I’m going to kill a planet. I don’t know how yet, but I swear I’m going to do it.
I was making a routine prospecting run and got a radio message from my best friend. As luck and coincidence would have it, the radio relay was only a little over two light hours away—and Roger was either dying or already dead.
The radio’s message started “Warning! Anyone who hears this, stay away from Darius. This is probably the deadliest planet in the galaxy. If you land here, you’ll die here. I’ll probably be dead by the time you receive this message.”
Darius? He was prospecting in the Luhman system, the same system that I was, and I didn’t even know it. I doubt he knew I was in the system, too. I hadn’t heard from him in months, and here he was only between a light hour and three away. I wondered what he was looking for? I was after rare earths. This system was supposed to be a lot like the solar system and we’d mined quite a bit of it from our own asteroid belt. Most of the rare earths in the belt, in fact. But Darius? What of value could possibly be there?
I couldn’t bring myself to leave him there despite his dire warnings, at least until I’d heard the entire thing and knew he was... Oh, God. Roger!
I started the jump drive and in half an hour I’d be on my way to Darius to see if there was any way I could help him survive. I listened to the rest of the message as the engines warmed up.
“I don’t remember the crash, but I suspect it was the cornodium that caused it. Do not land on this planet!”
I wondered what in the galaxy cornodium was. I’d never heard of the stuff before.
“I woke up on the floor with a terrible headache, not knowing where I was. Hung over, maybe? I sat up and looked around. No, I was in the pilot room of my craft and wouldn’t have been drinking. I got up with my head reeling, and stumbled to the controls.
“It looked like I’d crashed on Darius, the third orbit out from Luhman. That’s the weirdest star system we’ve found so far, weird because it was so much like the sun, and its planets were so much like our own solar system’s planets. Darius even has a giant satellite like Earth does, and the Luhman system even has a ring of asteroids between the fourth and fifth planets, just like the solar system. Nature is really strange sometimes.
“I was looking for cornodium. Only small amounts had been found anywhere, and my calculations said the substance would be here, and likely vast riches of it. I don’t know how many of us prospectors roam the galaxy these days, but we’ve looked for valuable ores either not readily available or not available at all in our own system on hundreds of thousands of planets, and cornodium had only been found on six of them. None had much of it. It had all been mined and taken to Earth, less than a ton of the substance.
“I didn’t know much about cornodium despite doing as much research as I could about it. It was discovered only ten years ago and had revolutionized high end electronics, and the highest end at that because the stuff was so rare, and therefore very expensive. All I knew about cornodium was that they used it for power generation, but I had no idea how they got power from it. I didn’t know what the stuff is or why it’s so rare, but I didn’t care. All I knew was that it was rare and very expensive, and if I found a planet with it I’d be rich, so I learned as much about its origins as I could. I was sure Darius fit the bill. If I was right I’d be as rich as my buddy who had found all that gold and platinum. I know now. Lot of good it will do a dead man.”
I choked up again; Roger was thinking of me as he died.
“Well, I would have been rich. It was obvious I’d crash landed on Darius.
“My head was bleeding, which explained the headache. I ignored it; I needed to assess my situation and get help if necessary.
“I checked the controls, and yep, I was screwed. I tried to radio for help, but radio only goes at the speed of light and the closest radio relay craft was thirty light minutes away. I sent a distress signal, knowing it would be over an hour before I heard back.
“Two hours later it dawned on me—the antenna was on the bottom of the craft to better communicate with bodies one was taking off from or landing on. No one had heard me.
“Like I said, Darius is really weird. They’d only surveyed it by telescope so far, but It’s exactly like Earth and its moon, with two exceptions: the land masses are quite different, and there is no life whatever. The air is mostly nitrogen like Earth, with about the same amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and science couldn’t explain where the oxygen came from. On Earth, it comes from vegetation and photosynthesis, but Darius was completely lifeless.
