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Ms. Wilhite exposes yet another genocidal threat. This time its nanites! You know... it's always something...



Tamara Wilhite


            A warning siren was blaring. Containment of the nanites had been lost. I ran, not sure of what direction was best, but ran anyway. I reached the stairwell when it began to dissolve. The ceiling began to turn into vapor up to the concrete joints. And the cloud kept growing. I was falling. And I was screaming as the machine mist swallowed me.

And I hit the white floor. It took a while for reality to sink in as my body seemed to struggle to function. Why did I think the room should be spinning? “Hello?” The walls absorbed the sound of my voice. It looked like an isolation chamber. “Is anyone listening?”

“Yes.” There was an awkward silence. Finally, I ventured, “How long am I going to be in here?”

“Not long. How do you feel?”

“A little off balance.”

Brief pause. “Is that all?”

“Well, the wind got knocked out of me.” How did I get mid-air if I’m in isolation? “What’s going on?”

“First, give me your name.”

Oh, yeah, routine `lets-make-sure-you’re-brains-working’ check. “Cheyenne Rochelle Davis. Identification number 284-XY5-5409 –“

“That’s enough.”

“When do I see a doctor? Or are you the doctor?”

“The door opened. A brown haired, toffee skinned man stood on the other side. “Are you hungry?”

My stomach was churning and harsh metallic in taste. “I think my stomach is acting up.” He held me up, unfazed by the sight of bodily mess but clearly upset. We both were quiet as I sat there after it ended.

“How do you feel now?”

“What symptoms do I need to be concerned about?”

“You don’t want to know.” The finality of the tone kept me from asking at that moment. “A room is ready. Can you walk?”

“I think so.” I was unsteady so he helped me up. “What is your name?”


“First name or last name?”

“It’s what I’m called.” He didn’t say anything else as he escorted me to my quarters. A single thin foam mattress on a solid block of plastic and a single blanket.

Arden came back with breakfast and a set of utilitarian clothes like his own gray pants and tunic. The food was bland. Krill cake for protein. Crumbly vegemite cakes for carbohydrate. A soy based vitamin drink. But it stayed down. “How can I contact my family?”

“Did you have a family?”

Did? “I have parents. An older sister in the Bahamas. No current family of my own, no.” Arden looked relieved. Because I didn’t have a husband and/or kids? Or that I had family out of harm’s way?   “How bad is it?” I asked.

“Very bad.”

“Fine. Is the communications network shut down by the censors? Or can I contact my family?”


“Can we even leave the facility?”

“The facility you knew was near here.”


“This was the former facility’s location.”

Former? “How many were killed in the accident?”

“You’re the last.”

“Everyone else is evacuated? Or have they all been treated?” Arden opened the door. I followed him, hoping for answers. We came into a large observation room with a large black window. “What is this?”

“Look outside.”

I walked up to the window. It was gray. Gray ground. Gray sky. It was nothing at all but gray except for the drab and lifeless black dirt. “Where are we?”

“I told you.”

“Then let me go outside and look.”

“No!” It was the first time I’d seen Arden look panicked. “You can’t go outside.”


“Yes. No. It’s complicated.”

“Let’s start with who you are.”

“I was one of the programmers with the nanite project. I was in an electromagnetically shielded lab when I was conducting a variety of replications experiments when it happened.”

“How did you manage all alone in this place?”

Arden turned around. A small data port was in his neck. “I can do all of it.”

“All of what?”

“Run this place.”

The dust storms were starting to look like geometric patterns out of the corner of my eye in my frustration. “You were in a lab during the accident, not a control room.”

“There were efforts to use nanites to dismember and item and then reassemble it again. And reassemble it with other raw materials if provided.”

“How does that relate to the accident?”

“I was working on teaching them to self replicate. No more need to use DNA based assembly processes vulnerable to biowarfare attacks. Simply allow the nanites make more of themselves upon command. I was in the lab working to improve the replication routines. The code developed an error as they replicated. The off command was garbled. They started replicating uncontrollably.” 

