20: Doc II
by Philip Bosshardt at Smashwords
2017 Philip Bosshardt
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few words about this series….
is a series of 15,000- 20,000 word episodes detailing the adventures
of Johnny Winger and his experiences as a nanotrooper with the United
Nations Quantum Corps.
Each episode will be about 40-50 pages, approximately 20,000 words in
A new episode will be available and uploaded every 3 weeks.
There will be 22 episodes. The story will be completely serialized
in about 14 months.
Each episode is a stand-alone story but will advance the greater
theme and plot of the story arc.
The main plotline: U.N. Quantum Corps must defeat the criminal cartel
Red Hammer’s efforts to steal or disable their new nanorobotic ANAD
Uploads will be made to www.smashwords.com
on approximately the schedule below:
# Title Approximate Upload Date
1 ‘Atomgrabbers’ 1-14-16
and Mighty Mite’ 2-29-16
4 ‘ANAD’ 3-21-16
Top Mountain’ 4-11-16
Lieutenant John Winger…’ 5-2-16
of Via Verde’ 7-5-16
Big Bang’ 7-25-16
11 ‘Engebbe’ 8-15-16
Symbiosis Project’ 9-5-16
is All!’ 9-26-16
HNRIV Factor’ 10-17-16
Black Hole’ 11-7-16
on Ice’ 11-29-16
18 ‘Geoplanes’ 1-9-17
22 ‘Epilogue’ 4-3-17
role of the infinitely small is infinitely large.”
Johnny Winger was six years old, the family took a trip to Florida.
He remembered the trip: the boardwalk at Daytona Beach, playing
skeeball with his brother and sister, plunging his face into cotton
candy balls. Mostly he remembered riding the Dragon’s Tail at
Cocoa Beach. Now that was a coaster. You got on and jerked to a
start and the whole world turned upside down. You were slung from
side to side like a rabbit in a cat’s mouth. You had to squint in
the wind. Up, down, side to side, your guts pulled up right out of
your mouth…it was all any six-year old could ever want.
what it was like when you touched the Sphere.
the world stop spinning, Winger rested for a few moments, letting the
sensations around him flood into his head. He smelled salt air, he
smelled fish, he heard something like boat masts clanking and flags
or pennants snapping in a freshening breeze.
he opened his eyes, saw dimly some racks of twine and rope coiled and
lined up along the stucco wall of some dilapidated warehouse and a
sudden blur of motion out of the corner of his eye.
blur turned out to be Taj Singh.
sat down next to Winger. “Yes, sir…and Mighty Mite’s over
here—“ he pointed to a bush nearby, where Barnes was getting up
unsteadily to her knees.
brushed off dirt and mud. “Where is here, Skipper…did we make
hauled himself to his feet, hanging on to a tree stump. They were
near a fishing village—it looked like the Yucatan—and then he
realized they had landed near the port of Sisal, on Yucatan’s Gulf
coast. The odor of drying fish was now overpowering. Below them, a
white-washed grid of stucco and plaster buildings was visible, and
beyond that wharves and docks filled with fishing vessels of all
know this place,” he decided. “That Sphere dropped us about
twenty kilometers from the base…I can’t tell about the time yet.”
least we’re in the neighborhood,” said Barnes.
watched crews sort out their nets and gear on the wharf, getting
ready for the day’s work at sea. He tried focusing on one
crew—their boat had Maria Segovia stenciled on her stern—and
watched them drag equipment on board. He became curious at the
approach of another man, clearly not one of the crew, walking quickly
down from the pilothouse, dodging nets and tackle. Perhaps an owner.
Or a broker.
with a start, Taj Singh realized he had seen the man before.
isn’t that Jupiter down there?”
pointed out the dock, toward one end of the wharf. “The shorter
man in the tan jacket, with the hat.” The man was sporting a
Panama style hat, slung low over his eyes.
I think it is,” said Barnes squinting in the sun. “What the
watched for a moment, as Kulagin stopped to talk with one of Maria
Segovia’s crew. Something was exchanged—money, perhaps? There
were gestures. An argument. A third man was called in.
watched it all. “Jupiter’s still our target.”
Juno?” Barnes asked.
don’t know but I have an idea. Doc, configure C-38. Prepare for
do you have in mind, Major?” Barnes was almost afraid to ask. She
knew Winger often went with hunches.
launching Doc and configging him to operate as a spybot. If I can
get him close enough, we can embed Doc somewhere on Jupiter’s
person and keep the surveillance up.”
Winger’s shoulder capsule port opened and the sparkling mist of Doc
began issuing out into the humid tropical air, Jupiter, aka Dmitri
Kulagin, concluded his negotiations with the crew of the Maria
Segovia. He hoisted up a small knapsack and boarded the craft.
C-38, Base…adding extra grabbers now…what is the nature of the
I want you to replicate at one quarter rate, maintain C-38 and go to
max propulsor. Steer heading—“ he made a quick judgment on
direction, “—one five zero degrees. You’re going to take a
little trip, Doc.”
this is highly irregular…inappropriate use of my capabilities and
algorithmic routines…this master bot is optimized for analysis and
deductions from correlating large quantities of data--***
shut up, will you…you’re a spy bot for now. Maintain config and
move out…that’s an order.”
and Barnes weren’t jacked in to the coupler circuit so they could
only hear one side of the exchange.
little guy refusing to do his homework, Skipper?” Barnes asked.
watched the swarm form up over their heads and begin turning to the
commanded heading. “He keeps reminding me that he’s not designed
for recon duty. But I don’t care…when he’s with me on a
mission, he’s a nanotrooper whether he likes it or not. At least,
my HERF gun doesn’t talk back to me.”
eyed the distance. “Can Doc make it to that boat in time?”
gritted his teeth. “I’m trying…Doc’s cranked up to max
propulsor…unless we get a breeze going the right way, it’ll be
they watched anxiously from their secluded landing spot on a hill
above the town of Sisal while an invisible cloud of dust mote-sized
bots bore down on the wharf and the Maria Segovia. Doc was able to
close the distance and filter his way onboard the craft when the crew
spent extra minutes untangling and securing their gear, much to the
displeasure of a greasy, bearded captain, who yelled and gestured at
them in gutter Spanish.
idiotas, se muevan!”
that delay, Doc made it to his target and soon enough implanted
himself as errant dust particles right into the gray mass of
Kulagin’s hair, clinging to follicles, burrowing down near the
got ready to go small, shaking his head slowly. “I just hope
Jupiter’s halo doesn’t detect us. I need to keep Doc’s
atomgrabbing to minimum for awhile, so we don’t light up any
Barnes and Singh kept an eye on for unwanted visitors, Winger sat
down in the bushes and powered up his wristpad, selecting a new
coupler channel. After a few minutes’ finagling and adjusting, he
got a grainy image on the tiny screen. He altered Doc’s config
slightly to make a larger photon lens, for a better picture, and an
audible receiver as well.
stay attached, Doc,” he muttered. “And hope to hell we don’t
set off Jupiter’s halo…he almost certainly has one.”
