To Andromeda And Back
Status: It was the time when WE, the Earthlings had first conquered Mars, and we used our Moon as a fuel stop-over. We do not live on Mars, but the Red Planet comes under our jurisdiction.
Scene 1 [13-8-3097. 2:30 AM; EARTH, TARA’S HOME]
Tara woke up, drenched in sweat. She gasped for breath and her fingers trembled. She got up from her bed and walked to her window, letting the cold air calm her. When she closed her eyes, she could hear the implosion, hear her scream, and even feel the heat radiating.
And in that blinding flash… she was gone.
Tara sighed and opened her mobile phone. She scrolled down and placed her finger next to one of her contacts. She took a deep breath and pressed it.
“Hello?” said a deep voice, somewhat groggy with sleep.
Tara bit her lip and her breath caught in her throat. After a heavy silence, she said, “Ijay?”
“Tara?” Ijay whispered, fully alert now.
“I couldn’t sleep. That night…It still haunts me.” Tara let a tear slip down her face.
“Oh, Tara! That makes the two of us,” Ijay said, with a heavy sigh.
“How are you holding up?” she asked.
Ijay sighed. He gazed at the moon and said, “I’m distracting myself.”
Tara knew when her best friend lied, but at that moment, she decided not to comment on it.
“Why don’t you come home tomorrow?” Tara asked. “It feels lonely here. Amma and Tanishk are in their own world. I don’t think they’re ready to accept that she is gone…” her voice broke.
“I’ll be there. Now, go. Get some sleep.”
Tara sighed and put her phone down. It had been two years since she had spoken to Ijay, her best friend. She ran her fingers through her auburn hair as she looked at the moon. She turned away from the window and walked to her mother’s room. She snuck next to her mother and snuggled close to her in bed, finally falling asleep. She slept that night, for the first time in these two years!
Scene 2 [14-8-3097. 12:15 PM; EARTH, TARA’S HOME]
The next morning, the kitchen air was filled with the delicious aroma of various delicacies.
Tara helped her mother in the kitchen, in a comfortable silence only broken by the occasional light banter. As the time for Ijay’s arrival inched closer, the silence became heavier. Tara finally burst out.
“What is it, Ma?” she asked, placing her hand over her mother’s strained shoulder.
“Are you ready to talk about it?” Akira said as she put the ladle down and pierced Tara with an intense look.
“I’m just tired of feeling empty. I want to deal with it and Ijay is perfect for that,” said Tara, her eyes desperately wanting her mother to understand.
“Well, I’m proud of you,” she finally said, tucking away a strand of hair behind Tara’s ear.
“I just wish your brother, Tanishk could face reality too. Ever since Zia… you know… He has been working late hours and is cooped up in his study. I know he lost his wife, but he has to take care of his health too!” Akira said, worry lining her face.
“I’ll talk to him, Ma,” said Tara.
Then they heard the doorbell ring. Tara smiled at her mother, raced towards the door and opened it with a huge smile. Tara threw herself into Ijay’s arms, his familiar scent comforting her.
She stepped back and looked at Ijay. Gentle hazel eyes, brown hair, and a chiseled jawline adorned his face. She smiled at him and said “Come on in! Amma has made a zillion things to eat just for you. She never does that for me! And if she sees you here already–”
“–- And you’re so jealous of me,” laughed Ijay.
Before Tara could react, Akira had come rushing out and taken Ijay into a tight hug. “Ijay! It is so nice to see you! Guess what? When Tara told me you were coming home, I made your favourite sweet – Jalebi!”
“Oh thank you, Aunty,” Ijay said. Akira smiled at Ijay, gave him a loving pinch on the cheek and walked back to the kitchen.
Scene 3 [14-8-3097. 3:15 PM; EARTH, TARA’S HOME]
After spending a good time savoring a delicious lunch with the lovely family, Ijay was eager to discuss the future status of their mission- The Blue Diamond with Tara.
Tara, Ijay and two of their close friends, Dev and Tanika were part of a highly secretive organization called ‘The Inter-Galactic Space Research Centre’ (IGSRC). They specialized in InterGalactic Defence Control. They were responsible for continuously monitoring communication from outer space and optimising the defence strategies of our Blue Planet for any possible emergency.
It was on a mission they were heading, called Blue Diamond, when they lost their friend and colleague, Zia. It was an unexplainable accident that happened over two years ago. Now, they were hoping to continue the mission.
Once Tara and Ijay were in her room, Tara’s phone rang. She put the call on speaker mode and said, “Tara Ashwin speaking.”
“Ms. Ashwin! This is your secretary. I am calling to inform you that we have received the signal,” said the voice at the end of the line.
Tara widened her eyes at Ijay and immediately logged into her I-MAC-BOOK. She frantically opened up the Blue Diamond mission homepage. She just couldn’t believe her eyes! After three years of hard work and sleepless nights, Tara and her team were able to achieve the unbelievable — CONTACTING THE ALIENS!
