James was an 8th grader who was going to Franklin Middle school. He was trying to get famous, but none of the other kids would talk to him. He had no clue how he could do it, because it was so hard to make friends with kids during recess. He had heard about other kids getting popular, or sometimes even becoming class president, and he wanted to be a part of that area, or at least a few steps below. Maybe, he thought, if I can make some friends, or start some kind of group, I might get at least a few people who can help me.
James was an 8th grader who was going to Franklin Middle school. He was trying to get famous, but none of the other kids would talk to him. He had no clue how he could do it, because it was so hard to make friends with kids during recess. He had heard about other kids getting popular, or sometimes even becoming class president, and he wanted to be a part of that area, or at least a few steps below. Maybe, he thought, if I can make some friends, or start some kind of group, I might get at least a few people who can help me. He knew (and remembered) very few of the kids in his class’ names, but he still went and tried his plan out.
So he asked his classmate, Ben (or so he thought), what to do.
“Well, I think it’s always possible to just make a forum, or some other discussion kind of thing, I don’t really know,” said Ben. Well, thought James, I have no idea how to make a website or a forum, and even if I did, it would take a while to actually get it going, so that’s no use. He went over to another kid, Jordan (maybe), and asked the same question.
“You should totally make a video game! Kids like video games. Just make a VR game and everyone will go to you.” Of course! James thought. If I make a VR game, everyone will like me. And that would be the perfect head start! “You just have to be careful, though, about the decision you make when you make a video game. If it’s too fun, they won’t want to stop, and that can be a problem.”
“Hmm, that shouldn’t be a problem,” said James.
James had no coding skills or mechanical skills whatsoever, so he had to call his distant friend, Stanley, up and ask him to ask his dad to use his 3-D printer to make a VR headset that a phone could slide into. He went to the website The Code Mush, to squash together 4 code files: one that gave interface to the motion sensors on the headset (made by his friend’s dad), one with neural networks (because James thought the smarter, the better), a 3-D resource file (so he could program with 3-D graphics), and some pseudo-code he made himself. Overnight, the administrators of the website thought about what code to put as an answer, and what kind of person would make a robot with artificial intelligence disguised as a VR headset, with an extremely insecure web runner, which allowed people to easily hack into the game and make people see whatever the person hacking wanted them to see. But the administrator decided that whoever was asking for this had a good reason, and in the morning, he had his answer. A few days later, Stanley’s dad came over, and gave him the headset. After he had assembled it, and downloaded the code files to his phone, he gave it to his friend, Bill, for a test run. The goal of the game was to drive around on your bike and capture all the bad guys, and look as dramatic as possible. He wondered if this game could be a problem, because at the beginning of the game, it said to get on your bike, but he thought that as long as he told his friend the whole plan, it shouldn’t be a problem.
As soon as Bill put the motors and the exosuit on, he knew something wasn’t right. He hadn’t seen any motors and definitely no exosuit when James gave it to him, and he had no idea why they would be necessary. But he kept putting it on, and when he was just about to put on the headset, he realized that the only thing James gave him was that headset. The robot must have built the exosuit itself! Maybe James’ phone had a virus on it and James didn’t know it. But before he could put the headset down, the phone turned on. He grimaced as the phone whirred, and saw the phone typing its own password in. He tried to turn the phone off, but he accidentally opened the game file. He knew that when the game turned on, there would be no escape. The motors started to move his limbs for him, and he couldn’t resist. The motors started to push his legs back and forth, making him walk down the street, and towards Stanley’s house. When he got to the house, he felt his hands moving towards his headset, and as much as he struggled, he could not stop himself from putting it on. He felt his hands moving about, maybe building something, but he could not see past the headset. He shouted as something small crawled up his shirt, and landed on his head, strapping a mask over his nose and mouth. And when he breathed in, he felt himself fall asleep. As James was waiting for Bill and his test run reviews, he decided to go over and ask him himself. So he went over to Bill’s house, and rang the doorbell, and Bill’s dad came out.
“Where is Bill?” asked James, looking around.
“Bill? I think he is at Stanley’s house,” replied Bill’s dad. So James walked down the street, by his school and some other schools, and sometime later, he got to Stanley’s house. He rang the doorbell. It took a very long time for Bill to answer. When Bill came out, James could tell that he seemed different. His arms and legs were moving weirdly, and he had put on this really thick sweater and some sweatpants.
“Salutations, James,” said Bill in a weird monotone. “The game was… amusing. It had… superlative outcomes. The game felt incredibly relevant to the world.”
“What does that mean?” asked James, who had no memory of his friend knowing a lot of words.
“It means like real life.”
“Okay, so on a scale of 1-100, how was it?”
“1,000,000,000%. Better than it is possible to be. If I were you, I would sell to everyone around the world.”
“Hmm. I will think about that, bye,” said James, leaving quite quickly. He was pretty scared that his friend had taken on some weird behavior right after he went into the suit, and definitely not considering selling around the world.
