God Of A Man
“You are safe as long as your brother is asleep, not dead.”
Chapter Seven: Alive
Dated: 27th April, 2460
It’s often hard to appreciate the value of someone who is a constant presence in your life. Their actions and reactions are all known and predictable, and while their opinions may or may not be liked, their regular delivery is expected. It’s only when that someone is no longer there that one starts feeling the lacuna left behind. Suddenly one is no longer sure of their actions and decisions, for even if they might not have headed the advice proffered by their missing company, it might have highlighted the pitfalls one might themselves miss in their analysis. Worst is the situation where life puts one in the direct way of harm and one knows, had the missing person been there, there was no way that harm could have even breezed past them.
Lucky are those who can still count upon their numbers to answer their call should a need arise. It’s only when there is no one left to raise their hand that the solitaire becomes haunting. A brother may not be able to stop the ultimate end if a situation has already worsened for a destructive finale, but he sure might be able to hold if off long enough to let one complete what none else might be able to once everyone is gone.
You are safe as long as your brother is only asleep, and can be woken up to answer his calling. What you don’t want is a situation where you need a man, but the best man has already been lost.
One more time he opened his eyes. It had been over a month of induced sleep, and it took him a while to adjust his eyes, but Captain Aman Ahluwalia was finally awake. But soon as he got his bearings right, he swung up like a lion ready to hunt.
“Aman,” a cute little voice however sought his immediate attention. Rosie had been woken up before him this time, and had been patiently waiting for her other brother to wake up, while Captain Bradley Connors kept her calm.
“Rosie, you sweet little angel, how are you sis,” Aman immediately turned all his attention to her as she leapt out of Captain Connors lap and into Aman’s arm.
“I miss mom and dad,” a crying Rosie exclaimed as she hugged him tightly in her soft little arms.
“Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll take you back to them soon I promise,” Aman exclaimed as he caressed the little angel gently. Bradley sat their patiently, waiting for the duo to take their time and let their emotions settle down.
“So is everyone about to die?” Aman finally asked Bradley a direct and loaded question, “You wouldn’t have woken me up for anything less.”
“Not really,” Bradley replied, “But that just might happen sooner than expected.”
“And should I be worried?” Aman asked unperturbed.
“Depends upon what you consider is your duty as a soldier,” was Bradley’s calculated reply, “And I say this for I know you are not a selfish person who would think of himself before his job.”
“And why should my duty be more onerous to a hundred odd people onboard this spaceship, than the many thousands that we left behind to die,” was Aman’s terse query, “Shouldn’t I’ve been there with them, life or death whatever might have come? Didn’t they need me more than those onboard this heaven?”
“Because back there you would have been able to do nothing for anyone,” Bradley however was prepared this time, “You would yourself have been at the mercy of an unknown end, and might even have been one of the first to go, like Jenny.”
“Jenny is alive,” this blew Aman’s lid.
“I hope so, for your sake,” Bradley shouted back this time, “But even more, I hope everyone else is. And if you really care for anyone, then the only way to help everyone is to help this mission succeed. And only then you can think of returning for survivors.”
His statement left Aman speechless for a moment, before he got his wits together and asked bluntly, “Do you really believe there will ever be a rescue mission for survivors?”
His question left Bradley scouting his conscience for an answer. Finally Bradley had the guts to admit the truth, “Maybe you are right, that I myself am not sure if this mission will succeed. But at least we can try, for only if it succeeds can we think of saving anyone else. Just because we don’t know the future, doesn’t mean we should give up on the present. Our present is still in our hands, and we can still give it our best, to try and make a better future. And if we are to succeed, there’s none stopping you from mounting a rescue operation. Damn everything, I will myself be more than willing to follow you wherever you’ll lead a team to.”
A hypothesis could be that every question will have an answer, howsoever tough it might be to ascertain. But reality of existence is that some questions outlive entire generations of those who first raised them. Perhaps that’s why most productive questions are those whose answers serve a purpose. And perhaps asking questions itself, is then an art.
“So what are your findings, young man?” the Rear Admiral asked his mineralogist Marine Jay King.
“Sir, the composition of Pitchblend, or Uraninite, in the sample we recovered is very different from that of what was predominant on our earth,” Jay replied, “This piece is much richer in Uranium, about ten percent by weight of the sample, and even richer is the amount of the isotope that we need; Uranium-235.”
“Should I ask you the figure or the catch,” Rear Admiral noticed a concern in his eyes.
“One will lead to the other sir,” Jay replied, “We were discussing the idea of bombing the area to clear the field for ore retrieval; we might have to ditch that plan. The Oklo Fossil Reactors ran for a few thousand years on a material made up of only three percent fissile isotope. We have almost the entire ten percent of Uranium contained in the sample, in fissile form.”
Every situation has a natural power balance, sometimes in favour and at other against the protagonists. Clever are those who utilize one situation to build up a cushion for the next unknown one.
“We are so glad to have you back Captain Ahluwalia,” a restrained Anne greeted Aman as he and Bradley met her in the conference cabin.
“I seriously hope you would still feel the same after I’ve put forth my terms, if I may,” but seemed like the Captain already had something up his sleeves.
His words immediately put Anne on notice as her eyes constricted. Cautiously she asked, “What exactly is your proposition Captain?”
