A wonderful and profound story about the possible future and finding the true love.
The year was 9325. It was a golden age for nanorobotics. Everyone was racing to make the smallest possible model. Deep in the bowels of the Earth Federation, many young men and women were attempting to make it invisible even to the eyepiece of an electron microscope. All efforts were directed toward just that. Whole farms were engaged in their production. Nanoengineering had become the most prestigious and sought-after profession.
The string theory of the 26-dimensional model of the universe had long been rejected as unreliable and perhaps even entirely wrong. But quantum physics was flourishing. Somewhere in there was born the idea of nanorobots that could change its structure by controlled and directed launches of entire fleets of them into specific regions where an important universal event was about to occur. For example, the birth of a super nova or the appearance of a black hole.
Earth's Bureau of Directed Nano-Interventions was going to deal with those issues. The more time progressed, the more the growing responsibility was clearly felt. Any controlled change in the course of the universe's development could be extremely dangerous.
In the very distant past, nanorobots had simply treated cancer cells and other elementary things, whereas now the fate of entire galaxies and star clusters depended on them. Morality had to be raised much higher.
The advent of the exananorobot was the first major event in the history of this science. This is where our history begins.
The exananorobot was a new savagery born in the minds of scientific polymaths. It allowed interventions from the ether level even in the brains of humans. Everything was going exactly according to plan. Somewhere deep inside, however, something cracked in the organization of all this ultra-advanced technology.
Access to people's brains was divided into multiple levels. The eta level was the first of them, providing direct access to people's memories and to their memory itself. The lack of morality then created many problems. The new virtual reality caused the death of many.
Few dared to check out what lay in the sigma level, and no one had gone to the omega level. It was simply inaccessible to the current level of development.
The so-called singularity had gotten out of all possible control and had become unpredictable. And unpredictable meant extremely dangerous. Kurzweil's stated assumptions had long since become reality. In other words, due to the enormous technological advances, the world could perish at any moment.
Ernst Thaler was one of the best-trained nano-robotics specialists to be found.
Somewhere behind his desk Ernst Thaler was doing tons of calculations as he figured out down to the smallest detail the specifics of the nanorobots, the command of an entire fleet of them, and also the prioritization of the targets they were being used for.
Thaler liked to work alone, and none of his colleagues prevented him from thinking and acting. He was born for it.
As for the desk - the problems were too many and different. And there were still not enough people. And the nanorobots had one specificity - the so-called "swarms" or "flotillas", as they were called in plain language, could become too unmanageable and chaotic, because they used artificial intelligence imitating human behavior.
Scientists had been scrambling to solve this problem for the past three thousand years without much success. What's more, several accidents had already occurred, and there were no culprits. Deep in the bowels of the planet, there was a secret laboratory that was engaged in special pre-launch testing of the colony. Where on earth could they have handled all that?
Ernst was trying to solve some special cases of Euclidean geometry equations to improve their routing in the wild vacuum of space, which may have been the key to fixing the accident. Sweat trickled from his brow. One elementary mistake could have cost him dearly. Somewhere deep in his heart, he could feel the deaths of millions who could have perished simply from one oversight on his part.
The process of replication or self-replication of each individual nanorobot was linked to what was called non-biological reproduction.
Getting it wrong, however, could have created a new nano-virtual reality that would be particularly dangerous for near-real objects. This was the scientists' main concern. Even objects such as the Earth, and even entire galaxies and star clusters, could be relatively quickly trapped in a kind of nanoscale virtual world. Scientists did not know what to do in a situation of such a catastrophe.
Erica Jale was the only one who dared to hang over his head, but only occasionally. Not too often and not too rarely. To give him advice and make him a cup of tea or cappuccino. Even to give him a light massage.
Thaler was stingy and didn't like paying for shit, no matter how necessary it was to keep him healthy.
Finally the solution was discovered and a long, slow and rather unnerving series of checks for every variable in the chaotic solving of the system began.
