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GOD Of A Man

Eternity Versus Eternity

 

“Build a castle to block the light, remove a brick to enlighten!”

 

Chapter Five: What The Shadows Hide

Dated: 17th December, 2459

 

The biggest allusion in nature is the overpowering extent of darkness. What is darkness? In simplest terms “Absence of light!” But is the light truly absent? What is night? Does it mean somebody has switched off the sun? Is the Universe really dark, pitch black? The light coming from multitudes of stars makes even a moonless night bright enough to see hand from hand. When moon passes in front of the sun, it blocks its’ light from reaching the earth temporarily to varying degrees, depending upon the geographical location of viewing. Wherever the Sun is completely hidden from view, it gets dark as if dusk has arrived prematurely. But even at that location, the moment moon passes the edge of the Sun, giving it the astounding shape of a diamond ring, the brightness is once again overwhelming in presence. A room can be dark even in broad daylight, as long as it is perfectly sealed off from the light outside. A small opening however is good enough to light it up completely.

 

Knowledge and ignorance share a similar, intimately antagonistic relationship. A mystery, as intriguing as it might be, is generally revealed by the slightest of clues. Knowledge is the light, ignorance the darkness. But one thing common to both knowledge and ignorance is; they both inspire some of the strongest emotions to be ever experienced by human beings. Ignorance instils faith, knowledge is rebellious!

 

Just like dusk and dawn between the two merging points of day and night, there is an intermediary phase between ignorance and knowledge; the shock. This shock can be an explosion of answers or a humble acceptance of human limitations, both of these ultimately leading to the realization that forms the new learning, the new knowledge. New Saisho finds itself on the brink of a similar experience!

 

“Impossible” was the final verdict to escape Doctor Yardley’s lips, for the truth that lay bare in front of his eyes was too confronting to be acceptable to human intelligence without unreasonable resistance.

 

“What is it?” President Katsuo inquired, “Is it a meteor hit?”

 

“Sir, looks like the space station, oil and transformer are not the only things missing,” Doctor Yardley replied after finally yielding to the reality of the moment, “And this one is a massive chunk of matter gone missing. We can even see the molten core of Mars now.” He then asked Researcher Chu, “Can you give us any more information? Did the researchers at our Antarctica facility give any more details like when this thing happened?”

 

“Sir, they forwarded the pictures to our home facility as soon as they were taken,” Jhiang replied, “According to their rough estimate, based upon the spinning cycle of Mars, it must have happened about four hours ago, from now.”

 

“Doctor Yardley, would you be able to comment as to how this will affect Mars?” President Katsuo asked.

 

“Sir, it is definitely going to affect Mars’ spinning cycle, as well as its’ revolution around the sun. It is a big mass taken off from an object in motion,” Doctor Yardley replied out of his deep understanding derived from his experience, “We will have to check its’ revolutions over the next twenty four hours to be able to do some mathematical modelling. Only then will we be able to predict its’ future course, and if it will affect us in any way.”

 

“And Doctor, what do you make out of all these recent incidents?” President inquired further.

 

“Sir, all I can say is, we now have some data to begin work on developing a computer model for prediction of future events,” Doctor Yardley gave his honest opinion, “Beyond that, all I can say for the moment is; it doesn’t look like a case of space gates. It could be a dimensional tear, but we need more information to make a call on this one.”

 

“How does it affect us?” President finally asked the most important question.

“Sir, without any knowledge of the fate of things gone missing so far, all I can say is, we are not safe,” Doctor Yardley put things in their perspective without any ambiguous words.

 

The long silence that ensued would have confused even death.

 

Finally President Shoji Katsuo asked Miss De Villiers, “Anne, just check with NSS Full Bloom if they have got any information from the oil rigs in Kuwait region.”

 

“Yes Sir,” Anne immediately contacted NSS Full Bloom, “NSS Full Bloom, this is Miss Anne De Villiers, Secretary to the President. Can I speak to the commanding officer?”

 

“This is Rear Admiral Guruban Ahluwalia, currently in charge of NSS Full Bloom speaking,” Rear Admiral’s commanding voice boomed from the other end.