“They can be controlled with radiation.”

“If they replicate with a mind of their own, not necessarily vulnerable.”

I felt a knot in my stomach. “They aren’t capable of adapting.”

“That was something I was working on, along with self replication.”

“That’s self improvement. That requires thought.”

“No. It merely requires recognition of the hazards in the environment, recognition of possible improvements, then implementing those improvements in the next generation.”

“That would require forethought. Intelligence –“

“When many nanites are building something, they must all communicate with each other to keep the structure whole and with a central computer to know exactly what the specifications are. It is like brain cells talking to each other as they build neurons.”

“If they got out of control and you were in the lab when it happened, how come you’re fine?”

“The lab I was in was electromagnetically shielded. If the nanites got out of control, the lab could be irradiated and the rest of the facility would be fine. But because I wouldn’t let the radiation sterilization process be used, they got out.”

“You could have left the lab to stay safe.”

“I was trying to contain the problem from inside the lab when I realized it wasn’t containable. Not by code. By then, they’d begun eating into the walls.”

“Why block the radiation burst that would have shut them down?”

“I’m cybernetic. Such a burst would have destroyed my implant.”

“Blind? Deaf?”


I should have realized when I saw the data port in his neck, instead of the more common wrist or forehead. If he’d been blind, it would have linked to the optic nerve. “What happened?”

“I told you.”

“I meant your accident.”

“Biowarfare strain of meningitis.”

“Where is everyone else?”

“We’re the only ones here.”

“I meant in other facilities.”

“There are no other facilities.”

“This can’t be the last place on Earth, Arden.” He said nothing. “How did you survive in your lab?”

“The nanites recognized me as part of the main computer. Hence, I was unharmed as part of their program code to maintain the central computer.”

“A massive EMP pulse to contain them would have destroyed the facility.”

“The military tried that. A lot of the nanites were destroyed by it. Unfortunately.”


“Nanites moved away from their original programming as they evolved. They built a protective structure around the lab. That structure eventually became this place.”

“That explains here. But how did the nanites get everywhere else?”

“After the EMP pulse, those units within the facility created offspring that were resistant to EMP. And those units kept replicating. They only stopped after they ran out of power.”

“No more power plants to tap into?”

“No more sunlight.”

“Excuse me?”

“They’d dismantled most of Earth’s surface to replicate. Without an ecosystem left, the dirt became an omnipresent cloud. No more sunlight. Sunlight was an easy power source to harness. Making solar cells is a simple assembly process and part of their original manufacturing repertoire. Much easier than building geothermal power plants they later had to rely upon. They went mostly dormant after the sun went out.”

“No ecosystem left. That implies everyone is dead.”

“You were.”

“I’m here now.”

“Nanites could replicate matter they came into contact with. Reverse the process. Replicate everyone back.”

“You were among the first to be dismantled. And your pattern was kept among the original nanites within this structure. Most patterns were carried by nanites outside the protective structure when the EMP pulse went off, causing those patterns to be lost as the nanites were destroyed. Later generations of nanites didn’t bother to record the patterns of people they dismantled.”

“I’m … reassembled?”

“Yes.” He paused. “If they’d lost too much of your pattern, you’d be riddled with microscopic holes. Less than 1% data loss and the person would bleed to death from a million microscopic holes. And even if the person were alive when disassembled, they might not have been in good enough health to survive the transformation.”

“If you’re torn apart at a microscopic level, how does good health matter?”

“Do you remember Dr. Lu?”

“Yeah. Biochemist on DNA computer project.”

“He was reassembled. He was intact. And he had a heart attack after he found out what happened.”

“If you could reassemble him once, couldn’t you do it again?”

“I’ve found that if the grief makes someone suicidal, they’ll always be that way. It’s only a question of if they do it the first day or in the first year. And if they’re in ill health or just old, they’ll die soon.”

“How many people have you tried to reassemble?”


“So where are they?”

“No one else has worked out.”

Worked out. It sounded like trying out a temp job. “That would have required a long time.”

