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God Of a Man
Across Two Eternities

“Those who strip for money, keep their assets covered otherwise.”

Chapter Eight: Who goes there?
Dated: 1st March, 2461

An absolutely extrinsic yet highly individualistic characteristic of anything that exists is its value. Value, unlike inherent characteristics, is not a feature making up the object, but rather a characteristic attached to it by a volatile mix of circumstances extrinsic and attributes intrinsic to it. The more something is needed, the more is its value. Water is worth more than gold in a desert from which there is no escape, and life is worth more than gold when it is your own.

Obviously, value can be manipulated by creating or destroying the need for something. This is the expertise of management, whether that of a society, or that of a market. Value is also relative and comparative. Something could be more or less valuable over a stretch of time, or than what was expected, or it could also be more or less valuable than something else. Value is volatile!

This by necessity mandates an active involvement of the one who commands something, to ensure the proper preservation of the intrinsic qualities of the object of interest, or better still, an enhancement of the same. That person may or may not have the power to manipulate its’ demand, but they cannot let themselves down by not being prepared should an opportunity to reap the benefits emerge. They may also not want that object to be available to satisfy the demand without having paid back their own investment of any kind. Worst however is the situation where a person realizes that what they gave up when it was worthless; is worth more than a fortune when they don’t have it anymore. So it was apparent to the crew of a lost spaceship, that having milked a dead planet to the best of their abilities, it would be unpardonable to lose the gains by one stupid indiscretion.

For three painstakingly long months, had the crew of NSSS ‘Maa’ worked tirelessly round the clock, melting metals recovered from their newly unearthed haven. They first set up crude alloying machines, made of parts printed using their three dimensional printing technology. Then they used the volatile mix of liquefied Methane and Oxygen; that they had pumped out of the very holes they had dug up, to melt metals and alloy them. Big bodies are made up of many small parts, bound into a single mass by a tight arrangement. The spaceships they were building were no different.

The earlier despair that they had experienced over the course of their journey, when they had been woken up in turns, to stretch and use their muscles, was replaced by a new found optimistic fervour this time. For the first time they knew they could put their feet on a world not their own but yet very similar to it. This one might not have been warm and cosy, but it was neither unwelcoming, and nor did it do any disservice to their outside chance of finding a new home. If anything; everybody thought this was a moment that would provide them with a solution to all their problems. This was what would set them up on the home stretch. The memories of their loved ones were no more their bane, but their motivation.

“In my broken heart now lives a dream,
That makes me sing than cry.
I can’t change our fate, or turn back stream,
But for you my love I’ll try.
Sticks or shovels, guns or arrows,
No more than some gains.
Latch or drag, I’ll jump or grab,
Your love will ease my pains.”

Songs infused their efforts, and their efforts brought to life what had hitherto been unthinkable for most of them.

“How’s your training going,” Suzanne asked Aman as he walked up to her at the work site, ready to dig in with his bit, having just finished his daily training with Bradley on a flight simulator. Bradley was the one who knew how the new spacecrafts operated, and it was his task to train the five flying teams; three teams of three, for the three attack crafts, and four two member teams for the two mother-ships. Their journey was going to be continuous, as had previously been the case, only this time they would have the liberty of time, to scan the space more thoroughly and deeply.

“It’s good that Bradley trained the four professional pilots first,” Aman replied, “Now Chris, Rocker, Margaret and Christine have taken at least half the load off his shoulders. Man; I love the new machines already! Can’t wait to get my hands on the real thing soon enough!”

“Just another five weeks or so Professor says,” Suzanne quipped as she passed a cup of coffee to Aman, when her gaze fell on Anne, who had just finished her own shift at hard work, and was walking up to the make-shift canteen area, “Anne’s coming! Let’s continue with our plan.”

“Great, just let me know when she’s close enough,” Aman exclaimed as he got ready to enact another heated debate with Suzanne.

“Now,” Suzanne whispered as she pretended not to notice Anne approach.

“You know what, you think you know everything,” and Aman started talking up loud, as if he had just had enough of Suzanne, “But the truth is; you know nothing about either men or love.”

“I know enough about both Captain,” Suzanne exclaimed back as she put her hands to her hips, “Enough to know when one is sick with the other.”

“I don’t care what you think,” Aman replied back, “In fact I don’t care what anyone else might think. None of it matters to me, for the only thing that should concern me, and is my concern actually, is what she is going through right now.”

“And you think you really care for her?” Suzanne quipped, pretending to be amused, “I don’t think you care for anyone more than your own larger than life ego that has to be satisfied no matter what.”

“Please yourself, assuming whatever you want to assume,” Aman exclaimed, “But one of these days!” And then he turned around, and pretended to almost bump into Anne, but made amends at the last moment, to duck out of the way and turn around to make his parting shot, “I will find her, no matter what!” And he walked away in a huff, his work gear in his hands, and ready to labour in with the rest.

“What happened?” a concerned Anne asked, “Another of your reality versus Jenny debates with him!”

“You guessed it Commander,” Suzanne quipped shaking her head, “I am just worried; his passion would consume him one day.” And then she paused for some effect, before continuing, “Even more worrying is the thought that his passion might consume someone else; perhaps this entire mission!” She then took a quip step towards Anne, and grabbed her by her shoulders, “Commander, someone needs to make him see sense before it is too late.”

Anne took a long deep breath, before she gently removed Suzanne’s hands from her shoulders, and quipped, “Relax Doctor Dillon, for I assure you; nothing will happen to him or anyone else, least of all this mission. Remember; this mission is my responsibility, and not his.”

