MID PACIFIC OCEAN

UNIFIED WORLD COMMAND

24 Dec 2050

I was hurrying up and gulping down my hot chocolate, as I always did before a sortie. It was my routine, lucky-charm, a habit or energy-charger, I don’t know what – but it was something I did right from my academy days.

The gargantuan aircraft carrier was steady as a rock, even in the choppy waters of the Mid-Pacific. It was my second tour of duty and I was a veteran on the UWC Navy Ship Targus —having flown more than hundred sorties already, I was revered and respected. 

“Get your booty moving, Wing Co VAYU,” my copilot, Harry said, “the machine is ready. Let’s take it on a spin.”

VAYU had stuck with me right from the Air Force academy in Bengaluru, the day I had introduced myself to my course-mate as Vandana Yuvraj. “VAYU, that sounds good…” he had said, “ready to challenge the skies?” I too mulled over it. I imagined myself walking on the tarmac, with the helmet tucked in my arms, towards the Advanced Jet Trainer….ready to be the wind beneath the wings! Yes, I had made up my mind. VAYU it would be!

Me and Harry briskly walked towards the cockpit of F-54, the most advanced fighter jet on the planet. It could fly almost to the edge of the atmosphere and at Mach 3 it was beyond any other enemy aircrafts. The Unified World Command had a humungous tally of thousand such beasts distributed over fifty aircraft carriers.

“Why did you come back to Targus?” Harry asked, “For the thrills? Or you don’t have someone waiting for you back home?”

“Who gets to fly such a deadly five billion dollar beauty, that too with all expenses paid? I live for it Harry. You know it. And back home. . . let him wait if he wants me!” I winked at Harry and we both laughed heartily.

I was a third generation fighter pilot. My Dad, Yuvaraj Singh flew the Rafales, my grandfather flew the MIGs for the IAF, and now, after flying the Sukhois, here I was – flying the Black Beauty, as they called it.

I got my brief quickly revised with Harry, before we started the engines. We were to fly in a formation and do an area domination exercise over the  Arabian seas. The conflict was now a Trilateral one. The Middle Eastern powers on one side, the Chinese on the other and the rest of the world fighting to maintain the balance. It was a crazy world. Each trying to dominate the global order, economically and with might. I cared little. I was happy with my adrenaline rush – when I was air-borne. That’s what mattered. Nothing else.

At exactly 0403h we took off from Targus, the other three aircrafts following us closely. In twenty minutes we were scouting the enemy warships and aircraft carriers. The Chinese had a massive presence there. We did some spectacular maneuvers and supersonic flybys. The Chinese warned us of not crossing into the no fly zone. 

“Let’s have some fun. Fire the flares,” I said enthusiastically.

“Vayu, we don’t have clearance for it.”

“Just do it. We will say that the visibility was poor and we noticed some activity.”

We fired the flare and the early morning dark skies were lit up with a bright golden hue mimicking dawn. It looked  surreal and beautiful. The dark blue waters, the horizon in the distance, the man made machines floating down below, were just some specs in the vastness of nature. 

“These are moments to live and die for,” I said.

“Yes, absolutely,” Harry said as his eyes reflected the golden hue.

The electronic radar on the cockpit showed some activity. They were getting airborne. The Chinese birds had taken off.

I decided to clear the field lest it got out of control. Without further ado I passed instructions to move away from the zone and head back home. To Targus.

We flew in a formation, but in the distant I could see the dark  skies with intermittent flashes warning us of some real bad weather. I decided to break off and fly individually. As we approached the dark Nimbus clouds, I noticed five bright shimmering lights on the extreme right of my cockpit view-pane. 

“What the hell is that Harry?”

“Guess the Chinese have lit up the fireworks,” he said.

“We are so far off from them now. It can’t be them. They don’t look like flares!” I said.

Just as I said this, the automatic viewfinder in the cockpit zoomed on it and locked on it. It started bleeping and issuing a warning. The cockpit was abuzz with warning signals.

“What do we do? Is it an aircraft?” I said with a concerned tone now.

The other aircrafts had already gone ahead and they probably did not see the phenomenon. I wondered if we should clear and just zoom ahead and forget about it.

But my inner instinct advised me against it. I said to Harry, “Let’s go and chase them and find out for ourselves.”

‘Are you nuts? We don’t know who or what they are. . . Let’s buzz off.”

I quickly checked with Targus if they had any reports, but they quickly reported saying everything was quiet.

Suddenly, the lights moved fast and  vanished out of our view. 

I just looked on. My jaws dropped. The aircraft auto-lock system too couldn’t lock on to it. It just disappeared.

