Culture / December 9, 2010
By Jared Vaillancourt [creative writing bureau chief]
The program called it routine. He would not be himself if it were routine.
Time and space bent before him. What was the entrance to the chamber became a fountain, its bright blue water spouting in great spires and arches in the twilight glow of a bright moon. The bridge grew large enough for him to enter. With a single step, he was three hundred light-years away; alone and isolated. Time and space mended behind him.
Augmented eyes took in the fountain; chemical scanners, quantum imagers and other senses recorded the object before him. He knew what a fountain was, of course. The program knew of fountains. The program knew everything. But the program had never seen a fountain before. He was seeing this fountain.
Cautious organomotors moved a step towards the glowing structure. Integral force fields engaged automatically to vaporize the spray as water exploded from primitive submarine cannons. Tiny tongues of flame ignited where mist met energy, triggering auditory scanners to report the hissing screams as atoms and molecules faded to spark of quanta and memory around him. He deactivated his defenses.
“Hey! Who are you?” It took a second for his processors to identify the atmospheric disturbance as a form of communication. The language was easy to identify, quickly brought up from the program’s memory out of the last world he had been to. It was no effort to turn his head along the servos in order to focus all his active sensors on the source of the communication. The speaker was quickly scanned and identified.
“I said, who are you? What are you doing here?” the speaker asked again. Active sensors identified a simple civilian protection uniform, low-yield particle beam weapons and rudimentary communication devices on the speaker’s person. He classified the entity as non-threatening and ignored him. The fountain was beautiful. He had to see it.
Organomotors extended a hand as tactile micro-cells detected the spray impacting against the nano-plating skin of the appendage. Chemical sensors embedded in the micro-cells identified impurities and disinfecting agents mixed with the liquid. The droplets coagulated quickly, caught within the molecular bonds of the nano-plate skin, forming shapes and lines across his hand. Ambient temperature dropped at the same time.
“Hey! Listen to me! How did you get in here?” the entity called again. Passive motion sensors indicated the being was preparing to activate one of its primitive weapons.
The program’s memory of all foreign folklore on this entity indicated the entity could be ignored a moment longer. He reactivated his force fields and watched as the droplets vaporized against the nano-plates. He turned to face the entity. A photon emitter on the creature’s helmet bathed his casing with light.
“What the…?” the entity began. It began to draw its weapon. In a flash, a small launch chamber embedded in his right forearm shell filled with a sampling of his internal nano-slaves, which began to form into a standard kinetic dart. By the time the entity had its weapon halfway out of its holster, the micro-dart was fully formed and ascending to the receding nano-plates above his wrist. Organomotors lifted the arm; force field emitters in the palm deactivated to allow a gap no more than a millimeter across to open, clearing the invisible barrier between the dart and its target. Before the entity’s weapon had fully emerged from the holster, he fired the dart.
“Ow!” the entity let out a little scream of pain. He lowered his arm as organomotors allowed him to take slow, graceful steps towards the entity, which was slowly falling to its knees as the micro-dart’s nano-slaves disbanded and began seeking out raw elements in the creature’s internal environment to manipulate and assimilate.
Nano-scanners revealed the tiny machines replicating within the entity. “What… did you… do to me?” the entity stammered. He smiled.
“Human,” he identified. “Male. Muscle mass and neurological interconnectivity indicates a high probability of compatibility with advanced combat and processing modules. Superior cardiovascular and reproductive systems indicate possible usefulness as an explorer and/or foothold unit.” He watched as the tiny machines began assembling the nano-organomotors and artificial filaments reverse engineered from the tissues of the human’s body that would be implanted into the entity’s future frame. Something in the back of his processors decided he should place his fists against his hips.
“What are you… doing to me?” the human demanded. He smiled as augmented eyes glared painfully up at him, nano-plates exuding from the entity’s pores as the skin cells beneath were cannibalized by the nano-slaves. In a minute, the process was complete, and the new drone stood up and stared back at him blankly. He tore off the drone’s useless uniform, revealing the nano-plate skin and combat implants beneath. The drone’s mind was confused and scared; he uploaded the program into it.
“Know peace,” he thought, transmitting the emotion to the new drone. That worthy smiled back.
“It is a pretty fountain, isn’t it?” the drone asked. He nodded. “We shall allow it to stand,” they both thought, “until the program dictates otherwise.” Both drones turned to the fountain and allowed their senses, both passive and active, to record for several seconds.
— ALLOTED PERSONAL TIME EXPIRED —
“We understand,” both drones, thought. They turned from the fountain, using the new drone’s memory to locate a more advanced planetary communication relay. Accessing the relay was pathetically easy.
— COMMENCE ASSIMILATION PROCEDURE —
He placed his hand on the exposed circuitry. Nano-slaves flooded out from gaps between the nano-plates, interfacing his mind with the operating system of the public phone. Funds from the new drone’s old account were uploaded in order to trick the device into accessing all other communication relays across the planet simultaneously. Millions of humans all over the world gazed in curiosity at the sudden appearance of the ergonomic cyborgs on their screens. Both of them smiled.
“Greetings,” the two of them said at once. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s very good to see you all again. We were wondering how you would change after five hundred years.” Both drones glanced at each other, and then snickered. “You don’t remember us, do you? We can’t blame you. Allow us this introduction.”
“Your cultures, fantastic thought they may be, are irrelevant. They will adapt to be of use to us. Your lives are no longer under your control. You will submit to the program and follow our will. You will lower your defenses, cast aside your arms and accept your new fate. Any attempt at resistance will experience futility and failure. Your technology and biology will be added to ours. From this day forth, you shall be made into us. You will be assimilated.” The drones’ smiles became predatory.
“We are the Borg.”