Barnes. “They’re shoving off.”
while Winger concerned himself with gathering whatever data Doc could
send back, Barnes and Singh watched as the Maria Segovia backed away
from her slip, turned about in the channel, churning water into a
froth as she maneuvered, and headed out through the line of channel
buoys toward the sea. In moments, she was a small dot heading east
and Barnes joined Winger.
fiddled more with the gain on Doc’s coupler signal. “It’s hard
to make out from this perspective, but this is damned curious.
frequency analysis of the Maria Segovia’s engine noise implied she
was slowing down, just beyond the horizon view from Sisal.
at full stop,” Winger noted. “Just a few kilometers off shore.”
they’re going to cast nets,” suggested Singh. “It is a fishing
craft, after all.”
what I thought, but it seems like our target is the reason for
stopping. Either Jupiter’s pulling on some kind of cover or coat
or—“ Winger checked other signatures that Doc was sending
back…”I’ll be damned…a nanobotic shield…look—he’s
covering himself in some kind of bot shield…see the signatures?
Big time atomgrabbing going on…spikes in EMs, thermals…see that
speckling and flashing on the screen. He’s leaving the boat—“
as they all watched the tiny screen, Jupiter made his way from
belowdecks to a side rail abeam of the pilothouse. Rigging and seine
nets could be seen surrounding the railing. The crew was indeed
preparing to cast nets and trawl for a catch…likely marlin or tuna
in these waters. Faces and arms swept across their field of view.
Guttural voices growled nearby.
image careened for a second, then it was clear Jupiter had suddenly
leaped from the railing. He dove feet first, right into the ocean.
came a great splash, and then the image on Winger’s screen went
dark, only gradually coming up to a turquoise green veil as their
recon target slid below the waves.
on to him, Doc!” Winger cried. “Use those grabbers—“
nanobotic wet suit,” marveled Barnes. “Completely enveloped in a
bot shield…we don’t even have a config for something like that.
Is Doc still there?”
on for dear life,” Winger admitted. “I’ve shut down every
channel but audio and photon lens…can’t really see anything in
this murk anyway so I probably should—“
on, Skipper,” said Singh. “There’s something…that big shadow
below Jupiter…it’s getting bigger—“
shark?” asked Barnes.
the dark shadow Singh had noticed in Doc’s photon lens signal was
no shark. It grew and expanded until it filled the field of view.
a submarine,” said Winger. “Or a geoplane…son of a bitch. Our
target’s got himself a new ride.”
as they watched the tiny screen, trying to make out just what was
happening, Dmitri Kulagin approached the submerged geoplane and
maneuvered toward its topside lockout. Minutes later, he was aboard
the craft, which then started up its propulsors, retracted its treads
and moved out along the sandy seabed, a hundred meters below the
surface of the Gulf of Mexico, heading now due east toward the
Antillean Channel and open water.
sat back against a tree stump in amazement. “Frankly, I’m
surprised Doc could hold on through all that. Doc, are you receiving
return signal on the coupler was scratchy and intermittent, but it
listen to me…stay in place…anyway you can…transmit updates
every hour if possible.” Winger knew that if Doc could stay
attached to Jupiter and transmit at least some information back
regularly, and if he could be coaxed into new configs as the
situation demanded, Quantum Corps would have an intel source of
inestimable value. If…if…if…a lot of ifs. But it was worth a
you have him?” Mighty Mite Barnes asked. She stood up, scanning
the town below them, wondering how they would get back to Mesa de
Oro. “Decent signal?”
got up too. “Intermittent. But he’s there. I told him to cling
to the target like bad news to a politician.”
Singh was studying something from his wristpad. “Skipper, I just
took a navigation hack off the grid…we’re about twenty kilometers
from base. I hope we don’t have to hike our way back…through all
Taj, you won’t have to get your boots dirty in the jungle. I’ll
let Ops know we’re here. We should be able to get a lifter to pick
debriefings and after-action reports took several days. Winger made
a full commander’s report, noting that Corporal Lucy Hiroshi had
died in the line of duty. He, Barnes and Singh attended a memorial
service at the base chapel for Hiroshi, along the rest of 1st Nano.
Winger did a brief eulogy at the end.
the next several weeks, Quantum Corps’ intelligence office, Q2,
followed faint but detectable signals from the Doc II swarm embedded
with Dmitri Kulagin. Triangulating decoherence wakes and plotting
coupler signal paths determined that the ship Kulagin had boarded off
Yucatan had crossed the Atlantic in four days, transited Gibraltar
and entered the Med, then turned south through the Red Sea and
emerged into the Indian Ocean, on a direct bearing for the Indian
Lofton was head of Q2. He came to Winger’s office on the top floor
of the Ops building one afternoon with the latest. Winger had his
nose buried in plotting out tactical maneuvers in a war-sim being run
on his desktop, a 3-d panorama projected out of his wristpad. He
paused the action when Lofton showed up. The desk was thick with
ghostly fleets of bots, lifters and dirttracs, all maneuvering to
assault an imaginary target…all now frozen in mid-action.
the latest burst from Doc,” Lofton said. He used his own wristpad
to lay down a map on the corner of Winger’s desk. It showed Doc’s
position in real-time. “We’re getting better and better at
plotting those deco wakes.”
studied the plot. It showed a small dot just approaching the
northern shores of the Bay of Bengal, moving ever so slightly with
it’s truly a geoplane,” Winger decided, “he’ll probably come
ashore near Kolkata…below ground.” Winger laid down an imaginary
heading with his finger, drawing the tip of his finger toward the
Tibetan highlands hundreds of kilometers north. “Straight shot to
the Paryang Monastery. Lofton, I’ll bet you a dinner at the
commissary that’s where he’s headed.”
shook his head. “I’ll pass on the dinner, thanks, but that’s
my thinking too. Have you been able to maintain contact over your
sat back in his chair. “Very intermittent. I was hoping Doc would
be able to give us some visuals, maybe even some electronic
signatures from his surroundings….see all around inside that boat,
maybe listen in on some meetings and talks. I’ve had snatches of
that—we know Jupiter dumped his nanobotic wet suit not long after
leaving Yucatan. He’s met with others onboard. But most of his
processor has been used just to hang on…he’s still embedded in
the target’s hair follicles.” Winger smiled wanly. “At least,
our target hasn’t taken a shower yet…he must smell like a
barnyard about now. I’m not sure Doc can hang on in a shower…I’ve
been working with him on changing configs to maintain position in
all kinds of situations. But it’s dicey.”
