Blin was bored beyond belief, sitting idly while the machine did its automatic scan. “Why must we do this, watch after watch?” It demanded.
At Its own console, Daita said, as during many previous watches, “Because if something is found, a sentient reaction is required.”
“Oh yes, and when was the last time something was found?”
“About three tours of duty ago.”
Daita’s machine sounded the alarm.
The two of them inspected the information that rapidly appeared. Location 3548965# had a sick Being.
Daita was on the communicator to the Captain while Blin monitored the details. It found the location, which was way out in the periphery of the Galaxy. The Being had an elevated temperature, and It was radiating energy in a strange way. “I think it’s an infection of some kind,” Blin said.
The Captain entered and activated the remote sensor. The Being was sending out electromagnetic radiation with some sort of regular pattern, indicating sentience, but the coding was completely novel and strange. Interpreting it took a lot of work, but eventually the monitor screen showed pictures, and associated sounds came from the speakers.
It appeared that this patterned radiation was not actually sent out by the Being, but by tiny organisms that crawled around on Its surface. The Captain expressed amazement. “Surely, an infectious agent cannot be sentient?”
“If it is, how can we do the disinfection? We cannot kill anything sentient.”
“Glad you asked, Blin. Your task is to study how these tiny things multiply, and find a natural method of interrupting the pattern.”
If watching a machine doing its automatic task was boring, then watching the antics of these strange little organisms was worse. They were so caught up in their little lives! However, a pattern very quickly evolved. There were two varieties of the little pests. One individual of each kind needed to get in close intimate contact with one individual of the other, then the smaller type grew a bulge, and then hived off a tiny version of itself. This eventually grew into one of the two types of adults.
Then Blin found the key. From some of the stories presented, it became clear that some humans, as the little things called themselves, refused to participate in the ritual that led to reproduction. Instead, they engaged in the same kind of activity with their own type. When things of the bigger variety did this they were called “gay,” if the smaller, “lesbian.”
Satisfied, Blin reported to the Captain. “Respectability,” It said, “all we need to do is to externally interfere in their transmissions, which are supposedly meant for their entertainment, but in fact are a form of mind control. Among their number are a few who determine the content of these transmissions, and by this means they rule all the others. We can influence them to change the stories. From now on, they will display their normal reproductive rituals as disgusting, something to be avoided, and convince them all to become gay and lesbian.”
The problem was solved. Within three generations of these short-lived beings, their population plummeted to a number sufficiently low that the Being’s immune system could deal with them unaided.
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