Synopsis. Spoiler! Entire plot!
Joe Vallone is mechanically gifted. He is haunted by his high risk of injury, caused by his hemophilia. He is an amateur runner, and builds competitive robots for fun. On his way to a friend's house from work, he is in a car crash. He almost dies. He wakes up to discover his doctor aunt, Teressa Graceland, is involved in secret project. She saved his life with nanites she was testing for a military contractor. Joe is instantly obsessed. He hides drops of his blood containing nanites in his cell phone. He gives the phone to friends who visit him.
He meets his friends Mark and Lucy, after he leaves the hospital. Lucy funds Joe and Mark's robot enterprise. Joe is friendly with Lucy's young daughter, Finny. Marks cousin Amman helps decode nanites. They don't trust Amman, at least in part because he is a Muslim from Iran, and a physicist. Mark, Joe and Lucy, invite a friend, Kento, to help decode nanites. He is an out of work, but skilled chip designer, and Kempo master. Kento, Mark, and Amman make progress with the nanites.
Joe and Kento get into a fight with some thugs on the side of the parkway, and a trucker with a shotgun saves them. Mark breaks into the nanites. They begin replicating more of the nanites. Mark, Joe and Lucy drive their robot during 'Cyborg Wars' competition and win. Strange men in suits are spotted about, and the paranoia level is rising. Lucy plans to sell the team to distance herself from the nanotech. Without the team, she realizes her feelings for Joe. Joe and Lucy become romantic.
Lucy and Joe see the hero trucker in a donut store, and invite him to the robot shop. Kento takes a chance and shows him the nanites. The trucker grudgingly agrees to secrecy.
Joe meets with the suspicious lawyer Nathan Jones. He is fishing for the best legal attack, but Joe gives up nothing. Lucy is very nervous and distraught. The group discovers the nanites intended use are to make supersoldiers. Kento begins teaching Joe martial arts.
The replication of the nanites completes. The group has a fallout with Amman, and he storms off. Kento mails some of the replicated nanites to scientists all over world. He pulls an all-nighter so he can send them from different points in different states.
Teressa and Joe's father, Sergio, worry he is injured. She hopes Joe will go home to get more medicine. They have been close since he was widowed a decade ago. They come to terms with their feelings for each other and become romantic.
Mark programs simple superclots into the nanites. Joe injects himself with nanites. He sprints to test their effects. He discovers he can run much faster than he ever has.
Joe goes out and returns to spot Amman leaving their now trashed shop. Joe chases him on Kento's motorcycle, but crashes. The damage is minor, and he is able to continue. He suspects Amman is attacking the Olympic trials, and heads that way. Joe breaks into the Olympic trials, but can't find Amman. He inadvertently outruns Olympic contenders during his escape from the guards. He heads back to Kento's safe point.
Eavesdropping on a panicked phone call, MIR discovers Amman's involvement in the group. He is political refugee and on several watch lists. They call for the arrest of Mark, Joe and Amman.
Joe finds out about his father and aunt from a voicemail his father left him, and freaks out. He leaves the safe-house on Kento's motorcycle and goes to his house. He spots his father from a distance. He is drunk and erratic. Joe's father is shot by excited police! Joe crys out in anguish. They order him to freeze and he runs from them. He is shot in the shoulder while fleeing, but clots quickly enough to avoid shock. He escapes the slower police. He makes it back to safe house on the motorcycle and then collapses.
The safe-house, Kento's dojo, is no longer safe. Mark calls in a favor and gets his uncle's taxi company to pick them up. Joe recovers at Kento's unregistered apartment. Kempo students Lin and Dragon bring them supplies. The heroes replicate another batch of nanites.
Scott Conner, the top MIR villain, bluffs the president. He convinces him that the learning curve is too high and MIR is irreplaceable. MIR becomes a federal defense agency. The heroes are labeled 'bioterrorists' on the news. The heroes plan to hijack a TV station computer system in order to get truth about the origin of the nanites out.
They attack the WBLA wireless network, and broadcast a pre-recorded Joe Vallone monologue. Nathan Jones is in Manhattan and commandeers a police car. He is the first of his rank on the scene. He confronts Joe, who stares him down and runs. He loses the heroes in a planned sea of identical taxis.
An imprisoned Iranian official is given access to Amman at Guantanamo Bay. He reveals that Dr. Graceland had been held there. He attacks Amman, but is himself killed in the struggle.
Mark Joe and Kento, are driven to upstate NY to meet Shotgun Trucker. The SGT seals them in hidden toxic waste barrels normally used for smuggling medicine. The truck is searched at the Canadian border, but the dogs cannot smell the heroes in their disguised airtight barrels. Lucy is tied up in court trying to locate Joe's missing aunt. Joe vows revenge from inside his barrel.
Unique/Unusual attributes of TTB
- First Creative Commons, community edited, fiction novel.
- Tens of thousands of edits contributed from readers.
- One of very few novels dealing with the initial introduction of shielded nanites with the ability to replicate into American society. In other words, cellular sized robots that can function in a human blood stream, and can be used to build more of themselves under special conditions.
- One of very few novels dealing with intellectual property's effect on nanotech.
- May be the first science fiction novel about nanotech depicting the impending conflict between the military industrial complex and the moral imperatives of the medical profession. Examines how that may play out. (There will be more of this in sequels too.)
- Every chapter represents an internal dialog/perspective from one character. Only one perspective per chapter. Usually told from the character under the most stress.
- Takes place in the very near future. In the rough timeframe of 2012-2016.
Other relevant attributes.
- Science Fiction thriller.
- First in a planned series.
- Fifty six short chapters.
- Not super technical. All new technology is explained or at least bounded at some point. Grandma should be able to get through it.
- The main character, Joe Vallone, is is a hemophiliac.
- Heroes activate and customize (matter hacking) powers for themselves. Specifically enhanced blood oxygenation and very fast blood clotting powers.
- It is a tragedy. Heroes are hurt and one dies. It ends with the heroes fleeing.
- The heroes all have computer skills.
- The main heroes and villains are all skilled in several disciplines.
- The villains are all ex soldiers from assorted branches, and intellectual property lawyers.
- The villains work for a company called MIR which handles public technology through a front company called Datahold.
- Nanites were developed in secret by the villains, by skimming and denying relevant patent applications (Turns out the NSA actually does this.)
- Wearable computers combined with stereo projection glasses (nicknamed clarks) are heavily involved in the plot.
- It assumes there is at least a serious recession going, on partly because of physical boundaries preventing the invention of faster computer chips. This boundary is at the atomic scale.
- The final round of microprocessor advances, spawn early nanoscale mechanical equipment.
- Would fit right in with other cyberpunk/nanotech novels, although it happens sooner on the timeline than most of them. (I think it was harder to write because of this)