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By Pratiek Bhadranavar

The year was 3122, but not as we measure it now. A few hundred years from today, the very science which humans had harnessed to control Earth’s resources would turn against them. Earth’s resources were exhausted, and the environment was filled with toxins.

Luckily a few bright minds from across the globe put together a plan to colonize the few inhabitable worlds that had been detected. From the initial 12 planets colonized, the human colony had grown to 681 planets with a couple more being added every year. These planets orbited different stars, each having its own day/night cycle. Thus everyone measured time differently, and the year 3122 was merely a relic of the old times, indicating the years passed since mankind left Earth.

This was Asteria, a planet rich in iron and nickel. It was a quiet, tranquil world with some 2000 inhabitants. The people mainly identified mineral deposits, that would be processed into transport ships, rocket boosters, machines, tools and the like. They also made Serum5-a blood identical, allowing them to breathe rarefied air. A colloid of cells in a synthetic protein was imported from other planets, and Asteria infused it with iron to make it usable. It was all part of the intergalactic dependency. Selene was a young ferrobiogenicist who supervised the infusion process at the Serum5 unit and was part of a team working on enhancing its properties.

As she sat down for lunch, she noticed Petraues, one of her colleagues. He was usually a quiet guy, but today, she noticed that he appeared a little more reserved. “Heeey!! Something on your mind?”she asked.

Petraeus took a while before he answered “I noticed something funny today. The colloids that we use? They’ve been showing an increased KA900 content,”he swallowed before continuing “and you know what that means.”

She knew very well what that meant. KA900 was a mind relaxant. It was strictly regulated, meant only for therapeutic use. “But isn’t it supposed to be controlled at source? It could be deadly. And wouldn’t the authorities report it?”

“Not if you know the right people. Head to one of the medical stores around town. They’ll give it to you. Wrapped in a brown paper and a black cover and all. As if they’re giving you a radioactive isotope”he said darkly.

The news struck Selene as well, as they pondered over the consequences. Someone with access to high powered neural transmitters would then be able to command the entire population to do their bidding.

Back in her cabin, she checked the records of the last 50 colloid shipments. Each one showed a remarkable rise in KA900 content. She came to suspect something sinister was behind this. This would have to be reported at the highest level. Why hadn’t she noticed this before? Various thoughts raced in her mind as she prepared a report for the Chief Commissioner. Who? Why? The planet would be full of zombies if she didn’t get to the bottom of this.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About the author: Prateik Bhadranavar is from the Batch of 2018. He interned at Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Pvt Ltd, Chennai. His hobby is to read about military, strategic and international affairs. He is also learning German both professionally and as a hobby

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