Space Oddity

Read Time: 9 mins

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Space Oddity

Big Wheels

The Supreme Council was under session for the past two quarters. I had never seen them in such frantic discussions since my father had to hold an emergency meeting a lot many solar cycles ago when a small robot had landed on the surface. My wife came up to me and told me that food was prepared and that I needed to adjourn the meeting for another quarter.

“Brothers of the soil! We have been discussing this matter for the past two quarters continuously and we are yet to reach any conclusion. My beloved suggests we take a break, re-energize, re-focus, and regroup when the small moon shows up next.”

There was a murmur of agreement and all the heads of the tribes stood up to leave.

I left the royal cave and entered the dining cave. My three children were already eating. My wife walked past me and sat at the table.

“You seem worried, my love!”, my wife said as she served me the food.

“Yes, father! I have not seen you like this before!”, my eldest daughter also added.

“I am worried. It’s been almost 25 solar cycles since the aliens started taking an interest in our land. My father was the first one to witness it. He united all the tribes and set so many advancements in motion that our soil is more united than ever before. But all his advancements failed to detect that thing.”

“What is that thing?”, my eldest asked.

“I’m afraid we can’t know for sure. It looks like it has wheels, but not the kind the aliens have sent before. They’re bigger in size. It keeps playing some sound and there are unconfirmed reports of an alien person in a suit. I don’t know how all our trackers missed this thing. We aren’t prepared!”, I couldn’t even eat.

“My beloved, please don’t worry! You are smart and we have the best minds of the soil working on this. Please have some food, your mind needs it.”

I tried to eat.

The Meeting

“Brothers of the soil! We meet again to discuss the object that hit our land. I thank the North tribesmen for bringing this to the council’s notice as soon as that object entered our atmosphere. As per the reports of our scientists, the object has a color very similar to our land and it has wheels far bigger than the robots which the aliens keep sending us. There is some sound which the object makes in repetition. Am I right chief?”, I looked at my chief scientist.

“Yes, my lord.” He nodded. “If I may continue, this object also has an alien person wearing a suit. It has not moved since the object collided with our land in the northern crater. We do not know if it is alive or dead. But we need to decide on our strategy soon. The alien planet is currently farthest from us so they will only come to know about this incident once they circle around the sun.”

“My father, may his soul rest in soil, united all of us!”, the tribesmen murmured in agreement, “but his strategy towards these aliens is something I am not completely on board with anymore. 25 solar cycles ago when the first robot hit our land. We didn’t know what to do. We set up our tracking systems, let the robots do whatever they wanted, and just continued to ignore them. But our technology has advanced as well, we need to take a look at the aliens too!”

The crowd was with me still so I carried on, “After deliberations with my chief, I have decided that we will use our illusion signals, go up to the surface and study this object.”

The crowd gasped. The head of the Western tribe stood up, “I knew your father, son! I agreed with his policy of non-intervention and I agree with your policy of studying the aliens too. Times have changed, earlier there used to be one robot every few solar cycles but in the past three or four cycles we’ve tracked so many more. I think I can speak on behalf of many others, my only concern is that we’ve never gone up to the surface in ages. Our people walking on the land is just a myth. It is too dangerous up there.”

The head of the Southern tribe also stood up, “Son! I do not believe in myths. I believe in science and I believe in you. But we should not risk exposing ourselves. Currently, the aliens believe that this is a barren planet. Your father was wise to not interfere with the alien robots. Our land is useless, no one can survive up there. The temperature is harsh, there is no gas to breathe and no food can grow up there. If the aliens believe that too, maybe they’ll never send another robot again.”

The head of the Eastern tribe was the last one to stand up, he was young and to maintain the decorum, he waited for his chance. “My lords, I heard what our wise leaders of the West and South have said, but unfortunately I do not agree with them. I do agree with you. These aliens sent one tiny robot 25 solar cycles ago. They have advanced so much that the robot they’ve sent now is 10 times bigger and can carry an alien person. These aliens are relentless. I don’t think they are sending robots to just experiment on the land. They are trying to find anything that is useful for them to come to visit us. We need to use our advancements and delay that as long as possible. I know you will do the right thing for us all.”

I bowed to him and all the other heads. “We will be sending a mission to the surface. We need to get a check on what these aliens are planning. My chief is ready with his team. We will send 10 people and we will record everything.”

The Mission

I stood looking at the 10 screens showing me 10 different perspectives of the surface. I had a mixed bag of feelings. My father would have been so proud if he was here. I was also scared for my 10 people up there on the surface. One mistake could jeopardize the entire work of my father and expose us to the aliens.

“Illusion signals are up. The aliens cannot see us on the surface, all their transmitters are just resending the last frame captured.”, my chief scientist spoke to me. “Our mission leader is the only one who can talk to us. This is to minimize unnecessary sound waves on the surface.”

I nodded. “Can I talk to him?”

“In a few clicks sir! He will activate the signal once he reaches the object.”

I nodded again. My hands were perspiring.

Static noise screeched through the entire room.

“Mission captain to mission control! Over!”

“Mission control hears you, mission captain! Over!”, the chief responded.

“We are at the object, Over!”

“Umm, what do you see Captain?”, I jumped in.

There was no response.

“You need to say "over" sir!”, my chief nudged me.

“Oh yes! Over!”

“Our predictions and scans have been correct sir. We see a large object on four wheels. It has been lightly battered because of the crash I guess. The alien person is strapped to the seat and there is a faint sound. I’m approaching the object. Over!”

“Be careful, Captain! Over!”

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom (ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (five, four, three)
Check ignition and may God's love be with you (two, one, liftoff)

“There is no alien sir! Over!”

“What? Can you repeat? Over!”

“There is no alien sir. This is just a statue with a suit. The object has "Don’t Panic!" written on the dashboard and there is a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in one of the secret boxes inside the object. Over!”

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do

The music kept playing.

“We’re opening up the object sir! Over!”

I saw the crew carefully open up what looked like a door on the top front of the object. There was a small circuit board. On it was written -

Made on Earth by humans.

Starman is dead

SpaceX Control Center

Hawthorne, California

“The Starman crashed into Mars!”, a person kept frantically looking at the monitors.

“Do we have any images? I need confirmation before I tell Elon about it!”, his manager stood next to him.

“We lost signal, the last thing that reached us was Space Oddity’s last lines.”

Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you "Here am I floating 'round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do"

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- Darshan Pania