with a standard transfer plug, the tiniest amount of gray material in the bottom. He handed it to her.

“Saddle up,” she said.

He settled into the chair. Sarah shifted him sideways and pinned his head back with the heel of her hand on his forehead.

“Hold still.” She moved the helmet’s arm to position it above his head, then with a hand on either side of it, pressed it firmly onto his skull. She tapped some keys on the computer and adjusted the helmet slightly.

She leaned over to speak close to his partially covered ear. “Are you sure about this?”

“Are you sure there’s a god?” The silver cross dangled from her neck.

She gave him the stink-eye and picked up the vial. She fiddled with the top of the helmet, and her hand with the vial moved up out of sight. When it came back down, the vial was empty. She tapped a few keys, and the helmet whirred and clicked.

“Say wh—”

“When.”

Sarah tapped and the helmet made an assertive clack. Ethan didn’t feel anything, but the upper part of his skull started to feel numb.

Sarah tapped the keys.

“Any day now,” Ethan said.

“Wait for the imagery,” Sarah said. After a minute she reported the nanos were in place and spreading.

“Bingo,” said Ethan.

“See,” she said. “You’re talking more intelligently already.” She removed the helmet. “How do you feel. Can you calculate Pi to the twentieth place?”

“I could already do that,” said Ethan. “I don’t feel any different, but it takes time for them to self-organize and integrate.”

“Fair enough,” said Sarah. “Check in with me first thing in the morning.”

The effect was disappointing that night. Ethan attempted to calculate some van der Waal’s forces for a nanofactory, but had to resort to his computer. If anything, he was slower than usual.

The next morning was an entirely different story. Before he was showered and dressed he’d already figured out the module for the explorer bots that was giving him trouble. By the time he’d reached BNS, he’d finished the next three, all in his head, while talking to his driver about a girl he met in Allen Town.

When he stepped out of the car, his world changed. His brain processed a bombardment of sensory information of a kind he’d never experienced, giving him awareness of things inside the building, on the other side of the building, even off into the woods beyond where he couldn’t see. It was impossible.

He ran into the building, shook his badge at the guards, and searched madly for Sarah, who he found in a morning meeting with the director of the laboratories. When she finally came out, he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her.

“Ow! Stop it.”

“You’ve gotta help me,” he said. “I’m getting delusions. My brain thinks it can sense things far beyond my range.”

“Great,” said Sarah. “You’re ego’s bad enough without you becoming some kind of superhuman.”

“It’s impossible,” said Ethan. “These must be delusions, not special powers, you idiot.”

She moved him into the chair and placed the helmet on. After a full scan she saw nothing unusual, but there was unexpected growth.

“The neuro-integrators have grown. That’s very worrisome.”

“We’ll worry about it later. Anything that explains the delusions?”

“No,” she said. “Why don’t you describe what you’re feeling.”

“I can’t.”

“Then I can’t help much.”

“I can tell you where I’m feeling things. It’s not consistent, so maybe it will clue us in.”

He told her about the sensations surrounding the buildings and in the woods. He felt them in a new area in the explorer lab. Then it came to him.

“Oh, shit,” he said.

“What is it?”

“Can you keep a secret?”

“No.”

“Seriously, I won’t tell you unless you promise.”

“Fine.”

“I let some of my explorers loose last week.”

“You ass!”

“No, no. It’s okay. Their totally inert and their life is hardcoded to end tomorrow.”

“Where’d you release them?”

“In the forest, but the container had a leak. I carried them all the way around the building to get there, so they covered a lot of ground.”

“Dammit, Ethan. We’re going to have to detect and monitor all of them and do an impact study.”

“We won’t need to,” he said.

“Yes, we will. I promised not to tell, but I’m not going to allow it to go unchecked.”

“It’s not, Sarah. Don’t you see? I’m getting feedback from them. That’s what this new sense is—the RNAS of the explorers is interfacing with the RNAS in my head, and I’m getting all kinds of strange information from them in a structured relay as far out as they go.”

Sarah gawked at him. “Holy shit, that’s big, Ethan.”

“I know. I have no idea what to expect, but it will mean new sensations, new temptations, new understanding. It’s going to be great.”

“Slow down, Ethan. This isn’t a StarWars movie, and these aren’t Midichlorians.”

Ethan laughed. “I should have expected this. I invented RNAS, after all.”

“This growth is significant. Did you put system limits on them?”

“No need,” he said. “There’s no growth in the system. It’s probably just structural, so don’t worry about it.”

She tapped the keys again, then looked at him.

“Now what?” she said.

“I don’t know. I’m just a baby.”

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