So, this guy, Douglas Quaid, wants to go to Mars. Meanwhile, on Mars, there is this evil corporate dickweed, Cohaagen, who also wants Quaid to come to the planet, so that he can lead Cohaagen and his operatives to Kuato, the wise and gnarly baby who lives in the guts of an anonymous man.

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Quaid and Cohaagen would seem to have aligned interests. Cohaagen, in fact, has a detailed plan to help both parties get what they want. Here it is:

Step 1: Plant an operative in Quaid’s home with the express mission of talking him out of going to Mars.

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Step 2: Send an operative disguised as a coworker to intercept Quaid, ambush him, and kill him.

Step 3: Send another operative to stalk and kill Quaid before he can get to Mars and meet Kuato.

Step 4: Provide Quaid with instructions for how to remove the tracking device implanted in Quaid’s brain by his own operatives, so they cannot track Quaid to Kuato.

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Step 5: Once Quaid makes it to Mars, send a covert operative to chaperone Quaid and talk him out of going to places where he is most likely to encounter Kuato.

Step 6: Send another covert operative, disguised as a doctor, to trick Quaid into believing he’s not on Mars, while he is on Mars.

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Step 7: Send the operative from step 3 to stalk and kill Quaid, now on Mars, before he can meet Kuato.

This plan is not without flaws. At least one of its steps, for example, involves killing Quaid, which would seem to derail his chances of meeting Kuato. All of the steps invariably lead to Cohaagen’s own operatives getting killed, which, from a human resources standpoint, calls into question the overall sensibility of the plan.

Cohaagen’s “To Get Kuato To Meet Quaid We Must Kill Quaid” plan is motivated by the fact that Kuato is notoriously reclusive (he lives in a man’s guts) and doesn’t much like or trust Cohaagen. In order for Kuato to meet Quaid, Kuato must be made to believe Cohaagen doesn’t want it to happen.

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(It should be noted, here, that Cohaagen has at his disposal technology for changing a person’s entire self-definition and all their memories. It should further be noted that there are already many people living on Mars, for reasons passing understanding. Since Cohaagen’s ultimate goal has everything to do with Kuato and doesn’t require Quaid at all, one wonders if the best plan for reaching Kuato really ought to involve a man who lives on a whole different planet.)

(Another important note: Quaid, before he was Quaid, of Earth, was someone else, a man named Hauser. Hauser lived on Mars and was Cohaagen’s friend before Cohaagen turned him into Douglas Quaid and sent him to Earth, to live with an operative whose job it was to persuade him not to return to Mars, as part of an elaborate plan to, in fact, bring him to Mars.)

Even after acknowledging the important Kuato caveat, the complexity of Cohaagen’s plan is, umm, impressive! Change a human to another human; stick the human on another planet for an indefinite period; actively persuade the human never to go back to Mars; when the human eventually gets curious about Mars, kill him; when he is not killed, help him evade your own pursuit; and so on.

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A plan this long and complex has a lot of moving parts, and a lot of unforeseeable potential consequences. In this case:

Tragic.