“That didn’t matter to me, though. I needed to find the cornodium I was certain was here and stake a claim.
“The trouble was, I seemed to have wrecked my craft, and it was all I had. It was insured, of course, but with my antenna busted how could I collect on the insurance? And find the cornodium and stake a claim?
“I decided to go outside and think about it, since I needed to see how much damage was done in the crash. After all, what danger could there be? This planet was lifeless, including microbial life. It being lifeless was, of course, the biggest mystery, even bigger than where all the oxygen had all come from. The planet was perfect for life to have formed, yet it hadn’t. It should have even had sentient life, even though so far our own species was the only sentience we had ever found, which still puzzled evolutionists. We’d discovered lots of life in the galaxy, but most of it was no higher form of life than bacteria, and none smarter than a cow is on Earth.
“I got out to do an outside inspection, and wow, I was right; the bright blue cornodium was everywhere, just laying on the ground! One piece looked like a daisy; nature comes up with some strange coincidences, and I laughed at it. There was a weird sound in the air, and I couldn’t figure out what it was or where it was coming from.
“It looked like I’d smashed up the bottom of my craft pretty good. I’d have to find a way to make the radio work, and I decided to eat lunch and take a short walk first, since I was going to need all my brain and it didn’t seem to be working right, so I decided to give it a break. I ate lunch and went back outside.
“Darius reminded me of Mars, except there was air and water. And mud. And the sky’s blue when Luhman is shining. It wasn’t the same color as Mars, either, more brown than orange, with all of the patches of the bright blue cornodium. Lots of large areas didn’t show dirt, just piles of small to tiny pieces of cornodium. And that strange sound, and it was heavy like Earth and the horizon was different than Mars, but it still reminded me of Mars, anyway. I don’t know why.
“It wasn’t all that muddy, kind of like dry dirt that had a small shower maybe the day before and there were enough rocks to keep my boots from getting too nasty. Most of the rock and gravel was cornodium.
I figured the planet wouldn’t be lifeless for long; this system had only been discovered six months ago. I came out as soon as I’d heard of it, because I had a hunch based on what I’d read about cornodium: it had only been found on lifeless planets with gravities between Mars’ gravity and one point five Earth gravities within a star’s “Goldilocks zone”, and Darius fit perfectly. I wondered why nobody else had figured that out, the numbers were all there.
“I walked up a shallow incline, and when I reached the top I saw in the distance what looked like it might have been a large machine, halfway buried. I started walking toward it to investigate, but it started sprinkling and the sky looked menacing, so I went back to my ship. I needed to work on that radio, anyway. I’d have to find some wire that didn’t feed the radio or kitchen or air refreshment to use as an antenna.
“Shortly after I was inside my craft it started storming badly, with thunder’s noise and the wind’s howl echoing through the boat constantly. I searched the ship for wire I could scavenge from the wreckage without stopping the kitchen or radio. I found enough to reach just outside, and now needed something to use as an antenna.
“I thought of what had looked like half-buried machinery, and hoped there was wire in it, since all I would need for an antenna was a little more wire. I figured to go exploring it as soon as the storm abated.
“It stormed all afternoon and half the night. The next morning when I woke up, Luhman was shining brightly in a cloudless sky. I ate breakfast, despite not being very hungry, and packed a lunch, because it had looked like the machine might be quite a way off. It seemed I’d gotten a concussion in the crash, because my head still hurt, and I was still weak and disoriented. My stomach was a bit queasy, too, especially after breakfast.
“It was a two hour walk to the machine, and I had to rest halfway there. Where was my normal stamina? I should have been able to sprint to it. ‘Probably has to do with the concussion,’ I thought. I still wasn’t thinking clearly.
“The thing was bigger and farther away than it looked. Space ship, perhaps? I looked for a door or a window or a hatch. I didn’t find one, but I did find an opening where the thing’s metal had torn; it had to be some sort of craft, although it was nothing like any craft I’d ever seen or imagined.
