Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Mission

ission Vehicle MV:Khoj was nearing the dwarf planet Haumea in the Kuiper belt. It was on a prospecting mission to find precious metal that was needed back home. Commander Rajan did some quick calculations to estimate when they would reach their destination.

“Flight Officer Shradha, it looks like we have another 7 days to land, give or take a few hours!”

“Yes, sir. The nav system confirms that as of now. But once we leave the Kuiper belt, we are into unmapped territory. We will need manual navigation in 2 hours and 10 minutes.”

Commander Rajan understood what that meant. He turned to his navigator Lieutenant Kareem who was standing before the touch-screen display that showed the trajectory of MV:Khoj. Kareem was the custodian of the most valuable information resource on the spaceship, locked safely in a vault that could only be opened by two keys held by him and the Commander. Both of them would lose their life rather than lose the keys.

“Lieutenant Kareem, you should get some rest. It will be a long week for you. You are the only qualified manual navigator onboard.”

Shradha looked up briefly at the Commander and turned back again to the flight controls. She saw the reflection of the casket on her monitor. The casket held the late Lieutenant Das, the backup navigator who died three days ago in the attack by the pirate ship, Crusoe. Shradha wiped the tears in her eyes.

The MV:Khoj, slightly damaged from the Crusoe attack, roared through space towards her destination.

* * *
Lieutenant Kareem was exhausted. Staying awake for six and a half consecutive days had taken its toll on him, in spite of the stay-awake pills. These were the final hours before they descend into the dark. It was time to open the vault.

Commander Rajan and Kareem inserted their keys and at the count of three, both of them simultaneously turned them to unlock the vault. Kareem opened the vault door and carefully extracted its contents, an old paper map and a tablet of glass with some numbers etched on it. He placed it carefully on the table top and opened it.

It was an old map of the world. There were three points of reference marked on that paper map.

Shradha exclaimed, “I have a visual. There is our Earth reference… The Great Wall of China, still visible from space!” She punched in a few keys in her console and the MV:Khoj’s surface mapping cameras turned on to establish its Earth reference coordinates using the three locations on the Great Wall.

Commander Rajan took the glass tablet. If the Crusoe attack had been successful, Rajan and Kareem’s instructions were to burn the map and break the glass. The Commander punched in the numbers.

48° 51' 29" North, 2° 17' 40" East

The MV:Khoj locked in on its destination—Eiffel Tower, Paris, France: The site of 10,000 tons of steel.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


urphy’s Law. This shouldn’t have happened. But it did. The only thing that went according to plan was the trigger of the high priority E1 escalation notification to Major Kazani and Dr. Najma. The SR-302 had woken up from cryogenic hibernation. Containment measures had failed.

The SR-302 was at large.

* * *
Dr. Najma and Major Kazani were in the war room set up for handling the crisis. Dr. Najma pulled information about the SR-302 and brought it up on the large wall-mounted displays for review. She clicked on ‘Donor’ and the following information popped up:

                Donor name: Sudesh Kolambkar
                D.O.B: Aug 7, 1980
                D.O.C: Oct 12, 2001

“This shows a Bandra address in Mumbai. Our notification protocol requires that addresses are verified and confirmed every month. The last verification was done 13 days ago. We are unable to reach Mr. Kolambkar's phone. Captain Sharma, you and your men go to Mr. Kolambkar’s residence. I need you there until we get this thing under control” said Major Kazani.

“This information was accessed by SR-302 just a few hours ago. See the ‘last accessed’ timestamp on this record!” remarked Dr. Najma.

“You are right! It is heading to Mr. Kolambkar’s residence” nodded Major Kazani in approval.  “Captain Sharma, get going… Remember, our contract allows us to terminate SR-302 under the current circumstances. So, you are allowed to engage as you see fit! There is a chopper waiting outside to transport you and your team to Bandra.”

Captain Sharma led his team out to the helipad and the bird was up in the air in less than fifteen seconds.

* * *
The SR-302 was traveling south on the Western Express Highway towards Vile Parle in a Mumbai cab.

“Do you work at the lab, Sir?” enquired the driver.

“Yes. How long to reach Bandra in this traffic?”

* * *
“Why would the SR-302 to go in search of Mr. Kolambkar?” asked Major Kazani.

“The medical records of Mr. Sudesh Kolambkar show that he suffered from acute psychosis and harbored suicidal tendencies. He has since been cured of that illness and is leading a perfectly normal life. The SR-302 was cloned on Oct 12, 2001 as shown by the records, before Mr. Kolambkar was cured.” said Dr. Najma.

“So what?” asked Major Kazani, a little puzzled.

“At that time, we pioneered the technique of transferring feelings from the donor to the clone. We did not account for the psychoanalytic phenomenon called Transference. It is a process by which unconsciously retained feelings and desires are redirected at a new object. The clone is acting on its suicidal urge except that transference comes into play. SR-302 wants to murder Mr. Kolambkar!”

Major Kazani’s phone rang. With the eerie silence in the room, Dr. Najma could hear Captain Sharma on the line.

“Major, we were late…”

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