Short Story for New Scientist Competition – 2109

Savage orange washes the sea as lightning forks down onto the rig, illuminating the churning cyanobacteria in sick neon. The air conditioning whines painfully and sparks rain down from the iron conductors, forcing me back into the office.
“It’s rough out again,” says Adam, chewing absently and without much enjoyment on his phytoplankton bar.
The power glitches out for a second; my processor reboots from autosave.
“With all this weather, you’d think we’d have enough power from the turbines,” I grumble.
But I know our batteries are old, along with much of our equipment, and nobody here knows how to replace them; we’re too specialised. We have to trade with the Chinese corporations, and we’re waiting for the FTSE to swing a bit in our favour, because McDollars aren’t worth what they were. Although according to our corporate broadcast, the work we’re doing here will change all that.
“At least we’ve got electricity,” mouths Adam, rolling his eyes at the CCTV.
I take the hint and shut up – with unemployment at 74% and rising, we’re lucky to be living on this floating island. Only yesterday we watched fifteen of our low producing erstwhile colleagues leaving for the motherland on a dirty tug boat, to grub in the ever diminishing acres of dirt for what they can find along with the millions of others not lucky enough to find company sponsorship. With the sea levels and the population rising year on year, dry land isn’t a nice place to be right now.
Jenkins got all maudlin and started quoting from Revelations again and we had to shut him up before the voice recognition software declared him insane. His PHd only buys him so much protection.
I log back in and read over the synthetic brain results with tired eyes. The umami is slightly up, but the cingulate gyrus isn’t responding as hoped. If we don’t improve our palatability and addictivity we’ll lose market share, and that could be lethal. Everyone on this floating island depends on Adam, Jenkins and I creating a formula for the perfect algae burger.


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