Fiction: Dead Reckoning

Anthony Napier (
Thu, 19 Oct 95 14:36:33 EDT

Would anyone care to critque this story I just finished?
Especially the science part of the science fiction.

Does the description of the assembler make sense? Any suggestions
for improvements? As for the parts about the human brain, I am
willing to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the science, but it would bum me out if the
story appeared to be outright fantasy. Let me know what you think.

Please do not further distribute this, as it is most likely, not
yet the final version.

Oh, also. Some of the people in the story are not very nice,
and they tend to use a lot of bad words. So if that kind of
thing bothers you...


----- Begin Included Message -----

Dead Reckoning

A short story by Anthony S. Napier


"Burn him again Wayne!" Donnie's voice trembled with excitement.

The driver of the BMW screamed as the hot tip of Wayne's cigarette
pressed into his arm. The BMW swerved wildly, making
three lane changes across the Freeway in one swift maneuver.

"Goddamn, I don't think you want to make a move like that again,
four-eyes" Wayne yelled, "It just might piss me off."

"I... I'm sorry", the man stammered. "I couldn't help it."

"Well you damn well better" Wayne said, waving the lit end of his
Kool menthol 100 in the man's face to accentuate the point.

"Give me that bottle of Jack" Wayne said, reaching around to the
back of the vehicle. "You fuckin' Bogart, think you're going to
drink it all?"

"Sure Wayne, sure" Donnie said, quickly handing him the bottle.

"Goddamn, I could use a couple of hits of slam about right now!"
Wayne said, taking a few deep gulps from the bottle.

"I tried to score some last night" Donnie protested.
"I told you we didn't have enough money."

"Aw, fuck that" Wayne said, flipping the drivers wallet open.
"We got all the money we need right here."

Wayne pulled a sheaf of bills from the wallet and began sorting through
them. Wayne was not very skilled at counting, but as long as there was
not a lot of coin change, he could roughly estimate the amount.
You might say, this was pushing Wayne's mental envelope.

"Two-fuckin'-hundred?" He finally said, turning to look at the driver.
"Is that all the money ya got asshole? You better hope you have some
more." Wayne continued to look through the wallet, flipping through
an assortment of pictures and gold credit cards.

"Whooooa, who's this?", Wayne asked, holding up a picture of a
beautiful blonde. "I'd like to get to know this babe."

"Was... my wife" The driver said in a barely audible whisper.

"You ought to fuck her Wayne" Donnie giggled. "I know I did."

"All night and all day!" Wayne laughed. The whiskey was beginning to
kick in, and Wayne was starting to feel a bit more like his usual
cheerful self. He continued looking through the assortment of cards,
finally holding one up for inspection.
Wayne smiled at the driver. "What's your name?"

At first, the driver hardly heard Wayne. He was too busy staring at
the road and wishing he was not in this particular point of the space
time continuum. Not to mention trying to figure out how to get out of
this mess. What an idiot! Driving through a free economic zone with
the car doors unlocked. These guys had just slid right up to the car
and got in like they owned the place.

Andre Gold had been in difficult situations before, but nothing quite
like this. Usually his daily obstacles were encountered in a lab,
chasing down some bugs in their software or trying to get some new
nano manipulator tool to function properly. Since the death of his
wife a few years back, he had practically lived at the lab.

He didn't mind though. The work they were doing was very exciting.
Incredible. They were reaching down into the very heart and soul
of nature. They were still in the crude beginning stages of their
work. Baby steps really. But the capabilities they already had,
the tools they were collecting and creating, the things they were
learning... it didn't take a genius to figure out where they were
going to be just a few short years from now. Total control over
the structure of matter.

Andre worked for NanoSoft Unlimited, one of the few companies that
had already introduced a commercial nano product into the market.
A product that was a smash hit. Although the darn thing was still
full of bugs and somewhat unreliable, it was selling like hot cakes.
A new kind of flat screen display. Paper thin, lightweight, rugged
and affordable. Above all, sharpness, color and resolution were better
than anything else on the market. An ultra dense array of mechanical
nano switches was the heart of the product. Groups of switches acting
as pixels, billions wide and deep. The lab was still working to
improve the product, the design, far from perfect. The switches
failed at an astonishing rate. Luckily, with a sizable margin of
redundancy, the product would last several years before the defects
became noticeable to the human eye.

