In the end, we did do some trading at the bad bar outpost. There wasn’t anything we wanted there but it seemed like a bad idea to leave without doing some business. Martialla did shoot a guy four times in the head, common courtesy demands the least we could do was “buy” something. All we accomplished was swapping different kinds of not very good food, but items changed hands which seemed like the minimum level of interaction required to not run into real trouble. You know, more trouble than needing to shoot a guy in the head.
At least that’s what I thought at the time. Martialla had sorted through the bullet sack and taken all the ammo for our single firearm and some others she thought might work for weapons we had seen that might be available, but that still left us with a couple fistfuls of assorted bullets. We traded those fistfuls for a thing that looked like an ear piecing gun mixed with a bedazzler, not because we wanted it, just to be amiable. Martialla was trying to cook a big leathery bird that had landed on my bike earlier and started trying to eat the tire, which we had bludgeoned to death. “Ela, isn’t a leathery bird a pterodactyl?” No, I’m not an idiot, I know what a pterodactyl looks like. I spent six weeks in the rain in Colombia with a malfunctioning animatronic pterodactyl for movie that ended up never being finished. While she was doing that, I was fiddling with the thing trying to figure out where the rhinestones came out.
Eventually I gave up and tossed it in a satchel with the other seemingly useless trade item we got recently – the silver canister. There was a “whoosh” noise and the satchel shifted a little bit. Even though I expected a giant bug to leap at me, I looked inside anyway. I saw that some previously invisible symbols were glowing on the side of the canister and a seam had appeared towards the top, making it look a little like a big ass bullet. Or a small artillery shell. Same thing? Before Martialla could carp at me to be careful, I pulled it out. When the canister moved away from the bedazzler, the seam and the lights disappeared. When I put them next to each other again, they came back.
Martialla looked over at me “Hey, be care . . .”
That’s as far as she got when I touched one of the symbols and the top of the canister opened up like a flower, you know, like a weird flower that looks like a metal thermos. Each “petal” had a clear hard plastic (or something like it) test tube type reservoir about the size of my finger. They were all empty and in the main body of the thing there was a sealed package of some kind that looked to be filled with a silvery liquid. Martialla gave up on her bird and walked over as I was examining it.
I looked up at her “Huh, what do you suppose this thing is?”
Martialla squinted down “Well what you have in your hand is probably a nanoinjector and this thing is where the nanorobots are stored in a solution.”
I shook my head, closed my eyes, punched my nose, and sighed heavily before opening them again “Martialla, you’re my oldest and most loyal friend but you’ve managed to earn my contempt once again. You . . .”
She shut me up by pointing at a tiny little label on the inside of the thermos-flower which read “MedíCarro Industrial Grade Nanopaste”. I cleared my throat uncomfortably.
“Well . . . that could mean any number of things really . . . nano just means small right? So maybe it just means small paste right? Like it’s glue or something. That makes . . .”
She shut me up again by pointing at my arm, which had very thin but very noticeable lines running under the skin that were glowing with a blue light that matched up with that on the side of the canister. While I was thinking of a cutting retort, Martialla bent low and put her arm next to the canister and similar lines appeared on her as well. After smirking at me for a moment, she went back to burning the hideous bird creature she expects me to eat.
“God damn it. I hate when you’re right. So we have robots inside us? How is that possible? Isn’t that a quantum leap forward in . . . you know, whatever, medicine or robotics or . . . if robots are repairing us from the inside doesn’t that . . . mean something?”
She shrugged “Maybe the Cryogenics West people were going to go public later that day with their revolutionary new technology. Who knows? Maybe they weren’t approved for humans yet and they were doing it on the downlow. Maybe they were making it for the government off the books. Maybe a million other things. That’s the inconvenient truth about the world blowing up, history gets a little fuzzy.”
I stared at my glowing arm for a moment “I don’t like the idea of a robot inside me.”
Martialla winked outrageously “Not according to the footage I saw.”
“Allowances will be made for smooth talking androids played by Jimmy Smits. You know, Eve of Destruction Three could have been a pretty good movie if we had another five million dollars in the budget for effects and some reshoots.”
Martialla was waving ineffectually at a plume of green smoke coming off the bird she was trying to cook “Or you could have taken that five million and put, what, maybe two hundred kids through college?”
I gestured at the land around us “Those kids are all dead now so I feel like we made the right choice. So what? We can use this thing to inject more nanorobots into us? What would that do? Would it make me not feel like shit all the time? That would be nice for me.”
“I have no idea Ela, why would I? Maybe the nanobots would fight each other and destroy all your organs in the process. Maybe they would be completely useless. Maybe they’d build you another pair of functional arms. It all depends on how they’re programmed.”
I examined the tube/bullet/thermos “You’d think they’d put instructions on these things. Do you think I should inject some into myself and see what happens?
Martialla feigned thinking about it for a moment “Inject yourself with something we know nothing about? That sounds like the worst idea I have ever heard. Possibly the worst idea anyone has ever had. Ever, in the history of the world.”
“What about Speed Two Cruise Control?”
She looked at me with fake gravitas “Yes, Ela, even worse than Speed Two Cruise Control.”