SHIVA AND THE PILOT
“THE LOST WORLD”
Almost a billion years ago, at an anonymous crossroad along the temporal continuum …
… she knew for certain that it was the end of her world. It was written on the far horizon where the scorching flashes from the anti-hydrogen fusion-pod explosions swallowed up the stars and turned the carbon-blackness of night into a ghostly, pale-gray dawn. Her name was Ahneevah, and as she stood on the transit-deck of her residence inside the Orbital Interceptor Base, the pairs of concentric, slate-gray pupils within her expansive, jade-saucer eyes, instantly contracted to their minimal aperture. This autonomic response served to protect her highly evolved inner-optics against the ravages of the searing white-light generated by the unyielding bombardment. She recognized that whatever living creatures were within audio range of the thunderous detonations would be incinerated by the tritium-particle firestorm before any sound could be perceived.
All diplomatic channels had been explored and exhausted. Regrettably, an overwhelming majority of her civilization had succumbed to the primeval forces—hate and fear. Hate and fear—the malevolent twin-insanities that suffocated the voices of dissent coming from those who knew better; the sound thinkers who attempted in vain to convince the war-driven leadership to halt their stiff-necked, irrational march down the path of total destruction. Now it was war, she solemnly reflected. ‘The’ war … the war to end all wars … the war to end all. An intense wave of frustration coursed throughout Ahneevah’s comprehensive analytical system. “Why does leadership almost invariably make the wrong choices?” she said aloud in her silky, alien tongue. “How is it possible for the outrageous deceptions of an inept, warp-minded few to enable the extinction of every living organism on this planet?” These words, however, were rendered moot as they passed Ahneevah’s lips. As an experienced, highly decorated, Supreme-Echelon Officer, she knew she had a vital responsibility to think outside the impending cataclysm. Her background and training demanded that she focus on her mission and erase, from every tier of her diverse mental network, all thoughts of the inescapable madness and horror to come. With her mindset rapidly shifting into full combat mode, she touched an area above her wrist on her flight suit. At the precise instant her fingertips made contact with the cerulean material it began to glow and a palm-sized, rectangular, micro-thin pod bloomed out of the sleeve. This crystalized-carbon device, a Neuronal Logic Unit, floated up within her expansive field of vision.
“Standing by for tactical evaluation,” announced an
authoritative but natural-sounding voice emanating from the Unit.
“Relay all combat area recon from the geo-synch satellite arrays,” Ahneevah instructed.
“Negative,” was the response, “All orbital transmissions across the entire bandwidth have been compromised by the enemy’s cyber-storm of cannibal rover-waves. Digital acquisition of any visual or telemetric signals from the primary terrestrial observation network is unachievable.”
Ahneevah considered this information. “That should have been anticipated by Sat-Net control … scan secondary analog mode to circumvent.”
“Seeking,” was the composed reply and at once, through a protected back-door server, an up-link was established with a secure system of lunar-based, analog surveillance installations which transmitted a succession of ominous battle-zone visuals. Ahneevah gasped at the sight of the real-time holographic display generated by her multi-purpose logic-com device. A sequence of striking, three-dimensional images confirmed that the remote defense colonies were under a vicious, unremitting attack. One particular view both stunned and chastened her. As a consequence of the pulverizing shock-waves brought on by the squall of nuclear air-bursts, stem-like pedestals of dust arose and trailed the rising fireballs. When the blossoming, mushroom clouds reached the freezing, higher altitudes, their reddish brown color changed to a pure white due to the condensation of water droplets and ice crystals. The panoramic depiction made the entire landscape look to Ahneevah like a hellacious garden of blossoming annihilation; a field of grotesque, holocaust lilies that within the fleeting passage of a nano-span vaporized over three-million of her people and wiped out the first-line air defense force along with the entire borderland security network. Ahneevah breathed out a shuddering sigh, and then her attention was drawn to the luminescence of the ascending day-star which was just breaching the horizon. She gazed awestruck as webs of blood-red, triton-plasma-flares crisscrossed the fiery orange crescent. It looks like a sunrise that has run amok, she thought, it’s as if the stellar disk itself had been mortally wounded and is… bleeding… dying. She considered the agonizing spectacle a poignant allegory for the once-flourishing civilization which the benevolent day star nurtured—her civilization. One that was now steeped in lunacy and irrevocably spiraling down out of control to meet its ignoble end. Sharply, with piercing long—short—long—long—short staccato quavers, the alert-klaxons abruptly halted any further inner deliberations. Emergency intercept status had been reached and she resigned herself to the implications. The anti-warhead missile defense system had failed and the roiling inferno and noxious fragmentation funnels created by the impact point turbulence-flames were merely an overture to the ferocious and chilling carnage to come. Ahneevah knew that the final assault was under way—and so—she had to go up.
