Nano-Plasm Chapter 21


Chapter 21

“We found something in Stewart’s PC”, Pendleton said. “It took a long time to find because in fact it wasn’t encrypted; the cryptographic guys had been all over every file, searching for patterns. They finally got around to looking at the unused, extra space in each file; Stewart had stored an equation in one of those files about how a positive feedback situation could run out of control.”

Gillian blinked. “So Stewart was thinking about feedback. Our UFC forensics people found a picture on Stewart’s laptop in Nepal of video feedback. Let me quickly email our forensics guy and tell him to search for more possible hidden data in those pictures or elsewhere on the laptop or in Stewart’s digital camera. Rosenberg told me he had already done a Steganography scan, but he probably didn’t think to look for additional data in the unused parts of the files.”

Gillian went over to the desk and fired off an email to Phil Rosenberg, the forensics expert:


From: Gillian@pr.net

To:  pr@ufc.net

Subject: Re: Stewart’s Camera


PMTC Security has found feedback equations in the unused file space on Stewart’s PC. Please check for a similar trick in the files on Stewart’s camera or laptop.

-- Gillian


Pendleton talked to Gillian while she typed. “I’ve asked one of Smythe’s apprentices to set up a little experiment for us in one of the product rooms. We’ve done a test that shows what happens when two feedback systems start to interact. We can reproduce the buzzing sound now. It’s not much, but it’s a start.”

Gillian finished typing and then replied, “That’s terrific actually. A reproducible test case for the buzzing sound was what Smythe was working on.  I hope you guys have been careful – we don’t want another fatality from all this.”

Pendleton replied, “We’ve been careful. But it isn’t that big a deal – it just makes a small buzzing sound. Still, as you’ve said before, you never know where something like this might lead.”

Pendleton and Gillian left her room and headed to the central hub. They turned down the purple hall to the product demonstration rooms.

Pendleton stopped off in Room A and picked up the fancy extruding mirror. First he slipped his hand between the wall and the mirror and turned it off – there was no point in having it extrude all over the place while they walked. Then he lifted it off the wall and they proceeded together down to Room E, which contained the more industrial nano-tech equipment.

They entered the room. There was no one else there.

“Langsford was supposed to meet us here. Well, like I said, it’s not really that big of a deal. I can demo it pretty easily.”

Gillian frowned. She wasn’t familiar enough with nano-tech to feel very comfortable with this kind of fooling around. Still, Pendleton had been around nano-tech for years and he seemed comfortable enough. She watched him approach the duplicating machine.

Pendleton turned on the scanning machine and the replicating machine and then pushed them a little closer together. “This is perfectly safe, but, as always, keep a few steps back just in case,” he said. Then he turned on the two machines.

He stepped back a bit, and then turned on the mirror. He waved his hand in front of the mirror and verified it was mimicking his movements. Then he slowly approached the duplicating machine.

“Check this out. The interactions here are more complicated because there are two interacting systems. I’m going to bring the mirror close to the scanning machine – but notice the mirror itself will be trying to make a shape like the scanning machine. We don’t normally put a nano-tech machine into one of these copiers. Normally it would just be a static shape. Putting the mirror in is going to drive the circuitry a bit bonkers and you’ll hear the buzzing sound as the two machines interact. The construction machine, which takes the data from the scanning machine, is also going to get confused, because the mirror will be moving around as the scanning machine scans it and the two interact.”

Pendleton slowly approached the scanning machine. He pointed the mirror at the scanning machine and the mirror extruded to make a shape somewhat like the shape of the scanner. Then he slid it into the scanner, mirror side up, and the mirror extruded upward. A swarm of nano-machines came out of the scanner and started to move across the mirror. This in turn caused the mirror to start to undulate as it responded to the motion of the other nano-machines. A slight buzzing sound could be heard.

Pendleton continued, “The replicating machine gets really confused now. Normally we store the scan and then turn on the replicator, but to save some time, I’ll just let the two things run in parallel. This should be pretty funny looking.”

So far Gillian didn’t see anything funny about it at all, but engineers had strange ideas about what constituted “funny.”

Pendleton pressed a red button on the replicator. A swarm of nano-machines came in from the sides and tried to make a shape like the mirror – but the mirror was undulating – vibrating really – and the nano-machines didn’t really have any solid data to lock onto and replicate. So the nano-machines in the replicator started vibrating too. And the buzzing sound increased.

“Check this out. The machines really hate this.” Pendleton stuck his hand in the scanning machine between the mirror and some of the electronics. The mirror tried to make a shape like his hand but with all of the other nano-machines swarming over it the result was fairly distorted.

“Anyway, that’s the demonstration. As you can see, we now have a reproducible test case for the buzzing sound, so some of our better engineers can start analyzing this and fooling with some formulas and system analysis on how the machines interact. This doesn’t really explain what happened to Smythe, though, because he didn’t have two kinds of machines interacting. He just had one kind of machine. I think someone reprogrammed them somehow, even though, as I said, the whole thing is impossible, except it happened. Because as you can see this is fairly benign.”

