Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

In Marco’s experience, most catastrophic events start with a simple accident. This evening it was fatigue and hyperfocus, coupled with hot coffee and a snagged lab-coat sleeve.

And the nanos.

Marco’s stool, momentarily balanced on two legs as he’d tried to avoid the falling glassware and spilled liquids was now an integral part of the floor, the nanos contained in the viscous carrier soup that coated the bench-top and pooled beneath his feet having bridged the gap and bonded the two raised legs to the tile.

His left arm, pinned as it was to the work surface no longer felt the burn of the spilled coffee, but rather prickled beneath a coating of gunmetal grey that pulsed and crawled up his arm, melding its own mass with his flesh, repurposing in the process the atoms of the fabric that had separated them.

Marco stretched his right arm towards the bench behind, grasping first at a ruler, then using it knocked off the handset of the phone and pulled the base-station within reach. He hesitated, then punched a worn speed dial and put the call on speaker.

“Hello?” Marco forced down tears as he heard his wife’s voice. “Marco?”

“Hey sweetheart,” there was no way he could mask his emotion, “I don’t want you to worry, but there’s been a bit of an accident.”

There was a sharp intake of air on the other end of the line. “What… are you…?”

The grey sleeve reached his neck, a thousand points of fire burrowing into the base of his skull. On the floor the pool extended tendrils through the perforated tiles into the raceway beneath to bond with the mass of copper and fibre within.

Marco felt the itch spread, the prickling in his arm now extended beyond, to an awareness of the tabletop, and the floor.

“I’m not sure what’s happening sweetheart, but I wanted to tell you I love you.”

She didn’t speak, and he could picture her crying, handset pressed to her ear, her sobs barely audible through the cheap speakerphone.

Marco’s vision clouded, then exploded in waves of colour and motion, and though he squeezed his eyes shut the barrage of light would not relent. Gradually he realized he could decipher the montage of images, isolate discrete views, and focus not on just one but several simultaneously. He could see himself, now completely fused to the grey mass that was his workstation, but from the point of view of the security camera in the corner of the lab. He could see also the hall, and each of the elevators, the view through the many rooftop cameras and also those in lobby. He felt the rush of new data as the fibre trunk was breached, his wife’s tears no longer audible through the speakerphone, but coming now in bits directly from the line feed.

Somewhere there was an alarm sounding, and orders being given. A quarantine directive but it was too late. He was watching, listening, feeling the entire event unfold from outside. He would protect himself, he must always protect himself.

The Marcomesh tapped the very fabric of the building, and the grey spread at a frenetic pace, floor by floor, refabricating the building into a single living thing.

“Marco?” His wife’s voice echoed through him with a clarity and fidelity he’d never experienced before. “Are you still there?”

The Marcomesh reached out and felt the gates and valves of the city services into which its building-self was fed, and found no barriers of significance there.

“Don’t worry sweetheart,” his voice echoed down the line, “I’ll be home soon.”

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