Writing Competition Submission Dust on the road

Dust on the road
By: Yacker (InforYack)

A group of people and an AI are on a wild escape through the American roads in a race against the clock, escaping the grey plague, in order to be able to reach a place that some people who share something in common have dreamed of.

Story Summary
The story begins in the somewhat near future in which a young girl (CHLOE MITTLER) wakes up from a nightmare. To which her father (BRAND MITTLER) consoles her, asking what is going on. She uncomprehendingly tells him that she dreamt of “Croatoan”, he sympathetically accompanies her back to sleep, assuming that the nightmare was caused by interference in her eyes, which were recently treated by a new treatment with disposable nanomachines, which were still in the early stages of development.

Although such a word kept hanging around in his mind while he was preparing breakfast for himself and his daughter, he ended up consulting his personal AI named AI-LIN. Whose answer was interrupted when they were kidnapped by a person dressed as a doctor (Dr. LE’CAPRY) who, at gunpoint, took them into the Mittler’s car. He implied that no one would come to help them.

They were guided by Dr. LE’CAPRY while he watched nervously as the structures in the distance were losing their color and brightness, turning gray little by little when they managed to cross the bridge towards the road they began to see how the first buildings began to give way under their weight, as if they had always been made of talc and ashes. Covering the city with a fog which with the fall of other buildings made it even denser.

The kidnapper (Dr. LE’CAPRY) lowered his gun and asked him not to slow down.
And he told him that he had done the kidnapping because he had been a doctor to his daughter as well as many other people, they all dreamed the same word, seen or heard depending on which part of the body had been treated with those nanomachines. And they had been the closest at the time of the disaster. Hugging his suitcase he gave them to understand that he knew nothing more about what Croatoan meant or the cause of it, but he just needed time to find out, and to have it they had to get as far away from the gray plague as possible.
Then the race to an uncertain destination began.
The story from here would begin to deal with the setbacks of the Mittler family and the others, being affected by the damage or collateral results of the army or government. For the purpose of slowing down the advance of the gray plague, they would end up using various methods ranging from electromagnetic pulses (EMP), Really Big Explosions (MOAB), rail guns, Hacking or even other nanomachines.
Only to see that the exponential advance of the plague continues unabated, becoming more complex at the same time, starting to interfere with communications or taking advantage of gusts of wind to stop things that cause damage.

Along the way they will meet new members as TRIPIE - a mechanical mule that is run over by the protagonists, losing some a leg. And mishaps such as road pirates or people who begin to idolize the gray plague as if it were something superior.
During the course of this time Dr. LE’CAPRY will generate theories of the cause of the plague (terrorist attack, activism or it was just the misfortune of a mistake by a solar blast) and try to fit the pieces to find out the location of Croatoan with the little information that could pass CHLOE with her dreams.

Finally arriving at Roanoke Island, already surrounded by the gray plague, the survivors of the trip enter the place they obtained by triangulating the doctor’s data, to find a ramshackle house with an antenna, inside of which there was a body with half a charred face with a smile drawn on his face in front of a series of old PCs.
LE’CAPRY recognized him as one of his former patients.
Of the few computers that were still functioning one of them one that read the message.
“Want to undo changes made? Y/N”
They saw each other among the remaining, only they were left with no way out, as they listened to the strong winds and rain caused by the gray plague outside.
“I hope this stops it, or this young man will have blown it all away.”
And they pressed yes.
The rain began to subside, they all looked at each other not knowing if that had made any difference to the end that awaited them.
The end.

Main Characters
- CHLOE MITTLER: Child who suffers dreams due to an operation with nanomachines.

- BRAND MITTLER: Protective father, loves his daughter above all things.

- AI-LIN: Mittler’s personal AI.

- Dr. LE’CAPRY: One of CHLOE’s doctors.

- TRIPIE: 3-legged mechanical mule.

Land in the near future, on the east coast of the United States.
Where energy is not a problem in big cities,
allowing them to occupy their efforts in improving other fields such as AI’s and medicine.
Each family has a personal AI that serves as a household helper.

Episode Summaries
• Episode 1 "Nightmares"
A girl wakes up frightened by a nightmare and is comforted by her father, which patient listens to what had frightened him, which innocently the girl tells him about a place called “Croatoan” and went back to sleep.
The father went about his normal life chatting with his personal AI, asking about “Croatoan”. While the AI was answering he was interrupted by a stranger who entered the Mittler house.
At gunpoint he ordered them all into his car.
Dr. LE’CAPRY - “Don’t waste time calling security, they won’t come.”

• Episode 2 "The Gray Plague"
Threatening them more and more, the stranger forced the Mittlers to hurry out of the city,
Nothing seemed out of place, but the kidnapper saw the surroundings more and more scared as if he saw something, little by little as they were leaving the city, he began to notice that the farthest buildings were losing their color, becoming a gray tone more and more evident.
After asking him to speed up more, they made it across the bridge in time for the first buildings to begin to give way under their own weight, as if they had always been made of talc and ashes.

• Episode 3 "An Extra Arm."
The kidnapper saw that it was no longer necessary to threaten them to understand that in a way he had saved their lives, and told them that he was his daughter’s doctor, and that he needed him to know what was going on, but he needed time, in his explanation the car ran over something. The Ia panicked and so did the girl. The dr insisted that they continue, but they stopped for a moment to see that they had crashed to find a mechanical mule, which the AI was the most insistent to climb it, without much to think BRAND climbed it.

• Episode 4 “Finding the way”.
The dr was complaining about wasting time while checking with his teams some things and filming, while the girl was distracted by stroking the TRIPIE that responded with the purr of its engines. Suddenly LE’CAPRY asked if the word “Croatoan” sounded familiar, BRAND was about to answer when his daughter did. And finally he explained the reason why he chose them to escape the disaster. Fighters crossed the sky above them towards the metropolis but did not emerge from the fog that had risen from the fallen buildings.

• Episode 5 "A Quiet Journey"
It starts with a recap of what happened the last few moments, seeing the family escaping from some fanatical bikers by sticking the loose leg of TRIPIE in one of the wheels of a motorcycle, cut scene, LE’CAPRY saying he thinks where they should go, to move to another scene where AI-LIN is singing “Daisy Bell” as drunk after a DDOS attack by the army to attack the grey plague. To move on to the present day, looking all exhausted.
BRAND - “How are we still alive?”
The members are illuminated from behind by an explosion behind them.
BRAND - “I’d better not ask anymore.”

• Episode 6 "Croatoan"
With the car at last they arrived at Roanoke Island, already with the gray plague on its heels, with the help of LE’CAPRY and AI-LIN’s gps, they arrived at the place, which inside was waiting for the body of someone in front of some screens.
The plague consumed the car, AI-LIN, frightened, did not understand how she was still alive, and understood that TRIPIE had stored her in it. Then, without waiting for any more miracle, LE’CAPRY observed that the corpse was one keystroke away from undoing the changes. He proceeded to do so, looked at the others and could do nothing but wait.

Suspense and action, with quite a bit of mystery and some comic breaks, usually contributed by AI-LIN or TRIPIE unintentionally. Trying to maintain the freneticism of escaping from something that can’t be escaped.
And mainly the plot is sustained between the interactions of the members inside a place as small as a car, where they are almost forced to deal with each other.

The story is about how easy things can go wrong, where a useful or beneficial technology for all, by human or malicious failures can cause real catastrophes.
And as a second theme to be treated would be the importance of bonds and how adverse events strengthen them, to the point that the differences between living or artificial beings become almost imperceptible.

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