The year is 2157 and humankind has developed a deep space travel, a rather new technique made possible with the successful bending of space and time curvature. In the recent past, ice like caps were discovered strewn across the Martian surface, and with the discovery, there was an exponential increase in the number of missions to the red planet. India achieved history in 2014 after sending the MoM Mangaalyaan, which still orbits the red planet like some faithful follower. Back Earth, the space crunch had already begun and new missions were sent to planets like Jupiter and its moons.
Mangaalyaantra (Mars machine) was a spaceship completely developed in India and was capable of carrying a five member strong crew into the atmosphere of Mars. Accompanying Mr. Chakravorty were Mr. Srinivasan, Mr. Singh, Mrs. Patel and Ms. Das, the brightest brains in the country on space travel, planetary soil, robotics, geology and a host of other subjects.
March 23rd, 2157: The probe landed, rather crash-landed on the Martian landscape after a long and vigorous two-year journey. It was Mr. Chakravorty, who was the first person to awake from his cryogenic induced sleep. Waking the other crewmembers from their artificial sleep, he went to resume control at the hull when the reddish hue of Martian soil caught up with him. The terrain devastatingly red, as if all life had bled out on the soil and died; their remains nowhere to be found. Deadly UV rays of the sun would obliterate anything within seconds here
Mr. Srinivasan (speaking aloud): – We crash landed! All systems are down, starting emergency backup power.
No sooner had he uttered those words, Srinivasan started rotating the huge handle to generate the backup EMF- after a few seconds, the spacecraft once again bathed in the electronic lights and everything was back to normal. Almost.
Mars had deep river like trenches, which, when seen from the overhead serves to tell that eon(s) ago, water or a similar viscous fluid ‘may’ have flowed through them like on Earth, corroding the surface. Maybe thousands of years ago, when the weather and climate were much favorable, life ‘may’ have flourished on Mars, maybe we are just derivatives of the life, which had formed here. Thoughts like these were clouding up Mr. Chakravorty’s mind like some cumulonimbus cloud.
The girls were controlling the droids and equipments from within and the men busy collecting samples outside.
Ms. Das –Let me run some tests, and check for traces of elements, see whether some elements are Earth like or not.
Her sweet voice trailed off at the last part. Everybody was apprehensive. Mr. Srinivasan, Mr. Singh and Mr. Chakravorty took turns to run for experiments into the deep trench like structures and that is where the problem first unveiled itself before them. Mrs. Patel and Ms. Das were controlling the operation from the spacecraft-
Mrs. Patel and Ms. Das: – Control unit to team Alpha, we’re getting some interference from the west side, the team had better check it…
Mr. Singh (raising his hands, trying to feel): – The Sun is so much brighter at this time, the lack of any atmosphere, the ozone layer and magnetic field combined and coupled with such low atmospheric pressure; life could never survive here. What is interesting is…
Mr. Singh’s words remained sealed inside his shiny space suit, for they were spell bounded by something moving in the distant horizon. Shocked and out of words, Mr. Srinivasan, the cool-headed amongst the lot, was the first to speak.
Mr. Srinivasan: We have discovered something moving on the west boundary just at a little distance from the ravines, and its huge, blackish and moving fast.
Anita Das almost instantaneously revolved the camera in the direction in which the Alpha team was pointing and what Mr. Chakravorty saw on the screen made his knees weak and jittery. Huge creatures, eight legged with massive tentacles and suckers were advancing in on their current position. Whilst all of their cameras and satellites and transponders were sending information invigorated with the recent developments, the suit-clad brainiacs were thinking of a rational explanation for all of this.
“H.G Wells was right after all” was the first thought which struck Mr. Chakravorty. Fumbling, he needed to think clearly and rationally, it was a defining moment for all of humanity and now the people of Earth would desperately depend on the five odd scientists to do something. But it looked like as if Mars had space crunches of its own.
Mr. Srinivasan: How come we did not encounter them before?
Mr. Singh was amazed by the lopsided creatures and froze right at in spot, clearly moved by sudden revelation. When his teammates decided to run for their lives, he uttered the words-
“If god made us in his image, I wonder who made them?” it was a line he picked up from a science fiction movie he saw in his childhood. Never, ever did he think he would use them some day. The delineation of the disgusting creatures was advancing every second, the nerds had little time left if they wanted to get out of here alive.
A primary analysis and scan of the creature revealed similarities with a microorganism found on Earth. Barely 1.5 to 2 mm long, Tardigrades are eight legged creatures, which are known to withstand extreme conditions and can survive even in outer space.
‘Is this some divine intervention or just calculations gone awry?’
Srinivasan was a valedictorian, it was therefore expected he would arrive at the answer first. “The earlier Mars missions must have acted like pollination agents and brought them here, where in the absence of competition and some amount of frozen water, they flourished and magnified manifold to attain the shape and size we are seeing today.” He uttered in a single breath. “Whatever may be the case, these gigantic Tardigrades are a force to be reckoned with and we must pack up and leave before they kill us.” Ms. Chakravorty said ruffling through the scientific equipments in a fervent yet a fastidious manner.
Mr. Chakravorty and Mr. Srinivasan noticed the missing crew member only after boarding the craft. Mr. Singh was so engrossed in the organism, he did not move from his position. By the time the craft hovered up, Mr. Singh could be seen lying on the ground, offering his respects to the organisms- indeed he had gone insane. As they were taking off, Ms. Patel could not help but think of the sardonic situation here, man on his own curiosity induced alien life on Mars and roared out laughing as the spaceship corrected itself into the trajectory. These brave people had in fact seen a form of God.
©Biswadeep Ghosh Hazra