“It has been a long time.”

“How could you have been around that long?”

“I have myself reassembled.”

“That’s lethal.”

“No. Not if they know to immediately reassemble you.”

“By the time you thought to do that, you’d be old.”

“Actually, I was trying to commit suicide.” It was a reluctant admission. “I was responsible for eight billion deaths. I deserved to die.”

“You’re still here.”

“The nanites immediately had me reassembled. If I die of old age, they reassemble me at the age I was when I committed suicide. I am endlessly renewed.” 

“How could you know that if you get reassembled? You wouldn’t remember the old age years if you were endlessly renewed. Much less other lifetimes.”

“My memories are downloaded every time I interface with the computer. When I’m renewed, I know I can go there for a full history.”


“Of a sort.”

“So why bother with other people?”

“I’m still human.” He sighed softly. “And you’re the last pattern.”

Not Cheyenne Rochelle Davis. Not identification number 284-XY5-5409. Not even a person. Only a pattern. “How do you live with this?” I whispered.

“Can you live with this world?”

“I don’t want to die.”

Arden’s menu options came from a list of foods he had disassembled before the disaster. The project was to solve world hunger by having easy instant replication of healthy, nutritious foods. It made for a bland diet for the not-quite-dead. “Why can’t you improve the food?”

“That would require understanding the chemical breakdown of a better meal.”

“If you created the raw ingredients, I could make something.”

“The objective was to have instant meals. The prior food components were never memorized by the nanites.” He was starting to irritated. He controlled every detail of this environment. I had many details I didn’t like. Hence, it was by default a criticism of him.

“Change the subject?”

“How many reincarnations have you had?”

“I don’t think you need to know the answer to that.”

“Fine. How many reincarnations have I had?”

“This is the first.” He smiled. “Think of yourself as Eve.”

This wasn’t Eden. Once Arden built a room for someone, he said he never dismantled it. It was meant to be a reminder of his purpose of making up for what he’d done, that he was trying to bring everyone back. The end result was that this place sprawled for at least a hectare. “That means you’re giving up on restoring everyone.”

“Perhaps the best means of restoring the species is to make new copies.”

Yuck. I couldn’t help the reaction.

Nor could I change that he saw it. “What?”

“It wouldn’t be my first choice.”

“It’s not as if I have any competition.” 

“If you had meningitis and it ruined your spine, it’s a complicated enough program to just control all the muscles in the body for day to day function. Walking. Moving around. I’ve heard stories of physical problems because of a hardware glitch –“

“And I am a programmer.” He was wearing the smile of a fallen Adam. “I’ve had time to refine all of the algorithms.” I had a flash of him and me with his body running to a software routine he’d put together. I would be making love to an extension of a machine. An extension of the machines. Of the machines that killed me. “I need to go.”

“Back to the window, again.”

“You said you weren’t watching me all the time!”

“There’s little other entertainment here.”

“So create some!”

I stormed past him and the half eaten meal. It had only been a few days, but it felt like a lifetime. There were no clocks and I had no access to the computer’s time. If not for the pitch black that descended outside and interrupted the grayness, I’d have no certainty of time at all.  

I’d found it this time with only a single wrong turn. I refused to think about having been here long enough to have found my way through the maze. It was gray approaching black out there. It continued getting darker, so I knew it was evening. What day or even what season was unknown to the only other person here.

Arden didn’t follow me here this time. He didn’t ask what I was thinking when I was alone. It was the only privacy I had. This whole place was built of nanites. He could sense anything here as an extension of himself. He could be watching me now. 

I stared out there at the darkness and saw the ghosts of everyone I’d known. There were moments I wished I’d joined them, though intellectually I knew I might have already. But this life was still going, and I wasn’t going to give it up.

            Every day brought changes, whether I wanted them or not. I tried not to stare at the new fake wood table on the side of my bed. It was far better than the simple brown four dimensional cube that had met me a while back. In a few days, it might even look like wood. He’d been so long in this place that he had to rely upon my memory for physical detail.