“But his fixation with his own love life is scary,” a concerned Suzanne asked, continuing on with her and Aman’s plan to make Anne think that he was too preoccupied with Jenny, to be either a sensible man, or open to any other person’s advances. And their plan had worked so far effortlessly, or so it appeared to them.

“He’s been through a tough time,” Anne quipped with a heavy breath, “Just like the rest of us. But he has something that makes him different than the rest of us; his passion is matched by his talents.” She then turned around and took a few steps in the direction Aman had walked away in, before continuing, “Doctor Dillon; this mission needs his passion, to guide it to its’ logical conclusion.”

“But,” a shocked Suzanne wanted to say something, but Anne stopped her mid sentence by raising her hand.

“We both believe that there is really no possibility of him finding Jenny alive,” Anne continued, “And that might ultimately turn out to be true, yet it will not stop a loving heart that beats inside him, in believing the impossible. But what you see as a problem is actually a solution.”

“I don’t understand,” Suzanne asked perplexed.

“His passion is not only driving our mission forward,” Anne answered her, “But his optimism is also giving hope to others who didn’t have it in them. Thanks to him, the rest all nurse a hope in their hearts today that an end to our miseries is just around the corner. This has given a spring to their feet, a song to their lips, and an impetus to their efforts. All this abodes well for our mission, and who knows, might actually drive it towards a fruitful completion sooner rather than later.”

“But what happens after that,” Suzanne asked.

“We both know the answer to that,” Anne quipped in response.

“He’ll end up wasting his life searching for love that is not there anymore,” Suzanne exclaimed, a genuine pain dripping her words.

“Or he might give it up one day,” Anne exclaimed.

“Maybe one day too late?” Suzanne asked.

“He would have still served humanity and left it indebted forever,” Anne quipped as she took a heavy breath and stepped away to leave.

“Would you not feel sad for him?” Suzanne asked.

“No more than I would for any good friend,” Anne replied, as she paused and looked to a side, at something distant.

“You are a strong woman Commander,” Suzanne quipped, before adding and walking away, “I am not that strong.”

And as Suzanne walked away, Anne turned looked on behind her, before whispering to herself, “I wish I could say that to myself!” But before her emotions could completely choke her, she checked herself, and looked around to make sure no one was watching her in her weak moment.

Weakness is inherent in strength, for strength is judged by it. Strength holds itself up only to its weakest point before it snaps. But the problem is not with strength giving away. The problem is with not being prepared for the weakness.

“Jenny, why are we painting these big messages everywhere,” Jack asked Jenny, as the duo braved a bit of scorching sun late in the evening, painting a giant ‘Help us if you read this’ message on the rocks by the beach. They had already painted it at least a dozen of times at other places, and could have done so many more times at others, but rationing was the key. They only found a limited paint supply in one of the sheds, and they wanted to make sure it would last long enough for repaints, and also that they had painted enough signs to attract attention.

“Because, if next time anyone we know flies by,” Jenny replied as she finished the last of the strokes, “I don’t want them to miss us.”

One only misses something when one is not looking for it. Surprise is what comes to one’s notice in such a scenario.

“These are some to the worst conditions any man has ever worked in,” a frustrated Alan Blake, the sociologist onboard NSSS ‘Maa’ quipped, as he and Mick Kans, the anthropologist took a break from their work.

“Even so my friend, I am glad my feet are back on firm ground,” Mick quipped, “To let you on a secret; I am scared of flying.” And the duo burst out laughing.

There was a small stream of liquefied material flowing past where they were standing. Removal of material from the dugout warehouse would often reveal openings to other areas that were still full of fluid, and the same would start flooding the workspace created in the dugout. It was continuous struggle to maintain a safe working environment, with constant pumping out of new fluid necessary. Lucky for them, the warehouse was located on a higher ground, and the pumped out fluid would flow down into a low lying area naturally, where an artificial lake of liquefied gases had begun to be created.

“Here, let me warm this rascal for you,” Mick exclaimed as he pulled out his electric thermos, and poured a few drops of hot water onto the contents of the stream as a joke. But in a flash the joke turned on them. Their protective clothing and gear might have saved them from damage by the violent rush of material that the interaction between boiling water and liquefied gases caused, but the real shock was the reaction that it caused.

The energy provided by those few drops of boiling water was enough to start an exothermic chemical reaction between some gaseous content in the mixture. The stream, in a flash turned into a flowing river on fire, with the violent reaction quickly heading straight to the lake. A bright glow lit up, covering everything in a bright orange light.

“What the hell,” exclaimed Aman, as he and others working at the sight turned around and looked in the direction of the light.

Luckily however, the frozen matter surrounding the stream and the lake was mostly Carbon dioxide, that evaporated into a thick gaseous envelop within seconds, overwhelming the reactants by its inertness, and dissipating energy by its sheer chilled temperature and volume. The flame extinguished as soon as it had been lit.

“What happened?” an agitated Anne yelled as she rushed out of her temporary on-sight office.

“No damage done!” Professor Dunmore yelled back, to assure her, as everybody looked around to take stock of the situation.

Little however did anyone realize; the innocent buffoonery by two of their brethren had caught the attention of an alien caravan flying past their planet. It was business cargo en route to another world, escorted by an array of attack crafts. One of them was immediately dispatched to inspect the dead dark planet that had not been known to host any activity for centuries now.


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