THE RETURN OF ULFA I – An eyeopener

(Prelude to the Book)
(If and ever I manage to complete it)
Deepak Menon

Lord Gotrial Ulanob was annoyed. He had paced restlessly up and down the rather cramped quarterdeck of the Royal Flag Spacer ‘Intumescent’, the entire afternoon, waiting for word that the cruiser ULFA 1 had arrived. However there was no trace of ULFA 1.

ULFA I had been dispatched by him against the advise of the despised Commander of the fleet Admiral Baron Muchalest who as usual had, merely left the decision to Ulanob. Ulanob had worked as Muchalest’s adjutant many years ago and he knew his style of functioning. He knew that Muchalest must already have two messages ready with the radio operator. In case the Ulfa I returned, the first message would be sent to the Council describing his brilliant strategy in excruciatingly shameless detail. In case the Ulfa I did not return, there would be a message to Ulanob advising him to attend a court of inquiry the following day. Yes, Ulanob had reason to be annoyed.

And with the Ulfa I already several hours overdue, Ulanob knew that he had to have a plausible explanation ready within the next few hours, or else he would have to pay. He stopped his pacing and walked to the desk. Sitting down on the contoured chair, he picked up a pen and started writing.

1. Fleet emerged from hyperspace.
2. Operators immediately picked out strong signals of intelligent radio activity from a small planet barely 15 light minutes away.
3. Ulanob informed Muchalest and sought instructions
4. Muchalest does not reply for three days
5. Defeated at his own game, Ulanob sent a suggestion that a cruiser be sent to scout out the planet.
6. Muchalest while conveying his ‘reservations’ about the suggestion ‘reluctantly’ advised Ulanob to do as he thought best since he was the Battle commander of the fleet. Muchalest did not mention that he has the power to veto any move made by Ulanob.
7. Ulanob dispatched Ulfa I to approach within a light minute of the target and submit its report.
8. Ulfa I (the latest and only craft of its kind in the entire fleet) activated its “invisibility field” and vanished from all screens.
9. 15 days ago.
10. The loss of the only prototype of its kind would result in Ulanob being drummed out of the forces.

After a long pause, Ulanob took a decision. He asked the operator to send a hyperbeam tracer message to Ulfa I. He knew that within a few moments he would receive a severe reprimand from Muchalest for breaking radio silence – The cardinal and unforgivable crime in an inhabited alien galaxy. But then, he did not have much to lose.

The signal sent, without waiting for Muchalest’s reprimand, he sent a curt report to the Admiral, adding that in his opinion they should wait for another few days. The expected reprimand was received almost simultaneously on the same frequency and with the weakest signal possible. Muchalest had given him three days and only three days. And Ulanob could do nothing but wait, since his orders forbade him to come into any contact with any alien species on pain of death. His job was to chart that part of the Galaxy and that was all. He went to his chamber, took a somno and fell into a deep sleep.

The Ulfa1 commanded by young Captain Julo, the son of His Most Exhalted Right Royal Regent Of The Universe The High Lordship Hintomeer Regalda Rubuo Finko, was overjoyed when Ulanob had succumbed to his veiled threats of drawing Ulanob’s over caution (cowardice) to the attention of His Most Exhalted Right Royal Regent Of The Universe The High Lordship Hintomeer Regalda Rubuo Finko, (we shall refer to him as Finko in future). Young Julo treated the whole thing as a simulation game where he had the finest ship in the universe, and all others were moronic hoodas (barbarians).

Thee days after he left the fleet, the Ulfa I was in orbit around the planet. Within a few hours, Juno’s team of scientists had determined that the inhabitants of the planet had developed a primitive level of technology. They had mastered space flight but at speeds, which were a mere crawl. They had numerous satellites in orbit, one of which indicated alien activity. It was this satellite that Julo was particularly interested in. He knew that he was forbidden from making contact, but the chance of capturing a member of a new alien species was too good to be lost. After he would easily get around his father (Finko), as he always had since childhood.

Secure in the knowledge that the Ulfa I was invisible, he boldly directed the pilot to take the craft right up to within a few feet of the satellite, and match orbits. Every monitoring instrument within the Ulfa I was now directed to the satellite. The metal which it was made of; the interior design of the satellite; the electrical circuits; the composition of the atmosphere within; the composition of the bodies of the aliens within; all these and many more analysis’ were pressed into service. The team of scientists crouched over their instruments and screens, screening, analyzing and compiling the voluminous outputs. Julo in the meanwhile, when not playing his favorite computer stimulated space war games, slept peacefully.

