“Eat this. It’ll activate after about 30 minutes.” She holds out an irregular wedge of a waxy hard cheese, vat-grown for sure. It makes him think of clean, white linoleum.

“There’s what, like, nanites in there?” he asks.

“Let’s just say ‘an active ingredient.’”

He shakes his head. “Tell me.”

“It’s a chemical agent and active biological culture that’ll interact with your, you know, your brain.”

“So I eat this thing and I’ll speak Mandarin?”

“Among other things — heightened immune system, increased agility and empathy. Basic viral delivery for a personal systemic boost. Oh, and memories.”

“Memory enhancement?”


“Oh,” he says. “Because, right… of course it would give me memories. Whose memories?”

“Just prefab.”

“That’s more normal.” He points at one of several gray flecks in the wedge. “What’s that?”

“It’s a fucking nanite, all right? A cluster of nanites. Eat it or we can’t go.”

He takes the wedge, puts it in his mouth, chews, swallows.

“Now let’s talk side effects,” she says.

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