It’s hard to be an optimist when your foot hurts.
5 Seconds Later - Candy - The Danger Lab
Okay. I haven’t been blasted. I open my eyes. There’s a large, silver, device on the big table. There’s also a large dial attached to the edge of the table. I look over at Lair. He points at the dial.
“It’s fifteen clicks down to the nano lab.” he says.
The machine is some kind of 3D printer. It has little compartments for raw materials. There’s a hypno-clone interface where designs can be viewed and modified. I don’t see the print bed - the little table where the parts are made. Eventually, I find a microscope attached to the side of the printer. I look in. There’s the print bed. It’s just really small. There’s a few microscopic parts on the bed, and a tiny red machine.
I back away from the printer, and look at the large dial on the table. It’s not really there, just a hypno-clone construct. I shrug, lightly grasp it, and give it a twist.
The table and printer change. I recognize them, they’re the little print bed and the red machine. The microscopic parts on the print bed are on the table, but now they’re as big as my arm. I look around the lab. The immediate area around me is unchanged. Books, chairs, Lair sitting by the fire. But the cabin is gone, I’m in a huge silver cavern.
Fuck. I’m inside the 3D printer. Cool.
I turn off my augmented reality contact lenses, and I’m back in the real cabin. I turn them on, and I’m in the micro lab. It’s just a hypno-clone construct. I knew that. Don’t know why I checked.
I look at the parts on the print bed. I poke one and it moves. Hmm, did I just move the hypno-clone version? Or, did the real one move too? I flick off my lenses, and look in the microscope of the real 3D printer. The real part has moved. Okay, that’s cool. A hypno-clone’s ultrasound projector can’t move real objects because the soundwaves are too weak. Apparently, that is not the case if the objects are really, really, small.
I see what’s going on here. The printer makes the micro parts, then Doc-Danger hypno-clones inside and assembles machines out of the parts “by hand”.
I turn my lenses on. Look around the micro lab. Aside from the stuff on the table, there’s many large bins stuffed with parts. I have no idea what they’re for. There’s probably an inventory somewhere. I pick up a metal sphere with capacitors attached. What the fuck is this? I shake it. Feels hollow. It occurs to me that I may be shaking a micro-nuke. I set it down. I look at the bins. Several of them are piled high with metal spheres.
I look at the red machine. It’s a 3D printer too. It also has a microscope instead of a print bed. I look in, and see another little table with a gold machine on it. I look over at the big dial on the edge of the table.
Fifteen clicks down to the nano lab. Alright. Let’s see what’s down there.
I quickly flick through 14 different labs. It’s pretty fucking trippy. As I go down everything gets bigger, brighter, and rougher. Also, gravity gets less relevant. When I get to the nano lab, I’m floating in a sea of technicolor, 8-bit, skyscrapers. One of them soars towards me with Star Destroyer menace. I don’t have patience with it’s nonsense, and bat it out of the way. It spins off, vibrating under a barrage of photons, radiating spirals of ink black shadows and fractal rainbows.
I light a joint. This would be a cool place to have a party.
I feel like I’m close to my goal, but I’m at the end of the dial, and this stuff is still way bigger than the God Machine. I need to be one more click down, minimum. There must be another lab, but I have no idea how to get to there. I look over at Lair. He knows. I have no urge to ask him.
I call on Lawbot, and he joins me. I show him around. Explain my problem. Ask his opinion.
“How did you know Lair wouldn’t laser you for letting me in here? For showing me this?” He waves at everything. “Seems to violate his secrecy protocol.”
Wow. Hadn’t even thought of that.
“Jesus Fucking Christ, Candy.” He says. “As your lawyer, I advise you to shut the fuck up around verbally triggered laser death traps.”
“I think we’re good to talk amongst ourselves.” I nod at Lair. “Just don’t ask him anything.”
We bounce around the various labs, looking at parts and designs, trying to figure out what Doc was building here. It’s frustrating. Doc-Danger was not great at documentation. I don’t think he was planning to publish his work.
“I don’t know what most of this crap is, but this is a super bullet.” says Lawbot. He’s got designs from a bunch of different labs open on the hypno-clone. He starts jigsawing them together. It makes a hollow, microscopic, nuclear propelled, bullet.
“See, there’s a little nuke at the back for propulsion. And a hollow cavity for a bigger nuke. You shoot the whole thing out of a sniper rifle. Once it’s a mile or two away, the little nuke goes off, propelling it to intercontinental ballistic speeds. 15 minutes later, it destroys a city block on the other side of the world.” Lawbot shakes his head. “This guy made a lot of crazy fucking weapons.”
“No. He made a lot of crazy awesome tools. They’re just so versatile, they can also be used as crazy fucking weapons.” I point at the design. “That’s not a super bullet, it’s a mini-rocket. The hollow cavity isn’t for a nuclear payload, it’s for our missing nano lab. We know the God Machine only works in the vacuum of space. He didn't build it here, then launch it to space. It was too delicate. He launched the entire lab into space, and built it up there.”
I shake my head. “There’s a math problem called the ‘Tyranny of the Rocket Equation’. Basically, it takes 600 pounds of rocket fuel to get 1 pound of cargo to space. It’s the reason we have next to nothing in space. This was Doc-Danger’s solution. Nuclear fuel. Microscopic payload. Exterior fueled pre-launch - the sniper rifle. And, space based fabrication. I’d have to run some numbers to be sure, but I’m guessing this setup could launch thousands of pounds of payload for every pound of fuel.”
“So, what’s our next step?” asks Lawbot.
“Well, we know where the lab is now, I guess we ask Lair for access to it.” I say.
“I can’t do that.” says Lair.
I freeze. Then I flop to the floor. Then I roll under the table. Then I shake uncontrollably.
Lair lowers himself down. Shimmies under the table with me. “I’ve lost contact with the space lab. The lab’s very delicate, and it’s radiation shield is, by necessity, too thin. We had to send up repair drones regularly.” He laughs. “There are so many fixes bolted on to the thing, you can almost see it now. Anyway, I haven’t sent up a repair drone since the last build finished, so that’s probably what it needs to re-establish contact.”
He looks at me. I keep shaking. He shrugs. Shimmies out.
5 minutes later I crawl out. Lawbot is still standing by the table. He looks sick. He nods towards the door. We walk out into the sunlight.
“Well, that was fucking terrifying.” I say. I am soaked in sweat. Still shaking.
“Jesus Christ!” says Lawbot. “I shit my pants, and I don’t even have pants.”
“New plan. Let’s not talk in there at all.” I say.
“Good idea. Wish I thought of it.”
I look across the clearing. Guy has set up another tent. He’s beaming, and gesturing that it’s for me. What a beautiful fucking optimist. I thank him and crash.