The Space Station Horus – Commander Tom Jones of the Joint Venture International Space Station Horus, shook his head in exasperation. His crew consisting of Commanders Romesh Bannerjee of India, A.V.Pukov of Russia, Glenda Bedder of the United Kingdom, Jacob Getz of Israel and Joan Arc of France, sat around the spacious main control room. Jones peered once again over the shoulder of the only technician on board, M. Kalam of Pakistan. Kalam was in the process of screwing back the front panel of the large control cabinet which housed all the intricate instruments used by them to monitor ambient radiation, solar emissions, neutrino and X Ray emissions etc. His task completed, he threw the main power switch – and the same distorted picture appeared on all the screens.

“Well?’ questioned Jones.
“There has to be something wrong outside the satellite, Commander” said Kalam. “Maybe the antenna’s power array has developed some snag. We’ll have to go out and see”.
“I’ll back you up”, said Jones, taking a decision. ” We’ll go right away”.

A scant hour later, the upper hatch on the side of the Satellite facing away from the Earth opened, and Jones’ clumsy figure climbed out of the Air Lock. Securing his safety line to the sprocket just outside the hatch, he looked up. For a moment he stared in stunned amazement. Then his mouth fell open and he had an uncontrollable urge to rub his eyes.

Not a hundred feet away, motionless relative to the satellite, floated a gigantic golden colored teardrop, many times larger than the space station.

At length, he looked back towards the hatch and saw the upper half of Kalam’s body motionless with gaze fixed on the teardrop.

Jones flipped the transmission switch, and after a moments pause to gather his wits about him, he drawled ” We’el what’s that thar we see “.

Kalam’s high-pitched voice replied almost simultaneously ” It’s not real commander .. We must be seeing a mirage “.

“Get back into the ship and tell me what how the computer analyses it. I’m waiting here. ” Said Jones.

Kalam scrambled back into the airlock and pressed the lever to shut the hatch. Even before the inner lock had opened he was already out of his helmet. Frantically unzipping his suit, he scrambled awkwardly into the control room where the others were on their feet, having heard the exchange between the two. Pukov was already on the transmitter trying to contact Earth Command, but with no success. The same interference that had disrupted their communications over the past several hours continued. They were effectively cut off from the world.

Kalam lurched to the console, shedding his suit like a snake molting, and directed the cameras outside towards the ‘Teardrop’. His consternation was complete when he saw that no image appeared on the screen, save the previous distortions. Outside the station, Jones, by now having recovered his composure to some extent, studied the strange object minutely. There was no doubt about it. It was artificial and made from some sort of alloy with a golden hue.

Kalam’s voice suddenly interrupted his thoughts. ” Skipper – there is nothing on the screens – the cameras are not picking up the image at all!”

Jones had already known that by now. His mind had analyzed the strange phenomenon and the sudden flickering out of television transmission in the craft – and he had no doubt that the Teardrop was responsible. And the Horus was entirely unarmed. The question now was – what was to be done. The intentions of the Teardrop were also not clear to him. They could be hostile – cutting of the Horus’ communications. But conversely the interest in the Horus could also be merely academic – several hours had passed since the Horus’ had developed the problem – and the Teardrop had not made any other hostile move. On an impulse Jones hurled his heavy torch towards the Teardrop. He immediately regretted the impulse, but it was too late.

The torch sailed lazily towards the Teardrop. Jones eyes remained riveted on it. And then he shook his head in bewilderment. The torch sailed through the skin of the Teardrop and vanished. There was no impact. It was as if it had been swallowed up without a ripple. The Teardrop remained suspended motionless. Jones slowly climbed back into the airlock.

The Ulfa I – The clang of Jones’ heavy torch hitting the metal hull of the Ulfa I, reverberated through the craft. Julo leaped out of his bunk as though he had been shot out of it. He raced to the main control room. The panel of scientists there looked at him in silence.

“What was that?” Gasped Julo. The lookout on visual watch came uo to him and reported. ” Two aliens came out of the Craft, Sir”. One of them threw a large cylindrical object at us. The sound you heard was the object striking the Hull”.

For a moment Julo was speechless. Then he roared ” How can that be possible ? No one can see us! “

“Well, apparently that’s what we thought, Sir” said the lookout. ” I saw the whole thing myself. The first alien stared at us for a long time. Finally he threw the cylindrical object straight at the center of the craft. It was no coincidence. The alien aimed at us. And the object he threw was some sort of a light-emitting device, probably a tool. Not a weapon. One of the mini-drones picked it up.

One Response to “THE RETURN OF ULFA I – An eyeopener”

  1. Prashant Says:

    I need the rest of the story. its good. i need more. cuz its too suspenseful right now. so is the planet found by julo Earth? and what is the “teardrop”? its stll a good story, but it needs more to be done. and i’m still confused all about the portal, and all that stuff u were talkin about

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