The Pod: Part 5

5.

Provisions

We deliberated a while on what to do next. After a period of rest, we concluded that the weapon must be mounted in an appropriately sized vehicle or trailer, powered by a gas generator meant for homes. We set about procuring the supplies.

Perhaps looting is the more apt term. The truth was, upon emerging from his home, My colleague and I found the scene worse than before. Looters were abound. The city had descended into all-out anarchy. Windows were being smashed all down the street. Homes were broken into, their owners still fighting for their lives and valuables. Some rightful residents were able to gain the upper hand, throwing their opponents into the streets bloodied and bruised. Others, lost in their own rights. Soon the thieves were seen running, light-footed, over bodies as they carried out their victim’s possessions.

Luckily, several levels of security on my colleague’s home protected his workshop and our weapon. The windows were of high strength Plexiglas, meant for use in tall office-buildings, thicker than normal. His front and rear doors were constructed of double-ply steel, set in heavy frames and bolted shut. Even the basement workshop was barred by one of these doors in addition to electronic and analog security locks. These were not the fruits of a paranoid man, but rather the result and value of the contents of his workshop. His work was not primarily his own. Very little was, in fact. Most consisted of several multi-million dollar projects of small research firms that, because of his idiosyncrasies, he was allowed to work on at home. Being that he was a well-respected man in his field, his employers readily gave such allowances.

After acquiring all that we would need from a hardware store, we hurried home in a large pick-up truck, stolen from a new vehicle lot. With the insanity around us, the crime was hardly unwarranted. Upon returning home, we found an eerie sight: The streets, previously filled with looters, rioters, and all manner of human-detritus, were now devoid of life. The neighborhood and surrounding blocks were silent. Had a mass exodus begun and concluded in so short a time?

We rolled to a stop outside his home, hurried inside to gather the weapon and any necessary tools, whilst the question festered in our minds. With the batteries aligned in the truck’s bed, there was just enough space for the alternators between they and the generator to connect to the weapon. My colleague set about configuring the weapon while I bolted its heavy tripod into place.

It was then that a sound came, shattering silence like a gunshot. It rocketed overhead from the West with a high pitched whine. It Doppler shifted, grew louder, passed by invisibly, then sank to a lower frequency. Then, once more, from the distant East.

It could not be true, could it? No man was so foolish, so short-sighted to dream it, were they?

It came at us from the West again; a beast possessed of an unnatural, synthetic survival, sonic-booming overhead. The shock-wave from its low flight and high speeds shook the truck, nearly deafened us. I worked faster to bolt the gun’s final leg down. My Colleague readied the batteries, switched on the gas generator. The gun climbed to a low rumble. The power increased, the rumble shifted higher to a whir its own. It was then that we glimpsed it, hovering on the horizon, studying us. Without conscious thought, I grabbed at the gun.

The massive fighter jet seemed to notice my intent and made for us. It began a passing run, spitting out imitation bullets composed of the nano-bots. They chipped at the ground, punctured cars with as much velocity and intimidation as their real counterparts might.

I had no fear. It was not an option. Not for a mind so bent on firing the weapon. I judged its trajectory, fired. The weapon’s concussive wave shoved the truck forward several inches. The blast of electricity traveled faster than anticipated, attracted to the mass of minute robots. It struck the nose, emanated through-out the swarm. The plane dissipated mid-attack, the bots fried and raining ember to the ground.

The weapon had worked. We knew what must be done. My colleague and I set off to gather as many survivors and materials as possible; to build weapons and an army to fire them. In time, all could be put right.

The Pod: Part 4

4.

My Colleague

I arrived at my colleague’s amid frightened traffickers that fled for the city’s limits. Common sense suggested this was the best of options, unknowingly propelling themselves from one rampage to another. Everywhere The Pod had been sold, manufactured, or used, swarms had emerged in the tens of dozens. It was utter chaos. My colleague and I were the only ones, it seems, to have been working the problem. Even then, we were the only two so near a solution. There was a certain glib satisfaction in that knowledge, that I must admit, came from my primal nature.

Instincts of this type had been ever-present since my defeat of the swarm-bear, and I daresay I was thinking faster and clearer than I’d ever had. It is an odd thing to know when One’s own strength in a crisis has risen above that of the majority around you. I was clear headed. My mind focused on each step and the one that would follow. All around me however, was mass hysteria: I saw a woman beating a man to a near pulp in the street. Clearly he was her husband and only wished to bring some order to his deranged wife, but she refused to listen to reason. With a final blow, he reared on her, struck her back. He ran off, cursing the woman’s name as she lie on the sidewalk, blubbering, incoherent, but otherwise uninjured.

It was a horrific sight to behold, but it was hardly apart from the norm of this chaos. I fear I may not do it justice. Every vehicle that lined the street had been over-turned and set ablaze. Dead lay here and there, the dying caught in the ghastly throes of this insanity. Driving was no longer an option for escape from residential blocks. Even if one had somehow preserved their vehicle, they would never have made it through; shot going past, or car-jacked by denizens. The problem was summed up in a thoughtful moment of clarity as I surveyed the land.

These were the fruits of our labored dreaming. The chaos, disorder, and death, awakened terror of dreamers, myself included, whom wished to prove themselves in that strange land beyond waking life. This was the price we had paid for having our dreams fulfilled– or at least, manipulated. Inevitably, if society survived this maelstrom, it would be considered an “industrial accident” caused by a manufacturing defect from the first line of Pods. There would be a public apology from that young, quick-witted CEO; perhaps a recall or stipend to those who had lost the most. After a time, it would fade from the minds of man through lawsuits in a veil of public relations. Such was the way that it had always been, what could change that now?

