Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Under the Dome

The child before him was absurdly young.
At 253, the older man was the… Cold One, with an immense power and capacity to even burn through the shield of Alternia and this child here….
The child had his shield on, but that was immaterial and the boy probably knew it. The Cold One could just crush it and the boy inside the shield and not even spend a marginal amount of his magic reserves.
But still at sixteen, with his stubborn dark eyes, the boy was not what the Cold One had expected. Because he had come here. Knowing full well that he was not going to make it out of this alive.
And that surprised the Cold One.
Until now, all the beings that he had seen in any realm had one thing in common. The will to survive. That was a powerful motivator and something that the Cold One had always been able to use. To his own advantage.
Why do you wish to fight me?” He asked and even the Cold One himself was surprised with his words. He had hardly spoken to another being for a long time. Other than the fear in the eyes of the people, the Cold One had not been interested in anything anymore.
Someone has to.”
It was a strange answer. By any stretch of imagination. And the answer increased the interest of the Cold One. Besides the boy had the voice of an adult. Strong and confident.
Which told the Cold One, one more thing.
Ah.” He said shaking his head as he rolled his hands creating a flame in his hands to see the features of the boy better. “Seen a loved one die, haven’t you?”
The boy’s shield faltered. Badly. He tried not to show it, but he was shaken.
And there it was.
The hatred in the boy’s eyes.
That the Cold One could understand. Well.
She is dead.” He whispered coldly looking hurt. “She did not have a drop of magic in her. But still your guards attacked her and my mother is dead in the raids conducted by you outside the Dome.” He said looking sick. “I saw her die.”
And by your foolish attempt to kill me, you think you are making it all right?” The Cold One asked in a jeering tone.
The shield of the boy was snuffed away very fast as the boy snarled and a Dispeller Attack shot out of his hands.
The Cold One was surprised. All for a sudden. But in a brutal move, the Cold One diverted all the power of the Dispeller attack and just pushed it back.
The boy gasped as his own Dispeller Attack hit him and the boy hit the wall behind him as he just tottered as he fell back.
The Cold One had been surprised because the boy’s magic was dark. But still he was using it for trying to do, what he thought was good.
Do you want to die in my dungeons or in my hands?” The Cold One asked sighing. The boy’s magic was good and he had a powerful shield. But other than that, the rest of the boy’s magic was pathetic. So pathetic, that the Cold One felt ashamed that he had wasted his time, even talking to the boy.
Which was why, the Cold One was slightly angry as he waved his hands again.
The boy groaned as he found black smoky handcuffs in his wrists – the neutralizers.
That is going to kill you slowly and very painfully. So dungeons it is.” The Cold One completely ignored the boy as he walked towards the window of his huge palace… there was a part of him which realized that it was probable that the boy had some magic item in his possession, to power him. Because to break into his palace without the knowledge of the guards was not a mean feat. And the boy’s magic was mediocre.
But then the first thing which the Cold One saw outside the window was the Dome. Nothing could break it. And that was where the Cold One had his most important magic stored.
The boy fell as he was trying not to whimper as the Cold One ignored him which was when he heard the clatter of metal against his rich marble floor.
The Cold One turned which was when he saw the boy reach out for the medallion on the floor which had presumably fallen off his cloak.
Where did you get that?” The Cold One asked frowning. The thing should have been inside the Dome. Which also explained how the boy was able to get inside the palace.
It is my mothers’.” The boy trying to lunge for it as the Cold One pushed the boy back and then increased the power flowing through the Neutralizers.
The boy grunted falling ahead and thumped his hands against the floor, trying to stop screaming as the Cold One looked at him. “So you are Marila’s son?” He asked the boy and now the Cold One knew from where the boy had his green eyes.
You know my mother?” The boy gasped as his hands were hurting him worse.
Yes.” The Cold One laughed. “You see this path was meant for both of us. She was gifted and she was to be my Apprentice. But then she had foolish notions of right and wrong. And she even refused to use her dark magic after parting ways with me.” The Cold One nodded. “Which explains why she was lying outside the Dome and dead…”
I AM GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU BASTARD!” The boy screamed as in his rage, he even forgot the pain in his hands.