Andre had been investigating medical applications. This was
considered by the company to be longer term research. The popular
view was that medical applications would take a sophisticated
level of nanotech.

Andre agreed with this for the most part. Where he parted with
the common view was, he believed there were some fairly big gains
to be made with certain medical applications even in these early
stages. In any new endeavor, there is a certain amount of low
hanging fruit, ready to be easily picked. These were the kinds
of things Andre was pursuing.

The official goal of Andre's team was to develop a new product
for headaches. Imagine taking a pill that would
absolutely suppress any type of headache almost instantly.
Anytime, anywhere, every time. They would make $$$ Billions.

Although Andre was enthusiastic about the project, he had
surreptitiously been investigating other avenues of research.
Take the neurons in a human brain for example. They were somewhat
of a bottleneck in the processing power of the human brain. While
there was furious electrical activity taking place in the brain,
the neurons ramped this activity down to a snails pace, transmitting
signals between clusters using chemical signals. Medicine had long
had drugs to increase or decrease this activity, but drugs
did not do it in a precise, coordinated way. What results would
you get if you could accurately manipulate the firing rate
of the synapses?

The company had been advertising very heavily, this low life had
probably recognized the company logo on his work i.d.
Andre considered the street punk sitting next to him and the question
that he had asked. He had several identification cards in his wallet,
in fact the guy was holding one of them right now. His name was clearly
printed on them. Andre wondered if this guy could even read, and
considered if he could do anything with that information.

"Excuse me?" Andre said.

"You heard me scum. Ya work for one of those big drug companies, I've
seen their commercials on the tube." Wayne said.

Donnie was starting to get a little edgy. They had been with this
carjack a bit too long. "Who cares Wayne? Let's get the guy's
money and take off."

"Shut your mouth Donnie."
"Listen man," Wayne continued "I want you to get us into where you
work. I want you to take us there right now."

Andre had an idea. It was crazy as hell and dangerous, but if it worked
he might get out of this mess. And kill two birds with one proverbial

"Now look," Andre began "What you're asking for is impossible.
We could never get through security. They are very careful about
granting access to the lab area. You would have the entire Police
Department down on you in a matter of minutes!"

"That's bullshit. You can get us in, and you will."
"Unless you want me to break your fucking kneecaps", he added.
Wayne had a bit of a puzzled look on his face. His instincts told him
that the drivers 'willingness to help' did not quite add up.

"Why would I lie to you?" Andre continued. It would be to my
advantage if I took you there and let you get caught. I'm telling you,
if you attempt to gain access to the lab, you'll be behind bars within
the hour."

"Oh, yeah?" Wayne said. "What is it with you man? Just what do
you fucking suggest we do instead?"

This was it. Andre looked the street punk right in the eye.
"Look, I have valid reason not to want to go to the lab."
"We go there, the Cops show, they pull out their guns, you guy's
pull out yours, I get killed in the crossfire. I don't need that."

Wayne's patience was about to wear thin with all this goddamned talk.
"Maybe I should just whack you right here, and take your car." Wayne
said, pulling his Glock LaserSight out of his jacket, placing the
gun barrel against Andre's temple.

Andre held his voice steady. "We go to my apartment" he said.

"What's there?" Wayne asked in a bored tone, his firearm remaining
pressed against Andre's head.

"Money" Andre said. "A considerable sum of money, locked in
my safe."

"... and drugs" He added, almost as an afterthought.


They had been cruising the interstate for a some time, since the
car jacking. It took almost as long to loop back around toward
city center, to the high-rise in which Andre's apartment was situated.

The three men walked in silence, through the lobby to the elevator.
They were an odd looking group, not quit fitting together, but
Andre was totally committed now. He walked with an easy, relaxed
stride, giving no indication to passerby's that anything was out of
the ordinary.

Finally they entered the apartment, a large, well furnished place,
quite unlike anything Wayne and Donnie were accustomed to. To the left,
a pair
of expensive leather sofas on a deep pile rug. Mounted on one wall, a
large flat panel display accompanied by all the latest home entertainment
gadgets. Another wall of the room consisted entirely of bookshelves,
stuffed to the brim.

