The gentleman astronaut-scientist carefully lifted the usual looking skull-pad, which more or less resembled a helmet of the thirty-fifth century. It neatly encompassed the top portion of his head and the thousands of microchips interconnecting millions other electronic circuits inside the head-pad ceased functioning immediately.
His head felt wonderful! There were no signs of mental fatigue or tension. Headaches had disappeared almost immediately he donned the skull-pad nearly half an hour ago..
The extraterrestrials seated around him smiled in comradeship. “Two minutes please,” he signalled to them with his fore and index fingers and they nodded in compliance. That was the only body language they allowed. He looked around the spaceship while they watched him keenly, noting his every movement.
The two-minute interval ended and he donned the skull-pad yet again. Within moments, he noted their lips moving in speech and the micro processor chips within the skull-pad reactivated all the circuits, performing millions of computer-generated activities.
“This belt is our present to you, Earthling! Amongst the many items we have brought from our worlds and which we gift to you, this belt is of greater importance. Preserve it correctly as we have explained. Here now...” The process of manual transfer of gifts commenced.
“Well... Your Greatness, I really do not know how I may reciprocate your gifts, for our puny fiftieth century technological equipments are obsolete, discarded by your race many centuries ago. Your children do not play with toys like these,” the gentleman stated.
“Now, that does not matter. You have many more centuries of progress before your race comes up to levels of our technology. This message is for the citizens of your worlds, the planets which your brethren now inhabit.” He handed a Proton plaque to the gentleman with cordiality.
“Again, this plaque is for your World Governor, the human who guides and rules your World, the Earth,” an associate extraterrestrial stated, holding a different plaque.
“Ah, wait a moment. We are aware your World Governor also commands the other planets and the gentry living therein: Mars, Pluto, Jupiter, Venus,” the third alien commented. The skull-pad ensured that his alien language was constantly converted into human language codes of the fiftieth century, the verbal accent now totally comprehendible to the gentleman scientist-astronomer wearing the skull-pad.
He tried to speak but was unable to move his lips and immediately understood that the aliens wished to complete their version of the conversation. He listened on to their univocal speech as every member amongst the extraterrestrials spoke in gentle turns.
* * *
“Yes, dear friends, I understand the gravity of the situations and the importance of what you say to me. I also appreciate your concern at proper development of Earth. It has indeed been a pleasure staying with you all the while. Are we still upon Pluto top? Where is your spaceship heading...?
A long while later, he understood from computer data obtained from his official Earth rocketship, that the forty-five day period was over that he spent nearly one Earth month with the extraterrestrials inside their highly advanced spaceship. Perhaps, many portions of those days and nights were casually spent upon Pluto heights in the middle of those lashing storms as the second moon rose and set, while few weeks were spent elsewhere in the cosmos. Where exactly, he had no idea...
He studied the proton plaque which they wished to gift Earth Command, the primary body of humans forming an organization which now ruled the Earth and other human-inhabited planets within their sixteen-planet solar system. They performed directly under the World Governor and were immediately above World Council in matters of hierarchial status of World governance.
Chapter I Many moonsets later
“You cannot change the future!” the gentleman astronaut scientist commented abruptly.
He felt imperceptible tugs of Pluto breeze on his space jacket sleeves; enough to warn him of an oncoming fierce wind storm at a later stage.
“Yes, you can.” The reply from his honourable companion was an open friendly challenge and in keeping with norms of accepted, gentlemanly behaviour.
“Even if you knew future events, you nevertheless cannot change the future.” The reply assumed undertones of stubbornness.
“Consider it this way, my friend...”
“No, hear me out first,” the gentleman argued.
They were standing beside each other at a height of fifty thousand feet above sea level on Pluto Mountain, classified two, anticipating the “breeze” that would herald the beginning of a forty-five day period when none may venture out upon the forlorn soils of Pluto. The insignificant breeze would be quickly converted to harsh and merciless winds dominating the following days and nights. However, now, an initial breeze accompanied by occasional stronger gusts reminded them of the gales that would begin a few days later, in consonance with the second moonrise.
Perched on familiar and rather sloping ground, fifty thousand feet up on a mountain, one was bound to experience more than gentle breeze at all times. And Pluto’s second moon was yet to rise from amidst the heavenly fields, those uncharted starry fields made up of brilliant stars and nebulae.
“A short run up, sir. Only fifteen thousand feet.” The honourable companion interrupted their present and favorite argument.
“I’ll catch up with your comments as soon as we reach the top?”
The gentleman did not answer as they activated their collapsible steel antigravity boots which lifted their torso few centimetres above ground surface at boots level and additionally provided them with the required forward thrust, thereby simulating the art of walking. Digging their toes gently inside the boots, they simply “walked” effortlessly up to the highest point on Pluto: its sixty-five thousand foot mountaintop.
Deactivating their individual zero-gravity boots, they perched themselves upon a ledge at the mouth of a huge semi-cave. It opened out to the cosmos, the “skies” of the universe beyond their solar system. The cave formed a continuous natural rock formation.
The colonists of Pluto had a story that on one occasion, nearly two centuries ago, an astronaut-astronomer was caught up in the gale-force winds that swept across Pluto on the first day of the forty-five day period. He had survived the ordeal by inching to the back of the cave and remained stationed there for the better part of forty-five days, until the planet’s moon phased out in its orbit and disappeared from the view of the naked eye.
Of course, the scientist’s rocketship was hurled out into space by the fury of those devastating winds, and it took a interplanetary reconnaissance party deputed from Earth to bring him back to safety.
