(continued from previous)
“Holy Shit” said Olivia
“What?” Michael replied with a slightly disturbed tone. We was trying to concentrate on pipetting nanograms of DNA into a two-dimensional array.
“I put some of these samples in the dark room last night on a mixed food source medium, as a control. They’ve grown almost as much as the ones in the ECG chamber. How can this be possible? It’s phytoplankton, right? It needs light”.
“Well” said Michael, “I’ve run a few metabolic tests. Everything looks totally normal – except our friend here has also tested positive for a bunch of enzymatic activities that have nothing to do with photosynthesis. I’m sure it’s a contamination in the raw sample – I mean, there can be no other explanation. I can’t think of any other reason for this than a false positive. Unless… we have been invaded by an alien phytoplankton!” Michael chuckled loudly as he leaned backwards, his head almost facing the ceiling. His lab glasses shined bright for a split second as they reflected the lights.
“Wait a second” said Olivia, as she approached his bench. “What about all those unusual genes you couldn’t exactly identify the other day? We know this thing is a variant right, what if it has an altered metabolism? What if it can switch to a different food source at night? This would explain how it has been growing so insanely”.
“Have you been reading The Veil again Olivia?” Michael smirked, raising both eyebrows
“I think you should re-run those tests” said Olivia. “This is why”
She took her phone out of her pocket and held up the screen to Michael’s face. It was The Line’s live satellite coverage of the phytoplankton plague.
Like every new life form that emerged on this planet, the phytoplankton was only the latest in a series of miracles that had been happening on Earth for the past 3.5 billion years. The planet was desperately looking through its DNA databases, trying to find new combinations, new solutions that would help its ecosystems adapt to the crisis. The phytoplankton was a child of climate change. It was the new generation. It was one of the inhabitants of the New Earth. And like all mutants, it is only a piece of science fiction at first. And then one day, it’s not.
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books