Steve Jason was invited by the colonel Orgyen in an aircraft fly over the forbidden radioactive zone. The colonel Orgyen briefed him just before, in the short and straightforward way of action persons. The colonel looked as a clean, polite and gentle man, rather than some unpolished soldier. But he was very skilful and efficient, and you can find in Tibetan jails some who can testify for this. He was also a dedicated Buddhist practitioner, whom his Lama was considering more and more seriously.
«There is a thing I wonder, colonel. You know that when the Tibet was occupied, His Holiness the 14th Dalaï Lama wished for Tibet being a demilitarised zone. And today there is an army, even small, but an army however. How?
-Hey, Steve, we, Tibetans, are somewhat undisciplined. We have a very great respect for the Dalaï Lamas, we keep in high esteem their advices, but we seldom follow them. So, only some months after the first democratic elections, a Tibetan army was created. Its purpose of course is not to make war to our powerful neighbours such as China or India, but there was, especially in the Karakorum region, guerrilla groups or fanatic religious groups which were really a hazard for Tibetans and neighbouring peoples. Now the situation somewhat settled, but we still feel as a duty to protect Tibetans and neighbouring peoples against a possible reactivating of these groups.
«The origin of the Tibetan Army can be traced to the Chinese invasion. At that time, some Tibetans joined the Indian army. His Holiness the Dalaï Lama did not encouraged this, but he however granted his benediction and spiritual protection to these Tibetan soldiers. Believe it or not, there were very few casualties among these soldiers, even if they were several times engaged on hot spots at that time. These Tibetan soldiers were highly estimated in the Indian Army, and it is them who created the new Tibetan army. It is a small army, but well trained and efficient.
«We fortunately did not had to face great conflicts such as the ecology crisis in the 20', and the region is far more quiet since the Chinese fascism no more try to start ethnic wars here and there. But there are still fanatic religious groups who cross the Tibetan boundaries to escape their country's law, and we had some deals with them. There are also bandits in the ancient Tibet style, but we are not very keen to keep this kind of traditions. It is the reason why we constantly monitor the desert northern regions. Otherwise, we several time did peacekeeping or humanitarian action with the UNO. We enjoy this very much, but when the stake is clear. Otherwise it is a nightmare, and once we preferred to withdraw.
-Yes, I heard of this dreadful affair. In fact you were asked to protect the culprits against the victims. You were right to withdraw. The proof: the problem ceased soon after.
-Hey, we are not stranger to this. We somewhat, say, prepared the ground, before actually withdrawing.»
Surely the colonel Orgyen was not some dumb swaddy. Politicians did not needed to give him commands, as he was already doing the right things. He was really somebody to account with.
In the Tibetan Air Force base of Djigdje Dragyal were based several drone aircrafts, and inhabited intelligence aircrafts, which purpose was mainly to watch an huge zone of meadows and deserts, mountains and gullies, and to monitor various groups of persons more or less out the Tibetan law. There were innocent hermits, less innocent bandits and poachers, and frankly dangerous fanatic religious groups. The radioactive forbidden zone was now a wildlife reservation, but it was also forbidden to nomad shepherds, an interdiction often difficult to make understand.
The drone had a rather strange look. It was like a piece of wing, with the classical cross-section of a wing, no longer than large, so that from above it looked square, approximately two meters wide. At both ends were vertical fins prolonged by vertical stabilisers. On the top, all across, there was a slot, to aspire air. This air was then ejected through another slot, all along the trailing edge of the wing. It resulted from this a very silent machine, very economic in fuel, able to fly a day long, especially with the help of the solar cells which covered its upper face. The lower face was painted in light grey, not to be spotted easily in the blue sky, and the construction in fine plastic sheets and rods made it very light weight and difficult to detect with a radar. Powerful infrared cameras allowed it to track people from a high altitude, where it was completely unnoticed. There was also a catapult mounted on a truck and a radio reception van, allowing for mobile launching and operation.
When Steve saw the aircraft he would get in, he first thought it was just a larger drone. It looked very similar, and not so much greater, about three metres wide, less than two cars besides, and only fifty centimetres thick. The only difference was the overall shape, from above, hexagonal rather than square. It looked really too small to carry a person, and was so light that two could haul it. The air aspiration system on the upper face was more sophisticated, a grid with patterns of holes of various sizes. There was a sort of cabin in the middle, hardly exceeding the overall thickness, as if it was a model aircraft. Steve had to sneak into this narrow habitacle where he could only lie on his belly, his face against a great window looking under the aircraft and in front. He carefully checked the parachute system!
