A Quintessence of Dust

quintessenceGeneral Information

Log line: A smart but emotionally-detached government agent must work with the playboy scion of the world’s largest biobot manufacturer. To save their world she must learn the secret of her existence and decide what it means to be truly human.

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 134

Influences: Bladerunner, Star Trek, and Andromeda


Zia works for Pascal, the man in charge of the Computer that runs the entire city, and is good at her job. The best. She tracks down stolen or illegal “Dust,” nano-machines originally designed for biobots, the disposable organic robots that comprise the working class of her world. When inserted into living humans, Dust can improve IQ, memory, speed, agility… but can also have dangerous side effects.

The major manufacturer of biobots and Dust is Quintessence, a company inherited by a young playboy, Will Wittenberg. A new type of Dust turns up missing and without warning, Pascal pulls Zia from her usual beat and assigns her to work with Will to recover the Dust and in the process find out what it does .

Zia, as always, complies but is less than thrilled with the assignment. Will doesn’t seem to take anything about the situation, including her, seriously. At least at first. The more time Zia spends with him, the more she realizes the playboy is just a facade and there’s more to Will than meets the eye.

When the Computer starts crashing trains and causing power outages, Will becomes deeply concerned, but still won’t tell Zia why. United at last, they double their efforts to find the mysterious Dust.

At last, Zia turns to the only man she thinks can help: Pascal. Only his behavior seems erratic and irrational. In one breath he raves about control and power, then next he declares his undying love for her. She realizes she’s not dealing with a man in charge of the Computer, she’s dealing with the Computer. Pascal is a biobot.

Zia escapes to tell Will what she’s discovered. He already knows. Betrayed, but thrusting the feeling aside, Zia demands to know what the stolen Dust does. Will reveals it is irrationality Dust, designed to introduce inconsistencies and redundancies in a biobot, which will, theoretically, give the machine emotions. Pascal inserted the Dust into his own matrix and is now malfunctioning.

Zia comes up with a plan to defeat Pascal by constructing a device that will destroy the matrix of any biobot within the blast radius of the EM pulse. Will tries to talk her out of the plan and she doesn’t understand why. It’s their best hope. Will tells her he loves her, but he also tells her she can’t destroy the biobots because she is one: the test subject for the irrationality Dust.

Zia’s entire existence is turned on its head. Are her growing feelings for Will real? Or just the product of programming? Is she a machine? Is she human? What does it mean to be human?

Zia chooses to risk her own life and destroy Pascal. She rigs the EM pulse generator and confronts Pascal. Pascal does not understand why she’s willing to die. Zia tells him that she may not be a true human, but she’s human enough to realize that there are things worth dying for. Things like love.

She prepares to throw the switch, but her argument touches Pascal. In his most human moment he sacrifices himself to save her.

The city lacks its primary control module, but together Zia and Will have the chance to rebuild.


To read an excerpt of A Quintessence of Dust, click here.