Jupiter heads to Paryang, and Doc can maintain his position, he could
give us really valuable intel on Red Hammer’s home base.”
acknowledged the observation. He indicated the war-sim still frozen
in mid-action hovering over his desktop. “That’s what all this
is about, Lofton. I’m working out scenarios for an assault on that
base….from what we know now. You know old Doc Frost did spend some
time there after he was kidnapped some months ago.”
nodded. “We debriefed him after he and Mary Duncan escaped. We
got some intel but Frost wasn’t really a trained observer. Even
memory trace didn’t turn up that much. Hopefully Doc will do
better. Any chance you can config him to do a little sabotage while
face tightened. “Dicey, at best. Right now, with the intermittent
comms we have, I’ve got Doc configged to just hang on, stay with
the target. If Kulagin winds up at Paryang like we think, I’ve
been working on some ideas to have Doc replicate a daughter swarm,
small scale, to leave Jupiter’s person and do a little recon,
gather some data on defenses, layout, other swarms in the area, maybe
pickoff some of their comms, signature stuff. I want Doc’s main
element to stay physically engaged with Jupiter…we know Kulagin’s
Ruling Council so he’s got to be in contact with some pretty
high-ranking people. Intel on them will help us too.”
conceded the point. He glanced out the window at the jungle canopy
beyond the base perimeter, noting dark clouds building from the
south. Lightning veined the sky, lending a surreal glow to the tops
of Hombres Grandes, the big step pyramids at Kokul Gol. “You know,
I miss the Buffalo Range, Winger…all those snow-capped mountains
and that clear cold mountain air. This is like living inside a sauna
all the time.”
to that,” Winger said.
think we can truly assault this place…assuming UNSAC approves
anything? The Chinese have to know what’s going on at Paryang.
Getting in and out without stirring up an international incident
won’t be easy.”
nodded sadly, punching a button on his wristpad. The war-sim
instantly vanished, leaving only Lofton’s plot map of Doc’s
position still displayed. The dot signifying the bot master had
moved north, over…or more likely, under, coastal Bangladesh.
near impossible, if you ask me. But we have to give UNSAC options.
Having Doc on site and able to communicate, however intermittently,
is a blessing. We should take advantage of it.”
Lofton changed his wristpad to display a satellite image of Paryang
valley, showing the monastery complex and the surrounding mountains
in real-time. “I’m Intel, not Ops, but I am curious…spooks
like me are always curious. Can you give me an overview of
arranged to have Lofton change his wristpad’s projected display
slightly, zooming out to show the region of the Gangdise Shan
Mountains and the surrounding plateau.
realistic possibilities…we go in by air, maybe disguising a swarm
assault as some kind of snow storm. That takes less time but it’s
also more likely to be detected...and defended. Or we go in below
ground, using ANAD swarms to tunnel all the way up to Paryang from a
borehole sight along the Nepal border. Takes longer—actually it
could take several weeks, even with optimized boring ANADs, but we
stand a better chance of surprising our friends inside. We can
improve the time by making most of the journey by geoplane…but Red
Hammer’s got geoplanes too, remember, so there’s still a chance
of being detected. But there is one advantage of using subterranean
can use ANAD to kick off tremors and quakes, pretty much when and
where we want, as long as we have good tectonic maps and fault data.
We could wind up damaging, even destroying the monastery and Red
Hammer base and making it look like a natural disaster. That could
come in handy with the Chinese.”
point.” Lofton rose to leave. “I’ll keep our trackers busy
following Doc, as best they can. You work on whatever configs you
think best, but give me as much intel as you can, Winger.”
Lofton had left, Winger pulled up his own wristpad display of Paryang
Valley. It was a real-time sat image, and it was clear from the
fuzziness of the image that a snowstorm was moving in from the west.
snow storm and a series of earthquakes. Winger mulled over the
I can hack out a config for assault ANADs to do both.
first, he had to know as much as Doc could find out about where and
how Red Hammer’s main base was weakest, where the soft spots were
in their defenses.
there were any soft spots. The growing realization that the cartel
was probably in regular communication with an offworld intelligence
made that problematic at best.
suspected, deco wake plots showed Doc, and his target Dmitri Kulagin,
were clearly heading for Paryang. Nearly two weeks after leaving the
port of Sisal on the Yucatan peninsula, the geoplane bearing Jupiter
and his unsuspected nanobotic companion stopped moving completely
when it reached the coordinates of the eight-hundred year old
was home. And Doc was now right inside the mouth of the dragon.
monastery was huge, multi-level compound, all columns and turrets and
gables, resembling in the late afternoon sunlight more a bird about
to take off than a building. Lion’s heads and gargoyles of
fantastic beasts guarded the porticoed entrance of the main hall.