* * *
“You will understand, if you consider my rationale. Suppose you are walking home. If you take a left turn at the next crossing and continue walking upon the left-hand sidewalk, you will arrive home at a given time. Right?” the honourable friend asked.
“Go on,” the gentleman gave in reluctantly.
“However, if you take the same left turn and, instead of walking on, walk across the road and then continue walking in the same direction on the right-hand side, on the opposite sidewalk, you will arrive home at a different time.
“And if you take a taxi to your apartment instead of walking, you may not reach your house at all. You may decide to spend the later portion of the weekend evening at the gala event at City Square!”
“Or I may reach my flat earlier than usual, consume my regular dinner earlier than normally, and perhaps even go to bed earlier.”
“The variants are different. I do agree.”
“Therefore, you can change the future, if you know the future. In this case you know that you will reach your house or apartment.”
The gentleman continued on another note: “You may assume many factors. However you may reach your house — whether by taxi or on foot, by the left-hand or the right-hand sidewalk — you can only go into the future. You cannot change the sequence of events: you cannot walk on both sidewalks at the same time!” The finality in his voice ended the conversation on that topic. He had emerged victorious.
Bright orange lights lit up shadows in the skies as Pluto’s atmosphere mingled with fading sunlight. From their highest vantage point they were able to see darkened contrasts of the deep skies and stars combine along with rising milky orange light of Pluto’s second moon.
“This scene reminds me of my observational tenure last year and of the extraterrestrials.” The gentleman seemed to relax as he made himself comfortable upon the wide stone ledge located at the cave entrance. Fading bright orange sunlight lit up the inner portion of the cave walls as far as the remaining fifteen-foot area inside.
“Did you receive Earth Command directives before lift-off from Pluto’s surface? I was busy with our proton batteries. I don’t like to say this, but we may have to leave within one Pluto day and bypass Mars space city. I’ve got to analyze data back on Earth’s Forward space research labs!”
His honourable companion caught up quickly. “Well, I have forced a one way contact relay. Pluto stations were unclear about our frequencies and the ground personnel... Well, they tried to get me through to Earth labs. I would blame cosmic interference and static.”
Earth stations — despite their efforts to negate radio interference — were totally incomprehensible, and all human verbal communication transmitted from Earth to Pluto stations was engulfed by static interference as millions of comets and space debris produced unfiltered sounds in space and hyper space.
“Our radio scanners detected and deciphered the Earth voices, I mean the words of Earth personnel, with no particular differentiation. It all ended in a jumble of noise. Meaningless sounds.”
The gentleman astronaut-scientist smiled. “Such a phenomenon occurs particularly when the second moon of Pluto begins to rise in the skies and is visible to the naked eye. Additionally, the nearest quasars — perhaps a billion lightyears away from the outer edge of our Solar System — also emit radio noise that further complicates Earth radio signals. Quasars are sources of radio waves emitted perhaps, from a stellar-like object, by the way.”
He leaned back gently slightly, basking in the glow of the fading orange sunlight, which was now at its strongest. He closely observed his companion from the peripheral view, the outer edges of his eyes, aware of being under close scrutiny as well, for Pluto’s air provided clear eyesight. It was like taking an air bath; somewhat like air-washing your eyes with the clearest air available.
The skies of the cosmos in front afforded a view which none amongst their observation squadron had ever felt like reporting back to Earth Forward research labs or even to Pluto ground stations, for that matter. It was a visual appreciation, unrelated to computers or radio or proton powered computer radar telescopes. It was not a subject to be forced upon by the upper hierarchy of Earth Command; the squadron members permitted themselves personal moments of individual introspection. Their personal views of space, the nebulae and other galaxies would not reveal more than reports and observations acquired by computers and radar telescopes.
“Can you vouch for one billion lightyears of sight up ahead? Absolutely clearly?” A technical question.
“Well, I wouldn’t wager anything on that, but add another fifty percent to the number of lightyears!”
“I’ll agree with you this time.” The breeze quickened in intensity every passing minute. “Did you know that every planet containing an atmosphere witnesses atmospheric turbulences that start at ground level and rise to the top, where the atmosphere is thinnest? This atmospheric strata produces visual effects. That is why planets and stars, which shine in deep space, appear to twinkle. Some of the stars are suns that are perhaps hundreds and thousands of times more powerful and brighter than our sun, and these are located trillions of lightyears away from Earth, which exists near the center of our Solar System and around which the sixteen planets revolve constantly. However, there are other sun-like stars, which are lesser in intensity compared to our sun. Many of these stars are planets, too.”
“You’re talking school language.”
“Ah! Simply refining your knowledge of the stars.” A mild laugh. “Do you therefore agree with me that the thousands of stars out yonder that form a cluster far outside the limits of our Solar System — and which do not appear to twinkle — are located approximately one and a half billion lightyears away from Pluto? We’ll have to ascertain the correct distance from Earth records, of course. Or from Pluto stations!”
“Correct; if one lightyear indicates the distance taken for light to travel through one complete Earth year.”
“I would tend to agree with you, my friend.”
Before the fading orange globe of the sun began to sink below horizon levels, and the shadows of Pluto and night crept up the mountain slopes, they caught sight of a faint outline describing an milky orange glow: the second moon of Pluto. They were assuredly the first to detect its position visually in the skies, and such a faint orange-milky light would nevertheless continue for the coming few days and nights upon Pluto.
“Were you aware that they represent the future?” Another question.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2003 by Deep Bora