Spring 2017, Volume 22

Fiction by Victor Nandi

Journey to Atonement

Rupert’s aircraft soared over the colossal ocean like a predator well aware of its prey’s hideout. The lush blue carpet of Pacific Ocean underneath him expanded peacefully on all sides and merged with the horizon far away. A cargo ship in the distance sailed like a puny creature against the mighty Pacific, little aware of the momentous journey Rupert above had embarked on.

Rupert fed some data into his device and hit the red button. He immediately experienced a violent jolt and was hurled down on the floor. It seemed like the aircraft was being smacked upon from all sides by the raucous turbulence of some furious air pocket. He felt as if the noise would blow apart his eardrums and rip through his brain in no time. He pressed his hands against his ears desperately trying to hold on to his consciousness. The intermittent groans coming out of his trembling body were devoured by the thunderous bellows around him. Seconds seemed like ages as his face contorted hideously reflecting the frightful battle every cell in his body was undergoing. And then, it all ended, suddenly, as if, the air pocket, after twisting and rolling the airplane between its tongue and jaws, spat it out into the tranquil again.

Rupert remained lying on the floor curled up on his side; eyes squeezed shut and hands squashing the ears. Trembling like a leaf, his body still hadn't realized that the brutal chapter had been over. The strain he had just gone through was beyond the capacity of most men’s endurance. It wasn’t just a blow to every organ in body; the brain was subjected to phenomenal pressure too. If the whole thing had lasted a couple more minutes, chances of living through it would have been very slim.

Auto-pilot went on gliding the aircraft towards its destination. Seconds passed. Rupert’s shivering gradually subsided. Clarity of thought slowly began to surface in his mind and so did the urgency to pull himself together and get on with his mission. He rose on his feet and checked the controls. They were designed to notify even the smallest of structural damages in any part of the aircraft.

Giving out an exhalation of relief, he sipped at his bottle of energy drink and positioned himself on the pilot’s seat. The cargo ship in the distance had disappeared. Instead, two other ships at different locations came in sight…warships. Rupert glanced at his device that dynamically updated to the local time wherever he went, whenever he went. 7:35 a.m. He knew that the squadron he had come for had not armed their weapon at takeoff as a precautionary measure. The safety devices would be removed about half an hour before arriving at the target. That meant Rupert still had around ten minutes to carry out his task. He checked his coordinates. The squadron would arrive within a mile in another few minutes. A lump was swelling in his gullet. He knew it was going to be a battle of an amateur aviator against a group of the best fighter pilots of a powerful nation. He also knew that the impending clash would be between utter stupidity and unparalleled skills. But most importantly, it was going to be one man out to undo the wrongs to humanity versus those who had wronged it already and that, Rupert knew better than anything else at the moment.

Rupert was aware of every syllable of their plans – their charted course, their target, their schedule, capacity of the weapon they carried…everything. History of many great battles stood evidence to the fact that even the best of fighters often failed to timely recover from enemy’s sudden and unpredictable moves. Rupert’s advantage was their unawareness of his presence and that constituted a perfect platform for staging a surprise attack.

7.37 a.m. 8 minutes were left for their nuclear weapon to be armed. Rupert would attack before that happened. The unarmed warhead would sink to the bottom of the ocean without causing any harm to human lives. Another nuclear weapon was scheduled to be deployed soon. If Rupert’s attack succeeded today, they would certainly be more cautious about the next attack, probably, would reschedule it to some other day under impenetrable defences. Regrettably, Rupert would be able to do nothing to stop that. His aircraft would not be able to sustain the rigors of another such travel. He wasn’t even certain if it would survive through the return travel of this one. It was something he had been aware of right from the start, but all that had mattered to him was that the atonement would be worth way more than the price, whatever it might be.

A droning was audible in the distance. Rupert’s reflexes straightened up. The squadron was heading his way. He knew that the apprehensive eyes of the squadron's pilots would inspect their surroundings with the vigilance of hawks. But there was one place their attention would have a blind eye to, for they would hardly expect any danger from there.

Droning of planes was nearing.

7.39 a.m. 6 minutes to arm the warhead.

Rupert’s aircraft soared higher, cutting through the white clouds, rising against the cerulean.

