Sensu Stricto

Elsysia, late 2030s

The laboratory was almost empty. Only Richard Fredric Veldman was left in this part of the faculty for life sciences, as the other biologists had already left for the weekend. The young professor was happy that his colleagues were gone, now he could pursue his experiments without interference.
Veldman was looking at several petri-dishes, all of them contained sperm-like creatures. But the organisms in the dishes weren’t sperm, it were choanoflagellates, unicellular organisms closely related to animals. Officially his job was to research the genetics of choanoflagellates.
And indeed Veldman was the leading authority when it came to choanoflagellates. He had published over fifty peer-reviewed articles on this subject during the last ten years. But his official research was actually a cover up.
While Veldman was inspecting his petri-dishes, someone had stepped into the laboratory and was approaching him.
“Rik, I have the chromosomes.” “Thank you, Charles.” Charles Bow was Veldman’s PhD-student and his principal research assistant.
“Do you really think that genetic modification of choanoflagellates is a good idea, Rik?” “Why not? Genetic engineering is a routine procedure these days. And besides we have taken all required precautions. There’s no danger for the public.”
“I was actually talking about the moral dimension of our experiment. Your idea might be a clever way to circumvent animal welfare legislation, but don’t you think that if we succeed, the senate might widen the law?”
Veldman took a deep breath.
“It will take many years to change those laws. Hence it’s important that our research remains secret till we are finished. Once HPAs are a reality, there is a fait accompli. If our project is successful, we can reduce our country’s dependence of new immigrants from Earth.”
“Our opponents might accuse us of animal supremacy.” “Yes, they’ll. But we are all animal supremacists.”
Charles Bow had taken one petri-dish, and he took a pipette. “The artificial chromosomes contain some five hundred basic mammalian genes not found in choanflagellates. It’s quite interesting to see how these organisms will execute these genes.”
With the pipette Bow injected the artificial chromosomes in the petri-dish with choanoflagellates. Veldman said: “Now we have to wait whether they will integrate the new chromosomes.

Elysia, a few months later

Richard Veldman and Charles Bow were sitting in Veldman’s office. At the table between them stood an aquarium. In the aquarium several tadpole-like beings were swimming. But they weren’t tadpoles, they weren’t even animals.
“It seems that our experiment of introducing artificial chromosomes containing mammalian and amphibian genes has been successful,” the professor said. “They are the first pseudo-animals,” Charles replied.
“It’s time to pursue the next phase.” “Rik, maybe we should wait for some time.” “Why?” “The federal government is planning to establish colonies in New Greece. One of the challenges for the colonization of New Greece is an adequate supply of labor. At this moment there are not many people, Elysian or Terrestrial, who want to settle in New Greece.”
“But on the other hand, it is of strategic importance to set foot in that region before it’s too late.” “Exactly.” “I see, you want to colonize New Greece with HPAs.” “That’s right. But with human supervision, of course.”
“Your plan,” Veldman said more to himself, “has an additional benefit. It isolates the HPA population from the electorate, and hence much less pressure on the Senate. Well, senatorial elections are next year. I think we could wait until then.” “I agree, after the election we can discuss this plan with the government.”

Elysia, a year later

The minister for territorial expansion was sitting behind her desk, while she offered professor Veldman a seat at the opposite site.
“So you want to send your new invention to the New Greek colonies in order to solve our labor shortages? Am I correct, professor?” “Yes, you are.” “Please, tell me more about those HPAs.”
“Humanoid Pseudo-Animals, or HPAs, are the latest development in the field of the genetic engineering. They are called pseudo-animals, because they aren’t animals but rather genetically modified choanoflagellates.” “Excuse me, what?” “Choanoflagellates, are unicellular organisms which are the closest relatives of animals in the evolutionary three.” “But if those are unicellular organisms, how can they solve our labor issues?”
Veldman took a nap of his glass of water, and explained:
“Choanoflagellates naturally live in colonies. With a little genetic engineering they can be turned into a multicellular organism, and then the rest is quite easy.” “I understand those pseudo-animals aren’t covered by our animal welfare legislation, because they are technically choanoflagellates and not animals.” “I guess that’s correct. Since our law does not recognize property in animals, we can’t use transgene animals as slave labor. But by using genetically modified choanoflagellates, this problem is circumvented.”
The minister took a short break, and wrote down a few notes before she continued.
“Okay, humanoid pseudo-animals can be used to replace human labor. How long does it take for them to mature?” “Well, the start their lives in a tadpole-like phase, and they have to grow to about one meter before they have their metamorphose into a human-like shape. But that only takes a few months. From their metamorphose till full maturity will only take a few years.”
“How do we prevent slave rebellions?” “Psycho-genetics, ma’am. By choosing the right genes, we can program them to be willing to obey us.” “That sounds great,” responded the minister with a big smile.