To the right, a dining room, a well stocked bar and a doorway leading
to the kitchen. The boys wandered over to the bar and helped themselves
to a drink.

"So where's this safe at?" Wayne asked, in an almost calm, relaxed tone
of voice. He was starting to chill out. Perhaps feeling like he was
going to make a few bucks and maybe the whole goddamned day might not
end up being a waste.

Andre pointed straight ahead to the winding staircase.
"The safe is upstairs, in my lab."

Wayne's head jerked to the side, glaring at Andre. "Lab?"
"You didn't say anything about a lab. You cookin' drugs in your
apartment? You don't seem the type."

"I'm not really" Andre said. "I had this lab set up for some
independent research I have been doing. I tell you what though,
I have enough raw materials in stock and the know-how to make
just about anything you want."

"Shit, that kind of stuff takes too long" Donnie complained.
"Wayne, I don't wanna do any time right now, I think we need
to keep our asses moving! Lets get what we can and get the fuck
out of here."

"Dammit Donnie, hang on" Wayne grumbled. "I think I'll see
that lab of yours right now four-eyes."


As the men entered the lab, a sensor tripped, and the lights
flickered on. This revealed a couple of rows of cabinets,
some unidentifiable equipment and several computers.

"Dang. Is that a microscope?" Donnie asked, pointing to a
particular piece of equipment.

"That is not just a microscope" Andre said with a bit of
indignation in his voice.

"That is a Digital Instruments NanoTek 9000 Workstation.
An advanced Atomic Force Microscope capable of 10^8 parallel
operations per second. It also offers a NMR fed 3-D display for
feedback, which is necessary when working on a new design, error
correction or reverse engineering a complex molecule."

"Wow. So you look at bugs with this thing or what?" Donnie asked.

Andre sighed, and started to respond when he was interrupted by Wayne.

"Cut the shit" Wayne commanded. "Lets begin with the money, four-eyes."
"Get it out of your safe right now, and I mean all of it."

Andre walked over to one of the cabinets and opened the door, revealing
a small safe. He began to dial the combination.

Wayne cocked his gun, pointing it directly at Andre.
"Don't even think about pulling a gun out of there."

"Don't worry, I'm not that stupid" Andre said.
Andre opened the safe and began pulling packets of currency out of the
safe. When he was done, there was a decent pile of money sitting on
the counter.

Wayne smiled and began stuffing the money in his pockets.
"Well I think we are almost done here" Wayne said.
"What kinda drugs you got here four-eyes? Any skull-slam?
Heroin? Morphine? What is it?"

"Not exactly. ... Something better"
Andre said, pulling a small vial out of the
safe and holding it up for view.

"What the hell is it" Wayne asked.

"Well, I have not given it a name yet" Andre said.
"This is something of my own invention"
"Let's just say, you shoot a few CC's of this and you will get the
head rush of your life"

"Yeah, I bet you will" Wayne said suspiciously.
"I bet that's just what you would like us to do. Pump that shit
in, and it'll fuckin' kill us. Right four-eyes? Is that what
you are tryin' to do? Kill us?" Wayne was feeling edgy and had
pulled his gun back out.

"This will do exactly what I said it will do" Andre insisted.

"Wayne, lets just go fucking buy something, somewhere else."
Donnie complained, once again.

"Donnie, I have about fucking had it with you, man." Wayne growled.
On impulse, he turned the gun towards Donnie.
"Tell you what Don, I'm going to do you a favor."

"W-w-w-what's that Wayne?" Donnie stammered.

"I am going to sit here and watch over you, like the good friend that
I am, while you have all the fun and trip out."

"Get your syringe four-eyes" Wayne commanded.
"Donnies decided to try some of your shit"
"Fucking sit down Donnie" Wayne said, keeping the gun trained on Donnie.

It didn't take Andre long to get the syringe ready.
Donnie remained motionless, his eyes fixed on Wayne, as Andre injected
the formula into Donnie's veins.

"You won't feel anything different
for a few seconds, then you'll feel kind of hot" Andre said to Donnie.
"Don't worry about that, it'll pass."