“Hey, what’s happening? Did you see that?”

“Holy shit. Where are they?” Harry almost screamed.

I navigated the aircraft in that general direction. Harry did not say anything. He was too shocked. 

As we approached the area where we had sighted them, suddenly not far from us, we again spotted them. Now more clearer. Five bright lights. It looked like some weird flying ship. Nothing like I had seen before. 

As we neared it, suddenly the weather turned nasty, it became turbulent. The aircraft started vibrating and the speed reduced. I tried to accelerate but it just wouldn’t pick up. Now the lights, the aircrafts or whatever-it-was that we were watching was not discernible, it was way too bright. I realised that our controls had stopped responding to our maneuvering. “What’s happening, Harry?” I shouted, now totally panicking. 

“I don’t know. This is insane,” he responded.

Suddenly, it felt like we breached an energy field. A thin plasma membrane kind of film. I could sense it as we went through it. The brightness now felt bearable. I could see the most spectacular and vivid colours in front of us. In that riot of soothing colours, I could trace out the outline of a massive spaceship in front of us.

And then I realised we had lost control of our jet. It just gradually drifted near the massive structure that lay in front of us.

A few minutes passed by and I could see the hatch of the huge craft opening up. 

It was a Space Ship and we were guided inside the belly of the huge Space ship!

***

As I gradually opened my eyes, I found myself strapped to a chair. My hands were latched to the arm rests and there was an helmet kind of dome on my head. It was not fixed, but it hung very close to me.

Weird lights lighted everything, different hues mixed into each other, as if there was some instability in the color scheme. But they were so pleasant to watch.

I was in a huge conference hall kind-of-a-thing, not sure what exactly it was. Harry was nowhere in sight. Apart from a few  shelves and couple of tables, it was all barren. The floor too looked a kind of hard wobbly jelly, semi-transparent. But I couldn’t make out anything beyond it.

I heard a voice talk very clearly, as my mind analysed the alien environ. “Welcome to our Vessel. You are on board Star Vessel Zillionite, from the Cygnus galaxy.”

“What?. . . What are you saying? Who are you?” I spoke horrified, unable to comprehend it.

“I know it will sound weird to you, but that’s the truth. We are from Cygnus galaxy. Five thousand light years from here. If I can make you understand in your terminology.”

“How do you know our language and the terminology?” 

“We have been following you for two and half thousand years.”

Now I was dumbstruck. The strange voice went ahead and said that they had closely followed each and every development on Earth. Humans were never made aware of what they were doing, or why and what they were doing.

“This is the first interaction directly with a Earthling. You forced us to intervene since you followed us. And we were actually looking forward to gaining some vital data from your brains and see the progress it has made.”

“You are going to kill me for experiments?” I said shockingly.

“No, we don’t need to do that.”

That dome on your head will do the needful. Just co-operate and it will be done in no time. It will give an insight into your life and evolution here on earth.

“Just by using this dome? You can do all that.”

The voice cackled a little, and said, “We are a very highly developed civilization. As per the Kardashev’s classification of Extra-terrestrial civilizations, we would be Type 2. To put in simple terms, if you are 5G, we are 18G.”

I looked horrified and dumbstruck. It was beyond my wildest imagination and comprehension. Trying to preserve my sense of self respect, I said, “Then why are you studying me. . . or us?” 

“We have been studying various civilizations across multiple galaxies. We want to know the pitfalls each face and how they evolve. We want to chart our own journey through it. Also, there is a risk of extinction which we want to avoid by learning from other’s mistakes.”

“Do you help such failing systems?”

“Wise question. We did try a couple of times. But it failed. The civilization has to be mature and ready to accept the knowledge we plan to impart. Otherwise it accelerates its downfall. Hence we avoid it.”

This was much more than I could digest. I was made to lie quiet as the dome got to work. For some time it made me a bit confused, and drowsy. All sorts of lights and scenes rushed in front of my eyes. It was like watching an accelerated movie, but in bits and pieces. I even felt various emotions come and go. As if I was reliving each one of them. It exhausted me and tired me.

And then, something inexplicable happened. I could see a totally different world. A highly developed and complex one – teeming with life forms, vehicles, mammoth colonies and industries, all in vivid details. I had never seen or imagined it, but now I knew it existed. I don’t know how. . .

I opened my eyes. “You did it? You showed me your world. Didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“It’s so unbelievable. Am I dreaming?”

I almost pleading said, “Why don’t you show yourself up? I would like to see you.”

“All right. But I am not what you expect an ET to be like. He laughed lightly.”

