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NOVEL

~Tejas Gupa

PROLOGUE

As dark as darkness, as cold as coldness, as cruel as cruelty, the surface of the


PLANETX soaked with darkness. Appearing a dark shade of yellow from space, it was
probably the most unfriendly and unforgiving place you could imagine. Its
geographical features could be more or less compared with earth, just a ten
thousand times more terrifying and horrid version of it. The mountains as sharp as
needles, rivers as freezing as acid, craters as suffocating as prison; every
feature of the PLANETX was made to hurt. The soil was calcium carbonate with
embedded diamond crystals which could cut skin at contact. Even the atmosphere was
a storm rotating at a thousand rotations per minute. On entering from space you
would first be awaited to get struck by millions of hundred tonne rocks revoluting
around the planet at 700 miles per hour. If by chance you survived this far, you
would experience freezing cold, then burning hot, then freezing cold. As if even
this was not enough to break you, you will then be pulled toward the centre of the
planet at 590 miles per hour. The moment you hit you will get pierced by thoudsands
of sharp needles embedded in the surface waiting to be struck. A perfect security
plan for the richest planet in the galaxy, isn't it? Unlike earth, the whole
PLANETX society was constructed only on a barren ground which was about thousand by
thousand kilometres in area. Being a dwarf planet, the planet itself was small.
Noone had ever cleared the hindrances and reached the surface of the planet and
returned. Not even the most powerful telescopes could see thorugh the dense and
opaque storm. So noone knew the exact facts. The whole planet was a mystery. But
many many theories had been given by the experienced researchers. Out of these, the
most accurate seeming theory was considered correct. This went like this: In the
exact centre stood a building made with crystal with the royal architecture of a
Greek palace with the last word in structure, beauty, elegance and royalty. Nothing
except war equipment surronded the main building. Not very much populated, most of
the people living here either worked the bank ot served in the army. Being small
but rich, war was frequent here. Many planets had tried to conquer this planet but
not one had reached even till its atmosphere...

CHAPTER 1

"Five minutes to land", cried PersonA on the microphone. Originally, they had had a
good signal connection with National Aeronautics Space Administration headquarters
but the moment they entered the hundred kilometre radius around PLANETX it had
become pretty weak and intercepted, which just told them how close they were to
their deaths. They were in the most advanced spacecraft ever made on earth. It
looked more like a jet fighter plane than a regular space vessel. It had a nuclear
reactor and a huge supply of oxygen for the thirty days' travel and one month's
mission (the mission was actually ten to twelve days but they took some extra; just
in case). It had just enough space for the three. The inside was completely made of
a mixture of gold and copper so sometimes their eyes would get bored. To their
advantage, the console did not look like a real spaceship console, but rather like
a gaming console: there were no thousands of buttons for each and every function
but only a throttle lever and a joystick for the movement and a computer with a
graphical user interface. This was way more than they could ask for. The computer
and console only took the forward space. There were only three seats for them in
the remaining front portion. Each seat was highly cushoned and had plenty of
legspace. The most amazing thing about these were that they had storage in the
portion below the seats so all three had their own personal storage space. Along
with this, the seats had touch screen LED screens and internet connection so that
the astronauts did not get bored in their thirty days' journey to PLANETX. However,
this was used only in the first half of the journey as after that, the signal had
constantly become weaker. The back was wider than the front, but very little space,
only enough for walking was left because the pantry with a refrigerator and a
microwave and the washroom occupied most of the space(how they made a washroom on a
spacecraft, only PersonB knew, but he would not tell. PersonA and C did not
investigate; they just hoped it didn't harm their personal sanitation and hygiene).
Thankfully the show was not being live telecasted. Normally when anyone would hear
about their mission to PLANETX, they would think that they had gone to loot. But
no, it was a research mission. At first, NASA had tried to send a rover. But after
failing three times, they interpreted that artificial intelligence is no match for
this storm and planned a manned mission. And that is the story of how three
completly innocent persons are, at the moment, on board a suicidal flight to a
completely unexplored planet. "Those stupid rovers didn't even reach the
atmosphere,",said PersonB, "So we have absolutey no idea on from here." He looked
so much more worn out and tired than he had already begun with. He was their leader
as well as the chief scientist in his department- rocket design and had spent weeks
planning this mission. In fact, he had personally supervised the whole programme.
The spacecraft they were now travelling in had been designed by PersonB and each
part had been assembled in his presence. Of the three, he had been the most eager
to take part in this mission. He had taken so much pains to make this mission
successful but day by day his spirits were breaking. One year of mission planning
and thirty days' space travel had worn down even him.
The three men were the most trained and experienced astronaut-scientists so they
had been chosen for this mission. The NASA department was one hundred percent sure
that these woud be able to make it back to earth. "Three minutes from now, and we
are beginning descent.", blurted PersonA on the microphone and sure enough they
immedeately began coming down into the unknown.
Thirty seconds later they were good; nothing except the signal was down but a
little turbulence had started. After that they lost count of time and the flight
constantly became rasher. After about thirty seconds did the first rock hit them.
All three looked to their left. It was probably the most horrifying scene ever
witnessed by anyone. A whole volley of stones as large as planets was rushing
towards them to pay their greetings. It was only the hard shell of the spacecraft
that saved them. The same scene which looked beautiful in the drawings and science
books was scary enough to give anyone a cardiac arrest in real life. And it
actually did: for three precious seconds, they became dangerousy still with not rhe
slightest stirring or vibration of the skin. Their limbs became stiff and their
brains stopped working. They were not able to utter one single word nor able to
inhale one single breath. If it was not for PersonC's immedeate reflex they would
have been crushed. He had just on the last minute turned the throttle on full and
turned the joystick completely forward. This gave the spaceship a full one-eighty
degree turn and for a moment, churned everyone's stomach, but it worked and the
rock just made a scratch on the roof. After that, he handled the controls with such
precision that sometimes he made the spaceship move vigorously by forming patterns
with the joystick while sometimes he used to bring it to a dead stop. Noone could
understand whether this was adrenaline rush or experience or both. For one minute
they remained in such a situation. Then they crossed the asteroid belt. He grinned,
"Those years of maneuvering tanks through the enemy territory have finally paid
off." PersonC had been in the army just before he had joined NASA. He had not been
on a very high post, he used to drive tanks(Or maybe even chariots; who could say?
He was quite aged). Unfortunately, he lost each and every battle he ever fought and
then miraculously escape. So he was charged of betrayal and cowardness and
dismissed from the army. He always was the most positive in the group and anyway,
he himself was pretty fed up of losing battles that he did not protest. This had
happened about eight or nine years back and as soon as he left army, he applied for
NASA and now he had plenty of experience. He was taken on this mission as a pilot
for the spacecraft.PersonA&B were just giving him a pat on the shoulder when they
started spinning...
Spinning so fast, they actually felt like a cyclone. They couldn't get their hands
on the console and though, all three were trying to suggest ideas, noone could
concentrate on haering. PersonC was closest to the console, so he suddenly grabbed
it and again went into his adrenaline rush mode. Within five seconds, they were
beginning to stabilise: PersonC had decided that revoluting was better than
rotating and now they were circling the planet at five hundred miles per hour along
with the winds. And once more, as steady as ever, they began their descent to the
unknown.

