Rority looked up from his "book" at Gumal. "I'm studying programming," he said. Gumal snorted. "Why? Everybody knows how to program a nobot."
"Wrong," Rority said. "Everybody knows how to program robots and large numbers of nobots, but not individual nobots. It's low level programming I'm studying." To us protohumans, Rority learning to program the individual sub-micron sized nanorobots (or "nobots") would be like an SQL database programmer learning assembly, or even hand assembled machine language, and perhaps even CPU design.
"Why? Why does Rula want to learn how to dance like a protohuman? In this case, though, I had an idea somebody must have thought of before because it seems trivial to do, but it involves nobot-level programming."
It was Rority's turn to snicker. "Jeez, you sound like a protohuman" he said. Gumal laughed and replied "fuck you!"
"Now you really sound like a protohuman!" They were both in stitches now.
"Well?" Gumal said, still snickering "What's this big idea of yours?"
"You know how you hate having the nobots do the genetic manipulation that makes one look and kinda think like a protohuman? I figured out a way for us to look like them without the manipulations."
"Really? How would one go about doing that?"
"It's just a step past an invisibility cloak. Rather than each nobot transmitting its input radiation to its opposite's output radiation, the output nobot would vary this, projecting the image of something, but something different than what's behind the cloak; in this case, the protohuman you're falsifying."
"Sounds to me like the math would be a little hard. Have you talked to the number boys and low-level programmers? That kind of thing is fun for them. Me, I hate it."
"Yeah," Rority replied, "I did, and they made me a prototype. It would fool the average human, but there was something about it that was inprotohuman that I or a real protohuman would have no trouble seeing as fake. So I'm studying programming." He dropped the book, which instantly disintegrated into nobotic dust. "Want a beer?"
"Yeah, and another toke off your stratodoober. Look, I have a friend who's a low-level programmer, I'll call her while you get the beer." He held his hand out, and what appeared to be a transparent sheet of thin cardboard appeared in his hand. "Varky? You there?"
Of course, Rority didn't actually have to go anywhere for the beer; the nobots brought it out. "Here", Gumal said, handing the phone to Rority. The phone had a holographic simulation of a person's head situated just behind the transparent cardbaord (or what looked like transparent cardboard).
"So," the simulation said, "how, exactly, do the sheaths skew the image? I've been working on the exact same thing you're talking about and it looks to me more of a biological problem than a programming problem."
"Well, it's hard to explain... the colors are a bit off when I've had the genetic manipulatons, kind of greenish. But they look close enough when I'm myself." The phone turned into a full sized replica of the low level nobot programmer, and another full sized simulation appeared. "Meet Kandar, he programmed the nobots to reprogram DNA. He's a molecular cellular biochemistry programmer who specializes in protohuman biology."
"Hi, er, Rority? Um, you probably didn't notice that colors look different when you're in protohuman form?"
"Er, no, I didn't."
"That's because the brain corrects the information it receives, whether a human brain or protohuman brain. Colors are all orangier at sunrise and sunset, but you don't notice it unless you know it's there and notice it deliberately. You don't notice the difference between incandescent lighting and fluorescent lighting unless you turn one off and the other one on; you'll notice then."
"What are those?" the programmer asked.
"Ancient forms of lighting. One simply heated a tungsten filament until it glowed, the other used an electrically generated plasma."
"Clear as mud," the programmer said.
"Well, look," Kandar said, "the one thing you're doing wrong is using your eyes. Measure the exact wavelengths being reflected from the protohumans' skin."
"I did, but the color wasn't right."
"Not right to you. It would look right to a protohuman; like I was trying to tell you, the cones in their retinas were different sizes than ours are, so colors wouldn't be exactly the same."
"Ok" said the programmer, doing something on a sheet of nobots. "Try this out."
Gumal looked doubtful. "Come on," said Rority, "lets get Rula and go dancing with the protohumans."
"What if it doesn't work right?"
"Then we'll disappear. Come on."
Candice was coming out of the restroom when she saw the three of them and dropped her purse; these were some weird looking people. Their features looked somewhat African but their skin was whiter than a Caucasian that had spent ten years in a Norwegian prison. She screamed when they disappeared before her eyes, then fainted.
She came to in a hospital bed.
"There were three ghosts!" she exclaimed to her friend Willard. "They startled me, then all three just disappeared in a kind of shimmer."
"Nonsense," said Willard. "There ain't no such things as ghosts. I'm getting you a psychiatrist -- you must have been hallucinating. Are you on drugs or something?"
"You know better than that. Maybe Halloween got me worked up. I thought they were just in weird costumes before they disappeared. But I guess a shrink wouldn't hurt, that really shook me up!"