Truman Green's science rumours

November 13, 2012

Smart Animals

Filed under: Uncategorized — trugreen1 @ 11:53 pm

Captain Plasmidian chastises Plaxon

“There’s a theory going around, at least in some circles…”

Smart Animals

Illustrations drawn by Truman Green

The massive, glistening spacecraft shuddered then leapt ahead to half-speed so quickly that the navigator and pilots, along with their five hundred Proxime crew of cutters and packers, barely noticed their sun, Proxima Centuri, receding instantly into the black universe. Most of them were overjoyed, finally realizing a life's dream to be part of the widely-heralded, four-year mission to harvest protein from the seeded planet, Chonps, third planet from the newly discovered star, Fusian, and home of a species known to be almost completely comprised of food protein, a rare and coveted substance in the western galaxy.

Proximian nutritionists, chefs and just about the entire population of three hundred billion, had long dreamed of the day when the Chonpsians would become available as a garnish and delicacy for special holidays, feasts and celebrations. In fact, many of the crew members could trace their own lineage back to the original crew which had participated in the eukaryotic seeding of that tiny planet, named Chonps by early astronomers, an acronym for an unusual combination of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur found in its indigenous organisms and especially its strangely bilaterally-symetrical, semiconscious "smart animals" as they were sometimes referred to by the more magnanimous Proximians.

It was these creatures, smart or not, that the Proxime Protein Research Institute (PPRI) had finally approved as suitable for the first large-scale protein expedition. Numerous clandestine, unauthorized abductions (and allegedly, mutilations) of the seeded Chonpsians had been going on for many years, but the government had always preferred to turn a blind eye to this illegal activity because it had never obtained a workable ethical mandate to deal with the problem. There had been for some time, a substantial controversy about the morality of using Chonpsians as a food product, but much of that had dissipated when the new post modern school of ethical relativism had gained widespread acceptance in the scientific and philosophical communities.

Furthermore, it was well documented that the Chonpsians had never desisted from slaughtering and eating anything that crawled, wriggled, hopped, slithered, walked, ran, swam or flew in the chonpsian biosphere in spite of the fact that they had long ago developed–mostly by controlled mutagenesis–the ability to subsist perfectly well on the stationary creatures who experienced no significant pain while being harvested, and which acquired their own nourishment by a kind of homeostatic photosynthesizing of a certain frequency of their big star's incoming electromagnetic radiation.

Ad-hoc committees all over the planet had developed a consensus that it was not necessary to show these Chonpsians

any particulary mercy as they seemed to have a persistent penchant for defining morality as anything they wanted to do, and their ability to create dizzying rationalizations was held in awe all over the edge of the galaxy. It was pointedly remembered that soon after a team of geneticists aboard a triad of exploring spacecraft had mutated a docile little herbevore into a large, hairy, fast-reproducing animal, some incorrigible white Chonpsians quickly slaughtered sixty million of them, mostly to deprive some red Chonpsians whose continent they were trying to steal (successfully as it turned out) of their food and clothing supply.

The original concept was to harvest ten million of these large "running beasts" for a nascent protein industry, but because only a few thousand were left, and these mainly in Chonspian zoos and reserves, it was determined that the Chonpsians would have to come in their place. The irony of it all was not lost on the scientific community, and it was announced that the central dogma would be: What goes around comes around.

At the hugely-attended final convention for the establishment of the protein industry, an eminent mathematician, only partly in jest, suggested that the Chonpsians could, themselves, fall victim to their own a priori assurance of their position at the top of the food chain, because if their calculations were inaccurate by an "arithmetic factor of one," they could, in fact, find themselves in number two position, which would render them vulnerable to the culinary aspirations of more advanced civilizations.

Several of the conventioners' proposals were rejected out of hand because they were immediately seen to be in conflict with the Proximians' tradition of fair play. Among these were Chonpsians riding (with or without saddles), Chonpsian sporting events (racing and pulling contests), and a blatantly cynical campaign by some imaginative Eclidonians to stock a huge, newly reserved forest with young, healthy Chonpsians for the sport and trophy hunting industry. This particular suggestion by the somewhat less morally developed Eclidons was widely reported in the press, and the disaffection aroused in the citizens was sufficient to create a demand that the Eclidons be completely barred from the Chonpsian trade.

It was also reported in the tabloid press, a source considered to be somewhat less than reputable, that the lead author of the trophy hunting proposal was so disdainful of the do-gooder element of Proximian society that he left on a flight for another terrestrial planet where he is rumoured to have developed a whale aquaria industry with numerous high-priced franchises going for top dollar by virtue of a business plan that is said to use as its template a kind of pyramid selling scheme. It has been historically claimed among the Proximians that if there is even a glimmer of a hope for self-enrichment the Eclidonians will find it.

