Farm 703 – The Human Project
Farm 703 where humans are controlled by bacteria.
Farm 703 where we are a project created by the Farm Manager.
Farm 703 where there is a move to terminate the human project …
703 where Head Office will decide on the fate of humanity.
They are allowing me to write this story.
They do not think you will believe it.
A long time ago I read an article in a magazine. It said that in a healthy human being ninety nine out of every hundred cells in our bodies were bacterial. I have since seen other articles that put that number a bit lower, but they all agree, the majority of cells in our bodies are bacterial. Even in our own selves we are outnumbered!
That article set me thinking. Are we being farmed by bacteria? Is all human history dictated by bacteria? Are we being controlled?
I thought that there was a good Sci-fi story lurking in there but I could not figure out how to write it. There were so many stumbling blocks – one being that bacteria only live for a matter of seconds – less than a minute – before they undergo fission.
The thought stuck around in my head but went no further. Then I had this idea – I could have continuity if, when the bacterium underwent fission, there was a primary and secondary organism produced. That way the primary bacterium could live forever. It set me off. I had my continuity.
The next problem was intelligence. Could a bacterium, possessing no brain, be intelligent? Well scientists do not really understand how intelligence works. Consciousness is still a mystery and this is Sci-fi. I can make my bugs highly intelligent if I want. So I did. Bacteria are highly intelligent.
This then is Farm 703 – planet Earth – a place colonised by intelligent bacteria that have created all other forms of life.
Farm 703 – a world where evolution of other creatures has been engineered in order to feed and house bacteria.
Farm 703 – a farm where all that matters are the statistics on productivity – the holding capacity, the biomass, the number of bacteria housed.
Farm 703 – where the Project Manager, Zane 1, has deliberately created an intelligent form of life – human beings – as an experiment – a long-tern project to protect Earth against an extinction event.
Farm 703 – where human beings are proving difficult to control and are busy wrecking the place.
Farm 703 – where Head Office has become involved and is deliberating, in the interests of efficiency, whether to replace the project manager and eradicate humans, or continue with the experiment.
Farm 703 – a farm where the project manager in waiting is doing everything in her power to destabilise the farm and undermine the established project manager.
Welcome to Farm 703. This is where we live. They are allowing me to write this story. They do not think you will believe it.
It’s a bit weird, a bit like a surreal movie, but it’s what is going on in your head.
Ron Forsythe – 8th March 2020
‘Are you certain nothing can be done?’ Zane 1 asked in exasperation, her membranes blue with anger, her flagella dangling listlessly – a symptom of her extreme annoyance.
‘This should not be happening,’ she thought to herself. ‘They should have exerted better mastery over their beasts.’
‘They are just not susceptible to any control,’ Cadg 777654 replied in a highly agitated manner, on the verge of panic. ‘This bunch of humans never have been from the start. When they get all hyped up like this, we are completely helpless. It’s as if we aren’t here. They get into this emotional state and take no notice of us at all.’ There was open horror in her voice. She was jabbering. Life as a manager at any level was extremely precarious. There were always a trillion others pressing to take your place. For a division manager to be accessed by Zane 1, the Project Manager of Farm 703, was harrowing enough at the best of times. To have it happen when you were in the midst of a crisis, when your human subunits were completely out of control, was nothing short of terrifying. It usually augured replacement and being cast back into the mindlessness of the masses. To be mobbed was every manager’s greatest fear. She knew it was about to happen to her. It filled her with despair and dread.
Cadg 777654 could not be more desperate. She’d only been a human manager for fifty years and had already worked her way up to cohort responsibility. She had been made responsible for hundreds of human subunits in a fishing community on the Faroe Islands. The problem was that this latest project was impossible. Her subunits were not very responsive at the best of times. No matter what she tried she could not seem to influence them in the least. This assignment had seemed such a good one; a promotion, but it was really a death knell. She’d known almost straight away, the day her capsule delivered her to her new subunit, that it was going to be extremely difficult. These human creatures simply did not respond well to their commands at the best of times. They had their customs and traditions and took great pride in them. What could she do? No matter what she tried they did not take any notice. It was like riding a wild beast. When they got something in their heads there was no stopping them. It was frightening.
Then, in the midst of total disaster, at the worst possible moment, Zane 1 herself tunes in. What could possibly be worse? Cadg 777654’s whole team were helpless. They were all mere passengers. It was useless. They were totally ineffective. What would Zane 1 think? Well what could she possibly think? Being a passenger was the worst thing you could be for any Bacc. There was no hope.