“I didn’t find any wire, but I did find a steel rod I could use for an antenna, and two statues of some weird animal I’d never heard of, clothed in rags and made of cornodium. There were strange sounds coming from the statues. Art? Or... A chill went up my spine. Were these intelligent aliens that had somehow become cornodium? I thought of when I’d seen what looked like a flower made of cornodium earlier, and had thought it was one of those coincidental freaks of nature.
“By then I wasn’t feeling well at all. In fact I felt downright sick, and decided to go back to my boat. I went outside, and noticed that my skin had taken on a slightly bluish tint.
“By the time I got back I was weak and shaky, and cold. Really cold, as if I’d been in the snow in summer clothes, even though the day was very warm, almost hot. It only took a minute to hang the rod from the wire and start the radio.
“I had made quite a few incredibly profound discoveries, discoveries that were incredibly important to humanity. I’d found evidence of alien intelligent life in the crashed alien craft, and another alien was taking me over—the planet itself. Rather than being lifeless, the planet itself is alive. It grows, reproduces, and eats. The cornodium is its brain! I now know why the strange sounds were coming from the alien statues; the planet was trying to taunt me in an alien language. It’s talking inside my head right now, in English. I... I have to... I have to set this on repeat... before Darius...
“Warning! Anyone who hears this, stay away from Darius. This is probably the deadliest planet in the galaxy. If you land here, you’ll die here. I’ll probably be...”
I shut it off and saved my best friend’s last words, tears welling up in my eyes. Even if I could have gotten to him in time, I couldn’t have rescued him. I doubt it’s possible to land safely on Darius, as I suspect it caused Roger’s craft to crash land.
The jump drive made it seem like I got to Darius immediately, but it would have actually been five to twenty minutes later when I really got there, and hours since he had sent the message. I went into orbit around Darius and called the survey bureau and staked a claim to it. Nobody’s going to make batteries out of my friend! And I’m going to contact the authorities when I get to Earth and see if I can get the use of cornodium outlawed before all life there becomes cornodium. And I’m going to learn everything I can about the stuff. Including how to kill it.
God, but the government is exasperating! I not only didn’t make any progress getting cornodium outlawed, I was issued a gag order! The substance promised to do wonders for the economy, because it seemed to produce free energy, despite the laws of thermodynamics.
But of course it wasn’t doing that. It was getting energy from somewhere, and I was convinced that the somewhere was from the energy in life forms that were, little by little, becoming cornodium themselves. My friend Roger who had died and become cornodium died in a about a day, but it had been a planet that was almost completely covered in it. People, animals, and plants on Earth were only exposed to tiny amounts of it. They would die of old age before becoming cornodium, because there was so little of it.
But eventually Earth would become cornodium, I was sure. Ultimately enough live matter would become cornodium that it would awaken and eat everything that lived on Earth.
I’m a very wealthy person, having discovered a planet that was mostly made of gold and another made of mostly platinum, two metals that are incredibly useful in electronics, and my mining licenses don’t come cheap. I decided to buy as much cornodium as I could, hopefully all of it, and send it to Darius. I hoped I could afford it.
I’d bought half a ton at ridiculous prices when the government stepped in again. I’d dropped all the cornodium on Darius, and they took Darius from me. Imminent domain. There were a year of legal battles but I lost. Sure, I made a fortune on it, and I was now the richest individual on Earth, but damn it, I wanted Earth to live and these idiots were going to kill it!
Crap. What to do next? I decided to chance ignoring the gag order and talk to a scientist, and contacted a local university. I was to have a meeting with a Dr. Felber, a materials scientist who was studying cornodium and trying to find a way to make artificial cornodium and a way to recharge cornodium batteries. I was a little uncertain about what the outcome might be, what with the gag order and all.