Pendleton reached into the scanner to take out the mirror. As he picked up the mirror, the swarm of nano-machines started to move from the mirror and to cover his arm.

“Hey, I’m being scanned,” he said.

With his free hand he reached up to turn off the scanner. He flipped the switch and most of the nano-machines stopped moving. But the ones on his hand kept crawling around.

“Hmm,” he said.

He used his free hand again to turn off the replicating machine. The particles continued to swarm on his arm, even though the machine had been turned off.

“Weird”, he said.

Suddenly Pendleton frowned. “Ouch”, he said. He dropped the mirror, which clattered to the floor.

Pendleton screamed. “Fuck this!” He was staring at his arm. There was an increase in the buzzing sound.

Gillian had no idea what to do. The machines were doing something to Pendleton’s arm and whatever it was it wasn’t good. Gillian looked around the lab. She saw an emergency button and ran over and hit it. An alarm sounded and a light in the hallway started flashing.

“Pendleton… what should I do?”

But Pendleton wasn’t listening. He had dropped to the floor and his face was contorted in agony. Gillian bit her lip to make sure she wasn’t dreaming again. She wasn’t.

As she watched, the nano-machines started to leave Pendleton’s arm. Gillian looked in horror to see that the entire top level of skin on Pendleton’s arm had been stripped away. The nano-machines swarmed onto the floor and then seemed to melt into the ground. There was only one thing left behind: a copy of Pendleton’s skin, reconstructed as if a taxidermist had somehow surgically removed it.

Gillian doubled over and threw up.

Two engineers ran into the room and saw Pendleton. One spoke into a phone and ordered emergency medical care.

Pendleton continued to scream.

All three of them stared. They had no idea what to do.

It seemed like hours but just a few minutes later a paramedic entered the room and shot some morphine into Pendleton.

“What the fuck…” the paramedic said as he looked around. But then he composed himself, and said, “I’ll treat this like a burn.” He placed a cast-like wrapping on Pendleton’s arm to immobilize it. He placed a mitten-like wrapping on Pendleton’s hand. The morphine affected Pendleton quickly and he stopped screaming.

Pendleton looked at Gillian. “This is not my idea of positive feedback,” he whispered, and then passed out.

(C) Copyright 2013 Stephen Clarke-Willson




Compliments (by Garrison Keillor)

#34.  For fear of what it might do to me, you never paid a compliment, when other people did, you beat it away from me with a stick.  

"He certainly is looking nice and grown up."  He'd look a lot nicer if he did something about his skin. 

"That's wonderful that he got that job."  Yeah, well, we'll see how long it lasts.

You trained me so well, I know perform this service for myself.  I deflect every kind word directed to me, and my denials are much more extravagent than the praise.  

"Good speech."  Oh it was way too long, I didn't know what I was talking about, I was just blathering on and on, I was glad when it was over. 

I do this under the impression that it is humility, a becoming quality in a person.  Actually, I am starved for a good word, but after the long drought of my youth, no word is quite good enough.  "Good" isn't enough.  Under this thin veneer of modesty lies a monster of greed.  I drive away faint praise, beating my little chest, waiting to be named Sun-God, King of America, Idol of Millions, Bringer of Fire, The Great Haji, Thun-Dar the Boy Giant.  I don't want to say, "Thanks, glad you liked it."  I want to say, "Rise, my people. Remove your faces from the carpet, stand, look me in the face."  

- Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days

(Some formatting changes for readability.)


Adrenium / Elemental Engine Title List

At Adrenium Games (RIP), we developed the entire Azurik game from soup to nuts in 20 months.  That means starting with empty offices, buying computers, hiring 30 people, and delivering a gold master that went through certification the first time on hardware that had only recently been finalized.

The engine was extended over the years and used in all these titles:


  • Azurik
  • Samurai Jack
  • Lemony Snicket
  • Digimon Rumble Arena 2
  • Sims2 PSP
  • Pirates PSP
  • Eragon PSP
  • Lord of the Rings Tactics PSP
    Over the Hedge: Hammy Goes Nuts PSP
  • Indiana Jones PSP
  • Spiderman Web of Shadows PS2/Wii
  • Princess and the Frog Wii
  • Assassins Creed PSP
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine Wii
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine PSP (not the same game as Wii)
  • Shrek the 3rd PSP
  • Where the Wild Things Are X360/PS3/Wii
  • Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Inifnity Gauntlet X360/PS3/Wii
  • Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat X360/PS3/Wii (uDraw tablet)
  • Atari: Warlords XBLA, PSN
  • Smash Baseball
  • Interstellar P.I.G.
  • Mary Kate and Ashley (Fizz Factor)
  • Ninja Warriors