After an unfathomably powerful mass extinction event ALL life (fauna, flora, even extremaphiles and microbes) have died off. The Earth was then sterile for an undetermined amount of time. Then one day, deep in an underground facility a computer system from the human era boots up and the words "suitable planet conditions near ideal levels" appear on a monitor. Then 65 scientists emerge from their cryogenic chambers (probably not all at once, individual recovery time, cryo sleep cycles should make for staggered awakenings). They are the result of a previous secret government project. They are now the only living things on the planet. (more human DNA exists in frozen form). The mechanics of the facility are comparable to those of Frozen Ark or Seed Vault, saving hundreds of thousands of seeds and animal tissue samples for genetic reconstruction and eventual re-introduction into the world. The scientists have education/vocational training pre-cryo and the division of labor is as follows:

  • Geneticists: reconstruct/revive the plants and animals
  • Evolutionists/Ecologists: make executive decisions for timing and location of plant/animal re-introduction
  • Field Scientists: a bit brawnier, and actually get their hands dirty and carry out the plan, although they are still very adept intellectually


A rival government has secretly installed 3 sleeper cells among the scientists, one for each role/division of labor. The goal of these sleeper cells is to sabotage the entire operation, eventually leading to mass starvation and another sterile world. They themselves would also starve (they are very dedicated).

Question What is the most subtle way to sabotage the biosphere rebirth operation as detailed above?

Sabotage Goals

  • Primary Sabotage Goal: 100% sterilization of life on earth
  • Secondary Sabotage Goal: destruction of human-sustaining crops like maize, wheat, rice and starches

Further Clarification

  • Method of Sabotage: Anything that is within the control of the sleeper cells, e.g: order of species introduction, soil biota, gene modification, ect

  • Subtlety: The solution has to be very subtle, perhaps imperceptible to the 62 "good-guy" scientists, who at the first sign of suspicion would rally together and overwhelm the 3 sleeper cells

  • Timeline: Please include how long your solution would take approximately. However, there is no concrete timeline when the sabotaged biosphere has to collapse, but presumably has to be fast enough that the "good-guy" scientists don't get a chance to propagate at a geometric rate and spread their life-giving seeds across the earth

  • Division of labor: Answers may emphasize any one of the divisions of labor, or have all three sleeper cells collaborate

  • Success Metric: Leaving the bio-sphere irreparably crippled (ideally sterilzed) not just for the ark organisms, but to any other potential spin-off organisms (mutant rats, cockroaches, bunny rabbits, ect) that would otherwise exploit the biosphere/evolutionary vacuums.

  • Robustness: Killing the scientists out right is an acceptable approach, but since we do not know who wakes up from cryo sleep first, it should not be assumed the whole operation could be pre-empted by killing everybody. A plan that involves killing scientists should be accompanied by ecological/genetic or other science-based sabotage plans for robustness.

Note I know the premise is a little bit of a stretch. Please humor me. Let's accept the premise as the real situation, then let's be scientific and rational from that point on.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I can understand your need for scientific sabotage of the biosphere project. The simplest way of achieving sabotage would be for the three bad hats to put poison in the food and drink of the other 62 scientists during their celebration immediately being revived from cryosleep. They would celebrate their revival, and that's the easiest time to murder them. Sorry if this lacks scientific subtlety. It isn't required. I hope someone with a more subtle mind gives you an answer. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jun 24, 2017 at 11:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You should move your facility off planet, we have found microbes 2 miles down in cracks in bedrock, deeper than humans can survive even with a excavated living space. Wiping out all life requires basically reliquifying the planets surface. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 24, 2017 at 14:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As hinted in my answer there are some fundamental flaws in plot that make difficult to give a "good answer". Flaws I see: duration: You focus on crops, but it will be millennia before seed could sprout on land (insects needed); motivation: "very intelligent" people, however dedicated, would understand futility of exacting revenge from the dead, much better (as example) to concur to rebirth, but substituting the human genome with "rival government" one (and making the "good guys" to realize this when it's too late!). See: "The Count of Montecristo" (Dumas) or "Demon Princes" cycle (Vance) $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Jun 25, 2017 at 8:18

3 Answers 3


I know it is not what You are looking for, but the easiest and surest way to achieve "Primary Objective" is simply to find a way to kill all scientists before they manage to unseal the vault.

You can do it in a myriad ways, including, but not limited to, explosion, nerve gas, food poisoning, lifesystem sabotage.

Once the vault is open "Primary Objective" is very difficult to obtain, while there still are many ways to obtain "Secondary Objective".