My day clothes used clothes were gone. Likely disassembled and reassembled that day in Arden’s idea of laundry. I changed into the night wear I’d made Arden make. The strange object laid there under my clothing. I picked it up and the top fell apart. Four cylinder sections fell into a 45 degree angle. I dropped it on the floor and jumped back.

“It’s a rose,” Arden’s voice answered.

“It doesn’t look like a rose.”

“Give me time, and it’ll be better.” 

“I need to ask you something.”

“You don’t ask me many questions anymore.”

He pushed a small black box onto the table in front of me. “Open it.” A large, perfect diamond sat in it. I perfunctorily lifted up the stone and found a ring attached to it. 

“Arden ...”

“You refused me because you said you couldn’t be with a stranger. Then I was no longer a stranger. Then you refused because you said this was no place to raise children. Now it is. Yet you refuse me. I finally realized why. You’re a traditionalist.” He smiled wisely. “I’ve decided not to be angry with you. You wanted a nest fit for eggs before you laid them. It’s the most basic of instincts. You have your home. Now have your mate.”

“Arden, I can’t.”

“You helped me to make this place what it is today. You’ve made yourself into my help mate. Stop living in the past.”

“The past shapes the present.”

“Three years and I’m still not good enough.”

“Look. Maybe with time. I can’t say …” I can’t say that it isn’t you …

He stormed out then. Arden didn’t talk to me for two days. Nor did he provide. And there was no food if he didn’t provide it. The water from the tap kept me alive if barely. I went to the recycling room often. The only hope was that they followed their usual programs unless told otherwise. I half hoped lunch would pop into existence because Arden hadn’t bothered to tell it not to show up.  Nothing materialized.

“What were you going to ask for?” Arden had finally shown himself.

“I’m not going to ask for anything.”

 “You’ll starve to death if you don’t eat. You won’t eat unless you beg me for it.”

“You’d kill me long before then.”

 “I created you!”

“And you were responsible for my death the first time around!”

“If you refuse to procreate, it is your fault the species goes extinct.”

“No. It would be your fault for having wiped them out in the first place.”

“I’ve never known a female to refuse to procreate –“

“You’re just couching your lust in the holier than thou argument that you’re Adam and I’m Eve so we’re morally obligated to do it. But you’re Arden and I’m Cheyenne. The species is already extinct the moment you disassemble me and you’re left the last on earth again. And don’t even get me started on the genetic repercussions if you’re suggesting our kids should create the next generation amongst themselves.”

“It’s the only hope.”

“How many times have you even used my name?”

“There’s no need. You know I’m talking to you.”

“I’m not a person to you. I’m just the receptacle of your dream to never be alone.”

“What am I supposed to do with you?”

“Go ahead. Start over. It would be preferable to starvation.”   

“If a person never changes, then this is only a precursor to what you’ll get to go through over and over again. If you can’t get it right this time, you’ll never get it right.”

Arden plugged himself in while I sat on the floor, waiting for my death. I watched in horror as the black cloud outside swept in. And they coalesced in the middle of the room. I threw myself forward and pulled out the jack from Arden’s skull. The coalescence started to solidify even as Arden went limp. Locked in position by the code that guided his muscles; his body eventually tipped over and fell onto the floor.

I watched as a body took form beyond the window. It wasn’t from the outside in or the inside out. It was some combination that made no visual sense. But Dr. Lu came into being before my eyes. Dr. Lu came to consciousness. They were withdrawing to the outside and reforming the wall as he took in his breath. He was too shocked to recognize their retreat. He curled into a half fetal position on the floor, gasping for breath. He started to turn and look up at the sirens. Then he clutched his chest with the tell tale signs of a heart attack. And he died before my eyes.

I tried to wake Arden. No avail. I searched for a pulse and found none. Disrupting his link had killed him. No more remote control to run the place. Dr. Lu was dead. Arden was dead. And I was going to starve to death. “Oh, God.”