New Greece, twenty-five years later

Patricia stepped into her master’s office, with a meal on a blade. “Sir, your dinner.” “Thank you, my girl.” The young woman smiled politely, and she went quickly into a corner. There she stood, while her master was eating his meal.
Artturi Alikoski had been the governor of New Greece for the last five years, and ever since Patricia had served him as his personal servant. She was very loyal to him, but also from time to time a little bit too submissive to Alikoski’s taste.
“Sir, may I ask something?” The governor was surprised by this sudden question by Patricia, as it was out of character for her. “Of course, you may ask anything.”
“What does sensu stricto mean?” “Where did read that?” “In a news paper article, they discussed the term animales sensu stricto. I know that animales means animals, but I have never heard of the term sensu stricto.”
The governor of New Greece put down his fork. “Animales sensu stricto is originally a term used by taxonomists to refer to members of the animal kingdom, and to distinguish animals from other filozoans. But nowadays it is used by people to exclude pseudo-animals from animal welfare legislation, by stating that this legislation only applies to animales sensu stricto.”
“And why do people that?” “For constitutional reasons, animals are understood in an evolutionary sense by the constitution. Since pseudo-animals are descended from choanoflagellates, and hence are not animals, animal welfare legislation does not apply to pseudo-animals. But Patricia, don’t ever tell to anyone we spoke about this subject.” “I won’t tell anyone, sir.” “Good.”

New Greece, a few hours later

While her master already asleep, Patricia was sitting in his office. She was studying a long academic article written by professor Richard “Rik” Veldman, the man who had invented humanoid pseudo-animals. The article, with the title The Place of Choanoflagellates in the Eukaryote Domain, discussed the precise relation between the branches of the filozoa.
The main point of the article was that Veldman proved that choanoflagellates are not animals, with the unstated conclusion that hence they were not covered by animal welfare laws. Patricia was wondering whether he was only interested in choanoflagellates, because he could use them as a ground organism for genetic experiments and to produce a new type of slaves.
Humanoid pseudo-animals, like her, were considered property and they had to obey humans. Patricia had always been wondering why humans felt it necessary to keep her kind in slavery. As she had understood, HPAs were designed in such way that they were willing servants. But if that was the case, why bothering with a legal framework to force them into servitude?

Ilium Novum, around the same time

“Rik, I think it will be better if Elysia would abolish HPA slavery. There is no reason why they won’t work for us voluntarily,” Charles Bow said. Professor Veldman was shaking with his head. “Maybe they’ll work for us on their own accord, but they still owe their existence to us, hence we have a moral right to their service. And so it would be unacceptable if even one HPA would ever refuse to submit to our rule.”
Charles Bow was in strong disagreement with Veldman.
“Even if we have a moral right to their labor, it would be a sign of greatness if we humans would waive our rights and give our creatures their liberty.” “But they don’t deserve that gesture.” “Well, real greatness lies in giving others the things they do not deserve. And wouldn’t it be a greater sign of gratitude, if humanoid pseudo-animals would serve us voluntarily?”
Richard Veldman rose from his chair, and said:
“I have to leave now. Goodbye.” “Well, if you have to go, goodbye.” The professor left the room. And Charles Bow knew why he had left. Veldman was one of the fiercest defenders of HPA slavery, while Bow, his former research partner, was the strongest advocate of extending animal welfare law to pseudo-animals.
Veldman’s former colleague remained in his chair. Though humanoid pseudo-animals were technically a success, their deployment was limited to the New Greek colonies. In other parts of Elysia, there was much less interest in HPA slaves.

Elysia, a few days later

Professor Charles Bow was reading his emails before he had to teach a first-year college class. In his mailbox he found a rather peculiar mail, from a certain Patricia. He had never heard from her, so he started to read her mail.
“Dear Professor Bow, I am writing you because you are one of the inventors of humanoid pseudo-animals. My question is why legally enforced servitude is necessary, while HPAs are genetically hard-wired to be submissive and obedient to humans. Best regards, Patricia.”
This was exactly the point he wanted to make in his discussion with Veldman. Psycho-genetics made legal slavery redundant, in his opinion. Veldman disagreed. But why was a mystery to Charles Bow, as his colleague did not go further with his argumentation than who creates, who owns.
Nevertheless, the law was on Veldman’s side, so Bow wrote a short reply:
“Dear Patricia, by law only animals are considered as persons. Everything else is considered as either property or potential property. So by default humanoid pseudo-animals are objects which could be owned. This situation can only be changed by law. Best regards, Charles bow.”
Then he send the reply and went to his class.

