Lactic Revolutionary Front


This is an EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY alert for all residents of the Phólarae labswarm and adjuncts. Related travel advisories have been dispatched to regions proximal.

An enhanced lactobacillus culture having escaped from a bactry system within Tokóver Hot Labs module 3/A in the early hours of this morning – a culture which is now displaying signs of internal self-organization, intentionality, and device manipulation – the Office of the Sane Man advises that all areas aboard Tokóver Hot Labs module 3/A should be considered off-limits to all non-essential personnel without special authorization until negotiations are complete and a contrabroadcast is formally made.

The Office of the Sane Man requests that all personnel and/or visitors with experience in linguistics or in the chemical communication of the biological components of yoghurt please identify themselves to the Unexpected Cognition Task Force and hold themselves ready for deployment.

It has been three (3) days since our last unanticipated intelligence excursion.

All citizen-shareholders are thanked for their cooperation.



As its end slipped clear of the ribosome, the protein folded once more, pivoting around now free-to-move bonds… snapping back against the already closely-folded main body.

Brelyn Calaris muttered an imprecation upon the heads of all uncooperative fabzymes, paused the simulation, and grabbed the protein with both hands, peering muttering into the region of the faulty fold.  “Where are you, you little ictoch?”  Her fingers slipped along the stem of the protein, feeling the orbitals.  “Too far, too far… could rotate freely, that’s just a hydrogen bond… Hm.  What is that doing there?”

The object of her ire was an innocuous-looking sulfur-sulfur connection.  “Too close, those cysteines.  Can’t be having that.”  A flick of her wrist spun the simulation back in time, and she took hold of the end of the protein chain and snapped the peptide bond before the outermost offending cysteine.  “Let’s give it a chaperone.”  Tap, tap.  “Something polar-friendly, for preference.”  She pulled an arginine molecule out of the palette and twisted it into place on the chain’s new end, then reattached the cysteine after it.  (In the secondary transcription display, a new codon quietly inserted itself in the matching place.)  “And rerun.”

Once more, the protein slipped out of the ribosome and folded itself, its terminal end this time remaining in position protruding from the main body.  “Fab test.”  She watched the playback as other foreground molecules were introduced into the simulation; some slipping neatly into the new protein’s active site, meeting their counterparts, and being transformed, while a counter raced upwards with each successfully simulated catalyzation the parallel-processors executed.

When the counter reached one million, Brelyn dismissed the protein-simulator display with a clap, leaving behind just the transcription display, then reached into her working area to pluck out the main model for her project, a simulation of the ECH-20 commercial fabrication bacterium.  Opening it up, she spun the main customization plasmid around until the remaining space was visible – this was the twelfth fabzyme gene her production process required – plucked the new gene out of the transcription display, and slipped it into place.

“Right, System.  Bactry simulation, ten hours and 10,000 runs each, all the usual variations – what’ll that take, wall-clock time?”

“Six hours, Brelyn.”

“Good.  If it passes, no anomalies, send it straight for sequence printing and fab, and get cultures under way.  If not, page me.  Oh, and if all goes well tell Chelan that, he can have his drug sample for vivo testing by tomorrow afternoon.  Explicit.”

She blinked opened eyes against the room’s half-light, flicked damp red hair back over her virtuality laser-port, and stretched.  But right now, time for a late dinner.


The Llyn Standard Manufacturing autofac, informally known as the Hive, sprawled over a hundred square miles of Seléne’s surface, a vast complex of industrial machinery stacked upon more industrial machinery, gleaming in the crystal vacuum and the harsh light of its floodlamps.

To the north, a ruddy glow mixed with the floods’ blue-white, where a thousand furnaces and smelters turned shipments of raw metal and stone coming in from the asteroids into bar stock and other materials for the inner manufactories, secondary forges pounded, cast, carved, and drew the purified metals into thousands of gross components, and more specialized factories spun stone into specialized clays, ceramics, glasses, and the wafers from which nanocircs were cut.

Off to the east, a tangle of pipes and tanks surrounded the bactries, where volatiles brought downwell from the outer system were fractioned, refined, and fed to reactors containing myriad industrial catalysts, fabzymes and genetically engineered maker cultures to produce a million different chemicals, all the feedstocks necessary for all the industries the complex supported.

In the south, the triple containment buildings of the power plant dominated the skyline, housing three of the system’s largest fusion reactors, gulping deuterium from the buried slush tanks at their feet – mere buffer tanks, kept constantly topped up by a stream of automated tanker-ships coming in from the gas mines of Melíeré; and to the west, the mass-driver launch complex which delivered containers full of any of the autofac’s unthinkable array of finished goods and modular components to any world, hab, or drift in the system rose like a mountain.  The warehouses around their feet were a mere scattering of toy building blocks by comparison.

And within this ring, the heart of the autofac: factory after factory, specialized tooling, nanofac growth chambers, and robotic final-assembly plants, and the thousands of pipelines and conveyors connecting them – a crowded collection of plain geometric cubes, geodesic domes, and polished spheres, in the simple ascetic style favored for those areas not intended to ever be inhabited, or to be more than rarely visited.  Scattered among them, vehicle garages and robot hotels housed and tended to the automation, the driverless trucks and frenetic utility spiders that scurried throughout the complex, carrying its lifeblood and tending to the machinery.

At the center of the great autofac, a single tower rose above all these buildings, its lower floors containing the hosts for the artificial intelligences that ran the complex, and its uppermost level housing the operations supervisor, Lilse Varenna-ith-Varenti, and his dozen department heads – the only sophonts anywhere within the Hive – reclining, eyes closed, in their command chairs.

Bodily functions shifted to autonomic maintenance, minds vastened and placed in synnoetic AI-symbiosis, and senses filled with input streams gathered from sensors, they did not run the complex.

They were the complex.