Another stain appeared on the ceiling, nearer to the point where two sloping surfaces of the cathedral ceiling meet than where the first stain materialised.
Shadowgrass, a name the boy accepted from parents who thought that labels were arbitrary, pulled out a golf ball ranging device and measured the width of the stain from where he was standing 15 feet below.
First, he stood directly beneath one edge of the stain and wrote down the distance. Holding the device at the same height, he rotated it slightly until he measured the new distance and wrote it down. Assuming the first measurement was a right angle, he calculated the third leg of a triangle and decided it was close enough to call the width of the stain.
As a quadriplegic, Shadowgrass had developed special skills, exercising his thoughts so that he was able to invent appendages that most humans didn’t need.
Sometimes, he simply found new uses for commonplace items.
He heard a door open and knew his parents were home from their latest sojourn, scouting out a location for a new Martian laboratory, far from the watchful eyes and ears of satellites constantly circumnavigating the planet.
“Guin and Lee, I’m in here!”
Guin followed Shadowgrass’ voice into the Sanctuary Room, a space modeled on old religious structures on Earth.
“Well, whatcha got there?”
Shadowgrass pointed at the ceiling. “Another stain.”
Guin nodded. “Probably a leak. Can you fix it?”
Shadowgrass shook his head. “The repair bot is out for repair and refurbishment because our 3D printer is not working.”
“I’m sorry, honey, but we’re short on supplies right now. Only essential lab gear is getting repaired until the next supply ship arrives from the Moon.”
“Mom, why do they still call Earth’s only natural satellite the Moon?”
“I don’t know, dear. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Why don’t we call it something else…”
“Well, sure, why not? We call Mars Mars and we call Venus Venus. It makes just as much sense to call the Moon Shadowgrass.”
“Sure, Mom. It doesn’t have arms or legs, either!”
Guin smiled, turning her head to one side slightly. “Good point.”
Lee walked into the room. “Hey, kiddo! What’s going on?”
Guin and Shadowgrass nodded at the ceiling.
“Hmm…isn’t that an oil coolant supply line that runs through there?”
“Can you fix it, son?”
Guin and Shadowgrass shook their heads.
“Oh yeah, the repair bot’s down, isn’t it?”
“Well, son, I think this calls for you to assert your ingenuity toward reinventing yourself.”
Shadowgrass closed his eyes and let the active voice in his thoughts go silent.
His parents sat down and waited, knowing that Shadowgrass, their ultimate achievement in reproducing the best traits of themselves, would take Lee’s challenge and come up with a solution that neither one of them could if their put their heads together, let alone if they tried separately.
Shadowgrass accessed the spare computing cycles of the colony’s computer network, every object from a solar tracking memory circuit to the amplifier circuit in a tourist’s hearing implant.
He put himself in the role of the last leak, taking into account the growth rate of both leaks, their locations, the time the first leak started and stopped and the time the second leak started.
He looked at the blueprint plans for their living quarters, estimating the pressure of liquid passing through pipes in their building.
His thoughts worked backward from the leak, determining the shearing force on pipe joints, the corrosive qualities of the oil coolant and the path that leaking oil would follow from weak points in the pipe.
He saw that his body was full of nanobots making spot repairs in the blood vessels and other circulatory tubes.
His parents had given him the ability to reprogram the nanobots in his body as he saw fit.
He opened his eyes and turned to his parents. “Do you give me permission to pass some of the nanobots from my body into the pipes of our habitat?”
Guin raised her eyebrows. “Have you…have you thought through the unintended consequences of what you’re about to propose?”
Shadowgrass shook his head. “Not yet.”
Lee stood up. “Son, tell you what. Spend the next hour or so working through case studies where unacceptable error rates cause us extreme discomfort and work your way back to what you’re asking us now.”
“Okay, Dad. It should only take me a few minutes at most.”
“Fine, son. When you’re finished, run some regression tests on the regression tests. I think where you’re going with this will work out but I want you to have a backup plan for when something you haven’t thought of yet will support any changes your nanobots experience when they’re no longer part of your body. We had not created them for extracorporeal purposes.”
“Sure thing, Dad.”
“And submit a request to rename the Moon Shadowgrass. I like your mother’s idea. With all you’ve done to save this colony and us serving as a reserve unit should climate change continue to cause population decreases on Earth, you deserve a moon named after you.”
“No problem, son. You make us proud.”
Guin hugged Shadowgrass’ neck. “That’s right, dear. You have exceeded our wildest dreams for a child of our own.”
Shadowgrass smiled. “Would you all dance for me? It makes me feel happy.”
Guin and Lee slipped out of their exploration gear, tumbling up and over Shadowgrass while he finished his calculations for a self-sufficient nanobot repair system servicing the pipes in their home. If the system worked, he would be able to sell the idea to his neighbours and fund his dream to build an exploration vehicle designed specifically for him, able to join his parents when they ventured far from the colony, risking their lives, living out their motto, “Vive ut vivas.”