It began, as so many catastrophes do, with a grand idea. They promised to change the world. They promised eternal life.
Billy knew there was no escape, only delay of the inevitable. His entire lab, hundreds of employees and scientists and engineers, were dead. For all he knew he was the last human on earth. Or for that matter in the solar system. The machines had attacked the colonies as well. Once they got into the life support systems on the colonies, nobody would have survived.
As soon as people started to die, Billy had gathered everything he could and went to the lab. The lab where he had overseen the creation of… what had he created, exactly? He pondered the question while taking another pint of Ben and Jerry’s out of the lab freezer. Should it be called the apocalypse? Extinction? The end of the world?
“It’s not the end of the world.” His voice echoed in the empty lab. Two weeks ago this was the sterile room. It had become his living room.
“Extinction level event. That’s what it is. And I did it.” He shook his head as he scooped another mouthful of ice cream into his mouth. “I was saving the world. Free medical care for every person, hell, every CREATURE on earth.”
He still had some of them. Every day he would look at them, try to figure out how to stop the machines that were systematically killing everything. Every living creature was their prey. He had only been trying to help. The sad thing is they were doing what he had told them to do. It was bad programming. Garbage in, garbage out.
He peered into the microscope. There they were, hundreds of them. Tiny little robots, all developed and constructed according to his specifications. Each component made of a small cluster of molecules. Thousands could rest at the same time on a single human hair follicle. Nanoids, they had been called.
Before the extinction event they became known as “the scourge.”
The whole idea was to create swarms of them that could enter the human body. They could detect and remove cancers, toxins, even viruses. They were hailed as the biggest medical advance of the 22d century. He had won the Nobel Prize in medicine as well as the Nobel Peace Prize, along with every other prestigious award that one could name. They were released in poor countries, in wealthy countries, and they swept most of the world’s diseases away without anyone even having to go to a hospital. They even worked on animals. Heck, a robot the size of a large molecule doesn’t know the difference between a parrot and an elephant. It just detects diseased tissue and removes it.
Perfect health eventually wasn’t enough.
We wanted to live forever. Billy Cundiff improved his nanoids. Fixed something that wasn’t broken. He made them so they would repair damaged tissue, not just remove it. That was the idea, anyway. To repair tissues so as to slow aging, maybe even stop it altogether.
The nanoids did a great job. Under controlled conditions they improved health and vigor to such a degree that Billy Cundiff became the richest man in the solar system. He got paid handsomely to keep the wealthy young.
The cries of injustice from the poor rose. After a decade of keeping the wealthy young while the poor aged Billy couldn’t stand it anymore. He released billions of nanoids. Then trillions. Then trillion-trillions. He created them in batches large enough to cover a small country.
They were no longer controlled. Once they got into an organic system, they didn’t leave until everything was fixed. The host was, in effect, repaired to death. Once the system died, the nanoids left to find a new host and begin their work anew.
Billy had unleashed justice and equality upon the solar system. Everyone, rich and poor, two-legged and four, met an equal end. “Fatal perfection,” he said aloud.
For the thousandth time he hooked himself up to the security system and scanned the surrounding area. He was looking for a bird, a dog, anything.
The only movement was the wind blowing through the unmown grass.
The weight of causing the largest extinction event the earth had ever seen was more than he could bear. He walked through the airlocks on his lab to the exit and stood under the warm sun. He took a deep breath, shook his head, and decided it was time to find a soft bed. He was prepared to live it up, alone. In about two weeks, he, too, would be fatally perfect.