Challenge #02182-E353: Feeding Time at the LibrarysteemCreated with Sketch.

in #fiction3 years ago

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Been a while since I submitted a prompt, but I thought of some Archivaas running across references to DNA data storage - look here for my ramblings on the subject (it became too long for a normal prompt, as I am forever incapable of being concise). -- RecklessPrudence

[AN: They have actually encoded a gif in bacterial DNA so we're maybe not that very far off. There is a generational corruption problem to conquer though.]

Archivaas are not a race, though a large portion of them are Humans. They are not a religion, no two of them have the same relationship with any given deity. If they worship anything, they worship the preservation of information. Any information. They are that weird uncle who keeps all his receipts in a shoebox, and hoards gift cards for an unspecified future purpose. If anything is a temple to them, it is the library.

This library, however, is a zoo. Specifically, a herpetological zoo. If one wanted to get even more specific, it is a zoo of whiptail lizards. Hundreds of enclosures, each containing a perfect environment for a dozen whiptail lizards. These are the only known lizards with categories, ISBN's, and Dewey-Decimal encoding. Each enclosure contains a small library. They are DNA-encoded collections in biological containers. Not books. Anthologies. Encyclopaedias. Collections with themes.

Archivaas Prentice Taen's job was to bring around the grasshoppers. They are also carefully kept to reduce the instances of epigenetic drift that could corrupt the data. She always smiles when she reaches this particular enclosure. Dedicated to science fiction of a specific era. Of course, her supervisor and Senior Reshelver noticed.

"Why such a warm smile for these particular whiptails, Prentice Taen? They're physically no different from the multitude."

"Physically, no. Genetically... these lizards hold a particular story. The Tragedy of Charlie Charlson. Are you familiar with the tale?"

"A take on Frankenstein melded with the mistaken assumption that a four-year-old human child can contain the total cultural database of the Human race. There was a rush of those, but Charlie Charlson was the seminal work of the genre."

Prentice Tain released grasshoppers into the enclosure, watching the whiptails chase after them. "Science imitates the divine, the Divinity objects. Humanity pays for its hubris in very specific ways..." She giggled at the plot. "Of course, nobody knew then that Humans make rotten archives. Our genes warp in a light shower."

"But...?" prompted Senior Reshelver Orsun.

"But I love the irony. A novel about the perils of DNA archiving... stored with so many others in the same thing. All wrapped up in these little lizards. If the authors knew... would they be horrified or entranced?"

Senior Reshelver Orsun considered this as lizards carrying libraries in their mitochondria happily munched on their meals. "I think," he eventually said, "it might be a little bit of both."

DNA archiving was a phase, and conducted quite logically despite the dire predictions of science fiction authors everywhere. E Coli was eventually rejected as an encoding medium. Too much risk of strains interbreeding and data being irrevocably corrupted. Besides, their data capacity sucked. What they needed was a species that reproduced asexually at all times, preferably one that didn't mind being kept in habitats.

Therefore, science chose the Whiptail Lizard. A species that had no males, and therefore birthed clones of themselves. With care and attention to epigenetic drift reduction, the data in their junk DNA could last for eons. Eons in which very little was lost to random genetic hiccoughs.

It was a nice idea while it lasted, but keeping the data also meant keeping the lizards. A live animals DNA is always intact. A dead ones would begin to decay and corrupt. Inside of a century, Humans were using data crystals, which involved far less insect handling for only slightly less data capacity.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / sparksphotog]

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