Fiction, Sci-Fi

Solid: Chapter 3

Meet Extremophile C626

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Solid: Chapter 3

Extremophile C626 moved happily along, if it could be said to be happy, in the carbon rich water. It was squat, about two feet tall and 4 feet thick and vaguely humanoid. It moved its onyx colored 400 pounds by a cumbersome gait toward the crawler and nudged it with its stumps of arms as a slick of liquid carbon oozed from its exhaust and hugged the sea bed like a black fog. Extremophile C626 opened a gaping maw that looked like a smile and gulped in the deep ocean water. From its mysterious posterior there emerged tiny crumbs of sea shells.

Extremophile C626 was about to divide again as it had a thousand times before just like the thousands of others that surrounded the slow moving crawler and clamored in the dark like excited, hungry, blind babies.

The crawler moved incrementally, silently, steered by an unseen hand from above which Extremophile C626 could never conceive of. If there were gods, Extremophile C626 did not know them. It ate, it shit, it divided.

There was an unseen hand, though, on Oahu Station. Mark Casteel looked over the operator’s shoulder as he logged in the coordinates for crawler 1035 as it gobbled up the carbon pellets from the ocean surface and sucked them down to the ocean depths and deposited the recaptured carbon in a viscous, inky cloud that changed state and hugged the sea floor.

High above a nuclear powered dirigible hummed like a spiraling stationary football that shed its chemical byproduct like clouds of sebhorreic skin cells that drifted down and plopped into the Pacific Ocean like rain, to float a while before being sucked to the depths where it nourished Extremophile C626. At this rate, with the thousands of crawlers and floaters operating globally, Earth’s carbon cycle would return to pre-industrial norms in about 700 years.

Oahu Station, and the Hawaiian Islands in general, remained paradise on Earth and dominated by DynaCorp. Oahu Station controlled dirigible and crawler carbon capture with an eye toward a distant dream of a once and future Eden.

It was the only living that Mark and Kaira and Nick had. It was a damn good living, too. In a world of want, the Casteels had everything they needed, even if they hadn’t been together for almost a year. It was company first and they lived without want or fear. Mark’s specialty in chemical engineering required him to be present on Oahu.

“Big storm forming south of 1035,” said Casteel to the back of the operator seated before him. “What’s going to be its track?”

“We’ll get ready to duck and cover in probably three days,” said the operator. “It’s going to be a whopper of a storm, but not enough to disturb the colony.”

Duck and Cover was operator speak for preparing for large ocean events. Colony 1035 would only be inconvenienced by the storm. Hugging the sea floor, the colony would hardly notice the change in atmospherics. But the floater would have to gain altitude over it and the snorkel would have to be retracted under it. Meaning Extremophile C626 would get hungry and shrink a bit.

“Might impact the tower, though,” said the operator. “You think they’ll have to do a move?”

Moving the space tower was an expensive thing to do but its value was such that DynaCorp could take no chances. The tower had a version of duck and cover too that was adequate for most storms.

“Not my pay grade,” said Casteel. “Send the projections up the chain, would you?”

Casteel walked away from the console toward the heavily tinted windows. He touched a panel and it vanished and he walked out into the sunshine of an observation deck. Far below was a marina where commerce came and went into a placid ocean bathed in sunshine. This far up, the ocean breeze made it comfortable, but you couldn’t stand outside and enjoy it without a good layer of sunblock. The heat and sun would eat you up in a hurry, burning your skin to second degree burns easy, though it felt okay, but uncomfortable, for a while.

The effect would be the same as falling asleep on a beach back in the day and waking up with cracked red skin. Only now the same effect would take all of 15 unprotected minutes. Back in SoCal, the poors were ravaged by uncontrollable cancers but over time they had also developed thick skins, pigmented in ways that were protective and strange. DynaCorp chose not to fund studies of those left behind and how their bodies were changing to adapt to a hostile world. Casteel couldn’t have cared except Kaira was much closer to that world of danger and privation and she dealt often with those from the desperate side of the divide.

Desperate.

All sides of the divide were desperate. Everything was just shades of desperation. Casteel lived well, but long gone were the rich benefits of red meat and individual transportation. The oligarchs had tried to buy up what figured to be arable land but their riches didn’t save them from the hungry.

DynaCorp saw it first and bought Hawaii because it was easily defensible. Even so, the company needed a breadbasket and it had to militarize to protect its holdings.

Over on Maui, DynaCorp controlled and operated the space elevator, making the company more powerful than any remaining terrestrial government and also the landlord and gatekeeper to near space. Anyone who wanted off the planet either paid heavily or was on the team. In 700 years DynaCorp would still be here and rich enough to control everything that was left.

In 700 years, if everything went according to plan, Colony 1035 would cease to be a source of excess carbon and Extremophile C626 and all his line would run out of food. They would first begin to shrink in size. Then most would starve and die, hardening into a queer chapter of the geologic record; a layer of seabed rock that would last thousands and thousands of years.

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