Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #232

Alurian watched his sister’s sad smile, the only remnant of the spontaneous laughter. He sat next to her on the broken bit of sidewalk, his robotic legs whirring with the motion. They sat shoulder to shoulder, each looking downward.

I tried to stay out of their way, but I couldn’t go far in the strange bubble of nanobot-manipulated masonry. It took me a moment to realize that, since Henricks had left with the portal generator, it was completely dark inside the sphere. My own nanobots had filled in the gaps with other wavelengths, and they had done it so seamlessly that I hadn’t even noticed. That last detail had me wondering what else they might be doing without my awareness.

“Oh, Dol,” said Alurian, quiet and fragile. “I really thought you’d left me. That I’d be stuck here by myself forever.”

“Never,” said Ms. Moon. “I would never leave you. But I didn’t know how to help you. My every waking moment has been spent looking for a way to set things right.”

He turned his hands over, looking at his robotic palms. “I don’t know if they can be set right… How did we let things get this crazy?”

She sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she said.

He placed his arm around her. “I’m sorry I wouldn’t listen to you. You were right about trying to take down Thorbek. That was crazy. I was just so unhappy there, following orders all the time. We should have just moved on. You tried to tell me that too, didn’t you? Just like you tried to tell me the nanobots were a bad idea. You were always the smart one.”

“Alurian,” she said, her voice tight. “What are we going to do?”

He stared at his free hand, watching the glittering dance of millions of nanobots crawling across his metal fingers.

Then he looked at me. “You’ve got them too,” he said. “Do you know how to get rid of them?”

Now that he wasn’t fighting me, I reached out through the network again, feeling out their reports of Alurian’s condition. My heart sank. The two of them sat there, staring up at me, each desperate for a happy ending. I wish I could have given them one.

“Yes,” I said, “But there’s a problem.”

Alurian nodded, turning his eyes downcast again. “There’s not enough of me left, is there?”

Ms. Moon shook her head, brow furrowed. “But I’ve seen them rebuild bodies!” she insisted, pointing at my arm. “They rebuilt your hand!”

“It’s true,” I agreed. “I could have the nanobots rebuild your body, and it would look like you did before, but… They can’t rebuild your thoughts. Too much of your brain has been damaged. The nanobots picked up the slack for you, but…” I took a breath. Better to just spit it out. “If I just take them out, you’ll die. I could have them rebuild your brain tissue, but I honestly don’t know what will be left of your mind when it’s done.”

Ms. Moon squeezed her eyes shut, dislodging tears, and she pressed her face against his shoulder.

For his part, Alurian stared at his hands for a long moment, and then met my gaze. “Do it,” he said.

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