Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Timed Writing: 5/29/2012


Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: "... dispersed in the mile deep sea..."
Source: 4 x 3 x 5 + 6 x 3 + 5 = 83 = The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Once Lenninger released them from their tank, the probes dispersed in the mile deep sea. Their buoyancies were varied such that some floated on the surface, some sank to the floor, and the majority migrated to one of a thousand intermediate strata. They were small, but not quite microscopic. Caught just so, in a ray of the sun, a probe lingering just below the surface sparkled, drawing Lenninger's eye. Then its orientation shifted and it was lost -- though not forgotten.

Each of the hundred-thousand probes reported its positional data, at regular intervals, to Lenninger's network of partial-depth and surface buoys, which, in turn, relayed the information to his central receiver by way of one or more geosynchronous satellites. The swarms were tracked and plotted, and over a period of hours, he knew, this release would expand to a diffuse cloud of points, its edges blurring and overlapping with those of his previous deposits. Then, if he was lucky, many of the points would assume new trajectories, as they hitched rides on various unknowing marine fauna.

The probes were synthetic animals, of a sort -- parasites. They could derive power from solar radiation, when it was available, or by heat, if they happened to drift near a geothermal vent. Such probes provided little useful information though. The successful probes were those ingested by any of a variety of meso- and macroplankton species.

Each probe was coated with a chemoattractant substance that disguised it as food, and once consumed, it would burrow into the wall of the host's alimentary canal. Axial channels through the probes allowed controlled shunting of the hypertonic gastric contents into intersticial spaces, and the probe's nanomachinery was powered by movement of molecules and ions through this concentration gradient.

This process was inevitably detrimental to the host, and smaller organisms often succumbed to electrolyte imbalances or viral infections. Often enough though, the host plankton was consumed by a larger animal, and as it was digested, the probe would be released to implant itself, into the gut of the new host. All a probe needed was a membrane with a concentration gradient, and it could power its transmitters indefinitely.

Thus, the probes gained passage on all manner of marine animals -- though arguably, their distribution was skewed towards the carnivorous branch of the food chain -- and provided Lenninger with real-time information on the paths taken through the deep by its most accustomed inhabitants.


(about my timed writing exercises)


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