But the happy moment was short-lived. Under the new-updates section on their website was a notification that said RED ALERT.
Scene 4 [15-8-3097. 10:30 AM; EARTH, THE IGSRC]
“What are we going to do now?” asked Tanika, her black eyes piercing into the screen once more. Tanika was one of Tara’s trusted friends. She was a talented innovator and programmer too. Her expertise lay in the missile building field.
The quartet of young scientists were in their laboratory –The Inter Galactic Space Research Centre (IGSRC).
“We are not sure that the Aliens- –” started Tara.
“- -are going to attack us? Will probably vanquish our race? Or perhaps start an InterGalactic War?” interrupted Dev.
Tara sighed and read one of the messages out loud once more.
“The Blue Planet is ours. Either submit or face our wrath. The choice is yours“.
“Are we sure this was de-coded properly?” asked Tanika once more.
“Are you underestimating my capabilities?” Ijay retorted.
The message which was delivered to them was written in Sanskrit, and Ijay was the undisputed authority in the study of Asian languages- like Sanskrit. He was an excellent programmer too.
“And what is that?”, asked Tara pointing to a picture of a woman.
Dev narrowed his eyes and said, “Why does she look so familiar?”
Ijay scanned his gaze over the picture and swallowed a big lump in his throat when he realised who it was.
“It’s our Zia! She is alive?! Oh my God! She has been taken. But how? What about the implosion? Was she—”, started Ijay.
“- Yes!” Tara chimed in, immediately recognising the picture. “She must’ve have been taken hostage. Remember the blinding flash? That explains why we weren’t able to find her…” Tara hesitated, “…remains”.
The squad sat numb and shocked as they recollected the horrifying events of that night, in silence.
[04-02-3095. 11: 41 PM; EARTH, THE IGSRC]
Two Years Ago:
“All ready for testing, Zia?” asked Tanika.
Zia gestured with a thumbs-up, her blue eyes bright with excitement behind her safety goggles. The team was on one side of the glass enclosure, all wired up to watch the missile lift off the ground, hover in mid-air and land back softly.
Zia, head of the Jet Propulsion Lab, was on the other side of the enclosure, running the final tests on the rocket fuel being used in the missile.
All of a sudden, they witnessed a huge implosion, without any sound and a blinding flash. The four stood frozen, a horrified look on their faces.
Zia’s spine-chilling scream jerked them out of their stupor.
“What’s happening?” shouted Dev.
“Oh no, Zia!” Tara and Ijay rushed towards the exit.
All of a sudden, the screaming stopped. The silence was deafening. The four reached the testing platform in minutes. There was absolutely no sign of an explosion or a blinding flash.
There were no signs of Zia, either. All that was left behind were her googles.
Back in the present, it dawned on them that the aliens had used ‘Space-Warping’ technology and taken Zia hostage. It explained the muted implosion and the flash, but there wasn’t any time to waste.
The young scientists were able to hear the echoes of an imminent war. An Inter-Galactic-War.
Scene 1 [31-8-3097. 4:30 PM; EARTH, IGSRC]
The laboratory was a conundrum of noises. Different parts of the missile were strewn all over. And, after two continuous weeks of re-modelling and fine-tuning, the missile was ready.
Tara groaned as she sat on the chair nearby. Being the lead innovator of her team, missile-building was certainly tiring. The cost of production, the flight performance, and the efficiency of their missile was in her hands.
Dev stood up from his table and rubbed his temples. He was the lead engineer of his team. He needed to be aware of the survivability, robustness, and lethality of the missile. Even a slight error was just not acceptable. The consequences would be devastating.
Tanika sipped her coffee while Ijay was staring at the ground. Both of them were skilled programmers. The reliability, guidance and navigation control of the missile was their responsibility.
Each one of the team members was adept in his or her field. But at the same time, they were incomplete without one another. Rather, they complemented each other.
The missile that was manufactured by the quartet was unlike any other.
The simple yet lethal missile was deadlier than a nuclear weapon. A tinge of creativity here and some inspiration from the Asthra-Shastra (ancient weapon science of India) and voila! They had manufactured a weapon capable of wiping out an entire life system.
If they were heading for a battle, they might as well proceed with a blood-curdling missile.
Scene 2 [TIME: UNKNOWN, EPSILON OF ANDROMEDA GALAXY; ZIA’S CHAMBERS]
Unmindful of the massive missile build up in her native planet- ‘Earth’, Zia watched her daughter, Vikruthi play among the plants and creepers in the garden. It was almost as if Vikruthi could communicate with them. The sight of her daughter surrounded by plants painfully reminded Zia of her husband, Tanishk, a botanist by profession. Her mind went back to the day she stepped on Epsilon, an Earth like planet in Andromeda. Two Earth years ago, the Ekkatos who were the most evolved race in the Andromeda galaxy, had teleported Zia using Space-Warp Technology.