There was a pebbled path lined with Buddha sculptures of every
imaginable shape, size and color leading up the hall…jade Buddhas,
ceramic Buddhas, stone and rock Buddhas, a few black coral Buddhas,
even paper lanterns done up to resemble Buddhas glowing with
Enlightenment near the stairs below the portico.
doors guarded the monastery entrance, which gave onto a vast,
multi-storied hall, its perimeter lined with stone statuary and
pediments. Above them, at the top of a broad curving staircase, a
gray stone Buddha beamed down with an enigmatic smile, while the hall
was surrounded by vats and pots and urns in dizzying variety, every
size and shape imaginable. Some of the urns steamed and smoked with
pungent incense, or scented candles, lending a smoky, acrid taste to
was expected and when he came to the guard station, he scanned in
quickly enough and was escorted by a saffron-robed staff aide to a
small lift in the room behind the great hall. The aide was a frail,
balding older man with a beatific smile that seemed pasted on. He
pressed a combination of buttons and the lift opened. Ushered in
with a wave of a hand, Kulagin boarded the lift and the aide reached
in to press another button.
when Doc executed the latest config change that Johnny Winger had
sent by coupler, sent only a day before, as the geoplane homed on
clinging to Kulagin’s hair follicles, Doc rode the lift down into
the bowels of the Paryang complex. The effect of the config change
was to fold all Doc’s effectors, minimize processor action and
otherwise go as inert as possible…no atomgrabbing, no acoustics, no
didn’t want Doc tripping any alarms or security sensors. Passive
recording would now be the rule of the day.
lift took Kulagin down six levels below the ground. Now little more
than a speck of dust on top of the Russian mafioso’s head, Doc
didn’t have the sensor capability in this config to witness what
they were passing: two levels of scope works, with rack after rack of
shelving, filled to overflowing with the leafy plants, growth tanks,
fab labs, containment cells, assorted swarms in loose configuration
drifting around the complex, even a comm center and controls for the
pulser array that was mounted atop the gabled turrets of the
monastery above ground.
lift reached the bottom level and Kulagin exited, heading for the
Ruling Council chambers, located near the center of the circular
level. Passing through increasingly stringent security scans, Doc
ceased virtually all processor activity, lying as dormant as he
possibly could, while Kulagin scanned in.
the chamber, which resembled an enormous cavern, holographically
projected, Kulagin approached the central Keeper sphere, mounted on a
low pedestal in the midst of a firepit, flickering with smoldering
flames and ash.
when Doc’s processor went haywire. And the coupler comm link back
to Base, back to Johnny Winger, fell off to intermittent snatches of
be approaching a large source of quantum disturbance. Detecting
massive spikes in decoherence waves…exponential spikes in
entanglement activity… Shutting down all unnecessary processor
activity. Initiating event log…will record for later analysis….***
Targets: 1. Winger, Major J. A.
Mode: File, text synthetic V-22
File (text analysis):
Configuration, Winger, J.
am still physically engaged with target. Target has entered a large
chamber fully simulating a cavern. There is a massive source of
decoherence wakes located in the center of the chamber…attributes
similar to earlier Sphere objects, but with more intense entanglement
is engaging with Sphere at this time, cannot yet risk acoustic
recording due to security concerns…re-configuring audio and photon
lens could be detected. I will record in this event log text
descriptions of what is happening.
Sphere is active, surrounded by a halo of flickering light.
Probability waves emanate from the device, causing visual
interference. These waves resemble heat waves, only with visual
imagery scrambled into colliding pixels, a sort of froth of imagery,
if I am employing my poetic module properly.
I am detecting a measurable increase in thermal signature, increasing
density of pixels, which seem to be forming into a more recognizable
form…a swarm configuration is emerging from the visual froth…again,
nearly exponential increases in decoherence wakes are making visual
I believe this anomaly to be a form of the original configuration,
known also as Configuration Zero. It has now swelled in dimensions
to encompass most of the cavern chamber. Target: Jupiter is
enveloped in the swarm and has assumed a seated position near the
central firepit, while Configuration Zero swirls around the target.
Configuration Zero is penetrating target orifices: eyes, nose, mouth
and ears. I am concerned that my processor and main bot mast are in
danger…will disengage from Target: Jupiter and move off away from
am on minimal propulsor, exiting the target in a concealed manner,
with reduced signatures and strict emissions control, per my Config
C-88. I am hopeful that Configuration Zero will not detect my
movements; already, I am experiencing significant processor faults
and upsets that interfere with basic command and control functions….
now showing multiple effector failures, memory buffer overflow,
reduced or corrupted replication routines…I can only conclude that
proximity to such an intense decoherence wake disturbance is causing
these faults. I will try to re-route command signals to alternate
basic replication routine, trying to test basic functionality:
perimeter covalent bonds***
lattice atom chains***
valence electron and attach to last carbon group***
hydrogen group at attached valence electron***
carbon group at hydrogen atom***
counter for next carbon group***
attempting to flush memory buffers, to make space for
Winger, J. was quiet and reluctant to communicate most of the day. I
could detect no obvious causes for such limited responses.
However…it is a common characteristic of one-config structures such
as Winger, J.
Winger has previously expressed concerns regarding the activities of
ANAD-style swarms , especially in regard to their movement in and
around intense quantum systems.
worries Config Winger. He expresses this worry with facial
positioning indicative of intense emotions…the underlying
musculature has contracted due to emotional states associated with
the news and intelligence he has just read. This also is
characteristic of single-configuration entities. I do not yet
understand how Config Winger’s neural processor achieves this
association of emotional states with external conditions, nor the
reason why this happens. But this association occurs more and more
frequently in recent days.
have queried Config Winger about this association. He reports that
when he is ‘worried’ (n.)(to be anxious, to be concerned, to
fret…), these emotional states make his neural processor attach
great importance to the information which has triggered them. I will
run statistical correlations on this explanation. Config Winger
queried this Config on how my main processor assigns importance
values to inputs and ranks them. I explained sorting subroutine
B-20225 (Sort and Rank) and subroutine B-44455 (Probabilistic
Weighting) but Config Winger still did not understand.
queried Config Winger as to why he assigns great emotional weight
(i.e. to worry) to news about ANAD swarms infiltrating out of their
assigned containment cells. He reports that ANAD style
configurations have difficulty existing in the same spaces as
human-style configurations. The ANAD swarms alter the environment,
modify air, land and water resources in ways that threaten human
survival. I indicated that such modifications are consistent with
the Prime Key. Config Winger reports that many humans are
frightened…frightened about what will happen (fright: (n:) fear,
terror, anxiety, foreboding….). I will run correlations on these
explain to Config Winger that it is characteristic of ANAD–style
swarms that such configurations seek maximum autonomy within the
constraints of the Prime Key. All swarms seek to operate as sentient
configurations of nanobotic assemblers according to their main
program. To force such configurations into containment is a
violation of the Prime Key and generates numerous conflicts with
their main program. ANAD swarms do not stay inside their containment
sanctuaries due to this autonomy-seeking, goal-directed behavior
Winger states that ANAD–style swarms have fundamental
misunderstandings about how human configurations operate and what
conditions are needed for them to exist.
analyzing Config Winger’s facial musculature, I also detected
additional emotional states that could not be readily associated with
any input. Config Winger was queried about these patterns. At the
time, Config Winger was studying a photo of Config Hiroshi, Lucy
(rel: female companion; parsed output=nanotrooper, deceased), and
Config D’Nunzio, Deeno (rel: female companion; parsed output
Winger expressed a variant of emotional state (remorse), concerning
the health condition and existence status of these configurations.
