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GOD Of A Man

Eternity Versus Eternity

 

“Hope is the jack of all trades, faith a wildcard!”

 

Chapter One: From faithful hope to hopeful faith

Dated: 13th December, 2459

 

The first tryst of humanity with hope occurs the moment they are conceived inside their mother’s womb, and this hope stays with them until they culminate their journey inside their tomb. What begins in a confinement ends in another! Prior to the birth, every parent has hopes about their yet to be born progeny, right from a preferred sex, to its’ possible and probable futures. Then as the life takes its’ toll on this biological entity, the hope for a better next moment keeps dragging life towards its’ own end. The strongest of the virtues inside a thinking being, their belief in things as diverse as to be completely absurd or purely hypothetical, derives its’ strength from hope. If one is suffering in their real life, there is this hope of a fictitious ethereal life and world that none has ever seen, that mitigates the atrocities inflicted by the cruel actualities. This over-bearing belief, this possessive hope, is distinguished from the other nonchalant worldly dispositions by a unique name, the faith.

 

However hope, in spite of being the precursor of faith, is crudely different from the same. While hope gives its’ bearer the will to survive for another day while accepting the frailties of realty and unpredictability of future, faith can sometimes make its’ proponents adamant to logical reasoning, and can give them an attitude, pillared by stubbornness and bordering on cruelty, non yielding to the needs of the situation. While hope is a faithful servant of humanity in all their dire needs, a jack of all trades, faith is the errant master of mind that can adulterate human psychology in ways beyond comprehension, and often utterly reprehensible.

 

A questioning mind always tries to thread the intricacies of this faith bare. Whenever successful, the answers to such a quest become laws of nature, and where unsuccessful, a fodder for superstition. A study of evolution of society is more relevant when it takes a historical perspective of myths, their lives and demise, than that of humanity itself. Else, much of human history is the same anyway; one powerful empire rising to decimate and enslave the rest, only to be subdued by another in time. Human history can be so overrated, yet it keeps building on!

 

The events that transpired within a matter of moments were so overpowering, not only the two souls in the midst of action were left speechless, even the ground control fell silent for the next few seconds. Finally the third soul in space at that time, Astronaut Adrian Debouch, the main pilot of space shuttle “Clara” who was under strict instructions not to leave the controls in any event, finally spoke, “You need to get back in guys! We need to get away from here!”

 

“Get back into the space ship boys and return home,” President Shoji Katsuo formalized the orders.

 

“Yes sir,” Antonio replied as he gazed at the motionless body of his senior Yuri, who seemed to be in a stupor, a horrified look fixed on his face, and his gaze fixed on something distant, something not visible.

 

“Sir, we need to get inside,” Antonio said to Yuri as he tried to shake him into waking up. But Yuri was stoned!

 

“Sir, Captain Yuri is not responding,” Antonio radioed in to the base.

 

“Pull him inside,” John Yates gave him the go ahead.

 

“Copied Sir,” Antonio replied as he floated back towards and into the transfer chamber on the side of the space shuttle. He then pulled the rope connecting Yuri to the spacecraft. The moment Yuri’s unconscious body was pulled inside the chamber, an alarm went off.

 

“What the hell?” Antonio exclaimed as he looked around, still floating in the zero gravity environs.

 

“What happened down there? Why did the fire alarm just go?” Adrian asked in a bit of a panic.

 

“I didn’t do no nothing,” Antonio replied, “I don’t see no fire but the carbon dioxide jets have started all over the chamber.

 

“Pull the ropes in quick so I can close the hatch and give you artificial gravity,” Adrian replied, “We’ll work our next step from there.”

 

“What’s happening out there?” Admiral Mir asked from ground control.

 

“We don’t know sir, but the temperature gauge inside the transfer chamber has gone into a spin” Adrian replied.

 

“We saw a glow inside the space station before it imploded into oblivion. It won’t be a bad idea to give Yuri an extinguisher shower,” President Katsuo suggested.

 

“But sir, he doesn’t feel hot to touch,” Antonio replied.