The Ekkatos had held her hostage, so negotiation of her freedom could be used against the humans. However, all that changed when the Ekkatos found out that the Earthling hostage was just about two weeks pregnant with a tiny human being.
The Ekkatos used this rare opportunity to test their Inter-Species Genome Integration Technology. They used their cutting-edge science to merge plant and human genome. The delicate procedure could only be done on the genome of a human fetus.
A successful protocol to achieve the genomic integration of mammalian DNA with autotrophic DNA was carried out. The hybrid fetus was then implanted back into Zia’s womb. The outcome of this unbelievable experiment was Vikruthi, the very first member of the ‘Pluman’ species. In retrospect, Zia knew that her baby had saved her from certain death at the hands of The Ekkatos.
Vikruthi had the photosynthetic ability of plants; her ability to synthesize her own food was switched on when she walked into the sunlight. Her blood not only contained Hemoglobin, a red-coloured pigment, but also a green-coloured pigment called Chlorophyll. A rare hybrid indeed!
The child held the promise of a total solution to the perennial problem- mitigating world hunger. If only all humans had the ability to synthesize their own food, poverty wouldn’t exist!
But alas, Zia was stuck on Epsilon with her daughter. Zia had made acquaintances, if not friends, with some of the Ekkatos and learnt more about their technologies. If only she had her team with her!
Scene 3 [2-9-3097. 10:30 AM; EARTH, THE IGSRC]
“Why are we doing this again?”, asked Colonel Swaminathan, head of Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN – SPACe).
Tanika sighed for the millionth time that day. Seeking permission from the Government was far more difficult than she thought.
“Respected colonel, the aliens-The Ekkatos have declared war on us. This conflict is not child’s play! If we surrender OUR planet, then those blasted Aliens will wipe out- I mean destroy, our entire race!” exclaimed Tara.
“And if we don’t surrender, then it- this means battle,” finished Dev, pointing towards the missile.
The four friends sighed. They were torn between retaliation and a peace treaty. A part of them wanted to fiercely protect their home- their Earth. However, at the same time, they loathed the idea of mindless war- bloodshed, echoes of agony, and the pain of shattered families flashed through their minds.
Colonel Swaminathan exhaled heavily, the gravity of the situation dawning on him. He looked at the brilliant scientists and asked, “So, how does your missile work?”
“Our missile can only be activated by sound energy. The missile has been programmed to recognize the combined pitch and frequency of four of our voices through the chanting of specific Sanskrit Mantras. These mantras, when pronounced accurately, hold a large amount of powerful vibrations,” said Ijay, pride oozing out of his voice.
“These vibrations are received by the sonic receptors on the missile. The sonic waves travel through the sound propagation tube, leading to the rocket fuel tank. This is where things get really interesting! The sound waves, caused by our precise enunciation of the mantras, will trigger a chemical reaction in the fuel tank. In simple words, our missile works on the principle of converting sound energy to chemical energy,” continued Dev.
“And these vibrations are potent enough to launch the missile,” finished Tanika.
Colonel Swaminathan was mind-blown. He regained his composure and asked,” If you don’t mind, why are the aliens attacking us?”
Tara referred to her I-MAC-BOOK and said, “According to our calculations and research, in a span of fifty years (Milky Way Time), an asteroid is going to strike Epsilon in the Andromeda Galaxy; the Ekkatos’ abode. Out of all the planets that suit the living conditions of the Ekkatos, Earth fits the bill”.
Colonel Swaminathan stood up with a decisive nod. He looked around the laboratory and back at the young scientists. He could feel the determination radiating from them. He smiled at them and said, “We at IN-SPACe, hold IGSRC in high esteem and believe that you will always act in the best interest of our Blue Planet.”
He turned towards Tara. “All the best Ms. Tara Ashwin”. Tara smiled.
“- Ms. Tanika Murthy and Mr. Dev Murthy,” he nodded towards the siblings.
“-And Mr. Ijay Karthik,” he said, while Ijay offered a slight smile.
As soon as the colonel exited the laboratory, the AI system, programmed to research the consequences of launching the missile, pinged loudly.
Tanika scanned the report and became paler with every word. “Oh my god! Guys-GUYS! You wouldn’t believe this,” exclaimed Tanika.
Dev, Ijay and Tara widened their eyes as they read the conclusion at the end of the page. “Oh, my goodness!” said Tara.
Ijay took a deep breath and stepped back. The rest followed suit. “Are we still going to launch it?” asked Dev, his voice trembling.