 

“Rear Admiral, where is Captain Bradley Connors?” Admiral Mir immediately asked as Mrs Downing smirked.

 

“Captain Bradley Connors has been dispatched with a team to the location Sir,” Rear Admiral Ahluwalia replied.

 

“You mean he has vacated his responsibility on board NSS Full Bloom and left in search of an adventure in the desert,” Mrs Downing commented.

 

“I beg your pardon! Captain Bradley Connors is a very responsible and highly decorated soldier who would never do such a rash act. He was ordered to relinquish his charge temporarily and lead a very young and inexperienced team into the field by this very senior officer of his,” Rear Admiral Ahluwalia retorted fiercely, “Who is this idiot I am talking to?”

 

“This idiot you are referring to is the Finance Minister of New Saisho Mrs Gabriella Downing,” Mrs Downing immediately burst out, “Has the Rear Admiral lost all his manners?”

 

“Mrs Downing, I very well remember my manners but, of all the people, you should be intelligent enough to realize that when a senior is present on site, the junior officers can no longer make policy decisions without his consent and their actions become the direct responsibility of the senior himself,” Rear Admiral gave a befitting reply, “By the way, which of the two schools in New Saisho did you go to Mrs Downing where they didn’t teach you not to interrupt a conversation between two people?”

 

Mrs Downing’s face was left agape and she herself left speechless as Admiral Mir finally broke the ugly conversation, “Rear Admiral, we appreciate you are in the thick of something serious out there, but things are not too bright at our end either. So let us get something constructive out of our conversation now. Would you please brief us about what is going on over there in the Arabian Sea?”

 

“Sir, our first reconnaissance sortie wasn’t too productive. The night vision images of the sight show a massive crater but reveal no details,” Rear Admiral Ahluwalia replied, “My boys are forwarding you the images now.”

 

The images showed a dark spot at the site, looking like a huge crater, but the details were indeed not visible.

 

“Any luck with the radio contact Rear Admiral,” President Katsuo asked after checking the images.

 

“No sir,” Rear Admiral replied, “That is why I had to take the immediate decision of dispatching a small team for the physical inspection of the site, and since Captain Bradley happens to be the only man with experience in underground mining site searches, I had to relieve him of his current responsibility in charge of the aircraft carrier, so as to enable him to lead the team in person.”

 

“We understand your position Rear Admiral. Under the circumstances you made the right choice,” President Katsuo lent his weight behind Rear Admiral’s decision.

 

“Thanks Mr President,” Rear Admiral replied, “As soon as the Captain returns, I will transfer his responsibility back on his shoulders.”

 

“That’s alright Mr Ahluwalia,” President Katsuo said, “But we might have to ask you to carry the responsibility a bit longer for we might need Captain Bradley to do some other work for us, offshore the north eastern edge of Africa, depending upon how things are in Middle East.”

 

“I would be more than obliged to carry out the responsibility Sir,” Rear Admiral replied and then mentioned his upcoming retirement, “But Mr President, I only have a few weeks service left.”

 

“I am aware of your impending retirement next month Mr Ahluwalia,” President assured, “We just might have to give you an extension, if you don’t have any objections.”

 

“None at all sir, it will be a pleasure to serve the people of New Saisho for more,” Rear Admiral replied.

 

“That would be it for now Mr Ahluwalia,” President Katsuo said, “Do keep us updated about the findings of Captain Bradley Connors and the rest of your men.”

 

“Yes Sir,” Rear Admiral replied and the connection was closed.

 

Before anyone could say anything President Katsuo turned towards Doctor Yardley and addressed him, “Doctor, I don’t think we have much time on our hands. What do you need immediately to get the answers we are looking for?”

 

“Sir, with so many things disappearing at such a short notice, the situation is bleak but we can use the data to start mathematical modelling straight away,” Doctor Yardley replied, “Research fellow Jhiang Chu here is himself leading the work on developing the model.”

 

“I don’t know if we will survive Sir,” Jhiang was still visibly shaken by the whole knowledge explosion that had happened over the last few hours.

