Dr. Sunandan Baruah
Date: 22nd January 2030.
Sneha pulled the blinds up and looked out of her office window. Putting the coffee cup on the windowsill, she gazed blankly at the street 65 floors below. It was drizzling and the vehicles were moving at a very slow pace. She looked at her watch. 3 PM. Just a few hours left for the annual function to start in Mahika’s school. “Elisa, at what time do I have to go to Mahika’s school?” “7 PM sharp”, replied her digital assistant. “Mahika’s dance drama is from 8.15 PM” continued Elisa. “Mahika has requested you to wear the red gown”. “Thanks Elisa.”
Sneha walked up to the closet on the far end of her office, just next to the washroom. She slowly opened it and looked at the clothes inside, mostly her working clothes, all in black. She started sliding the hangers until she found out the red gown and took it out. She held it up and looked at it admiringly. How many times did she wear it, twice? Maybe thrice. It was a gift from Rodney on their 10th wedding anniversary, a beautiful red flowing gown with black lace. She slowly opened a drawer just below the closet, pulled out a cover file and held it to her chest for some time. Her eyes moistened and she softly said “I know you are with me always. You ensured that I remain safe forever and ever.” She kept the file labeled “Nano-Innovations” safely back in the drawer. “Nanotechnology deals with materials at the sub-hundred nanometer range. They behave totally differently at the Nano scale. Materials can be so exciting at this size. You understand what I am saying Mahi?” Sneha once heard Rodney telling Mahika. A faint smile came to her lips when she remembered the incident. “She definitely understood Rodney. As for her answer, you will have to wait till she learns to speak.” Rodney was simply obsessed with Nano. She sometimes felt he loved Nano more than her.
A vibration on the electronic Nanopad just below her palm brought her back to the present. She jerked her hand to take the call. “Agent NanoX, something urgent. Leave office in 2 minutes”. It was after Rodney was killed in a secret mission to apprehend the terrorist Abu Bin Saleh that she placed a special request to have her code name changed to NanoX. Rodney was more a nano scientist than a secret agent and all his innovations were for her, to keep her safe! It took her barely a minute to change to her working suit that Rodney had designed, and she was on the street in exactly 2 minutes.
She sat down in the Black Volvo parked just below her office. The car moved the moment she sat down. She touched the transparent screen in front of her and it immediately came to life as if she was sitting just in front of her Boss. “Agent NanoX, we have a rock solid lead on Abs.” Abu Bin Saleh was Abs for them. She had a personal vendetta with Abs. The name sends a shiver through her spine every time, not out of fright but out of hatred and more so out of anger! Yes, she hated him and her only mission in life is to send him to the dark dungeons in hell. “Mission planned out to the minutest details, co-ordinates and seconds. Just remember, Agent NanoX, we want him alive”. There was a faint smile on her lips. She had other plans.
The car screeched to a halt amidst the fog. Sneha blinked her eyes. Visibility was very low, just a few feet. It was still drizzling. The door slid open sending in a burst of cold air. Mist condensed on her eyelids. She was perfectly warm otherwise. The Nano fibers in her dress retained the body warmth. She folded her arms as if hugging Rodney and stepped out of the car. “This way, Agent NanoX”. She moved towards the voice and slowly a huge machine loomed out of the fog! Sneha gazed at the beautiful yet so menacing aircraft staring coldly at her. She realized she was on an airstrip and this dangerous looking aircraft; something so similar to what she sees in Mahika’s Xbox games, will be her next carrier. The pilot was already in his seat and shouted to her as his hatch started closing “Hop aboard NanoX, we move in 46 seconds”. She scrambled up the ladder and sat down in the second hatch behind the pilot and immediately put on the oxygen mask while the seat belts automatically clamped.
It took 30 seconds for the aircraft to be airborne. In a few minutes Sneha started feeling giddy. She understood that the aircraft is moving at a very high speed. She closed her eyes. “So what speed are we moving at now?” “Mach 12.4” quipped in the pilot. Without opening her eyes she calculated “Close to about 12000 km per hour!” she exclaimed. “This beauty can hit Mach 15.0” the pilot added. “So what’s your name?” “Flight Lieutenant Vijay at your service, Ma’am”. She sat quietly for some time till her body adjusted to the hypersonic speed. “What’s this aircraft?” She screamed into the microphone, “Seeing it for the first time!” “It’s an X 66A High scram Jet Ma’am” came the reply. The best in hypersonic speeds at the moment! They are using some super light, super strong Nano composites for the body and that give a 30% boost to thel; speed. I heard some nanoparticles mixed with the fuel add a further 5% boost”. The word “Nano” again moistened her eyes. She closed them and thought of Rodney!
