James examined the tiny grasshopper factory under the magnifying glass. It was several orders of magnitude larger than its nanobot builders, a naked-eye object.

“It’s beautiful,” breathed Sid.

The drone was a factory robot for making more nanobots. It was the aircraft carrier, in relation to the swarm of tiny ‘bot “planes.” It was home base, resource storage, production facility, mass transport, communications hub—and dozens of other functions.

Under the lamp, it refracted that light in a way that was astonishingly pretty (considering its industrial design). The drone included a great deal of synthetic emerald in its communications arrays, for lasers in a frequency range useful to interacting with the nanobots.

“It’s an elegant little bug; and self-replicating, as long as it has a sufficient source of raw materials,” said James. “It will make its own nanobots, and ‘child’ factories.”

“The code’s solid, as long as your engineering’s good. I can’t wait to see it work, fire it up?”

“Sure.” James pressed “Enter” on his keyboard.

For just one moment, the results were anticlimactic. Then the emerald bug leaped to Sid’s watch, and a swarm of invisible mites began to break it down into crystals, metals, and other raw materials.

The resultant Viridian Plague very nearly exterminated humankind on Earth. The Age of the Machines began at the watch’s last tick.

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223 words. In response to this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

Grasshopper on a wrist watch