She had to go up even though she was certain that a suppressive darkness would preempt the natural fall of the coming night. She further realized that practically every level of plant and animal life on her planetary home would be reduced to ashes well before the day’s end, and whatever creatures somehow survived would suffer unbearable pain and anguish and eventually perish in the aftermath—but still—she had to go up. It was her sworn duty. She was the Air Arm Commander; a flag rank in the elite Orbital Flight Wing which represented the last line of defense, even though she totally recognized that there was no defense. Despite this demoralizing awareness, the sheer hopelessness was overridden by the oath Ahneevah took. She avowed to serve until her final breath, and now this desperate circumstance was upon her. The pledge that she affirmed represented part of the price she paid for her illustrious and rewarding military career. A calling that provided her with the opportunity to pilot the most advanced flight-vehicles that her aeronautical science could conceive. Preeminent among these craft was the StarStream. This advanced trans-orbital combat platform represented a giant leap in airframe and power-plant technology. At its core was an ion-fusion propulsion-train composed of oxy-hydro, bio-metallic lattices formed by trillions of coalescing micro-stars infinitely smaller than a molecule. The continual processing of all forms of ambient radiation provided a virtually inexhaustible fuel supply and each energy-web produced a sun-like nuclear reaction which generated limitless power while neutralizing the excessive stellar-surface temperatures, extreme light and hazardous radioactivity.
Ahneevah took a deep breath, exhaled, and walked across the transit-deck to the day-side terrace overlooking the back garden where, at the beginning of each new warm season, she and her mate would watch their young ones stumble and fall and play and laugh and grow. Several of her thought-pathways were still immersed in the terrible futility and waste that lay ahead while the majority of her mind tracks were reviewing the operations profile for what would unquestionably be her final mission. “Flight-line Trans-Mod proximate,” announced the Logic Unit and drifted down to mesh back in place with the fabric on Ahneevah’s uniform.
The whooshing sound of the arriving Verti-craft Transport Module prompted her to turn and make her way over to the sky-pier extension. As the conveyance silently hovered, others in her circle came out of the residence shepherding her offspring who rushed to gather around her. She tried as best she could to explain the concept of forever to them but they tearfully fought the notion, though the eldest two tried to understand and be brave. Holding them tightly, she again considered the complete lunacy of what was about to take place and felt deep remorse that she was powerless to do anything to stop it.
The deployment of the Trans-Mod’s frozen-plasma embarkation walkway signaled that the time-chain segment had arrived for her to make her final departure. Ahneevah always imagined that when her physical existence ended, her eternity would be spent with her essence resting close to those she loved. She couldn’t know that her impending forever would be far, far different from the one she had always envisaged.
Ahneevah whispered a last agonizing farewell to all those around her and expressed the hope that they would see each other again in a better place, although she did not really believe that there was a better place. Finally, the gallant pilot crossed over the walkway, boarded the Verti-craft and took one last heartrending look at her progeny and the others so dear to her, others whom she would never see again. Then, facing the most courageous moment in her existence, with golden tears welled up in the corners of her exotic, verdant eyes, Ahneevah was whisked away to her improbable and unfathomable destiny.