 

“That’s because your insulated space suit makes you oblivious to external factors like temperature and pressure,” Admiral Mir explained, “You won’t feel the heat unless you were thrown into a furnace for long enough.”

 

“Preparing the transfer chamber for artificial gravity,” Adrian, who had been busy with the hectic emergency procedures, interrupted to start the countdown, “Artificial gravity on in three, two, one, now!”

 

The moment Antonio landed on his feet, he dashed towards his seniors falling frame, and let it sink gently down to the floor. Then he rushed to grab a fire extinguisher from the side wall and emptied its’ contents on Yuri’s space suit covered body, turning the body around once to give the rear side a fair coating too.

 

“Sir, the Carbon Dioxide is not even getting a chance to freeze on Yuri’s body,” Antonio exclaimed in astonishment, “It is evaporating straight on contact.”

 

“Lieutenant, use another canister if you have to,” Admiral Mir replied.

 

The second extinguisher finally formed a frozen coat around Yuri and took its’ time to evaporate. “Looks like his suit is back to normal temperature,” Antonio exclaimed as the fire alarm died down as well.

 

“The temperature gauge is coming down to its’ normal expected levels too,” Adrian replied from the cockpit, “Perhaps take him straight into his cabin. I’ll turn the artificial gravity off to assist you in dragging his body.”

 

“Lieutenant, take Yuri to the quarantine cabin on the escape capsule,” Admiral Mir intervened to give them then next set of instructions, “He might be a biological hazard. Leave Yuri’s space suit on as you are coming back straight away. The suit will not only give him the protection in case you have to make an emergency exit, but it is important to keep him secluded until the doctors and scientific staff gives him an all clear.”

 

“Yes sir,” Antonio replied as the artificial gravity was cut again, this time for the entire spacecraft, to assist him in dragging Yuri’s unconscious body to the quarantine chamber inside the escape capsule. Antonio secured Yuri inside the capsule and returned to his seat inside the cockpit. Once Antonio was back in his seat inside the flight deck, the space shuttle started its’ sojourn back to the mother.

 

“Flight Lieutenant Adrian, this is base calling,” John Yates voice could be heard on the radio as “Clara” began its’ decent back.

 

“Flight Lieutenant copying,” Adrian replied.

 

“Lieutenant, it appears the events involving the space station have caused some damage to your landing gear for we are getting some distress signals from your flight computer,” John Yates said, “As a precautionary measure we have decided to order an escape capsule ejection over the Indian Ocean.”

 

“Roger Sir,” Antonio replied, “I will set the flight into auto pilot mode while Lieutenant Antonio will prepare the escape capsule. What are the co-ordinate details for the descent?”

 

“Lieutenant, in six minutes time you will be above 390 43’ N when you will begin a decent at 50 angle to the Equator and 150 angle to the eastern horizon at equatorial plane. You will eject above 80 12’ S and will land in Indian Ocean, approximately 25 nautical miles from Kangaroo Island, where you will be picked up by the team of ‘NSS Southern Light’ and brought back to the shore by choppers. Do you copy?” John Yates issued the full set of instructions.

 

“Roger Sir, copied,” Adrian replied before asking, “What about the space shuttle sir? This is our only one!”

 

“We are aware of it Lieutenant, and we will try our best to save it via remote piloting,” Admiral Mir replied, “But you men are more valuable than this machine, so your safety is paramount.”

 

“Sir, what if Antonio and Yuri use the escape pod while I try to land the shuttle,” Adrian asked hesitatingly, trying not to offend his senior, “I mean sir, remote piloting could be a miss.”

 

“We know son,” Admiral Mir answered with emotional seriousness, “But I’d rather have you all safe down here!”

 

“Roger Sir,” Adrian didn’t insist any further, and he and Antonio got busy with the controls to prepare the shuttle for auto-pilot commands. Once all was set up for the base to take-over, the two joined the unconscious Yuri in the escape pod.

