Golgotha by Saul Tanpepper is a prequel short story introducing the “Gameland” series. The author describes it as a tale of politics and science gone wrong. He also assures the reader that this is a stand-alone story; follow-up novels in the series begin fifteen years later.
This story posits that Dengue fever was thought to be eliminated. Great news for me, it is a constant, enduring threat in the Indonesian province where I live and it is deadly. In this story we learn that it wasn’t actually cured, rather it became non-threatening in its human host. It still spread until all humans had it, but it was not dangerous. Until one scientist, Richard Daniels developed a substance that could activate the dormant disease and along with the additional substance create a group of functional zombie-like creatures without cognitive ability. Instantly the problem of the need for military conscription was solved. Nations with a zombie army could conquer others without suffering an offensive public backlash against needless death. The new army would be unwitting volunteers from prison populations and groups of social undesirables.
Professor Halliwell has developed an antiserum. He has doubts it will work but decides to test it on himself. In order to test it, he must first become one of the Omega Men (zombie army) himself, which means he must die and be reborn as those in the new Army have done. Then an antiserum will be injected and he will once again transform into an Omega man with cognitive abilities, almost the same as his original human self. But the experiment might not work. He might end up as a horrible mutation that would be better off dead. Or he might succeed but face the problem that his own government would find and kill him to prevent the secrets of the Omega men from coming out. Death seemed to be the common denominator. Halliwell constructed an elaborate machine that would kill him no matter how the experiment ended. Just to be safe.
We know about the story based on audio recordings made by Halliwell and played at one of the endless government investigative committee hearings. After a lengthy absence of Halliwell was noted, a massive government search was made to find him. Authorities found the lab, found the audio evidence, and this story takes place in the context of a government committee hearing. (Note: No one found Professor Halliwell’s body).
Ethical and moral conflicts abound about how far human should be used in research, how much responsibility a government has to inform its citizens and at what point governments should eliminate troublesome dissenters. There is also the mystery of the whereabouts of Professor Halliwell. Readers who enjoy this genre will be well motivated to further investigate the GAMELAND series.