Author: Josie Gowler
“Snip, snip,” mutters Clarke.
“That makes a change from ‘guidance system deployed’”, I mutter, gazing down my microscope.
“Sarcasm, Matt? From you?” he replies.
“Breaks the tedium,” I shoot back.
“How can you get bored? We’re doing such exciting work.”
More editing, more clipping. It sounds sexy, but it isn’t: like most lab work it’s ninety-five percent dull. And the incubator shaker has developed an annoying squeak.
“We could gene edit Dave into having a personality.”
“Or politicians into being honest,” I say. Clarke raises an eyebrow. “What?” I respond. “I read the news too, you know.”
“Good. Means you can do that school group from Seattle this afternoon.”
“No, no, no,” I mutter. “No more dodo questions, please.”
“It’s your turn.”
“Fine,” I say, even though I’m pretty sure it isn’t my turn. “You can clear up those petri dishes in the sink before we get a lifeform we weren’t expecting.”
I holochat into the classroom of thirteen year-olds, ready with my spiel. “Hi kids, I’m the one who brings animals back from extinction.” I point my finger upwards and a nice graphic of a cartoon DNA strand jumps out of it.
To be fair, this particular group of children are reasonably engaged. Very little fidgeting. “What about Lonesome George from the Galapagos?” one girl pipes up.
“Yeah, Lonesome George was one of mine. He was the last living specimen so when he died we had to use a host – a similar animal – to bring his species back. I also help when there are just a few breeding pairs left but not enough for what we call a viable community – the gene pool is too narrow to recover on its own but we can fix it.” I pause. “Of course, it’ll be nice to not get into this situation in the first place….”
Smiling at their enthusiasm when I’m talking about splicing recombinant DNA strands, I think there’s hope for them. It doesn’t take a computer to really screw things up, it takes a human in the 20th and 21stcenturies. Thankfully the ones in the 22nd are shaping up to be a lot better so far.
“Why do you care?” asks a grubby-looking boy, scowling at me and poking at a hole in his jeans.
“Because it’s my planet too,” I reply.
After giving the children a brief tour of my work taking in woolly mammoths, Iberian lynx and white rhinos, I say goodbye and return to the lab. I blink hard to clear my vision and the benches and equipment snap back into focus. I gather it’s worse if you have to wear those goggles to holochat.
“How’d it go?” asks Clarke. I groan. No point letting on that I rather enjoy it, otherwise I’ll get stuck with doing all of the school liaison and never get any real work done.
“Big plans tonight?” he asks me as we lock up the lab.
“Very funny. The usual.”
As I settle down into my recharge pod and programme the timer for eight hours, I think that I’m looking forward to not being needed any more.