miércoles, 18 de junio de 2014

Neptune


A creature dived across the spaces of a vast, empty ocean, pearl-blue nothingness stretching in every direction. Like the most gracious of ballerinas, the creature swiftly floated with the lightness of the air, its streamlined body going along with the gentle forces of water, wrapped in a rubbery skin. It was thin and muscular, its silhouette ending in a long fin which moved back and forth with the current. The head, small, rounded, bald, imposed presence with two generously sized all-black eyes, gills on the cheeks, a small mouth with protruding spiky teeth, so menacing yet so fragile, like the luring sirens of ancient Greek sailor tales; when this creature approached, the sea took notice. Such strange alien beauty crossing the marine deserts of planet earth, the most wondrous artistic oeuvre nurturing Mother Nature has ever sculpted.

And it was hungry, the eyes searching tirelessly on the azure grounds for prey. A pack of herrings innocently passed by, seeming very unaware of the world around them in their dumb-looking facial expression. It was hunting time. The creature propelled itself and slammed full force onto the pack, breaking the individuals apart. It was quick: within only a couple of seconds the creature caught a poor lagging one with its powerful claws. It would be taken to its predator’s den in order to fulfill its nourishing purposes. The ocean, like every other day, had just witnessed another casualty in the race for survival it had hosted since the beginning of time.


“June 16, 2365. Finally, after uncountable failed trials, a group of subjects at the Lambda Corporation Research Facility have responded well to the genetic intervention. It is a complicated process that I will not bother explaining right now. But I think we have found the clue. They are now in cryogenic storage. If we are finally able to trick nature into doing what we want, we should be able to initiate operations any time now.
Now, it is a tricky thing to guess what will happen to the subjects after the completion of Project Neptune. Will they be themselves? Thousands of years of studying the human brain will not be able to tell. That kind of inquiry is one that exceeds both science and logic, possibly all forms of knowledge. No time to think on abstract gimmicks such as “self”… There will be no self if there are no humans.
Someone at the NOAA leaked the information yesterday to the public. It was possibly the most controversial thing those guys have ever done. Stock markets are already beginning to go south due to the doomy fate of god knows how many long term investments.
Now the world is in full knowledge of what is coming. The media is stalking us 24 hours a day. They are giving us the image of mighty gods in their emotionally riddled publications. Everybody is watching us. Success is necessary.

Are we mighty? Are we gods? I guess we fit in the definitions, but we are also the contrary, we are employees. We provide a service.
Dr. Van Gould. General Supervisor at Project Neptune”


Peacefully and quietly, the creature dived into its home. They lived in colonies, refuged under rocky oceanic structures covered by a musty layer of algae and small marine fauna.  These towering edifices provided protection and comfort against the threats of the angry sea. Colonies spread around many of these formations densely packed next to each other over a considerable area, each one housing dozens of beings. Whatever material composed these structures, it could not be noticed under the thick coating of life that sustained itself on the surfaces, but they were huge. Some of them even rose over the surface, the top lost forever for the underwater animals that witnessed them from below. These giant pillars, hollowed and puzzlingly arranged on the inside, were the basis of life for the group of beings that ate, slept and mated there.

The creature swam across the alleys that separated these formations, looking to enter the tallest around. It passed through a hole on the wall, but scratched its tail with a bar of rusty metal. A thin trail of red blood diffused into the liquid environment and alarmed the creature, who precipitated inside on a flash. Blood attracted predators, and that was not something the colony could afford on mating season. The creature squeezed through a couple more holes deeper into the structure. All it could do was hope that the giant marauders hadn’t noticed the smell of a fearful meal roaming through the spot.

The creature took a route across the riddling labyrinth of areas connected by holes, passages, and claustrophobic hallways. It finally arrived to a gargantuan communal area. There, others like it swam around each other, shared group meals, and socialized with a series of soft shrieks and pleasant chants. The harmonic, lyrical voices of the creatures deciphered a sort primitive language. It was clear that when they were wailing at each other, there was a sense of tone, a sense of communication. They were saying things to each other. And there needed to be plenty of mingling, for this was mating season. Males, like the hunter, had to earn the females that stood out through courtship, offering them prey they had caught in order to convince them they were the strongest, fittest around. If the initial ritual went along fine, they were to go to the male’s den, which he would have decorated thoroughly for purposes of impression. It was an act of natural selection. The perpetuation of the species through its most exemplary specimens, and the hunter was one of the largest and strongest around, he had an offering to make. The herring it had caught was quite heavy, a rather prime quality fare. It could not be compared, of course, to the giant tuna that some other seekers managed to gather in packs, but for a single individual, the herring was a more than generous present.


