Exterminator - Editor
Transmissions of the Mind
by Joe Jablonski
They tell me the name of this planet is Omnithept.
After my drop craft hits the ground hard, I don’t hesitate getting out of the cramped vessel. I escape onto the firm soil with both feet running and suck in a deep breath of the only truly fresh air I have known in years with a feeling of relief to be liberated from that small metal coffin. It felt like I was in there for an eternity.
All around me is endless forest; a boreal paradise. It looks like every other forest on every other planet I’ve been as if all habitable planets were built from the some universal assembly line. A cold wind comes over me; dry and saturated with foreign particles. Bushes, vines, green leaves, brown trunks; all damp and unforgiving. All these things are surrounding me and I could pretend I’m anywhere.
Off in the distances, a primal scream cuts the air. It sounds like what four hundred years of science has told us the ancient dinosaurs sounded like. The reverberations of some kind of insect can be heard in a steady unrelenting monotone. I look up to see twin moons shinning like silver orbs in the night sky.
Standing in this Eden, I stretch muscle worn and cramped. Inside my veins, I can feel the reversed engineered bacteria the science team injected surging through my system. That tingle means it’s working. Theoretically, I am immune to the disease infesting this planet; the very thing that has turned all the colonists into mindless puppets, controlled by whatever consciousness is out there.
A few years ago, they found the first contaminated humans drifting on a small shuttle, twenty-two light years away from its intended destination. When boarded, the rescue team was attacked by something, not quite human, not quite nightmare. Their faces and bodies were half melting and seemed to be made from spoiled meat. Higher cognitive function gone; their eyes glowed as if driving by some external force.
The rescue team killed them…then replaced them - then the next and the next.
The fourth team finally got the message and went in with hazmat suits made from a material I can’t pronounce, killed all but one and bought him/it back for analysis.
I know all this from the mission briefing.
An autopsy found a thick cluster of a foreign bacteria festering inside the active nerve inputs and control centers of the brain. It reacted with intelligence. Certain frequencies would disrupt the process. Certain frequencies would make them react, and in turn, make the human host react.
Standing here, a light rain shower has started up. It feels good on my skin. The humidity on this planet is hellish. Off to my left, an animal that looks something like a large aardvark with mesh tentacle probing the air is looking at me with the same eyes as those of the possessed. Six little white cylinders with red tips protrude from its lumpy back. It sees me see it and takes off into the unknown.
After six hours of not smoking, everything makes you think of cigarettes.
It didn’t take long for the researchers to realize that it was a form of brain washing, a bacterium that acted as a receptor to receive and act on the commands of some kind of consciousness into making the host that consciousness’s acting hand. And whoever or whatever was in control did not have humanity’s best interest in mind.
Since the first, eleven more infection filled spacecrafts have been found drifting. “Delivery crafts,” the scientist call them. They were sent out to increase the numbers of those infected; recruiters for an army of puppets.
Imagine you could spread a contagion to the masses, followed a radio frequency that could make all those infected fall to the floor completely paralyzed, attack a specific target, vote for your candidate, dance the mambo. Anyone who doesn’t believe as you do easily becomes a convert with a simple command. They will do anything you say with no control to stop it.
Imagine this and you have a good idea of what we are up against.
Genetic samples from the original bodies linked the origins of this bacterium to Omnithept. Two long years they researched it, mutated it, and made it their own so we could take the fight to them.
This mutated breed is what’s inside me now, flooding my veins like liquid fire. It’s what’s suppose to keep me from being susceptible to the original strain of bacteria that has taken over the some two thousand colonist living here - my own personal security blanket.
And with this new found immunity, I am on a mission to purge an entire planet of the evil plaguing it. I am an exorcist, the bacteria of Omnithept is my demon.
Three week ago, my life was simple, ordinary, and completely boring. I was once a member of a special-forces team, and what I did then made a difference… but that’s all behind me now.
There were no words to describe my torment. I wanted everything I was and nothing of who I am. I was the definition of living in the past.
It’s like there was a single second in time when the universe deemed me as obsolete. I was going nowhere, forever. Stagnate in my disproportion.
I want to say I felt nothing, but it’s a lie. I felt everything. Most of all, I felt what a man feels when he comes to the realization that, yes, that will be his last heartbeat; this will be his last breath - desperately hopeless. Only mine was never the last. It was an endless lifetime of waiting for that one second that happens faster than you can snap your fingers.
One day you wake up and find yourself living in small one bedroom quarters on a space station surrounded by light years of nothing; a self exile from your own life. On that space station, the term ‘out in the middle of bum-fuck’ took on a whole new meaning.
That’s where I was at when I got the call.
Over my holo-phone, my old sergeant was giving me the skinny about a reinstatement order - a new mission.
I’m only half listening. My toilet’s clogged, again. I went cheap and opted out of one of those super-suck jet-flows that are all the rage. They don’t even try to make a quality one with the cheapo’s anymore.
My old sergeant was saying that with my skill set and military record, that I am the best for the job.
I was furiously going to town with my plunger. Inside my bowl, little piece of toilet paper and water are combining into a mush as I churn harder and harder. At that moment, I knew what it was like to be Amish. My efforts did little to accomplish anything except create a thick brown pulp within my bowl. It looked like what you made homemade paper from back in arts and crafts class.
With one final, desperate plunge, it finally cleared. I watched the water swirl down to the re-processors and refill itself with fresh, clear water as I lit a cigarette. It’s then I realized that that would be the most exciting moment of my day.
Living on a government check week to week and there isn’t much you can afford to do.
My old sergeant was saying that I will be dropped into what’s expected to be extremely hostile territory.
Over the holo-phone, I hear the words: suicide mission.
