Fighting The Nanos
Lauren doesn’t want to go into the army. She wants to be an architect, designing beautiful buildings. But she might have no choice.
The state of Uneyark demands that each family have one member serve in the army at all times, to protect the last vestige of humanity, to stop the plague of monsters controlled by nano bots killing the last few remaining humans alive on the planet.
Character Series: The Nanos, 1
Group Series: no group series
Author: Chris Wilkins
No character pictures for this story. Yet.
The squirrel holds a nut firmly in its front paws. The creature looks content, twitches its tail and then jumps onto a tree. He looks at me as if to say, “It’s mine. Get your own”, then scurries up the trunk.
What a magnificent design, all done by nature. Not a nano-bot anywhere to modify its DNA, control its bodily functions or maintain its health. How did we survive before nano technology? And how does the squirrel survive without it?
I look further up the tree and breathe in all its green nature, the boughs, the leaves, the sap, and the wind gently pushing it one way and then the next. A marvel. Also without any nano-bots buried deep inside.
It’s not far from my house but I love coming up into the woods, to be with nature, the way it was meant to be. Here you can feel the wind, fill your lungs with it, can touch living wood, and watch wildlife that still manages to exist outside laboratories run around and do as mother nature intended.
I also know it might be the last time I can come here for many months. The messages had gone out over the internet the recruiters were coming. They will be here before noon with whatever horrific news they have. And, as with every time they came to our town, there will be changes. Mum says there’s no point trying to change something you can’t, that one has to accept and try to get along as best one can.
And she’s right. Since the nano wars began life has changed. At least that’s what I’m told at school. The wars have been raging for more than a hundred years. I don’t even know when they started or why. Apparently nano technology got out of control and nearly exterminated the entire human race.
I look at the squirrel again.
“Enjoy.” I wave at it. It looks back at me with its cheeks puffed out, glaring at me, daring me to try and snatch its nut.
I laugh. “No, it’s yours. You can keep it.”
“Speaking to squirrels could be a sign of madness,” Derik says behind me as he stomps up the path.
Derik. No longer a boy but not really a man either. He’s over 6’ and broad in the shoulders, but the beard he’s trying to grow is patchy and struggles to take root. He is also 18 next month, and his family has no one in the military.
I turned 18 six months ago but it doesn’t matter because my brother, Jake, is in the army. One member one family is the rule. More could go but that’s not usual. And they have to be over 18.
I try to smile, but it looks more like a grimace. He looks at me and knows instantly what I’m thinking.
“Of course the recruiters are going to take me. You know that.”
“I guess so.” I look at the ground where my right foot is drawing lines in the dirt.
“Hey, c’mon. It’s not that bad, you know. Plus someone has to do it. What do you think would happen if no one went? Who’ll defend the Wall then?”
Said like a true warrior. Derik always liked the military. He thought it would be grand to play with all the techie toys that only the army has.
But what will a simple girl who wants to be a designer do in the military?
He slaps me on the shoulder, and laughs. Where his hand falls my skin is warm and tingles. It’s not the same as the friendly wrestles we used to have when we were much smaller. I have no chance against him anymore, his arms now twice as thick as mine.
“Your mother sent me to get you.”
We turn and head back down the small track towards my house.
Mum is waiting outside for me. She is in her mid 40’s with shoulder length auburn hair framing her smiling face that always tries to be positive about whatever life throws at her, but has been harder to do since the death of Dad three years ago. Especially today with the recruiters coming; Dad died fighting the nanos, the monsters that live outside the Wall that constantly try to break in. On that day Jake was taken by the recruiters to fill the spot left by Dad. Mum’s smile has been thinner and strained ever since.
“Lunch is ready,” she says. “You might want to wash up. Do you want to join us, Derik?”
“No thanks, Mrs. Elwyn. I should be getting back myself.”
“Well, thanks for stopping by and getting Lauren.”
He quickly hugs me. Is there something more there than just the usual friendly hug we’ve shared over the years, or am I imagining it?
“See you tomorrow.”
I go inside. The house is typical of the houses of Uneyark. At the same 22° C (72° F) the whole year through, whether one meter of snow or blistering heat outside. It has four good spacious bedrooms upstairs, and an open plan living room and kitchen on the ground floor. The walls are a material that is a hundred times stronger than steel, but with the push of a couple of buttons can be as translucent as glass. There’s no need to hang pictures because any part of the walls can be whatever colour you like. With a bit of inventiveness the walls change colours all day, like a flowing wave. One minute there’s a window showing the natural forest outside, the next a Rembrandt, the next a city scene from the historical city of New York, and then snow covered mountains. The walls can even be programmed to have partitions open up like windows.
The furniture is made of the same material. Stronger than steel, yet softer than wool or velvet. The chairs even have a molecular memory so they change shape depending who sits on them.
Of course glass and steel can only be found in museums, never mind wood. Only trees use it now.
Lunch is a simple vegetable and noodle soup using our own home grown vegetables. It takes longer to make than ordering from the nano food dispenser every house has, but Mum prefers to use actual live vegetables. She said it is healthier, though I can never figure out why. With nano-bots able to remove cholesterol plaque from arteries I don’t see the need. You can eat as much disgusting food as you like and the nano-bots will suck all the fat out the next day. But there is something fresh about Mum’s soups that the nano-food always seems to lack.
“Do you know the recruiters are coming today?” Mum says. She’s like most mums, asking questions she knows I know the answers to.
“Well, dear, you don’t have to worry about anything. Jake is doing his time in the army. So you should be fine.”
She tries to smile but cracks appear at the edges. Her upper lip quivers. It’s always like this when she remembers Dad. And the recruiters always remind her about him.
“They’ll go to every house, including those who don’t have to send a recruit.”
“So you’re not to worry when they knock.”
She busies herself cleaning the pots. This involves holding them over the sink and pushing a green button at the top. The metal instantly forms into a ball, letting all the gunk stuck on them, both inside and out, drop into the sink. A second later the pot reforms, clean and sparkling. It’s easy enough to do but you have to hold the pot over the sink.
I once “cleaned” a full pot of soup I was carrying to the table. It was one of the last times the whole family was together. I pushed the button while carrying it and the soup ended up all over the floor.
Of course, the floor then shimmered and the soup was gone, flushed down into the pipes below the house. Since then I’m more careful with pots.
I eat Mum’s soup while I listen to her tell me all about her trip to the shopping center, and what she had to do to make the soup. As with most teenagers I phase her out, filling my head with my own thoughts.
Of my future and what life will be like when I get to architecture college. I often look at buildings and imagine ways of designing them better.
There’s a loud knock at the door.
“Coming”, Mum yells out. Her hands shake slightly. I get up from the chair and follow her to the front door.
Outside are two bored men wearing the standard drab gray of the recruiters. One has reddish brown hair and a bag strapped over his shoulder. The other has gray hair. They both hold tablet computers. There’s a large brown bag behind them on the ground.
“Yes.” Mum wipes her hands on her apron.
“Mother of Jake Elwyn?”
He reaches into the bag slung around his shoulder and gets out an envelope and hands it to Mum.
“I’m afraid your son has been killed while on active duty. Your daughter, Lauren, is now enlisted.”
My mind turns cold and time stands still. Mum’s mouth falls open, she swallows, and tries hard to hide her emotions.
“Thank you, officer. We will do our bit to help Uneyark.”
The men look hard at Mum, their eyes changing from indifferent boredom to nasty in a flash.