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.

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