Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Mountain and an Anti-Gravity Pocket


"My problem is that Amvi is a thief."
It was a strange comment for Major Shankar Vishwas of the Higher Enforcer Division to make. What made it stranger were that the human's brown eyes were twinkling with joy. Agreed, Major Shankar Vishwas was one of the youngest officers of the Enforcers in the planet of Terran in the Kor Solar System. His job was to find Space Pirates and stop their devious plans and if possible try to make it out alive after stopping the Pirates.
A huge ask on any day, but then Shankar was still alive after five years and he was now a decorated officer among the Enforcers – which made it clear that he had done something right in the whole catching the bad guys thing.
As Shankar was speaking, his normal boots found firm support in the rocky wall of the mountain. His fingers found another crevice in the nearly straight and rocky terrain of the Untraxal Mountains of the asteroid of Mokria as Shankar took a deep breath steadying himself.
The lighter gravity of the asteroid and the high Nitrogen content was making Shankar slightly uncomfortable. But not enough for him to consciously be thinking about it.
Other than his comment a few seconds back, most of his attention was taken by the human who was before him and who like him was hanging off the rocky mountains and Shankar swore annoyed because unlike him, Omkar was wearing anti-gravity boots.
"Rich Boy, you are cheating! Those are anti-gravity boots. We agreed that this one would be sheer hard work and nothing to fall back on. Only one grappling hook allowed." Shankar yelled in the radio affixed to his ear, as he was pulling himself up to the next ledge.
Major Omkar Navate, human and adopted brother of Major Shankar Vishwas was three Starmonths younger than the latter and Omkar was the other officer who was the youngest human Enforcer to become an Major. Right now, Omkar was sighing as he was seriously considering throwing away his radio. Shankar was squawking beyond all reasonable proportions, almost giving Omkar a headache.
"The anti-gravity of my boots has been switched off, you ass! I didn't bring any other boots for this trip." Omkar muttered and he looked annoyed. "Just tell me which part of this trek was supposed to enjoyable?" Omkar demanded as he searched the rocky mountain for the next jagged crack to find some support. At six feet two inches, with a lean and tough body and wild unruly hair and dark eyes, Omkar looked impressive and specially threatening when he was annoyed.
And most of the days, Shankar was just amused when he saw Omkar getting angry... which was most of the times. But then Omkar was just like that... he was always serious and got exasperated often and Shankar being who he was, just believed in annoying Omkar more.
"You drag me to the asteroid of Mokria when I am on vacation and you drag me before the rise of the First Sun and make me climb a damned mountain and all you can do is talk about thieves during the climb." Omkar said unhappily. "And you claim I am cheating." Omkar said as an afterthought. He was in full form, which was why he ranted almost non-stop without running out of breath – a feat which normal humans could not have done in the natural atmosphere asteroid of Mokria. But then Omkar genuinely was a marvel when he started ranting. He could put anyone to shame when he was in his element.
Now was such a time.
The accompanying swear words from Omkar in the local Terran language were really so authentic that Shankar was almost impressed. It was impressive because unlike Shankar, Omkar was a native of the planet of Maken. Omkar had started living in Terran with his adopted family only from the age of nine. But then Omkar was now a naturalized citizen of Terran after having lived there for nineteen years.
So the swear words were hardly surprising. But then it was all the more unsurprising because Omkar could understand and speak all the twelve languages of the Kor Solar System, even without his translator – something which Omkar put to good use when he was dealing with Space Pirates all over the galaxy.
"Rich Boy, I should probably tell you that mom once scalped me for saying words like that." Shankar moved on to the next ledge which was narrower than the previous one.
"Oh do be quiet!" Omkar said annoyed after he controlled an urge to look around the check whether their mother – Lavinia Vishwas – human, retired Major-General of the Enforcers was really anywhere around them. Not that Omkar expected his mother to be hanging out of a rocky mountain in an asteroid at the age of fifty four human years.
But then Omkar checked the nearly straight asteroid mountain more out of habit than any other real reason.
From his position, he could see the habitable Biome of the asteroid well. It was a huge transparent bubble which kept the atmosphere inside the Biome normal for all the species in the Kor System and more importantly the Biome also kept the other anomalies of Mokria in check... at least inside the Biome. Omkar then looked at the craft – the TC 908 – which Shankar had tweaked a little – so that the hovercraft could withstand the pressure outside the Biome of Mokria – right now, the hovercraft was at the base of the mountain and Omkar found it far too tiny.