 

“We will survive young man,” Admiral Mir was pumped like his usual self, “We have survived a nuclear holocaust, we will survive the universal furry too!”

 

“Now look here son,” President Katsuo addressed Jhiang Chu, “Our community is in dire need now and it is, and will be looking up to young intelligent minds like you to deliver. We may not survive, but we might as well! But one thing is certain, the only way to survive will be to find answers to the threat we face today. Now you can sulk and let everyone including yourself perish, or you can pitch in your intelligence and put in the hours needed, and find a way out for all of us. The choice is yours and I cannot make it for you!”

 

Jhiang nodded, still gagged by his fear. At this point Doctor Yardley suggested, “Do you want to leave this job for someone else who might not be half as intelligent as you but who is more comfortable with the situation.”

 

Jhiang’s eyes finally stoned in a resolve, “No Sir, I cannot shame my grandfather and my family! I won’t go home and will live in the laboratory until I find you the answers we all need.”

 

“That’s the spirit of New Saisho son,” President Katsuo symbolically clapped his hands in appretiation.

 

“Sir, we don’t have time! I request leave from your gracious presence,” Jhiang said as a new fervour gave a spring to his feet.

 

“Make us proud son,” President Katsuo said as he gestured him to take his leave. Jhiang bowed in respect and quick marched his way out, almost breaking into a fierce jog.

 

“Now Doctor Yardley, anything else we can do for you right now,” President Katsuo asked him.

 

“Sir, we need the satellite up as soon as we can,” Doctor Yardley replied as he looked towards Doctor Stephen Sebastian from the engineering wing, expecting some information.

 

“Sir, my men are already working round the clock on the project,” Doctor Sebastian replied, “We have decided to finish the work of four weeks in one and half, no matter what. We are camping in the office since.”

 

“I see doctor! Your department has definitely taken a lead over the rest of us. I wish you luck and if you need anything, just let us know!” the enterprising gesture had really impressed President Katsuo, “I think this deserves a round of applause” And everybody in the room clapped for the engineering wing.

 

After the applause had died out, Admiral Mir asked, “Sir, what would you like my men to do?”

 

“Admiral,” President Katsuo stopped to think for a moment before continuing, “I think we have lost the oil in Middle East. It is time to open up the Libyan ports again.”

 

“Sir, I will immediately instruct Rear Admiral to dispatch Captain Connors to the new location as soon as he returns,” Admiral Mir replied.

 

“And Sir,” Doctor Sebastian spoke to add something else into the equation, “I don’t think we have time to develop Uranium enrichment plant or fission engine from scratch, and we need both.”

 

The room became a whispering chamber as President Katsuo thought about the question. Finally Admiral Mir came up with a suggestion, “Sir, NSS Mighty is still ashore. I can dispatch Captain Aman Ahluwalia to do some underwater search for buried nuke subs in west Pacific region. He is experienced, committed and a decorated soldier.”

 

“Do you think we will be able to recover any worthwhile nuclear material or technology from the salty graveyard?” President inquired.

 

“Sir if I may reply to this one,” Doctor Sebastian offered the answer, “Nuclear material was generally very carefully stored and nuclear technology was not easily susceptible to natural disasters or factors. There is a high chance of recovering some well preserved weapons grade Uranium in the form of buried warheads, as well as still workable nuclear reactors, if only we can locate one buried nuclear sub.”

 

“Perhaps you are right doctor,” President replied, “I realize what limitation we are facing. But then the question is, are we ready to tap the former technology for our advantage?”

 

“Sir, we just constituted another team yesterday which has already started working on models that will incorporate old technology into a new space ready version,” Doctor Sebastian replied, clearly impressing the gathering once again with his departments’ commitment.

 

After a bit more discussion on the current situation and the steps that had been decided to be undertaken, the meeting was finally dispersed.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I think we can head back to our work now,” President Katsuo said as he rose to leave the room. Others followed soon, everybody leaving in their own directions, determined to help humanity find a way out of the current crisis.

 

The monochromatic colour of the night is slow and sneaky in blanketing the nature, but it is quick to fade out. Like herds escaping bush fire, the dark that approaches as dispersions, refractions and radiations slowly die out, escapes at the speed of light. The world is up and running before the first light hits, as if shoeing away the blackness.

