Makarelle Autumn 2021: Twisted Tales

The Jungbots of Frontier Scotland

by Dini Armstrong

“Where the hell have you been?” Dun- can wiped the sweat off his forehead and briefly tapped his wrist implant. The release mecha- nism buzzed the door open, just long enough for Alban to join him inside the lab. “I was stuck in the cupboard,” he said. “Couple of randy co -workers. Tried not to look but that was some freaky stuff. Thank Christ he didnae last long. No sure I could’ve stomached any mair.” Duncan raised an eyebrow. Now a cleaner, Alban had access to the Frontier Scot- land building. However, he had no permission to enter the nanotech lab, and any attempt to use his own implant would have triggered an alarm. “Glad to hear you are able to stomach drilling a hole in my forehead,” Duncan mum- bled. “Nae worries, pal,” Alban retorted, “not much in there to damage anyway.” They had to finish the trepanning proce- dure before the night shift arrived at eleven pm. That gave them exactly forty-eight minutes. “I don’t want to come across as thick, like, but have you considered just injecting the little buggers into your veins?” Duncan explained. The Jungbots had to be injected directly into the brain tissue. Other methods had been tried but failed as even nano- technology was too large to pass through the blood brain barrier. He took a swig of malt whisky straight from the bottle, the peaty kind, twenty-six years old. Alban stretched out his hand, but Duncan refused, clutching the bottle.

have some real Irn Bru anyway.”

Duncan laughed. “Fat chance.” The other employees of the Frontier

Scotland lab had left at six pm, giving Duncan enough time to sterilise a drill bit, only margin- ally thicker than the needle on the syringe he had prepared. He walked over to the sink and washed his hands. He had learned the proce- dure from re-runs of Scottish Superhospital , an old TV series in which surgeons still had to prep for surgery. He scrubbed each arm first, then worked his way over the sides of each fin- ger, before cleaning his nails with a small file. The doctors on TV would then ask a scrub nurse to help them don the sterile gown and gloves. No nurse for Duncan. No anaesthetist either, for that matter. Alban was standing by the window, observing tourists on Freedom Square, meandering in T-shirts and short strap- less sundresses; the blistering summer heat would linger on until much later. Most locals would have returned home by now. Frontier Scotland had begun human trials three weeks ago, and all participants, all diagnosed as terminal, had volunteered, enticed by the promise of a fat cheque for the families they left behind. The procedure of inserting nanobots was quite safe and had been success- fully trialled on primates. “Pass me the …,” he began, but, hesitat- ing, he put the gloves on by himself, struggling to pull the thin biodegradable material over his moist skin. “Wash your hands,” he commanded. Duncan had tried to carry out the proce- dure by himself last night, without success. He had looked into the mirror, raised the drill like

“You’ve got to be kidding me, pal.” “Fair enough,” Alban said. “I’d rather

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