New Greece, a few days later

Artturi Alikoski was served tea by his servant Patrcia, while he was reading official documents. One of these documents was a letter from the department of transmigration, which stated that Rik Veldman had applied for transmigration to New Greece.
The official reason Veldman had given to the department, was that he wanted to be involved with the establishment of the University of New Greece. But the governor knew that Veldman wanted to become the new university’s first rector magnificus. Given his scientific record this function could not be denied to Veldman.
Alikoski also knew that Veldman had a desire to escape the political environment in Illium Novum. The first generation of space-born citizens had been grown up and they might question his achievements. And to put pressure on the federal government to abolish HPA-slavery. The first senatorial debate on the issue had already been scheduled.
Not that there was a majority for abolition, but that could change in the future. It was clear that Veldman did not want to become subject of this debate, he had no choice to flee from the center of the federation. And since he could not return to his native country, as he had been declared persona non grata there, the geneticist had no other option than to move to New Greece.
In New Greece the majority of human residents, who virtually all owned HPA-slaves, favoured to continuation of this type of slavery. And hence Veldman would not be a pariah in this region.

Elysia, a month later

Rik Veldman did not hold a farewell-party after he had announced his departure to New Greece. He was succeeded by Charles Bow as dean of the faculty of life sciences of the University of Ilium Novum.
“Charles, despite all our differences, I wish you will do very well as my successor here.” “Thank you, Rik,” said Charles flatly. “What are you intending to do in New Greece, Rik?” “To do some more research, in a more tranquil environment.” “What type of research are thinking of?” “The perfection of pseudo-animals, of course.”
Charles Bow had not expected any different answer. For some reason Veldman was still not satisfied with the design of humanoid pseudo-animals. It was, however, a guess t him what Veldman intended to improve.

New Greece, six months later

Artturi Alikoski had invied the new resident of his territory for dinner.
“Rik, Patricia is an excellent cook. She always prepares the most delicious meals I have ever eaten.” “I am very curious,” Veldman said politely. Dining was not his cup of tea, usually he preferred liquid meals based on algae protein. In his opinion eating was a waste of time.
Veldman was never invited for dinner, at least not by those who knew him. Alikoski had never met him before, but the geneticist was polite enough to accept his invitation.
When Patricia served her master and his guest their meals, Veldman was pleased by the smells of the food. Not bad, he thought. Carefully the professor ate his meal, to his surprise he really enjoyed it. Maybe he should borrow Patricia from time to time in order to cook for him. Anyway, the HPA was a good and devoted servant. Precisely the way he wanted them to be.

New Greece, the next day

Patricia had felt a strong dislike for Rik Veldman. He behaved if he was the big bang himself, only because he had tinkered with genes and organisms. Veldman was the opposite of her own master, who she would serve even if she were not his property.
Alikoski treated her more as a friend rather than as a slave. While Veldmand had not even looked once at her, her master was appreciating her cooking skills. It appeared to her that the professor was not interested in her very existence, other than she was just a submissive servant. Her master talked to her, asked her about her opinions on topics.
Veldman had made a very chill impression on her and somehow she felt his presence in New Greece was a bad development. She had no doubts that his move was politically motivated, only Patricia had no idea what Veldman intended to achieve. The female servant did not believe her master’s explanation that he was motivated by academic promotion.
While Patricia was cleaning Alikoski’s office, her eye felt on a document that was still on his desk. That was unusual as her master always cleared away his documents after he had read them. Curiously she read the paper, which was titled “Veldman’s loophole and the undermining of the republic” and written by an well-known professor in animal law.
The author criticized the way in which Veldman had circumvented Elysian law. Enslavement of genetically uplifted animals was illegal as animals were not considered as property in Elysian legislation. But since the animal welfare code only defined in a strictly evolutionary sense, Veldman had conceived to get around this by genetically engineering those organisms closest to animals: choanoflagellates. Through this “trick” HPAs were subject to ordinary property law as mere things.
However, the author argued that the philosophical case for animal welfare legislation does not rest on animals being of the right descent, but on their ability to suffer. Subsequently the professor stated that humanoid pseudo-animals are capable of suffering and hence animal welfare legislation should be extended to them as well.
Also Veldman’s “psycho-genetics” was attacked by the author. Engineering HPAs into “willing” submissive servants was described as a sign of a bad moral character.
“What are you doing?” Patricia was scared up by the voice of her master. “Did you have permission to read my documents?” “No, sir. I am very sorry, sir.”
Alikoski gave his servants a few harsh slaps on her behind. Thereafter he collected the document and put it in a drawer.
“Back to work, girl.” “Yes, sir.” And shortly after she had resumed her chores, her master had already left his office again. Patricia was a little bit embezzled as she was very rarely punished by her master.