 

As Aman jogged around the bend, on the return lap to his home, he was surprised to see a stack of emergency vehicles outside the neighbours. Mr Dwight, Janice’s father, was being consoled by an officer whose face looked familiar.

 

“Elle, is that you?” Aman recognized the officer Elle Wilson, his former classmate and now an officer with New Saisho Police, “What happened here? Oh! And how are you?”

 

“Aman, you haven’t changed at all,” Elle’s face brightened up more than the brightening morning light, “I am fine! We are here to answer a missing persons call from Mr Dwight.”

 

“Missing persons call?” Aman was surprised, “Who is missing?”

 

“His daughter and wife,” Elle replied, “He just returned after doing some overnight work, a bit of longish overtime at the factory he manages, and found his wife and daughter missing, along with the bed, carpet under it, and a chunk of their floor.”

 

“That sounds so strange,” Aman was shocked.

 

“We are dealing with a homicide here,” Elle shocked him even further.

 

“Homicide, how come,” Aman’s disbelief was clearly evident.

 

“Mrs Josephine Dwight’s chopped feet were found right next to spot where the bed was located, still in her slippers, but strangely, not a single drop of her blood spilt,” the information Elle shared was more gross than shocking, “Did you or any of your family see anyone entering or leaving these premises, or anything suspicious in the area.”

 

Aman, still in disbelief, “How can this happen? We have never had a murder in New Saisho.”

 

“Aman, if you or any of your family has any information, call me at this number,” Elle said as she pulled out a piece of paper from her pocket and scribbled her number on it, “Give me a call anyway, whenever you have some time. It’s been so long since I last saw you.”

 

Elle still hadn’t been able to move on from her never disclosed feelings for Aman. But Aman was already lost in deep thoughts as he took the piece of paper from Elle, put it in his pocket, and walked towards Mr Dwight, to console him.

 

As the dawn marched around towards the middle of the globe, five pairs of feet stomped on the sandy edge of a massive crater in the middle of the earth.

 

“Wow! That looks deeper than the ocean Sir, must be over a thousand feet deep,” one of the marines commented on the first look of the crater, not confident to step on to the edge but bending over to have a better look. Their Captain stepped out of the pack, walked straight to the edge, stood there and looked down below as a few pebbles took a tumble down a lonely fall. After having a good look at the face of the crater walls and the deep dark valley they enclosed, he motioned his men to follow him as he stepped back towards their chopper.

 

“Now listen boys, we only have a few hours before this place becomes a furnace,” Captain Connors briefed his men once again, “The crater is over three kilometres in diameter and by the looks of it; the entire oil rig infrastructure has collapsed in. I don’t expect any survivors but we will still keep our eyes and ears open. However, the more important thing to look for is the presence of any material that seems out of place, a rock that could be a part of a meteor, or just anything that doesn’t fit with the surroundings. Our chopper will drop us as close to the bottom of the crater as is possible, but it cannot fly even remotely close to the edge of the crater. Such walls are prone to collapse and we don’t want our only escape to get buried along with us. We will walk towards the edges looking for any caves or openings, then climb, jump and grab our way up to them, looking for specimens and signs of life if any. Once we have inspected everything, including any caves or holes we find, we will make our way back to the centre in four hours time to get a lift back. Any questions you have?”

 

“No sir,” Captain’s boys replied in unison.

 

“Good! Lets’ move,” Captain Connors gestured his men to follow him back into the chopper where he gave instructions to the pilot, “Drop us in the middle of the crater, and collect us from there in four hours time.”

 

“Roger sir,” the pilot replied as he ferried his cargo towards the designated spot.

 

“The bottom is hardly visible sir,” one of the marines commented as he opened the helicopter door to prepare for getting lowered into the crater.”

 

“Watch where you step boys, don’t let go the rope until you are sure the ground beneath your feet is firm,” Captain Connors replied, “We don’t know how much has been dug underneath. Mining leaves the land like a sponge; it can collapse, causing landslides and pits above the surface, and craters deep inside.”

