God Of A Man
“If silence could settle arguments, there would never have been wars.”
Chapter Eight: Dead to tell a tale
Dated: 28th April – 1st May, 2460
Words are golden when they make up a reason, and light when sung in glory. Words are a curse when they humiliate, and a boon when they mend hearts. Rich are those who never run out of words, and dumb are those who don’t know how to use them. Evil are those who abuse their mastery, and treacherous are those who feign silence when there is plenty left to be said.
Arguments are good when both sides are listening, for that’s when either or both of them would end up with a better understanding of what was discussed. Without a discussion, nothing new emerges. Evolution of species is a biological act, while evolution of society is a linguistic. Thoughts cannot propagate without dialogue, and dialogue not only spreads what is good, it can often fix what was broken in the original idea.
Nothing can be proved by staying silent when something definitely needed to be said, either in contrast or in approval. But if nothing is said, it is the society which loses out, for without those words an effort lies wasted. And in a life where time is one thing no one knows how much they have, futility of efforts is a bane of progress.
Captain Aman Ahluwalia knew the importance of the job at hand, but he was also aware of the unchecked power that vested in the Commander-in-Chief by virtue of her position. It was too arbitrary to be handed even more control, especially when matters to be dealt with were unknown, and no one knew what the best approach to any new evolving situation might be; whether a calling from the heart, or a decision bereft of all emotions. Of course having had his way wasn’t going to be enough, especially in the light of the feared threat that was taking on monstrous proportions, in the light of the resources and technical abilities at disposal.
“So what do you reckon are our chances of survival?” Charles Harrison asked off Aman when the newly constituted Defence Core Committee met, the first thing on another pitch black morning.
“First of all, we shouldn’t fear catastrophe right at the outset,” Aman informed them, “It is not like the so called Space Pirates are ready and waiting to massacre us. They don’t even know us, and might never so!”
“What makes you so confident?” Anne asked as everybody looked on.
“Firstly, if Mishansa’s information is correct, that the space pirates indeed travel at the speed of light, then we might be safe anyway,” Aman’s response however surprised them, “And the reason is; and I may not be a scientist, but I am pretty sure I’m on my money on this one; when you travel at the speed of light, or faster, everything around you would itself appear only like specs of lights. And our one single spaceship might not even make a spec.”
“Then how come Mishansa’s people got butchered?” a surprised Anne asked.
“Probably because they had a much bigger fleet, of around two thousand ships, that all travelled close to the speed of light,” Aman was equally forthcoming in his reasoning too, “So they might have caught the enemy’s attention due to their relative movement, and for all we know, their numbers might have been a cause of alarm for the enemy to launch a pre-emptive strike, fearing that they were facing an invasion.”
“And you reckon neither should be the case in our situation,” Chris asked.
“We might not even get anywhere near their world ever,” Aman replied, “Mishansa’s folks were unlucky in that they probably ran too close to their world, in a region of space they rule. I mean; they had travelled for twenty five years without an incident, didn’t they?”
“That is true,” Anne quipped shaking her head, but she was still concerned, like everybody else, “But what if we do run into them?”
“Now that would be really unfortunate,” Bradley joined in the conversation this time, “For we stand no chance, and this is not because we don’t have much more capable weapons with us. The best of our technology would stand outclassed in this battle of un-equals. Our best missiles barely travel at some multiple of supersonic speeds, while we have an enemy that travels way faster than the speed of light. They would have easily run an entire fleet of ours out of ammunition, before taking us out like sitting ducks.”
“So we are doomed to die in case we meet them?” Chris asked half-heartedly, as if he didn’t know the answer.
“We are travellers on a journey, at the mercy of those whose kingdoms we cross, and not an army on a war path,” Bradley replied, “Even if we were faced with an enemy much less accomplished then ourselves, we would have never stood a chance, for we haven’t marched out to conquer. Only an army led with a dedicated aim to lay waste all that lies in its’ path is ever equipped, or prepared to re-equip at a short notice when mobile.”
