Danny’s Story

31. in which the forest becomes a twisted cybernetic wonderland


As she watched, the haze of nanomachines began to glow softly so that Danny was surrounded in a milky luminescence. If it wasn’t for the ground beneath her feet, Danny would have thought she was suddenly floating in a dream. Streaks of brighter light began to ripple through the glow — zipping faster and faster — until all of the nanomachines had drawn together into one ball of mysteriously glowing light. It hovered for a moment, ethereally, then floated off into the trees, like a will-o-wisp. Then, disappeared.

Danny’s surroundings were now clear to her. The trees here were completely indistinguishable from machines. This was a cyberpunk vision of a forest: thick coils of silvery cable twisted around each other into the thick, sinewy trunks of trees. Leaves were radiant bunches of circuit boards. The air absolutely hummed with a chorus of exhaust fans.

Once she had confirmed again with the satellite map that she was indeed traveling deeper into the heart of the city-forest, Danny jogged on. Patches of ground were lit with sprays of fiberoptic grass that cycled psychedelically through the colors of the rainbow. Hanging vines that tapered into computer wires dangled from the branches. Everywhere, the glow of green and red power lights and the blinking blue of modems. She no longer felt as if she was running through a forest, but a surrealist’s image of a computer wonderland.

Danny’s audio input detected a new sound. A clicking, like the ticking of a loose part. The sound was familiar — naggingly so — but she could not place it. Almost subconsciously, she was aware of something watching her, so when she ran up a small ridge and abruptly confronted a trio of centaurs, she was startled, but not surprised.

“Centaurs” was not an adequate term for them, really. They may have been centaurs, once, in a prior incarnation, but the resemblance was shallow. Rather, they were fantastic, alarming cyborgs. Their naked human torsos were studded with cybernetic implants and sat atop metal chassis of eight clicking, spider-like legs.

There were three of them, all appearing masculine. Their bald heads reflected the lights of the machine-forest. Their black eyes stared at her with the dead gaze of robots’ opticals. The one in the lead — a barrel-chested, bronze-skinned monster — threw its head back to shout a command to the two that flanked it. Its mouth opened, and out came a barrage of bleeps, stutters, and high-pitched whistling. It was speaking in digital, but its message was clear.


The leader splayed open its palm. Quicksilver bubbled up from its metallic skin and snaked outward, hardening into a rod in its grasp. Like a child’s toy weapon, the rod telescoped outward into a staff. The length of it glistened like mercury. Two fang-like prongs jutted from its point. Electricity arced and crackled between them.

They rushed her. Gasping, she went in the direction her muscles instinctively propelled her — straight upward. She caught onto a branch and dangled for a moment. The cyborgs, having charged through the spot she had just been, stumbled to a sudden stop. Their gazes swung upward. The quicksilver staff was raised. Again, the leader barked a digital command.

Meanwhile, Danny swung onto the tree branch and was sprinting through the canopy. To her dismay, the cyborgs seemed even better suited for the trees than the forest floor. They scuttled easily up the trees after her and quickly began to catch up.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey