Chapter 9 – For Science
Author’s Note : Thank you, friends and readers, for reading this far. I am going to update as frequently as possible. Any reviews or opinions privately or publicly are most welcome! If you are visiting for the first time, there are links to the earlier chapters below, you might want to read them ahead of this.
18 December, 2305 AD – Neutral Zone
Chetak’s arrival made things a lot brighter and a lot less tense in the group of people in the launch pad. The day for the departure was looming on top of them. There were just three days remaining. Everyone was on the edge. Chetak ran from one dorm room to another licking the inhabitants and waking them up. Everyone had become warm towards him. How could they not! He was adorable!
Robert wasn’t an exception. He built a dog cell rather reluctantly but soon changed his stance and was glad he made that decision. Jokes were often made about how Brugu and Chetak were two peas in a pod. They were very similar.
The suites in Noah were packed with the things that the passengers would require. The fuel panels were filled. The craft would be powered by the Solar Energy that had been captured in the past six months. It was ingenious. But there needed to be backup fuel for emergency. Robert wasn’t taking any chances.
The passengers themselves were completely trained and made compliant of the practices that they would have to adhere to in the course of the journey, however long it might be.
Brugu, Jenny and Saleem had taken it up with zest and great ease whereas Rajendra and Henrikh had characteristically been fussy and hard to deal with, throughout.
This afternoon though, the afternoon of 18th, all of them were in a good spirit outside the launch area. They were all sitting their backs to the tree they all like; easily their only similarity. They were all so dissimilar; the tree somehow brought them together. The tree was an 800 year old banyan tree with long roots and ample shade, enough for a whimsical group of 5…and a dog. Yes, Chetak loved the tree too. He happily ran around the tree as if it was his job, and he did this daily.
They had an array of lengthy and branched discussions under the said tree; today was another such day. The topic isn’t of importance to us, but what they saw suddenly in the middle of it is.
Chetak suddenly gave a warning woof. He had a wide spectrum of barks for different occasions. He was special. Saleem was the first to get up and spot the problem.
“Hey, there’s someone coming this way” He said.
Brugu quickly climbed the tree to check at the distance. There indeed was a man. He wore ragged clothes; a cloth hat adorned his aged head. He looked tired. He was wobbling their way. When he informed his group that, Henrikh snorted and said “We can see him from down here, you know. It’s as if you look for excuses to climb a tree”
Brugu quickly got down, blushing and said “Yeah, well. It’s a hobby, I think”
Jenny and the others smiled at the exchange and then proceeded to hurriedly walk towards the newcomer. Jenny was the first to reach him.
“Who are you, sir? Why are you this far into the region?” She asked.
“Got – to – eat”, the man said and promptly collapsed on top of her.
20th December, 2305 AD, Neutral Zone
The departure was scheduled to happen at midnight, just as the clock struck for 21st. No one knew whose bright idea it was, to do that. But that’s what was decided.
The launch pad was a hive of activity. The passengers themselves, including Robert were ordered a day of rest, since the next day was going to be hectic. It was imperative for all of them to be satisfactorily rested. So they were all cooped up in their respective dorms, Henrikh was sharing his dorm with the strange newcomer who refused to share his name. Poor guy drew the short straw. There hadn’t been anyone more mute and ill-mannered as this newcomer. All he did was eat and make strange sounds. Henrikh was barely getting a wink of sleep.
They all tried to get the guy to talk; even Chetak tried. He seemed scared of the dog; he seemed irritated by Brugu and Saleem. He seemed disgusted by Jenny (Well, that’s a first), and he seemed to take a liking to Henrikh. Rajendra refused to get in contact with the unruly stranger, much to Henrikh’s envy.
He seemed on the edge, as if he had a couple of screws missing. He seemed sane, yet somehow senile. Soon no one bothered him. But his muttering had become borderline unbearable and everyone was considering throwing him out, but then these were true people of religion and believed in charity. That was a hard task.
Soon nightfall arrived and everyone suited up and gathered at the launch pad. Even Chetak had a cute little suit Robert personally designed for him, probably as a peace offering for his earlier – now corrected – attitude towards Chetak.
The passengers – Brugu, Jenny, Henrikh, Rajendra, Saleem, Robert and Chetak all entered their respective suites in the craft, strapped themselves into their seats, clicked the ignition READY buttons and waited.
Meanwhile, the support staff was running here and there with breakneck speeds doing the pre-ignition tasks. From engine and fuel checks, to last minute altitude calculations, time checks, projectile checks, silo readiness checks, payload checks – and then it was midnight.
The countdown began. Robert’s voice reverberated throughout the launch zone. He voiced “Alright, ladies and gentlemen. The thing we have worked the past few years is finally come. We would now be launching for our journey to Planet : Beacon from Planet : Earth. The journey would take us sixteen days. Two days of which would be spent in hash speed and 14 days in hyper speed. We will do an exploratory swipe of the planet’s surface and check what it has in store for us and return. The time is here. The countdown will now commence. Ignition – ready” and he waited for others to concur.
“Ready” said Brugu, Jenny, Henrikh, Saleem and Rajendra. Chetak gave his ‘I agree’ bark.
– And it took off. Noah was off. It looked beautiful as it flew its way out into the space. The staff cheered with satisfaction at the successful project and most of them even had tears in their eyes.
Robert closed his eyes, his life meant something. He had done it. Brugu and the others looked out at the fast moving sky with wonder and amazement. They were away!
A silent figure watched the launch sequence with downcast eyes and a brooding expression. He was still muttering and wearing the same clothes he had worn when he had arrived. He looked demented, like a man on a holy mission.
As soon as the take-off happened, he walked into the launch pad, right where the spacecraft stood just a few seconds ago.
A few people in the staff rushed to stop him shouting “Hey, go away” or “You can’t be here, sir” and the likes.
The guy ran to the centre without stopping. Once he was there he yelled “For science. For the Earth. Fuck you. All of you. Valhalla!”
The staff ran to him, but they couldn’t reach him. There was an explosion. An explosion that took all of them by surprise – a pity, as that’s the only feeling they’d have. Everything in a 500 metre radius was instantly vaporised. There was a crater left behind. The entire launch zone was now history.
Two people stood just outside the crater radius. As if they knew where it was going to end.
“Well what do you know; the bum fool got it done. You win the bet, Patrick.” Cherrie said.
“He wasn’t a fool, Cherrie. He was just… queer” Patrick voiced.
They then promptly turned back and walked away into the night, leaving quite a lot of destruction in their wake.