Cadg 777654 knew that she was bound to get mobbed, sent down to the mindless mass – they all were. Her whole body was deep blue and her flagella flailed about hopelessly. She was certain she was doomed. She sat in the cortex of her host and helplessly watched as he completely ignored all her promptings and gleefully waded out into the bay to commit murder, his mind rampaging in a storm of electrified anticipation, her shrill commands brushed off without so much as a thought.
Out in the bay the flotilla of fishing craft was expertly herding the large pod of dolphins into the shallows. The terrified creatures were churning the waters, attempting to escape, their clicks, blows and loud whistles were rising above the threshing of the water created by the beating of their tails.
Already the army of eager men, women and children, dressed in waders, armed with gaffs and long knives, were wading out into the midst of the frenzied creatures. In a thrall of excitement, oblivious to any inner voices of reason, they began gaffing the creatures with their barbed hooks and sawing into their bodies with their honed knives. The stricken beasts lunged and bucked in terror and agony as they tried frantically to escape. Their whistling shrieks rose above the general noise of the pandemonium.
The waters turned blood red. The bodies piled up in lines on the beach. The thrashing and squealing became less as the last of the dolphins were butchered alive.
Zane 1 watched the scene right up to when the victorious group of human subunits, young and old, all covered in gore and full of exhilarating hormones, all utterly out of control, posed on the beach in front of the hundreds of dead mammals, for a photo. They looked so proud and gleeful without a thought for the creatures they had so cruelly killed. It was part of their heritage. They considered it a right. It wasn’t about food. There were many more dolphins on that beach than the humans could possibly need. But it had been another successful hunt in the Faroes, a tradition that went far back into the forgotten mists of history, a tradition that united the fishing community in blood and one that spelt doom for their bacterial controllers.
Zane 1 tuned out in disgust. In her view it was just another wanton destruction of valuable real estate. Trillions made homeless. It was symptomatic of so much that was going wrong in Farm 703. What was the matter with these people, these humans? Why were they so difficult to control? What filled them with such cruel blood lust? It was yet another failure. Even though she could appreciate the difficulties, particularly with that group of humans, she felt that things could have been done better at an earlier stage. That team of Baccs should have gained far better control of their subunits.
She tuned into Jugo 66543. She was always waiting to carry out Zane 1’s instructions.
‘Yes PM,’ Jugo 66543, her operational manager, promptly replied in the most deferential manner, assuming a pleasing orange colour, her cilia waving in attractive patterns. She had been waiting patiently in the wings. You were always at your most responsive when you received a tune from the PM.
‘Have Cadg 777654 and her whole team mobbed,’ Zane 1 instructed, flashing a wave of green across her skin and waving a single flagellum to signal her disgust at what she had just witnessed.
Putting that unpleasant business behind her she tuned into Tun 888954 for a more upbeat experience. Tun 888954 was someone she’d been following for a while – a rising star. After that poor start she felt that she needed something to give her a bit of hope and brighten up the day. Her integument had stayed distinctly green following that first tune.
‘How are things?’ She asked, without introducing herself, consciously changing the colour of her membranes to a more pleasing orange. Tun 888954 would instantly recognise the aura. She had no need to introduce herself.
‘Very good,’ Tun 888954 replied brightly, flashing back a confident red. She was the leader of a small cohort who were currently controlling eight humans – a militant bunch of environmentalists. ‘We’ve broken into the compound and are doing as much damage as we can.’
Tun 888954 seemed jubilant. Her human subunit – Millie Tong – was a fearless combatant of the first order, very susceptible to control. She was leading a small group who had already successfully sabotaged a number of environmentally damaging corporations.
Right now, they were in Brazil, taking on an illegal logging company. The target was a compound in which the company kept their equipment – delimbers, feller bunchers, log loaders and trucks.
When all the loggers had left the group of saboteurs approached and, with wire cutters quickly cut through the perimeter fence. Having broken into the compound they were setting about wrecking the place, breaking into the huts, smashing up chain saws and systematically destroying the vehicles and stores. Armed with their bolt cutters, knives, sugar and petrol they aimed to put the operation out of business. The lorries, tractors and heavy plant vehicles were being targeted. They were pouring sugar into petrol tanks, ensuring that everything was either cut up or covered in petrol to be set alight. They intended to show that there was no profit to be made from destroying pristine rainforest.
Zane 1 watched the group set about their task. As she observed the way the human subunits, tightly controlled by their Bacc handlers, went about their business her colour turned a deeper orange. Soon, as the humans slipped out through the perimeter wire the way they’d come in, the whole of the compound was a roaring fire. With a final wave and flash of red she tuned out as the whole place was blazing nicely. There would not be many trees cut down by that firm anymore. A bit more of this kind of positive news and she might even achieve a mild red before the day was out.
