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Time Of The Tardigrades: Hijacking Nature (E4)

8 May 2018

The planet known as Earth, an insignificant green-blue sphere of chance, had no reason to be an epicenter of UFO activity. However, to create tension in this series, it just so happened that another species of alien decided to drop their waste onto Earth. And so it was that at exactly 12:00 AM (Earth time) that a ship, about the size of a twenty meter salmon, appeared over a large body of water. The ship in question was made up of a long tube with two intersecting, smaller tubes passing through, and had the colour of polished metal. It then coughed out a tiny ball made up of some microscopic wriggly bits and was no longer visible, as the ship had beamed away, leaving a trail of red light behind it. 

 

Somewhere else on the planet, another form of microscopic alien life was beginning to stir as the closest star to earth began to move above the horizon. Technically, it was the planet that was moving, only it looked like the sun was moving, but that was not the point. The point was that the sky had brightened, the stars were gone and there was only a sad shadow of where the moon (the only moon orbiting the planet, called "the Moon", is quite unremarkable except for the fact that the alien species living there had done really well at staying hidden from some Earth-dwellers, and can make a great stew if you know how to ask) used to be. The sky was slowly fading into blue, clouds lumbering along like groggy giants. In a certain reed patch, which was on a certain coast which, in turn, was in a certain country, you might have find some really small three-dimentional shapes, fashioned out of pieces of leaves. These shapes were home to a few hundred microscopic deadly space-lice, also known as Tardigrades. And so it was that the Tardigrades cautiously shuffled out of their tiny leaf-homes and started on the search for food. 

 

The hunting habits of Tardigrades are a strange but not widely discussed phenomena, mainly because no Kalrantrashion or Torrakolab or any advanced alien species for that matter, really cares about the living and eating habits of a microscopic pest that makes them itchy. However, thanks to the slightly controversial research done by a Girangiae scientist, a book called Hremabiaebakalui Tardigraese (which in English means"Book About Tardigrades") was published and was available as an e-book or hard copy format. 54 copies of this book have ever been bought, let alone read, and 46 of them were bought by a company called Fokrryuebius Glae, a company that teaches Girangae writers to write books. The 46 copies of Hremabiaebakalui Tardigraese were used in a workshop on how not to write a book. All 46 of those books were destroyed after the participants of the workshop suffered from an intense surge of depression. Three of the participants came home afterwards and subsequently threw themselves off of the nearest buildings they could find. The other eight copies were bought out of interest, and four were thrown away immediately. The e-books were cleared from the system and the whereabouts of the last four copies are unknown.

 

However, Tardigrades hunt their prey in a very strange manner, which I will try to explain to you now. The Tardigrades start by forming a close huddle, and slowly moving in one given direction. They join their sensory receptors together, creating a combined force that can detect anything within a 10-meter radius. That might seem quite small, but remember that Tardigrades are relatively 0.5 millimeters long. When they find something, they break away and split. One group diverts to the left, one goes to the right. Then the remaining group splits, one going straight toward the prey, the other going around to flank the prey at the back. The prey had no escape. Within 30 seconds, the Tardigrades could see the prey. It was known as a "Cricket" by the local not-so dominant species, homo-sapiens. The cricket in question was gigantic to The Tardigrades. That did not deter them. The first group, heading straight toward the cricket, made a jump at it. The cricket jumped backward, avoiding the attack easily. The Tardigrades didn't care. This was part of the plan. The cricket didn't notice the clump of Tardigrades behind it, and paid for it. It died quickly, but that was all the mercy it got. It was devoured within an hour.

 

However, the Tardigrades didn't stop there. They went in search of more leaves, to develop their small village. Although microscopic, Tardigrades are amazingly intelligent, and adapt to new environments quickly.  The most important things that they had deducted so far were:  That bugs like crickets were edible and only relatively dangerous; that the days were 24 hours long; and that leaves were able to hold water and draw energy from the sun. The third deduction was why there were exploring. They had a plan to find a healthy plant, take some new leaves, and draw energy from the sun. This way, they could generate sugars and feed without having to hunt. They found a suitable plant, chewed off a few leaves, which is not a small feat for an animal 0.5 millimeters long, and carried them home. Arriving back at the village, the Tardigrades began to set up the leaves, pointing them at where the sun rose in the morning. The Tardigrades, somewhat tired, headed back to their small leaf-houses and settled in as the sun made it's home run, casting a warm orange haze, slowly melting away to the glow of the moon.

 

Thanks for reading! The Tardigrades will be back!

 

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