June 15, 2367. It’s been a year since we finally completed the round of experiments, yet Project Neptune is completely paralyzed. Lambda doesn’t know what the hell to do with this newly found recipe for life. Who do we give it to? Certainly there is only enough for few. In the end, we are not doing this for humanity, just individuals. And that shatters my heart into melancholy-bleeding pieces.
Then again, everyone’s watching, and everyone wants in. Test subjects come in thousands, all of them looking to be experimented on, just in case intervention grants them a chance to live for free. I say “free” because the board of directors at Lambda is already discussing the capitalization of the project. Genetic intervention will have a price.
There is even talk about “premium genetic packages” that grant a better chance of survival upon completion. You pay, you live. You pay more, you live longer and better. Nothing but Darwinism in its most disgusting form.
The directors think they will be able to launch Project Neptune to the public later this year. They are rushed, insatiable snakes. Their money fetish has actually put to work a marketing department to promote the venture to society. It is almost as if they were trying to rub the good fortunes of a few in the faces of billions of condemned souls.
                I just hope this wasn’t all in vain.
                Dr. Van Gould. General Supervisor at Project Neptune”


A female chanted from the distance, in a delightful soprano voice. The hunter headed towards her. She leaned towards his direction; she had been waiting for him. They spiraled around each other for a minute or so, observing the other with their faces of curious expression. The act of courtship had begun. The hunter sang in a harmonious falsetto, the female answered with a short shriek. Finally, he offered her the bounty, which she promptly accepted. It was clear sign that it was time to move onto the lair of the hunter. Two lucky ones united for the purpose of extending the reign of the species over the oceans for the next generation.

They still swam in circles around each other. The scene exuded a romantic allure like the one found in the most exquisite Shakespearian poetry. This was the poetry of nature. On the wall next to the two mates, a giant plaque could be seen. Vestiges of Art Deco gold survived the implacable rust, describing a symmetrical composition of lines and figures that almost seemed to represent the archetype of the towers that housed them. A scripture stood out below this metallic figure. The language of it, the creatures couldn’t understand, but it was clear the plaque had been polished and kept safe of the algae, almost sacredly. It had a meaning to the colony, something even they couldn’t guess, but knew it was important; some kind of message, perhaps, a memorandum from the gods?

On present human language, it read “Lambda Corporation Headquarters”.

And the two creatures that stood on the sight of such monument were ready to retire into the nest of love. The hunter had secured one of the top spots from the structure. A small room only accessible through a precisely calculated route his mate followed him through. Inside, the den had been stuffed with all kinds of décor gathered from the area. The female took her time to wander about the space, allowing herself to be impressed by such a grandeur arrangement:

In front of her stood an altar, made entirely of scrap collected from the ocean bed. Two tall posts held the whole tribute together. A rectangular sign hanged from one of them, the words “Bus Stop” half erased from the dented metal plate. On them the hunter had weaved a net of wires, and on it hung a variety of small curiosities: the face of an old human printed on a green rectangular piece of hard paper; a trio of small circles suspended on straps, each containing inside a pair of thin needles protruding from the center; a seemingly plane black square, of around seven inches, the top covered in glass which had been violently shattered.  On the floor rested a collection of cylindrical containers of all shapes and sizes. In one looked closely, a few of them still conserved fragments of text: “Soup” “Tomato Sauce” “Tuna”. They were ordered alphabetically despite the hunter not being able to read a single letter; that was purely instinctive. At the imposing sight of such manual production, the hunter had earned his right to perpetuate his essence for another lifespan.

...

“February 2nd, 2368. Lambda let me go today. I want to think I retired with dignity, that I wasn’t just another piece of disposable junk. I certainly wasn’t five years ago, when they scouted me as an independent biotechnology expert and brought me to their shiny corporate headquarters.
I was never their employee, just their salaried collaborator. Now I have a millionaire bank account which disables me from doing anything to them. After all, I was never exploited; I received my “reward” for my part of the job.
 Now, Lambda has the genetic map, the knowledge of the procedure and all the tools money can buy in order to carry out operations with just the pressing of a few buttons. They don’t need to waste thousands of dollars on my services to do that.
The official launching for the public hasn’t happened yet, but Project Neptune is already beginning to receive its first clients. “Friends” of the executives and the prolific monetary supporters of Project Neptune get early admission and preferential treatment. They will live the best lives science can offer and cash can buy.
Those that gave everything on the name of humanity, me and my colleagues, are sent home. We are left at the mercy of god, like everyone else. To wait. To try to live with the impending calamity coming ever closer.
Call me crazy, but we did this to ourselves by torturing planet earth to the point of no return. We triggered the disaster with our silliness, with our poisonous gases, with our unstoppable logging, with the genocide of our very mother nature. Sometimes I think it would have just been more ethical to accept our defeat and accept the fact that we deserve every single piece of what is coming.
Dr. Van Gould.”


The next day, the colony gathered in the communal area. The tower, in all of its submerged misery, every corner becoming a cradle for the claws of invasive organisms, emanated majesty. It was definitely not the only one. The ecosystem was immense, with an implausible number of towers growing from the ocean bed. In between them, the ocean floor became a patterned grid covered in layers of solidified asphalt, where tons of curious pieces found rest: A massive yellow double arch suspended from a wall, a multitude of wheeled moving contraptions standing still on the ground, slowly consumed by the wearing forces of oxidation, boxes nailed to the ground, holding inside them piles of decomposing paper, stained in black. It was common thing to find piles of bones in and out of the towers. They had been there for a long time. 

The gathering was a daily occurrence; a ceremony. The hunter, his companion, and the rest of the inhabitants came together every morning through mating season; the gift from the gods resting on a pedestal in the center of the room. Legend has it the device was not found on the ocean bed, but had fallen from the surface many years ago, and caught the eye of one of the members of the colony. Polished white and futuristically shaped, stamped a triangular logo, the seemingly trivial device had been found by one of the colony members, and kept guarded without nobody actually knowing what it was, or what it did; it was an instinctive protection.

Finally it had been found out by trial and error that pressing one of the buttons, the one with an equilateral triangle in the middle, triggered a sound; a lengthy hymn in some kind of alien dialect far beyond the comprehension of the wailing creatures. Now, every day the enigmatic gadget played the mantra to the multitude. The gods themselves were speaking, their voices muffed as the sound waves raced across the water. What they said was just as unclear as it was utterly powerful. They sang in their own voices to it, wishing for future glories, crying for past tragedies, and when the ritual concluded, the race continued.


“April 15, 2370” spoke a rough, nasal voice “The world is panicking. What for them started as a silly rumor five years ago is now a reality bigger than anyone can comprehend. Streets are deserted right now. Families say goodbye to each other. The disaster is coming, and here I am, finding comfort in my audio-diary just like I have for the past torturing years.
I can’t help but to think how avoidable this whole thing would have been if history had taken us through a different course. Our ancestors killed The Earth without knowing what rueful revenge they would unleash. Even we did. To be honest, society was never a friend of the environment until our last days.
A couple months ago I saw the latest TV ad Lambda had streamed for its “service”. I choked on disgust at the sight of such offensive material. The slogan was something like ‘Be Alive, Be Different’ or some other kind of nonsense. 90 seconds of woolly language and bright images offering life itself like if it was a cheesy novelty blender. That triangular logo has become, in my eyes, a symbol of everything that is wrong.
I found out that for added payment you could access premium packages which included enhancements such as “strength enhancement” and “superior cognitive abilities”; the kind of discovery that almost made me return my lunch. I could only imagine that even those who paid millions to live -at least Lambda had the decency to display the phrase ‘Consult Prices’ rather than display the humiliating price tag for subsistence- would be dead in the next years, their lives scraped in favor of those who paid more millions.
We played god. What a wonderful thing it would be to say that, if we hadn’t fallen prey of our own humanity. Now, the world will sink. Everyone will sink with it.
That is probably my only consolation: everyone –well, almost everyone- will meet their ends. I don’t care what happens to the people that made me sell myself for this vile initiative, It makes me feel so good to picture their glossy 100-plus story building buried underwater, slowly crumbling under pressure, every wall coated in bacteria.
I, for myself, have no reason to live. I was just as guilty of this as they were, of sheer ignorance at the least. How did I miss the obviousness of this all? Did I think Project Neptune would actually save humanity? Don’t tell me it did, please, it is a laughable affirmation. Maybe I was a dreamer. I can only wait to meet my end, and deserve nothing but to die with the very folks I tried to help.
But what matters is that some will live. How many? I don’t know. They will roam the ruins of civilization among the corpses of everyone else. Who can blame them? They don’t deserve my insults. They were just individuals with plenty of resources who knew how to take a chance. They will, in some way, prolong the human species for what is to come. That is as fortunate as it is heart wrenching
A creature will dive across the open spaces of a vast, empty ocean; pearl-blue nothingness spreading in every direction. It will be the most beautiful work of art Mother Nature has ever created. Except it will not be a work of Mother Nature. It will be an artifice, the culmination of hundreds of years of perfecting biotechnology. That creature, like every other, was born millions of years ago in the womb of the fostering water, then evolved to set foot on earth, where it reveled and demolished everything on its path. Now, that creature is going home, back to where it originated, if only after reaching a new milestone of natural selection. That creature is the Human Being. The first species to have ever successfully commercialized the survival of the fittest.

Dr. Van Gould”.

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