“Simple,” Aman exclaimed shrugging his shoulders, “I’ll take orders from no one.”
“What?” Anne exclaimed in shock.
“That’s right,” Aman continued, “My first proposition is an establishment of an independent Defence department.”
“You can’t run a parallel government on my ship,” an outraged Anne exploded at the very suggestion, “In fact, what you are suggesting is a coup.”
“I beg to differ, Miss Commander-in-chief,” Aman however continued tongue in cheek, “Defence should always be independent of political interference.”
“Defence is always a crown prerogative,” Anne quipped with a strong glare and a thump of her hand.
“That was when the King himself used to ride to war,” Aman calmly replied, “In a democratic society, where crown keeps shifting heads, the only thing constant in a society is its’ need for security. Of course the government may have oversight over major decisions, and that’s why I have the second proposition; to have a standing Defence Core Committee, made up of yourself as Commander-in-Chief, myself and Bradley as defence representatives, and Mr Charles Harrison and Chief Flight Officer Chris Davis as senior members.”
“Why this drama, if you really want independent Defence department?” Anne however didn’t seem to be sold on any of the propositions yet.
“Because defence is neither one man’s job, nor one man’s prerogative,” Aman replied, “As much as defence needs to be independent of political control, defence decisions in a democratic society need to have a democratic balance to them. Having five members will ensure no single head is burdened or chopped by such a huge task. It is really important to have different viewpoints onboard. And of course, having an odd number of members would ensure we would always have a decision.”
“As grand and noble as your suggestions might be, I unfortunately cannot accept them,” Anne however bluntly turned down the offer.
“Great! See you in hell,” Aman exclaimed and got up to leave, leaving Anne speechless as she just looked at him.
“This is blackmail,” Anne exclaimed.
“I prefer the term negotiation,” Aman quipped.
“You cannot question my authority,” Anne exclaimed, “It dilutes my control over the entire ship.”
“I will not question your authority,” Aman replied, “As a part of the deal you will just not issue me any orders. But in case you forget and do, I will not challenge your authority openly, but your orders will not be followed.”
“I don’t have to take your rubbish,” Anne however tried to stomp down again.
“No, you don’t,” Aman replied with a shrug and turned around again.
“If I may say something,” Bradley finally thought it was time to intervene, “I personally agree with the suggestions Captain Ahluwalia has made, and probably would have made the same suggestions myself, except that I would have presented them a bit more appropriately.”
“You mean, as in politically correct,” Aman however couldn’t resist taking a dig.
“You won’t make it any easier, will you?” and Bradley glared back.
“Well, I guess I can try,” Aman quipped as he decided to sit down again and wait patiently, if one were to disregard his irritating finger tapping on the table.
“The point is,” Bradley however continued, “Defence is a big job and needs more brains to make important calls, especially on issues that can affect the existence of the entire community onboard, and having an independent defence team makes sure the team is not under pressure to commit to ideas which might not be in the best interests of the community.”
“But he wants a lot more than that,” Anne replied back, “He insists on an independent existence.”
“I am already independent,” Aman replied, “You have kidnapped me against my wishes.”
“Not my fault,” Anne exclaimed.
“Not mine either, that I prefer to retain my independence,” Aman retorted further, “I shall take orders from none.”
Freedom is a bird that flies high in the sky when a storm looms, for it believes it can fly above and clear. Naive is the beholder worried for its safety, for if death comes it would still die free, just as it was born free.
“What did I tell you?” a crying Jenny exclaimed as she placed another wet handkerchief on Jack’s burning forehead, “Now look at what you have done.”
“Please don’t cry. I’ll be good tomorrow,” the poor boy exclaimed, his fever damping his words, but not his spirit.
“You better, or I am really not going to talk to you,” Jenny however continued to scold him, “Didn’t I tell you not to play outside in the heat?” It had barely been a month, but Jack had really become an important integral part of her life; the only reason that was still keeping her alive.
“I’m sorry,” poor Jack replied, making Jenny cry.
“I’ll never let anything happen to you,” Jenny exclaimed as she took his little hand in her hands and kissed it softly, before caressing his hair like a mother. Perhaps Jenny’s presence had made Jack forget the grief of having lost his own mother, at least from his immediate memory.
But memories last a lifetime. They define a person forever, even though that definition might be obscure from those who can’t access them. Memories guide and determine one’s present choices and actions. It is really past learning making present choices.
“What sort of weapons do we have on our ship,” Aman asked Anne as she and Bradley led him towards the cabin where Mishansa had been put up.
“This is a spaceship, not a warship,” Anne quipped in response.
“What do you mean?” a surprised Aman asked.
“We have a few handguns and grenades, but nothing fancy,” Anne replied, leaving Aman exasperated.
“How am I supposed to defend the ship?” Aman queried.
“I don’t know. I’m not the expert,” quipped Anne as she stopped by a cabin, “You two go and see her. I better keep my mind safe.” And Anne walked away towards her living space to retire for her time off.
Aman shook his head and followed Bradley in.
“This is Mishansa,” Bradley introduced the two, “And Mishansa, this is, well, I’m sure you know who he is.”
“Only because of you,” a surprised Mishansa however quipped as she rose up from her seat, a queer look in her eyes, “How come you are so silent Captain Aman Ahluwalia?”