They flew for about 13 minutes to an undisclosed location. “About to land Ma’am” announced Flight Lieutenant Vijay. Sneha opened her eyes and looked down. All she could see below was snow. She looked around for the airstrip and was horrified to see none. “So where do we land?” she asked quizzically. “Over there” Vijay pointed to a large flat area. “On the snow? How is that possible?” “We make our own airstrip” laughed Vijay. “Hold on”! The plane took a nosedive, she screamed! It leveled just about 10 feet above the snow. It slowly moved, at a snail’s pace, surprising Sneha. “How is this possible? The plane is actually hovering”! Vijay pressed a button and slowly the snow below started to dry up into an icy form. “What’s happening, Vijay?” Sneha couldn’t control her surprise. “Its these cool nanoparticles spray that instantly creates a strong interlinking between the water molecules, so strong that even a powerful excavator will not be able to take them out. Real cool stuff” Vijay made a u-turn and descended to land. “Perfect landing” Sneha clapped.
The plane stood in the middle of nowhere. Snow covered hills all around. Sneha quickly surveyed the area. The sun is almost setting. “Agent NanoX, Abs is somewhere within one square kilometer area of where you have landed. Terahertz signals radiated from the Nano antennae attached to the plane have been able to detect human movement about 20 feet below the snow. Location: 25.939° N, 83.2982° E. It’s all over to you now. Best of luck”. “Thanks Chief”. She opened the cockpit. Vijay said “Wait Ma’am, let me take her down”. The plane slowly moved down till the wings touched the snow. “My baby will not be visible now”. Both of them jumped down from the plane. It was getting dark. “Over there” Sneha pointed to a pass between two peaks about 200 yards away. “We go through that pass”.
Slowly they walked through the snow towards the pass. As they walked through they could behold a beautiful sight. The sky was lit up with a myriad of colours, nature’s artistry at its best! Both of them stood there, eyes transfixed on to the sky. Suddenly, Vijay collapsed, without any warning. He fell flat on the snow face down. It happened so fast that Sneha could hardly react. She was about to rush to Vijay when she felt a huge impact on her chest. It was so huge that she was thrown off her feet and she slid on the snow for almost about 10 feet. She lay dazed on the snow for some time, and then quickly started scrawling towards Vijay who was still lying facing down. She turned him around and could see blood on the snow. Frantically she shook him “Vijay, Vijay….open your eyes.” He let out a groan and Sneha could understand he was in pain. She quickly pulled out a medicated patch from her jacket pocket and put it on Vijay’s wound and held it for some time. Slowly the blood clotted and Vijay opened his eyes. He gave a faint smile “Am okay, any idea what hit me?” Sneha shook her head “I got a hit too”. She touched her chest where she felt the impact. The zipper of her jacket bent because of it. As she moved her hand over the dent, small pieces of ice fell off. She picked up a few, hard ice pieces! “I get it! Ice bullets!” she exclaimed. “Don’t worry Vijay. You have ice bullets inside you, already melted for sure. No chance of infection. The patch I put on the wound is laced with chitosan nanoparticles, which will definitely heal the wound in a few minutes. Cool stuff this one, taken from lobster shell” she smiled at him. “Okay Vijay, here’s the plan. After some time crawl back to the plane and lay low there. I have to finish the mission in 22 minutes. If I don’t return within 22 minutes you fly back. Is that clear?” “Roger” came back the faint reply.
Sneha started crawling towards the mountain pass. This time she needs to be careful. Cannot afford more hits from ice bullets. The dress that Rodney made for her took the impact quite well. She had absolutely no idea how Rodney managed to incorporate carbon nanotubes in between the fibers. “Strongest material known to humans” he once told her. The terahertz radar on her watch kept beeping and then suddenly a voice on her Bluetooth earphone “humans detected”! So Abs hideout is just 20 feet below her. She lay quiet for about 30 seconds thinking up a quick plan of action. Chief had informed during the flight about the possibility of around 20 armed militants in the hideout with Abs. “21 against 1, not bad” smiled Sneha. Where can the entrance to the hideout possibly be? Moonlight brightened up the snow allowing good visibility of about 20 feet. She looked at her watch, another 14 minutes left.