The next day at Bill’s house, there were more VR armatures, this time without any phone controlling them. Bill was making (against his will) more of them, and sometimes, even tiny robot bundles that could mess with people’s brainwaves. At least an eighth of his class was made up of ultra-smart kids in really baggy clothes or no visible changes. Every night, Bill kept making more, and after a while, there were enough to fill his entire class, and a few more classes. And James had no knowledge of this at all. Things were looking pretty bad.
Before, the problem could easily be ignored. But now, with kids walking all around him and looking at him blankly, it was impossible not to notice. Bill (or really whoever was controlling him), on the other hand, was making a lot of money off James’ idea, and that was not super good for James. James could be sued for making an idea that would control people, or maybe a two-way sue. Some of the kids at the school were making some of their own VR armatures, all through recess, after school, weekends, and even on the holidays. When the kids weren’t in school, they were making suits. A lot of the teachers, too, had been controlled by the armatures, and were making their own suits. James started going to Bill’s house more frequently, to check in on him.
“Hi, Bill,” said James one day.
“Hello, James, how are you?” Bill said.
“I’m okay. I noticed that you are… well… acting a little funny. Is there something wrong?”
“No. Nothing. I am perfectly fine. And yes, I have been telling more jokes than usual. Why?”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean… you’ve been wearing the same clothes every day, and you are always disappearing in class, and I never see you at recess.”
“I’ve been raking, and I had to go to the bathroom. And I haven’t been wearing the same clothes every day, ” said Bill so quickly, it sounded to James as if he had said it in five seconds.
“Oh, yes of course, ” said James. “You aren’t still in that VR suit I gave you, are you?”
“No, absolutely not,” said Bill, who was kind of telling the truth. He wasn’t in the exosuit, he was being controlled by the tiny robots.
“Okay, bye, Bill,”
Most of the other times he talked to Bill, the effect was the same. After a few months, the entire school was filled with robot kids. Eventually, James finally figured it all out, exactly what had been going on with Bill, except for the tiny brain robots. But he had no idea how to power all the robots down, without anybody noticing. He needed help from his parents. After he explained the whole thing to his mom and dad (with a lot of difficulty), they told him that he should find out who was controlling these robots, or make an app update, adding an unharmful self destruct system. He decided to make an update, because he did not know how to hack. So he made a new app, and told everyone at school that there was an update, and they quickly ran away from him, probably to get the new app. He had programmed in a foolproof way to have the suit unlatch from the person, and walk far away, into a deep pit in James’ backyard.
A week later, in the middle of the night, the suits unlatched, retracting the bracelets around their arms and legs, and got up and walked around. The suits walked out the door, all towards James’ house. While James was looking out his window at them, he was thinking about what could be the end of this crisis. He noticed only twenty armatures walked into the pit, and there were at least 400 kids in his school, all of whom were possessed. The next morning, he noticed that his plan had barely worked at all. Only a few kids had acted friendly, and the rest had been very weird. He decided to ask the kids who had been cured, because they were the ones that made the suits.
“Hi! Did you notice anything strange last week?”
“Oh, yes, the weirdest! There was like this skeleton! It just walked onto my body and it stuck there!”
“Tell me about it! I really need info.”
“Okay. It was really terrible, but also kind of cool.” So the kids told him the whole story, all of their suspicions (all of which were correct), all about the microbots, exosuits, and some torn up sweaters. When they all were done, James understood. Everything made sense, and he thought he knew how to stop it.
Since the nanobots only ran on very small batteries, it wouldn’t do too much harm if they short-circuited. So he set up some small capacitive touch activated door knob squirters, some small pressure plates under some mats, and several motion activated water cannons, to blast whoever was infected with water. He had taken the creative time to work hard and actually learn how to make the things himself properly, instead of just relying on other people to help him. But unfortunately, he had done it on a Friday, so he would have to wait three days before seeing the effects. It was on Sunday that he had finally noticed a flaw in his plan. Squirting the kids with water wouldn’t short out the mini-robots, because they were in the kids’ brains. He quickly created a small electric shocker for a show and tell project, to share what the effects of certain electronic components could do to voltage. It would be absolutely impossible to notice for the kids, because the voltage level was only nine volts. When the nine volts ran across the kids’ bodies from one hand to the other, it would pass through every part of their body, including the tiny robots. There was another advantage to the nanobots using tiny batteries. It meant that it could handle no more than around one volt, and if ten volts entered the nanobots’ battery sockets, they would overpower, and get destroyed. This really was a terrible idea, because sending ten volts into a brain-controlling nanobot could cause them to send brain signals of ten volts through their brains, which is a lot of volts for a person’s brain. But luckily, the robots had a small power restrictor, which would self-destruct if the voltage was too much. When he went to school that day, he was really excited about finally saving his school. The kids could carrey voltage in their bodies, so whoever they touched would also be free from the tiny robots, and if they touched the playground equipment, it would spread everywhere. So in the evening, when the kids lined up to try out James’ experiment, all of the kids had a tiny jump, and then walked back to their seats. It worked perfectly, and by the end of the week, the VR headsets and all of the nanobots had been completely wiped out permanently. At the end of the day, all of the kids thanked James for saving them from the robots. James wanted to run for class president, and he won the vote, probably because all the kids liked that he had been smart and creative enough to stop the robots (although the teachers didn’t approve as much because they got soaked).