The potentially-explosive matter of "onco-chonps" was, as always, tabled for further consideration, and the marketing of Chonpsian generational parts, organs and internal pumping stations was only casually considered, except by a somewhat psersistent contingent from the eastern planets, who claimed (apparently feigning self-consciousness) that the long standing cultural acceptance of alien species as aphrodisiacs should be given official recognition in the central dogma, in order to foster tolerance and respect for minority civilizations. It was strongly suggested that a universal legalisation of Chonpsian bioparts and biochemicals would tend to discourage the inevitable black market that prohibition would precipitate.

In spite of some rather shrill dissension from the animal rights' activitsts, who were viewed by many–as often claimed in the Mainstream Media–as mere professional agitators, the research codes were adopted by the mainstsream research and food insustry organizations. In a rare deference to several religious communities it was proposed, by a group of secular educators, that a member of the clergy should be present at all major abattoirs and researach facilties in order that the blessings of the mystical societies might be bestowed on the protein industry and to ensure the benevolent and kindly treatment of the Chonpsians as they were being killed.

As a guarantee of clergical approval it was mandated that a mystical insignia would be surreptitiously implanted in the bar codes of all new Chonpsian products, and that any cutters, packers or researchers found to be in violation of the Chonpsian's rights to a quick death or painless examination, would be subject to immediate censure and that such censure would automatically trigger the immediate suspension of all government licenses and research grants until the Chonpsian body parts could be forensically examind for evidence of unnecessary trauma. To ameliorate the potential for arbitrary and unfair chastisement of the participants in the exciting new commerce, it was agreed that the industry would be allowed to establish its own certifying process and and in effect police itself, at least until proven incapable of doing so.

The persistent Eclidons, not willing to let the matter of oncochonps fade from view without a fight, brought in their top specialists in molecular biology, genetic engineering, the medical practice sector and the cosmetics industry, each to make his presentations to the government. Among the more esoteric (at least to lay Proximians) proposals of usage for the imported species was a particularily fascinating one which required the transgenic injection of Chonpsian embryos with pathogenic dna sequences to facilitate the testing of cancer treatments and carcinogens. The Eclidons proposed an open-ended approach to Chonpsian research and requrested that the following statement be adopted by the convention:

In view of the moral problem associated with research on live Chonpsian specimens it is agreed

that all research shall be conducted in a way which will not inflict undue suffering on the Chonpsians, with

the greatest scrutiny to be exercised on infants and very young children who will be terminated at a

stage in their lives before they have been able to appreciate the sacrifice they will be making to enhance

the health and nourishment of their Proximian hosts. Furthermore, where it will become necesssary to introduce

disease pathogens into Proximian bodies or where organ or limb removal will be required, the most

vocal and creative members of our clergy shall be available to offer consolation, sympathy and encouragement, as

well as assurance of redemption and forgiveness for bad behaviour.

In the final few months before the new spacecraft's departure the hopeful protein industry sponsored a planet-wide contest for the creating of culinary dishes comprised of immaculately decoded and preserved Chonpsian body parts. First prize in this unusual contest went for a particularly elegant dish consisting of sauteed neuronal clumps, pickled keratin assemblages with artificially-coloured corneas, retinas and neural ganglia on the side. Depending on availability, brown or yellow bile could be included as a tasty and nutritious organic gravy.

The winning contestant, a visiting Eclidon teenager rumoured to be the niece of one of the zoological aspirants, even included serving directions with her entry, and this thoughtful innovation was entitled, rather poignantly, "Breakfast of Chonpsians." It was discovered that the winner had cleverly sold her prize, a seat on the protein craft, to an associate of her uncle, who was thus well positioned to continue his firm's lobbying activities on board. Preparations for the expedition had been ongoing for years, and within seconds of the huge craft's liftoff, the thousands of crew members found themselves hurtling through space at half the speed of light, up to their sister star, Alpha Centuri, and beyond, enchanted by its uncanny resemblance to their own beloved Proxima.

The two hundred disassembling rooms had been inspected and sterilized, and all two thousand stainless steel cutting machines had been sharpened and temporarily encased in extruded tritium shrouds for dust control. Plaxon, the chief operating engineer, had designed the machines himself and had actually earned his place on board the new craft by reverse engineering a Chonpsian "pecking fowl" slaughterhouse. It was said that, although the Chonpsian prototype was incredibly efficient, Plaxon's deduced components were a work of wondrous synchronicity and were known to have the capability of killing, collating, cutting and packing ten thousand Cchonpsians per hour, as long as the haemoglobin protein catchment basins didn't overflow. Unlike the so-called "natural selection" by which the Chonpsians naively imagined life on their planet progressed, nothing was left to chance. With the transparent polyvinyl butylene tubing used for haemoglobin catchment came the ingenious recycling innovation of freezing the strange new substance, placing it on cellulose sticks and making it available to school children as special snacks and awards for disciplined behaviour and high academic achievement.

