Teja was happy with the turnout. Representatives from every planet of K-star system was present. He even saw some representatives from other star systems lurking around. Everyone was waiting for the demo to start for planet K29. His assistants were guiding everyone to the viewing area. Soon the Introduction Video would start.
Teja knew the sequence. The introduction video would start with Teja’s home planet – K78. It will then explain how scarcity of light and heat leads to food scarcity. It will go on and on about abut basic right to food for everyone.
But in reality, it was the dark coldness that inspired Teja to develop these Photo-Con lenses. They deployed these lenses in the low orbit of any planet, and the lenses would focus and concentrate light and heat reaching the planet’s surface.
Teja knew the Introduction Video won’t talk about his failed attempts. It would start directly from his success on his home planet. Then move on to his years working in the Alpha Labs. Somewhere in between, it would show the planets where his lenses decreased the intensity of heat and light making them habitable.
The introduction video would end, and then a video showing today’s demo would start. Today Teja was launching a series of smaller lenses instead of three big ones he usually used. These smaller lenses would have more flexibility and greater control. This way they could fine tune the light and heat reaching K29 and create different seasons in different regions.
K29 was already a densely populated planet. They didn’t really need Alpha Lab’s help to change the climate. But they targeted this demo to sell Teja’s system to every planet. The smaller lenses could even make individual buildings hotter or cooler. It was a huge earning potential.
Among the planet representatives were some super rich fellows who might be interested in heating their private island or something. Teja was expecting the income, but he was not directly involved with the sales team. He knew they had prepared a video for the sales pitch. They even got Teja to say a few carefully prepared lines for the pitch video.
The introduction video was still playing. Teja had time before he had to talk to the representatives. The demo would start soon. Teja didn’t want to wait on the viewing level. He went down to the control center to go through the last minute checklist. All the systems were operating seamlessly. The lenses had already reached K29’s orbit days ago. Each lens was exactly where it was supposed to be.
Right on time, the demo started. The lenses were deployed from their stations already set in the orbit. The lenses were deployed in sets. Each set had up to ten lenses. First deployment was a success. Loud roar of clapping in the viewing area could be heard from the control center. Then the next set got deployed. And then the next. Right on schedule, all the lenses were activated.
Now there was nothing much to do but wait and see how the temperatures changed. Usually that took anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the distance of the planet from the star. So it was natural for Teja to get surprised when he started seeing the temperature spike within minutes.
He was not the only one surprised. The entire control center was buzzing with a nervous energy. What was going on? That was the key question on everyone’s mind.
When the temperature spike didn’t stop even after ten minutes, everyone was getting worried. This was certainly not good. This kind of temperature rise could be devastating.
Teja quickly instructed his team to deactivate all the lenses immediately. They all knew the drill. Everyone knew what they had to do. It was time to abort the mission.
But that’s when a bigger problem arose. The command center had lost control of all the lenses and the satellites carrying them. They could not shut them down. All the systems were online. Everything seemed working fine. The signals were being sent, and the satellites were sending the receiving acknowledgment. But the instructions were not being carried out.
It was like someone was overriding the systems.
Meanwhile, the temperature on K29 was steadily rising. This was not supposed to happen.
Teja realized that his fail-safe has failed. Luckily there was another fail-safe option on K29 itself in the form of Missiles. Lots of missiles were fired simultaneously to destroy all the lenses. That would certainly solve the problem. Or so they all thought.
The missiles couldn’t hit even a single lens. There was some kind of energy barrier protecting the lenses. That was not something that Teja has designed. This demo was not going as it was supposed to.
As soon as the energy barrier was noticed, everyone realized at once that this was a planned disaster. No one wanted to be associated with it. The representatives were the first to get on their shuttles and leave. The sales team, Teja’s assistants, even everyone working in the control room fled next.
Teja was frozen in place just watching the screens. One screen was showing the rapidly rising temperature. Another screen was showing the desperate attempt of the residents of K29 to escape in their shuttles. But the energy barriers were in place to keep everything and everyone inside. No one could escape their doomed fate.
Teja kept watching as the temperature kept rising. First all the glaciers melted, causing the rivers to flood. Many regions were completely submerged in water, killing off many kinds of living organisms. Then, as the temperature kept rising, the water started evaporating. By the time all the water evaporated, no life was left on the planet. Everything and everyone on K29 died. K29 was a turned into a barren planet in less than two hours since the lenses were activated.
It took less than two hours to completely destroy an entire planet. Teja was still standing and watching. He just couldn’t take his eyes off. It took him a while to realize there was a woman standing behind him and calling his name.
“You need to come with me, Teja. We don’t have any time.”
What was she saying? Where did she want him to go? And what did she mean by no time? No time for what. He was still struggling to make sense of what was happening.
“Teja, federation soldiers are coming to arrest you. If you want to survive, then you have to come with me right now. Once they land here, no one would be able to save you.”
“Arrest me? But why? What did I do?”
“Well, an entire planet is destroyed by your lenses and you are wondering if you will be arrested? What do you think will happen to you?”
“But I didn’t do that. Someone must have taken over my system. They even had energy barriers in place. It was all planned. I didn’t do anything.”
“I know you didn’t do anything. And they too know that you didn’t do anything. But do you see anyone else around you? Everyone ran away as soon as they could. Leaving you behind. You may not like this, but you are going to get blamed no matter what. An entire planet is destroyed. There will be consequences. You still have an option to escape with me.”
Reality was sinking in for Teja. His demo ended up destroying an entire planet. Of course there would be dire consequences for him. Did he really want to stay and find out? But who was this lady so generously offering him help, and why was she offering him help?
“Who are you and where would you take me?”
“Now you are asking the right questions. I am a recruiter for Villain Corp. You will get great pay and an even greater lab to continue working on your remarkable research. But you have to decide in less than a minute cos that’s all the time we have before the federation is here. I am going to start walking towards my shuttle. If you choose to join, you have to be there before I take off.”
Saying all this, she just turned and started walking. Villain Corp was the most notorious group, causing trouble across the planets. Most likely they were behind, taking over Teja’s system and destroying K29. And now they are here to recruit him.
He didn’t have much choice. No one would believe him. Not after seeing a Villain Corp shuttle leaving right after the disaster. He was trapped. Villain Corp was the only place he could be safe.
Teja didn’t waste any more time and rushed towards the last shuttle leaving.