Saturday, October 3, 2009

17. Chlorine


Seven Days of Creation

On Monday, we filled the swimming pool with sterile water and added the self-replicating long-chain polymers. It was a shoestring operation from the first. The lab used to be a public swimming pool, before we bought it, cleaned it, and rigged it with our makeshift instrumentation. We added some sugar to the mix, and let things simmer.

Tuesday, the pool was filled to capacity with nanotechnic life forms. We set about teaching them first how to compute, and then how to reason. Since they reproduced at the rate of thousands of generations per hour, evolutionary pressures quickly boosted their intelligence.

Wednesday, the nanotech organisms achieved full consciousness. We broke out the champagne. Perhaps a few of us had too much. Dr. Wilkinson was discovered in a supply closet with a young lab tech. Who could blame her, though? We were all feeling exultant.

Thursday, the pool-life demanded Internet access. By the time we discovered they were dealing with our corporate rivals and buying stock on margin, they were heavily invested in new technology, and owned several valuable patents. Dr. Wilkinson had a stern talk with them about the necessity of going through proper channels.

Friday, we discovered that the lab had been bought by a consortium that turned out to be a blind for our pool life. It felt a little strange to be working for our own experiment, but Dr. Wilkinson called us all together and reminded us that we live in a capitalist system, and that it's useless to complain about its rules. The pool life were so pleased with her speech that they gave her a cash bonus.

Saturday, decadence set in. A memo from our superiors directed us to devote all efforts toward the development of water-soluble drugs. A second memo declared that henceforth all lab personnel were to dress appropriately for Victorian Lingerie Tuesdays. A third memo stated that Dr. Wilkinson was required to change her name to Fifi. Morale plummeted.

On Sunday, the pool life declared its intent to take over the world and enslave all of humanity. Dr. Wilkinson poured fifteen gallons of Clorox into the pool, killing everything within. We gathered, aghast, at the pool's edge, and stared down at its browning contents. Somebody began to cry.

"Don't feel sorry for them," Dr. Wilkinson said angrily. "They were just scum."

© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

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