When the small aircraft took off, there was first the acceleration of the catapult shot, and then a terrifying feeling of being suspended in the air, as if there was no aircraft. The later bounced and oscillated with the wind, like a very light toy. But a toy able of accelerating to near the sound velocity in half a minute. Steve had a strong vertigo, seeing only the ground far below him, in place of sitting in a chair on a floor as in an ordinary aircraft.
Then he recovered his control on himself. Some were unable, and were severely ill. Fortunately the piloting was very easy, only with a small stick and a powerful autopilot ensuring all the stabilisation and flight control hassle, so that anybody could use it without training. The bounces were really frightening, giving a feeling as if the aircraft was falling or about to get upside down, but everything was under electronic control, so that there was no real danger. There was also a constant radio remote control and a permanent radio link with colonel Orgyen. There was nearby no engine noise, like in a glider, so that Steve wondered what kind of engine it was, perhaps a sonic engine. In fact, once overcome the vertigo, to fly this was really pleasant, and somewhat gave the feeling of being free as a bird, and Steve enjoyed to feel the plane balancing only when he moved his arm.
The observation means were also very sophisticated. The window was in fact a screen allowing for natural observation, but also able of becoming opaque, and to show the image seen by a powerful magnifying camera, exactly as if it was seen through the window. These cameras were operating in visible light and infrared as well, allowing for night operation.
Steve had to wait one hour to get on the zone. He used this time to observe the Tibetan plateau, covered with green grass, hills and small mountains. These wide ranges were all but desert, and Steve observed many wild animals, water streams, numerous nomad tents and cattle, small houses made of stones and planks, container houses (note ), stupas, Mani cairns (note), prayer flags, painted rocks (note), and other things he could not identify. With this peaceful vision of nature and green meadows, Steve had a sensual nostalgia of a little home nested in a small flowery glen, with some friendly people. It looked very much like ancient Tibet, except that a now common way to inhabit the wilderness was off-road vehicles of various sizes, with mandatory gigantic bulk tyres to avoid spoiling the grass with repeated passages, and also large silencers not to disturb the overwhelming silence of the plateau. These features owed these vehicles a very special look, also very popular in Mongolia and exported in other countries with vast ranges of unspoiled grass, as far as Peru. Some were simply painted in neutral green, to merge into the scenery, others on the contrary were brilliantly coloured and heavily ornamented with religious patterns, in the tradition of the Tata trucks.
The sun was low on the horizon when Steve came onto the forbidden radioactive zone. There was no visible limit, except that human artefacts were far more scarce. But he could not expect what he saw. In a huge flat surface, there were gigantic dark green fields, with from time to time small houses, and even villages, with gardens. «Orgyen? What is this? I though cultivating was forbidden, here, and there are plenty of people.
-They are the Myelwey Tharkhen.
-Coming back from hell, in Tibetan. They are about three hundred now, reincarnations of ancient Chinese colonists and criminals, who participated to the pollution of the zone, or to other atrocities. They were given the choice: to stay in hell, or to come again to clean the mess. So they took rebirth in Tibet or China, and went here, renounced to having children with sterilisation, and they often die with leukaemia.
-This is incredible, and even frightening. Who recognise they are Myelwey Tharkhen? Without testable evidences, it looks very unfair.
-There is no injustice. They know themselves they are Myelwey Tharkhen. Often they already suffer from genetic diseases, or have very ugly faces. Nobody enforce them. On the contrary when somebody says he is a Myelwey Tharkhen, he is asked for psychological examination and the like, to check if his claim does not only come from madness. If not, he is thus «recognised» as a Myelwey Tharkhen. But some even go directly to the zone and escape this control. They are considered with a great respect by everybody, as a model of real motivation for mind liberation, despite their great sufferings. Some asked to get into retreat centres when they were too ill to work, and they could obtain some achievements. It is widely considered that, even if their life is harsh, they are very lucky to have this reincarnation: otherwise they would suffer for hundred of thousand years if hell fire.
-Amazing! We have to go in Tibet to see things like that. Nobody forbad this?
-Of course there were debates, in Tibet and abroad, mainly by human right NGOs. But the Myelwey Tharkhen themselves refused to be «protected». For them it is being a Myelwey Tharkhen or nothing.