She turned out to be a delightful woman, but of course the court order had me worried. “Dr. Felber,” I said, “I’ve been under a gag order about cornodium, and I’m not supposed to talk to anyone at all about it or they’ll put me in prison. Can you keep this to yourself?”
She became a bit pensive. “Not if it’s something subversive.”
“It isn’t. I have a recording of a dead friend that I’m not allowed to play anywhere, and if they knew it existed it wouldn’t exist. They had erased it from the radio relay’s data banks, but didn’t know I’d kept a copy.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Play it,” she said. I did.
When it was finished, she said “I’ve been exposed.”
“Yes,” I replied, “and so have I. But there is so little of it you’ll be dead of old age long before it affects the tissues; Roger was on a planet where most of the whole crust was covered in cornodium. But we need to save the Earth!”
“Yes,” she agreed, “But how?”
“I don’t know, you’re the scientist. How can we kill it?”
“Kill what?” she asked.
“Kill Darius,” I said vengefully.
“Kill a planet?”
“Yes,” I replied, “before it kills us! It will, you know, if it lives.”
She looked doubtful. “I’m going to have to study that sample some more, our present theories may all be wrong. That recording explains a few things that had puzzled us and may be a paradigm changer. I’ll get back to you. Don’t worry, this is between us.”
A year and a half later rumors started leaking about government mining expeditions that had gone to Darius, all of whom had “mysteriously” disappeared. It was no mystery to me; those people were now all cornodium, no longer human, or even alive as we know life. They had been eaten by the evil monster that was Darius.
Friends and relatives of the missing people were served the same gag order that I had been served, and a few were jailed after publicly complaining. So far, it was only rumor as far as the public was concerned... for now. Later on, a lot of politicians lost their jobs. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Six months after the rumors started, Dr. Felber emailed me. “See what I found” is all the email said. So I did, and visited her at the university.
“It’s easy to kill,” she said when I visited her. “Middle C.”
“Middle C?” I asked, perplexed.
“Two hundred sixty one point six Hertz,” she replied. “That tone kills it. Earth is full of music, including that note, which we think is why they ever run down at all, so we have nothing to worry about.”
My jaw dropped. “So if Roger had been playing music there he wouldn’t have died?”
“Maybe, maybe not. It might have taken a very loud continuously operating tone generator, and even that might not have been enough.
“There are only tiny amounts in any one place on Earth, where there’s lots of music, and cornodium batteries last ten years or more, and most of Darius is covered in the stuff.
“In any case, even if he had lived, the cornodium would have been useless. Like the Land Bridge theory was replaced by continental drift, and the solid state universe was discarded in favor of the big bang theory, all of our theories about what made it vibrate were completely wrong.
“We had believed that the vibration was caused by some process internal to the substance and trying to find where its power was stored; we had thought it must have been a chemical reaction that we hadn’t found. It made perfectly logical sense, since it seemed that the energy drained like a normal old fashioned chemical battery, except far more slowly and they couldn’t be recharged. People have been seriously injured trying to recharge them.”
Wow. Dead cornodium wasn’t useless. I wondered why nobody thought of military and construction applications, since such a small amount was so explosive; the cornodium in a two thousand watt battery was only about a cubic centimeter in size, although most of the battery is the piezoelectrics and the battery takes up a lot more room than a cubic centimeter, more like four cubic decimeters, and that two thousand watts lasts for ten years or more. Yes, I’d learned a lot about cornodium since Darius had murdered Roger.
Of course I didn’t say anything; kept to myself this could bankroll whatever it took to kill Darius. I needed to get that planet back.
And kill the evil thing and let the military and construction crews blow the stuff up. Roger didn’t deserve to die like that! I’d had my legal team negotiating with the government for months by then, ever since the rumors about the missing miners had started floating around.
Six months later the government, failing to find a way to mine Darius, ceded the planet’s rights back to me, at twenty percent of what they’d paid me for it. Of course there were a lot of lawyers involved, but I can afford the best, and you can trust that I hired the best. When you need a lawyer, the most expensive one you can afford is usually your wisest investment.
