Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“What’s the status of the quarantine field, Mr. Conrad?” asked Captain Germex.
“As terminal as an event horizon, Captain,” replied the ship’s Science Officer.
Mazzaroth was the fifth planet of the bright star Alpha Boötis, a Class K1.5, orange-red gas giant. Although the luminary was only one and a half times more massive than Earth’s sun, its diameter was 26 times larger, about a quarter the size of Mercury’s orbit. Alpha Boötis was one of the rare Population II “old disc” stars. “Old disc” stars formed in the thick discs of dust clouds that orbit the galactic core a thousand light years above and/or below the galactic plane. These stars have highly inclined orbits around the galactic core, and periodically wander into our portion of the galactic plane, as Alpha Boötis was doing now. In addition, star systems formed in these “old disc” dust clouds have a different chemistry than Earth’s Population I star. They have significantly lower amounts of heavy elements, such as iron, nickel, copper, and gold. Consequently, their planets were smaller, and less dense, and their solar spectrums contained elevated levels of Z-beta radiation. Astrobiologists speculate that it was the Z-beta radiation that promoted the development of the abnormal indigenous life that was currently driving the colonists of Mazzaroth mad.
A month earlier, it was discovered that the settlements on Mazzaroth became infected with neural parasites. These parasites were single celled microorganisms that infiltrate the host’s brain, causing schizophrenia, delusional parasitosis, paranoia, and dysthymia, to name a few. The disease was extremely contagious and incurable. Once a settlement was infected, there was no option except complete extermination. The only concern beyond that was containment. Specifically, did the parasites have an opportunity to leave the planet? Review of Mazzaroth’s shipping logs revealed that only two starships picked up cargo or passengers from Mazzaroth in the last two months. Both ships were expeditiously intercepted, and quarantined, before they reached their destinations. After a few weeks, the passengers on the second ship to leave Mazzaroth developed dysthymia. The first ship appeared clean. This convinced doctors that the epidemic could be contained. As a precaution, the propulsion systems of both ships were destroyed and they were towed to a nearby star. Both ships were placed in decaying orbits that eventually caused them to plummet into the star’s fiery corona. Destruction of the “uncontaminated” first ship was considered a necessary safety precaution. “For the betterment of all mankind,” reported The Department of Galactic Health and Safety.
Captain Germex stared at Mazzaroth through the forward viewport. Once, this planet had supported over 250,000 inhabitants. Now, less than 80,000 were still alive, and they were no longer considered human. “Prepare to execute Operation Sterilize, Mr. Atwood,” ordered the captain. The Tactical Officer entered the appropriate codes into the computer, then looked up at the captain and nodded, to indicate that he was ready. With both regret and determination, the captain said “Fire all torpedoes.”
The modulation fields of the twelve engineered projectiles passed smoothly through the quarantine grid at roughly 60 degrees of separation. At an altitude of 10,000 feet, they all detonated. The concussion wave spread outward at more than 2,000 miles an hour. Mazzaroth’s atmosphere ignited into a global fireball that consumed the entire planet. For a few hours, the planet was nearly as bright as Earth’s sun.
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