"Jesus, this feels weird" Donnie said after a few minutes.
"It's like I can smell the sounds I'm hearing and I can taste
the colors that I'm seeing. It's getting hot too." He added.

"You doing all right man?" Wayne asked
"How do you like it?"

"Whoaa! It's different..." Donnie said, trailing off as his
attention wandered away.

Donnie was now slumped over, lying sideways on the couch.
A thin stream of drool began to pool under his chin.
He began to mumble something, but Andre could not understand what
it was he was saying. Suddenly, Donnie's body began to jerk with
convulsions. He rolled off the couch, his body thumping to the floor.

"What the fuck did you do to him!" Wayne yelled, pointing the gun at
Andre's head for the umpteenth time that day.

"He's OK! He's OK! Andre said "Relax, the 'bots I injected are
temporarily interfering with communication between his synapses.
It will pass... At least it did in the lab animals."

"Bots" Wayne said in a questioning voice.
"What kind of drug did you give him?"

"Drug is not a very descriptive term" Andre said.
"It's much more than that. Tiny robots. I injected several trillion
of them into his blood stream. He appears to be experiencing convulsions,
but he is also experiencing sensations he has never felt before in a
wide range of depth and intensity. If you like to get high, it is most
likely enjoyable." Andre continued.
"There is a side effect though."

"What's that?" Wayne asked.

"Well, if everything works as it should, Donnie will be quite a bit
smarter when this is over" Andre replied.

"Smarter?" Wayne laughed harshly.
"Get the hell out of here with that shit. Donnie's about as smart as
a fucking door knob"

You're not exactly a prodigy yourself Bud, Andre thought to himself.
"This should take about a half an hour" Andre said.
"Why don't we ask him when he comes out of it? Then maybe you'll want
to try it yourself?"

Perhaps naively, Andre truly believed that these men, once enlightened
with clarity of thought, would no longer be a threat to him. Once the
'bots had done their work, the men would see the error of their ways,
wish him a good day, and ride off into the sunset.

Then, maybe Andre would even take the treatment himself.


Andre had just finished dressing the burns on his arm when Donnie began
to wake up. Donnie had been out longer than Andre had estimated.

Wayne had soon grown bored and had went downstairs to the bar for a
few more drinks. Andre could hear Wayne moving around downstairs,
smashing a glass or bottle every now and then.

Donnie sat up and groaned.

"How do you feel?" Andre asked.

"Very thirsty" Donnie responded
"I feel like I am bordering on dehydration"

"Stay here please. I'll be right back with some water" Andre said

When Andre returned, he saw Donnie standing over the lab equipment,
inspecting various knobs and dials on the AFM.

"You know, you never really answered my question before" Donnie said
"What do you use this device for?"

Andre took a deep breath and launched into a general comparison of
traditional chemistry vs.the advantage of precisely positioning atoms
to build atomic scale machines. When he finished, Donnie was wide-eyed.

Although Donnie had almost finished the 6th grade, he could not remember
hearing of atoms before, but he intuitively grasped the concept.
All you had to do was imagine you were constantly dividing something in
half, and you quickly realized that there had to be a stopping point

"Incredible" Donnie finally said.
"Andre, do you realize that molecular manufacturing, if properly applied,
could be used to solve most of humanity's problems?"

"Wow" Andre laughed "It didn't take you long to develop nanotech

"What do you mean?" Donnie asked

"When all you have is a proximal probe, everything looks like an atom"
Andre responded.


"It's an old joke" Andre continued,
"Not all human problems are engineering problems. Uncertainty is an
inherent part of human activity, and you cannot just engineer all
problems away."

"Of course, you are right" Donnie said

"Can you read?" Andre asked, grabbing a chemistry textbook off a nearby
shelf, handing it to Donnie.

"Well, I did learn to read when I was in school" Donnie stated somewhat
sheepishly. "I don't really do it much though, mostly street signs and
stuff like that"

"Let me give you a suggestion" Andre said, "Sit down and try reading
some of this. If you don't understand something, don't worry about it,
just keep reading. When you read enough of it, you'll get to the point
where something you read earlier might make more sense."

Andre's arm was still outstretched, with the book in hand.
"Come on, give it a try. Please." Andre pleaded.

