On planet AUM.108 ashes are sacred.
The shadow of its inhabitants is never lonely. For it has two suns.
When the two suns are equidistant from AUM.108 its inhabitants congregate.
They sit cross-legged on the grey ground, place their purple translucent upper limbs on their knees and close the single eye on their foreheads. And begin to chant.
A chakra begins to grow at the base of every throat, a glowing lapis lazuli.
The conscience connector wedged as liquid emerald in their chests branches out like a tendril.
The salty orange rivers freeze.
Each green tendril finds its counterpart in the fellow aumian closest to it.
The guttural sounds grow in volume turning lapis lazuli into blinding sapphires.
The tendrils fuse.
The graphite mountains begin to float in the air. And the cerulean star-energy catchers stop flipping.
The aumanity completes forming a circle. The chants reach a crescendo.
The silver ashes spiral up from the ground leaving the petals of phosphorous- red receptors bejewelled in their wake. The ashes bead together to form a shiny silver thread that has formed the bare bones of every creation on AUM.108.
At first, the dots form at precise points in the violet sky. Then, an intricate web of shiny silver thread loops around them. An octagonal entrance leading to an endless diaphanous labyrinth takes shape.
Everything on AUM.108 -the rivers, mountains and energy catchers- regain their place and form.
The chanting stops.
The holographic screen on spaceship Two-star Patrol01 comes alive with a beep. The shiny labyrinth revolves on it.
Zara and Zephyr, the two sentinels of Galactic Training & Intelligence Collective stop sipping their planet-blue special coffee and exchange looks.
Zara glides to the control panel and commands,
“Two-star Comm, requesting a secure connection to Central Command.”
The comm device crackles.
“Forwarding request, Sentinel.”
There is a pause for a millisecond.
“Patching you through to Central Command.”
“Commander Kyro here. Go ahead, sentinel,” a faceless voice booms.
Zara clears her throat and replies,
“Reporting the onset of Evolution-Stage 3 event at 0500 hrs Central Galactic Time on planet Blank.ZeroZeroOne.”
“Right on time as expected! Thank you, sentinel. Anything else?”
“No Commander, that will be all.”
“Activate the twin bots on ground zero at the right time, sentinel.”
“Roger that, commander.”
The crackle dies down.
Zara comes back to her station but does not touch her coffee.
Zephyr shrugs his shoulders.
“What’s wrong? Should I pour you another cup?”
“No! Thanks for asking,” her eyes linger on the image before filing it.
“Come on! it’s not like you to go soft when these events take place. Civilizations come and go. There are still five more ongoing in the Two-star System.”
“I know,” she pauses and continues. “But this civilization on Blank.ZeroZeroOne happens to be my favourite among all.”
Zephyr lets out a low whistle.
“Don’t let the High Command know about it, Sentinel. We are not supposed to have favourites!”
“Really? don’t tell me you don’t admire them for the way they built that planet.”
“After destroying their parent planet!” Zephyr chuckles and then adds thoughtfully,
“Yes, I admit I was in awe of their sense of collective conscience. The way they could create and shape every significant thing with their powerful chants. It was fascinating to watch!”
“Or how they changed their way of living drastically from the wasted parent planet they came from.”
“Which has healed and is ready for their return.”
“The circle of life!”
“Yes, the circle of life. Creation...Preservation…”
“And Dissolution,” Zara sighs.
“Who could be on their way to here now? I’m curious.”
“I’m sure the Collective knows it already!” Zara gazes out. Blank.ZeroZeroOne looks like a plump rabbit spinning in the fourth orbit around the Two-stars. With a coiled silver python ready to devour whoever passes by.
Aakashganga 3 hovers in the Milky Way at a distance of 200 AU from Earth. As an ambitious public-private project the spaceship was launched from Sriharikota in the year 2050.
It is still a mystery how the project came to fruition.
With the rise of the sea nations and civil wars, shortage of food grains and water the will to complete the project that was started during the golden period of space technology on Earth was almost broken.
But for a secret benefactor who had provided the resources and laid down a specific mandate for the mission. There were secret murmurs in the higher echelons of the space agency that the benefactor was from a Space Collective. They had resisted the intervention of the Collective at an earlier time. But this time they had no choice. The planet was on the brink of collapse. Sovereignty meant nothing for a planet where the days of its civilization were numbered.
The crew was an eclectic mix of 21 people. Picked from across the geographic, demographic, gender and ideological boundaries, their mission was a desperate last attempt to find an inhabitable planet.
They had travelled in space for days when decades had rolled by in their parent planet. They had lost communication with Ground Control two days ago. So now their mission was- to find an alternate planet and start over!
Aakashganga 3 blips past Two-star Patrol01.
Zara activates the twin bots.
The spaceship from Earth makes its way towards the Two-star System. The python begins to uncoil, with its mouth wide open.
Purple sparks fly around the spaceship as it enters the labyrinth. It cartwheels into the maze shaking its occupants out of their inertia.
The chosen 21 gawk at the magnificent planet as the spacecraft lands with a whoosh. Their senses tingle with unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents as they alight.
A group of short translucent forms gathers around them.
Spread as an invisible sheet, the Translator bot takes its place between the two groups.
An aged aumian steps forward. Her conch-shaped head vibrates.
“Welcome to the magical planet, O seekers of new life! It’s your turn to make it into a planet your children deserve.”
Commander Gari, the bravest among the crew asks,
“Who are you?”
“We are aumians. We came from a planet in Purple-star System.”
“Why are you here?”
“Our ancestors came looking for an alternate planet.”
“Why? What happened to your parent planet?”
“Well, our ancestors created too many things and didn’t use the conscience connector as much.” The aumian sighs. “And paid the price for it!”
Commander Gari’s heart sinks. He continues tonelessly,
“For how long have you been here?”
“We are the 108th generation on this planet.”
The crew gasps.
“What? Does that mean I never get to see my home planet again?”
The aumian’s voice drips compassion,
“Don’t be disheartened. Lifetimes are short over here. And experiences are rich. Soon your descendants would have figured out ways to fix your mess-ups. Just as we have!”
“But…everything out here looks so unfamiliar!” Commander Gari croaks.
“Yes, because we are a sound-based civilization that consumes star energy. Every form you find here has been created by a different sound. We built this planet according to our needs. Now that it is going to be your playground, you can build it as you please. Good luck!”
The yellow-coloured energy panels that cloak every aumian draw the last bit of energy stored in graphite mountains.
The Transformer bot waits patiently by the orange river.
As the spaceship takes off with aumians on board, the bot snaps its fingers.
The ground turns brown, trees green, rivers blue and its new inhabitants innocent.
The python melts into the azure sky.
On planet HUM.001 soil is sacred.