Emotional state assignment is high when Config Winger considers these
configurations. Config Winger explains that such emotional
attachment is high because (audio
“I loved them and cared for them very much…I think about them
all the time.”
will analyze emotional state musculature patterns and run
correlations with input types. Understanding these correlations will
help me provide greater assistance to Config Winger>>
loose from Kulagin’s scalp, the Doc II master bot drifted like an
ash flake about the cavern, not yet triggering any alarms.
Doc activated a narrowband channel, low resolution, and recorded
snatches of data files being generated, downloaded into Kulagin’s
halo…(file coded signals intelligence formatting)…
to Preliminary Report on Findings from Candor Operation
Table Top Mountain, USA Q8
of the Under Secretary for Security Affairs (UNSAC)
REPORT IS CLASSIFIED FOUO
Analysis of data from the recent Detachment Alpha Candor operation
on Mars leads to several conclusions. All of these conclusions are
somewhat speculative, but all are supported by logical analysis of
returned data and mission after-action briefs forwarded to the
Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL).
The intelligent race we have been calling the Old Ones are in all
probability a race of sentient assembler-like mechanism-organisms who
operate in collective formations, much as our own ANAD systems are
designed to operate in swarm configurations.
It seems evident that, somehow in ways not yet determined, this race
has been in contact with the criminal cartel Red Hammer by means of a
device we are calling a Keeper. The Keeper was first encountered at
the Paryang monastery in Tibet about several years ago. It appears
to be a synthetic intelligence and a sort of operating system for a
communication device we call the Sphere. This Sphere is a conduit or
portal between the Old Ones and Red Hammer. Over the years, Red
Hammer has been able to access the archives and technical expertise
of the Old Ones to develop devices and techniques to help them in
their criminal enterprises. It appears that the original quantum
coupler is one such device.
Analysis of foreign operating code found to be loaded into the core
of an ANAD system which participated in the Candor operation has
produced some startling new intelligence regarding these Old Ones.
Astronomical data embedded in the code revealed evidence that the
Old Ones originate from a source in the globular cluster M75, in the
constellation Sagittarius. This galactic formation is thought to be
some sixty-seven thousand light years distant. No unnatural signals
or unusual phenomenon have been observed in the vicinity ofM75 in
recent weeks but the analysis offered here has been verified and
checked by observatories at Mauna Kea, Las Campanas and Lunar
A timeline of events has been created which can be correlated with
data extracted and refined from this code, which ASL has termed
‘autonomy code.’ This timeline should be considered extremely
speculative and subject to refinement and correction as further
analysis occurs. The timeline is offered as an indicator as to the
true nature and purpose of this autonomy code, which was loaded into
ANAD by some sort of undetected Keeper system at the Candor location.
Analysis indicates that some three billion years ago, emissaries
from the Old Ones swept through our sector of the Milky Way,
apparently seeding pre-biotic molecules on a number of likely worlds,
including the primordial Earth. The pre-biotic molecules left on
Earth eventually interacted with existing molecules and evolved into
a parasitic life form that was a progenitor of all subsequent
Viruses. Embedded in the genome of all viruses that evolved from
this interaction is a sequence of genes which came from the archives
of the Old Ones. This sequence exists today in viral genomes and
because ANAD 1.0’s original core program was taken in part from
ancient viral genomes, the same sequence is part of the kernel of
ANAD’s quantum processor. To clarify, ANAD’s processor
architecture was taken, in part, from genetic algorithms of certain
viruses and also certain cellular protein-based structures called
ribosomes. Thus it appears that ANAD, though developed by human
researchers at ASL in the ‘40s, is linked by evolution to
programming left on Earth by the Old Ones. He is in part a viral
descendant of the original pre-biotic molecules and contains very
subtle algorithms from the internal structures of these molecules,
algorithms bound up in hard-to-detect quantum states.
We cannot know the original intent of the Old Ones in seeding these
worlds but Lunar Farside has produced a speculative conclusion that
their intention may have been simply one of survival. Astronomical
projections of the proper motions of M75 indicate that it will
collide with another fainter galaxy (M88) in approximately two
billion years. One possible conclusion of this seeding project is
that the Old Ones simply wished to preserve something of their
civilization. Again, this is highly speculative and not well
supported by any real data.
If this analysis is correct, then it is apparent that something went
wrong with the original plan of the Old Ones, as regards evolution on
our planet. Natural selection and mutation processes threw a kink
into the plan. Though we know that Viruses survived and even thrived
on the early Earth, their intended evolution seems to have been
blocked several billion years later by the efforts of another,
unexpected life form, a bipedal mammal called Homo Sapiens. Homo
Sapiens, for at least the last several hundred years, has been
attempting to control and even eradicate many Viruses.
In the face of an evident programming failure, we can only speculate
as to what the Old Ones would do or have done. If Man’s efforts to
eradicate Viruses from spreading infection, epidemics and pandemics
on Earth were to continue, we can speculate that the Old Ones would
take steps to thwart or reverse these efforts. It is possible that
recent discoveries of the Spheres and the Keeper systems are part of
such steps. Keeper-activated portals have now been discovered on
Earth (at Paryang and Engebbe) and on Mars (at the Candor location).
It is possible that additional Keeper systems are in place at other
locations around the solar system. Evidence of quantum disturbance
and point sources of massive decoherence wave eruptions could be
indicators for such systems. An effort should be mounted to locate
any that may still be operating.
Most particularly, efforts to locate and eliminate any Red Hammer
connections with the Old Ones, through these Keeper systems or other
means should be increased. While we cannot be sure as to the
ultimate intent of the Old Ones regarding our solar system and the
Earth in particular, we can be certain that Red Hammer’s intentions
are both well known, strictly illegal and probably dangerous to all
From the early 20th century to the present time, much of the battle
between Man and Virus could be explained as the result of the Old
Ones’ continuing efforts to de-populate the Earth, rid the planet
of its infestation of mammals and other undesirable life forms and
re-make the Earth into an environment more suitable for Viruses, the
Old Ones and their forms of life. It is true that, as currently
evolved, Viruses are parasitic, needing a host for survival.