When I arrived at my colleagues, I knocked heavily on the door. It flung open to the end of a rifle’s barrel. My Colleague was poised with his weapon drawn, not bothering to look out the window. He lowered it, looking me over peculiarly. I still wore the odd, yellow, rubber suit– something that had escaped my mind as I’d wandered down the streets. He ushered me into the foyer quickly, bolting the door in my wake and rambling on about vultures and tyrants.

He stood for a moment there, apologizing for the rifle and the state of things. His eternal hospitality was amusing in the advent of the chaos beyond his doors. At least for me, his manners had survived intact. After another moment, he ushered me down the stairs and into his workshop. There, electrical components were strewn about across a dozen benches, amid an otherwise immaculate organization. Above each bench were sets of tools designed for different states of work, pristinely separated and categorized.

He led me in deeper, while explaining of an issue creating a capacitor that would sustain and recharge large amounts of electricity. Until now, he had been working under the assumption that the charge would have to be relatively massive. He believed new capacitors had to be invented, as well as a renewable power source. When I told him of the minimal charge necessary, he was elated. It came to him then, what he would need; an alternator and a massive series of car batteries.

The problem then became about size. Somewhere between eight and ten automotive batteries were required, along with a constant, external source of power for the alternator to recharge them. It meant starting from scratch once more, and with little time, we set to work building the firing device itself before tackling the problem of mobility. We knew what needed to be done, but where the supplies would come from was beyond us.

We finished the weapon after measurable labor and looked upon our achievement with pride: a massive four-foot tall rifle, mounted on a heavy, steel tripod. It would work, provided we could procure the power source. The alternators and lines for battery charging were ready, and awaiting connection. The weapon would take a short time to recharge between shots, but there was no doubt; it would do the job.

The Pod: Part 1

1.

Prologue

In the early twenty-first century, scientific research turned heavily to minute, molecular machines visible only through electron-microscopes. With them came hopes for everything from micro-manufacturing to bio-regulation. This latter thought alone made the public fearful, and only after the research and development moved into its application phase did the populous began to see its obvious benefits.

The programmable technology, so minute and inexpensive to manufacture, was soon loaded with various directives and deposited into laboratory mice. The mice in turn, were implanted with varying types of cancer cells, and the technology unleashed against the cancer. With a ninety-eight percent success rate in the first clinical trial subjects, the new technology was hailed as the most noble discovery since Penicillin more than a century before.

The technology, hitherto referred as nano-tech, was soon adapted to millions of new uses. It’s applications appeared limitless. Everything from automotive fluids to beauty soaps contained the microscopic robotic contraptions, each type programmed to ease man’s burden or enhance his vanity. The applications were so varied, in fact, that nano-tech soon became an under-thought in the consciousness of man. Much like electricity, it was so abundant and ingrained in the collective consciousness, that the “common man” thought nothing of it in day-to-day life, no matter its risks or widespread benefits.

Bureaucratically speaking, concerns were audible. State-houses heard rising notions and concerns of apocalyptic leanings from both learned and worrisome alike. These notions, said the tech’s inventors, scientists, and manufacturers, were outlandish. Even still, whole scores of compliance parameters were dreamed up and implemented to soothe the naysayers. Beyond any red tape however, people and corporations invested in the nano-tech and its components stood to make vast fortunes. Metaphorically speaking, the local purveyor of electricity could charge rates at thousand of times more for the electrical current and conduit flowing through every facet of the home in the developed world. Only after multiplying such a sum several thousands of times could one begin to grasp the immense, financial gains that lay beyond the tape-line. While many companies did manage to successfully wrestle the red tape, equally as many failed or succumbed to corporate sabotage.

The leader in this new, iconic field, began small but grew exponentially. Over the course of a single, fiscal year, it multiplied in size and profit by a tenfold. By the end of the second year, it had grown a hundredfold, and so on in this vein for nigh-on a decade before it plateaued as an industry leader.

Nano-Particulars, the aforementioned, sought to incorporate nano-technology into every facet of life. In that, they very well might have succeeded. From motor-oils to shampoo, food to medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and everything in between. Nano-Particulars’ manufacturing prowess was second to none. After a time, each new innovation sprinted through approval processes to be released and daunt its competitors. Each product, in turn, incorporated nano-tech to increase its effectiveness.

In the advent of a new golden age, there was little backlash for the exorbitant prices and outrageous claims of the products, that were rather hard to prove or disprove. One such example was the conditioner Nano-Cream, said to contain nanites programmed to eat away weakened strands of hair so that new ones might grow faster, healthier.

Despite the heat Nano-Particulars took from all angles, their first class R-and-D department, reputable PR staff, and lightning-witted, young CEO bounced back with greater impunity. In the midst of this hyped era, the CEO imagined new ways to apply this technology, patented the ideas, then set his company to work– for good or ill. One, particularly controversial idea was the Nano-Mask. The idea was that one would install the software, design a new face within it, and hookup the mask into a computer. In turn, the mask would download the new data, rearrange itself over a period of a few hours, then afterward could conform to the face. The nano-tech bots would attach lightly to the skin, becoming opaque so to appear as though no mask existed. It effectively rendered identity fluid, obsolete.

Of course the novelty to the idea soon gave way to far too many terrifying possibilities. The most glaring example; the ease with which it could be employed to frame others for crimes. The idea was quietly put to rest. Unhindered, the young CEO turned his sights to other projects, the foremost of which began a cataclysm of events whose effects exist to this day, The Pod.