At that moment, Major Eatherly, one of the pilots of the squadron five miles away, spotted a black speck rising rapidly and disappearing into the clouds above. He instantly radioed the other pilots in order to ensure the consistency of what he saw with them. But no one had noticed any irregularity anywhere, even though they had maintained, as they insisted, a strict watch of the entire surroundings. Etherly tried to contemplate for a while. Could it be his mistake? But what if it wasn’t? If that speck was an aircraft that decided to conceal itself then it undoubtedly had strong reasons to do so. But Major Eatherly was well versed with the opposition’s customs. The enemy planes were seldom outnumbered and they attacked straightaway without resorting to any form of stealth tactics. Could that be an informer plane which was meant to notify the rest on seeing Eatherly's squadron approach? But why would they station an informer when they couldn’t possibly know about Eatherly's squadron’s arrival beforehand? 

Or have they…? Major Eatherly felt a chill as an apprehension sprouted in his mind. He was convinced that the enemy had snooped in on their communication channel and had, somehow, managed to decrypt the messages exchanged among the officials of high command about their secret operation.

Owing to his active involvement in various aerial combats, Eatherly had grasped the fact well that many things in a mission went according to plans; those that didn’t, required improvisation from skilled fighters.

It was apparent to Eatherly that all chains of the enemy’s strategy would break apart if the informer plane failed to reach its destination in time. Major Claude Eatherly instantly knew what he had to do.

7.40 a.m. With just five minutes left, Rupert could feel the lump in his throat growing. Droning was closing in and so was the time of encounter. Rupert’s radar showed the planes one by one within half a mile radius, but he could not focus on them. Anxiety was having a bitter effect on his concentration. He took a deep breath and then focused on loading the missile. Suddenly, the warning light on his controls came alive. The digital panel read,


Rupert’s jaws dropped.

‘How on earth is that possible? How could they have known?’

He clasped at the handgrip and swerved the aircraft to his left, but it was a tad late. There was an awful jerk. He was thrown off on the floor with the impact. The missile had found his plane’s right wing. Rupert knew he was tumbling over the edge of failure and a turnaround would require a miracle. He jumped on his feet and hit the buttons frantically. A thick coil of smoke began to spiral out from his right wing.

Major Eatherly and his squadron saw Rupert’s aircraft spinning down towards the Ocean, its right wing leaving a helical trail of black smoke along the path of its descent.

“Well done, Commander. The mission still has a go,” the message echoed through the radios of all the pilots of the squadron.

Rupert’s aircraft landed upon the ocean. Far away, Major Eatherly and his squadron focused on their respective roles for the mission at hand, little knowing what was going on inside the aircraft they had shot down, or rather the one they thought they had shot down. When they disappeared in the distant sky, Rupert gathered his composure back and pressed the buttons again – this time in reverse order. The smoke stopped coming out of the wing. Normal mode of operation was restored in the aircraft. His devices assessed the damage to the wing by the grazing missile to be minimal. A split-second decision to veer his craft at the last moment had turned out to be his saviour.

Once the missile swished past his aircraft, Rupert had understood that his cover had been compromised and he could think of only one thing to do from that point. What he did not know was he would be able to simulate the crashing sequence and deceive the eyes of trained fighter pilots so impeccably.

The pumps were running in full swing and it wouldn’t be more than a minute before his plane would be dry enough to fly again. 7.43 a.m. Final two minutes were left.

Afar, inside one of the planes in Eatherly's squadron, the charges and the detonating device had already been taken to bomb bay. Arming the nuclear warhead was in process. Very soon, it would awake to its ability of annihilating an entire city.

The squadron of aircrafts zoomed through the sky en route to their mission, the peaceful lazuline resting in stark contrast against the catastrophic weapon that was flying across it. The crew members were busy with their chores on the weather reconnaissance devices, photography apparatus, impact assessment gadgets and other things to ensure a grand success of the horrifying mission.

Just then, like a bolt from the blue, a missile hurled itself forth towards the squadron. Every aircraft had a designated role to do, but the missile, like the arrow of an ace hunter who would accurately strike his target camouflaging in the distance amidst the rocks, whizzed at Enola Gay, the airplane bearing the destructive weapon.

There was a crashing blast as Rupert’s missile exploded into the Enola Gay.

The amateur aviator in Rupert had fired it to perfection. He glanced at the digital time device. With such a rush he had flown after the pumps had dried his apparatus that he hadn’t had the time to look at it after taking off from the water. 7.43 a.m. He gave a sigh of relief. But then, his eyes popped out as he jumped off with a start. The panel was static. That was how it had been since the missile had grazed his plane, but he hadn't noticed it till then in his fit of rush. He realized that the exact location of damage in his right wing was where the antenna for the time device had been installed. Unfortunately, his machinery was designed to intimate him of damages only to the plane. It wasn’t aware of the antenna.

“Oh Lord!” Rupert cried, knowing it well that his flawless device had made him plunge into the very flaw he had set out to rectify.

