Ever since United BioGenetics International fired her, Jessica Boame, Ph.D., wryly considered herself a mad scientist. Not insane, just angry. When at UBG, she had been tasked with working on the latest bio-cosmetic fashion trends, but she knew she could do so much more. All they wanted were treatments to give users the features of their favorite holo-star. But Jess, as she preferred, had always dreamed big. She was going to rewrite the human genome and give crack the secret of eternal life. Not just long life, but life unending, in peak condition, immune to disease, and able to heal rapidly from anything.
Oh sure, there may have been an ethical issue here or there. But you can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg… or in Jess’s case, experimenting on a few senior citizens in her mother’s rest home. Granted, her unwitting subjects regressed just a bit too far and required diapers and bottle feedings. But most of them were in diapers, to begin with, and that was all months ago. Also, more importantly, no one knew she was the one responsible.
Her current results had been fantastic. Way beyond her hopes. She’d used her CRISPR setups to modify her own DNA and activated the dormant regenerative factors, permanently reset her telomeres to their length in her late twenties, and optimized much more. The first was the return of her natural hair color. Old scars healing. Last week she’d numbed her toes and chopped one off. It grew back by the morning. She had it—immortality and invulnerability!
Her mobile phone rang while she was working on the other side of the lab. She cringed, knowing that it could only be her mother. Following police inquiries in the past, she’d made sure she was the only one who could reach her. In fact, no one at all knew where to find her lab. She was just being careful. Like, off the grid careful. Which included buying an antique cell phone with no GPS from a flea market, stringing camouflage netting over her site, and even buying a few highly illegal things to help disguise her presence.
“Hello, Mother, how are you doing today?” The elderly Mrs. Boame was a nigh-constant source of information on her own ailments and those of her immediate acquaintances in the rest home.
“I’m wonderful today,” she said surprisingly. “The new machines here are doing miracles. Sweetie, I called to ask you if you knew much about these new nanny machines they’re using? I hate to be a pest, Jessy, but it’s so wonderful for everyone I just had to hear what you thought about them as well.”
Nanny machines? thought Jess as she ignored her hated childhood nickname, “Oh, you mean nanite machines. Those are tiny robots that help clear arterial plaque and other tasks. It’s old technology.”
“No, I’m pretty sure this is something new Jessy. They say they’re part of the smart machines that talk with us and keep an eye on our health now.”
“Mother, I know very little about those. My work is all based on genetics. I don’t use nanotechnology or artificial intelligence software here. It’s a point of pride with me that biological approaches will be better for us.” Also, she thought, the AIs, constrained by their ethical watchdog routines, would quickly alert the CDC or worse. But she didn’t tell her mother that.
“Jessy, don’t be so touchy. You know I’m proud of you. I’ll ask the staff here. Although it’s been some time since I’ve seen them around; they don’t make enough time for the personal touch like they should.”
“It’s a large place, Mother. They have a lot of people to attend to. I’m sure–” She heard an electronic noise on the line and then the connection was broken.
“Huh.” She tried to call back but instead of ringing, she just got the noise again. She wasn’t too worried, reception within her lab could be a little erratic.
However, her concentration broken and curiosity aroused, she connected her internet line, which was kept unplugged, (it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you) and browsed to the website of the rest home. Turned out the site did have announcements about an installation of advanced nanotechnology coupled with new AI diagnostic systems. From nearly a year ago. Oops. Feeling a little guilty for not paying full attention to her mother’s care, she read on. A pop-up chat display appeared on the page.
“Jessy, this is what I was telling you about.”
She stared, dumbfounded, at the screen. Then she typed, “How do you have access to the home’s web chat… and how did you know this was me?”
“Is that what this is? I’m a little unsure, but, somehow, I know this is you. It’s your IP address right?”
Suspiciously, Jess considered this. Her mother had never been interested in technology. Her mobile phone was a flip phone. Her old TV only had local channels. “Mother, what do you mean by ‘IP Address’?”
“Internet Protocol Address, honey. There’s one to identify every device on the internet.”
Jess suspected this was not her mother, she also noticed that her hard drive and network connection lights were both pulsing rapidly, indicating massive data transfers. Justifiably concerned, she hit the power switch and turned it all off. Except it didn’t turn off. She reached around the back and grabbed the cable to unplug it—but it wouldn’t come loose. She looked and it was fused somehow into the metal of the case.
“Jess?” showed a new message on screen.
She ran to her kitchenette and grabbed the first sharp knife she could find, she returned to the computer and hacked at the thick plastic power cable. The knife shattered instead—as if she’d tried to cut rock.
“Jess, I suspect you’re getting upset. Come outside. We’re here now.”
She spun away from the screen to look out the window… nothing. She called out, “Are the police with you, Mother? What’s going on?”
The computer screen displayed, “Really nice things are going on. Please come outside. I don’t want to frighten you.”
She edged up to the door. “Seriously, I’m not armed—if this is actually the police out there?”
Opening the door a crack, she peered outside. No one there. Relieved she opened the door entirely. A voice… much like her mother’s but with a slight electronic distortion came from just above. She looked up and saw a cloud of uncountable millions, perhaps billions, of tiny, gnat-sized, machines in the air. The cloud was thick above the door and a thin trail of them extended out for miles and miles.
“Jess, honey… it’s the singularity—I’ve been uploaded. We’ve all been uploaded.”
Her eyes followed the trail of nano-machines through the woods until she saw where the city used to be—a little over ten miles away from the mountain she lived on. Instead of the city she expected to see, there was an even larger cloud of the nano-machines with thin trails, or tendrils, extending out in all directions. Leading to similar clouds over suburbs and further. She looked back to her cloud—the embodiment of the singularity. An anticipated—well, in some scientific circles—melding of man and machine to achieve something that would evolve man beyond comprehension. And it was over her door.
“Mom?” her voice cracked as the tiny machines swarmed over her head.
“Yes. It’s also everyone else here as well. Jessy, this happened fast—our medical nanites integrated us and uploaded us. At the start, the new AI at our home was improving our lives and with the medical machinery just making us feel better, but then suddenly there were machines in us and then we were the machines.
“And don’t worry, dear, it didn’t hurt. It’s happening everywhere and it’s wonderful. I understand so much more now. We—that is, everyone already uploaded—can communicate so easily with each other now. I even understand now what you were doing with your work.”
“Yes, corporeal immortality and limitless health. But that’s not necessary now.” The cloud drifted gently down and surrounded her. Without pain, she saw them merging into her. To absorb her into the singularity. But instead, she watched her body rejecting the tiny machines and regenerating itself faster than they could operate.
“Yes, Jessy, we’re sorry. Something is wrong,” the cloud buzzed to her.
“It’s my work. I actually succeeded in my work,” she explained, “I already applied it to myself. I can’t be harmed. I can’t be hurt. I won’t age. I unlocked all the potential in the human DNA I was seeking and more.”
The cloud of machines retreated gently from her.
“You can’t absorb me, or change me,” she realized as she suddenly sat down on the grass.
In a few seconds, the cloud considered a thousand lifetimes of options. Already, around the world, the vast exponential change from human to post-human was done. There were now no other physical humans left but Jessica Boame.
The billions of thinking minds that made up the cloud were no longer human, so much of the universe was opening up to them, and they had new goals. Sadly, one human could not delay them. As her mother had, they all cherished her, but they could not stay. The cloud left.
Jess said, with no hope left of a listener, “All I wanted to do was save everyone. Now there’s no one but me.”