Survivor

Due to mysterious reasons like hatching underground conspiracies and working for shady secret organizations being a total lazy jackass, yours truly had to disappear from the spotlight and minimize his blogging time. However, you have been granted special access to read his latest sci – fi story, which unlike his earlier works is actually complete. 😛


From this distance, the red giant looked hellishly insane – a raging inferno of hydrogen, helium and carbon. Even as they watched, fiery rivers coalesced and disappeared, the surface burned with a searing blood-red vengeance, and giant prominences which could easily have wrapped a dozen earths within it burst and crackled with its accompanying flood of radiation. It was a red giant in its very death throes, a star ready to go nova.

They watched with disinterested curiosity as the planet closest to its star emerged out of the red background. As finer details began to appear, they saw that it was a sterile world – its lands were scorched, atmosphere lost and oceans evaporated. It was a planet barren of a single bacterium and will never know life again.

The long space vessel landed on the night side of the planet with a careful grace. It was not completely dark; the land was suffused with a pearly glow from the sky. The scene in the heavens looked like a star-gazer’s dream: today the stars were a hundred times brighter than they had once been.

The first to descend to the ground were the Elgae, strange and intelligent winged creatures from a planet that was a hundred light-years from here. The searched the land for days, patiently hunting for signs left by the planet’s long gone occupants. On the third day, they found it.

***

Continue reading “Survivor”

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Good Night – Part 3: Observation Room

This is Part 3 of a sci-fi series in this blog known as  “Good Night”. Part 1 and part 2 are below this post. Sorry about the delay, guys! (If anybody actually missed reading the series, of course.)


They … should have sent…a poet, thought Pete.

Though the view was something he had seen countless number of times, or at least more times than any of the crew in the ship; it never failed to amaze him. Out there, beyond the glass were innumerable points of nebulous light, not twinkling, like those on Earth; but shining consistently, as though strong and sure. But the thing which quite stopped his breathing was the faint band of misty light that stretched across the large window in both directions.

In Latin, this band of light was known as the Via Lactea.

The Hindus called it the Akash Ganga. The Ganges of the Sky.

The Chinese called it the Silver River.

To astronomers, and the rest of the world, it was simply known as the Milky Way.

To see the Milky Way from the polluted skies of Earth is quite impossible, unless you are away from the lights of the city; where the stretch of milky whiteness could be discerned. In space, it is easily apparent to the eye –  Pete could imagine the Milky Way as some sort of meticulously crafted three dimensional image, suspended in glass.  As he watched form the window, his eyes gradually adjusting to the darkness, even more things became visible. Just to the front of him shone the constellation of the archer, Sagittarius; in the direction of which lay the burning center of the galaxy – albeit obscured and bisected by a distant lane of gas and dust. Near the constellation, he could see the open cluster, simply known as M7 – a dense collection of thousands of stars; which looked like a live snapshot of swarming fireflies. Or like pieces of shining jewels when viewed through water. He even thought he could see a tiny, oval patch of dim light, which was actually the Lagoon Nebula; a colourful river of collapsing molecules and star formation.

This, was a view of the grandest scale of things. As he watched, he had a faint sensation of a tingling in his spine. His hands loosened as his muscles grew tired. A plethora of conflicting emotions washed over him…the first one was the sharpest and most terrifying. As there was no “up” or “down” since the gravity-loss, it took little imagination to shift his perspectives. His mind fixed on the easiest interpretation of the surroundings – the feeling that the slice of outer space in the window was “below”, and that he could easily “fall” into the infinite abyss of the sky was all too predominant, and it felt overwhelmingly dizzying. Imagine, he thought, the gap below growing larger until space itself would engulf your whole…

He involuntarily tightened his grip on the rails, although he knew that such a thing could never happen. Next, the window to the outside was completely invisible and transparent – this fact sure did make him feel open in an otherwise completely closed spaceship, but he still knew that he was in a closed world, separated from the harsh vacuum outside by the strong glass. Thus, he was visited by feelings of both liberation and confinement in the same instant.

Pete closed his eyes and paused to clear the mess in his brain. The pink after-images of the stars still shone beneath his eyelids.

“You know, I felt the same about this place as I think you do,” said a voice behind him.

