(Vintage) Nanocase

[Back in 2003 (6th grade, I think), it was pretty rare for me to actually complete a story. I often dreamed up these super-long science fiction epics, then never got beyond the first page. This one might not have been an epic, but at least it had an ending. :-)]



Kenneth Burchfiel

Marius couldn’t understand what was going on. Everywhere around his Martian nanotechnology lab, people were dying. Some blamed the sanitation, and others blamed the nanobots. This epidemic called for some professional help, and he got himself a detective.

It was five in the morning, January 25, 2044 when the detective came in. He had already read about the problem in newspapers, so he needed no explanation. He was one of the few human detectives left in the business, since many liked the no-mistake ways of robots. However, many, including Marius, did not like to have robots look into their secret places for clues.

“Show me the factory,” the detective said in a gruff, nonchalant voice. He was led into a giant room, where countless assemblers created nanobots one by one.

“The assemblers create the nanobots, which deploy chemicals in fields to kill weeds and bugs.”

“Are the chemicals toxic?” asked the detective, who was scribbling information down on a small notepad.

“Not to humans, if that’s the answer you’re looking for,” said Marius.

“Can you show me the step by step process of making these nanobots?” asked the detective.

“Right this way,” replied Marius.

“This is where a group of robots create the assemblers- whoa!” Marius fell through a rotten floorboard and into a large room. “This is the storage room,” explained Marius, wiping the dust from his clothes. “It’s automated, so nobody really has to come down here.”

The detective went down a stairway into the storage room, and examined it for clues. He stopped at a large steel box, which had fallen off a table. “There is a glitch in your system, then,” said the detective, “because this box has a hole in it!”

He looked inside the large steel container. “It’s empty! Not a single assembler inside!”

“Oh, my gosh!” Marius exclaimed. “The assemblers have solar chips on them, so if they have sun to power themselves, they can automatically create nanobots!”

“Would they have the material?” the detective asked.

“Of course!” said the lab manager. “We keep steel in piles to make nanobots, and the assemblers just take the material when they wish.”

“Hmm,” mumbled the detective, jotting down notes in his notebook. “We’ve got ourselves a problem here.”

The next day, the detective came in at the same time. He motioned for Marius to sit down, and asked him some questions.

“I suppose you have studied this strange ordeal very closely, Mr. Corrox.”

“I never overlook anything that has to do with this epidemic.”

“I’m glad to hear that, because you are not my only case at this time, and I am not able to focus on one at a time, including yours. However, I wrote down some questions to ask you, if you don’t mind.”

He took out the notebook that he had the previous day, and proceeded with the interview.

“Are there any unusual happenings when these people die?”

“It is said that it has been known to rain before a large number of people die.”
The detective scribbled in his notepad, and asked Marius the next question.

“Are there any other companies located near this establishment?”

“There are many agricultural fields that we use to test the workings of nanobots. There is also a fishing wharf, which is a commercial building.”

“Lastly, do you know of any other deaths that are non-human?”

“I don’t have any connections with that matter.”

“This should be a great help to me,” said the detective, who got out of his chair. Marius followed suit, and followed him out to the fields.

“I’ve brought with me a small device that tells the amount of chemicals in a spot of land,” said the detective. He took a small suction tube out of his pocket, and used it to suck a spot of the field. He saw the reading, wrote it in his notebook, and put the device back in his pocket.

“ This is an overload of chemicals,” said the detective. “Those nanobots have been busy at work.”

“Why would that have anything to do with these deaths?” asked Marius. “I don’t see any connection.”

“I don’t either, but there is a big chance that the extra chemicals have caused the deaths. You see, everything was fine without the extra nanobots. Now, people are dying because of the addition of nanobots. There has to be something about the chemicals that cause the people to die. At the moment, I don’t see anything that connects the two, but at least we’re on the right track.”

“I hope you’re right,” said Marius. “I’ve been invited to the Governor’s feast. Right now, she’s really happy because she just defeated the last nuclear weapons-holding colony.”

“Why did she invite you?” asked the detective, who seemed a little envious.

“Nanotechnology is an important part of American life right now,” stated Marius.

“So is detective work! We were the people who solved the strange yelling in the palace.”

“Wasn’t that just the Governer’s husband yodeling in the shower?”

“The real answer is confidential,” stated the detective, but he seemed embarrassed.

As the date of the Governor’s feast loomed closer, excitement grew in the Martian City of New Washington. The news covered the occasion bit by bit, as well as the story on the strange deaths. One night, Marius was watching holovision, switching from image to image. A picture of him on one of the holograms caught his eye, and he looked closer.

The news report went as follows:

“Good night, holovision watchers! I’m Norman Fredrickson, giving you the latest coverage in hot topics. In our top story today, many are wondering about the safety of the nanotechnology lab. Many say, down with the building and protect our future! In fact, protests have been in effect to shut down the establishment. Governor Diana Millers has no comment on these outbreaks, and nobody blames her for caring more about the feast coming up. Congrats to our Governor for defeating Saltville, and letting New America claim the title of the world’s only country with nuclear weapons!”

Marius shut off the holovision. “This is getting weirder every day,” he thought to himself.

Marius walked down the busy sidewalk, dressed in his finest attire. He was headed to the Governor’s feast, and he was flattered that she had selected him and nine others to join her. He was carrying a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates, which he hoped would make Dianna happy.

As he sauntered down the sidewalk, he heard his name being called by someone behind him. He turned to see who it was, and noticed a man running down the street, narrowly avoiding the traffic. As he came closer, Marius saw that it was his detective, and laughed at the sight of a mild-mannered private eye running at full speed, his arms flailing out as if he were fleeing an avalanche. Jumping a bicycle rack, he came face to face with Marius.

“I’m so glad I found you!” the detective panted.

“Why do you need to talk to me? I’ll be late for the governor’s feast.”

The detective’s face suddenly turned a light shade of green. “What are they serving?”

“Well, I was fishing down at the wharf by the Nanotechnology Lab, and somebody told me that the place was serving fish to the feast. Why?”

“Oh my gosh! There’s no time to lose. We have to get there as quick as possible! I’ll explain my actions on the way.”

They went into a brisk jog, with the detective explaining between short breaths.

“Listen-I’ve solved the case. You know the chemicals that are in the fields? Well, when it rains, the chemicals go through the ground and into the stream. When the fish take in the water, they become sick. When the fish are caught, and people eat them, they become sick and die through the rotten fish.”

“Oh, my gosh!” Exclaimed Marius. “That means that nine important people and the Governor could die of food poisoning!”

Marius checked his watch. “It’s 4:03, and the feast started at 4:00. Our only hope is that they haven’t started to eat yet!”

After five minutes of sprinting, they arrived at the palace. It had started to rain, and their clothes and spirits were soon dampened. After passing through security, they went inside.

After receiving instructions from a maid, they went downstairs to a large dining room. Barely daring to breathe, the two opened the door and looked inside.

The president and all the guests were down on the floor, not moving an inch. However, they had pulses, and the detective said they were unconscious, but not fatally hurt.

“Call 911,” the detective ordered. Marius dialed the holophone, and a mediship and four doctors soon arrived at the scene.

“Well,” the detective said, “This case is closed. All I want now is an invitation to the president’s next feast.”

“Don’t worry,” laughed Marius. “After saving the president’s life, I think you’ll get one.”


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