(Vintage) 2nd version of 3rd story

[The box was empty? Oh, no! Unfortunately, so was the page after that cliffhanger of a line. Yet another unfinished science fiction story, this one coming from 2003.]

2nd Version of Third Story

Kenneth Burchfiel

1/23/2003

Marius watched the hologram news, slacked back on the titanium chair. The robot was saying something about Nanotechnology, and how it would change the world. Marius couldn’t care less. He was a Uranium farmer in Arizona, and for him, 2044 would be a normal year. His robots would mine the rocky terrain, he would send in the crop, and he would get paid. It had been like this for fifteen straight years, and he expected no differences. Little did he know, a big difference was right around the corner…

The Nanotechnology lab in Phoenix, Arizona was a busy sight. News cameras filled the building day and night, as scientists found out more and more secrets about the relatively new field.

In the president’s office, the news cameras were also apparent. As flashbulbs snapped, the head of the lab answered countless questions. When the press finally left, the president slacked back in his chair. His pager beeped, and automatically the hologram screen in the room turned on. Looking back at the president was a young man in his thirties, seated at a chair at Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Greetings, Bill. How are things at the lab?”

“Pretty busy, Tom. The press won’t ever leave!”

“Sorry to hear that. Anyway, I just wanted to pop a question about your power supply. How are you going to provide energy for all of those creations?”
Bill sat back in his chair, and uttered three words: “I don’t know.”

“You’re going to have provide energy. A nanoreactor with nuclear power might work. You have any Uranium farmers down there?”

“Yeah, there’s one person… Marius Corrox, I believe. I’ll check with the lab officials, and we’ll send someone over.”

“Great. I’ll be seeing you!”

The screen shut off, and the president walked out of the office. Stiff-arming the hordes of reporters, he made his way down to the lab. “Power,” he muttered to himself. “How could I forget?”

One night later, the ring of a doorbell broke the silence of Marius’s house. Looking through the window, he saw a black man carrying a briefcase with the words Phoenix Institute of Nanotechnology imprinted in gold lettering. He opened the door, and the man stepped inside.

“Greetings, sir. I believe you are Marius Corrox?”

“That’d be me. What do you want?”

The Man in the black suit opened his briefcase, and inside was the largest amount of money the farmer had ever seen in his whole life. Leaving the Briefcase open on the floor, he turned to Marius.
“If I am not mistaken, I believe you are a Uranium farmer. At the Nanotechnology lab, we use Uranium to power our devices. We do not have a big supply, however, and our work will be stalled. We will give you three million dollars (Marius let out a gasp) if you will provide us with a never ending supply of Uranium.”

“By all means, certainly!” said Marius in short breaths.

“Very well, then,” said the man. “We can work out the details later. Goodbye!”

As he shut the door, Marius cried in happiness.

With the new power, the Nanotechnology lab was running strong. However, money problems from the recent power purchase and new expenses littered the scene. Finally, the president asked for a government grant, and he got what he had wished for. With endless money and fuel, the Nanotechnology lab seemed invincible.

One day, the president received an urgent call from his pager, and the Hologram screen turned on. Without delay, the man on the screen started talking.

“Sir, the Washington Institute of Science and health would like to inform you that there is an extreme problem with your Nanotechnology work. Have you learned about gray goo?”

“What, my breakfast porridge?”

“No, sir. Gray goo, you see, is the possibility of self-intelligent robots taking over the World. It is considered science fiction, but robots with the ability to duplicate themselves could easily outnumber any creatures on the earth. Have you made any?”

“Why yes, but we keep them in a steel box where they cannot escape.”

“How many have you made?”

“Only two.”

“I’d advise you to not make any more, and to strengthen the container you have them in. Self intelligent robots can do strange things, you know.”

“Thank you for the tips. Good night!”

The president shut off the hologram, and then turned to the steel box where the two self-intelligent creatures were kept. Suddenly, he looked in horror to a big hole on the side of the container.

The box was empty.

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