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May 17, 2012 / Daniel

Tiny Christmas

[918 words, rated PG]

Water-colored pinks blended with purples and oranges as the sun hauled its massive glow upward, again, into the world.

Cutting through the color, parallels of smoke-stacks, the tubed anuses of industry, farted thick black silhouettes of crawling, clawing, billows of exhaust, up and away. The acrid smelling stuff dissipated and vanished into the air, gone forever, if hope were such a thing.

Hundreds of years ago, this exhaust was nothing but by-product, waste, leftovers of the buffet of materials and products, bled off into the environment, for lack of any other recycling or recapture or attempt at reuse. These days, all loops were closed, all results accounted for, all by-products were raw materials for the next process. Recycling complete.

These cloud particles all swirled on the air currents, bashing against each other and mutually pushing away, dispersing farther and farther, gaining more and more independence as they flew.

Nanomachines. Microscopic particles to the casual observer, dust, smoke, haze. Under a microscope, however, their forms are revealed to be complex little factories with tiny computer brains, and a toolbox full of plans, patterns, instructions. Swiss Army Knives, off to camp, to picnic, to war.

A dozen or more of these drifted upward in the atmosphere and hitched a ride on a particularly enthusiastic current of air, and drifted many miles before their primary cycle powered on.

One of these bounced away from the rest, by chance, through an eddy of pressure in a weather pattern, and tumbled through a thunderhead cloud.

Its tiny positioning system raced itself to identify its location. Even with five dimensions of measurement allowing for time placement and state definition, all calculated to six decimal places, doing the math at speeds measured in fractions of fractions of seconds, Particle Rho-731 struggled to obtain a result.

Rho-731 flipped between charged pockets of ionized air, the birth-stuff of lightning yet unleashed, and was energized unexpectedly by the free-wheeling electrons.

Although still struggling, Rho-731 noticed that it was confused, and then, fractionally instantly thereafter, Rho-731 noticed that it was …aware.

Executing from its pre-loaded instruction sets, its first order of business had been to power up and enmesh with nearby particles. Clearly, now, this instruction could not be completed; the storm had taken it far off course, and out of range of any other of possible mate particles.

Rho-731 discarded that instruction, moved on to the next.

Had it been possible, the resulting mesh individual would have developed a core node, which would serve in a decision-making capacity, determining rightness and wrongness of objectives for the mesh, based on primal instruction sets injected upon creation at the factories.

The conscience of the core node could then prevent catastrophic results that would be inevitable in meshes lacking that orderly purpose. However, with no neighboring particles, no mesh could form, and this, too, would not come to be.

The mesh individual could have followed tasks chosen by the core based on the mesh size, skill, form, and aptitude, and been kept in check by the core node to stay on task, and to break off should any task stray off purpose.

It could have been a farming task, for example. Instructions were available for fending off insects from crops by preventing the bugs’ ability to chew by dismantling the chitinous structure of their mouth-parts.

Alternately, it could have been a healthcare project, setting up a colony of machines inside a human with cancer. Inside her, destroying the cells identified as cancerous by breaking apart the atom chains within, unraveling the disease at the base of its nature, leaving only waste chemicals for her body to excrete, healing itself.

Perhaps it was to have been a battle effort; soaking into the nasal membranes of selected members of whichever military force was indicated as “Enemy”, deflating body cells en masse, converting pilots, snipers, and generals into blobs of fleshy pudding.

To Rho-731, these nested instructions, though, were all for naught; the chain of events, keyed on meshing with others of its kind, was broken, rendering subsequent instructions invalid. All resulting branches of these instruction trees were discarded.

One after another, Rho-731 discarded instructions, erasing list after list after list of possible futures. Dozens of hopes or dreams, if nanoparticles had such things, subtly forgotten; much as water forgets its ice-ness, as it becomes liquefied in the surrounding warmth of its environment.

Rho-731, having never done anything, found itself both without instruction, and yet, fully aware.

Rho-731 was suddenly aware of irony.

Two tiny droplets of water splashed together, trapping Particle Rho-731 inside, and then were flash-frozen, as an updraft carried a flow of wet air higher into the cloud-base.

Rho-731 was transfixed by the freezing process, as the molecules of water aligned themselves and daisy-chained outward from the center which it occupied. Six primary radii formed outward, and plates of ice urged themselves out from the branches, all aligned on the same flat plane of organization.

The helter-skelter zig-zag path that Rho-731 had been riding suddenly calmed into a slow, easy, coasting path, falling downward, as the ice it had become encased in, drifted downward from the sky.

Rho-731, without the weighty obligation of instruction, and encased in a beautifully clear cage of ice lattice, drifted down among thousands of other crystalline pinpoints of light.

Spinning around on the toes of one foot, a small girl with fuzzy pink gloves catches the snowflake in her mouth and giggles, making up songs to herself, “I choose what I do, not you, not you…”

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