New Greece, a few days later

Professor Veldman was sitting in his new office, drinking a cup of coffee, when he received the news that a committee of the federal senate was considering an amendment to extend the animal welfare code to pseudo-animals. Though the amendment was introduced as a citizen’s initiative, the geneticist immediately recognized one of the petitioners as a lawyer on the payrole of the Elysian Android and Robotic Corporation.
The latter did not surprise Veldman at all. Recent rapid advancements in artificial intelligence threatened to make his work on humanoid pseudo-animal slaves obsolete. Nevertheless the EARC saw Veldman and his HPA breeding company as annoying competitors. And by playing the “moral card” they wanted to eliminate competition from humanoid pseudo-animals.
This fact would be an important in Veldmas’s strategy to preserve HPA slavery. Another part would be the fact that HPAs were genetically “programmed” to like their servitude. But Veldman realized that in the long run this type of slavery could only survive if New Greece would become independent.
Too many senators had interests in EARC. But eighty-five percent of all humanoid pseudo-animals was located in New Greece and hence demand for androids and other robots were quite low here.
Veldman’s company offered HPA slaves at a very low price in order to promote the spread of HPA slavery and to suppress the demand for robots. He earned most of his money by selling HPA sperm, which was the primary reason that most HPA slaves were female.
Alikoski was an important hurdle on the road the New Greek independence. The governor of the territory had close ties with influential senators in the pockets of the EARC. Veldman knew that he had to be removed, but the question was by whom? There was no way that Veldman would run for governor himself, as that would be too obvious.

Elysia, a month later

The chief editor of The Elysian Republican said
“So what? The governor of the New Greece territory has a sexual affair with his HPA slave, regardless whether that’s true or not, we don’t care about it. That’s his business, he can do whatever with his property as he sees fit.”
“Well, mister Alikoski is a well-known advocate of sexual abstinence,” replied an anonymous caller, “and that would be really embracing, wouldn’t it?”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t matter at all. His sex life, or lack of it, belongs to his private life, even if he is a prominent asexual.”
The chief editor hang up his cell phone.

Elysia, a week later

A second attempt to start a scandal involving governor Alikoski had much more success. Someone has leaked evidence that he had accepted money from people with very close ties with the Elysian Android and Robotic Corporation.
Multiple Elsyian news paper wrote on the issue, and the governor was forced to publicly deny the allegation and to ask the Federal Police to investigate the matter. Nothing was found to substantiate the accusations, but as always in such situations the rumors still continued.

New Greece, a few days later

Veldman enjoyed that his rival Alikoski was in trouble. It was just a matter of time before the governor would be forced to step down. Meanwhile the professor had organized a lose political group, but not really a political party, of large slaveholders.
The purpose of this group was to influence the politics of New Greece and to ensure that the local authorities would support HPA slavery. And ultimately to secure secession, but would be the future.

New Greece, a year later

The most populous colony of the New Greek settlements was admitted to the Elysian Federation as the State of Satelliteland. Artturi Alikoski as elected as senator for the new state and hence he left New Greece for Ilium Novum. Of course, not without his servant Patricia who was promoted to his personal assistant.
Rik Veldman was happy to him leave, and the new prime minister of Satelliteland was a close associate of the geneticist. The first step of his plan had worked.


5 responses

  1. Rik Veldman —- I liked the part where you described him as acting as The Big Bang. I looked back and tried to find it again but couldn’t.

    1. You’re clever, it is not there. But that was Patricia’s impression of the professor, not actual reality. Actually I wanted originally compare Veldman with god, rather than the big bang.

      1. Yes, I remember it was a character’s impression but couldn’t find the passage. 😦
        Actually I wanted you to know that I really did read the story. I don’t often read the the long stuff. 🙂

      2. >>Actually I wanted you to know that I really did read the story.

        I got the message.

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