Omkar looked at the Biome again and found himself thinking of his adopted mother with a smile.
Omkar and Lavinia were way closer than Shankar could ever be with his own mother. And that was actually expected. Shankar and his father were geeks who worshiped the altar of science and Omkar and Lavinia were two people who just could understand anything which had the words 'theorem' or even 'science' on it.
"I wonder what mom would say when she finds out that her pretty little boy is as nasty as her other son." Shankar tried sneering. He really did. Just that he was too busy pushing himself up the mountain to summon up any emotion.
"QUIET!" Omkar snarled looking really annoyed.
Shankar always riled Omkar. Period. Shankar took it as his birth right and over the years it was something which Omkar had started finding endearing... because that was how Shankar bonded with people.
Despite the fact that Shankar was a huge flirt and managed to catch the eyes of any female of any species, the fact remained that becoming Shankar's friend and becoming his lover were two completely unrelated and unconnected things. The latter was confined to female of any species and was very, very easy – and was also subject to periodic change. Becoming Shankar's friend, was not at all simple – that happened only when someone survived their first day with Shankar without killing him when Shankar was spouting something off his cocky mouth – it was after that that Shankar was willing to consider the person within his radar. Becoming Shankar's friend was a huge ask and that came only after surviving him for years together and not ending up as a homicidal lunatic. And becoming Shankar's friend was a thing for life.
"Little brother!" Shankar said as he was pushing himself to the next ledge. "You showed me the file on Amvi. She is my type, but the fact is that she is..."
The unthinkable happened.
An anomaly.
Shankar suddenly felt himself move away from the mountain as a sudden pocket of anti-gravity hit the mountain at that exact minute.
Exactly what caused the sudden anti-gravity pocket in the asteroid of Mokria – no one knew. But then the fact which continued to baffle all exo-scientists in the Kor Solar System was that regions of the asteroid of Mokria outside the Biome were hit by anti-gravity pockets for no reason.
Such anomalies existed for a few minutes, probably hours, may be even days.... No one knew for how long. The asteroid region hit by such anomalies started with fluctuating gravity and then the magnetic field of the Mokrian region started weakening. Steadily. There was a time eighteen years back when an entire mountain of the Mokrian asteroid had been bereft of gravity and magnetic field, for a whole Starweek. Scientists had tried to study the phenomenon but then the phenomenon suddenly stopped and was repeated elsewhere in the Mokrian asteroid. No reasons.
The best that the people could do for Mokria was to build the habitable Biome, where luckily all the species were safe from such things because of the Biome. The natural Mokrian atmosphere was habitable to all the species except that sometimes Jiporans found the Nitrogen content too high in the atmosphere – another thing which was corrected inside the Biome. Luckily.
Unluckily, the two brothers were outside the Biome.
With the sudden anti-gravity pocket, Shankar suddenly could not push his hands up and lost footing. And he scrambled trying to catch the mountain, but he had no purchase. Shankar did not panic. He just was not built that way. He was trying to reach for the grappling hook in his belt when the anti-gravity fluctuated and hit him again.
Swearing Shankar fell back and hit his head hard against the rock.
More from instinct than any other reason, Shankar bit in a gasp as he was badly jarred when his head hit hard against the wall. He caught the ledge he had just used for climbing and was hanging on as the anti-gravity pocket was still on.
Evidently, this time the anomaly was confined to a very small area as even Omkar who was just a few feet above did not feel anything and was climbing up the next ledge.
Shankar was grunting, trying to catch Omkar's attention. But Omkar did not turn.
*******
Probably it was his sixth sense. Whatever, the reason, a second later, Omkar of his own accord looked down.
There was a fresh scar on Shankar's head and he nearly looked close to collapsing and was hanging on to the ledge of the mountain more from instinct than any other reason. Not that Omkar particularly knew or cared about that, at that time.
It took Omkar less than a second to know what was wrong as he did the only thing he could do, he kicked hard against the rock in front of him and let himself fall back, away from the mountain. The anti-gravity pocket had hit only the place where Shankar was and not where he was. And as of now, that was the only thing which Omkar could use right now.
"Shankar can you hear me?" Omkar yelled as he fell the normal weightlessness assault him.
"Yes." Shankar said in a muffled and hoarse voice.
"Luckily, the anti-gravity pocket is confined to a very small area of the mountain and it is fluctuating." Omkar said sharply as he fell down. "Let go."