Sneha could detect some movements about 100 yards away. She lay flat on her stomach and quietly observed armed men slowly coming towards her. “Must be a search party. The guy with the ice bullets definitely raised the alarm”. Sneha’s plan of action with a backup plan is already in place. She has to divert their attention away from the plane. As the group approached nearer she could count the number… “8 of them”. Suddenly she jumped up and started running, away from the plane. The terrorists noticed her, shouted to each other and ran after her. Ice bullets whizzed past her. She slowly started dropping small beads of a very strong basic particles “pH 14, get to work” she muttered as she ran. The particles, the moment they fell on the soft snow started generating highly reactive radicals that slowly cut through the ice. All of a sudden, she stopped, turned round and put up her hands, as if in a surrendering mode. The terrorists stopped too, guns pointed to her. Within a few seconds, the whole area that they were standing on caved in, almost instantly. Before the terrorists could understand what happened, they were covered completely by snow. “8 down! 13 more to go. My position is improving” Sneha smiled.
She ran, very fast, towards the direction the terrorist group came from. The entrance to the hideout is definitely that side. 9 minutes left to complete her mission or perish there all alone amidst the terrorists. All of a sudden she slipped and rolled 50 feet down a slope. As she slowly got up, she saw the entrance, a square hole about 5 feet by 5 feet with icy steps going down. She crawled towards it. Nobody at the entrance. Guess she had already buried the guards on duty. The small screen of the Terahertz tracker on her wrist showed human movement a few feet below. She slowly moved down the steps, as quiet as a cat, maybe even quieter. A faint light came up the steps and a huge shadow loomed up. Somebody is coming up the steps. Instantly Sneha was up on the roof, upside down, just like a lizard. Millions of nanocups on her gloves and her shoe soles held her up. Hats off to nano air suckers and Rodney! She slowly moved in, just like spider man and quietly passed over the heads of the security guards, maybe just 5 feet above. She placed detonators at regular intervals as she moved. She needs to find Abu Bin Saleh, and fast!
Abu Bin Saleh was relaxing on a comfortable recliner in a dark room staring intently at the 3 big computer screens in front of him. He had been planning this terror attack in all the continents for quite some time, 3 years to be precise. It was important for him that everything works out perfectly well. Not a single explosion should fail. He was looking at reports coming in from different countries. He looked at the world map on one of the screens. Green dots beeped everywhere. A smile of satisfaction on Abu’s face, things are working as planned. He was so engrossed in what he was doing that he didn’t notice the human lizard slowly coming into his room. Sneha blinked her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The fluorescent particles that Rodney had injected into her eyes took over and slowly everything looked crystal clear to her as if in daylight. Sneha switched on the tracker signal. Silently she sent the message she had kept ready for Vijay. She looked at her watch, 3 minutes left! She released the grip on the roof and landed in front of Abs. He was taken unawares and he jumped out of his chair and reached for the alarm button. The laser beam from Sneha’s wrist blasted the button even before Abs could reach it. He sunk back into the chair and stared at her in horror as her gun was aimed at his forehead.
“Well Abu? How does it feel to face death? Any last prayer?” Sneha remembered the clear instruction from Chief. Abu has to be brought in alive! “Like any living being on this planet you also deserve to live Abu.” She lowered her gun to Abu’s relief. “Unfortunately your life means the death of many and I am sure Satan has already made arrangements for your reception in Hell. This is for all the innocent people who died because of you. This is for Rodney.” She closed her wrist and made a quick jerk. A small mortar shot out from her backpack and hit the roof, making a big hole through it and through the snow layer on top revealing the multicoloured sky. Abs fell face flat on the floor because of the impact. The jet pack she was carrying switched on and she flew out, through the hole and landed on the soft snow. She was up instantly clambering the ladder of the hovering aircraft. She closed the cockpit and shouted, “Off we go Vijay”. She then touched the nanopad on her wrist “This is for humanity”. Immediately there was a huge explosion that sent snow and rocks everywhere and Vijay very tactfully maneuvered the aircraft and they disappeared into the horizon. “Mission accomplished Chief. Unfortunately Abs blew himself up”.
“Fifteen minutes for Mahika’s dance drama” Elisa said the moment Sneha opened her office door. She rushed to the closet and pulled out her red gown. “Will be ready in a jiffy, Elisa”. “You better be” was the response from her digital secretary. Barely 10 minutes left. She ran out and accidentally her hand hit the coffee cup she had placed on the windowsill before she rushed out on her mission. It was coffee all over her dress. She smiled, shook her dress a bit and quickly left. The Nano structuring on the gown made it a self-cleaning surface and all the coffee simply dropped off. She sat in the car “Mahika’s school Lazarus! Step on it!” She looked at her bare wrist, something definitely missing. She pulled out her cell phone, clicked a picture of her gown and wrapped the phone around her wrist in style. “Thanks to foldable electronics” she smiled to herself as the phone on her wrist changed colour to match with her dress. Now she is all set for a wonderful evening!