 

“Yes Sir,” his men replied as they prepared to glide down the ropes one by one.

 

“I am going down first,” Captain said as he grabbed the rope in his hand from one of his marines, “Do not disembark until I radio an all clear.”

 

“Sir, it could be dangerous down there. Let me go in first,” one of his men said as his friend standing behind the Captain shook his head and gestured to cut it out.

 

Captain Bradley looked in his eyes, smiled, and then put a hand on his shoulder, “We’ll talk about it once we get back Private Simmons!” And Captain Connors slid down the road.

 

“You idiot, why did you have to butt in,” Simmons friend quipped.

 

“What did I do wrong?” Simmons asked innocently.

 

“Last time a soldier volunteered to help Captain Bradley, he was discharged from the service and flown back by a special plane to New Saisho,” his friend replied, “Do you know what Captain was doing?”

 

“No,” Simmons asked as his heart palpitated.

 

“He was hunting two sharks with one knife, the other one having attacked when Captain was in the middle of his first kill,” the friend replied.

 

“What happened then?” Simmons asked.

 

“The marine was the first one to be served shark meat that night and now he works in a bakery in New Saisho,” his friend remarked.

 

After gulping down a big lump, Simmons asked, “Did the marine help the captain though?”

 

“Are you kidding? Before the marine could even jump in water with a gun and a mask, Captain had already sized up the two sea monsters,” his friend replied.

 

“Its’ all clear boys,” Captain Connors made the announcement on the radio, “Just watch your step as the ground is highly rocky and uneven, and remember not to let go the rope until your feet are firmly on the ground. The last one will radio the helicopter to depart.”

 

One by one the other four members of the team, including Simmons, glided down. Once they were at the bottom, the chopper was sent away for the time being and Captain Connors gave them further instructions, “We will spread out, two hundred meters between each one of us in case the walls collapse. Keep your radios turned on and make sure your every step is on firm surface before transferring your weight. Remember what we are looking for, and if anyone finds anything, radio me and stay put. I will join him to see if we need to collect the specimen.”

 

“Yes Sir,” they all replied.

 

“Good! Lets’ move,” Captain Connors remarked and they all spread out, slowly and slowly. It took them about half an hour to hit the bottom of the steep wall, and their arduous climb began!

 

After another hour and a half of searching one of them found what was more disturbing than interesting, so he radioed the Captain, “Sir, its’ Private Mathew Kline, I just found a human arm, and it looks eaten!”

 

“Reveal your position Private,” Captain Connors immediately asked.

 

Private Mathew Kline signalled by waving his hand.

 

“I see you Mathew, just wait there,” Captain Connors said as he carefully made his way across the rocky surface, towards Mathew. On inspection of the human origin specimen, the bite marks were easily evident.

 

“Now what the hell could that be?” Mathew was a bit concerned.

 

“It looks like bite marks left by a creature with many serrate rows of teeth,” Captain Connors replied as his attention was suddenly caught by a strange sound. “Get away quick,” Captain Connors replied as he dropped the specimen, and looked around, “Jump on that rock piece now!”

 

He nearly pushed Mathew on to the projecting rock surface he had noticed along the wall, and followed suit as the wall above their location collapsed. A slight delay would have buried both the Captain and Private into history.

 

The dust settled down to reveal an opening to a cave just where they had found the arm. Captain Connors looked at the wall above to make sure there was no other collapses imminent, and once sure, he started to climb his way towards the opening.

 

“Follow me,” Captain instructed Mathew as he himself quickly climbed into the cave. Mathew was about to start his climb when the wall collapsed again, this time closing the mouth of the cave once again.

 

“Damn it,” Captain Connors said as he picked his radio and asked, “Can you hear me boys?” But he got no response! He tried it a couple of times more as he stood facing the blocked exit, but it was no use. He had been cut off from his men!

 

Captain Connors latched his radio back onto his waist belt and was about to switch on the light on top of his helmet, when his ears picked up a strange hissing sound, a sound he wasn’t familiar with, a sound that was coming from behind, a sound that was too close for comfort, a sound that could be felt on the back of his neck!

 

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