Earth Tours: Submerged
I work for EarthTours, but not as a travel agent. I’m a host, guide, and fixer for our clandestine guests from the stars. Potential tourists contact EarthTours via our deep-web .onion site. We prepare these alien visitors highest-quality counterfeit visas and wormhole directions to all of our suites around the world, together with local arrival and departure dates and general sightseeing information. They pay in bitcoin.
EarthTours provides our advanced interstellar neighbors with an economical opportunity to visit a primitive planet undetected by its inhabitants, we humans.
In they come from their homes throughout the universe. When they arrive, I review with them the ground rules for their visit. Then out they go into the world, whereupon I keep my phone handy in case they need me.
“The Smiths are due to arrive tonight,” my supervisor tells me. “They’re water-breathers. They’ll stick to the oceans for their stay. No freshwater rivers or lakes.”
“They’ll use the portal in our San Pedro tank?” I say.
“Release them into the ocean from the Palos Verdes jetty,” he says. “Discreetly, of course.”
Which I did, after reviewing with them the rules of their stay, viz., to remain cloaked as Terran sea creatures; to avoid interactions with nuclear submarines, off-shore drilling equipment, and any other human presence below or upon the planet’s watery expanses.
The Smiths contacted me before the sun came up, using the communication device we provide them.
“This ocean is a mess,” the dominant member of the couple told me, anger in his or her or its voice. “Yes we wanted primitive but we also wanted pristine, not polluted. The biosphere down here won’t last another hundred planetary orbits.”
“You are visiting a planet,” I reminded him or her or it, “occupied by billions of semi-intelligent land dwellers who treat the oceans as one great combined sewer and garbage dump. You sound like a human tourist squawking about bad hygiene in a Tijuana men’s room.”
“Your metaphor is meaningless to me.”
“Please adjust the translator on your phone,” I say.
“Your brochures are misleading.”
“You’re free to leave at any time. No refunds. However, I did release you into surf bordering the Los Angeles metropolitan area, water which is not noted for being spruce. For that I apologize. Watch out for needles. Move farther afield.”
Several days passed before they called again.
“Is this about the pollution?” I said.
“It’s about the plastics. I’m calling to tell you that we had to do something about the plastics, rules or no rules. We observed that microbiotic life has already begun evolving to use these gigantic garbage gyres as food sources. Microbes are beginning to digest selected plastics. So we introduced some minor genetic changes into the more successful of these organisms to further enhance them.”
Yes. Within a certain number of planetary orbits, all the plastics will be gone.”
“You were absolutely forbidden to make any changes to the biosphere! Totally forbidden!”
“We assumed that rational acts of good are exempt from that stricture.”
“Baloney. What about adverse side products from the bugs’ digestive processes?”
“All inert or nutritious. Local fauna should thrive.”
“We simply can’t tolerate signs of alien interference.”
“As I told you, the microorganisms have already evolved in that direction. Initial steps. No signs of alien interference. We are Blassrians, nothing like you humans.”
I checked with my manager. I didn’t go into specifics.
“Who are these guys?” I said.
“Blassrians. Shouldn’t give you any trouble. They’re famous for being do-gooders.”
“They’re not supposed to do anything, good or otherwise.”
“Is there a problem?”
“No problem,” I said. “They’re wide-ranging. They just called from a spot off Maui. That’s 2,500 miles from Palos Verdes.”
“Blassrians are superb swimmers. Is there anything else?”
Not that I wanted to tell him.
Mr. or Mrs. or Whatever Smith called again two days later.
“We have noticed that salinity in the upper thermal layers of the planet’s oceans is much reduced around both poles. The ice in your polar caps appears to be melting rapidly. Also, there are signs that the oceans themselves are warming. You must know that the aquatic biosphere cannot accommodate such rapid thermal change without suffering extreme disruption and species extinctions.”
“My God… Although, yes, this is not new news.”
“Fortunately we have mitigated the situation.”
“Wait, what? No, no, no!”
“Done and done. (I’ve updated our translator.) Near the ocean surface, carbon is fixed or sequestered by phytoplankton, which are eaten by sea creatures. These die and sink down as waste. Bacteria feed on the waste and produce CO2, which dissolves in the water. We’ve tweaked various strains of this phytoplankton to require less nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron. As they multiply, they’ll draw down the carbon in the atmosphere and, in a certain number of planetary orbits, reverse the warming. You’re welcome.”
He, she, or it signed off before I could reply. I thought it best to again keep this intervention off the record. The Smith’s visit was two-thirds over and yes, the Blassians are evidently superb swimmers.
I heard from the couple for the final time when they called to arrange a rendezvous with me back at Palos Verdes, pursuant to my instructions for their return to the San Pedro tank. We set the meet time for 3 a.m.
“I hope you’ve had a good visit,” I said, once they were in the tank, “and restrained yourself from any further environmental meddling.”
“Just one last thing we took care of,” he, she, or it said. “Your oceans have been sorely overfished. Disgraceful. Our new phytoplankton must be eaten to prove an effective carbon sequestrant. To this end, we’ve pruned back your fishermen at sea by ninety per cent or so.”
Hard to blame that on one-celled organisms.