The sirens went up another octave. Then the wall dissolved again into a nanite swarm. I didn’t try to run this time as they swept into the room and began to form something. The door to the assembly room opened. The nanites formed a cloud. They didn’t attack me. Instead, Arden’s stiff body was carried into the assembly chamber. The new cloud continued to form … into Arden. Without disassembling the dead one.

A shell shocked young man lay face first into the floor, his arms outstretched in some gesture. He jerked up a little and saw the window. Then he saw the two dead bodies in the room with him and started screaming. Arden tripped over himself as he headed for the door. His eyes rolled up white as he fell face to face with himself.

Moving on instinct, I crawled up to the unconscious form. The wall was reforming as I did. I tried not to stare at the two bodies as I dragged him out. I pulled the living Arden away from the dead.

            Arden awoke with a start. He sat up with the stiff motion of a puppet on hidden strings. He started whipping his head around, trying to gain sense of the situation when he saw me. “Where am I?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I had the strangest nightmare. It was horrible. I saw myself and –“ Arden stopped talking, realizing his babble kept the images tighter in his mind. “Who are you?”

“My name is Cheyenne.”

“Pretty name.”

“Thanks.” For a moment, I wondered if Arden was a decent guy until the generations of memories crushed his soul out of existence.

“Can I have something to drink?”

“There’s only water, and I don’t have any cups.”

“What about food?”

My own stomach grumbled in response to his question. This Arden had slept for at least a day. And I hadn’t had much food for at least two days prior. “You’ll have to replicate some food using the nanites.”

“You can do that?”

I hated saying it as much as I needed to say it, “I can’t. You can.”

Arden slowly swung his legs out straight over the edge of the bed in a mechanical fashion. “The food replication project is classified. How do you know about it?”

“You told me.”

“I’ve never met you before.”

I hated saying it as much as I needed to say it, “If you access the mainframe, you’ll have access to the information you need.” Arden left in search of access. A few hours later, I found the courage and energy to follow him. He was in a corridor, plugged in. Emotions crossed his face with lightening speed as tears crept out of his closed eyes. Eventually, the emotional rollercoaster stopped. But the download continued. Eventually, he reached up with a smooth motion and pulled out the jack. He didn’t open his eyes, but I felt the familiar tremble of a high frequency scanner on me.

“I remember what happened.”

“It was self defense.”

“I know.” Arden was breathing slowly and deeply, not the angry and resentful manner he’d been since I’d rejected him the last time. “And I forgive you.”  

He never mentioned the incident again. Not when he brought dinner in and we ate it in silence. Not when I asked what he’d hoped to gain by bringing back Dr. Lu. Not even when I found that he’d recycled the bodies, his own included.

            Arden had added the mirror that day during my regular walk. It was funny that he finally put one in my quarters in addition to the one I’d requested for the bathroom a few years prior.

But I wasn’t going to complain. The mirror was as close to human contact as I ever came. The growing touch of gray in my hair made the face look new and different. The artificial light and sterile environment had spared me any wrinkles thus far. Arden still refused to give me a clock, but we both knew time was passing. Arden’s hair was completely white. He was close to my age, but he seemed to age faster because of the cybernetic implants.

I suspected he’d reincarnate soon. He hated old age more than he hated his disability. I knew him if only from experience. Then what? A young Arden would not know that I wouldn’t normally be here. Unfortunately, once he linked to the computer, he’d know what the prior lifetimes had been … and how he could get a younger version of me. I wondered if his knowledge that there could be two of the same copy in existence ever affected his decisions.  He could copy himself for company. He could recycle me and create two copies to try to impress at the same time, improving his odds of a happily ever after now that he knew my preferences. Yet he continued on with this life, slowly enhancing the environment.

“What do you think of the eggs?”


“Good.” He ate his own breakfast slowly. His sense of taste and smell were the only unaltered ones he had. He seemed to appreciate his own improved cooking as much as I did. Then he asked, “Is it like home?”

“It’s as close as it’s ever going to be.”

Arden didn’t say anything else in the morning. He disappeared to his lab to continue his experiments as he always did. I’d lived with him for at least 30 years. Something had changed. The question had been new.

