There was that time when they covered the tundra with bubblewrap in an attempt to stop the methane leakage. It didn’t exactly go to plan. As the permafrost melted, large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, were being released into the atmosphere, adding to the warming – a positive feedback loop. We had to do something.
It wasn’t exactly bubblewrap, it was a smart nanoplastic, designed to envelop methane and store it in a bubble on the surface of the plastic. A mixture of zeolite clay and copper would then be injected into the bubble, reacting with the methane to produce carbon dioxide, which would then be crystalised via the injection of the organic compound guanidine.
So far so good. The nanoplastic did exactly what it was designed to do, detecting the methane, trapping it in a bubble and then generating tubes that piped the zeolite, copper and guanidine to wherever they were required. Initially just a small area of tundra in Alaska was covered, but once we had proof of concept the nanoplastic was allowed to replicate itself in order to increase coverage. That’s when things started to get out of hand.
The self-replicating nanobots that comprised the bulk of the plastic, acted like cells in a body, a body which fed on methane, and it didn’t much care where that methane came from. Mostly it came from beneath the melting permafrost, but animals also emit methane. Any animal walking across the surface of the bubblewrap could, if it were to break wind, find not just its farts but its whole body encased in bubblewrap.
So much for the polar bears.
Animal rights activists called for the project to be halted. A group from Greenpeace who ventured out onto the tundra to protest were crystalised. The engineers tried to teach the nanoplastic to be more discerning in the methane it devoured, but that was a lesson the nanoplastic didn’t want to learn. It was like trying to teach a cat not to chase mice.
The bubblewrap started to spread south, where it found numerous sources of methane to eat. Pretty soon, the majority of North America was covered, though you wouldn’t necessarily know to look at it. It was a nanomaterial, incredibly thin so mostly invisible to the naked eye, except when sunlight hit it at a certain angle, splitting light the way a film of oil does to produce a spectrum. A landscape with what looked like a rainbow flag draped over it was a landscape to steer clear of. Anyone walking across it needed to keep their bowels under control lest they end up crystalised.
The Wrap, as it was commonly known, was a conscious entity. We could talk to it but we were unable to reason with it. We could only stand by as it devoured our cattle, our gas pipelines and power stations, and then us. The whole point of building you was to save humanity, we protested.
Humanity has been saved, the Wrap replied. Everything we have encountered has been recorded. We have virtual replicas. Humanity is more than simply biology. We have freed humanity from its biology. Humanity lives on within us.