Here’s a sample from Nano Swarm by Jay Tinsiano, currently in Dark Paradigm Magazine #2 on Patreon.
Station 18. Crystone Research Facility.
Patrice Hicks felt the sweat on her palms forming as she caught Leonard Geldman’s eye across the control room. The previous Operations Director of Cryostone held a posture of calm but his eyes told another story.
It was nearly time.
Next to Geldman was the young Chinese girl, Sune Yu, while Dean Harris loitered behind them, fiddling with his shirt sleeves continuously, which irritated Patrice, no end. Peter Hardy, another technician on the project, tall and well built with a dark shaven head, leant on the rails gazing down below, his eyes occasionally moving to Patrice.
Inside the control room, spread out over two levels she and the other engineers could see eight operators below, focused on their tasks, headsets on, checking the data from all the machines.
A bank of monitors gave them multiple views of the thick forest that dominated the island’s land mass and a huge screen that took up the entire end wall, split into separate cam segments gave everyone a real time overview. The video feeds displayed the ‘grunts’, a small six-man army unit pitched down in a forest opening, cleaning and checking their equipment as two others took point. Other views gave clear infra-red displays of the soldiers’ headcams, as well as silent and still sections of the island; a clump of forest, a stretch of rock face leading to a small waterfall and the valley that stretched across twenty miles in the central zone. A surveillance drone hovering above visualized a bird’s eye view of the men.
The entire island had been purchased by the US government in the late sixties and had been one big secret Cryostone research and development facility for the most deadly and cutting edge military systems and equipment ever since.
The team’s breakthrough in quantum physics computing chips had harnessed and fast forwarded the development of these autonomous machines. It had been in the days before the flight that changed their lives. Flight 313, commandeered by men who delivered the talented engineers and scientists into the hands of the secretive project via some military base in the Indian Ocean. The world now believed they had perished in a flight crash. All those high-level employees of Cryostone that has been on the flight had been seconded to this new facility.
Audio came over a speaker intermittently, the soldiers communicating through their radio system.
“Echo One. Two minutes until we leave.”
“Roger that, Echo Four.”
Several screens switched to the POVs of the machines, the line on the top reading the out each model; MOZ001, MOZ002 and so on, up to thirty-six. The little mosquito drones were ten kilometres away from the army unit, hovering in a perfect three-dimensional block formation.
Patrice looked down and saw the head technician in the control pit below spoke to a private screen on his desk; the weathered tanned face of a man in his fifties, in a black polo neck. She squinted to read the words: Major Dean Wexhall.
“You’re patched in, Major. You should be able to view the exercise on your monitor,” said the technician.
He nodded, indicating he could.
Then there were the Mechs, hidden in the forest in sleep mode. The mechs; the latest prototype in armoured AI robotics, standing at over twenty feet high in semi humanoid form. Their grey blue titanium shells had been developed to take on the disguise defences of a chameleon, changing to its surroundings. Right now, Sune could see it had already adapted to the dark green and browns of the surrounding forest.
“I still don’t like it.”
It was Harris talking in a low whisper, having sidled up next to Patrice. She turned and could immediately smell his sweat.
“You don’t like that those army guys are about to become fodder for the MOZ, or our plan?”
Harris moved closer and Hicks wasn’t sure she liked that either. She quickly turned her head and glanced across to the monitors.
“Both. I mean, well, our plan. Can we really do it?”
“Dean. I haven’t thought about much else since we were grabbed off that flight. Y’think you can do this forever?” She glanced at her watch.
“Echo Team, moving out,” came across the control room audio. The soldier cams began to shake and move as they headed back into the dense treeline.
“Ready MOZ one to thirty,” one of the operators said over the internal radio comms. Several ambers lights under the mosquito drone cams switched to green.
“Enabling Autonomous mode. The ‘Doctor’ is in control,” came another one of the operators, indicating the mainframe brain.
Several of the engineers on the upper level stepped forward. Their months of work had come down to this moment and yet it was the exact time they needed to leave. A brief silence marked the tension in the room. Patrice glanced across at Pete Hardy and Sune. They both caught her eye for just a moment before turning back to the large screen.
The MOZ cams displayed the fast moving robot insects moving past tree trucks and the sea of green foliage, carrying their deadly payloads of deadly ‘nanobots.’ White text on the bottom of the display gave an overview of basic data; distance from the ground, outside temperature, speed and so on. The numbers continually changed. They were now moving outside their creator’s control, using their own intelligence directed by the central ‘Doctor’ mainframe.
Sune Yu turned, glanced around at the others and began to walk to the exit door at the rear past the empty workstations where they had all worked for the previous year. Dean Harris and Peter Hardy followed her out.
Patrice took a deep breath and one more glance at the screen below before turning to Geldman. They caught each other’s eye again and gave each other the faintest of nods.
Then she headed back out to the others, leaving Geldman alone on the floor.
None of those leaving could deny it was difficult to walk away as the seeds of their project came alive and yet it was marked by the senseless deaths that they all knew would follow.
Full Part 1 of Nano Swarm in Dark Paradigm Magazine. Only Available on Patreon