 

The escape pod ejected at the designated spot, and like a precision guided projectile, continued the trajectory towards the spread out arms of “Indian Ocean”. Three thousand feet above the sea level, four retarder rockets were fired in succession to slow the decline, before a small parachute opened towards the rear end of the capsule giving it another jerky pull, as the escape pod finally broke its’ headstrong dash into thickening air. Finally, as the escape pod had slowed down considerably, a fifth retarder rocket was fired to almost bring it to a halt, when the parachute at the end detached itself from the pod. Another parachute then ejected out from the top of the pod, and the pod slowly descended down towards the ocean. True to its’ job description, NSS Southern Light was within sniffing distance to fish the astronauts out.

 

“Welcome back to mother earth Lieutenant,” Captain Gregory Thomas greeted Adrian as he emerged out of the pod that had now been pulled out of the water and onto the deck, while a beeline of marines waited anxiously behind him to meet the three men.

 

“I am sorry Captain but the drastic situation leaves us no scope for a proper introduction for we need medics immediately for one of our friends,” Adrian replied as Antonio emerged out of the pod and the two quickly got down to opening the quarantine chamber.

 

“I am sorry gentlemen, but as grave as your situation might be, we have been given clear instructions not to get your ailing team member out of the quarantine chamber,” Captain Gregory stated emphatically as Adrian and Antonio looked at each other in astonishment, “One of the choppers will carry the escape capsule to the shore, while another two will lift your quarantine chambers.

 

“But he could be seriously injured and in need of immediate help,” Antonio replied and added in apparent surprise, “Quarantine chambers?”

 

“We’ve been informed by the National Space Research Organisation, since two of your team members have been to a possible bio-waste contaminated zone, and the peculiar events that unfolded up there might have further exposed you to unknown risks, we need to quarantine even you two into seclusion chambers,” Captain Gregory replied, “As you two might have already noticed that your pod has been placed on a special synthetic mattress, I would like to request you two learned scientists to step into those specially made quarantine chambers lined at the side of the deck.”

 

“But Captain Yuri is still in his space suit,” Antonio quipped.

 

“We are aware of it,” Captain Gregory replied, “And since the space suit is designed to maintain a stable and comfortable environment for the wearer, we believe Captain Yuri is much safer inside it.”

 

“I don’t know how to say but this is really sickening,” Antonio was incensed at the way things were panning out so far, “We risked our lives for everyone and went on a journey no one was sure we’ll ever return from, and this is how we are being treated?”

 

“Young man, I understand your frustration given the turmoil you three have just been through, both in space and now,” Captain Gregory replied with all the warmth he could to assuage the hurt feelings of the two astronauts, “But as scientists who better than you to understand the importance of precaution. If a slight negligence can potentially annihilate entire humanity, then human negligence becomes un-pardonable!”

 

“Sir, with all due respect, if we had to die, we would have been sucked into oblivion in space, or charred to death on return to Earth. If humanity was to perish, we would have never made it out of Antarctica,” the bitterness was clearly visible in Antonio’s speech, but that wasn’t all, “Sir, GOD doesn’t want us to perish and I assure you, there will be nothing contaminating sticking to our pride or body.”

 

“That Lieutenant cannot be the words of a scientist,” Captain Gregory exclaimed as he folded his hands behind his body, planted his feet wide, outstretched his chest and looked down his nose as he took a deep breath, “Of all the people, I shouldn’t have to argue with someone as knowledgeable as you. Besides, it’s an order!”

 

Adrian and Antonio looked at each other and then at Captain Gregory, been left completely speechless by the situation. Captain Gregory added pointing a leading hand towards the confinement chambers, “Now if you gentlemen would please enter your confinement chambers, you should be ashore in just under an hour. I am sure your troubles and travails won’t last too long.”

 

The two astronauts complied with the instructions and entered the quarantine chambers. Three helicopters lifted the load from NSS Southern Light and sped towards the shore as Captain Gregory radioed back to the base, to update Admiral about the situation.

 

Meanwhile at the base control, everybody was engrossed in a battle of wits to control the now almost out of control space ship “Clara”. Remote Pilot had a remote chance of success, but the remoteness ultimately proved to be too remote! The ground control unit was able to successfully fly the space ship around to the landing strip at the Space Research Organization’s airbase however, it failed to engage its’ landing gear in over ten attempts. Subsequently, they lost the direction control of the space ship as it sped away towards the sea.