I had assumed that it was a he, somehow. Based on the voice, I guess. But realised that it’s all manipulated. He or she or it could take any form whatsoever. I had just experienced it.

He came out of a door in that room. He had a form which resembled humans in some ways. But the differences were too many. The face or head looked very different, a globular structure, but with very deep sockets and sunken eyes. But, the moment I looked in them, I was mesmerized; it was azure blue with a glistening layer of multi-coloured film, like oil forms with water. It was one of the most hypnotic eyes I had ever seen in my life. He walked with a shuffling gait and was plump and dwarfish.

He noticed my finely toned and well maintained physique, my dark hair and dusky complexion. He seemed to like me as he intently focused on me.

“You keep yourself fit, I must say,” he said admiringly.

“You seem to know a lot about us?”

“I know more about your society than even you do. It’s my job,” he said matter-of-factly.

I was a bit surprised and taken aback. He seemed to know everything about mankind. I was now getting uncomfortable.

“And what about me? You know about me too?” I said narrowing my right eye.

“As I said, I just studied you in detail. I know every single thought that has crossed your mind, in this life of yours.”

I didn’t know what to say. Here was a guy who not only knew everything about mankind but also about me, my every single thought! It freaked me out.

“And I must also say, that you have a beautiful mind as well as a perfect body.”

I flustered and blushed. What was he saying? Although it felt nice to hear it from an alien. But still, it was weird.

“Do you love that boyfriend of yours? He is apparently waiting for you.” He asked.

This was getting more and more creepy. I didn’t know what to say. I fumbled as I was actually not sure about him.

“Well, I don’t know. I am not sure if I actually love him.”

“You are not sure? Oh… Have you ever loved someone really?”

“Have you? Why are you asking me all these things?”

He stopped for a moment. Not knowing what to say. Then he made up his mind and said with a new resolve, “Let me show you something.”

Saying this he pulled me towards him. He placed both my hands on his heart and one of his hand on my head. It catapulted me into his life. His relationships with his friends, his near and dear ones. And even his girl-friend. It was all  transmitted and shared with me. I relived his every single emotion, almost convulsing and choking on it. It was like having a big emotional orgasm. It was so intense and powerful. His feelings for me also surfaced and I realised that he had taken a strong liking towards me.

This kind of passion and love was what I was looking for all my life. And this alien, I still didn’t even know his name touched my core just like that. It was so perfect!

I could do anything to relive that magic again. Maybe even go off to the distant galaxy he came from. It was so powerful.

“What is your name?” I asked him timidly.

“Misha… that’s my name.”

“Can I come to your world? Just to see.”

“I am afraid not. You can’t survive in that atmosphere. We have not been able to master the atmospheric variations on different planets. That is the biggest bottle-neck in propagating life. There just seems no solution.”

He then finally told me that the time has come to go back. He would be sending both of us back. Me and Harry. I had forgotten about him. It slowly dawned on me as to where I was!

***

It was three years after getting onboard Zillionite. I still remember most of the things vividly. Some parts had been blotched, maybe deliberately.

Harry did not see a thing! He was there inside the spaceship for sure, but he recollected nothing. As if the incident had not even occurred.

On that day, we had gone off the radars for precisely three minutes. Targus had panicked and was about to give instructions to the other aircrafts to go and look for us, fearing the worst. But we had reappeared on the radars!

“Hey, my head feels so heavy? Feels like a throb and my head’s like about to burst,” Harry said.

“Ya, I am all right. Never felt better,” I said looking at him perplexed, “Did you see that? Wasn’t it amazing?”

“What was amazing? Targus was up my throat, yelling at me.”

“Oh… just the sights…nothing much.” I stopped mid-sentence, realizing that Harry had no clue what had happened to them!

Should I tell him, what I had experienced? I had wondered. I thought he would never be able to comprehend it. But how was it that he did not remember anything? I had been totally confused. I had kept quiet.

Now, when I look back and wonder what had happened, I get an overwhelming sense of grief and fulfillment at the same time – grief for I can’t share or relive it and fulfillment because I had experienced the true nature of universe, like the truth beyond truth.

But some questions still remain unanswered and haunt me. Why me?

I look back, relive the emotions and think of Misha. I think I know the answer and smile to myself. The heart pounds and the emotion rushes back. I relive it every single time!

Every time I fly, I keep looking for the bright shimmering lights especially on the right side of my cockpit– who knows when they will come back!

***

Photo By: Richard R Schune

***

(This is an entry in ArttrA-4, a room8 writing game at ArtoonsInn. We’d much appreciate you rating the story and leaving a review in the comments.)

Thanks for reading.

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