Thursday, August 3, 2017

Microstory 639: Consumption of the Spoiled

Centuries ago, there was one thing people worried about that we don’t these days. Food. Sure, there are plenty of people without enough food, but that’s always avoidable, and to their own mistakes. When they can get their hands on the food, though, it’s always perfect. Through study in fields like genetics, preservation, and logistics, we now know exactly how much food we’ll need, and how to handle it. The fact of the matter is that food no longer goes bad anymore. We make only as much as we need, when we need it. At the same time, the animals that provide us with half of this food always live in perfect conditions. There was a time when these animals were abused and neglected, because it was cheaper to do so, but this made the meat dangerous, and sometimes, inedible. We’ve learned since to take care of our livestock, and we’ve also cured the majority of diseases that plagued them in the past, and caused the humans that feed on them to suffer their same fates. We no longer fear food poisoning, or other food-borne pathogens. If any animal incurs any sort of medical problem, it’s quickly detected, and immediately resolved. Our ancestors would be astonished and confused by the way we live today. But it is we who are shocked and perplexed right now. Though all of us have lived our entire lives not knowing anything but the utmost health in our food, Lightseers have been preparing for the day when this dynamic would change. Hopefully temporarily, and/or on the plates of our enemies, but we knew someone would eventually experience some kind of pathogen from food. The Book of Light calls it Consumption of the Spoiled. It says of this taikon, a day will come when a vessel will find itself in unknown territory. It will encounter the most despicable of foods; the most heinous of crimes against nature. The crew of this vessel will turn in horror, but be unable to leave, for they will succumb to its damnation.

Though as poetic as any passage in the Book ever is, the writings seemed to be rather clear. Sometime after Guardian Appreciation Day, a ship will land on a planet in the midst of dealing with an epidemic that’s killing all of the livestock, and possibly those who were partaking in its meat. As it turned out, this was only half right. A ship did land on a planet, and this planet was literally new territory, since it had not been mapped before, but that was not the worst part. Researchers have estimated that our galaxy contains about three trillion of what are known as rogue planets. These celestial bodies can no longer be referred to as orbitals, for they no longer orbit any star. They were, at some point, ejected from their system, and have been darting across the firmament ever since. They are dark, cold, and lifeless. Most of them, anyway. It’s nearly impossible to know every single rogue planet, and no one has bothered trying, because they are difficult to detect. Since they generally offer so few resources—and we have all we need from other orbitals, which have the added benefit of a parent star—we just don’t worry about them. From time to time, however, travelers come across a rogue planet, and occasionally visit them...just for fun, essentially. After such promising data, this last adventure turned out to take a terrible turn. When the starship Ninkase found a new rogue planet, the crew was excited.
Though most rogues are dead, this one carried with it a subtle atmospheric shell, perhaps due to having been quite recently, cosmically speaking, released from orbit. They were about to land on one of the poles when they noticed an energy reading from under the frozen ocean’s surface. After drilling through the ice, they found the remnants of a submarine civilization. Curious, they pressed on, but soon discovered that these were more than just remnants. People were still living there. More to the point, people were still dying. After resources had run out, the inhabitants of this unnamed world turned to a different way of life. They started eating that which must never be eaten. The poor were the most numerous, the most violent, and the most they started eating the noble rich. They did not become savages, tearing into their victims with cries of wicked joy. They placed them in cages, took detailed inventory, and rationed what they had across all survivors. They were just about out of this inventory when the crew of the Ninkase arrived, and instead of asking for help, they simply attempted to replenish their stores. Only one Ninkase crew member made it out of the fight, and flew off to tell the tale. When a paramilitary operation went down to investigate, all inhabitants of the planet were dead, along with most of the crew that had been left behind. Two had survived the battle...their brethren, though, had been torn to pieces. It was this terrible tragedy that reminds all Lightseers of the care that must be taken regarding the text of the Book of Light. Simply the ambiguity of the words consumption and spoiled were enough to make it so that no one could see this one coming.

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