“So what do we do? Just die,” an exasperated Anne threw her hands up in frustration.
“We can die,” Aman quipped in response, “Or we can play dead!”
Improvisation is the key to success for any venture. Doesn’t matter how detailed the initiating design is, unexpected issues may always crop up, throwing the best laid plans into jeopardy. It is about how quickly and efficiently can those hick-ups be addressed, that determine the levels of success for a venture.
“Sir we have retrieved as much wreckage from the downed craft as we could have,” Lieutenant Sage Ward informed the Rear Admiral as soon as his team arrived back at the shores, having just finished a long and stretched wreckage salvage mission at the high seas.
“Good work boys,” Rear Admiral patted his man before turning around to address his Engineer, Gurio Wallace, “Have a look at what more has been recovered, and see if that can assist us in deciphering the strange technology used in this craft.”
“Now I may be just imagining sir,” Gurio replied, “But I firmly believe; there is someone with even better technology out there than this one.”
“How much have you been able to decipher of this one so far?” the Rear Admiral asked.
“Sir, the alloy and design used by this civilization is way stronger that any used by us, and lighter too,” Gurio replied, “I am just not sure how the strange micro exhaust valves lining the previously recovered wreckage perform aerodynamically. I suspect their craft had a lot more thrust than what is provided by our current technology.”
“What are the chances of our developing a similar design, should we manage to decode their technology?” Rear Admiral asked.
“Sir, without any change in engine or body design, if we manage to fit in these new elements into our design, it might improve our craft’s performance, but I must add that any such improvement would not make our craft as capable as what this downed craft seems to be,” Gurio was cautious in his expectations, “Computer assisted modelling suggests it could be done, and should result in a marked improvement in performance. But then of course, we’ll have to test a prototype first before making any big commitment. We are on course for a quick prototype test in four weeks time.”
“Let’s stick with that schedule,” Rear Admiral quipped before turning around to Lieutenant Jake Reginald, “You and your team heads out tomorrow morning. Let us get to the drawing board.”
Relationships are similar to going to a war in quite a few senses. Each bond, howsoever slight, brings with it expectations that have to be met for it to last any meaningful length of time. It is like reinforcements that have always to be kept ready and regularly supplied, if any hopes of victory are to be entertained. It is not the initial skirmishes, but sustained efforts that yield result in a battle. In a relationship it is not the initial commitment, but consistent pandering that determines its survival.
“So how are you?” Suzanne asked Bradley just as she made a coffee for herself.
“How do I look?” Bradley however asked as he took a sip from his own.
“Perhaps my question goes beyond the looks,” Suzanne asked, “It is not an easy situation to be in for anyone, more so for you; for your troubles are possibly the biggest.”
“Are you concerned or scared?” Bradley asked.
Suzanne took a deep breath, turned around and looked Bradley square in his eyes, “There are a hundred and twenty lives on board this spaceship, and I have no expertise to assist you. Should I be more concerned for you as someone I appreciate, or should I be more scared of what it could mean for those others who are under my care, dependent upon my expertise?”
Her question left Bradley speechless and uncomfortable. A handful of moments trickled away in uncomfortable silence, as Suzanne looked keenly at Bradley’s face, searching for an answer in the lines that sculpted his forehead. Finally she turned around to leave when Bradley stopped her, “Wait, I have something to show you.” Suzanne turned around, and Bradley put his coffee cup away, removed his jacket first, and then his gloves, revealing one completely greyed out hand. A shell shocked Suzanne stood there in horror, but that was just the beginning. He removed his shirt to reveal how one half of his torso had turned the same grey shade, with the shade headed up both North and West.
Suzanne mumbled a few words that made no sense, before finally managing to say, “Into my clinic, right now!”
Dark is not the night, for night is nothing more than the clear image of what exists beyond the limits of any heavenly body; the space. It is day which has many myriads of shades, all of them confined by the same bounds that keep the space out. Same is the story with troubles and triumphs, with the former being a part of the wider existence and latter being an achievement of the determined.