No. You can’t.” The Cold One said shaking his head as he put the medallion inside his cloak. “And for your own sake, I hope I succeed. Why do you think I am doing all this?”
That was when the boy blinked. What….
I was filled with white magic. But I was cursed. After that, I was filled with Dark Magic just like your mother. Which was why I was shunned. I grew up in these very streets, begging for food. I saw the powerful White Light Magis and how they exploited people like me. I just wanted to show them what I could do, when someone with magic as dark as mine decides to start playing.”
The boy stopped twitching as he was nearly shaking with anger. “You lie. My mother has never used magic. This was the only magical item she possessed and she gave it to me, on her death.”
The Cold One was appalled. Because the boy did not understand simple logic. “Why would I lie to you?” The Cold One demanded.
The boy staggered as the Cold One sighed.
Which was when the boy ignored the handcuffs and pulled himself up and studied the Cold One.
Do you know that my mother always told me that my shield was very strong?” The boy asked the Cold One in a quiet voice. “She kept me hidden from your Guards, but she trained me. I realized then that my mother knew about magic.” He told the Cold One with a small smile.
Why did you come here, boy?” The Cold One asked as there was a slight doubt in his eyes.
The boy completely ignored his handcuffs as he stood up. He was swaying, but he stood up. “To show you, my shield.”
That was when something shot of the boy’s hands – and it connected with the medallion which the Cold One had put inside his cloak.
The boy transfixed the Cold One, and the formed a powerful shield around both of them.
The Cold One was in shock for the whole of a minute as tried to move his hands but he could not do anything. And the shield around him grew stronger.
I am weak.” The boy said unhappily as he was struggling to take another breath to stay awake. “And my own magic is dwindling. But I am being powered by the medallion in your hands.” The boy nodded at the Cold One. “I knew you would take it. She told me who you were.”
LET GO!” The Cold One shouted as he tried to overcome the shield around him. But he couldn’t because the medallion was powering the boy and the medallion was with him and he could not reach it.
It does not matter whether your magic is dark or light, Merkil. What matters is what you do with it.” The boy looked around as the shield formed around them. “I am going to do something good with my magic.”
Merkil paled. The boy knew his name. His real name. Marila had told the boy a lot.
You… you will not survive this.” He stammered.
The boy smiled coldly at Merkil. “I don’t intend to. Not after what you did to her….”

Friday, March 9, 2018

Ten Minutes to Live


He woke up suddenly and tried to groan as the pain on his left side was almost more than he could take.
He tried to groan. But he couldn’t do it. He could not open his eyes, as even more painfully he realized that there was something blocking his mouth. Something…. A sudden realization hit the man, as he felt the duct tape covering his mouth.
Not that the man panicked on knowing it.
His head….
The man’s head was burning as the man feebly realized that he had a serious gash on his forehead.
Not that, that realization also helped.
The man opened his eyes wider and realized that his hands…. They were bound behind his back. The bound man struggled against his cuffs behind his back and knew that it was a waste of time.
They were metal cuffs and he could not free himself.
He had been sleeping for heaven’s sake. He really thought that his vigilante life was a secret to everyone and that no one could disturb him, at least, when he was sleeping.
At least he thought so.
Apparently the group who had ambushed the man in the dead of the night at his home did not think so and the last the man remembered was a searing pain in his forehead.
Then he found himself here cuffed behind his back.
That was when the man saw that he was in his home. His very own home. As always. He was cuffed to the chair near the dining table and the reason why he was in this place was obvious.
A bomb was lying on the table in front of him.
The man was meant to see it.
As if that was not enough for his pounding headache, he could see the numbers counting down on the device before him.
10.30
The numbers of the country made bomb told him.
He knew that it was very difficult to make the number count for an explosive device. Movies got it right so effortlessly. But in reality, making such bombs were damned difficult, the man’s training was telling him. But whoever this group was, who wanted him to die, they wanted him to know that he was going to die.
Every minute of it.
The man struggled with his bonds and told himself that given his life it was not surprising that he had managed to piss off someone so badly.
He really had gone against that many people in his life, because the vigilante life was what he had been made for. In the beginning he had embraced it. It seemed so cool to toy around the bad guys and outsmart them. And he had been good.
