Ethan didn’t want to spook Sarah with another batch of nano-sensors, so he enlisted the help of Danny Mills for some follow-up experiments. Danny was new enough at BNI that he didn’t know anything, which meant he didn’t know what kinds of things Ethan Baker wasn’t supposed to do.
An enclosed meadow in the woods near Baker Nanotechnology Laboratories was ideal for what Ethan had in mind. He released a canister full of the bots in the middle of it. The RNAS nanobots implanted in his brain immediately received feedback from them, first from the flooding, which filled his mind with kaleidoscopic splashes of a mysterious sensation. Not vision, but it gave the experience structure and form.
When the patterns locked in, his imbedded nanos accepted an influx of data that Ethan perceived as pressures giving shape to everything within the meadow as far as the nanos spread. As if hovering above it, he sensed foliage, small animals moving, and himself somewhat. What really excited him, though, was the sensations of varied thickness of particles of dust, pollen, and bacteria.
He pulled the walkie-talkie from his pocket and pressed the button with his thumb. “Come along, Danny.”
Danny had horrible allergies, and ragweed overran this meadow. Just before Danny arrived, Ethan flipped the switch in his mind, a previously trained neural response to the idea of deliberately switching it. Feedback indicated the nanobots had all extended their pollen receptors.
Like a swarm of bees dropping from a sudden spray of insecticide, the pollen fell harmlessly to the ground with the bots secured to them. It was such a simple experiment, and regrettably, he lost all feedback once they’d dropped. It didn’t matter much—they were programmed to go inert in a day anyway.
Danny walked into the meadow, a hanky over his mouth and nose. “I’m here.”
“Take the cloth off your face and breathe deep.”
“No, thanks. This ragweed will kill me.”
“It’s fine. Just to it.” Ethan stated it with grave authority. “Deep breaths.”
Danny complied. After a few minutes he still had no reaction.
“Fantastic,” said Ethan. “The next one is going to be a little more dramatic.”
A week later he released another canister, this time with nanobots carrying quantum dots that could be exposed for a variety of colors. The program would read his neural signature from any shape he imagined, and translate it from his neuro-integrator implants into the RNAS. For this experiment, he wanted it to be something completely unplanned, so he charged Danny with naming a shape or picture when they got into place.
“What’s RNAS stand for?” asked Danny. He’d been eating Claritin like candy, but still spoke with some congestion.
“Relative Nanogrid Algorithmic System,” said Ethan. “It’s a system that floods the nanos with a protocol that assigns them relative indexes for spatial orientation. Then indexed commands are sent out, passed from one nanobot to the next. The nanobots wait to receive the command with their index, and once sufficiently complete, they execute the commands as a unit with many possible applications.”
“And they relay that to your brain?”
“That part was an accident,” said Ethan. “A very happy accident. I’m fair certain I’m the first man ever to experience a completely new sense.”
“Can you get me put permanently on the project?” asked Danny.
“Not this one, I’m afraid,” said Ethan. “It’s not exactly official.” He winked.
When they arrived at the meadow, Ethan told Danny to close his eyes. “Without thinking too hard, tell me some kind of picture you would like to see.”
“A pink elephant,” said Danny.
Ethan grimaced. “Really?”
“Yes. That’s what I’m picturing—and it has my name on its trunk.”
Ethan scoffed. “Fine. But it’s going to be closer to peach.” Ethan closed his eyes and visualized the elephant, Danny’s name on the trunk and everything. He threw the mental switch designed to execute the nanobots. On the ground, a fuzzy shaped peach elephant suddenly covered grass, leaves and rock.
“It’s not beautiful, but it’s recognizable,” said Danny. He sneezed.
“It’s beautiful to me,” said Ethan.
The third test came a few weeks later. Ethan had a close call running into Sarah with his canister, but he passed it off as routine pressure checks and slipped out the back door. These nanobots would blow Danny’s mind.
“I first invented RNAS to mimic and replace damaged surfaces, taking on the texture, color, and even strength, depending on the purpose. Now I want to take it a step further and go to three dimensions.”
He’d sown about three times as many nanobots as the previous two times, so the sensations and pressures came hard and strong, passing more detail than usual through his implant and into his brain. He loaded the program and flipped the mental switch. “You’re recording this, right?” he said.
“Uh, yeah,” said Danny. He pulled out his smart phone and started recording video. “Go ahead.”
Ethan concentrated on Danny, paying close attention to details and projecting them into his mind, through the neuro-integrators of his implant and into the RNAS. The nanobots responded, and he noticed many functions using rotaxane jumper switches and exposing quantum dots to create a particular effect.
The nanos darkened and contracted, taking an almost opaque shape of a human being, and before long, it was easy to see by shapes and colors of clothing that it was Danny. After about ten minutes, a fully formed, rough copy of him stood before them.
“That’s just creepy,” said Danny. “Make it stop. Please?”
Ethan complied by making it a copy of Sarah, a little rougher than his Danny. He experimented with moving it around, made it approach Danny and bow. Soon he had it picking flowers and brushing dust off stones.
Sweat poured down Ethan’s face. “This is the first time I’ve tried this. As I perfect it, I’ll be able to project myself or anyone into any given situation, and custom taylor strengths and weaknesses as I see fit.”
“Wow,” said Danny. “You’re a freaking superhero.”
The look of doubt on Danny’s face said the words he didn’t dare speak. “Or maybe a super-villain.”