The squad was still trying to comprehend what was written on the screen. It said:
The high velocity of the missile, when launched, will produce minute gravitational waves. The ripples of those waves in space-time can change the velocity, acceleration, and relative positions of all objects and particles in its way. These gravitational waves have the potency to rip apart the very fabric of Space-Time. These cosmic changes do not return to normalcy immediately. In a span of a thousand years, Earth, Epsilon and all the heavenly bodies in between may be a victim to these repercussions, in many possible ways.
The laboratory was drenched in absolute silence. Those gravitational waves were more vicious than an Alien attack on any given day. Those waves were malignant.
Dev gazed at the missile standing behind him. Shivers ran down his spine when he realized the menacing
capability of their missile. Peace was the one- and the only way out of this.
With a heavy heart, he desperately hoped that the Ekkatos wished for peace.
The young scientists now had to choose- choose between virulent gravitational waves and the ruinous wrath of the Ekkatos.
Scene 1 [TIME: UNKOWN; EPSILON, CHIEF’S HEAD-QUARTERS]
Light years away, on Epsilon, the planet of The Ekkatos, the lead scientist clicked on the incoming message:
Blue Planet- IGSRC Report Update: Consequence of Launching the Missile. The high velocity of the missile, when launched will produce minute gravitational waves. The ripples of those waves in space-time, can change the velocity, acceleration, and relative positions of all objects and particles in its way. These gravitational waves have the potency to rip apart the very fabric of Space-Time. These cosmic changes do not return to normalcy immediately. In a span of a thousand years, Earth, Epsilon and all the heavenly bodies in between may be a victim, in many possible ways.
The above message was received by the lead scientist of the Ekkatos clan- courtesy, the ‘spy-ware’ bug implanted by them in the AI system two years ago (Milky Way time), when they took Zia as a hostage from the IGSRC.
After elaborate discussions with her department heads, the chieftain arrived at a decision. At that precise moment, the Ekkatos clan chose peace over war.
The chief prayed with every fiber in her heart that the humans wanted the same.
Scene 2 [31-12-3097. 11:42 AM; EARTH, IGSRC]
It was a bright sunny morning and the air was filled with hope. Just as promised, the Ekkatos space ship landed on the grounds of the IGRSC. The tetrad of brilliant minds stood near the gates of the ground, while Colonel Swaminathan, Akira and Tanishk waited further away.
The Ekkatos chief stepped down and let the warm rays of the Sun soothe her skin. Tara smiled widely at her friends and back at the chief.
The chief nodded in acknowledgement and stepped aside.
Climbing out of the alien spaceship was Zia, her blue eyes relieved at coming back to her home planet again. Holding her hands was a beautiful little girl – Vikruthi.
Her light blue skin glistened as she walked into the sunlight.
She was the first hybrid – an exotic mix of a human and a plant. She was the key to the future of the whole galaxy.
Vikruthi, the first of the ‘Pluman’ race, beamed at her father. Her entry was received with a collective gasp from her family. With her sea-green eyes, she was the very picture of Tanishk, her dear father. Tanishk felt unshed tears in his eyes as he saw Zia, his Zia walk towards him along with their beautiful daughter. Tanishk and Akira rushed forward to welcome Zia and Vikruthi, while the rest of the team stayed back.
At that glorious moment, a pact between the two races was signed. The Ekkatos and the Human race came together and averted a cosmic war. Good sense prevailed when The Ekkatos chief agreed to move onto Mars, a planet made ‘friendly’ by the efforts of the ‘human race.’ In return, the people of Ekkatos were ready to share the Pluman technology with the humans.
As the Ekkatos chief climbed into her space ship, she took a deep breath and looked around; Earth was the very picture of ethereal beauty, with a wild tinge of elegance.
She made a vow to herself that her people deserved to enjoy this planet. Maybe not now, but definitely in the near future. With a stiff nod at the scientists, she boarded the space ship and disappeared into the sky.
Ijay sighed happily. With a smile on his facehe said, “This turned out way better than we expected”,
Dev and Tanika grinned at each other and walked back to their laboratory. Tara, Ijay and Colonel Swaminathan followed them, relief stretched across their faces.
Everything settled back to normal. Our Earth was safe. Mission Blue Diamond was a complete success.
Or so they thought………
Harshikkha Narayanan lives in Chennai and is pursuing grade 10 in Chettinad Hari Shree Vidyalayam. She takes keen interest in photography and loves playing badminton. She treasures travelling to exotic places like Myanmar and Nepal with her family. She has participated in the Guinness World of Records 2018 – Natyanjali, which was held at Chidambaram, highlighting her enthusiasm for Bharatanatyam. She is an active member of the ‘Solve Ninja’ project in the Reap Benefit community of her school. Harshikkha spends her leisure time reading books, watching movies, and sketching. Her special passion for science-fiction was ignited by her love for films in the same genre. Her interests also include historical fiction and mythologies.