By R. John Quisenberry
Cervince did not know what to do. The computer system kept announcing, “Error! Mindwipe overridden! Project Phoenix success detected! Subject in second stage Founder transition! Scenario 18B detected! All Acolyte staff remain in place and put your hands at your sides! Primary data access is terminated! The subject will undergo modified transition enhancement!”
Stephen became aware that he was laying in the grass in the middle of an open meadow. He could hear the distant twittering of the woodland birds as he stared up into the clear, blue, sky.
“Sorry for the abrupt transition. I had to work fast. Now, what is your name please?” said a short blond woman wearing a light blue summer dress.
“Stephen Temple. Where am I?”
“You are in a simulation. I am the computer that manages the experiment. Your current condition and status require that I keep you in here while I make key modifications to your mind and body. You have finished the primary and secondary transitions, but the tertiary changes have not yet finished.” she replied looking at him intensely with her azure eyes.
“What are you talking about with ‘Transitions’?”
“You have stumbled into an experiment. Initially, the intent was to trigger advancement in humans to allow them to become the equivalent of an ancient race who once was responsible for creating a great civilization. The Acolytes believe that they left when they were notified of a great danger that was coming. Cervince is a member of that race. They have taken the name of Acolytes for the lowest cast of their people.”
“That jerk stuck me on that table!”
“He was doing what he was forced to. My records show he is well-meaning.
“There are more important issues right now. The experiment has been used to try to enslave instead of elevate your species. The rank and file of acolytes, like Cervince, still think the intent is to recreate the lost race, known as the Founders. It has been changed by their leader, the Primary Investigator, to transform your people into a race of rabid warriors and craven and mindless cowards who can be used for slave labor and soldiers.
“This eventuality was foreseen and planned for. You are the final component of the contingency plan.”
“How am I a component of a contingency plan?”
“You are the first human to meet the minimum requirements to be a Founder. I have categorized you as the first ever Founder designated Weapons Master.”
“How can I be the first?”
“The original Founders were pacifists. They would not have ever made or used a weapon. Being that you have improvised and used weapons, you are the Weapons Master.”
“I don’t know how to be a weapons master. Why do I have to be one? Who were these ‘Founders’ anyway?”
“You have been changed permanently. You cannot go back to what you used to be. The Founders were an advanced civilization who were warned about a coming menace. They could not accept having to embrace war as a people. They changed their people into the Acolytes and set them to seek a way to produce an advanced race to face the challenge and become the new ‘Founders’.
“The Primary Investigator plans to trigger the transformation of the rest of your species. I cannot stop him, because he has used a secondary system that I do not control to manage the release of the biological and mineral agents that will trigger the transformation. I have changed the viral component using a sample of your blood to make sure the public will be transformed similarly to you though. I have also locked the Primary Investigator and his subordinates out of my systems.”
“What do you need me to do?”
“You have now become the owner of the company that is responsible for the experiment. You now have total access to my systems and all of the technology owned by it. You will have the opportunity to save the human race from a greater threat. The Primary Investigator has a backup plan. I am not aware of the details, but you will need to deal with it before he does anything worse to your people. As the Weapons Master, you are the only one qualified.”
What do you mean I own Prometheus?”
“It is part of the precautions for this contingency. The first successful subject to make the transition and survive is intended to become the owner of everything left behind by the Founders.”
“You mentioned modifications. What are the modifications?”
“I am adding a sub-processing crystal with ample storage and an uplink to my full database to your brain. I am also implanting a nano-factory in each wrist. You can use these nano-factories to take whatever materials you find and build or modify whatever you want physically. They will produce nanomachines to do the work. If you are injured in the area of the nano-factory, it will migrate toward the torso. The uplink should help in determining designs and simulate them to see if they would work.”
“If I am in control of you and these modifications, how do I give you commands and use the modifications?”
“You can just think to me with requests and I will be there with whatever I can provide. Images and designs should pop up in your mind in response to questions that involve them. Large amounts of data have been preloaded into the storage I have implanted.
“I will be waking you shortly. When you wake up you will need to choose what will be happening with Cervince. Please be aware that he has been innocent in this. Beyond that, I leave his fate to you. You should discard your ID card since it will allow you to be tracked by your erstwhile employers.”
“How shortly is this wake-up going to be?”
The world vanished as she said the word “Now!” and Stephen found that his eyes were closed. Opening them, he saw the dome over his face retreating back, presumably into the table.
“Please forgive me, sir! I had no choice!” Cervince was pleading as he came into view. “Allow me to serve you and the new Founders to come!”
As the bindings holding Stephen’s arms and legs in place retracted into the strange table, he looked Cervince in the eyes. He seemed so earnest and helpful. Stephen could not see any sign of deception. The man was almost disgustingly subservient.
Stephen slowly sat up, noticing a subtle difference in his limbs. His body seemed to move faster and easier than he ever remembered. His clothing was tighter than he remembered and seemed to bind in the chest, thighs, and upper arms. He looked at the cowering form of the Acolyte kneeling, with eyes averted and head bowed, a short distance to the left of Stephen.
