Forgotten Sci-Fi title regarding an Ecological Disaster Dystopia story

David Sims

Warded demons with Arlen
An overpopulated Earth is on its last legs, resourcewise. A computer model known as "World 5" has predicted that there will be a massive die-off of most of Earth's life, including the extinction of humanity, unless either the population can be reduced by a large fraction or an abundance of resources can be found on another planet.

The United Nations steps forward with a technological solution. Astronomers have found an exoplanet where natural resources can be found in great quantity. Advances in quantum physics have made possible a kind of faster-than-light teleportation. Early explorers found a problem, however. The distant planet is inhabited. By huge BUGS, all of them hostile to the human invaders.

The protagonist of the story is a young man, perhaps in his early 20s, who has joined the United Nations Space [blah blah] Agency. He is a soldier. His job will be to protect other humans engaged in "mining and harvesting" on the alien planet. We see him sitting through a briefing that explains the dire straits in which Earth finds itself, and we are made to understand that the severity of the circumstances has not been made known to the general public. The young man (whose name I don't remember) gets his assignment and is teleported across the lightyears to a UN facility on the exoplanet.

The alien world does not have a breathable atmosphere, and the UN facility does not have windows that look upon the external environment. The UN personnel and the "miners and harvesters" live most of the time in a closed environment. When they go outside, they must wear special enviro-suits that insulate them from the nasty natural environment of the exoplanet. They carry their oxygen like a scuba diver does. Even their faceplates aren't transparent material, but are TV monitors that picture what's in front of the suit's wearer.

The protagonist meets, in the remote UN facility, another young man who is convinced that something strange is going on, that things aren't really what they seem. The cynical comrade says that the food provided by the UN has drugs in it that increase the user's suggestibility, making him gullible enough to believe anything his senior officers tell him. It just so happens that the cynical fellow has an antidote for those drugs, and he offers a dose to the protagonist, daring him to take them and see what happens.

Comic relief: I remember that, at one point, one of the protagonists' fellow young soldiers gets flirtatious with a young female medical technician, who gives him a shot of vitamin B-12 to discourage his amorous intentions. Supposedly, the overdose of B-12 gives him the hives, or something.

We meet in the cafeteria of the remote UN base the "scientist" who had given the classified briefing to the UN recruits on Earth. She seems distraught. The protagonist tries to speak with her, but she doesn't feel like talking. Later on, she disappears from the UN base. She didn't teleport back to Earth. If she went outside, she didn't take an enviro-suit with her. This puzzles the protagonist. How can someone just walk away on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere and a landscape full of hostile alien bugs, and where would she have gone even if she could survive such an excursion?

Not long afterward, as our young soldier protagonist enters a readying room to suit up for his day's work outside, he meets his cynical friend who is in an argument with their sergeant. The argument concerns the cynic's discovery that each enviro-suit contains a suicide device that will kill its wearer if there is any breech of the suit's integrity. The cynic wants to quit his duties on account of this discovery, and the female sergeant accuses him of "breech of contract" and pulls her gun on him. The cynic gives in and suits up for the day's work.

Not long after that, the cynic disappears. The senior UN officers call the protagonist in for questioning. Did the cynical fellow soldier say anything that might have been odd, suspicious? The protagonist replies no, he can't remember the cynic saying anything of that nature.

The protagonists' next trip Outside is his last. While guarding the "miners and harvesters," something hits his suit and creates a minor breech. Suddenly, his faceplate stops showing the Outside and instead a recorded voice tells him that he has only 30 seconds to live, and he should use this time to pray to whatever god OR GODDESS he might worship.

Before the 30 seconds are up, however, someone screws off his helmet. The last thing he sees is a pretty young woman, entirely human, and a field of grass, entirely terrestrial. The young soldier understands that he never really left Earth, that the UN is playing a vast trick on humanity, that instead of gaining resources the plan is to exterminate most of the world's population, and that the "alien bugs" are really people who are fighting for their lives against the duped UN soldiers.

**** Does anyone know the title and/or author of this story?


Journeyed there and back again
I certainly never read that . . . but I can see how some of the ideas described provided input for that Gods-damned awful film 'Interstellar', and also for Hugh Howey's suits in 'Wool'. There may also be some connection to Starship Troopers?