The next day I was in orbit around Darius with a drone, a tone generator tuned to middle C, and a hamster. I would have used a plant, but didn’t know how long it took for plant tissue to become cornodium, but it takes about a day with a mammal on Darius. I sent the drone down, wondering if it would crash.
It didn’t, so the cornodium had affected Roger before he even landed. If he’d landed on autopilot the fool might have lived. But probably not.
This was a truly evil thing, and I planned to destroy it, full of hate for my friend’s tormentor and executioner. Hate for the monster that had eaten him. Hate for the evil that wanted to consume all life.
Forty eight hours later the drone returned, with a cornodium statue of a hamster. Damn, the doctor was wrong. Oh, well, my cornodium hamster would pay for the trip and a whole lot more. That was a valuable statue, at least after it was made into batteries.
It was a six month jump from Luhman to Sol, and I don’t understand the math behind that at all. The jump seemed instantaneous to me, but it was six months later when I arrived. The part I don’t understand is it should have been years instead of months, and a whole lot more than only six. I simply don’t understand jump drives. Yeah, they covered them in pilot school, but I just didn’t get it. It has something to do with artificial worms drilling holes or something, and has a lot of really complicated math that has to do with space, time, and gravity. Like I said, it’s over my head. I’m lucky I passed the test, it was multiple choice and I guessed at a lot of it.
In any case, when I got back to Earth I of course visited Dr. Felber, who told me “We have additional data since you left. The sonic frequency must be out of phase to discharge the cornodium; if it’s in phase it strengthens it. It’s still dangerous to Earth!”
“Have you said anything to anyone else?” I asked. “Please don’t let anyone know cornodium batteries are rechargeable! My God...”
“Well, finding a way to recharge them was one of my original goals, but don’t worry. This thing needs to be gone before we are. I’m working with an engineer on a device that will take the cornodium’s frequency and send it back out of phase. I’ll email you when it’s done.”
It only took a month and I was on my way back to Darius with my drone and another hamster. Again the generator was sounding middle C, but the computers had measured and sent a perfectly out of phase middle C. I waited the two days to see if it would come back a hamster or a cornodium statue of a hamster.
I got my hamster back, alive and bewildered. But maybe hamsters are always bewildered, I don’t know. Anyway, it worked. I could mine explosives to make up for my losses now, then figure out how to kill this horrible thing once and for all. By “this horrible thing” I mean the monster, Darius, of course. That bitch has to die! I returned to Earth to talk to Dr. Felber again, and maybe talk to my government contacts whom I had sought out during and after the gag order and imminent domain court proceedings, about sales of explosives to them. It would depend on what Dr. Felber said.
Dr. Felber was pleased that the experiment was a success. “Add more amplifiers,” she said, “then blow up the dead parts.”
Blow up the dead parts? Not me, I was going to mine it and sell it to the government like a patriot and let them blow it up. But I took her advice on the amplification.
But first I needed to do one more experiment before talking to my government contacts, to see how much of Darius died from the out of phase middle C. I had one constructed that would run for two days then attempt to “recharge” it with electricity. According to Dr. Felber’s theories, it should explode several square kilometers of the planet’s surface.
It didn’t. So she had some calculating to do, I guessed. I sent a drone down to collect a hamster-sized chunk of dead cornodium for her to examine.
I jumped, and six months later even though it seemed like a second later I was in orbit around Earth, and talking to Dr. Felber again the next day. “It should have worked,” she said. “Puzzling. We’ll examine the sample you brought back and call when we have an answer.”
“Okay,” I said.
I waited in the Bahamas on a beach. No point stressing about it, we’d kill that terrible thing eventually.
I sat on that beach for months. Finally Dr. Felber contacted me. “It has to be processed before it’s explosive,” she said.