Note that, given the conditions, the planet would be utterly unfriendly to (our) life. In particular the atmosphere would contain very little Oxygen (side effect: no Ozone and lots Ultraviolet radiation), thus among the first things to do is seed oceans with Protophyta and (later) Algae to restore some Oxygen and start a food chain capable of sustaining more complex Biota.

This is a multi-generation project. While it can be speed up from the billions of years it needed to happen "on its own", there would be a long period (at least some thousand years) before the "scientists" could really unseal the vault. Given the story so far it's likely they would go into "deep sleep" several times in their own lifespan.

You need to elaborate Your plot, if You really want sensible answers. I suggest You try to understand what would be the strategy to recondition the planet before You insert the "disturbing factor" (perhaps asking another question about "terraforming" a sterile planet.

  • $\begingroup$ Naughty. You have taken my unsubtle solution, embroidered it with specific methods, but I posted in comments over an hour earlier than your answer. Here was I hoping for someone with more scientific subtlety in providing an answer. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jun 24, 2017 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android: Sorry, I didn't mean to steal Your answer. I didn't actually read it, but it is the obvious solution and I just wanted to point out any other solution would look artificially elaborate. I have no problem in retiring my answer if You so wish. $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Jun 24, 2017 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ This seems the most realistic solution, given that the three enemy seem driven by mere dedicated spite (oops, call it revenge) after the death of their prior cultures. Not terribly interesting antagonists.... $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jun 24, 2017 at 13:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ZioByte I would just contend that some good scientists could survive because of a few reasons. 1. We wouldn't know for a fact who wakes up from cryo sleep first. It could be the case that the sleeper cells wake up last and the initial phase has already begun. 2. The good scientists are very smart and have the advantage of knowing the underground facility/computer systems more intimately (as it's their home governments). 3. There are 63 good scientists, in different parts of the facility and out in the field; finding the perfect time and place may be too much of a long shot. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2017 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ @ZioByte To continue, let me just say I'm not opposed to outright violence and killing the scientists to pre-empt the whole operation. I actually commend your direct approach but I think a contingency plan with regards to how to destroy the biosphere when it's already partially underway will need to be part of the answer I accept. I have to err on the side of robustness. I realize this may not be spelled out to some people, I will add a simple bullet point to clear this up. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2017 at 18:03

Phytoplankton is the key.

They will probably start by recreating the ocean biomes, all that your evil guys need is to have some modified phytoplankton at the ready. You want to generate a massive bloom of growth that will destroy the rest of the marine biome and will severely cripple the oxygen production.

The most common way that could happen would be trough some engineered triggers, or the addition of excess nutrients on the water.

After they grow out of control you will have a massive red tide.

  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough, but once things settle down the phytoplankton will still survive. The goal was a sterile earth. $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2017 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ Make the Phytoplankton extremely resistant to mutation and needing traces amount of lithium or other uncommon substance, after the rest of the biome is destroyed they will grow and populate most of the oceans, choking the life out of it. The resistance to mutation will make sure it don't evolve and the special needs would secure that after a century or two they will die out. $\endgroup$
    – Sasha
    Jun 24, 2017 at 17:11

Not any specific plot:

These action below can act as distract, slow down the process or cause mistrust in others. However, it is hard to deal a killing blow to whole project.

Well, the most easy and least suspicious to sabotage is to fail their task. For example, Field Scientists who in charge of field potato, result in a full loss on crop (For example, potato does not make potato because missing some nutrition in soil). It cause some damage, but not very critical.

Fail safety measurement: Someone forget to seal radiation shield in Seed Vault (assume that the backstory is post-nuclear war like Fallout), lead to all seed spoil. This case, it is devastated and may lead to chain reaction. But the case can be prevent if everyone double check on each other.

Spread bad rumor: break relationship between crew member.

Below is 1 plot I can think of:

A disease:
We have Geneticists and Evolutionists here, perhaps they know how to create a mutation.

I take inspiration from plague inc the game.

The Geneticists create a virus.
Win objective:
- Kill all scientist before the project finish
or - Kill all plant, including seed so the project cannot finish.

There are 2 target: human and plant. I prefer human, because there is only 1 species 'human' so it is easier to target than a variety of plant.

The virus:
-It spread extremely fast, by mean of air and resilience outside environment.
-It does not cause any symptoms for a period of time. It should stay dormant for a time, but less than time to complete project. Perhaps few week to guarantee that everyone is infected .
-When it become active, it kill fast so the scientist don't have time to react.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .