"The Windsor Project" is a collaboratively written hard science fiction story.
A secret government-funded reverse engineering lab is called upon to study a tiny artifact. At first they cannot figure out what the object is, but eventually they figure out how to load software instructions into the device and it activates, revealing itself to be a sophisticated nanorobotic device. Collaborators can begin by discussing plot details below, or start the story at The Windsor Project/1.
1) Where did the nanorobotic device come from?
- the story is set in present time Earth
2) What are the capabilities of the nanorobotic device? What does it do when it is activated?
- The device is capable of self-replication if provided with the correct components
3) Describe the device so people can imagine it. Size, color, texture...
- the nanorobot is about 100 microns x 200 microns x 200 microns, but irregular in shape.
- to the naked eye, the device resembles a tiny dust particle.
- the device is made of many thousands of nanoscale components and three-dimensional integrated circuits.
Brady was making his way to the office and cursing the traffic. He could remember when this was once a peaceful drive through quiet farms. Now it was a maze of shopping centers and suburban sprawl and a twice-a-day source of irritation during Brady's commute. All Brady wanted was to keep his job for three more years and then retire, but the way funding was declining for the military, it was not a sure thing that his job would last that long.
Brady's phone vibrated and he pulled it out of its holster. The text message said:
Group meeting in the conference room. 9:00 today.
That got Brady's pulse racing. Was his research group the next to fall to the cost-cutting ax? In 27 years he had never seen a group meeting called like this, without any warning...just an hour before the meeting time.
Brady entered the conference room. Everyone was very quiet and looked unhappy. Brady sat next to Clarence Sloan and asked, "What's going on?"
Sloan and Brady had known each other for a dozen years. They worked well together figuring out how Soviet and Chinese integrated circuits worked. Sloan shrugged, "Nobody knows. All the managers are in a meeting over in Ford. When they figure out what is going on, they'll come tell us, I suppose."
Brady looked at the clock; it was 8:50. The conference room door opened and the managers filed in. Rather than looking glum they looked nervous. Following them into the room was a woman Brady had never seen before. She looked like she was about 40 years old, but she was dressed in a general's uniform. The mangers sat down and the room became quiet.
The woman remained standing at the head of the table, looking around at the group. For a moment her eyes locked on Brady and he felt her power and intensity. She spoke without introduction, "All of your current projects are now canceled. This team now has a new project and let me be clear...everything about this project is secret, including the fact of its existence."
She went to the computer that was used for presentations and logged in. The screen on the wall flashed with a strange image. Brady was not sure what he was seeing, but it looked like a complex piece of equipment, maybe photographed from above in the dark by infrared imaging. She said, "Do not ask me what this is, that is your job to figure out."
Slowly Brady's brain started to understand what he was looking at. In the lower right corner of the image was a scale bar. Brady absorbed the fact that this was an image from a microscope and the object shown was less than a millimeter across. The screen went blank and the general logged off the computer and then walked out of the room without further comment.
Dr. Terrence Klein, the group leader, stood up and waited for the conference room door to close behind the General. "They put the artifact in Bay One last night. Now, I know the spooks are really out-doing themselves with secrecy this time, but we'll have to do the best we can. I just spent an hour demanding to be told where this artifact came from, but I learned nothing. They want us to tackle this without any preconceptions."