I looked into the newly restored toilet bowl one more time and it reflected back at me the face of a man desperate for anything.
My old sergeant now had my full attention.
I begin to head out east. Accord to the reports, this is the direction of the settlement.
There is a well on the outskirts of the colony. I am to deliver the same biological agent running through my veins into the water supply. It, theoretically, is supposed the rid the colonist of their affliction; cure them back to normality.
This is my mission.
As I’m walking, I lose control for the first time. A little spasm of my leg muscle has me limping for a moment. As I regain my composer, I take another look around. A few more of the strange animals are beginning to surround me. I un-shoulder my weapon and continue nervously.
Every so often, one will run in at me and at the last second, charge back off as if testing me. Any closer and they would find a bullet to the head was in their future.
This goes on and on until I’m about a mile out from the well. At some unknown command, they charge.
They charge and I run, firing my weapon at any that get in my way. A few go down but more are always there to take their place. I throw out a few grenades to clear my path. When the smoke clears, I can see the well. The exertion is making it hard to breath and I can feel the weight of my old age bearing down on me. But I press on.
When I’m almost at the well, one of the animals hits me from behind, knocking me to the ground. I fire in all directions in a panic, but still one after the other continues to get through the spray; each slamming into me with their full weight. I feel bones shatter, skin tear, flesh rip. I can do nothing but scream and continue firing.
I fire until the sound of my gun going off is the only sound. I fire until it’s the only thing that exists in my world. I fire until I run out of ammo.
The attacks have stopped coming. I slowly open my eyes and realize my finger is still tight on the trigger. Spread out before me is a pile of the creatures, bloody and lifeless.
Pain is covering my body from head to toe. Despite it all, I suck in a lung full of pure relief.
I’m so close to the well, but it seems forever unreachable. I’ve been trampled into nothing only five yards away; crippled, with my life bleeding out. I want to give up.
Far in the distance, I see a few of the possessed colonist behind the wall of dead creatures. Slowly they begin to walk my way.
That’s where I am when I get the call.
Over my communication module, my old sergeant tells me I need to complete my mission.
As he talks I can feel something buzzing in my head. It gets louder and louder until I can barely think. With it, the Sarge’s words begin to echo, his normally gruff voice sounds so soothing.
He’s telling me the true contents of the liquid I’m carrying. He’s sayings it’s a synthetic chemical which eventually spread throughout the planet completely destroy any trace of the mind-controlling bacteria. In fact, it will kill pretty much everything, the colonist, me, the weird aardvark creatures - everything; A complete genocide.
I can’t believe want I’m hearing. I can’t go through with this. The bacteria is one thing, but every living thing on the planet?
His voice keeps forcing its way inside my head on top of all the confusion. The buzzing is even louder now, bringing with it a strange feeling of distant euphoria.
He’s saying, “In order to control the spread of the bacteria, we need to kill whatever is controlling it. That could be anything on that damn planet. Since we don’t know, we kill everything. You knew this was a one way stop. Now, get the job done, soldier!”
I begin to pull myself towards the well, but it’s not me. It’s a compulsion I cannot control.
I know my orders are wrong, but I can’t stop. I can still hear my old sergeant’s voice ringing through my head. The suggestions in my mind are taking over. I’m trying to fight them but I can’t. It hurts to fight. That buzzing, that little piece of euphoria is inviting me to give in.
That’s when I realize it.
It was never about helping people. It’s about control - control and wiping out the competition.
In the beginning, I was suspect of why they chose me, being retired and all but now it’s crystal clear. I’m a nobody, an old lonely relic to a forgotten past. Nobody would question my disappearance. Hit the loyalty key and I’m a perfect, expendable test subject. I’m the mouse that they give cancer to just to see if they can cure it; the monkey whose face is covered with whatever new fashion product needs approval before going on the market. Dose me up full of synthetic bacteria, wind me up and watch my dance. Dance until the product is approved.
They send me in to do the unthinkable, knowing I wouldn’t normally do it, but that’s the point right? To see if their drug could overcome me, compel me, erase me enough to do the job.
I’ve killed before, but I’m not a murderer.
I am their little puppet; their little hand of control. Even knowing this, I can do nothing to stop it. I was supposed to help these people, not destroy them. I once looked upon those helpless colonists with pity. But now I realize their face is my own. We are the same. And I am supposed to kill them all.
Imagine you could first spread a contagion to the masses, followed a radio frequency that could make all those infected fall to the floor completely paralyzed, attack a specific target, vote for your candidate, dance the mambo. Anyone who doesn’t believe as you do easily becomes a convert with a simple command. They will do anything you say with no control to stop it.
Imagine this and you will realize the science team has found the ultimate means of control.
No one will know what hit them. They will be completely oblivious. Just contaminate the trade ships and it’s all over.
They just needed a test run to make sure it works properly.
If I succeed, they will have their answer. They will have soldiers who run fearlessly headlong into battles for ideas and motives they don’t know or even care to understand. Women will live only to produce more slaves, entire populations who will work for nothing and all with a smile on their faces. Life will be reduced to slavery with a daily dose of governmental encouragement. True minions will be born with only a small rule class to make all the decisions.
I am the one man control group for their little experiment. Every minute, I can feel my thoughts getting more and more cloudy – distance - until I am powerless to do anything but obey.
The colonists are only about twenty yards away. I can see their skin like limp putty hanging off their bodies, jiggling as they walk. After being pummeled half to death, I doubt I look any better.
Very slowly, my hand shaking, I begin to unpack the liquid for the reservoir and pull myself closer and closer to the well until I’m within reach. Every inch is excruciating. I just want to make it stop. I just want to die already. But I don’t.
In the end, I do exactly what I’m meant to do.