Little Jack opened his eyes one more time, much to the relief of Jenny. Last night had been really tough, with him falling in and out of consciousness, and Jenny helpless. But the young lad fought out well. It was hard to tell when he was merely asleep, and when he was unconscious, but with his body temperature finally settling down, the trouble now seemed to have been overcome.
“Good morning Jenny,” the little champ exclaimed as he rubbed his eyes, trying hard to adjust to the bright day outside.
“Good morning sweetie pie,” Jenny chirped with a smile, as she softly tweaked his nose. She then paused to reflect for a moment, before exclaiming, “I’m glad it was you and not me, for I might not have survived in all this hopelessness.” And tears rolled down her eyes yet again.
When hope is lost, the burden of life is the heaviest. And sometimes this fear is all that is needed to ensure the hope lives on.
Three helicopters had been dispatched for ore retrieval; one with men to man the location, other with men to milk it, and yet another to retrieve the load. The task was cut out for Lieutenant Reginald and men under his command; first secure the area, then keep the beasts at way while men are digging and retrieving, finally make the rear of the departing party.
“Stan, you are going to be the watch,” Jake gave last set of instructions, “I want two gunners each on eight corners, one firing their weapon, and the other reloading in the meantime. Remember, grenades are to be the last resort when all else will fail.”
“How tough are the beasts?” Lieutenant Ward, who was going out with them for the first time, wasn’t yet aware of what he was up against.
“They are weird,” Jake replied, “The problem is not how tough they are. The problem is that they have many tentacle-like arms, with each arm having a mouth of its own, and they can shoot out in a flash. The tricky part is that their bodies may appear to be far, but their arms have a really long reach.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun,” Sage quipped, “Seems more like reusable projectiles.”
“Exactly,” Jake confirmed it for him.
With the direction and location known, the journey to the site was quicker than their last turn. The descent was quick, but the outlook surprising. While the open mine and the hillock in its middle were clear, there was thick vegetation extending right from its edge. The first time they didn’t have the largesse to look ahead or behind, but could only run for their lives. This time the stillness felt haunting. Stanley perched himself firmly on the top of the hillock to keep an eye out for trouble from any direction.
“Do you see any movement?” Jake asked him on his shoulder mounted radio.
“Negative,” Stanley replied as he strained around.
Jake thought for a quick second before issuing next set of instructions, this time to the pilot of the second chopper, “We see no movement yet, but we have work to do. Bring the men in! We’ll deal with the trouble whenever it shows up.”
One by one more men were dropped into the zone, with shovels and spades, ready to dig up matter and load it into crates dangling from the third helicopter.
“Any movement,” Jake asked Stanley again.
“Negative,” was again the answer.
The top seemed soft to shovel. Cautiously at first, the men started to dig, building speed as they progressed, until one man’s shriek caught everyone’s attention. Another kind of organism had emerged from underground, wrapping its’ tentacles around the legs of the man digging. The gunner closest started to shoot, but more organisms emerged from underneath attacking almost all of them.
“The beasts are out,” was a loud yell from Stanley as the beasts in the field emerged out too.
“Left man in, right man out,” was the cry from Jake, and everybody understood what he meant. The man on the left turned to shoot the animals inside the mining area, while the right one shot the intruders coming from outside. But things were looking bleak.
Heavily outnumbered and out resourced, Jake finally made the call, “Fire the grenades Stan.” Stan obliged, but before he could have done much damage, an opportunist bird swooped down to grab its meal perched atop the hillock. Luckily for Stan it failed to grab a hold of him, but toppled him off the top. Antonio, flying the first chopper however didn’t miss his shot and brought the flying predator down. Stan quickly regained his position and went on the long range assault. His efforts soon started to yield result. The bloodbath lasted for about forty five minutes, but the ground was finally secured, with only two men injured, thanks to the safety provided by their heavily padded suits.
“Let’s get on with the digging,” Jake commented after overseeing the evacuation of the two injured men, dispatched to their makeshift clinic, set up just outside the forested area.