The food was pretty crappy. People used high calorie kibble similar to dog food, but they felt happy. Thaler was quite the antisocial type, but he didn't bother anyone and so everyone respected him. And he knew too much.
- "You're working on something that might not come to fruition," Erica remarked, "So much work for nothing."
- "The nanorobots took us over a long time ago," he added.
- "Isn't it just better to selectively restrict sending them only to people's brains. The symbiosis we've built could help us localize the whole problem. We still live on Earth after all," she expressed her somewhat strange irony.
- I think you're right.
- "But my superiors tell me what to do and I just do it. I don't ask questions. I don't reason," Ernst replied quietly.
- "You know you are," Erica agreed and walked out.
No one else came in to Ernst. For a period of six whole months. He ate, slept and rolled around on the floor like a little panda in a zoo, not caring about anyone. He got up and kept solving the equations for fleet control. His schedule was very busy.
In those six months, four significant events occurred - the birth of a super nova in the constellation Centaurus, the destruction of an entire asteroid field near Mercury, the patching of the hole in the ozone layer above Earth, and finally the collapse of a black hole that threatened to engulf the Andromeda galaxy. It was all so banal to Ernst. He was just doing his job.
The light in his small office was neon and came from white tubular light fixtures tied in bundles throughout the room.
Ernst Thaler was German to the marrow of his bones. He was just super disciplined, but after hours he liked to have a drink of fresh milk, because he had once seen a movie where the motto was that that was all real men drank. Plus his nerves were relaxing.
His equations were just perfect. There wasn't a single mistake. And he was proud of himself. He didn't care about the outside world he meddled in every day. That was real power. And he was aware of his responsibility.
His bosses called him to them and rewarded him. His work increased even more. And here, somewhere, a little flaw in his behavior showed.
Erica had long since died, as he had spent long hours in a room where the subjective time being reported had preserved his youthfulness. He was completely alone.
When he opened the door to his room he was astonished to find that the entire world outside was dead, only because he hadn't gotten to the last line of his equation.
Then it occurred to him to check if he had some semblance of a chip in his head, or if a nanorobot had accidentally wormed its way through his ear.
He went to a special scanner and before long found just that. The intruder had cleverly copied his changing behavior, which hadn't really changed at all. He had been doing his job without paying attention to other people. He had completely forgotten about them. Outside it was a wasteland.
He went out and looked around. He couldn't leave the planet either. He grabbed his head with his hands and started screaming like crazy. He was just a sick psychopath. Bloody tears dripped from his eyes.
Then he heard a voice behind him.
- This is where your calculations have led you! Human life doesn't fit into even the most complicated mathematics.
He didn't want to turn around. Nor was he willing to admit defeat. A senseless defeat.
He had trained kendo in his youth, and every time they knocked the bokken out of his hands, he would start cursing. He'd swear like a brawler. That's why they finally kicked him out of the dojo. Experiencing a refined and perverse delight in it. But now it was different. He slowly turned around and saw Erica.
- "How did he even come alive?," He wondered.
- By not being guided by your theories, but just finding a safe hiding place. Didn't you notice that the giant nanoflotilla attacked planet Earth. With nothing to do, inaction was killing them and they decided to stop obeying your commands.
Thaler was silent.
- "But you're alive," he objected quietly.
- "Alive, yes, but - unburied," she laughed scathingly.
The souls of the two of them would remain here together forever. Not that they liked each other, but they had no choice. Quite a pity!
The German mused. He had done his job properly. He'd met the deadlines, too, and he'd even been a little late.
- "Relationships with people are much more important," she told him, "What you've done, while impressive, isn't much. You have to be more careful with people and not let them gas you, and that's even harder. Soon we will both perish for lack of food and water. Then what will we do in these last minutes?"
Ernst just kicked the dust with the toe of his shoe like a stubborn donkey being told how to behave in public. He knew that somewhere out there a lot of things were no longer the same. He knew he was living a lie.
