"The colours of things we see depend on the colours of the light which reaches our eyes from them … The human eye has three types of light sensitive cells or colour detectors called cones, red, green and blue. For example, if the eye receives red light, only the red sensitive cones will be stimulated; if the eye receives yellow light, both the red and green sensitive cones will be stimulated …"

Samuel reached for his rocket launcher. His radar scope revealed four grey dots. Within minutes, the grey dots turned green. He glanced at a paper he was holding in his left hand, which read:


Allies – Red

Enemies – Green

Unidentified – Blue

Without further ado, Samuel's gimlet eyes focused on the four aircraft in the sky. Then, he fired his gun.

"Bang, bang, bang, bang!"

One by one, each aircraft fell, at an incredible speed, followed by a boom of explosion. Thick clouds of smoke billowed in the clear cloudless sky from the distance. But the fourth aircraft remained lurking high in the sky.


There was a loud explosion about five kilometres away from Samuel's body. Everything before his eyes burst into flames.

Samuel felt an excruciating pain in his head. The weight his sturdy legs were supporting grew heavier and heavier. Then, the rocket launcher slipped off from his shoulder as he subconsciously fell to the ground.

Samuel awoke, shocked to find himself lying on a bed in a hospital. He scanned the room. Everything before him was dull – a world without colours!

"Mr Samuel, I'm Dr Jave. I'm sorry to tell you that the recent accident you encountered had damaged your optic colour detectors. But not to worry, an operation would be able to cure your eyes, so that you'll regain your perception of colours."

"Operate me as soon as possible. I cannot afford to waste any time. I have many unfinished tasks over there," Samuel said.

The operation was indeed a complex one. It was the first of its kind Dr Jave had come across. After slicing the affected area on his head, Dr Jave set eyes on a mass of interlocking nerves, much to his disgust. It took Dr Jave and his fellow colleagues several hours to put them back in their correct places. All three colour detectors – red, blue and green – were severely damaged and had to be replaced.

On the silver tray lay three boxes, labelled "Red Cones", "Green Cones" and "Blue Cones" respectively. Each box contained many, many light sensitive cells. These cells were alive: their mitochondria were functioning and metabolic reactions were taking place in the protoplasm.

"Prepare the light sensitive cones for me," Dr Jave told his assistant, as the tool between his thumb and index fingers gingerly removed the damaged cells from the eyes.

His assistant took out the healthy cells from each of the boxes and placed them in a clean dish. "The red ones on the left, blue ones in the middle, green ones on the right."

Dr Jave reached the dish for the green sensitive cones and mistook them for the red ones. He placed the cells into the place where the red ones should be. Similarly, the red sensitive cones were mistaken for the green ones, and were placed in where the green ones should be. Finally, he reached the dish for the blue ones and placed them in the eyes.

The operation was over. Over.

Samuel awoke, elated to find that he had regained his colour perception. However, when he looked out of the window, he noticed a peculiar thing: roses were green and grass was red. A distortion of colours!

"It's just side effects. They would be gone in a few days," the doctor assured him.

Samuel was bored. He used to be bored when no aircraft came. But now, he was bored because he had nothing to do. He lay on the bed, reminiscing the days when he shot down several enemies' planes. Those were his most outstanding performances. His mind flashed back to 23rd June 2106, when he was conferred the "Most Outstanding Worker of the Year". Indeed, he had been working in the defence force for more than four decades. The country had been at war with its neighbour. Over the four decades of fighting, his hair had darkened and turned ash-blond. His face had developed fine wrinkles, especially around his eyes and lips. Samuel felt out of place. He was dying of boredom, and he would rather return to fight for his country than rest in the hospital.

Each day, Dr Jave came into his ward to monitor his condition. A week passed. The roses outside still remained green to him; the grass remained red to him. Samuel was feeling better and was bursting with vitality. Seeing that he had recovered completely, Dr Jave decided that he could be discharged.

The suffocating heat of the afternoon greeted Samuel as he stepped out of the hospital. The colours of the world he perceived were still distorted, but he did not mind. His only wish now was to return to the defence force to fight for the country. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

As usual, Samuel reached for the rocket launcher, which was smeared with a layer of dust after a week of absence. Samuel ran his eyes on the radar scope and saw two grey dots approaching. He was all prepared to fight. His heart raced. His eyes dilated.

The grey dots turned green.

Inside his eyes, however, the red sensitive cones were being stimulated…

Samuel had forgotten that the "side effects" were not completely gone. He did not fire at the targets. He looked at one of the aircraft, which was heading north in the direction of the naval base. Samuel was puzzled. Why would the aircraft fly to the naval base? Suddenly, it accelerated together with the other plane and landed at high speed. Samuel was still puzzling over what he had seen when he observed a loud explosion in the distance. Confused, he saw the "red" dots gradually moving away, beyond the scope of the radar.

The walkie-talkie in his pocket said, "Attention, attention! The naval base had been bombed by our enemies. Report to the post now …"

Samuel could not believe his ears. What exactly had happened? His mind was preoccupied with what he should say.

For all his years of service to the defence force and the country, Samuel had never made such grave mistake. He paid careful attention to details in whatever he did.

The defence force decided that Samuel had to leave. It could not afford another mistake to occur. The next mistake made could be fatal – it might lead to the fall of the country. Although his colleagues could not bear to part with such a talent, they could not reverse the decision made by the force.

Samuel was still puzzling out why the "side effects" had not gone. Little did he know that it was due to the blunder made by Dr Jave in the operation. A terrible blunder indeed.


"14th June 2155 marked the turning point to the war. Burrapore's naval base was bombed by Durrapore. With the dismiss of Mr Samuel, perhaps the world's best shooter, Burrapore's defence force gradually became weaker. Finally on 26th July 2156, Burrapore surrendered."

Red, blue and green. Colours. The reason for Samuel's dismiss. The reason for the fall of Burrapore.