‘Jugo 66543?’ She murmured, focussing her tune.
‘Yes PM,’ Jugo 66543 answered immediately.
‘When this latest mission in Brazil is complete have Tun 888954 promoted,’ Zane 1 instructed, waving her anterior flagella in a satisfied manner. ‘She’s got excellent control over those human subunits. I want her in a command role, here in the control centre. We need as much experience here as we can muster.
So, the day progressed, tuning in and micromanaging.
Zane 1 always liked to spend the morning switching between tunes, getting a picture at the ground floor of what the planet was about and taking a personal interest in what the Baccs under her were doing. It did no harm for everyone to know the PM was about and could drop in on you any minute. It also did no harm to directly promote and demote – and not leave that business up to your division managers. The personal touch – that was what was so important. Having presence kept everything tight. That was the theory.
A leader had to have full knowledge of how things were and had to have complete control. How else were decisions going to be effective?
Zane 1 had been Project Manager for Farm 703 for over 300,000 years now. You did not get to keep a position like that, for that length of time, without being good at what you did.
But that was then and this was now.
She wriggled her flagella and squirmed, her colour changing to an insipid yellow, as she thought about it. Things had not been going too well lately. Biomass was well down and Head Office, who had been monitoring this for some considerable time, was beginning to take a keen interest. That was not good. But Zane 1 had been through these things before. This wasn’t her first crisis. There had been a number of ups and downs since she took over from Lec 76. She thought she could weather this one out too.
Back in the early days, following Lec 76’s botched host transfer and subsequent loss, she had suffered many catastrophes with glaciations and tropical ages. Those difficulties had prompted a number of Head Office investigations that had all come to nothing. But Zane 1 knew that those crises were not of her own making; this one was. Head Office was likely to take a totally different view of what was going on now, particularly as it had been continuing for some time now and showed no sign of improving.
If only she could figure out what the problem was? She had a crack team, under Suk 83, who had been working on controlling these human subunits for centuries. She had every faith in Suk 83 but nothing seemed to work. It was a mystery. Suk 83 would develop new methods for controlling humans that seemed effective for a time only to find that they all fell apart and the humans were behaving just as bad as ever.
But Head Office wasn’t the only mould in her nutrient, Malco 145 was doing all she could to oust her. Zane 1 knew that. It was the usual thing. Malco 145 was the leader of the main alternative management team. They were waiting in the wings ready to take over control of the farm should it start to fail, and they had been waiting for some considerable time – over three hundred thousand years to be precise, and that was a long time. So it probably wasn’t a surprise that they were eager to get Zane 1 out and were kicking up a fuss with Head Office, spreading rumours and filing derogatory reports.
If Zane 1 was honest with herself she knew that was not a difficult thing to do – given the long-term decline in the farm. Productivity was slumping as the humans increased in numbers and were busy destroying everything in their path. Malco 145 had an easy target and she was going for it. She had opposed Zane 1’s idea right from the start. She hated the humans. She wanted the human experiment to end and was making the point that removing them was the only way to restore the fortunes of the farm. The management team in waiting would cull the humans if they had their way, and Zane 1 knew that Head Office might just agree with them.
But Zane 1 obstinately felt that she had the measure of both Malco 145 and Head Office. She just needed time to bring things firmly under control. She would control the humans, get the farm functioning at a high level and prove Malco 145 wrong. For her the human project was of prime importance.
In her quieter moments of contemplation she had to admit to herself that Malco 145 did have a point; the major problem with the farm was definitely the humans. They were proving a disaster. But then humans had been her pet project. It was up to her to ensure they worked and that is what she was trying to do. She was determined to get them functioning even if it temporarily put the farm in jeopardy.
In the meantime she was striving as hard as she could to keep the farm ticking along efficiently. She did not intend to allow things to slide and she certainly did not intend to be usurped by a low-life like Malco 145.
For Zane 1, living within the nutrient gel of a neuronal cell, the day was conveniently artificially divided into three sections. Quaintly, following the human lead and her status as a humanophile, she called them morning, afternoon and evening. Baccs did not sleep. There was no night. Their whole existence was one of wakefulness.
