A Scientific Parable

A Teaser

By Douglas Crosdale

Chapter 1

The Belgrano Mission

As I recall, the music of Mozart playing in my aural implant was a thousand years old when it became interrupted by the present symphony of another kind; The harmonic fluidity of her skiing movement. It focused my libido, as, from a posterior angle, it was such a sensual joy to behold. Maintaining her pace was a challenge let alone overtake her, as was my plan. As the team arrived at our first checkpoint I approached the two women. Her colleague was clearly Algal. She herself seems to be a mix. Now,I was warned by my mother never to become emotionally involved with passionless algal people but this girl grabbed my heart and ripped it from its encasement from the moment we met; metaphorically speaking of course. I could not be sure if she was only partly algal because although there was a soulfulness in her eyes that seemed at once vulnerable and supercilious some familiar human demeanor was missing. I sensed that my sentiment was wasted compassion and yet I persisted in this fantasy. I think that the sentiment of affection is a thought projection in which the subject bestows imagined attributes onto the object, effectively creating a fiction so as to entertain himself. I saw in this person, what I wanted to see which says more about myself than about her. Such was my confusion.

Call me Junod. Let me share with you a series of interactions and conversations with remarkable homo sapiens and hybrids of my era; an era that had witnessed many species extinctions. Indeed, even from before the ice age there had been five previous species extinctions of creatures in the planet’s history. This sixth one is in progress. A global catastrophe had resulted in the rise of greenhouse gases and consequent species deformities. An even more sinister outcome was the simultaneous outbreak of various strains of pathogens. These had wreaked havoc with the human population as well as untold species of warm-blooded creatures. A food chain disruption leads to shortages, particularly in meat processing. 98% of red blood animals have disappeared from existence and the environment is overwhelmed by the insect and microbial biomass. Global warming hastens this Anthropocene extinction causing a rising sea level and an increasingly watery planet. Algae invade the inland waterways. Because the protein food supply has become so scarce, humanity is obliged to adapt their lifestyle accordingly, in order to evade total extinction.

Heretofore, the dietary habits and their influence on the planet had been dire. Too little and too late, many social solutions had desperately been tried. For instance, “In vitro” meat as an alternative to slaughter, held the potential for protecting the environment. The technology of cell cultivation made it possible to produce ground meat without slaughtering animals. In this process, animal cells were removed through harmless biopsy (tissue samples) and propagated using a special procedure in factories. The success of such artificial meat was met with some distaste and low economic profitability and since it is economic considerations that drive human endeavor the situation called for more feasible solutions for the majority of consumers. Only the oceans and its exaggerated algal proliferation seemed promising. Voila! the algae solution.

This environmental crisis led to the rise of bioengineering as the primary endeavor of civilized society. The algae solution implied persons to get nutrition by way of algaculture. The first step was to design a way to mimic photosynthetic and chemosynthetic processes as an alternative to eating food to create personal energy. To that end we invented a device to absorb nutrients produced by the photosynthetic algae. The Algae-Symbiosis Suit turned out to be perhaps the most profound invention in the history of human civilization. This outfit returned nutrients into the human body via an algae-mask. The carbon dioxide in human breath was able to activate algae growth. However, the prosthesis was only a first stage solution to the problem of nutrition.

The second stage came when a scientist, one Darkus Bayliss, genetically engineered algae processing directly into human DNA so that people were enabled to bypass the process of consuming food, effectively redesigning energy acquisition by getting nutrition through… light. It was responsible for revolutionizing not just the food supply of the surviving population but,as well, the very nature of a population sample. Many individuals were transformed into semi-photosynthetic sub-species and, because we are what we eat, this nutritional method seems to change social behavior in general thus leading to an increasingly plantlike existence for a large segment of society. Algae DNA had the unintended effect of redesigning human evolution. Whereas anthropological homo sapiens had coexisted with the Neanderthal species in the past, in my era we coexist with a new branch of humans — thus was born Algal Man; Homo Algalis.

I’m a senior field virologist with the GBB (Global Bioengineering Bureau) of the Antarctic Federation. My assignment is to locate the suspected source of a new strain of an RNAnote1 virus that seems to be of artificial designnote1. These mutate more elusively than DNA viruses. But there was a new twist to this dystopian scenario when a new virus came to the attention of my division, The Bureau of Biogenetics. Ominously, it attacked red blood cells specifically. There seems to have been interspecies spillagenote1 of an uncharted source.

First to succumb were the carnivores. Furthermore, the plague seemed to have been synthesized and launched in missile containers from outside the Antarctic Territories and with malicious intent.

We had arrived at the first Ice Station after a week-long trek across treacherous terrain. From that point forth we were obliged to enlist a guide because the landscape, although well mapped by global satellite, constantly shifts in certain areas thereby requiring the jaundiced eye of local talent.

This Mission is composed not only of research biologists and genetic engineers such as myself, but as well of a security contingent intent on a classified mission of their own, which is of no interest to me. Notwithstanding this General dispassion, there is one member of that contingent who piqued my curiosity on a strictly personal level.

I notice her up ahead as we move out from the starting point. She skis close to the guide accompanied by an apparent colleague, another more elderly woman. Less athletic members of the group drag further and further behind. I imagine that she was always at the front of her class in school; you know those girls who always shoot their hands eagerly in the air to answer the teacher’s question; the know-it-all type that always seizes the front row seat and gets perfect marks on exams. Our team moves in clusters based more on physical skill than mission purpose, skiing in a generally northwesterly direction diagonally across Antarctica toward a target expected to be 3 weeks distant.

The Antarctic Territories in which I reside is constitutionally defined by independent cantons or city-states. It adheres to a relatively decentralized governmental system analogous to tribal herds of homo sapiens and homo algalis. Full-blooded humans coexist with algal hybrids in the way that they had coexisted tenuously with the neanderthal human species in the anthropological history of the planet. My homeland , therefore, was composed of this diverse population. However, the total census was small and vulnerable to pathogens. This paucity of numbers required the leverage of a manufactured workforce of androids and artificial humans called quasi men. Q-men were dispatched to relatively uninhabitable zones on the outskirts of the Antarctic Territories. Such distant locations were highly toxic with radioactivity ever since the planet’s magnetosphere had been pierced allowing for solar flares to directly affect the environment. Hence, the composition of our task force now skiing toward the outpost of Belgrano II situated by the Weddell sea on the north-west coast of Antarctica.

Chapter 2

Big Pharma.

Sometime prior to this mission I had met with one Mr. Garvin Gonzales at headquarters of the nSTAR Corporation. The purpose was to negotiate a shipment of a certain element called astatine. This substance was necessary in the fight against pathogens. I had been directed to accompany the negotiators in this transaction with Gonzalez himself, one Mr. John Verkauteren and Sebastian Stain for a hundred tons of astatine.

AT-211note1: is astatine’s only isotope with a commercial use inasmuch as it is applied in the diagnosis of some diseases caused by pathogens and that otherwise defeat conventional medicine. Gonzalez represented a large pharmaceutical conglomerate that