 

“Sir, we have no choice but to plunge it into the sea,” John Yates finally gave up on the effort to control the floundering machine, “We need to plunge it before it travels too far beyond else it will settle down to the ocean bottom and we won’t be able to retrieve it.”

 

“Lieutenant Jackson, what’s the last reported position from NSS Mighty,” Admiral Mir asked the man in charge of communications.

 

“Sir, they are about seven minutes away from the projected trajectory of the ship,” Jackson replied.

 

“Sir we cannot delay the dumping,” John Yates tried to emphasise the gravity of the situation, “If we delay by any more than three minutes, the space ship will travel miles and miles deep into the sea, and once dumped, it won’t float for more than half an hour.”

 

“Are you sure we cannot turn it around anymore?” Admiral Mir asked as if he didn’t know the answer.

 

“No sir,” John Yates shrugged haplessly.

 

“What’s the orders sir?” Admiral Mir finally shifted the entire decision upon President Shoji Katsuo’s shoulders.

 

President Katsuo thought for a brief moment and then nodded his head, “Go ahead! But inform the captain of our ship in pursuit of the craft, to make haste.”

 

“Yes sir,” John Yates nodded as he got busy with his set of controls to commander the lonely bird, while Jackson got busy with the radio transmitter.

 

“Base calling NSS The Mighty, do you copy?” Jackson radioed the ship.

 

“Loud and clear,” the voice at the other end replied.

 

“Captain Aman Ahluwalia, the space craft goes down in 120 seconds and the countdown begins now,” Admiral Mir spoke on the radio this time, “Your ship is the closest in proximity and you will get about half an hour to retrieve the craft before it is lost forever. There are no co-ordinates, just your eyes for your assistance.”

 

Just as Admiral Mir finished issuing instructions, an officer came rushing in and sought Admiral’s attention while the radio was still on, “Sir, we just got an important message from the port.”

 

“What’s the matter?” Admiral asked, “Anything wrong with the astronauts?”

 

“Sir, Astronaut Antonio and Adrian are yet to be screened,” the officer replied, “They have started with the unconscious astronaut first. While there doesn’t seem to be any signs of contamination with his space suit but what they found on Yuri’s body is more concerning.”

 

“What did they find?” President Shoji Katsuo was immediately concerned too.

 

“Sir, Captain Yuri’s body bears burns all over his skin,” the officer replied.

 

“What? Inside his space suit,” Admiral Mir exclaimed, “Are they serious?”

 

“Luckily they don’t go deep but are only superficial charring, but it is thorough,” the officer replied.

 

“What the damn darn thing happened over there?” President Katsuo was flabbergasted.

 

Admiral Mir was left speechless for a moment or two as well, when he finally regained his composure and realized he still has Captain Aman Ahluwalia at the other end, and they have lost precious time, “Captain are you still there?”

 

“Yes sir,” Captain Aman’s voice from the other end was now highly adulterated with loud noise.

 

“What’s the noise in the background?” Admiral Mir asked.

 

“Sir, approaching trajectory of the incoming craft,” Captain Aman replied, “Sorry for the disturbance from my motor-boat, but we didn’t have time. You may bring the bird down!”

 

John Yates immediately rushed to his controls and grabbed a lever on the control panel, “Get ready for the catch Captain! Incoming in three, two, one, now!” And John Yates pulled down at the lever, as hard and quick as he could.

 

The space shuttle nosedived towards the sea at a breakneck speed, still far above in the sky to be clearly visible below the cloud cover, as Captain Aman waited patiently, his keen gaze fixed at the sky above, his hands grabbing the steering wheel of his motor boat firm, as he toed behind a large matt constructed with inflated tubes, ably supported by his trusted marines in five motorboats.

 

“Hold on tightly boys, the flying fish is coming in. Catch and we’ll have a barbie later,” Captain Aman spoke to his men on his two-way radio.

 

“We are counting on you Captain! Don’t let us down,” Admiral Mir murmured to himself at the base control.

 

 

 

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