She, along with the rest of her colleagues in the control centre, lived among the organelles within that cell, simultaneously melding into the entire sensory apparatus of their host and able to tune in to other fellow Baccs, Coccs and Spirs at will. Tuning was a complex psychological mechanism, a type of telepathy. Tuning allowed them all to communicate. It also enabled them to control, or at least exert influence, over their hosts. In that way they dictated the lives of all creatures in the farm. Baccs, due to their size and anatomical limitations, had restricted ability to develop and build their own machines, but had little need. They lived inside cells, supplied by their hosts with everything they required. Their ability to tune enabled them to control their hosts and see the world around them. There was little else that they required. From their earliest days they had organised the evolution of their hosts so that they could optimise the numbers of Baccs. They effectively farmed all the animals in their environment.
Over time they had created the wide spectrum of life on the planet. It was a rich interlacing web of great sophistication and range, providing nutrients and homes for the zillions of their Mic citizens. That was their sole purpose. To ensure the farm functioned efficiently and Mics were able to prosper.
Given the correct nutrition Zane 1, like most other Baccs, fissed every thirty seconds. It was a binary fission of two unequal halves. Her progeny, considered to be of worthy stock were taken off as soon as the split was complete. Zane 1 had become totally used to the team of Spiro nurses that cared for her and escorted her offspring away. She did not even register they were there. Fissing was part of everyday life, like absorbing nutrients or excreting, you did not even register it.
Morning was spent, floating in the fluid protoplasm of their host cell, tuning in to various cohorts all over the planet. She found that a crucial part of the role, if, at times, as with today’s dolphin episode, a tad depressing. The afternoon was spent in planning, meetings and bureaucracy. Here she physically met with, or tuned with, other members of the management team, nestled in a nicely situated area amid the folds of endoplasmic reticulum, putting into effect the lessons she had gleaned from the morning – or at least trying to. Even within their cellular environment the Mics had no need for much in the way of technology. Their resources were mainly expressed through their mental abilities. Those abilities were prodigious. Whatever physical tools they used and whatever machines they built were usually protein based, such as propulsion units used for flitting or spikes used for quantum jumping. If they required any greater technology they simply employed their hosts – but there was generally little need. Within their hosts’ cells they had everything they required. They had no need for advanced technology. Even so, there were times when technology, on a grand scale, was required. That is when their limitations became a nuisance. They had to get their subunits to meet their requirements and they were not always responsive.
Zane 1 loved her work, but it was the evening time that she enjoyed best. She had become something of a humanophile. She loved human culture. It was sophisticated, varied, emotionally charged and thought provoking, like with no other subunit that had ever been created. To have an intelligent creature that enjoyed life was a wonder. They added a dimension that could not be accessed through any other subunit. She could not imagine life without them and felt sorry for anyone else who had to spend their life in a lesser animal. That would have seemed so incredibly boring. As far as she was concerned life without music, art, reading and the enormous variety of taste and experience was hardly worth living. Imagine living in a large herbivore such as a sheep – the thought sent shudders through her integument.
Her command centre had always been set up in a suitable human subunit, a host usually selected for their amenability, importance and controllability, but Zane 1 always added the extra attribute – they had to show taste – to enjoy good food, drink and the arts.
For, in the evening, Zane 1 liked to relax. She, through her own subunit could vicariously read, watch films, go out to various theatrical events, listen to music, dance, visited art galleries or museums, eat well, drink well, dress up and enjoy any of the activities that humans got up to. It was a wealth of experience that most Mics could not even imagine and one that Zane 1 valued above all other.
Zane 1 was in control. She would directly influence her host to choose an experience that she wanted on any particular night. On the occasions when she could not get her host to do something interesting, because they were tied up with some unavoidable work or event, she would be forced to tune in to another human subunit. But that was never quite the same. Tuning in at a distance reduced the vividness of the experience. It was never as good as when it was first-hand directly through your own host. She had even been known to go through the risky business of host swapping in order just to achieve a different set of experiences first-hand. You could not beat direct experience. It was always so much better than indirect tuning. So she chose her hosts with care. The most important aspect concerning all her subunits had been their enjoyment of life.
Zane 1 thoroughly relished her time as Project Manager and was not about to relinquish it for anyone – let alone a usurper like Malco 145, someone who she viewed as a complete philistine, someone who did not appreciate the nuance and wonder of life, of human culture, of the arts. If Malco 145 had her way she would completely do away with humans and not feel the slightest remorse or loss. Zane 1, on the other hand, was determined to control these troublesome wayward creations of hers and tame them and valued the richness of their culture above all else. She had a vision of a wonderful farm in which humans played an essential role in making it orderly and extremely efficient.
But she knew Head Office was getting extremely jittery. Her human project was in the balance. It caused her great distress to think about it. If Head Office lost faith, she knew she herself would likely be mobbed, Malco 145 would take over, and the human experiment would certainly be abandoned.
Everything hung in the balance.
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