But now, for a second as he stopped struggling with his bonds, the man realized that his actions were what had made him alone. Right now the thirty three year old man realized that he was a lonely, tired man…. He had fought his battles and he had been successful. But the constant skirmishes had taken its toll. He was alone.
As if by reflex, he saw the photo which had fallen on the table.
Despite the bomb, what really caught the man’s attention was not the hopelessness of the situation or even the fact that he was going to die. Those sort of things never computed in his head. What hurt him was the picture on the table. The persons who had made the bomb had carelessly pushed the picture aside, while placing the bomb there.
But despite that, it was always the picture which caught his attention.
The picture showed a beautiful woman along with a lovely child as they were both hugging each other and laughing.
Riya.
Sahana.
The picture showed them in the beach and neither had been unable to stop laughing as he had taken the picture. The woman was in beige tops and white pants and the child of ten was dressed in beautiful flowery tights with a pink T-shirt. While he had taken the photo, he did not know that the photo would come out so spectacularly beautiful. The sun fell directly on them as he could see the special twinkle in their eyes.
They loved him. Unconditionally. They knew who he was and neither found it odd. They loved him more because of it.
No, they had loved him.
He had wanted to spend every waking minute of his life trying to keep them happy.
But he had let them down.
There had been days when he stared at the photo as he could feel himself forget his injuries.
He could even stare at the photo and let himself forget that he had let them down. They had trusted him and he had just let them down.
He looked at the bomb again.
Ten minutes.
No one was coming. He had very few friends and none of them could be counted to come to his help, especially counting on the fact that he had been an awesome jerk and annoyed them to no end and he had just managed to piss them off too.
His eyes travelled to the child in the photo and that was when his heart started pounding. Badly.
Daddy’s princess.
He had ten minutes to reflect on how he had let her down.
For the first time, the man cursed the group who wanted to kill him.
They had given him ten minutes.
And ten minutes was too long a time to die.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Mountain and an Anti-Gravity Pocket


"My problem is that Amvi is a thief."
It was a strange comment for Major Shankar Vishwas of the Higher Enforcer Division to make. What made it stranger were that the human's brown eyes were twinkling with joy. Agreed, Major Shankar Vishwas was one of the youngest officers of the Enforcers in the planet of Terran in the Kor Solar System. His job was to find Space Pirates and stop their devious plans and if possible try to make it out alive after stopping the Pirates.
A huge ask on any day, but then Shankar was still alive after five years and he was now a decorated officer among the Enforcers – which made it clear that he had done something right in the whole catching the bad guys thing.
As Shankar was speaking, his normal boots found firm support in the rocky wall of the mountain. His fingers found another crevice in the nearly straight and rocky terrain of the Untraxal Mountains of the asteroid of Mokria as Shankar took a deep breath steadying himself.
The lighter gravity of the asteroid and the high Nitrogen content was making Shankar slightly uncomfortable. But not enough for him to consciously be thinking about it.
Other than his comment a few seconds back, most of his attention was taken by the human who was before him and who like him was hanging off the rocky mountains and Shankar swore annoyed because unlike him, Omkar was wearing anti-gravity boots.
"Rich Boy, you are cheating! Those are anti-gravity boots. We agreed that this one would be sheer hard work and nothing to fall back on. Only one grappling hook allowed." Shankar yelled in the radio affixed to his ear, as he was pulling himself up to the next ledge.
Major Omkar Navate, human and adopted brother of Major Shankar Vishwas was three Starmonths younger than the latter and Omkar was the other officer who was the youngest human Enforcer to become an Major. Right now, Omkar was sighing as he was seriously considering throwing away his radio. Shankar was squawking beyond all reasonable proportions, almost giving Omkar a headache.
"The anti-gravity of my boots has been switched off, you ass! I didn't bring any other boots for this trip." Omkar muttered and he looked annoyed. "Just tell me which part of this trek was supposed to enjoyable?" Omkar demanded as he searched the rocky mountain for the next jagged crack to find some support. At six feet two inches, with a lean and tough body and wild unruly hair and dark eyes, Omkar looked impressive and specially threatening when he was annoyed.
And most of the days, Shankar was just amused when he saw Omkar getting angry... which was most of the times. But then Omkar was just like that... he was always serious and got exasperated often and Shankar being who he was, just believed in annoying Omkar more.
"You drag me to the asteroid of Mokria when I am on vacation and you drag me before the rise of the First Sun and make me climb a damned mountain and all you can do is talk about thieves during the climb." Omkar said unhappily. "And you claim I am cheating." Omkar said as an afterthought. He was in full form, which was why he ranted almost non-stop without running out of breath – a feat which normal humans could not have done in the natural atmosphere asteroid of Mokria. But then Omkar genuinely was a marvel when he started ranting. He could put anyone to shame when he was in his element.
Now was such a time.
The accompanying swear words from Omkar in the local Terran language were really so authentic that Shankar was almost impressed. It was impressive because unlike Shankar, Omkar was a native of the planet of Maken. Omkar had started living in Terran with his adopted family only from the age of nine. But then Omkar was now a naturalized citizen of Terran after having lived there for nineteen years.
So the swear words were hardly surprising. But then it was all the more unsurprising because Omkar could understand and speak all the twelve languages of the Kor Solar System, even without his translator – something which Omkar put to good use when he was dealing with Space Pirates all over the galaxy.
"Rich Boy, I should probably tell you that mom once scalped me for saying words like that." Shankar moved on to the next ledge which was narrower than the previous one.
"Oh do be quiet!" Omkar said annoyed after he controlled an urge to look around the check whether their mother – Lavinia Vishwas – human, retired Major-General of the Enforcers was really anywhere around them. Not that Omkar expected his mother to be hanging out of a rocky mountain in an asteroid at the age of fifty four human years.
But then Omkar checked the nearly straight asteroid mountain more out of habit than any other real reason.
From his position, he could see the habitable Biome of the asteroid well. It was a huge transparent bubble which kept the atmosphere inside the Biome normal for all the species in the Kor System and more importantly the Biome also kept the other anomalies of Mokria in check... at least inside the Biome. Omkar then looked at the craft – the TC 908 – which Shankar had tweaked a little – so that the hovercraft could withstand the pressure outside the Biome of Mokria – right now, the hovercraft was at the base of the mountain and Omkar found it far too tiny.
Omkar looked at the Biome again and found himself thinking of his adopted mother with a smile.
Omkar and Lavinia were way closer than Shankar could ever be with his own mother. And that was actually expected. Shankar and his father were geeks who worshiped the altar of science and Omkar and Lavinia were two people who just could understand anything which had the words 'theorem' or even 'science' on it.
"I wonder what mom would say when she finds out that her pretty little boy is as nasty as her other son." Shankar tried sneering. He really did. Just that he was too busy pushing himself up the mountain to summon up any emotion.
"QUIET!" Omkar snarled looking really annoyed.
Shankar always riled Omkar. Period. Shankar took it as his birth right and over the years it was something which Omkar had started finding endearing... because that was how Shankar bonded with people.
Despite the fact that Shankar was a huge flirt and managed to catch the eyes of any female of any species, the fact remained that becoming Shankar's friend and becoming his lover were two completely unrelated and unconnected things. The latter was confined to female of any species and was very, very easy – and was also subject to periodic change. Becoming Shankar's friend, was not at all simple – that happened only when someone survived their first day with Shankar without killing him when Shankar was spouting something off his cocky mouth – it was after that that Shankar was willing to consider the person within his radar. Becoming Shankar's friend was a huge ask and that came only after surviving him for years together and not ending up as a homicidal lunatic. And becoming Shankar's friend was a thing for life.
"Little brother!" Shankar said as he was pushing himself to the next ledge. "You showed me the file on Amvi. She is my type, but the fact is that she is..."
The unthinkable happened.
An anomaly.
Shankar suddenly felt himself move away from the mountain as a sudden pocket of anti-gravity hit the mountain at that exact minute.
Exactly what caused the sudden anti-gravity pocket in the asteroid of Mokria – no one knew. But then the fact which continued to baffle all exo-scientists in the Kor Solar System was that regions of the asteroid of Mokria outside the Biome were hit by anti-gravity pockets for no reason.
