Dave climbed into his BMW Vision and sped down the hill that led away from APEL’s headquarters. Taking the on-ramp to the Pacific Coast Highway, Dave watched as the sun dipped just below the horizon. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the doctor, an eighteen-wheeler came barreling down the bend in the highway. Before Dave could swerve out of the way, the semi t-boned his sports vehicle and pinned it against the guard rail.
David awoke in a daze, blood gushing from the lacerations on his mangled face as the air bag had failed to fully inflated. His legs were crushed beneath him, but he still had full function of his right arm. Collecting himself as best he could in his condition, Dave mustered enough strength to open up the glove box and retrieve an injection pen from within. Stabbing it directly into the side of his neck, Dave felt his technology rush into his veins.
He waited anxiously for the nanites to take effect, hoping that even as a prototype these nanobots were enough to save his life. An electrical surge traveled through him as the nanites stimulated his heart and cleared his obstructed airways from the blood that had collected there. Dave could feel the nanobots as they patched a punctured lung, reinforced his broken legs, and made his face whole again. Rejuvenated with a new-found energy that pulsated through him, the doctor wrested his way out of his battered vehicle.
Emerging from the wreckage, he found his breathing clearer and his senses sharper than they ever had before. Dave noticed that the truck driver laid unconscious on his airbag. His heart was still beating, but he was barely breathing. The doctor felt no compassion for the man whose negligence behind the wheel nearly cost him his life. Dave came to the driver’s seat and searched the man’s pockets. Finding the trucker’s wallet, the doctor took all his cash, his license, and his credit cards before tossing the thing over the guardrail, past the plummeting cliffs below. Dr. Mitchell then pulled back to observe the insignia on the man’s jacket. It read Frontline Industries, the military tech company that sought to put APELabs out of business.
Bastards, Dave thought to himself, leaving the trucker in his seat, still unconscious.
Dave then approached the rear of the vehicle and opened up the back. Inside, Dave found boxes upon boxes of assorted nanodevices and processors.
“Seems like they’ve been busy,” Dave remarked to no one in particular. Taking as much as he could off the truck and safely onto the road, the doctor paused as he heard a distinct straining of metal against metal. The guardrail was giving way and he would need to work fast. Removing as much of the tech as fast as his nanite-powered body could, David watched as the semi broke through the guardrail, dragging its driver and Dave’s car with it into the crushing abyss.
Using the trucker’s quarter to make a call at the nearest gas station, Dave phoned the police to report an accident on the Pacific Highway and file a missing-person’s report regarding a certain trucker.
Dr. Mitchell awoke in a cold sweat. His head was pounding and his mind was reeling. He noticed that he was back at his loft in Silicon Valley, but he had no idea how he made it all the way there. Last thing he could recall was injecting the nanites into his neck to save his life. The nanites must have set him on autopilot and gotten him safely home, but now they had apparently crashed, soon to be secreted by his system. The doctor opened his nightstand, pulling out a notepad. He wrote a reminder to himself to make the nanites self-sustaining and tied to his neural signature. Dave wanted to control the nanites, not the other way around.
Checking his alarm clock, Dr. Mitchell realized that he’d slept the better portion of the day. No doubt his body was re-acclimating itself to running itself without the nanites help.
They must have done their job, Dave thought, looking over his completely healed figure. He noted that his muscles were a bit more toned and his gaze a tad sharper.
“Interesting after-effects,” the doctor said aloud. He then went about his normal morning routine, until something caught his eye outside the window. Outside his loft was parked a U-Haul truck. After throwing on a pair of khakis, lacing up his chucks, and putting on a white tee, Dave approached the truck to investigate. Inside he found a dozen or so boxes of microprocessors and nanotech apparently stolen from Frontline Industries. Shocked, Dave went to call the police to report stolen property. He then realized his prints were no doubt all over the truck’s cargo. So, he moved all the stolen goods to his personal lab beneath the loft.
“Research Log, July 21st 2012,” the doctor stated, recording, “Nanites seem to be highly unstable, but well out of prototype phase. If left unchecked, however, unforeseen side-effects may result. No recollection after injection suggests that nanites automate thought processes. Further testing required. Neural-link needs to be established. Perhaps recovered hardware will prove useful in advancements towards self-sustaining technology.”
Dr. Mitchell shut off the recording and worked through the weekend to the early part of Monday morning. He had successfully tied the next batch of nanites to his neural signature and updated the hardware to feed off of the body’s natural electric current. Now all that was required was a willing subject to see if the improvements took hold rather than the body rejecting them.
Haggard and disheveled, Dave entered the security code to unlock his lab. Right then, Miss Holland came up behind him.
Spooked, the doctor jumped at her touch on his shoulder, “Miss Holland you mustn’t approach a scientist in such a way. I could have been dealing with delicate technology that would be in shatters now.”
“Just wanted to report, Doctor,” Holly meekly replied, “Are you alright Dr. Mitchell? You don’t look well.”
“Why ask the question Miss Holland if you already know the answer?”
“Might I inquire why you’re always so snide, Doctor?” pressed Holly, growing bolder.
“Is that any way to address your employer, little girl?” asked Dave, thoroughly annoyed.
“Doctor, I have the upmost respect for you, but you belittle my contributions in addressing me so.”
Dr. Mitchell advanced on Holly, grabbing her by the wrist, “I only ask for you to act a bit more maturely in your interactions with me. Is that too must to ask of you, Miss?”
“Doctor, I suggest you loosen your grip,” Holly responded.
The doctor noticed her wrist slipping from his firm grasp as if the wrist was shrinking. He was then beset by a terrible headache, which brought him to the floor.