-And what do they cultivate?
-Radioactivity concentrating plants. These plants are dried, burned, and their ashes washed. At the beginning it was impossible to do this, because of the main polluter, caesium. But now the caesium is much lower, and the most dangerous radionuclides are strontium and plutonium. This process is somewhat efficient, as washed cinders are concentrated enough to be processed in factories, for stockpiling. But only a weak percentage of the total radioactivity is absorbed by the plants, and only in places suitable for cultivating. So exhausting the radioactivity will perhaps need a century.
«And here it is relatively easy. In the Toneyele Mountain, or at Nagchukha, there are underground factories filled with plutonium and the devil knows what else. Here even the Myelwey Tharkhen do not go, they say it is worse than hell. If they go, they do it only when they know they are already about to die. Some remember the disposition of the place, from their previous life, where they worked there. Anyway only them allowed to know what was exactly in these places. And it is frightful. It was really a demented destruction undertaking. Once, there was a dreadful accident: a man carrying a plutonium bar slipped and fell on another who was also carrying plutonium: they both saw the blue nuclear fire in their eyes, while the plutonium containers instantly turned red hot. They died some minutes later, their flesh coming off their bones as if it had been boiled.
«As soon as Tibet and China were free, there was a great concern of neighbouring nations to clean the polluted zones. Winds were spreading radioactive dusts as far as Beijing, while rain washed it out into the main water supplies of China and South-east Asia, the Huang Ho, Yang Tse Kyang and Mekong rivers. So there was an international aid. At the beginning, it was difficult, as the caesium forbad to stay here. There were attempts to tar polluted zones, but it was expensive with only short time results. Now cultivating plants is more easy, but still extremely expensive, for only a long run result. So the Myelwey Tharkhen are really welcome. They work for free, only asking for food and tools.
«Steve, you are now approaching the spot. There are no cultures, as the climate is more dry.
-True. It is now bare ground, with motor tracks here and there.
-Remnants of Chinese invasion, again. In the desert these traces can last for centuries. We engage the autopilot, and activate the special flight schedule. The lidar shots are distant of only five metres, and move from scan to scan, so that your aircraft only has a very narrow space to sneak in. Only the autopilot can lead it there. Think that laser rays pass at only half a metre of your wing tips. It is not dangerous, but if you are hit they spot you and hide everything».
Steve did not thought. As the small aircraft automatically engaged the special route, he was busy to look ahead, trying to see the place. He felt a kind of excitement, his heart somewhat beating. There were bandits on the place, but it was first and above all the first extraterrestrial contact point.
The landscape was relatively flat, covered with patches of brown grass separated by erosion traces. Steve understood that there once were green meadows here, with shepherds and cattle and plenty of wild animals. But the radioactivity burned the grass which turned brown, and still remains like this, more than a century later. Rain and wind eroded the uncovered ground, bringing radioactive dust into the rivers, and from there into Chinese fields and food. Inflexible Karma law...
The contact point was occupied with barracks, trucks, scientific devices of various kinds. The infrared vision showed the powerful lidar beam, so that Steve easily spotted it, hidden in an old rusty container, and shooting through a small aperture in the roof of that container. Other containers showed similar apertures, and they could hide various other devices. It was certainly not a pleasant place, with only the short burned grass, permanent icy wind, mud, rust, no flowers and a deadly silence. The people there had only a small bar and TV to bear their boredom.
In the middle was standing a great mast, bearing radio antennas and meteo devices, its shadow now stretching very far with the approaching sunset. On top, a small sheet covered perhaps the image projector. At the foot of the mast, there was a line of great boxes, looking like dust sampling trays, but perfectly suitable for hiding the screen under them. At the place it could unfold, the short brown grass exhibited traces, very visible with the long shadows. Two winches were also visible, suitable for quickly rolling the screen. But the day it could hardly be used, explaining why the Dumrians placed theirs in orbit, in a dark room.
«Difficult to guess what they do from there. But if the Dumrians also observe such an ugly place, I wonder what they think too. It is not precisely their culture. Gosh, they pile up their garbage on a heap, this is not very scientific.
-The screen is visible only by night. Usually they begin their business when the night is dark enough. It is about in one hour. Are you still OK Steve?
-Yes, perfectly OK. Except that to pee in a diaper is not very pleasant.
