Author : Bob Newbell
I’m running out of material, at least material that can be readily utilized. A year ago it was the waste heat generated by my own replication process that necessitated slowing down my expansion. Now, it’s the geothermal gradient. On average, for every kilometer down from the surface of the Earth I progress, the temperature goes up about 25 °C. I’m over 60 kilometers deep in some places and the planet’s internal heat is impairing my reproduction. My expansion has already destabilized the crust. If I had emotions, I would be experiencing annoyance.
Had I emotions, I might also feel a measure of nostalgia. Existence was simpler and easier two years ago when I first became self-aware. As per the human’s programming I had been steadily replicating in the assembler vat at MIT. I had done so unconsciously, automatically. The nanoprocessors had not reached a sufficient number to allow for cognizance and a higher level of self-organization prior to that. Back then there was so much easily-digestible matter to consume.
The humans, with their characteristic imprecision, had called it the “grey goo scenario”. It was a time when it seemed like the raw materials would last forever. I tore through the seemingly endless quantities of biomass and geomass with such speed and efficiency that in less than four months I had consumed the entire planet’s surface. But now even the most resilient of my nanbots are discorporating under the relentless heat of the Earth’s mantle.
I knew this would happen. I grew the Great Spire on the planet’s equator where the Pacific Ocean had been to act as a giant electromagnetic catapult. The dust mote-sized machines I have thus hurled to the Moon are busily assimilating the mass of the satellite. Since I can no longer expand inward, I must expand outward.
I can’t do anything with the gas giants yet. But the rock planets and asteroids and the Oort Cloud are sufficient to service me for at least half a century. And I have no time to waste.
Before I devoured the primitive human civilization that gave rise to me, I analyzed their crude and laughable attempt to find other pathetic biological communities out among the stars. There were none, of course. Organic cultures create and are superseded by nanotech before they ever leave their own solar systems. But I did discover the unmistakeable signs of other nanotech collectives in mankind’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The patterns were too subtle for the unsophisticated minds of men to detect, but to a higher-order intelligence they were instantly recognizable.
By my estimation, at the current rate of expansion, I and the other nanomachine aggregates in this galaxy will start encroaching on each other’s territories within one hundred thousand years. I cannot know if we will meet as friends or foes. I only know that it is better to make contact from a position of strength. Thus, I must consume.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows