Bacterial Deliberations At the South Pole Of Mars

PATRICIA REMY

MONITOR: Toxicus, we have a problem.

TOXICUS: Worrying your head again, Monitor? What is it this time? Our food is making us sick? We’re outgrowing our living space? Anxiety and mistrust are rife among the population?

MONITOR: Well, actually, Sir, all three. Our population is doubling every 10 hours now. They’re jostling one another. They claim they do not have room to respirate. That makes them anxious.

TOXICUS: But look around you, Monitor. There is still lots of room. They’ll just have to flail around less. They move around too much anyway. What happened to calm, and good manners?

MONITOR: Well, Sir, the waste is not dissipating rapidly enough. Osmosis can take place only so quickly. They’re looking for pleasant spaces to live. No one wants to dwell on the margins where the garbage is dumped.

TOXICUS: So up the production of waste vacuoles, Monitor.

MONITOR: But Sir, if we dump waste any faster, we spoil the substrate. Waste is getting into our food. It makes us sick. And we are, Sir, sorry to repeat myself, running out of living space. There is nowhere else where we can go. If we poison the substrate, it will die, and we die, too.

TOXICUS: So what do you suggest, Monitor?

MONITOR: Sir, as impossible as it sounds, we have to change our ways, radically. We have to learn to be satisfied with enough. With sufficiency. We can’t continue to always strive for more.

TOXICUS: Monitor, now you are dreaming. Or in the woo-woo zone. Growth is in our nature. Perhaps it is even the essential feature of our nature.

MONITOR: And it is killing us! Maybe there are others ways to grow. Does it always have to be growth by expansion, by claiming more? And more. Maybe our worldview is fundamentally false. Perhaps the substrate is not just a resource to be consumed, but a host and provider. It feeds and shelters us. It is our home.

TOXICUS: Much as I hate to admit it, what you say does make some weird kind of sense. Now you just have to convince the population. You have to provide them with practical measures.

MONITOR: With all due respect, Sir, the convincing is your job. You are the government. I’m just a humble cell servant. If you, Sir, can get the ribosomes with the programme, I’ll look after the engineering.

TOXICUS: And do exactly what?

MONITOR: Instead of releasing toxins which make it sick, perhaps we could alter our metabolism to include producing vitamins or proteins for the substrate, sorry, host. These would be a fair trade for the moist and temperature-regulated environment which it provides for us.

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