Donnie reluctantly took the book and began looking at the first page.
He stared at it a long while, then turned to the second, then
finally the third page.
As Andre had expected, as Donnie got into it he began to read faster.

And faster.
And faster.
Donnie was now averaging a page a second.
My god. Andre thought. I didn't expect him to be reading this fast.
He can't be absorbing all this!

When Donnie finished the chemistry textbook (including the glossary)
he immediately turned to the first page and reread the entire text
again. Finally he stopped, grinning as he looked up at Andre.
"My arm is tired" Donnie said.

"This is strange" Donnie continued, "It doesn't really seem like I
am reading fast. I just read, and have plenty of time to think about
what it is I am reading as well. Integrating the new information
into what I have learned so far."

"Let's try something" Andre said, taking the chemistry text
and randomly opening it to a page.

"What is Avogadro's Number?" Andre asked.

"The number of carbon atoms in exactly twelve grams of carbon-12."

"Right" Andre said, "What's carbon-12?"

"The most common isotope of carbon. Also used as a standard for
measurement, very stable."

"Right" Andre said, "What's an isotope?"

"That pertains to periodic elements that have more than one possible
configuration of neutrons in the nucleus."

"Right" Andre said, "What's a gram?"

Donnie got a strange look on his face, then began to laugh.
"I don't think that question is a valid test, if you know what I mean?"

"Oh yeah" Andre said, closing the book.

"Could you get me some more books please?" Donnie asked.

Andre nodded mutely and went down the stairs.

As he walked by the bar, he saw that Wayne had drank a bit too much and
had passed out on the floor. Andre walked silently over to the bar
and took Wayne's gun, holding it in his hands. Andre stood over Wayne
and pointed the gun down at him. This guy's out cold, Andre thought.
He is also dangerous and unpredictable, all I have to do is squeeze this
trigger, the police would never charge me.

Andre held the gun on Wayne for almost a minute, but he could not
make himself pull the trigger. Finally, he turned away, placing the
gun in his pocket.

Andre looked around the apartment, his view settling on the curtains,
ripping them from the wall and cutting the draw string from them.
He walked over, and began wrapping the rope around Wayne's wrists
and ankles. This will hold him, Andre thought. This work is too
important to be interfered with.

Andre then proceeded over to the book shelves and began selecting a
stack of books. Let's see, Algebra, Calculus, Mechanical Engineering,
Anatomy, Principles of Biochemistry, Theory of Self Reproducing Automata,
Feynman's Lectures on Physics...


Later, Donnie closed the page on his final volume, Nanosystems 5.
He looked up at Andre, a book in one hand and a huge sandwich in
the other.

"What exactly did you do to me?" Donnie asked. "I suspect you have
manipulated my neural pathways."

Andre sighed. "The medical 'bots have ramped up the firing rate of
your synapses. In addition to the desired performance gain in mental
calculation, it appears storage and retrieval of memory have also been
greatly enhanced. Actually, the gains have been much more than I
anticipated. I can't quite explain it. I must tell you though, you
will not maintain this state unless the medical 'bots are refreshed
by injecting periodic doses."

Andre paused for a moment, looking at Donnie, then he continued.
"You know, I am not proud of what was done to you. But considering
how we met, you must admit I did not have much choice in the matter."

Donnie's voice cracked with emotion. "I suspect you steered events in
this direction, but I cannot question the ethics of that action."

Donnie continued, "I am truly sorry for the way we treated you earlier.
I regret that. It seems people plan ahead and predict the consequences
of their actions to varying degrees. Call it a time horizon.
I do not think our time horizons were measured in more than minutes
or hours." Donnie said in an ashamed voice, dropping his sandwich onto
the plate.

Both men sat in silence for several minutes.

Suddenly, Donnie looked up and grinned.
"Hey Andre, don't you think it's about time you showed me how to program
your NanoTek 9000? I'd love to play around with it, and I have a few
ideas I'd like to try as well."


Donnie was rapidly typing on a keyboard, his eyes fixed upon the display
panel of the NanoTek Workstation. Andre stood beside him, staring at
the display in amazement.

"I can't believe this" Andre said.
"You didn't even know what atoms were a few hours ago, and now you
actually got a machine to work?"