Any other time, letting go of a mountain was the worst advice ever.
But not now.
Naturally Shankar understood. Looking down at the three hundred meters that he had just managed to climb, Shankar let go.
*****
Omkar's kick against the wall had done what he had hoped to do – activate his anti-gravity boots.
The gravity of the asteroid was already pulling him down and Omkar was careful to stay near the surface of the mountain and now the anti-gravity boots would do their work – stop when they found any purchase on any surface, no matter how slight.
Hopefully.
*******
Omkar saw in slow motion as Shankar let go. The anti-gravity pocket of the asteroid was already fading as after a few seconds of hovering, Shankar fell.
It took all of his training and all his survival instinct as Omkar stayed as close as possible to the mountain and turned in midair.
Not that he was any closer to Shankar after that.
Both the humans were shrieking through the air at ninety kilometers per hour when Shankar looked up and saw Omkar making straight for him.
Shankar tried to make to his grappling hook but he just could not do it as he felt the wind rush through him pushing him down and the nitrogen in the atmosphere was just suffocating him and he could not reach for his belt.
Shankar threw up his hands and was careful not to look down. Even at that second, he realized that in another half a minute and they would both be plastered at the base of the asteroid...
******
Omkar lunged wildly and moved ahead and pushed his legs hard.
At the last second, Omkar left Shankar fingers and pulled. He did not even pause because frankly he just did not have the luxury of pausing. They were too close to the surface of the asteroid.
But their problems were not over. Not by any stretch.
Once Omkar caught Shankar, both the brothers pushed hard towards the mountain and Omkar felt his boots squeal as the anti-gravity mechanism in the shoes were struggling to find some purchase in the rocky mountain.
But both the brothers were too heavy for the boots to work properly. The shoes were still squeaking and Omkar could feel the shoes burn but he said nothing as he was just gritting his teeth and trying to find some purchase.
But the fact remained that both the brothers were still plummeting straight to their deaths in less than half a minute because though their speed had reduced, their weights were too high for the boots to completely stop them.
Naturally Shankar could not let it be.
With the lesser speed he could now reach for the grappling hook and blindly shot at the top of the mountain.
Nothing happened for another second as the grappling hook went up and Omkar was almost praying that anti-gravity pocket did not spread... But Omkar was more worried about the fact that his boots were still struggling against the walls and his brother was pulling him down.
What really worried Omkar was that Shankar would not admit it, but the idiot was a hero enough to actually let go, so that Omkar would be safe.
That thought alone really freaked out Omkar.
*******
Shankar saw the asteroid ground come far too quickly when suddenly they were both pulled up.
Abruptly and suddenly.
The belt cut painfully into Shankar's middle as a gasp was torn from his mouth.
But Shankar was praying. Despite the pain, the human was actually praying in relief. A mumbled prayer in relief.
The grappling hook had apparently found some ledge in the mountain and embedded itself firmly.
And that was the other reason that the two brothers were not yet asteroid dust.
The two brothers were hanging on by the hook as Omkar's boots were able to find some more purchase on the asteroid mountain and Omkar was just sprawling in the mountain, trying to find some more purchase and get away from Shankar. Neither brother knew how long the grappling hook could support both their weights and it seemed a bad idea to waste any time thinking about it.
Shankar's hands were trembling slightly as he found a ledge to keep his foot on and he let Omkar's hands go slowly. Omkar nodded as he turned back to the mountain... Both noticed that there was a jagged offshoot from the mountain to his right. They both could sit on it.
Provided of course another anti-gravity pocket did not hit them.
Usually such anomalies did not occur immediately and that too within the same vicinity. But then with the luck of these two mad humans, nothing was really certain.
Omkar was panting badly as he was pushing himself on to the offshoot of the mountain.
He was sure he had burnt the anti-gravity mechanism of the boots. But that was hardly relevant. All that mattered was that right now both he and Shankar were alive and reasonably undead.
"If you ever try to die again, Shankar," Omkar said after he got his breath back, which happened only after five minutes. He was lying collapsed on the mountain offshoot after helping Shankar near him. "I will personally kill you!" Omkar said with as much feeling as he could muster.
"Maker!" Shankar fumed finally, after he got his breath back. "Only Space Pirates used to do that. Now, my dear brother and some freaking asteroid, both, are trying to kill me." Shankar said gasping for breath as he was still having the final say.

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