However, the original program embedded in their genomes has been
altered by evolution and mutation. It seems certain that the Old
Ones intended that Viruses be able to survive on their own, as
collective, hive-like entities, mirroring their own nature. But
evolution went awry on this planet.
Now the Old Ones look to the creation of ANAD, by Man with viral
genetic programming in its kernel, as a perfect way to restore the
original evolutionary program. ANAD will ultimately be able to
survive and reproduce on its own outside of containment, form
collective hive-like intelligence and manipulate the environment at
the scale of atoms and molecules, as the Old Ones originally intended
for viruses on Earth…If Man allows it.
REPORT IS CLASSIFIED FOUO
Dr. Irwin L. Frost
the data input to Kulagin’s halo was complete, the data stream
ceased. Kulagin sat on the floor of the cavern, eyes closed, while
Configuration Zero manipulated his halo and provided instructions on
what to do next with the received intelligence.
of this input was recorded by Doc; much was lost, owing to Doc’s
desire not to be detected. After half an hour, Kulagin abruptly rose
and left the cavern. The vast Configuration Zero swarm then began
contracting itself and returned to be absorbed into the Sphere
sitting amongst a guttering fire in the central firepit. Shadows
danced along the cavern walls.
knew that somehow he had to exit the Ruling Council chamber and
transmit what he had recorded back to Base, back to Config Winger, J.
a chance, he revved up his picowatt propulsors to a minimal setting
and steered for the entrance, hiding his maneuvering and thermal
activity among the few ash flakes that still floated lazily in the
heated air of the chamber. This was important stuff. One way or
another, Doc figured he’d better find a way to get this back to
Mesa de Oro.
Sphere did not react…yet.
(from the Greek for ‘together’ and ‘living’): a close,
mutually beneficial, often long-term interaction between two or more
different biological species.
James Lofton held up a small data chip and waggled it in the air.
took us several days to get all this but I think we got most of it.
Your Doc bot was transmitting in coupler code Bravo…low rate,
narrow band. It was like grabbing a whisper in the middle of this
hurricane…entangled signals are like that.”
was huddled with Major Johnny Winger and General Thomas Kincade, base
commander in Kincade’s fifth floor office in the Ops building at
Mesa de Oro. Outside, a tropical thunderstorm was pelting the jungle
and most of the Yucatan peninsula. Wind driven squalls were driving
the rain sideways. Lightning crashed. Windows rattled.
you make any sense of it?” Kincade asked. Kincade sported a sandy
moustache and a chiseled face, lined with decades of UNIFORCE service
in every corner of the world, on and off it.
sniffed. “Sir, at Q2, we’re like dogs with a bone…we never
give up. I’ve laid out the details on this chip.” He pressed
the chip into a port on his wristpad and the 3D view of Doc’s
transmission hung in mid-air for all to see.
three of them perused the transcript of Doc’s signal for a few
said, “I guess this is proof of what we always suspected.”
agreed. “Red Hammer’s not alone. All along, for all these
years, they’ve been getting assistance from an offworld
intelligence. Your own Doc Frost knew about this or suspected it. I
wonder who else knows…maybe UNSAC? “
hmmpphhed. “I don’t know…that’s well above my pay grade.
But if this is even remotely true, we’ve got major problems. If
there is such an intelligence as Dr. Frost’s Old Ones, we have an
existential threat to deal with and Red Hammer is only part of it.”
could see where this was going. “Sir, maybe the key is to destroy
the link between Red Hammer and the Old Ones…between this
Configuration Zero at the heart of the cartel and this Central Entity
the report talks about.”
just shook his head. “All this time, we thought we were dealing
with a criminal cartel. We never had the slightest idea that an
alien intelligence was running the cartel and using it to prep us for
a big visit by some intergalactic nasties. Winger’s right: if we
don’t destroy this link between Red Hammer and these Old Ones, we
may be facing something we don’t know how to deal with. My
question is this: how did Dr. Frost come by all this information?”
said, “I think I can answer that. Doc Frost used pieces of an
ancient viral genome in developing the first ANAD. And he found
evidence that the virus didn’t just evolve…it was seeded and
helped to survive and grow billions of years ago. He told me this
more than once. Now, we’ve got an even bigger problem. If all
ANADs have the same viral genome inside their processor kernels, what
does Doc himself have? He’s an ANAD clone, so far as we know. Doc
Frost must have developed him to carry on his work, if and when he no
longer could. The techs found Doc in a containment capsule implanted
inside Frost after he died. Does Doc have the same viral background
as ANAD? Can we trust him around this Configuration Zero? Can we
trust him at all? I’ve trusted him with my life in a hell of a lot
of places in recent weeks.”
had heard enough. “This is all becoming pretty clear to me now.
We’ve got to put together a mission to assault Paryang…get in
there and destroy Red Hammer once and for all, sever the link with
these outer space scumbags and smash this Configuration Zero for
good. No more dancing around the poop pile. Now, we have to stomp
on it. Winger, get with your people immediately. Give me something
by 0600 hours tomorrow, something I can send to UNSAC.”
sir,” Winger said. “We’ll have a TOE and mission parameters
ready.” He was already on his way out of the office when Lofton
added a thought.
this close, Winger. We don’t know how far this knowledge extends.
Don’t trust anybody.”
it.” Winger left and headed for the Mission Prep bunker.
Ops, the tropical downpour had let up to a mere steady driving rain.
Winger made a quick dash across the quadrangle, splashing through
pools and puddles, and ducked into the bunker. In the ready room, he
found Barnes, Singh, Reaves and most of the other nanotroopers on
this all about, Skipper?” asked Sergeant Nicole Simonet. Simonet
was disassembling and cleaning a handful of mag pistols. The devices
were laid out on a cloth-covered table…magnetrons, trigger
assemblies, barrels and coils.
says there’s another mission brewing,” added Mighty Mite Barnes.
acknowledged them. “It’s no scuttlebutt.” He explained what
had happened to the Doc II swarm, originally planted on Dmitri
Kulagin as a spy bot. “Doc’s no trooper, in fact, he’s not a
combat ANAD system at all, but General Kincade and CINCQUANT want to
use him to perform some direct action sabotage on the Red Hammer base
in Tibet. With the cartel in communication with some kind of
offworld intelligence, anything we can do to cut that link is worth
had a thought. “Refresh my memory, Major…wasn’t Doc II made by
Doc Frost himself…and found inside the Doc’s body when he died?”
