“Incoming plane for Hanger 18, I repeat incoming plane for Hanger 18”. The static crackled with this message and went dead.

Captain Rajeev felt his irritation rising when he heard Hanger 18 being mentioned. This hanger was always kept under lock and key, shrouded in a mysterious aura. No one was allowed to enter it, not even him, the captain of the Air force Airport Security.

There were “orders” from higher officials and “serious warnings” which were issued, all pertaining to the hanger. Every time, he dared to take a look, the effort of his parents, their sacrifice jolted him back to reality.

He had heard stories about how his forefathers used to serve their country, while braving heavy rainfall or blazing sunlight. Back in 2020, the earth was green, the sun could be seen, and there was free air and water!

But now, oxygen had to be bought. It was a blooming industry. Gas masks were compulsory. The earth looked brown from outer space because of the carbon layers. They were also the reason for lack of sunlight. And Water! No longer found, not on Earth at least.

These days it wasn’t contraband or narcotics that were being smuggled. It was air! The government had banned Pure Oxygen.It was the only pure air left and that too in traces. Rajeev was sure that Hanger 18 was a key component in air smuggling.

Suddenly, the sound of an AS87 being fired startled him out of his brooding. He rushed towards the sound and stopped dead outside Hanger 18. The armed forces specially assigned to protect the hanger’s secret were staring at the dead body of my second-in-command Sameer.

I swallowed my anger as there was nothing I could do. This special force had the right to kill anyone who threatened to come near the Hanger. But I took a pledge to avenge Sameer’s death, even at the cost of my life.

The next day, I took a handful of my most trusted officers. We worked like possessed spirits, planning and scheming all the possible angles to get in and out of the hanger. At last we hit upon a plan.

The officers lured the Special Forces by causing a commotion. The special guards were outnumbered, which led to their weapons being taken away. With them out of the way, the security alarm was tackled by our best technician, Imitiaz.

I opened the packed crates with trembling hands, waiting to see bottles of Pure Oxygen. I had anticipated that they would be sent to Mars, where all the bureaucrats and politicians had already fled to.

We quickly decided to call, the one man we could trust, Srijan Kumar. He was a social worker who was greatly respected. But before that , I opened the boxes and was shocked to the core. It wasn’t air, it was water! A luxury that I had never even tasted, that was only reserved for the corporate and political powers.

Just then, I heard a shot and felt a sharp pain. I fell to the ground trying to figure out what had happened. My own trusted officer had shot me, and stepped forward. He said that they had been bought by Srijan. They were a part of the smuggling and were promised water. He said .” You should not have looked at Hanger 18 , it could have saved your life.“