„What exactly do you mean by ‚It’s not working‘, Floup*? It can‘t be not working, not as such. Failure is impossible this time round. The mechanism is ultraoctople effective. Tried, tested, refined, retested, rerefined, reretested, and again, and again, and yet again. You know it, Floup, for the sake of clear waters, you were there and did it with me!
Our tool is as close to perfect as any such booster can get. We took all imaginable precautions, worked at maximum diligence, and we did it. We created an as good as perfect vector. We rolled it out and it will do its job. Nothing can possibly go wrong with this one. So tell me, Floup, what by the unholy rules of logic do you mean with this stupid ‚It‘s not working‘ statement?“.
Behind their joking tone, Smeech are bubbling purple with irritation. If they were into physical violence, they would lash out with their two strongest arms. But they‘re science personified, never lose control to the point of engaging in physical altercations. This is no muddy waters wrestling arena, it’s a lab. A place of peace and science.
More exactly, it‘s their lab, even if it technically belongs to the Pangalactic Promising Planets Preservation Project. The P5 bureaucrats might claim it as their place. But they have zero clue about species engineering, so how would they own this fine institution?
‚One can‘t own what one doesn‘t understand and can‘t recreate‘, any third grade youngster will manage to recite if woken in the middle of the night. They might need a little more alertness to be able to explain the axiom, never mind outline what it implies for sustainable social organisation and planet management, but the basic understanding…
Smeech suddenly realize Floup should by now have interrupted their thoughts with the requested confirmation. No such message is forthcoming. Instead, they‘re twisting their arms into the kind of knot suggesting pronounced embarrassment. Not a good sign. Same for their body pumping like the next compartment pressure leveler, and their visible heartbeat.
Something is very wrong, and Smeech need to understand what is going on. Switching from cheeky to bossy boss, they go:
„Floup, you bloody nuisance of a semicompetent pseudosentience, what the crystal is wrong? You either tell me at once, or you might as well brace yourself for a new career in shark breaking. You know the rules: The precious few safe and cuddly jobs in science and administration are assigned on the basis of intelligence and social merit. Social merit, Floup. Being truthful at all times is one major component of this criterium. You have to tell me, now. What – is – wrong?“
To Smeech‘s surprise, Floup actually pull themself together, and in a blink. With two thirds of their eight tentacles transformed into a solid column and only one third stretched out as stabilizing foot, they now tower a body length above Smeech and go:
„Shut up. Just shut up. And listen. We boiled it. Oh yes, you’re reading me right. We boiled it. This is one more gigantic boiling mess. Remember the glitch with our very first retrovirus, when so many of the dominant primate subjects came down with immunodeficiencies, instead of developing the photosynthetic ability we were trying to confer? One big bad boiler that cut our funding down to bare bones, as I‘m pretty sure you recall. Ah, I got your attention now, don’t I? No need to turn red, Smeech, and no cannibalism, please, the current boil isn’t that bad. But we might both be headed for the shark farms anyway.
This salty nuisance of an alien target species once again develops side effects we didn‘t see in our local model, for whichever salty reason. Perhaps it’s related to their lack of fur. The young ones are doing fine, just like our specimens. They integrate our virus without so much as a sneeze, forming a marvelously symbiotic partnership with it. Couple of generations on, their brains should display the intended improvements. Just in time to keep the planet viable for our cousins, hopefully, and accidentally for themselves, too. So far, so fine.
But some of the old specimens, and there‘s an awful lot of those around, they must be damaged in some unforeseen ways. They start well, no negative side effects for days. And then, out of a sudden, their lungs fail, unlike anything we‘ve seen during testing. In some cases to the point of them dying. And, guess what, Smeech? They hate it…“
Deflated, Smeech let themself sag flag to the bottom of a lab they no longer dare call their own.
They don’t need to listen to the rest of Floups tale. The dominant species on their assigned promising planet might be stupid, often outstandingly so. But it is also stubborn. Especially when fending back against any lethal dangers simple and imminent enough for it to grasp. It‘s going to prevail, again. Smeech and Floup boiled it, again. Their best efforts won’t be enough. One more promising planet with wonderful oceans is at high risk of getting turned inhabitable. They probably won‘t be allowed to try again, and reassignment to the shark farms looms large indeed.
On the upside, Smeech always wondered if this shark breaking business really needed to be so tedious. By means of one more retrovirus, it should be possible to cure the undue reticence of the beasts and teach them to love pulling carriages. Improving alien primates might have been beyond their skills, but re-engineering very local lazy sharks, that should be within reach.
* Please pronounce Floup like soup