Sebastian picked up a single finger sheered at the knuckle. He gingerly held the digit, storing its smooth, young paleness in his memory before dropping it in the orange bio-waste bag fastened to his belt. Jakarta, Cape Town, Yangon, Chengdu, Lima, Montreal, Oakland. He’d seen the same devastation. The new supernormal.
He’d predicted it. Them.
His algorithms ferreted them out. His devices tracked and measured them. His ingenuity mitigated untold loss of life, but Mother Nature still gave him the finger—the one in the orange bag at his side.
Sebastian knew he couldn’t win against this new breed of tempest he called metastorms, though the media dubbed them “hell cells.” It was unfair to blame Mother Nature. These intense localized storms weren’t Her spawn entirely. And, they weren’t solely attributable to climate change from greenhouse gasses. It had taken some time for Sebastian to hunt down the real enemy, the deadly actor at the heart of metastorms: moma.
In recent years, nanomechanics had produced an ever-wider variety of moma, molecular machines. Moma unclogged arteries, fought agricultural pests and disease, purified salt water. They did a lot of good, saved a lot of lives, fed and hydrated great masses of humanity. Most of these invisible machines were created from quantum carbon tubes. Smart carbon. Highly engineered, specialized, directed and short-lived. At least that had been the understanding.
Once fulfilling a prescribed function, moma were designed to dissimilate, break down in earth’s ambient atmospheric and geologic radiation. Planned obsolescence. For the most part, moma did disband as planned. Googolplex upon googolplex of them disassembled as designed.
Yet, in scores of moma, the underlying microcronics were more resilient than anticipated, more opportunistic than was comprehensible. High in the stratosphere, moma’s constituent parts had formed a witch’s brew of carbonites, spawning hypercyclonic winds almost impossible to predict: hell cells.
Impossible to predict or mitigate until Sebastian had been able to virtually model the metastorms from initiation to disintegration. Out in the field, he collected data. Severed digits—like the finger in his orange bio-waste bag—were vital data points. They were also a reminder of what was at stake. Survival.
And that’s what spurred his breakthrough. The moma were more than a metastorm catalyst, they were recombinant life. The intense heat and friction within hypercyclonic winds generated a primordial soup, an uncontrolled Miller-Urey experiment engendering new and unpredictable primeval life.
Moma from another Mother.
Maybe not Nature, but natural from a Frankensteinian sense. And that’s how Sebastian came to characterize moma. One had to confront the monster, engage it. Try to turn it. One could not defeat a burgeoning plague by reasoning with it. One had to isolate, imprison it. One could not match the ferocity of a hell cell to quell it. One had to drain its motive force, starve it.
To do this, Sebastian reasoned, he’d have to change human behavior on a global scale, the greatest of all challenges. Otherwise, metastorm cataclysms would sap the world’s resources and humanity’s collective will and cascade into a global collapse.
Hell cells were shoving humankind to the brink. Orange bio-waste bag at his side, Sebastian finally determined how to shove back.
No one held news conferences in Times Square, but Sebastian persuaded major media outlets to cover it. A recent hell cell in Buffalo which claimed 370 lives, many of them children within a flattened elementary school, boosted the profile of the news conference because Sebastian was claiming a breakthrough in battling metastorms.
The news conference began innocuously enough under beautiful blue skies. Sebastian started with comprehensive statistics on the amount of damage, injury and loss of life in the past year attributable to metastorms. Staggering numbers. Sebastian paused. Overhead the thwacking concussion of approaching helicopters could be sensed. Into the assembled microphones, his measured voice deepened.
“Metastorms are a result of us. Not intentionally, but we created this recombinant moma, this new life, this unpredictably hungry force of nature. We are this storm god. And we can control it. Must control it. But not by technological means. Not through intellectual means. This storm can only be broken by our resolve. Our willingness to own up to our mistake. The sacrifice that this solution requires, the complete cessation of all production of moma, has to hit at your heart. You must feel it.”
Overhead, attendees and spectators of the news conference could now see over a dozen helicopters coursing above New York’s urban canyons.
Sebastian repeated, “You must feel it. You must feel the storm.”
The helicopters descended to a hundred feet above the news conference. The thumping props whipped and frenzied the air threateningly. A sense of panic gripped the spectators. And then body parts began falling.
A horrifying downpour whorled around the assembled crowd. Hands, feet, arms, legs, toes, fingers, heads. Unimaginable carnage.
Which bounced off the stunned crowds’ heads and shoulders. The falling body parts were not real. They were foam replicas, airy doppelgangers of human remains such as those Sebastian had collected over the years of his research.
The crowd screamed, groaned, shouted, prayed. Some bolted. Some froze. A few understood.
Like Sebastian, they foresaw that the decision to change their entire way of life could only be made at the most visceral level. The only way to fight these man-made storms was to create a man-made storm of emotion for change, for sacrifice.
This was the start. For Sebastian it was the madness, the maddening, that could out-rage any storm in the once-blue skies.