Gerald stood on a hill, overlooking the valley that he had lived in for thirty years, and watched the nano-assemblers demolish his village. In its place they built a four hundred story tower block. The chrome, glass and concrete sea advanced in slow ripples through the green countryside. Wanda stood beside Gerald, holding his hand, tears dripped slowly from her cheeks.
“We’ll find somewhere else,” said Gerald in a smooth, calm voice.
Wanda just sobbed and buried her head in his chest.
It had taken Gerald several days of analysis to realise that there was nowhere safe.
“Isn’t there some protocol that we can construct to tie the builders up in legislation?” said Gerald into his laptop. The face on his screen replied.
“The building acts law was defective, the negation of the Green Belt allows the vectors of the nano-builders a carte blanche to carpet the country in an urban sprawl. The law was buggy and now it’s too late.”
“What’s the feeling down there?” said Gerald.
“Resignation. Covered by a blustering propaganda of new century advancement, a bold new future, progress, and so on and so on.”
Gerald sighed, “So we have to run and hide.”
Gerald and Wanda stood on the beach and watched the towers rise across the water.
“I can’t believe we’re watching this again,” said Wanda. Her voice was empty and hollow.
“This island is safe,” said Gerald.
The water before them began to solidify, crystallise and finally grow.
“Gerald?” said Wanda.
“No,” said Gerald in dismay. “They’re building up from the seabed.”
“I think that we better get ready for urban living,” said Wanda, and this time it was Gerald’s turn to cry.
They sat in the ark that had been built on the roof of their tower block, the lowest within a hundred miles. The ark was a mish-mash of aeronautical parts, ship hulls, antique extruded fittings, anything that they could scavenge. Anything that wasn’t assembled by the nano-builders.
The countdown reached its climax and the video stream of the ice caps blew out in a blinding blaze of light. Gerald and Wanda held hands as the tsunami hit and hoped that the water could wash away the city and provide a better life.
The ships of all sizes clustered together in a huddle, riding the ever increasing swell. The last sea. Gerald and Wanda felt nothing but sad resignation as they watched the towers appear on the horizon and edge closer.
“They’ll never stop,” said Gerald.
“No,” said Wanda.
“Then perhaps it’s time to stop running and fight?”
Wanda raised her eyebrows. “Do you have a plan?”
“Yes,” said Gerald.
The clan sat on a small grassy hill, surrounded by so much green that the dull beige walls of the hall could not be seen. Trees, shrubs, flowers, grass, plants in every direction. The standard light arrays had been replaced with pure-sun emitters, and they cast a warm, golden glow.
“How long will it take?” said Gerald.
A young male smiled at Gerald and shrugged. “It depends on how much quality we require. At the moment they’re alpha, so there may be bugs.”
“What do you recommend?” said Gerald.
“I’d be happier with another week or two of testing.”
“It will take that long to organise the simultaneous dispatch,” said Wanda.
Gerald nodded. “True. Anyone object?” No one in the circle spoke. “Very well then,” said Gerald, “the plan is to release in two weeks.”
“Three. Two. One. Go,” said Gerald.
Wanda threw a vial over the side of the tower to a cheer from the collected people.
“Report,” said Gerald.
“Quadrant alpha two has been apprehended by government security,” said a voice through Gerald’s earpiece. “All other quadrants released okay.”
“Look,” said Wanda as she peered over the edge of the building.
Gerald followed her gaze and watched a small blur of green fuzz begin to grow on the street beneath. The green touched the building opposite and slowly it began to melt.
“Time to get down,” said Gerald with a grin.
The government agents strolled towards Gerald and Wanda in a wedge of black coats, black shades and suspicious bulges. Wanda held Gerald’s hand tighter. He smiled a quick, difficult smile and wiggled his naked toes on the grass beneath his feet. The lead agent stopped an arm’s length away and removed his sunglasses.
“You need to call off your bots.”
“Impossible,” said Gerald.
“This is not a request, it’s an order.”
Gerald laughed. “Firstly I don’t accept your authority. I am not a citizen of your government. Secondly, I can’t stop them, just like you can’t stop yours.”
“Then we’ll have to take you with us,” said the agent.
“We’ve captured your developer,” said the agent. He sat opposite Gerald in a grey featureless cell. “We’ll have your green plague under control shortly.”
“To be replaced with another forest of towers?”
“City living is the future,” said the agent.
“Along with your services and your transport and your shops and your control?”
“For the good of society.”
“There will be other developers now,” said Gerald. “Other variants. You can’t stop an idea.”
The agent shook his head, stood up and walked out of the room’s single doorway.
Gerald woke to syrupy rays of sunshine and the walls of his cell dissolving into pretty blue forget-me-nots. Through the wall of flowers strode his wife, Wanda. They embraced. They kissed. A line of snowdrops swirled into the midst of the forget-me-nots and spelled out a word with their white petals. It said ‘free’.
James Bloomer has a PhD in particle physics (he worked at CERN) and has probably forgotten more physics than most people ever learn. He has been running the SF blog Big Dumb Object for 242 internet years and writing Science Fiction for a decade in the real world.