Part Two

The spacecraft was three light years out of port when Plaxon completed his checklists in the abattoirs and packing plants. Everything was in remarkably good order, and when he finally reported to Captain Plasmidian it was not without a great sense of pride in what he had been able to accomplish just five years into his post-combatant officer career, including his much-sought-after posting of chief operating engineer on the first-ever government-sponsored protein expedition.

Captain Phage Plasmidian, resplendent in his newly-designed cerulean blue jumpsuite, seemed thoughtful as the two sat in the upper cockpit snacking on the inevitable ubiquitous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon boxed lunches which had been prepared in so many varieties that even the talented Proxime chefs were hard-pressed to come up with anything remotely resembling interesting.

"Well Plaxon, old buddy, what do you think? Are we actually going to get to eat some of theses things some day? These assorted hydrocarbons are driving me nuts."

"Won't be long, now sir. We're well on our way and everythings's right up to speed. Have you tried the tubeworms? Apparently they're in season now, and the technos over at Biologic are engineering some very nice polypeptide soups to have with them. The food's much better now sir. Same basic aminos I must admit, but generally much better prepared."

"Yeah, but what I wouldn't give for a nice negro pot pie right about now. Have you seen the projected menus?"

"Food looks delecious, doesn't it."

"Sure does. Do you think they'll put up much of a fight, Plaxon?"

"Well, I'm sure they're going to get fairly stressed about being considered food, but surely when they see what we're actually capable of doing, they'll realize that discretion is the getter part of valour."

"Those methane bombs will definitely bring them on board."

"Nice pun, sir."

"Thank you, Plaxon. You know the technos over at Weapons are still pitching knocking out their ozone. This methane thing…it's definitely wierd science to me. You sure it'll work?"

"Well, four thousand megatons of methane will immediately accelerate the homeostastic equilibrium of their biosphere and the resulting oxidation will deplete the oxygen so significantly thast the ozone will be reduced dramatically anyway, not to mention the acute respiratory deficits that will occur."

"So where are we getting a sufficient supply of methane for all that?"

"Well, there's lakes of the stuff on one of that ringed planet's moons. We're going to swing by and take on as much as we can carry. No doubt enough for our Chonps project."

"Methane, eh. Isn't that the material the Chonpsians use for fuel and to run most of their industries?"

"Same stuff, Sir. They drill for it in shallow wells on Chonps, but only the elite robber class knows that if you dig deep enough just about anywhere on Chonps you'll find the stuff floating in seas just above the mantle."

"I remember reading about that somewhere. Is this the stuff they call "fossil fuels?"

"Same stuff, sir. The elites pretend that it is derived from the pressurized fossils of dead animals and plants just to ensure that their slaves will think the stuff is going to run out at any minute."

"Clever bit of marketing–invent some fake science for the origin of their fuel hydrocarbons and sell it back to the slaves for exorbitant rates with the expectation that its a finite resource. Brilliant, but evil! So why was Weapons recommending oxygen bombs?"

"Oh that! Well sir, that was a bit hair-brained all along, because if the proportion of oxygen in the Chonpsian atmosphere exceeds twenty-one percent the entire crust of the planet would be incinerated. Definitely overkill, sir."

"So have we got the microbe problem completely under control? These Chonpsian things are full of Escherichia Coli, staphlococcus, pylorus bacteria, salmonella, some particularly nasty necrotizing fasciitis microbes; their so-called hospitals are all contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria–not to mention some weird bacteriophages that are capable of doing their own genetic engineering. And then there's that synthetic retrovirus thast supposedly destroys the immune systems of its hosts."

"We know, sir. We're ready for all that. We're going to recode that ugly piece of protein right back into that hopeless little primate from whence it allegedly came. Not to worry, sir."

"By the way, Plaxon, do you think they did that on purpose?"

"Well, it's a theory. Sheep visna virus with cell wall deficient enhancers gene spliced to produce a pathogen that can be infectious to Chonpians–if not infecstious, then it will at least ruin their immune systems. At least that's what Blithon over at Biologic claims. He's convinced some supposedly elite class of Chonpsians engineered this chimeric immune virus–apparently mostly visna–in order to kill off a few billion of its opponents, and that its antigens are specifically tagged to the melanin gene."

"Enhancers, eh, Plaxon. What enhancers?"

"Blithon says mycoplasmas."

"Mycoplasmas? What have they got to do with it?"

"Well, on Chonps, animal viruses don't usually harm Chonpsians so somebody came up with the bright idea of running them through Chonpsian cancer cells which have been pre-transfected with mycoplasmas."

But what would be the point of all that anyway>"

"Social biological warfare."

"Social biological warfare?"

