Day 188: Nanobots at the Mall

Ethan invented the Relative Nanogrid Algorithmic System to make nanobots mimic a particular color scheme according to their relative location, thus allowing someone to make precise cosmetic repairs. The application for it turned out to be limitless. He could flood a billion nanobot cloud with a different command for every bot relative to its position. Now with the nanobot lattice embedded in his skull, he could manipulate the central processing with his brain, controlling the RNAS at a whim.

After a year of secret practice with many different kinds of bots, he was finally ready to take it into the public.

Wearing a black trench coat along with a black fedora to hide the nanogrowth on his head, he exited the back way of BNI, enshrouded by a cloud of nanobots that were invisible to the naked eye. His first efforts to control the nanos through his implants called for specific cognitive maneuvers to activate one command or another, but these things had long become natural to him—he willed something, and the nanos responded. As long as the program was written correctly.

He opened his car door and commanded the cloud to compress around his body, carrying them into the vehicle with him. He would check the stats later to see how many, if any, got left behind. He drove to the nearby mall and wandered its halls until he came to the central area with the large, four-faced brass clock on a pole, sitting benches around it. He sat and let his tiny pets expand.

These nanos were one of his favorite kind. Like all the others, they had sensory qualities that sent feedback to his nano implants, but these ones reacted heavily to sound waves. Their active functions were to release a mild, calming hallucinogenic into the air and to mimic the soundwaves of his own voice. It was a psychological one-two punch that made the subjects receptive to disembodied voices, then obliged them with the real thing.

The most stark observation Ethan made of the mall was how much less feedback he received from the nanobots than when he practiced in the woods. Instead of sensing the teeming life, the barrenness of flat surfaces reflected back to him. He let the nanobots spread through half of the open space and then directed them into the storefronts. How far could he go without his RNAS losing its coherence?

The RNAS back-pressure suggested voices to him, but his mind, even with the implant’s help, couldn’t decipher words yet. He soaked in the sensations, then picked a target. A middle-aged man standing by the clock eating a pretzel. Just close enough he’d be able to hear him react.

Ethan focused on the sensation he’d come to associate with that relative location and released the hallucinogens around the man. Then he generated the sound waves directly in front of the man. “How’s the pretzel?”

The man looked around confused.

“Do you like it?”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“I’m right in front of you.”

“Right. Nice trick,” he said. “I have no idea how you’re doing that.”

The man’s response somehow disappointed Ethan. “I’m a disembodied voice. Isn’t it amazing?”

The man scoffed and through up his empty hand as he turned and walked away.

Is this how jaded we’ve become? So inundated with technology that a disembodied voice doesn’t give someone the least bit of wonder?

Ethan was about to try someone else when a flood of feedback hit him, and an intense urge to get out of the mall consumed him, then little by little the cloud of nanobots went quiet. As far as he could tell they were gone.

He pulled a skimmer from his pocket and turned it on, then walked in a circle sampling the air.

When he got back, he analyzed the skimmer’s contents and found some cleaner bots—nanos that drifted through the air neutralizing other bots. At least the standard ones.

“Crap,” he said to the empty room. They’d apparently had some nuisance bots at the mall that required the cleaners to get rid of them. However, Ethan’s frustration gave way to fear. Since he’d gotten the nanobot implant in his head, he hadn’t been afraid, until now. For it just occurred to Ethan that the nanobots had tried to influence him, essentially to give him an instruction to move. Too late for them, but that was irrelevant—he was supposed to give instructions, not take them.

Then he smiled to himself. “At least I know well enough to wonder.”

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