I went back to my quarters. He had his answer that this was as much like home as it could ever be. A new version of me would be much more content here than I had been. And he now knew if he assembled Dr. Lu and let the man die in front of me, he’d have proven his case months sooner. Terrified and horrified, I might even cling to him, seeing him as a source of certainty in a strange new world. And I might even become his Eve in the emotional upheaval long before I’d realize what he actually was.

There were no sensor sweeps. He was too busy to keep an eye on me. I slammed a fist down on the bed table. I stood up and threw the nearly perfect wood like table against the wall. It cracked as it went against the wall. One of the legs broke loose. I collapsed on the floor and waited for chastisement. It didn’t come.

Maybe I could bash my head in with it before Arden disassembles me. I could bash his head in. It would be a small token of revenge before he does it. We both know it would make no long term difference.  I wrapped the makeshift weapon in my sheets and headed to the observation window. If there was any hope of anything different, it lay in keeping to routine. I sat on the bundle, meditating on the Black Death winds outside. Do those nanites even realize that they’re the only hope for life despite the fact that they were the harbingers of death? But nanites didn’t live or die. They were created and destroyed and recreated. Like the universe did with itself every reincarnation. The thought usually brought a cosmic connection with it. Today, there was none.

Arden was a no show at lunch. I picked up the small computer pad he’d left me. I wrote poetry and other miscellaneous thoughts on it. I knew he could read the files at any time. He might even wait until I was dead to do so, save himself some entertainment. I didn’t care. I put it down and found the remote control instead and ordered a meal. It materialized on the table. 

The remote control had been his way of giving me modest control over the environment. A whole list of items used in daily life to be replicated at whim. Food. Clothing. Even aspirin if I my joints started to bother me. Nothing that could be used to kill myself – or him. It just spared him the need to perform day to day chores to keep me going. I ordered a jack to look up some mundane scientific files. I’d been trying to write a book on the history of technology to spite Arden. It wouldn’t do to deviate from routine. This time, however, I left the jack materialized when I was done.

I left the remote control in a corner of the observation room later that afternoon. If things weren’t as they usually were, perhaps I’d have more time to do something, anything. I could feel him scan the environment as I had my afternoon exercise. I kept the bundle close and did arm exercises to try to hide the material with my own body mass. No edicts thundered from overhead, so I had hope. Once the scan completed, I immediately headed for the reassembly area, retrieving the remote control along the way.

Arden was there, plugged in. A cloud was taking shape in the reassembly area. I unplugged Arden. His body began to slump. I used the remote control to open the door to the reassembly area. I watched as I began to take form. A new cloud descended into the room to become Arden. I unwound the club and started swinging. It swept through nothingness a dozen times. I could see myself forming even as I tried to keep Arden from coming into existence.

Finally, the nanites went into protective mode and coalesced into a solid sphere to protect themselves from the blows. I threw the club at it and retreated back to the control room. The club flew through the sphere as the nanites separated to let it pass. Then they solidified into a ball. The new me was floating in air for a moment as that particular cloud of nanites returned to the world outside. She fell to the ground with a loud thump. The ball of nanites determined the threat was over and began forming Arden again. The other me watched in horror as Arden was recreated before her eyes.

Arden sat up in shock, staring at the Cheyenne lying next to him. Adam and Eve. Both young and new to the world. Then I watched as Arden watched the wall to the outside reform. His eyes went wide. He knew it was nanites. He then turned his eyes to the window.

“What is going on here?” he demanded.

I pulled the dead Arden into the corridor. One of the side rooms finally opened at my command. I laid Arden down and left him there. Whether a proper funeral or just a disassembly, I wasn’t sure yet. I closed the door to that room. Then I returned to see Cheyenne and Arden talking to each other. To my horror, they were getting along.

I used the remote control and opened the door. I had the attention of both. Cheyenne stared at me with a distant kind of comprehension. “Who are you?”