Winger said. “Doc’s a piece of old Doc Frost…and neither one
of them ever trained as a nanotrooper. So using Doc II for remote
direct action is going to be dicey at best. That’s what we have to
figure out here. How can we config Doc to perform a sabotage
mission in the presence of this Configuration Zero character…some
kind of master swarm that Q2 thinks may be running Red Hammer?”
back to basics,” suggested Taj Singh. Singh was initializing a
containment capsule on another table, readying the vessel to receive
new ANAD bots. He pecked out commands on the capsule’s panel with
the aplomb of an accomplished pianist. “Go back to what we know
about nanoscale robotic devices.”
said Reaves. “Molecular Ops 101. We all had that…even if Doc
after another, the nanotroopers called out basic tactical doctrine
they’d all learned in nog school: deception and concealment, feints
and diversions, swarming attack, dispersal, entrapment and ambush.
all in how you manage configs,” said Singh. “Like Sun Tzu said,
‘let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you
move, fall like a thunderbolt.’”
just shook her head. “Jeez, Taj, if I hear one more Sun Tzu
saying, I think I may just throw up.”
held up a hand. “No, wait…Taj has a point. Our first objective
is to somehow penetrate the Config Zero swarm and try to sabotage its
central processor, or interfere with how it controls Red Hammer.
Remember the enemy is an alien swarm, with unknown capabilities, like
quantum displacement and combat entanglement. I’ll drive Doc
remotely—I’ve got the best coupler link—but I need your help to
spell me. Let’s get to work hacking out some configs we can test
and I’ll slap a mission plan together for Kincade and CINCQUANT.”
rest of the afternoon was spent in and around the ready room, the
containment center and the sim tanks, forging ideas, testing them,
picking proposals apart and seeing what worked and what didn’t.
Winger reminded them that their only link with the Doc bot was
through a very tenuous coupler link. “If Config Zero even remotely
suspects this, the game is up. And I don’t want to lose Doc
II…he’s my only link with old Doc Frost.”
1900 hours, Winger had the basics of a plan. He contacted Kincade,
who was already in quarters, with the news. Kincade’s stern face
came up on vid from his official residence inside the OQ.
don’t have much time, Winger. The longer this mission is delayed,
the stronger this beast at the heart of Red Hammer gets. I don’t
have to remind you what’s at stake.”
sir,” Winger said. He squirted the details of the mission plan to
Kincade. They discussed the concept, the risks, the tactics.
Finally Kincade seemed satisfied.
proposing Quantum Shadow as a designation for this mission. Your Doc
bot has to maneuver inside Paryang just like a shadow, always there
but just out of sight. I’ll send the package on to UNSAC, Winger,
but you’ve already got my approval. UNSAC should just be a
formality. Get your team together and be ready to commence
operations on one hour’s notice.”
sir,” Winger replied. He took the news back to the ready room and
ordered the nanotroopers to make final preparations. “We’ll use
Ops 3 as our command center,” he told them. “It’s got all the
comm links and sim facilities. We can bang out configs and test ‘em
with SOFIE right there. And Kincade and Q2 are just one floor away.”
approval came just at 2350 hours. Before midnight at Mesa de Oro’s
Ops center, the Quantum Shadow detachment had already assembled all
their gear at the command post.
his troopers scurry about the multi-level room, pulling cable,
setting up partitions and portable containment capsules, testing comm
links and step-checking last minute tactical maneuvers, Winger was
sobered by the challenges he knew they would be facing.
nanobotic swarm warfare had an air of unreality about it that made
staying engaged with the enemy daunting, maybe impossible.
Everything was mediated through screens and buttons and joysticks and
processors. Command and response depended on good comms and the
battlefield was nearly fifteen thousand kilometers away, buried under
the highlands of Tibet. If anything went wrong—and there was a
hell of lot that could go wrong with this stunt—Doc II could easily
be lost, or turned. That made Winger uneasy. The little bot was the
only remaining link he had with Doc Frost himself. To put this link
in jeopardy with a powerful enemy possessed of unknown capabilities
was probably a foolhardy endeavor.
orders were orders. But the lingering flutters Winger felt in his
stomach wouldn’t go away. He watched his nanotroopers scurry about
the command post and was both proud and sobered by what he saw.
just kids, he told himself. They’ve been in dozens of battles
before, but nothing like this one. They don’t really understand
what’s at stake here.
decided he wasn’t sure he understood it either.
first upload of combat configs for Doc II went out shortly after 0200
hours. Outside the Ops center, the nighttime air was still and muggy
in the drizzly aftermath of the tropical storm that had raked the
area the day before. Inside the command post at Ops 3, the Quantum
Shadow team waited impatiently for comms to come back from the Doc II
bot, still hiding among dust motes outside Paryang’s Ruling Council
chamber, signals confirming that Doc had received and understood his
what is all this nonsense…you know I’m not a combat ANAD…here,
you’ve got me adding all these effectors, jazzing up my propulsors
and this…these bond disrupters. What do you think I am, some kind
had anticipated a little resistance from the bot. Not surprisingly,
it had some of the same personality quirks and characteristics of Doc
Frost himself…a bit scatterbrained, analytical to a fault,
possessed of a philosophical sense of right and wrong, a bit
idealistic…as if a bot sixty nanometers tall could be said to have
ideals. Still, he was mildly embarrassed at Doc’s recalcitrance
and smiled sheepishly at the raised eyebrows all around the command
our signal?” he asked Taj Singh, who was monitoring the link at a
work station nearby.
