Inter galactic expansion had followed the development of humungous hyperspace cruisers and precision drives that had enabled man to colonize far flung frontiers of space. However, these giant cruisers were unsuitable for the short haul emergency calls. Starship cruisers did not use conventional rocket fuel but nuclear power and carried limited amount of bulky liquid fuel. For short emergency trips small space ships were designed made of light metal and plastics to be run on liquid fuel to be spared by cruisers that housed these ships. One drawback was that these ships carried only that amount of fuel which was enough for their mission, not an ounce less or an ounce more. Extra weight would jeopardize their mission at the cost of necessary payload.
The small ship ‘Twinkle’ was speeding along into the dark bowels of space carrying essential medical supplies on which lives of several colonists depended. Captain Schmidt did a bit of isometrics and thought about a cup of coffee from the vacuum dispenser. Suddenly the corner of his eye caught the dial of the fuel gauge. It was showing a little above zero. Fuel consumption was not normal. It was but a natural corollary for the captain to divine that some extra unauthorized and unexplained weight was on board. He looked at the closet containing the only empty unused space. The heat gradient indicated the presence of a human being.
‘Come out’ gently intoned Capt Schmidt.
After a pause of several seconds a coy, diffident and a spry girl appeared and gently walked to the captain’s desk.
‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’ asked the captain softly, in order, not to frighten the child, who was barely 12 years old.
‘I am Zoya from the Southern Nebula. I was stealing a ride to meet my parents who are stranded in AlphaZ2.’ She answered confidently despite her distraught demeanour.
The captain stared in disbelief. ‘But how in the devil did you get into the ship.’
‘It was not difficult to enter unnoticed. People thought I had come to bid farewell to my folks. Later on I stumbled on to this small cabin. You are going to fine me or give me some sort of punishment?’ The girl asked apprehensively.
‘My dear girl you have put me into a great problem. The rules are very strict. Unauthorized persons, objects and any living organism are to be thrown out or jettisoned.’ He said almost in a whisper, not trying to panic the girl.
‘You mean you will leave me in space to die for something I am not responsible.’ The girl was now almost in tears.
‘Please try and understand- the mission is important but your body mass has increased the fuel consumption jeopardizing the mission. The colonists who are awaiting life-saving drugs will also die.’ The captain said as if pronouncing a death verdict. Never in the galactic frontiers was such a situation encountered by anyone before.
The captain put the ship into auto-mode and fine tuned the astral bearings of the planet the ship was headed for.
‘My child you are not going to die’ said the captain happily, as if solving an intricate puzzle.
‘Everything is on auto mode. You will reach the target planet. Only don’t answer any calls or messages which may flash on the console.’
Having, said that the captain slowly walked out of the air lock and into the evacuation tunnel.
This story is based on one of the finest SCI-FICTION stories of America and is more than 60 years old. Probably it was published in 1963. When, I had read it. The language sequence of, the plot are entirely mine and not copied from anywhere. I am happy that I have been able to dig out the scientific space diction without much of a difficulty. The point is whether the captain was morally justified in leaving the ship in the hands of a child, thereby endangering the lives of so many. Well there are so many angles to this dilemma. (As narrated by Ajit Kumar Tripathi)
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:
NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION
Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)
IFSC code: BKID0006805
GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)
AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN
(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha
(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)