I paused for a moment. Hi, I’m Cheyenne, too, wasn’t appropriate. “Call me Yvette.”

Arden grimaced. “Like little Eve -?”

“Something like that.”

“What’s going on here?” he demanded. Arden mechanically pushed himself up.

The club was still at the far side of the room. I could have used it, but beating Arden to death in front of Cheyenne would have left a bad first impression. I was still contemplating the thought when I saw a tear form in Arden’s eye. Pink. Water mixed with blood.

Lose just 1% of the data and the person is rebuilt full of microscopic holes …. And the data is lost forever.  I watched Arden wipe at his eye. It might be a mercy that the cybernetic implants did such a poor job of relaying sensory data to the brain; it would spare him any pain. If I damaged enough nanites, the damage might be permanent. Cheyenne gasped and pointed. Arden looked behind him. He saw nothing new. He uttered a curse at her. Then he realized that she was pointing at his back. He saw the growing blood stain on the back of his clothing.

I seized Cheyenne’s arm and pulled her into the control room. I closed the door behind us. Arden screamed at me as a patch of blood formed on his leg. “What is going on?” Cheyenne demanded, even as Arden began bleeding onto the floor.

I watched as Arden fell back to his knees. “He’s bleeding to death from the inside.”

“Hemorrhagic fever?” I didn’t answer her. I just held her as she turned her face away from the sight of Arden. He was screaming profanities at me. Then a welter of blood filled his throat and his screaming stopped. “Oh, god, am I infected?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“You touched me! You’re exposed, too!”

“I’m immune.”

Arden was flat on the floor, a pool of blood spreading around him. I stood back as the nanites dissolved the former Arden. As they tried to reassemble him, I thrust the club in the center of the mass and retreated to the control room. The club hung in midair. The nanites didn’t know what to do with it. Then they disassembled it. Then Arden was reassembled. The plastic particles were used in the assembly process. Arden didn’t live long enough this go around to scream. The nanites disassembled him before trying again. I pulled Cheyenne away from the spectacle. I’d caused enough data loss that the nanites no longer knew exactly how to do it right. I would have to check in later to see if they ever gave up. For all Arden had done, he didn’t deserve to be recycled that way forever.

Cheyenne was sobbing as I took her to my quarters. She curled up on the bed. “I want you to know that everyone else is dead. You’re going to mourn your family. I can say I know how that feels; I lost my family too, a long time ago. And about the horror you just saw … I’m trying to recover everyone I can. You’re the first success. Others, I hope, can be recovered as well. If I succeed, then we won’t be alone.” The words were sinking in despite the emotional overload she was going through.

“There’s no one else here?”

“Everyone else died a long time ago.”

“How long have you been here?”

“I’ve been here my whole life.”

“But how did you get here?”

“I was born here.”

Cheyenne asked, “What happened?”

“The nanites destroyed everything else before they were neutralized.”


“Don’t worry. It’ll be rebuilt.”

“But all the people –“

“You’re the first successfully retrieved pattern. It took years to figure out how. Let’s get you settled. I can replicate lunch when you’re ready.”

“What do you have?”
            “Not right now. You’re probably queasy –“ Cheyenne realized it and made a mad dash for the bathroom. I held her brown hair out of the way, wondering if this is how Arden felt. “Once you’re settled, I’m going to try to recover Dr. Lu. I have to have the medical supplies on hand to handle a heart attack. Do you know much about medicine?”

“No.” Cheyenne curled back up on the bed. “I can’t believe everyone’s dead. But I can’t believe what I saw, either.” She turned her head to look at me. “Are you sure I’m not going to die?”

“If we’re lucky, only of old age.”

“Is that why you want a doctor next?”

“Did you know him?”

“A little. He seemed nice.”

An old doctor might not agree to be Adam’s successor, but at least there’d be another person here. And the more there were, the saner it would be. And as a medical professional, maybe he’d be able to save the others that Arden couldn’t. At the very least, there was a fertile female here. And there would be male DNA to salvage even if the men died. It was a modest hope, but it was hope.