“Processed?” I had no idea how these batteries worked, even though I’d tried to learn. It did make me think of something Roger said in his warning—it had stormed when he was there. If raw cornodium had been explosive it would have blown him up.
“Ground into a fine powder. Do that and the individual grains all sing in harmony, and you can turn that into a lot of electricity with a piezoelectric device, a really small one. Here, I’ll show you the math...”
“Don’t bother,” I interrupted, “I wouldn’t understand it anyway.”
“Well, okay,” she said, “but we can still kill Darius if you can afford it.”
“I can afford it,” I said. “How?”
“It emits sound. Kill a patch with your biggest amplifier and send a robot with a sound meter tuned to middle C to see how much is dead, and you can kill Darius a little at a time.”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “Let that bastard suffer!” God, but I hated Darius because of poor Roger, who had been killed with extreme malice. It had to have been horrible for him.
I teared up a little. It seemed I wasn’t going to sell anything to the government, since dead, unprocessed cornodium was worthless. But that wasn’t what made me tear up, I was thinking of poor Roger. I missed my old buddy terribly. We were partners way back when these boats needed two people to fly them, and still got together all these long years later. We had some great times, and I was looking forward to more good times. But it was too late now.
The next day I made the jump to Darius with a huge bank of midrange speakers, a phased C tone generator, and fifty thousand watts of amplification, with all of it mobile. I sent a robot with a sound meter down with them.
The next day the robot reported a dead zone a hundred meters wide, so I sent all the equipment moving in an ever widening spiral. When this land mass was clean I’d move it all to another land mass and get to work there. I figured it would take months to kill the entire planet, but I was determined.
A week later the spiral, now a hundred kilometer radius, wasn’t widening. Apparently, dead cornodium could regenerate in the presence of live cornodium. I left the equipment there running in circles, not wanting my meager progress to be erased, and went back to Earth for more sound equipment. Before I left I had a drone land with a robot to collect a few hundred kilos of live cornodium to bankroll the venture with.
Killing Darius would be worth the incredible riches I was going to destroy by killing it. Poor Roger!
I got to Earth immediately six months later. I sold the cornodium, mostly to Chinese buyers, and bought a huge number of mobile amplifiers, speakers, and the computerized gizmos that sent cornodium’s middle C signature back out of phase. I also bought the nicest casket I could find for Roger, and hired an engineer. An expensive one who had several different engineering degrees.
I worried about taking all that cornodium to Earth, but the newspapers said that there was a backlash against cornodium and the rich people who used it, and middle C phase generators were becoming popular among normal folks who couldn’t afford cornodium devices and were afraid of them. Justifiably afraid, I thought, despite Dr. Felber’s initial reassurances. That relieved me quite a bit.
I thought it was funny, I was very wealthy and rather than using cornodium devices, I was the first to call for their prohibition. But I did have more cornodium than anyone, a whole planet full, even though I was extirpating all of it. Well, what I didn’t sell, mostly to China, at least.
A year later, Darius seemed completely dead. There wasn’t a milligram of cornodium on any of the land masses at all, even dead cornodium; I’d mined it all and sent it to the heart of the perpetual fusion explosion known as Luhman.
It looked like Darius had destroyed an intelligent species from what few artifacts had surfaced. The planet had been lifeless for a long, long time and very little was left to tell us about these aliens, but this monster had very obviously destroyed a great spacefaring civilization.
Of course, before mining the dead cornodium and sending it to the star we recovered the cornodium bodies of the people who had tried to mine cornodium for the government, Darian artifacts (We found a cornodium Darian, but we don’t know if it was the intelligent species), and the intelligent aliens Roger found that Darius had eaten, and shipped them to Earth. The bodies, both alien and human, were now dead cornodium and therefore harmless as long as they were kept away from live cornodium. The few ruins of stone buildings stayed, as did Roger’s ship and the alien ship. Maybe some day they would be tourist attractions.
I thought I had beaten the evil monster, but I hadn’t.
I had several tons of Earthian dirt shipped to Darius for its microbes, and enough grass seed to wipe out the supplier’s inventory. I was determined to bring Earthian life to Darius, starting with grass and then with cows, and other species of flora and fauna later. I had a home by the sea side built there, and a shrine and burial site for Roger. I really missed Roger and the good times we’d had together.
I ran the C generator for a year just in case, with nary a peep from it, and finally shut it off. I shouldn’t have.
I went back to Earth for a visit, and to buy supplies. The few folks I had hired took care of my grass and cows when I was gone. Those cows were incredibly useful, widening the zone where plants would grow.
Back on Earth, the Chinese had really taken to cornodium batteries. They actually believed that the batteries promoted health! Very wealthy Chinese folks powered their entire households with cornodium batteries. The government there had outlawed phased C generators, saying they were a plot to ruin the Chinese economy.
However, in the Americas, particularly South America, most communities had outlawed cornodium. It was illegal in all of Peru and Venezuela, as well as most communities in the rest of the countries in those continents. It was also illegal in much of New Zealand, Australia, and in parts of many African and Asian nations. Europe was in the grip of a massive economic recession, so there were very few cornodium devices there. Most of the world got power from rooftop solar panels and back yard windmills. China was the only country still using fossil fuels, and was the only country to outlaw the phased C devices.
They had also developed something called “twist jump radio”. I don’t understand how it works, but it has something to do with “twisted pairs of photons”. At any rate, it made communication instantaneous no matter how far away the other radio was... well, usually. Sometimes there were lags, and the theoretical physicists were still trying to figure out why.
This was a real breakthrough in communications, since normal radio was useless between stellar systems, and messages had to be sent physically on a ship with jump drive.
Of course, I bought five of them.
After visiting friends and family I returned to Darius with all sorts of seeds, several honeybee hives, some pigs, chickens, a few other animals, my new twisted radios, and other supplies. Darius would become a pest-free paradise.
A few months later I made the mistake of wading in the ocean for an hour or two, maybe even longer. It made me weak and dizzy and nauseous and I had a terrible headache, so I headed back to the house. I noticed that my skin seemed to have a slight blue tint, as if I were really cold, and I felt like I was freezing.
On a hunch I turned the C generator on, and it came on very loud; there was cornodium somewhere, and lots of it.
The cornodium it was reacting to was in me! I was suffering from cornodium poisoning, the same thing that had killed Roger.
The ocean... I’d forgotten about aquatic life, and apparently the seas, rivers, and lakes were full of that damned cornodium. I got a blanket and sat weakly on a recliner, hoping the C generator would help.
It did. An hour later my chills became a fever, and I threw up my breakfast. The vomit was blue, and later my urine and feces were blue as well. I was perspiring profusely, and my sweat came out with a blueish tint. I couldn’t eat at all for a week, and it was a sick, painful, miserable month before I was anywhere near normal.
When I was mostly over the poisoning I returned to Earth again to hire another engineer to help me figure out how to kill the rest of Darius and to talk to Dr. Felber about sending an out of phase signal underwater. It turned out that she knew little about underwater sound, but put me in touch with a sonic engineer who could, and he got me acquainted with another engineer who specialized in robotic submarines. Both agreed to visit Darius and work on the underwater sonic equipment.
The news on Earth was all about a panic in China, and it was about cornodium. It seems that a large part of the very wealthy Zhejiang Provence had succumbed to cornodium poisoning, and thousands of people and uncounted plants and animals there were now cornodium. The Chinese government quickly outlawed cornodium and cordoned the area with phased C generators. They then confiscated every cornodium device in China and sent them to the sun, and suspended trade with any country where cornodium was legal.
The engineers and about fifty other folks went to Darius with me and a great big load of supplies, as I had more and more people working for me on Darius now. It wouldn’t be long before Darius was self-sufficient, at least as far as food was concerned. We’d need to import some robotic harvesters soon.
