Nanites are the microscopic machines that were created by the scientists during the Nanite Project. At the time of the explosion five years ago, the nanites entered the atmosphere and spread across the globe. Nanites now exist within every living being (apart from White Knight) and are bonded to their molecular structure.
Normally, nanites are completely harmless; however, when activated, they mutate the biology of their hosts, giving them grotesque physical features and/or special abilities. They are called E.V.O.s (Exponentially Variegated Organisms).
Purpose of nanites
The nanites were created to save humankind by eliminating diseases and starvation across the entire world. This was later proven to be possible, as nanites have saved Rex's life twice: fully healing him after an almost fatal industrial accident when he was young, and restarting his heart. Apparently, some scientists and philanthropists funding the project intentionally let the nanites roam free while they were still incomplete.
Activated nanites often change the helpless individual into a monstrous, bizarre creature with many special abilities manifesting as well. Mutations can vary drastically; in some cases, creatures mainly grow greatly in size, while many others shift into something radically different. Humans almost always retain some human-like qualities, though a good number of humanoid E.V.O.s appear mindless and bent on destroying anything they can. Rare individuals can become an E.V.O and retain their mind and sanity or gain intelligence. Circe, Bobo, and Serge are examples of this phenomenon.
Befitting the chaotic nature of mutations, nanites can also make one unstable, as seen with Van Kleiss. Van Kleiss must constantly absorb fresh batches of active nanites from other E.V.O.s or from nanite-infused soil to keep himself alive.
The primary reason why Rex is so important to Providence is because of his unique ability to cure most E.V.O.s by extracting their active nanites. However, several other methods have nearly been developed to cure E.V.O.s, only to be destroyed before widespread use could be implemented with only one exception:
- The first was Gabriel Rylander's nanite formula, which both Providence and Van Kleiss attempted to claim but was destroyed in the struggle.
- The second was an altered form of nanites that, when interacting with active nanites, caused them to shut down; however, before they could be perfected, they were destroyed in a struggle with ZAG-RS.
- The third, technically the first, was seen when Dr. Fell attempted to reverse-engineer young Rex's curing abilities by dissecting him on a molecular level, which would have resulted in his death.
- The fourth was developed by Dr. Branden Moses, who used the machine he developed to accelerate incurable E.V.O.s' mutations exponentially. After the polarity of the machine was reversed by Dr. Rebecca Holiday, it successfully cured Beverly Holiday before it was destroyed.
- The fifth, Rex used the meta-nanites alongside with the nanites in the reactor to cure all E.V.O.s in the world however nanites still do exist despite their reprogramming and Rex gave up his god like power of the metas.
It is possible that the nanites can be reprogrammed to undo the unstable mutations without removing the activated nanites. Gabriel Rylander stated that the nanites can be reprogrammed to be more like Rex's nanites. Caesar also successfully reprogrammed nanites back at Abuela's village. Though Caesar's cure didn't go as planned, it instead did give the E.V.O.s control over their transformations and their E.V.O. forms.
Caesar is now restarting the Nanite Project in his effort to help the E.V.O.s in their mutations. He is now working on fixing the nanites with the help of his surviving old colleagues.
It is possible to communicate with nanites. For example, Rex often uses his ability to communicate with nanites to deactivate and extract an E.V.O.'s active nanites. Rex also uses his nanites to take control of machines to serve his purposes.
All the workers in an idyllic village were trying to create a tower that could communicate with nanites. The tower turned out to be a trick orchestrated by the AI Zag-RS. It appeared that the workers will still attempt to work on the idea of communication and peace for humanity despite the betrayal.
It is revealed that some nanites will only obey specific individuals who have managed to actually bond with them on a stronger molecular level. When Rex tried to deactivate the unstable nanites in Abysus by talking to them, they became even wilder when they "realized" he was not Van Kleiss. When Rex eventually did revive Van Kleiss, the nanites were drawn to Kleiss and reabsorbed into his body, thus ending the threat.
Rex's older brother, Caesar Salazar, can communicate and control Rex through his nanites. His purpose was to find the Omega-1 Nanite, though he was unaware that it was inside his younger brother's body. Caesar sent a schematic of a transmitter to Rex's nanite, programming it to build machines from Rex's body so he could trace it. Through that transmitter, Rex also detected Caesar's strange taste for certain food.
Nanites can be enhanced to power-levels in which an inorganic object cannot, thus causing it to explode. When enhanced, E.V.O.s not only become stronger, but their powers can also go out of control. For example, when Skwydd's power was enhanced, he was able to produce solid ink that could grow tentacles and restrain his victims.
Dr. Moses used nanite enhancement in a different way. His enhancements didn't enhance the nanite power, but the mutations that the nanites have on E.V.O.s, making their appearance larger and more grotesque. Rex was able to remove the amplification and return the E.V.O.s to their originally mutated state.
As his Galvanic Mechamorph form, Upgrade, Ben Tennyson could enhance the nanites in Rex's body by merging with him. When joined with Rex, the latter gained an Upgrade-like suit, and all his builds were greatly modified with alien technology. It is unknown if Upgrade can do this with any E.V.O.'s nanites or just Rex's machine-based powers.
Nanites also seem to be in commercial use to a minor degree; for instance, Tuck, Rex, Skwydd, and Cricket all have voice activated nano-ink tattoos. The only person, however, who was able to perform such a task was Rex before one of his many blackouts.
Another individual named Valve was able to alter nanites to create a human-to-machine link and sell them on the black market. These altered nanites have caused serious health problems for those that stayed in constant contact with the tech they were linked to.
- White Knight stated that nanites are magnetic, and with a sufficiently powerful magnet, could literally be ripped out of their host, possibly killing them.
- It is revealed that nanites deteriorate over time, as the mummies Gharun Set animated turned to dust as their nanites self-destructed after millenia. Gharun Set himself lasted longer, perhaps due to his nanites being continuously active.
- Nanites can process raw energy into more and more energy for the E.V.O., which in addition to greatly amplifying their abilities, makes the E.V.O. in question lose control.
- Apparently, a method exists to predict what kind of E.V.O.s people can turn into. Factors that cause the phenomenon include the amount of nanites, dormant DNA, and programming. All these factors support the theory that E.V.O. mutations are not as random as they appear.