On the screen, a slow motion replay was running of an assembly sequence
Donnie had just executed. When millions of assembly operations were
taking place each and every second, this was the only possible way a
human could interact with, and develop nano scale machines.

The men continued to stare at the display.

A machine was floating free in a solution. It's basic shape was a
cylinder, with four flexible manipulator arms snaking out of each
end of the cylinder. Although both ends looked identical, it appeared
they were performing different functions.

One end seemed to be acting as an intake. The arms on that end were
furiously whipping about, plucking raw materials from the surrounding
solution and sending them to what Andre assumed was an intake port
located at the base, between the arms. The materials were drawn into
the interior of the machine.

There were output ports around the midsection of the cylinder.
These seemed to be extruding prefabricated machine parts, that were
created inside the machine.

The set of arms on the other end looked like they were performing the
final assembly operations. As soon as a part was extruded from an
output port, the assembly arms would grab the part and snap it into
the rather large workpiece they were holding. The arms continued to
rotate the workpiece, jamming machine parts into it, here and there.

Before they knew it, the process was done. There were now two identical
machines floating in the solution. After a slight pause, they both began
whipping their arms about, and began the process anew.

"Well, it looks like that part worked" Donnie said with satisfaction.
"Let's give these guys some time to build a few more copies of them-
selves, and then I'll reprogram them to build something else. You know,
they work best is a solution - better mobility, but those arms can break
as well as form bonds. We should be able to use them in a wide range
of environments."

"Build something else" Andre said in a flat voice, the color drained
a bit, from his face.

Donnie looked up at him with concern.
"What's wrong Andre?"

"Do you realize what you have done?" Andre asked.
"Listen! We cannot do what you have just done.
You have leap-frogged the state of the art in a single afternoon!
We are still at the point where we have to build relatively small
quantities of special purpose machines."

Andre kicked the side of the workstation.
"With macro scale equipment at that!"
"Oh, we have built a very crude self replicating machine, nothing so
elegant as this... but that was all it could do. We have not cracked the
complexity of designing a general purpose assembler. One that can build
more copies of itself, AND flexible enough to be reprogrammed to build
something else!"

"Are you upset?" Donnie asked.

"I am not angry with you Donnie, just concerned" Andre responded.
"Something like this could be dangerous. I don't have that much
confidence in this workstation's containment vessel. It wasn't designed
for this. What kind of safeguards are in place? How do you keep it in
check? Does the machine need a special feedstock? What prevents errors
from creeping in during the replication process? Does the damn thing
have an off switch?"

"Don't worry" Donnie finally said.
"I read about all the standard safety concerns associated with this
technology, just as you have. I have taken them into account. I realize
that if replicating machines got out of this lab and reproduced
unchecked, it could end civilization as we know it. Possibly even
extinguish all life on Earth. These 'bots should be perfectly safe.
I have programmed them to consider the structure of the containment
vessel sacrosanct. In addition, as soon as a special feedstock is
introduced, they will begin disassembly operations on each other,
rendering them perfectly harmless. I also...
Gasp! Arghhhh..."

Sometimes it takes a while for the brain to make sense out of what
the eye is seeing. Andre just experienced this feeling.
One minute, he was deeply immersed in his conversation with Donnie.
The next minute, Donnie was sitting there, turned in his chair, having
a great deal of difficulty breathing. Making odd gurgling, bubbling
sounds, with blood coming out of his neck. Follow the blood trail
up... around the neck... to a knife. A knife deeply imbedded in
Donnie's throat.

Donnie crashed to the floor.

"Hey, you guys forgot to invite me to your fucking replikator party"
Wayne rasped.

Andre turned to see Wayne standing in the doorway...
just before the full bottle of tequila Wayne had thrown, smashed
into Andre's forehead.


Andre had a huge headache. As he came to, he found that he was still
in the lab, tied to a chair. He pulled on the bonds, but they were
secure, the ropes tightly cutting into his legs and arms. His arms
uncomfortably twisted behind his back.

"You know, I didn't really appreciate being fucking restrained
downstairs." Andre heard Wayne say, "Tit for tat."

Andre tried to respond but found it difficult to speak. Waves of
dizziness washed over him. Finally he croaked,
"How long have I been out?"

Wayne laughed, walking in front of Andre, holding up a small vial,
now empty.