"Apparently. But not only that. It's pretty complicated Chonpsian sociology, but the northern clans are getting pretty antsy about the southern types because they have traditionally cheated the southerners out of their natural resources, by setting up dictators like some guy they call Sese Seko, who funnelled most of his country's minerals to the north for huge personal profits, and who actually spent most of his life in a villa on a western Riviera while his countrychonpsians were starving and fighting over the scraps of colonialism."

"So what's the melanin link?"

"Most of the southern Chonpsians have the melanin gene, sir."

"So the sheep virus is upgraded to kill Chonpsians with melanin?"

"Apparently, and also other groups like drug injectors and homogenerationals."

"So you think this is true, Plaxon."

"I don't know for sure but Blithon did his thesis on it, and he did graduate, sir."

"Genetically engineered, biological class warfare. What a concept! Do you think they really did it, Plaxon?"

"I wouldn't put it past them, sir. They do seem to be fond of a good ethnic cleansing once in a while."

"Well, I'm going to put an end to their racial superiority thing, first chance I get."


"I'm going to do a taste test. Ha ha ha. That ought to settle it eh, Plaxon."

"Ha ha ha. Right on, sir. Excellent pun, sir."

"Not bad, eh. I made that one up myself."

"You always were very funny, sir."

"And you always were very obsequious, Plaxon."


"Just kidding. Anyway…Oh yeah, I know what I wanted to ask you, Plaxon."


"Did PNN make it on board?"

"'Fraid so."

"Great, just great. That's just what we need. I sure hope we don't have to get rough with these Chonpsians. They do have a pretty irritating little military complex. I'd rather PNN doesn't get any videos of us killing a few hundred million Chonpsians. Can't we just dump PNN at Europa or somewhere and pick them up on the way back?"

"I don't think we'd get away with it sir. PNN is parliamentarily mandated for this flight. Besides the Europaens are in the middle of a very large ethnic cleansing situation, and I doubt if they want any ambitious journalists snooping around for mass burial sites. There's no way around it, sir. This whole expedition's going to succeed or fail by virtue of the electron beam images brought home by PNN. The good news is that noone's got any particular use for Chonpsians after what they've been doing to each other and the other species on their planet for thousands of years. So, fortunately, they've really set a good precedent for their own demise. If we're forced into acting without a certain decorum, I'm sure everyone will understand. They're definitely a very nasty lot, although they do seem to have some friends in the animal rights clubs–like PETC, for example."

"Clubs? I wouldn't call them clubs. More like intellectual terrorists, don't you think?"

"Well, apparently we're going to have some company on the way home, sir. According to Blithon over at P.N.N. the free radicals have put together a small armada and are threatening to block the western landing bays and force us back into space."

"Force us back into space? Do they know the size of this thing: How do they think they're going to accomplish that?"

"Public opinion apparently."

"Public opinion! Are you kidding? Who cares about a few million Chonpsians? There's billions of them. I mean, this one expedition's hardly putting them on the endangered species list."

"Well sir, according to the free radicals, the Chonpsians have rights."

"Rights? What rights? Who gave them rights?"

"Well, there is a line of thought going around, at least in some circles, that rights are inalienable."

"Inalienable, eh. You know, Plaxon, you're beginning to sound a bit like them yourself."

"Like Chonpsians, sir?"

"No, free radicals."

"Well, to be perfectly honest, sir, I do kind of feel a bit sorry for them sometimes. I mean…lots of us keep abducted aliens for pets but we wouldn't want to, I mean, uh…eat them, sir."

"Right. We don't eat our own pets. Never have and never will. What's your point?"

"Well, theoretically speaking sir, it could be said that it's a little hypocritical eating the Chonpsians you don't know and building heated shelters for the ones you keep as pets."

"Really? I think you need a holiday, Plaxon. You've been thinking too much. Look, pets are pets and food is food. Get it? Besides, our people are getting bored to death with chemosynthetic tubeworms and aromatic hydrocarabons. We have to get some variety into our diet. It's a fact of life. You knew what this expedition was about when you signed on. We all knew it. You designed the cutting rooms yourself. Now you have second thoughts. That's hardly going to fly, Plaxon. You're part of this mission and this mission is about protein. I have a job to do, and that includes security and I'm afraid I can't allow you to repeat anything you've just said outside of this room. You know the consequences of insubordination, right?"

"Right, sir."

"Tubeworms for life."

"I know, sir, and no condiments, sir."

"And no condiments, Nothing. Not even spiced hydrocarbons."

"I understand that, sir. There won't be a problem.Thanks for your candor. It's not a huge issue with me anyway. I better be getting back, sir."

"Okay, Plaxon. Sorry I had to get a bit rough there."

"That's okay, sir."

Plaxon got up to leave, and as he stepped down from the observation level Captain Plasmidian called out to him: "There's one more thing, Plaxon."


"Cheer up. We expect our management team to maintain a positive attitude. You didn't invent the world, you know."


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