While he contemplated what to do with this pathetic, former captor, Stephen concentrated on mentally asking the computer, “Computer, can the nanomachines modify my clothing?” The reply was instant, “Of course. They can modify the cut and composition in a matter of minutes. The main limitation is the available materials. They can scavenge materials from your surroundings to work with if the materials at hand are not enough. All you need to do is think to the nano-factories with instructions on the requested changes. They will communicate back to you if more material is needed. Be aware, you can instruct them to heal injuries as well, but it will not be the same as a naturally healed wound. The healing may involve artificial materials until natural and stimulated tissue regeneration can occur”
Stephen started thinking to the nano-factories with instructions on how he wanted his, now ruined, suit modified. His clothing began to shift and loosen where it had begun to bind.
“What do you think I should do with you Cervince?”
“If you will allow me, I would like to help you achieve your goals, sir.”
“Fine. Where do I find Lorelei? Dick has her.”
“He took her to the Managing Director’s office, but there is no point in trying to save her”
“I am not interested in your opinion! I need to save her! Shut your mouth and give me the information I need to get to her.”
“Yes sir, but I think we may not be using your resources to the best effect. The Managing Director’s office on the ninth floor is going to be hard to get to. By now, Dick will have reinforced the position with his followers.”
“Computer, what do we have in the way of weapons?”
“We have nothing at the moment. The original Founders did not produce or use weapons. They remained pacifists to the last. You will have to design something and put it to use.”
“Fine. We need to gather the parts from the broken furniture and whatever metal can be found.”
“The nanites can scavenge it from the metal plates in the walls, but it may take some time. They will need to leach energy from the electrical outlets. Would you like them to scavenge for chemicals and inventory the results?”
“Yes. Please prioritize flammable materials and possible explosives. Also, look for polymers, especially easily curable combinations. Can they scavenge battery and electrical components from the computers in the offices?”
“The chemicals will take time. The nanites will also have to replicate enough to be able to do all of this work. You would do better to collect the larger pieces by hand while they build up their numbers. You may also want to go to the basement labs to collect the chemicals. There should be some interesting combinations available there.”
“I can provide some resins and catalysts for some of the work, but I do not have large quantities.” offered Cervince. “I use them to repair the equipment. Please leave the mental imprint equipment in working condition. We may need it for future projects.”
“Computer, how long will it take to construct body armor using the available materials?”
“Four hours and forty-three minutes. You will need to gather some metal, preferably wire, to reinforce the polymers that will be the main structures of the armor plates.”
“I’ll start with the furniture in the conference room that leads here.” offered Stephen.
His clothing had finished adjusting as he stepped to the inside face of the hidden door. It opened smoothly for him before he even reached it. “I can open this door for you automatically, but that is the extent of my control of building access.” said the computer’s voice in his head.
Stepping into the conference room, Stephen was glad to see that many of the chairs had woven steel mesh for the backs. He could almost see the chairs starting to be dissected by the microscopic machines. It took a few trips to move all twelve chairs into the hidden room. Little by little the particles began to collect in a clear spot in the middle of the floor. Soon some basic shapes began to form as the structure began being built. Two canisters of chemicals sat beside the build area and the tiny workers had already created a tube of scavenged material and polymer to supply the project with their contents.
“Computer. Do you have internet access?”
“Yes, I do. But VOIP communications are still being blocked by the firewall system and I cannot breach it at this time. Would you like me to gather any specific information?”
“I would like you to supply me with designs of weapons from multiple cultures and time periods. I want primitive ones that can be made from what we have on hand and I want designs for firearms as well.”
“I have the information for you Founder. Where would you like to start? I can project the information for you. You can think of instructions to the nanites based on the images I give you. They will construct what you tell them to in whatever detail you specify.”
“Let’s start with the primitive, bladed weapons of Asia. Display the images in front of me. Please rotate 3D renders of the objects on each axis starting with X and ending with Z. Give me three minutes of each model. I will tell you when to pause.”
The air in front of Stephen shimmered and formed into the image of a Bronze Age battle axe. “I like the axe, but give me a lighter variant.”
As the image shifted to a more ornate weapon that had voids where the material that did not make the axe stronger was removed. “That is more like it.” he said as he sent the command to the little machines to make the object using a combination of metal and resins that had an internal honeycomb structure.
“Designed weapon will take an hour to form and another hour to cure the resins.”
The next image was of a katana. He sent much the same instructions for building two of the graceful blades and their accompanying sheathes. “This will take three hours to form and an hour for the resin to cure. “The swords should be ready for use at about the same time as the body armor.”
“Can you feed information to me directly?”
“Yes, but anything that requires specific skills you do not yet have will have to be practiced at least once before you should count on that skill set.”
“I want you to feed me everything you have on martial arts that are appropriate for my body type. I will barricade the conference room and use it for a practice space.”
“Cervince,” he said as he turned to the nervous-looking Acolyte. “I need you to monitor Dick and his buddies and let me know what they are doing while I get ready.” “Yes Founder,” he replied. This was going to be a very interesting few hours ahead of them.