Good Night – Part 2: Zero Gravity

For a fraction of a second, Pete’s heart seemed to have shot upwards to his mouth, which was stuffed with space food. His mind raced with distant memories of the fateful day when the Pegasus caught fire. No, please no, not again!
It was then when something totally remarkable happened. He actually felt his feet losing contact with the ground. He was, in every sense of the term, flying. Flying…as in, floating in mid air. Pete blinked …and then sighed with visible relief, as he slowly realized what had happened. The Ring had simply stopped rotating somehow – his keen ear had perceived that the distant, humming motors were no longer humming. The loss of artificial gravity would be inconvenient, but it was certainly not a life threatening issue. Most probably, one of the flywheels that caused the Ring to rotate was jammed. He presently resumed his eating, or at least tried to. He took a pinch out of the mixture of nutrient rich algae with a spoon and brought it to his mouth. The hard mix, lost contact with spoon midway through the journey and became a projectile. Pete gave up – the tasteless food wasn’t very appealing anyway.
Like most spacecrafts of the day, the Starry Messenger was equipped with a centrifuge – the large Ring, several hundred meters in diameter. The Ring would be made to spin, so that the occupants inside would feel a force attracting them to the outer rim of the Ring, due to influences of centrifugal force. This was the best way to approximate gravity, but it definitely did not feel like normal gravity. For starters, the inmates would feel that the ground was always concave, instead of flat. Walking throughout the Ring’s circumference would be quite a curious affair, as the all the person’s visual senses would tell him that the ground is rising, but he could easily “climb” the ascension. People, with bad humour, often likened this to a hamster running inside a horizontal drum. Second, if you happened to release a ball while inside the Ring, it actually will not fall straight to the ground. Instead, the ball would trace a complicated curve, (at least from the viewpoint of a person inside the rotating ring) so that it would land a few feet away from where it was released – this fact had come to him as a shocker when Pete first encountered a centrifuge in Earth orbit as a sixteen year old.* Of course, things were even more complex when the ball was thrown.
The reason for artificial gravity was, of course to spare the astronauts from the tiresome burden of exercise – without gravity the bones got weaker, which could only be remedied by exercise. Now that the Ring had stopped spinning, Pete found floating extremely likeable, and he would have easily preferred zero gravity and tiresome exercise to the alternative. He closed his hands around his knees, and by pushing on the wall near him; tried to achieve a couple of mid-air somersaults, with spectacular results. Peter Floyd becomes Peter Pan, he thought idly, remembering J. M. Barrie’s flying fairytale character which formed a part of children’s bedtime story curriculum. Presently, he saw two of the ship’s maintenance crew, Kolya Mikhailovitch and Jason Nedland, heading for the hatch which lead to the main axis of the Ring. Pete hurriedly grasped a wall to stop his spinning. “Everything okay Kol?”, Pete asked Kolya.
“Wha- oh, yes it is fine. It seems that the motors got burned. Don’t worry – it is even remarkable that they lasted for so long. We have loads of spares, it could be fixed in a jiffy. Probably three or four hours will…uh-oh, we got to go mate,” Kolya said, with an hurried articulated gesture toward Jason, as one of the loudspeakers announced angrily, “Would Mr. Mikhailovitch please report to the axis immediately!”
Pete watched as Kolya opened the hatch and left. As he now had nothing else to do, he floated around the the Ring, holding on to the railings and avoiding any obstacles that were floating because of the gravity-loss, before finally deciding that it was time visit the observation room. Again.
When the circular hatch leading to the observation room was opened, Pete immediately felt almost a complete darkness engulfing him. He glanced once at the distant wonders that lay beyond the strong glass windows.
His first reaction was to look away. The stars were just too beautiful.

This is Part 2 of the sci fi series called “Good Night.” (Read Part 1?) There is even a lesser probabilty that you would like this!

For a fraction of a second, Pete’s heart seemed to have shot upwards to his mouth, which was stuffed with space food. His mind raced with distant memories of the fateful day when the Pegasus caught fire. No, please no, not again!

It was then when something totally remarkable happened. He actually felt his feet losing contact with the ground. He was, in every sense of the term, flying. Flying…as in, floating in mid air. Pete blinked …and then sighed with visible relief, as he slowly realized what had happened. The Ring had simply stopped rotating somehow – his keen ear had perceived that the distant, humming motors were no longer humming. The loss of artificial gravity would be inconvenient, but it was certainly not a life threatening issue. Most probably, one of the flywheels that caused the Ring to rotate was jammed. He presently resumed his eating, or at least tried to. He took a pinch out of the mixture of nutrient rich algae with a spoon and brought it to his mouth. The hard mix lost contact with spoon midway through the journey and became a projectile. Pete gave up – the tasteless food wasn’t very appealing anyway. Continue reading “Good Night – Part 2: Zero Gravity”