"Is this what you're worried about?" Wayne asked.
"In response to your inquiry, it has been hours. Plenty of time for
this to work" he said, throwing the vial "and plenty of time for
me to look through these" he said, kicking a big stack of books
across the floor.

Wayne frowned in distaste, "Not exactly my cup of tea" he said,
glancing at the science books.
"I think I lean more towards the political."

Wayne cleared his throat and began orating.
"Struggle is the father of all things... It is not by the principles
of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal
world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle."

"Adolph Hitler, to attribute the source." Wayne said with a wicked grin.

"However, I did hear enough of your conversation with our dearly departed
friend Donald" at this, Wayne turned and bowed to the corpse lying on
the floor, " realize that my future plans could be greatly aided
by your self replicating machines."

"Now shut the fuck up and let me finish this manual" Wayne said.
With that, he sat down and began flipping through the book in his hands.

Andre cringed when he saw the title.


After a few minutes, Wayne snapped the manual shut. He
stood up, throwing the book across the room and brushed his hands
off as if he had just done a hard day's work.

He looked at Andre.
"You know, I bet I could modify Donnie's program."

"What do you mean?" Andre asked.

"The Assembler, dip shit!" Wayne responded.
"The source code for the program is on this workstation. I am quite
confident that I could disable any safety protocols that Donnie
implemented in his design."

"You wouldn't do that" Andre said.
"If you have any sense of self preservation, you should know that
you would be in as great a danger as anyone else."

Wayne sat down at the keyboard and began typing.
"You know, you have the tools right here in this room, to do almost
anything you fucking want. You just don't have the knowledge to put
the building blocks together the right way. Of course, I do."

Andre still felt dizzy from his head injury, almost on the verge of
passing out. In spite of this, he began to pull against the ropes,
twisting his arms, trying to slip free. If only he could reach the
Glock which was still in his pocket...

"Hmmm... what do we have here?" Wayne announced.
"Looks like you boys left your assembly sequence running.
Christ! Those little beasties have been busy. Looks like the
feedstock is almost drained."

Wayne glanced over at Andre, who immediately ceased struggling.
"Kudos. I am truly impressed."

"However, I'm afraid I am going to have to dispose of them, and
introduce me own redesigned version." Wayne said, continuing to type
on the keyboard. "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a
path to your door."

"Build a better assembler and the world will bow down in total submission
to me, their soon-to-be glorious leader. Mothers will tremble and clutch
their children. Armies will fall. Cities will burn. Any who defy me
will feel my wrath. Great plagues, like nothing seen before, will sweep
across continents. There will be great mounds of human flesh, piled high
in the streets, food for my engines of destruction."


The Glock bucked in Andre's hands as he fired.
Wayne's body slumped across the console, his brains now mostly a thin
film spread across the workstation and keyboard.

Except for a slight hissing and humming from the equipment,
silence filled the room.

Andre was never one to use much profanity, but he felt it would be
appropriate under these circumstances.
"No, why don't YOU shut the fuck up." He announced.

Andre dropped the gun to the floor and fell back into his chair, exhausted.
My God, he thought. Imagine the horror I almost brought upon the world.
Andre sat there for several minutes, catching his breath. He had quite a
bit of explaining to do to the authorities. He would probably lose his job
over this mess as well.

The hissing was getting louder.

"Oh God no." Andre spoke aloud, as he looked up at the console.
The plastic casing of the workstation, and the organic matter that
covered it, were beginning to froth and foam. Andre saw at least one
bullet hole in the workstation's display panel. As he watched,
the NanoTek 9000 slowly sagged inward upon itself and collapsed into
a shapeless heap. The outer surface of Wayne's body was already
beginning to boil, as the Assemblers salvaged the much needed carbon
atoms, and other feedstock, from his body.

Death finally, gratefully, claimed Andre.

But not before he had the chance to watch the growing mass of
Assemblers creep agonizingly across the hardwood floor.
To spread and consume the room, and eventually...
Who knows where it will stop?


Copyright (C) 1995, Anthony S. Napier
All Rights Reserved

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| Anthony S. Napier   LEXIS-NEXIS, A division of Reed Elsevier Inc. |
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| "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."  -Alan Kay  |