CHAPTER 2

This planet was really a rare one: and by rare it aso meant advanced. These people
had learnt how to control the atmosphere itself and turn it in their favour. These
people were not using guns to protect themselves, they were using the environment:
the winds, the asteroids, moons and natural satellites. All three men thought that
their effort was useless. What chance did they have against such brural and
advanced people who coud even turn the environment in their favour? Their whole
quest was useless because they had completely lost their signal with NASA
headquarters and probably the people on earth were already thinking that they were
dead. Even if they managed to survive these hindrances they would be attacked and
assaulted on sight. Who on this planet woud believe that this was a research
mission and not a planned robbery. Noone on earth would know that these three had
survived and reached where noone else had ever reached before. Maybe these were the
people who were called "god" on earth. And so when the three should have been prous
of themselves, they were low-spirited, hopeess and scared.
But now, what could be done? They had no other option except to descend. Slowly
they reduced the radius of revolution and began descending faster. They had almost
reached ten kilometers above the planet's surface but still the mainland was not in
view. Then a most unexpected jerk hit them and their thrusters gave way.
The planet's gravitational force was too much that even falling ten
kilometers(which also was not a very small distance) generated a momentum that
would be generated in a hundred kilometres on the earth. They still couldn't find
the source of the instability and they didn't try but they suspected that it was an
enemy attack. All three were focused on fixing the thrusters which was next to
impossible in the violent shaking. They constantly gained momentum and travelled
five kilometres in about fifteen seconds which was alarmingly dangerous. They only
had a couple of seconds to fix the thrusters but didn't have the time to calculate.
The engine was completely lifeless and if the theories were right, it could be
fatal. The next three seconds were so fast and happening that one could spend
minutes interpreting the events. It went like this: friction produced a spark in
the engine and the engine groaned. But still the thrusters were not working and
they were still falling at a dangerous speed. Then the storm cleared and the
mainland came into view. It was just like it had been described in the theories:
there was a magnificent palace in the centre which was about a kilometre tall and
it had such intricate carving that it could be seen clearly from so far away;
except that it was made from red sandstone and there were absolutely no army posts
surrounding the palace. Rather there was a proper rural town around it. Even from
so high up, the big farms and wells and cattle were clearly visible. Around this
town, tall fortified walls were built The whole place looked so attractive,
innocent and earthly that if they landed softly, this place could even be friendly.
But they doubted that anyone would appreciate if someone crash landed and exploded
on their planet. They were so busy looking at the town that had PersonC not shouted
and turned the spacecraft such unexpectedly (they did not apperciate that too much
but were thankful to him), they would have collided with a great mountain. Then
PersonC did a thing that they had completely forgotten about: he ejected the claws
which had been installed for mountain climbing and directed them towards the great
hill. The claws had successfully gotten hold of the mountains and the speed reduced
but still hadn't found a groove to hold on to. So they couldn't be completely sure.
Instead the scratching grooves made a very bad creaking noise and sent a constant
shiver down the craft. This vibration suddenly turned into a jerk and immediately
brought the craft to a dead stop. It had found a groove and was holding on to it.
It seemed that the spacecraft was very delicarey balanced because it seemed to be
shaking at the slightest movement. There was a continuous little squeak and they
were afraid that the claws would leave the groove and they would fall but it held
on. "Don't move! Even a shiver may make us unstable.", cried PersonB.
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