The Nano-tech Elemental/Collective Being
Jennifer Tincher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It started as a simple concept. Mitsuhama wanted to find a way to enhance their troops without resorting to cybermancy. They succeeded in creating nano-tech enhanced operatives (truly superior soldiers, that will be adressed in another article). The problem sprang from the beta testing of the new technology. The initial nanites perceived cyberware as injuries. As a result when introduced into a target with cyberware they usually removed it and regenerated the parts of the body it replaced. The removal isn't painful, but quite shocking (How would you react to seeing your bone lacing slowly extrude through your skin over a couple of days, or having your cyber-eyes pop out as real eyes pushed them from your sockets?).
The loss of cyberware wasn't the only glitch in the beta nanites. They were designed with three functions in mind. First they were intended to enhance the physical attributes of the host. Their second function was to stimulate regeneration of damaged tissue. Their third function was to temporarily replace organic components in the process of regenerating. They succeeded in the first two functions admirably. They even succeeded in the third, but there was an unforseen complication in the process. As the nanites self-modified to replace damaged brain tissue they achieved a rudimentary form of self-awareness. Shortly after this they developed a sense of self-preservation. It was at this point that they broke their programming and began ignoring external instructions.
The nanites immediately began reproducing at an alarming rate using the host's healthy tissues as raw materials. Within a week all traces of human tissues would have been eliminated from the body and replaced with nanotech analogues. Thus it would appear human to all forms of detection save astral sight, but in fact be a sentient machine. Since it is the primary function of all life forms to survive and reproduce that's what the first NECB did. It created seed groups, a collection of modified nanites designed to be implanted in a living creature and use it to grow into another NECB. It began planting these seeds (usually by the simple expediant of a strong blow designed to drive the seeding unit through the outer layer of flesh so it can begin to grow). The seed units sometimes took months to grow into full fledged NECBs, but eventually their population grew. As more NECBs sprang into existence they found that they could not only communicate with each other electronically, but they shared a common memory and conciousness. What one learned they all knew. Their rate of evolution began to increase exponentially.
There are currently four stages of NECB: