From: The Dark Lord of the Universe
To: His loyal Minion, the Most Venerable Nicholas.
Dear Old Nick,
I realise that this letter will not find you in an altogether happy mood, and I don’t mean it as an official reprimand; in fact I’d like this entire sorry episode to remain between us and go no further. I don’t want to demoralise you in any way or reduce your enthusiasm for future projects.
However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t discuss precisely what went wrong in Operation Lazarus, and why we’re going to have to start all over again from scratch. You realise that only if we discuss it step by step do we have a chance to identify the problem, and understand how to avoid them the next time around.
Let’s just go over the planning from the beginning, step by step, then, shall we?
I’ll admit right off that I have no memory at the moment of whether Operation Lazarus was your idea or mine; I don’t see that it matters. The fact is that we were agreed that something had to be done about that disgusting bipedal race of hairless apes before it laid further waste to the fair blue planet over which it had secured dominance. I remember both of us discussing options like provoking a nuclear war or something similar, but we both agreed that it ran the risk of destroying completely the utterly innocent non-hairless simian part of the planet’s biosphere. And so we had to drop that idea, though it would have been easy to carry out.
So we talked about other options, like introducing some kind of disease which would destroy the apes. However, and unfortunately, at least a few per cent of these creatures would have been certain to be immune to any disease we might try, and before you know it they’d be screwing their minds out in an effort to repopulate the planet; and going by their record, it’s tolerably certain they’d succeed. Besides, the germs might mutate enough to wipe out other, and innocent, primate life. So we junked that idea.
The same went for the other bright ideas we had, including meteor strikes, tsunamis, and random induced psychological aberrations. All were either not complete enough, or potentially destructive to innocent life, or both. I’ll admit to you now that I’d begun to despair of finding a way, and had almost gone back to the nuclear war option.
It was then that you, or I, had what I’ll still call, despite what happened, a brilliant idea: Operation Lazarus. After all, and it was apparent right off, the risen dead are a self-replicating weapon, and have the terrific advantage of not being amenable to destruction. In other words, they can be revived but not rekilled, and therefore they can destroy the simian societies from the inside out. And I’m sure you were the one who pointed out that since all simian societies have corpses, there would be none immune to the effects. Even those who escaped, not being immortal, would eventually die, and become one of Them.
How we chuckled and congratulated each other, as we visualised the contagion devastating the hives of the naked apes, wiping them out in ever greater numbers the more countermeasures they took! Do you remember us discussing the fact that the more of the revived dead the apes attempted to kill, the more collateral damage they’d inflict on themselves, and the more dead they’d create? Unlike the crippled “zombies” the apes described in their popular entertainment, which could be dispatched by simply damaging their craniums, our subjects, once risen, would be utterly indestructible. Nothing could stop them, and they’d spread across countries and continents until the last living simian was gone from the earth.
Yes, it was a brilliant plan, Nick. I fully and absolutely admit that. It was a plan that deserved to succeed.
Of course, it proved more difficult in the execution than in the conception. I’m sure you remember how disappointed we both were when we discovered that it would be utterly impossible to begin the mass revival in multiple places that we’d planned. The energy involved in reviving even one corpse, we found, would require the annihilation of a couple of minor suns; and though we found a couple which would serve and whose destruction wouldn’t harm any life forms, more than that we could not manage, given the absolute imperative of maintaining the Prime Directive.
So, Nick, we had to settle for reviving just one dead ape, and relying on it to infect enough others to set off the Operation. Even so, as our calculations showed, if our Specimen Zero (as we called it) managed to infect just three or four of its fellow apes, and they infected a similar number each, the effects would spread so exponentially that in a month at the utmost, barring a closed simian society or two, it would have covered the planet. And those societies would succumb eventually, because nothing is ever completely sealed off.
Yes, even there, we were completely correct. I don’t see any problem with the planning even till that point.
Of course, the next logical problem was to pick a Specimen Zero. Perhaps, I suggested, we should choose a juvenile or a child, since the simians would have a natural affinity for these immature individuals and might allow one to get in close more easily. But you pointed out that these juveniles would be weak and slow compared to adult simians and therefore relatively easy to avoid. Similarly, we rejected the aged; they were too slow and doddery for our purposes.
For a while we discussed the merits of using an ordinary ape, like a housewife or a teacher. Being innocuous, it would be relatively easy for them to get closer to their targets. At first, the idea looked like a good one, and you remember that we almost decided on it. But then we ran a few tests, and found that they had a signal flaw: the kind of ape which would remain a housewife or a teacher would also have low aggression levels and therefore anyone it affected would contract the same low-virulence form of the infection. In other words, the housewife or teacher wouldn’t be ideal for the job.
It was at that point that we had the idea of reviving a warrior.
Even now, Nick, I’ll admit that it was a good idea. No, I’ll go further: it was a great idea, comparable to the notion of Operation Lazarus itself. Why, a warrior would be already trained and inclined to violence; it would have no inhibitions against dealing out devastation. And if we only picked the right kind of warrior, the sort which was so indoctrinated to aggression that it had no regard for its own existence, we might have the ultimate weapon we needed. Unleash such a Specimen Zero on the world, and nothing, but nothing, could come in the way of success.
Oh yes, Nick, I thought it was in the bag then. I was so confident that it was in the bag that it was without a second thought that I signed the order delegating to you the authority to carry out the Operation itself.
And, Nick, that was my mistake; I shouldn’t have left it to you. I did it because you begged and pleaded for the responsibility, and because I have so many other things on my plate, but still, I admit my error: I should not have left it to you.
Oh yes, I don’t doubt that you did all that you were supposed to. You did blow up those two little stars quite efficiently, and you channelled the energy to your chosen Specimen Zero extremely well. You handled the revival exactly as you should have. I’ve got no quarrel with you at all on that point; I couldn’t have done better myself.
No, it’s with your choice of Specimen Zero that I disagree. It’s the single reason that Operation Lazarus failed, despite all our planning and effort. Even there, I agree with your contention that you picked a Specimen Zero who was a warrior indoctrinated to aggression and uncaring of self-preservation. And you certainly did revive him, and very successfully. Nobody’s denying you credit for any of that.
But, Nick, tell me this:
Having concentrated all your undoubted talent and resources, all your vast intellect, on the task, couldn’t you have found a better subject for revival than a kamikaze pilot in a wrecked plane lying at the bottom of the sea?
Copyright B Purkayastha 2012