In the next instant, the Enola Gay, or rather, what used to be Enola Gay became a source of blinding light on the sky. The radiance roared unstoppably in all directions like boiling lava jetting out of an angry crater at lightning speed. The only ship below within a three mile radius of the impact disappeared without a trace in the wink of an eye, just like the planes of that squadron. The dazzling light that gulped down everything in sight dwarfed the glow of sun. The deafening sound that associated the light could eclipse a thousand thunders.
Vigorous blast waves spread out from the impact point consuming everything on their way. The sky seemed to have been torn apart with countless slashes of gigantic swords; the ocean below made way for an enormous depression, the diameter of which would accommodate the lengths of a hundred football fields.

This was just the beginning. The detonation had created a massive pressure gradient that conspired with the fiery streaks of light and produced a horrific cloud of firestorm. It swirled and danced like the prodigious manifestation of apocalypse itself that would stop at nothing but complete obliteration of mankind.


Commotion broke into The White House in Washington D.C. as the news reached there. The mission was never easy. But little had it been anticipated that the failure would be so spectacular. In case, the enemy hadn’t surrendered after today’s attack, another nuclear weapon drop was to be scheduled three days later. Both the aircraft and the pilot who were to be handed the charge of weapon drop for that next mission were part of today’s operation.

President Harry Truman remained sunken on his chair having heard of the utter failure of his operation. A bizarre feeling seemed to have grasped his mind. It wasn’t the disappointment over his failure; it wasn’t the rising worries over the imposing concern that was standing taller in front of him now in the form of Japan; it wasn’t anything he had experienced in his entire life; it seemed like someone, he had some unknown connections to, was trying to send a message to him from very, very far away. He could perceive it, not like a subtle intuition or an illusory apparition, but as something, almost as tangible as the blood in his veins earnestly asking his mind to refrain from spilling that of thousands of innocents.

President Truman had lost his appetite today; he had lost the best of his pilots and crew who could have ventured on such a difficult mission across the Pacific with any expectation of success; but most significantly, he had lost his willingness to win the war at the cost of smearing the Flag of United States of America with blood of innumerable innocent people of Japan.

A meeting was convened a day later.

“What do we do now about the war, Mr. President Sir?” a member of advisory committee asked.

“We win it,” President Truman replied. “But not by dropping bombs on innocent citizens… Not on my watch.”


Ships and planes that were present tens of miles away from the site of the nuclear blast could provide accounts of the effects of only feeble components of the actual blast. Those accounts, as time passed, found wind and went on journeying through the globe and generating terror in the hearts of the masses making them flinch with the very mention of a nuclear war. No exact description of the incident could be acquired from any source for there was no survivor to assess the blast impact or to photograph this devastating episode the likes of which had never been witnessed by mankind before; but had there been one keen observer recording every detail of this cataclysm, then his account would have contained diabolically ornate adjectives to articulate every stage of that apocalyptic chapter; it would have contained the way in which the airplanes and the ship vanished from existence the moment the blast waves hit them, but the most intriguing entry of his report would have been of the aircraft that had spewed the missile from the distance at the Enola Gay, because, just like the others, that aircraft had disappeared from existence too, but unlike the others, it had vaporized a few milliseconds before the first blast wave could hit it.


Over seven decades later, a cargo ship was sailing on the Pacific Ocean. A group of crew members was gazing up the sky and discussing about that place being the only place on earth to have ever experienced the brunt of a nuclear weapon in mankind’s history. Suddenly, they spotted a bizarre thing on the sky at the point where they were looking. With a bright flash of light, an aircraft appeared there from nowhere, blazed through the sky and plummeted into the water like an unmanned plane whose auto-pilot mechanism had gone faulty. Rushing to its rescue, the ship’s crew found only one man inside it. The damaged aircraft had numerous intricate control buttons with numbers on them. ‘Stealth Mode’, ‘Crash Sequence’, ‘Water Landing’, and many other labels were pasted on a board above the control panel. There was a series of number combination under each of those labels. One relatively newer label read, ‘Travel to’. Beside it was a set of slots to enter data. But surprisingly, that space was not meant for entering names of places. It had slots to enter time and date. Together with the present data, it read, ‘Travel to 8:00 a.m., February 18, 2017’ – the exact date and time he crashed from the sky.

The man was found lying curled up on the floor, eyes shut and hands on his ears. He seemed to be desperately trying to block some noise before losing consciousness. An identification card was found in his pocket. It read, ‘Rupert Truman’.




BIO: Victor Nandi is a telecommunication engineer and is presently pursuing a post graduation degree in network engineering.  He lives in Karnataka, India.