An 140-year-old secret causes chaos on three planets.
An 140-year-old secret causes chaos on three planets.
IndiaThe story starts from Earth and leads to two planets in the Alpha Centauri star system.
Near FutureThe book is set between the years 2095 to 2117.
A mysterious signal is received from outer space. The first journey at the speed of light leads to a stunning discovery in the Alpha Centauri star system. What was the secret hidden aboard the Voyager 1 probe?
The story is set in motion in the year 2087 when Voyager 1 is found in interstellar space and a signal by an unknown entity is sent back to Earth. This signal is picked up by radio telescopes at GMRT, Pune. The origin of the signal is tracked to the Alpha Centauri system, probably from the planet Proxima B, which had been discovered more than a hundred years ago.
The PM of India decides that a ship will be sent to make contact with the aliens. He is happy that his country is to be the lead in a mission of this magnitude but wants it to be an international effort. The ship will take many years to build and the Director of Indian Space Centre, Dr. Srinivas, resolves that Captain Anara will head up the mission. Anara has many years of space travel experience. She sets about building her team while the scientists at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre work on building a ship that can travel faster than light. They name the ship Antariksh.
In the year 2117, a few weeks after the ship is launched, it faces three complications: the Artificial Intelligence seems to be hiding some secret; there is a power drain in the ship’s systems; and an unknown radiation is permeating the ship. Despite all efforts, the crew is not able to solve the problems or understand the cause. Soon after, two light-years from Alpha Centauri, Antariksh is confronted by an alien ship, which refuses to communicate with the Earth ship. Instead, it attacks Antariksh and Anara is forced to turn the ship around and they speed away. She is having doubts about leading a mission where the lives of 54 people depend on her.
A parallel story runs in alternate chapters that slowly reveals how the building of the ship takes place across India and on the moon. A secret is hidden on the ship while it is being built which is the cause of the problems Anara and her crew is facing in space.
After fleeing from the attacking alien ship, Anara discusses their options with her second in command Commander Ryan (US Military), Madhavan (India - Engineer) and Major Rawat (India - Security). It seems the three problems are related. Rawat reveals that the ship had been secretly fitted with high power laser cannons and atomic fusion bombs. This was done at the behest of the Defence Minster of India who wanted to ensure the ship had adequate protection if it was necessary. The AI was not authorised to reveal this secret and hence was malfunctioning. The power drain was because the cannons needed to be kept charged and the radiation leakage was due to installation problems during fitting of the atomic bombs. Captain Anara is now faced with the ethical issue of using the fusion bombs against an alien civilization. In the end, they decide to go back and confront the aliens with the new powerful weapons they now know are available on Antariksh.
Antariksh reaches Proxima and confronts the alien ship, attacking it, and the aliens back off. It is revealed that this is a different ship than the one which had attacked Antariksh earlier. To Anara’s utter surprise, humans are on board the second ship. Antariksh follows it to Proxima B, which is called HuZryss. To their horror, the first alien ship is in hot pursuit.
While the Captain and a small team travel to the planet to learn more about the humans, Antariksh is attacked in orbit and is forced to run away again leaving Ryan frustrated and the ship damaged. On HuZryss, Anara and Rawat are held hostage by the people from the first ship. They are from another planet called KifrWyss in the Alpha Centauri system, and are hermaphrodite reptilians. They are part of a xenophobic group called TrueKifs, whose leaders are unknown, and who oppose any contact with off landers.
Ryan and Madhavan work on repairing the ship on a nearby asteroid and return to find a third ship near HuZryss. This carries people from the government of KifrWyss and is led by a person called RyHiza. Ryan resorts to subterfuge and threatens to bomb the planet and manages to convince the KifrWyss to release Anara and her team. Anara then learns the story of how the humans were raised from human eggs carried secretly on the Voyager 1 probe. The fertilized eggs were incubated. The human children were then raised in a lab and finally placed on HuZryss to save them from the TrueKifs.
Anara travels back to KifrWyss with RyHiza where it is revealed that he is in fact the leader of the planet. A friendship is formed between these two people. After a successful meeting, Anara returns to Huzryss and offers to take the ‘new’ humans back to Earth, but they refuse. They feel unwanted both on Earth and on KifrWyss. Only two individuals, Joe and Lucy, want to come back because Lucy is pregnant. They want the first child of the HuzRyss humans to be raised on Earth.
In the epilogue, it is revealed that the leader of the TrueKif xenophobes is the chairman of the largest corporation on the planet. He has an informant among the ‘new’ humans who has managed to get the design of the fusion bomb. The story ends with the chairman talking about his plan to ensure he becomes even more powerful and he wants to take over the entire planet. He also wants to send a powerful and destructive message to earth.
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