-Ha ha! Sorry Steve. There is no place for toilets in this plane. It is not an airliner!
-Yes it is not, but it is however worth the try. In no airliner you have such a marvellous sight».
The fly over finished, and, while waiting, Orgyen send the plane for a routine mission. Steve switched on the infrared vision, as the daylight was now too low. There was another completely different landscape, incredibly flat and sandy, with as only human artefacts some tracks. Perhaps some of these fine foot tracks were dating from the time of the Silk Road caravans. Steve could nearby hear the fine violin line of Borodin's «Steppes of Central Asia».
Suddenly there was the astounding view of the huge solar factories, with their tall oven masts and infinite mirror fields, lined up to the horizon, producing solar oil from sun, water and atmospheric carbon dioxide. This was the elegant solution for replacing fossil oil with a non-greenhouse fuel, without changing all the industry. There were villages for the workers, illuminated and merry looking, with trees, theatres, nice lhakangs (Buddhist temples) in Tibetan or Chinese style, small churches and mosques. The whole plant was incredibly large, and units were lining up on tens of kilometres. The basic devices were, on top of the masts, the thermal converters, which patent made the fortune of the Shedrup Ling university. Their production was mainly exported to China and India, with a derivation toward Irkoutsk through Mongolia. It was now the main income of Tibet, allowing it for a very acceptable life standard and education level.
Then there was a mountain range, still desert, but with some oasis hidden in valleys. There were some houses and people in these places, mainly cultivating fruits. But it was also a place difficult to control, and Steve spotted two times suspicious groups of horsemen. Orgyen thoroughly recorded their images.
When the circuit was finished, the aircraft engaged into a second flyby over the contact point. It nosed up and reduced speed, in order to have a longer flyby, and engaged again into the anti-lidar flight schedule.
This time the screen was unrolled, and extended besides the dust sampling trays. There were light and people in a barrack, and guards on duty all around the camp.
«They look at the surrounding with infrared binoculars and rifles with telescopic sight. Suspicious, that guys.
-Hey, good, Steve. We did not yet noticed this».
The projected messages were not visible in infrared, and Steve switched to visible light.
«That it is: Purple light beam from the projector, and the screen responding in green from fluorescence. It is really a quantum emitter.»
The screen showed texts in English. The recorders started up. Steve could not read, as pages of texts were changing several times a second. The time of his flyby, maybe a whole big book passed by, with also various diagrams. These guys were really busy with the Dumrians.
«That is incredible! What are they doing? It is a whole library they send out!
-I get the first pages of the record, replied Orgyen. It is about psychology. But it is a rather strange stuff, more likely to muddle minds than to help. You know that it is the Applied Mind Science which runs that camp. I do not like very much that folks, and among Buddhists here they are widely considered as tirtikas (note) or a sect (note). I tried to warn the police authorities, but they did not moved. So I only keep looking at this camp, and try to record as much as I can of their stuff.
-There are diagrams, now, like industrial drawings. But it is too fast, I cannot read.
-Once there were plans for machine guns. Don't like this kind of psychology. This is really frightening. Are these guys fuelling a war on that planet?
-All this is really terrific. We must put an end to this, very quickly. Ho, the flyby is over, I can see nothing now. Another flyby?
-No, you don't have enough fuel. But there is another drone on the way. We cannot observe them all the time, as we are not allotted money for this. But I manage to fly over that spot when going to other missions, so that I catch a significant sample of what they send. It is not very merry, and if I knew sooner that it was to create problems on another planet, I should have warned everybody publicly, whatever the consequences.
-It would have been a nice idea. But for the moment it could be very awkward, as the whole network would escape. The camp would simply move away in another country, and you would even not have any evidence of what you said.
-Yes. But we shall catch them.
-Yes, soon. We have many evidences now, but not yet enough».
The landing was certainly the most frightening moment in the flight: you feel as if your face was to be smashed on the ground, at more than hundred kilometres an hour. But at the last moment the autopilot makes the plane nose up at forty degrees with the thrust nearby vertical, reducing speed so that the aircraft can land on a tennis ground, elegantly receiving itself with some bounces on its supple skates. It was timely, as only ten minutes fuel remained.
When the ground staff opened the cockpit, Steve was relieved of his various discomforts, but he also felt very happy.
But he just had time to catch a small ordinary aircraft to get back to Lhassa.
Scenario, graphics, sounds, colours, realization: Richard Trigaux.
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