Everyone wore a C generator on their belts to protect against cornodium poisoning, and we put up large phased C generators every hundred meters along all the planet’s seashores.
Of course, one of the workers, new to Darius, got drunk and fell into the ocean. His two drunken buddies hauled him out laughing, and took him home. They weren’t laughing for long, though, as all three developed mild cases of cornodium poisoning. Even a “mild” case is pure sick and painful misery, but at least now we knew that a C generator was a cure.
A message came over the twist radio from a doctor on Earth saying that one of the men had gotten a routine physical before coming to Darius, and his test results showed that he had developed a small tumor in one of his lungs and had to return to Earth for treatment immediately. It was the man who had drunkenly fallen into the water. The message had been terribly lagged, and should have reached Darius months before we did.
The engineers, both family men, went back to their families on Earth. I accompanied the three of them, deciding to get a physical myself; I hadn’t seen a doctor in years and actually worried a little about the cornodium’s effect on my health after I found out about the guy’s tumor. After all, who knows? The stuff might cause cancer or something later.
The doctor said she was amazed at my health. I was almost fifty, and she said I looked thirty five and my vitals were normal for a healthy twenty five year old!
She’d been the doctor I’d seen years earlier, and asked when I’d had my mole removed and who had done the surgery.
“I didn’t,” I said. “I hadn’t noticed it was missing.”
“Puzzling,” she said. “They don’t usually go away by themselves. Your vitals are puzzling, as well. I’ve never seen anyone your age so healthy.”
After I left, the fellow with lung cancer whose name I can’t remember called, saying he was going back to Darius with me.
“But you need cancer treatment,” I exclaimed.
“Nope, the doc said he couldn’t understand it, but there wasn’t any cancer. Said none of my vitals were anything like they were when I saw him seven months ago either, said I was healthy as a twenty year old. My warts went away, too!”
I called Dr. Felber and told her what had happened, that it looked like controlled cornodium poisoning could cure some diseases. “Well, I don’t know,” she said, “a sample size of two isn’t very meaningful. I’ll talk to some of my colleagues.”
When I got back to Darius I stopped decontamination of one medium sized lake. After all, if this was a cure for cancer...
Five months later Dr. Felber showed up with over a hundred other scientists, from different fields; biochemists, chemists, biologists, materials scientists like her, and a lot more.
One of the scientists was dying of liver cancer, contracted because of exposure to some chemical when he was young. He ran straight into the lake as soon as he left the ship!
None of my crewpeople went into the water to drag him out, since they’d seen how nasty even a mild case of cornodium poisoning was. However, after quite a while two dumbass PhDs waded in and got him out. They all got sick, of course. The scientist with the cancer almost died, I think. He was in the water a long time before his fellow scientists even missed him, and the cancer had weakened him considerably.
He did recover, though, and there was no cancer afterward. Three out of three!
A year later Dr. Felber published her team’s first report. Cornodium attacked the simplest life, like viruses, first. Next was microbial life, then aberrant cells in the higher life form, then that life form’s healthy cells. It affected plants far more slowly than animals.
We’d not just cured cancer, but almost all diseases. It wouldn’t cure diabetes, or arthritis, or baldness, or disease caused by genetics, or mental illnesses, but there were other treatments and cures for those ailments. It would cure the common cold or flu, but the cure was far worse than the disease in those cases. Believe me, you have to be really sick or dying before you’ll want to get cornodium poising, even a mild case.
So we’re building a health facility around that lake, and decontamination of the rest of the aquatic bodies continues, as does the research. Right now the biologists are testing its effects on heart disease in rodents, since the worry is that the cornodium may make it worse rather than better, we’ll see.
Roger and I were hailed as heroes, saviors of the Earth. He hadn’t died in vain after all.
I do worry, though. What if there’s another cornodium planet somewhere?


The Naked Truth
Moroned Off Vesta

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