“My God! Doctor!” Holly yelped as she lowered herself to assist him off the floor. Mustering up her strength, she was able to lift the dazed doctor into a lab chair. “I’m going to call for help,” Holly stated motioning for the intercom.
“Please Holly, sit down. There’s no need,” the doctor declared, motioning for her to take a seat beside him.
“But you seem like you’re in terrible pain.”
“No, it’s nothing, nothing at all. I appreciate your concern but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
“I’ve seen reactions like yours in clinic I volunteer at. Strong headaches are a sign of withdrawal.”
“Nonsense, Miss, I don’t take narcotics.”
“It doesn’t have to be drugs, it could be anything that your body’s missing,” she replied.
“Hmm, interesting, I’ll keep that in mind. For the time being please find me some aspirin.”
“Alright, Doctor, if you’re sure you’re alright by yourself.”
“Please Miss, don’t dally, I need that aspirin.”
“Will do,” she answered as she exited the lab.
Making sure Holly had left, the doctor switched on the lab’s camera.
“Research Log, July 23rd 2012. Nanites seem to have generated dependence in my system. Headaches have resulted. Another dose of nanites needs to be administered as remedy. Nanites have been upgraded to be self-sustaining, feeding off the body’s natural electric current. Further testing is required to ascertain nanites’ full potential.”
The doctor ended the recording as Holly walked in with the aspirin he requested.
“Thank you, Miss.”
“You’re welcome, Dr. Mitchell.”
“Now would you please fill that syringe with the solution from the vial in the freezer?” Dave asked, motioning towards the cyro-containment unit next to him as he tightened a restraint on his arm. He then poured himself a glass of water, knocking back two aspirin.
“Dr. Mitchell, is there reason for concern about what you’re injecting into yourself?”
“Holly I’m paying you to do as you’re told, not question your employer’s every action.”
“But how will you pay me doctor, if you’re dead?”
“This won’t kill me, Miss, it’s supposed to remedy the symptoms of withdrawal.”
“With what? More drugs?”
“Please, Miss, I need you to do this for me. It is but a counteragent to whatever is causing my symptoms.”
“Yes doctor,” she stated, effortlessly filling the syringe.
Dr. Mitchell tapped his arm to find a vein. Then, quickly grabbing the syringe from his assistant, he injected it into himself. The nanites immediately entered his system. The warmth of his blood heated the nanites to functioning temperature. His nervous system felt a sudden jolt as the nanites drew power to sustain themselves. The color instantly returned to the doctor’s face and the bags disappeared from under his eyes.
Holly watched in amazement.
“That’s astounding, Doctor,” she said in a hushed voice, “What’s in that compound?”
“Nothing to concern yourself with right now, Miss.”
The doctor then walked over to a new batch of nanites.
“I need you to get started on development. These nano-devices need to be ready for clinical trials.”
“That’s what your mysterious serum is, isn’t it Doctor? Also, these nano-devices,” she said gesturing with air quotes as she said “nano-devices,” “are habit forming. I strongly advise you Doctor to stop this mad pursuit of science.”
“This ‘mad pursuit of science’ is keeping you employed Miss and I’d strongly advise you to get to work. Already the first day and I’m having trouble with you.”
“I’m concerned for the public as well as you, Doctor. These nanites cause a form of withdrawal I’ve only ever observed with meth users and crack addicts. Surely you’d put the public in jeopardy if this tech were to hit the market.”
“The only thing in jeopardy right now is your employment, and you’re skating on thin ice Miss Holland. I suggest you get to work.”
“If it means protecting people from horrid side-effects then I will do what I must, but I can’t say I entirely agree with what you’re developing here, Doctor.”
“Miss, you agreed to this as soon as you crossed the threshold into my lab. And what’s more, I’ve created a special strain of the nanite devices just for you,” he said quickly pressing a chloroform-soaked rag against Holly’s face and thrusting an injection pen into the side of her neck, “They’ll be seeping into your system shortly. Hopefully they will make you easier to manage….” And that’s when Holly’s world blackened.
Dave had to work quickly. The dose of chloroform Holly had just inhaled would only keep her unconscious for several minutes: just enough time for him to initiate her programming. He dashed to the lab’s computer terminal and went through the checklist of instructions.
Upon entering her system, the nanites had been programmed to attach to her brain stem and, with a direct link to the doctor’s neural pattern, give Dave complete control. Testing the link, he bid Holly to rise, simply by thinking her off the floor and standing upright before him. Erasing her recent memories until just before she reached the lab, Dave flooded her mind with the idea she’d been caught in traffic and was running behind. With eyes glazed over, Holly then walked to the entrance to the lab and closed the door behind her just as the doctor had envisioned it.
Turning the knob, Holly rushed into the lab, flushed and out of breath, “Doctor, I know this is a terrible first impression. I got—“
“Stuck in traffic? And let me guess: you’ve been running behind all day,” Dave said, spinning around to address his assistant.
“Is it that obvious?” Holly asked, becoming more flustered as the doctor’s gaze seemed to bore into her very existence.
“Miss, all I ask is that you get to work now that you’re here. But first you must really clean yourself up in the washroom, you look terribly disheveled.”
Holly looked down to find that her blouse was askew and her hosiery was torn at a point. She did not remember being this unkempt when she left this morning. The mad rush to the lab must have finally caught up with her.
“Yes, Doctor Mitchell, that’s a good idea,” Holly stated as she spun around to find the nearest ladies room.
“No need to go off looking for the powder room, Miss, there’s one right in the lab,” Dave called out to her.
Holly came to a quick halt as she complied with the doctor’s wishes.
© Copyright 2016 Russ Hammond. All rights reserved.