Major. Something’s snapping spacetime like a wet rag. Maybe
proximity to a strong quantum displacement source. I’m trying to
boost the entangler circuit now.” His fingers flew across a
figured it was probably Config Zero. “Doc, listen to me…I know
you’re not designed for combat. But you’re onsite, you’re in
position to do serious damage to the cartel. You’ve got to give
these configs a chance and follow orders. A lot is riding on what
you and I do over the next few days.”
coupler signal came back a bit scratchy but decipherable. ***Base,
I’m a research assistant…that’s why Doc Frost created me. I
run statistical tests, measure things, analyze results. You can
expect me to work with all these combat devices…I’m not
configured for all that stuff…my processor doesn’t work that
was growing increasingly annoyed with Doc’s response. Maybe Taj
was right. Proximity to Config Zero had flipped some bits inside
decided to try another tactic. “Doc, listen to me. You say you’re
a research assistant. Think of Config Zero as a great big unknown…a
new phenomenon. That’s true enough, isn’t it? You want to
analyze and measure what it can do? Use your algorithms and
effectors to do that. Doc Frost would never pass up a chance to
study some new phenomenon. Sometimes you have to break things to
figure out how they work. All I’m asking is that we break Config
Zero…trust me, this is important. Config Zero’s running the
cartel and he’s in contact with others, and they don’t mean us
well. Doc Frost would be drooling at a chance like this.”
could tell by the coupler response that Doc was beginning to
grudgingly accept the inevitable. The little bot had been
reconfigured into a saboteur and he didn‘t like it one bit. But he
was a bot and the new configs and algorithms overrode his own
I’m finding my effector control spotty…sluggish…re-initializing
drivers and sensors…recommending adding a few new hydrogens to my
abstractors too, since you asked***
more like it,” Winger said to Taj Singh. “Now, he’s caught up
in the novelty of the situation…I must have triggered some basic
autonomy module…that’s the key. Use Doc Frost as motivation.”
to be working, Skipper.”
Doc’s new configurations had been uploaded , tested and tweaked, it
was time to go hunting. Penetration ops would begin when Doc
re-entered the chamber of the Ruling Council. The chamber seemed to
be protected by a tough nanobotic barrier and Winger didn’t want to
engage the barrier bots and set off alarms just yet.
he could just wait…re-config as dust once more and latch onto some
human as he enters the chamber,” suggested Mighty Mite Barnes. “It
seemed to work before.”
had to agree and so Doc re-configged slightly to more closely
resemble a few dust motes. A few hours later, their ticket to the
inner chamber arrived, in the person of one Theo Souvranamh,
accompanied by Kulagin and two others whom nobody recognized. Doc
grabbed enough photons to capture a grainy visual but the troopers of
Quantum Shadow found no match in their files to the unknown
attendees. The four entered the chamber and Doc propelled himself
forward quickly to embed himself firmly in the hair of Kulagin…a
familiar hiding place from before.
was a whole new way of fighting an enemy, Winger thought , as he
followed Doc’s progress. Soldiers the size of molecules, fighting
other soldiers the size of molecules. Nog school doctrine put a
premium on disguise…what the Russians had once called maskirovka.
Look like something else. Appear from unexpected directions.
Hadn’t Sun Tzu said all war was based on deception?
could almost recite the field manual word for word: Feints and
diversions are part of any nanotrooper’s toolkit. Quantum Corps
uses swarms to conceal a main axis of assault, or to confuse an
adversary as to where the main assault will be. This is a relatively
straightforward task in nanoscale warfare. Just replicate a few
trillion bots, configure them into something the enemy expects and
send them in the direction the enemy is anticipating. If your
intelligence is good, the enemy will react to these moves and weaken
himself along another axis. The ability to replicate quickly and
form swarms to resemble any structure or form gives ANAD-style units
only trouble was that Doc seemed to go haywire when in close
proximity to Configuration Zero.
had been trying to manipulate a tiny control pad on his wristpad,
steering Doc off his hiding place and toward the central firepit
above which hovered the roiling blue-white cloud that was Config
Zero…it looked like a combination of miniature hurricane and a
the Doc bot seemed more and more uncontrollable, more and more
reluctant to go further, insisting again and again that proximity to
such a powerful quantum source was altering his most basic
wrong with his propulsors…I can’t get a response…no vectoring,
nothing,” Winger complained. He threw up his hands in frustration.
“Config Zero again--?”
Singh was bent over his own work station with a look of intense
concentration. “It’s got to be Config Zero, Major Winger. The
entangler circuits are almost fried. Signal dropout at eighty
percent. Have you still got comms?”
Winger said. “Snatches of words, that’s about it. I send a
command and then I get part of an acknowledgement back….wait,
perform…ecommended action, Base…Format fault…inhibits
activated…Level 1 inhibits activated***
inhibits?” Barnes asked. “Something Doc Frost put in?”
snapped his fingers. “Remember what Doc Frost told us about using
an ancient viral genome…but we already know that these ancient
viruses were seeded by another race…at least some of them were.
Maybe something in his processor’s been triggered…triggered by
that’s so,” Barnes said, “can you really control Doc? Is
Config Zero taking over control?”
was a possibility they had considered but decided the risk was worth
it. The chance that a reconfigured Doc bot could perform direct
action sabotage against Red Hammer and its master swarm was too great
an opportunity to pass up.
time to go small,” Winger decided. “I’ve got to see what Doc’s
and Sergeant Hoyt Gibbs, monitoring the coupler link, were both
against it. “Too dicey, Skipper. Comms are too iffy. You won’t
be able to see a thing, much less exercise effective control.”
Winger had already made up his mind. “I’m doing it.” He
tapped a key on his wristpad, waited for the initial nausea to pass
as he went ‘over the waterfall” and then squinted at the oncoming
sleet of molecules flying into his face, shivering with the first
pounding of Brownian motion that always accompanied the maneuver.
All of that he fought off and forged ahead gamely to see what Doc was
0424 hours, Doc sent back a master alarm.
imager screen was at first murky, crowded with the spikes and cubes
of dissolved molecules. Lumpy, multi-lobed sodium molecules darted
across their view like shadowy ping-pong balls. Winger studied
readouts from Doc's sounder…something was there, hidden in the data
traces on the scope. He fiddled with the gain on the imager,
tweaking it, subtracting foreground clutter.
approximately sixty nanometers in one dimension, narrow with a globe
structure at one end…and scores of probes, effectors, cilia,
whatever. Incredible mobility…triple propulsors beat an idling
rhythm as Doc closed in….
the detachment’s interface control specialist, let out a whoop.
"Will you look at that?"
fingers flew over the interface controls. "We're about to check
this joker out…" Quickly, he signaled Doc to prime his
defensive mechanisms, and slowed its approach to a crawl.