Polysapien Spacemen, the Rightly Stuffed
by Charles C. Cole
Mr. Chairman, longtime supporters of innovative biological technologies, thank you for your invitation. I stand before you to throw open wide a perceived curtain of secrecy and reveal the facts surrounding the recent unfortunate events at the Kit Carson Testing Facility.
Though unable to attend, CEO Koenig insisted I convey his profound regrets over this unforeseen tragedy. The bedrock of science has always been heroic sacrifice. We’re certain that this evolving technology will not be judged by one unpreventable accident, but instead by its potential grand future.
As you’re probably aware, the synthetic life form known as “the polysapien” was initially created for the bold purpose of colonizing untamed planets. Once “Poly One” had landed, he could theoretically sever a finger and quickly grow a companion: the benefits of a distributed neuronet, where skin cells function collectively like a brain.
Science has finally co-opted the glorious simplicity of fragmentation as a means to reproduce, like a sea star, using a technique of self-mutilation called autotomy. If one terranaut expires, the mission continues; Poly Two carries on. “Many hands make light work” is an especially apt mandate while scaffolding Earth Beta.
You’re probably wondering why Poly looks familiar. Even award-winning neobiologists develop fanboy crushes on celebrities. Therefore, Poly was coded to resemble a certain stand-up comedian who portrayed an astronaut in an otherwise science-free movie. The actor generously donated his DNA for the continuation of our species.
“Mr. A.” was full of national pride when contacted, but genuinely uncomfortable the first time he met his remarkable “stunt double.” It seems nobody likes a mirror image outside of the mirror. Although he joked about using Poly as his stand-in for his next film, all incoming communications ceased immediately upon our departure.
We were still years from practical trials when our intrigued colleagues at the Department of Defense formally requested a copy of Poly for their own clandestine purposes. It was, after all, more advanced than a clone. Clones, at least the animal subjects I’ve heard about, take valuable time to grow to maturity.
From limited sample tissue to life as an individual contributor, the polysapien fully matures in days versus months. The synthetic cells that make up its neural net are programmed to replicate at rates never seen in nature for such an advanced being. But it is not a sophisticated thinker.
The good folks at the DOD wanted an original high-definition, multi-camera recording of Poly “evolving” at their facilities, documenting the process from A to Zed. However, as the transport plane was leveling off following departure, it exploded over the surrounding desert. The cause has not been determined.
As a result, Poly mass-fragmented in a manner never tested; it burst. Hundreds of mini-soldiers the size of fingers fell like ice pellets over the uninhabited desert, where they essentially rebooted and grew, without guidance, primal, feral.
In prior testing, I can report, we had successively cultivated a Poly Two. Creation, it turns out, is easier to achieve than philanthropy. The units were assigned the simple task of moving a pile of rocks from one corner to another about sixty feet away, using shovels and wheelbarrows. We wanted to validate their natural spirit of collaboration. We had hoped, being similar in design, they would be similar in nature.
Almost immediately, however, a scuffle erupted as Poly Two demanded the newer, shinier shovel used by Poly One. Blows were exchanged. Poly Two got the upper hand and was about do something with a large rock for which we had not planned when we neutralized him. We thought, perhaps, he was a “bad copy” and tried again.
This time we had two different piles of rocks, a similar mission but one that allowed the units to work independently. The aggression displayed by Poly Three was, if anything, more intense, resulting in a similar outcome.
We destroyed the two copies lest they be misused. We then contacted the DOD and explained that we felt, while overall the experiment had been a great success, using a team of Polys was not a proven concept. Rather than be disappointed, the military leadership was intrigued and, I daresay, excited. Put simply: we suspected the more pieces created, the more self-serving they would become.
Which brings us to the explosion. While investigators were focused on recordings between flight control and the pilot and digital readouts, apparently nobody was focused on Poly. A lone sentry checking a perimeter fence five nights later reported seeing “an approaching black mass.” It was a sea of ferocious “Poly-wogs,” as some witnessing sergeant cynically called them, each trying to be first back to base. When the sentry called out, they surged.
When one grabbed the fence, the nearest competitor pulled it violently away. A third climbed over the two. A fourth grabbed the third by the legs and tossed it aside. A fifth steamrolled into the pack, scattering them. A sixth leapt onto the fifth, bashing its head with a rock.
This changed everything. Suddenly, everyone was grabbing rocks. Others, in self-defense, began punching and clawing. The guard radioed for help, firing a few rounds in the air. There was a pause as the agitated mob realized the soldier had a better weapon than they had, and they wanted it.
They hurled themselves against the fence. They were on him, tearing at him, as a jeep with three other soldiers arrived, who immediately called for additional support. Suddenly the jeep became a prime target. The heroic soldiers became collateral damage.
The compound was quickly locked down. Everyone moved to underground bunkers. The facility commander ordered a tactical unit: “Make sure the fence stays whole, but keep your distance and don’t engage. We don’t need more casualties. The infestation will self-cure.”
Sure enough, with the dawn, the remnants were recovered and incinerated. Like the notorious Kilkenny cats, “excepting their nails and the tips of their tails,” there were no survivors. The infestation has in fact self-cured. We will begin anew.
Copyright © 2020 by Charles C. Cole