At each pole of Endymion a halo of yellow-green light shimmered. Deep cracks in the magnetic fields of the small, experimental planet made this happen, as the great sun blasted Endymion’s atmosphere with gusts of charged particles. Lonny had designed these cracks himself and was pleased to see they worked so beautifully, creating a bow shaped boundary in Endymion’s magnetosphere – perfectly conducive to spectacular auroral displays.
The auroral light bathed Lonny now, entering through a tiny window in the mobile workshop, floating 100 miles above Endymion, hanging in its charged thermosphere. Lonny paused to admire his aurora through the catadioptric scope, he used a footplate to pump more gusts of solar wind from Endymion’s artificial sun. One hundred million miles away rippling spicules burnt through the sun’s corona.
“A little something for later”, Lonny spoke soothingly to himself before sweeping the scope 180 degrees away from the sun. He surveilled a small mixed forest, tucked away in a temperate zone to the North West of the planet. Soppy Nuts, who’d discovered the anomaly during his morning audit, stood beside Lonny, awaiting instructions.
“That growth there – unauthorised, vulgar”. Lonny handled the scope aggressively now, crouching to reach the eye piece, “and there”. He was much taller then Soppy Nuts, his height adding to the elegance of his dress – purple velvet with gold braid at the shoulders, signifying his preeminent status as a master creator of natural entities. A God by any other name.
“It’s a non-determined outrage.” Lonny understood arboreal ratios better than almost anyone, such ratios were constant and variable but never arbitrary and never reducibly complex. Of course he knew Soppy Nuts wasn’t responsible, he’d manufactured the lad himself – registered his name when inebriated. He was no more than a minion, a hybrid entity, half-man, half-vegetable – a munion really, but still, his only companion.
“Ok – stop sulking, it’s not your fault.”
Whether it was an onion, a bacterium, a blue whale or an oak tree, there were aesthetic power laws that had to remain consistent. He, Lonny was their creator, it was his responsibility to correct these errors.
“A tree is essentially a distributed communication system, a network of channels.” He lectured Soppy Nuts while helping him into the inspection suit. Soppy Nuts, he was sure, understood none of what he said.
“An elegant tree is not an accident, it’s meticulously designed, with optimal branching, Laplacian growth patterns, strictly pre-determined proportions.” He pulled the straps tight across Soppy Nuts’s back and checked the pathogen filter. He worked within an a priori system and trees without intelligent cause did not fit into it. Soppy Nuts would have to go down there, hack them from the ground and burn them to bits. Lonny had handled these situations before and was not overly concerned, as long as there were no ecumenical charges. Execution was not on his to-do list for the day.
Through the scope he watched Soppy Nuts descend to Endymion in the field-carrier, he moved smoothly, like a spider abseiling down a silk dragline. When he’d alighted safely Lonny returned to work – engineering the hyper-volume for a new hawthorn tree, a luscious L system, delicately fronded with exquisite, graph theoretically sculpted florets – a network of perfect stems. He was sure it would be a gold medal winner in the forthcoming Literalist Olympiad. The thought of gold medals made him work with extra intensity. He hummed to himself as he carved into a hawthorn gamete. Soon his shoulder device beeped repeatedly. It was Soppy Nuts again.
“There’s another one.”
“Dig it up like I said.”
“I did – three weeks ago, but it’s grown back.”
Lonny slammed his jewellers loupe onto the workbench. “Stay there, I’m coming down. Oh – and another thing.”
“While you’re waiting, make me a cocktail – anything – anything intoxicating. There’s miniatures in the carrier.”
Lonny and soppy nuts leaned over the new sapling, they were both breathing with difficulty in outsized anti-pathogen field suits.
“Is it deliberate ?” Soppy Nuts squinted at the sad little thing through his helmet.
“Is it arbitrary?”
Lonny looked round anxiously, a habit he’d acquired over sixty years of being surveyed. He peered at the sapling’s internal structure through an electro-microscopic visor. The cells disturbed him. He had not made this plant.
“An arbitrary thing cannot exist. An arbitrary thing is a blasphemy.” Soppy Nuts crossed himself.
“As long as it’s not abiogenetically occurring we should be safe from charges.” He knew there was always a chance of routine doctrinal audit. He peered at a cross-section of another, much older, plant. Through the microvisor an undulating weave of cells came clearly into view. As he feared, they belonged to a type of liverwort – a small plant that had the potential to become more treelike, given certain, unconscionable, leaps in complexity. The unthinkable scenario was that such a plant could transmute over time (he hesitated to even think of the word ‘evolve’) into one of the Prototaxites Soppy Nuts had discovered that morning.
There was no choice – Lonny would have to destroy all trace of their origin by overlaying one of his own designs onto the abiogenetic cells – the report would put it down to ‘accidental hybridisation’ – cross contamination from a torn field-suit.
“You’d better call religious affairs.”
“Call them and say…”
He looked around the field-lab for inspiration.
“Tell them we’ve had a religious….no, a minor pollination crisis, but we’ve disposed of it.”
They returned to the workshop via the drag line. Smoke from the smouldering saplings billowed around them for the first few feet. Lonny spoke to Soppy Nuts through the helmet channel.
“When we get back we’ll both have a relaxing drink – nothing too strong, we’ve got to complete that hawthorn tree for registration tomorrow.”
Soppy Nuts looked at him through his long white cow lashes, there was no mistaking the adoration in his astigmatic gaze.
“Let’s put this little episode down as an AFOG”
“An AFOG Lonny?”
“Another fucking opportunity for growth”
“What kind of growth Lonny?”
“Like a tumour?”
“Yes, son, like a malignant tumour.”
He did not say it out-loud but found himself whispering “a dangerous doctrinal neoplasm.”
“A what Lonny?”
“A drink lad, we’ll have ourselves a nice relaxing tiffle before the real work begins.” They hadn’t even started yet and he was already quite frazzled.