At twenty past six in the evening, the usual winds of Pluto played frolic with his long and curly hair.
He could hear distinct sounds jarring him back to reality from a scenic view that made him forget the past and the future. Pluto breeze was always like that: melancholic and sweet-sounding to one’s ears, cajoling one through centuries of unknown time, and which also produced an unknown effect that dulled the mind, compelling one to nearly half forget the present time in a timeless world.
Perched high at nearly sixty-five thousand feet above the surface of Pluto’s soil, upon its highest mountain top, he revelled upon the sight now clearly etched amidst velvet darkness stealing across an oncoming night.
The second moon of Pluto was rising!
He stood up gently, taking utmost care from habit rather than any other planned movement, to avoid disturbing those loose pebbles and stones underneath his flexible steel shoes, feeling gentle tugs of a breeze gradually gathering momentum, understanding from previous experience that the same breeze would soon convert itself into gale-force winds.
Then, no human would be considered safe. Not in 5356 C.E. and certainly not upon Pluto.
The second moon of Pluto always appeared in the starlit skies later in evening time, inevitably accompanied by those harsh winds that cut across the planet’s surface, curving and shaping their individual patterns across its soil.
At an interval of forty-five days in 5356 C.E., comprising one month of Pluto time, the second moon arose in those starry skies at an interval of every alternate month, and it altered Pluto’s surface formation for a month to come.
* * *
He took one final look at the Moon’s orange-milky globe appearing gently in spherical form, before beginning a slow, steady walk down predetermined routes between low-lying boulders. The journey, which stretched for the most part of an hour, took him across undulating, desolate mountain plains, and down to a height covering fifteen thousand feet, towards an other end of a low-lying plain, nearly to the edge of Pluto’s highest mountain at a height of fifty thousand feet now.
He approached star-formation space rocket-ship with a determination defying logic, for the past and future meant no actual reality to him while that trudge down fifteen thousand feet had brought him back to wakefulness, to present-day time.
Computer-controlled radars built within the space ship’s internal, interlocking functions detected every and each sound his footsteps made in correlation with ever-increasing gusts of wind; and instantly upon confirmation of sound barriers that his boots created, secondary robotic computers were auto-switched into action, scanning the soil, the horizons and evening lights of Pluto’s heights.
These computers matched the approaching human’s DNA patterns with other prerecorded patterns now intact within central mechanisms that also controlled nearly the entire operational functions of the ship. His personal vehicle was authorised to travel within internal confines of their solar system, comprising of fifteen planets.
He knew that Forward Space Research Labs and Advanced Space Research Labs, back on Earth, needed those details every minute and day of Pluto time. He was also aware that time was short, because this would perhaps be his last and final flight to Pluto for a long time to come. Perhaps a six-month interval at minimum time.
* * *
They were expecting an extraterrestrial flight within one Pluto day, sixty-five hours at the most. It was supposed to have occurred one and a half Pluto days earlier.
At least that was what Advanced Research Programme Flights, now docking two and one half miles beyond Earth’s second moon, had determined.
Capturing radio signals emitted from unknown sources from the vastness of their universe, was a well-known and accepted factor, and Advanced Research Programme Flights — ARPF’s as they were commonly termed — performed that simply: filtering such radio signals which did not match the level of static interference or noise, jumblers of interstellar sounds that constantly moved across the universe, termed as meaningless and undeterminable sounds.
However, there existed other deviations of related inter stellar noises and therefore, those particular sounds — which, when filtered into finer deciphered jumbles of sound patterns — made sense; these noises, deviating from irregular patterns of usual static and translated into fine, comprehensible messages, caused definite meanings to be translated, which even the unscientifically inclined janitor sweeping ARPF floors, did not fail to understand.
* * *
He adjusted loose strands of longer hair that flew across his face, while climbing up steel ladder steps to a height of fifteen feet, looking back and down just once to confirm that the steel ladder steps were mechanically autofolding two feet under him.
An adequately large steel single door opening in to De-compression adjustment chamber was activated by a series of computers, now programmed to keep steel door open until he was comfortably seated inside.
“Please verify your identity. You are requested to confirm your nail print of the right thumb. I repeat! Please enter your right thumbnail into the confirmation slot beside the entrance door.” A metallic, computerised voice eased near-total metallic stillness within the confines of the space ship, and he complied. This process inevitably implied that now, nearly every important function controllable within the parameters of the space ship — including take off and landing functions — would be directly converted to his individual, and personal manual control.
Other, more important functions also required confirmation of his second set of DNA patterns, to enable activation by methods of manual control. There existed no other alternative, just simple, manual controls at higher levels of space ship functioning.
“Allow take off at the fifth second immediately after De-compression adjustment,”he said to nobody in particular, noting the thick steel entrance door slide noiselessly shut while feeling softer air pressure against his chest as internal atmospheric conditions inside the ship replaced harsher Pluto air. The central computer data banks were beginning to accept his voice patterns.
He was finally distanced from wilder Pluto air at fifty thousand feet.
Forty-five minutes later, he remained gently relaxed upon the pilot’s chair observing softer, cleaner air outside, at the surface level of the planet.
“Operate all doors to open function and prepare to land upon the ground.” He knew that his voice prints were being processed within billionths of seconds at every occasion he issued verbal commands; through innumerable protonic controlled receptor devices built at every vantage point, both within and the outer material of the ship.
* * *
He was neatly poised to take the first step on Pluto’s soil when he felt a tingling sensation run across his skin.
Upon Pluto soil, they termed such a happening as e.s.p., they called it: extra-sensory perception.
He however, knew more.
He always termed such reactions as alterations to a thought process — of remembering that he had left something behind — upon the control panels inside the ship, in chamber One.
He had ‘forgotten’ to recover his favourite collection of Pluto pebbles: gathered and collected at sixty-five thousand feet immediately prior to the gentle commencement of those fierce, relentless winds and about a quarter of an hour prior to leaving his favourite view spot, at the near-tip of Pluto’s highest mountain top.
There was rumour rife that nearly half a billion years ago, the height of this particular mountain exceeded one hundred thousand feet; that Pluto’s second moon and its accompanying fierce winds had gradually eroded and corroded its soil and of course, those rocks molding the mountain to its present height.
His colleagues and fellow scientists would surely revel in examining those pebbles under Mercurial microscopes, he contemplated, nearly completing a physical process of turning at one foot above soil level, while holding on to the steel ladder. These protonic microscopes, when placed in correlation with the harmless light of planet Mercury, provided immense possibilities to detailed scrutiny of any matter whatsoever, placed under its lenses.
“Are you sure that you plan to revert back to launch heights?”
That impossible sounding voice brought him to a near standstill, as he immediately attempted to glance upward fifteen feet, yet gripping those steel ladder handles with ease. He glanced upwards to the entrance of compression adjustment chamber.
A tiny speaker phone located into his shirt button at collar level had produced that incredible voice, rather, relayed it to his ears. He was acutely aware from innumerable inter planetary flight experiments earlier, and factual personal experience during such actual flights, that there existed just one single source of verbal transmission to this speaker, phone; and that was located within the ship, inside one of its forward computer consoles in Chamber One.
He made futile attempts to hide consternation and disbelief, which were clearly etched upon his facial expressions as he now looked directly upwards — on this occasion — while concealing an ever-so slight shift of visual angle. He now attempted to peer inside the decompression chamber.
He was totally aware that Pluto Starfield stations — located fifteen hundred feet under surface level of Pluto and equally favourably-equipped with combat levels of ARPF back at Earth Central Stations — housed competent crew who were now surely scanning Pluto horizons. They must have surely recorded that verbal dialogue also. Since they all were scheduled to report back to Earth Stations one day earlier, he however, had transmitted ‘Level Pluto Two’ requests directly to Earth Command, favouring grant of an extension for a further one day and a half, upon Pluto.
Surely, ARPF did correctly decipher those very vital messages from the extraterrestrials. Their interception or landing coordinates were encrypted in almost every Earth based computer within their solar system. Such an inter-planetary exercise ranged from Moon’s primary man made satellite, to Forward Space Research Labs upon Jupiter, Mars and Neptune. That the aliens had refrained from maintaining coordinates during probable landing procedures,was another factor.
Earth Central promptly sent him an irregular debriefing. “One does not need requests when one is so distanced from Earth stations. It is you who stands upon Pluto. It is your prerogative to extend or cut short your stay, for the business at hand.”
He therefore arrived at that highly unlikely decision to remain upon Pluto for hours, scanning the starry skies from an affordable vantage point of sixty-five thousand feet, sometimes starlit and at other duration of Plutonian times, moonlit.
Launch heights upon Pluto soils implied fifty thousand feet above zero level, a comfortable height facilitating smooth and uninterrupted takeoffs and landings to and from, any place within their solar system, including Earth.
He managed to keep his gaze fixed to the steel entrance door at the near edge of his ship.
A man bearing strong resemblance to an earth Human at visible range, wearing identical clothes... no, the apparel resembled his own spare suit discarded back in chamber Two; yes, that was it!
But wait, a few feet behind him, neatly silhouetted in fading sunlight and bright orange-milky light of Pluto’s second moon, he could visibly distinguish few more people!
They had really made it after all. They neatly maintained coordinates at place and time, as was transmitted through space jargon which had been regularly received by the Forward Space Research Labs upon Earth, Moon and Jupiter constantly, for the past hundreds of years in anticipation of some signal, any communication from extraterrestrials in outer space.
He made another primary decision of wasting no further time in an attempt to unravel the factor of ‘how the extraterrestrials managed to maintain such near total silence, specially inside the computer controlled, mechanically hypersensitive interplanetary rocket ship.’
Human technology combined with computer knowledge, had programmed this particular space ship to carry simply one human. Any further numbers of passengers exceeding one, required his personal and manual interference into computer commands. His voice patterns and his secondary DNA patterns were specifically correlated into computer data banks, both within the rocket-ship and again, especially upon Earth Station a few weeks earlier. It was an near impossible feat to disregard the joint correlation of two sets of computer commands: one from within ship computers and the other set of computer commands emanating from Earth Stations. The rocket ship functioned primarily upon acceptance of both these factors
Copyright © 2003 by Deep Bora
Deep Bora welcomes readers’ views and comments. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org