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An Ecosystem of Your Very Own
March 7, 2151
PORTLAND--Genetic customization has been taken to new heights with Fenster Corp.'s introduction of the Personal Ecological Terraderm or PET. The service provides clients with two hypodermics of primordial bio-ooze "encrypted" with a key based on clients' individual Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms ("SNiPs"). Once injected, the "ooze" goes to work forming a rudimentary nano-scale ecology just beneath the skin of the torso and arms.
"The whole thing sort of tickles at first," reports a satisfied client from Redwood City. "But, it's worth it. Once your PET gets up into senior evo-cycles, you'll start to get some cool things. Last week I spawned a crimson bottle-nosed moth. Ever since I've had a peaceful cloud of 'em following me around."
Though Fenster makes every effort to ensure an evolutionary trajectory that is both aesthetically pleasing and compatible with the client's lifestyle, a PET is a freely developing evolutionary ecosystem and specific results cannot be guaranteed. "We do everything we can, particularly at the initial conditions stage," explains Fenster spokesman Marcheno Davis. "The qualities of the PET substrate can have the most impact on the client's appearance, so we do what we can to keep a low profile. I can't reveal exactly what's in the substrate, but we did begin our design from all-natural micro-algaes and worked towards colorlessness, which turned out to be trickier than we thought."
The PET substrate interacts with the client's skin, renewing itself through a complex exfoliating interaction between the skin, the substrate, and the lowest tier of PET organisms that typically emerge within hours of injection. The substrate, and each new PET organism that evolves, is "locked" by the client's SNiP key, preventing one client's PET from interacting with another's. "Interaction between PETs introduces a new level of uncertainty to the whole process," explains Davis. "We've got interacting PETs in the works, though, so couples, close friends, even whole families can have cross-evolving PETs. We see that coming to market maybe 18 months down the road."
Surprisingly few of Fenster's early clients have experienced any adverse reaction to their PETs. Some have described an uncomfortable "crawling" feeling during the first month or so when the first generations of biots and biomites tend to reproduce at unsustainable levels before higher-level predators evolve, but most praise the eventual outcome. Though no serious reactions have been reported, Fenster always supplies clients with an "eco-cide" hypo in case of complications. "The eco-cide is keyed to the client's PET and immediately kills off the substrate and all derivative organisms," Davis points out. "We got accelerated FDA review and approval because we take careful measures, like providing an eco-cide."
Whether or not PETs will find a broad market remains to be seen. The company has ramped-up its marketing efforts in anticipation of the spring season, but may run into a healthy amount of skepticism among consumers. "I don't know, what if something gross evolved, some kind of ugly spider or cockroach rather than the butterflies they keep talking about," worries a New York resident participating in a PET focus group. It turns out that concerns about what sort of PET organisms might evolve, and how those organisms might reflect on the host-client, are six times more common than questions about possible health side-effects. Vanity, it seems, is more than skin deep.
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