- "You know, I know I made myself needed - it's true. Nobody else on this planet could solve Euclidean equations like I could. But where did that leave my so-called friends?," he brightened. "Whatever we say, I'm all alone!"
- No, you've got me. Whether we like it or not, we're together.
The first thing was to find shelter. There was no such place around. Everything was deserted and bare.
Suddenly, Thaler slapped himself on the forehead. What if the nanorobots had just returned to planet Earth and what they were seeing was virtual reality. He immediately shared his concerns.
- "Impossible," she responded.
- I want an isolated hiking tent, plenty of food and water, enough for two people for at least three months.
His wish was granted.
- "This looks like a child's tale," he laughed, and set about eating and drinking greedily as if for the last time, "he'd just die of overeating. Beside him were delicious vegetables, chicken, oven fries, ice cream and grits for dessert."
- "I'm really going to splurge," Erica muttered, patting her tumbler, "That's a lot of food!"
- "You know there was a bear in the folk tale," Ernst objected.
- "But you're German, and the bear thing is from a Bulgarian folk tale," the girl protested.
- "Why not?," he twitched his imaginary moustache. - "As long as the new reality fulfils our wishes, let us be brazen to the end."
Erica was about to say something else, but nothing could stop Thaler.
- I want a palace, a huge mansion, a stable of horses, lots of money, I want a whole harem of women, and last but not least, that Bugatti model!
- "You're overdoing it," Miss Jill scolded him.
- I want to be the greatest mathematician in the world, greater even than the Lord God.
As he spoke these words, the heavens opened and roared and a terrible storm arose. It swept away the castle, the beautiful mansion, the horses flew through the air, and not a trace of the sumptuous table remained.
- Thou impudent man, thou hast not appreciated the salvation which I have granted thee, and hast thought thyself my equal!
- "Are you real?," continued gloating Thaler, "No one has seen you before!"
Instead of an answer he saw a picture in his mind. He was small and playing in his nursery, he had every toy imaginable, then he was on the desk calculating probabilities, a little later at university, the centre of attention. What followed was a brilliant and unforgettable scientific career in international companies until he was put in charge of the Earth Bureau of Directed Nanointervention. He wasn't so above things that he forgot.
He turned around - Erica was gone, too. Now he was truly alone.
- "This isn't some kind of flashy trick or stunt, is it?," he almost growled, like a wounded animal. - "It took everything I had until a little while ago."
The voice was silent. He could see that. Ernst stared like a madman. But there was nothing.
Before his eyes fell a small sign, "Happiness for all and let none be wronged." It was from the Strugatsky brothers, I think. But they had written millennia ago.
In the distance he saw a statue of Stalin. With a twisted moustache. Behind him a thick fog.
- "What is this geopolitics?," I don't even know this one, but he's certainly not from our era!
He kept on walking - it was the Battle of Waterloo. He'd read about it somewhere and remembered it being quite bloody.
He didn't have the courage to go any further. He turned and saw a smooth wall before his eyes. He could feel himself dying. The new reality was drawing on his physical strength and he was slowly fading from lack of food and water. Time flowed differently here too.
Then he saw the end of the road and plunged into the abyss.
He woke up in the morning in the same room with nothing in it. He was dying slowly and his eyes were glazed over. Everything was becoming so banal. Something was nagging at him, but it wouldn't even let him die like a samurai with his honor hurt.
He suddenly looked at his face in the mirror - he had aged thirty years, but he was still young.
- "Do you want to undo what you've done?," he heard God's voice.
- "Yes," he roared.
- "Then just go back and everything will be the same," was the answer.
Ernst turned and was already in his study. Erica was lying there somewhere, sleeping. He hugged her.
- "You are enough for me to spend my last days here and now," he wept over his unhappy fate.
The girl woke up and looked at him.
- Don't give up so easily - you've already fought through, you have too many more feats to go. You must not stop, and I will be by your side.
The two held hands. They were happy. The only people on this planet. The void would save them from intruders. They all wanted to be like this - separated in infinity.