Such anomalies existed for a few minutes, probably hours, may be even days.... No one knew for how long. The asteroid region hit by such anomalies started with fluctuating gravity and then the magnetic field of the Mokrian region started weakening. Steadily. There was a time eighteen years back when an entire mountain of the Mokrian asteroid had been bereft of gravity and magnetic field, for a whole Starweek. Scientists had tried to study the phenomenon but then the phenomenon suddenly stopped and was repeated elsewhere in the Mokrian asteroid. No reasons.
The best that the people could do for Mokria was to build the habitable Biome, where luckily all the species were safe from such things because of the Biome. The natural Mokrian atmosphere was habitable to all the species except that sometimes Jiporans found the Nitrogen content too high in the atmosphere – another thing which was corrected inside the Biome. Luckily.
Unluckily, the two brothers were outside the Biome.
With the sudden anti-gravity pocket, Shankar suddenly could not push his hands up and lost footing. And he scrambled trying to catch the mountain, but he had no purchase. Shankar did not panic. He just was not built that way. He was trying to reach for the grappling hook in his belt when the anti-gravity fluctuated and hit him again.
Swearing Shankar fell back and hit his head hard against the rock.
More from instinct than any other reason, Shankar bit in a gasp as he was badly jarred when his head hit hard against the wall. He caught the ledge he had just used for climbing and was hanging on as the anti-gravity pocket was still on.
Evidently, this time the anomaly was confined to a very small area as even Omkar who was just a few feet above did not feel anything and was climbing up the next ledge.
Shankar was grunting, trying to catch Omkar's attention. But Omkar did not turn.
*******
Probably it was his sixth sense. Whatever, the reason, a second later, Omkar of his own accord looked down.
There was a fresh scar on Shankar's head and he nearly looked close to collapsing and was hanging on to the ledge of the mountain more from instinct than any other reason. Not that Omkar particularly knew or cared about that, at that time.
It took Omkar less than a second to know what was wrong as he did the only thing he could do, he kicked hard against the rock in front of him and let himself fall back, away from the mountain. The anti-gravity pocket had hit only the place where Shankar was and not where he was. And as of now, that was the only thing which Omkar could use right now.
"Shankar can you hear me?" Omkar yelled as he fell the normal weightlessness assault him.
"Yes." Shankar said in a muffled and hoarse voice.
"Luckily, the anti-gravity pocket is confined to a very small area of the mountain and it is fluctuating." Omkar said sharply as he fell down. "Let go."
Any other time, letting go of a mountain was the worst advice ever.
But not now.
Naturally Shankar understood. Looking down at the three hundred meters that he had just managed to climb, Shankar let go.
*****
Omkar's kick against the wall had done what he had hoped to do – activate his anti-gravity boots.
The gravity of the asteroid was already pulling him down and Omkar was careful to stay near the surface of the mountain and now the anti-gravity boots would do their work – stop when they found any purchase on any surface, no matter how slight.
Hopefully.
*******
Omkar saw in slow motion as Shankar let go. The anti-gravity pocket of the asteroid was already fading as after a few seconds of hovering, Shankar fell.
It took all of his training and all his survival instinct as Omkar stayed as close as possible to the mountain and turned in midair.
Not that he was any closer to Shankar after that.
Both the humans were shrieking through the air at ninety kilometers per hour when Shankar looked up and saw Omkar making straight for him.
Shankar tried to make to his grappling hook but he just could not do it as he felt the wind rush through him pushing him down and the nitrogen in the atmosphere was just suffocating him and he could not reach for his belt.
Shankar threw up his hands and was careful not to look down. Even at that second, he realized that in another half a minute and they would both be plastered at the base of the asteroid...
******
Omkar lunged wildly and moved ahead and pushed his legs hard.
At the last second, Omkar left Shankar fingers and pulled. He did not even pause because frankly he just did not have the luxury of pausing. They were too close to the surface of the asteroid.
But their problems were not over. Not by any stretch.
Once Omkar caught Shankar, both the brothers pushed hard towards the mountain and Omkar felt his boots squeal as the anti-gravity mechanism in the shoes were struggling to find some purchase in the rocky mountain.
But both the brothers were too heavy for the boots to work properly. The shoes were still squeaking and Omkar could feel the shoes burn but he said nothing as he was just gritting his teeth and trying to find some purchase.
But the fact remained that both the brothers were still plummeting straight to their deaths in less than half a minute because though their speed had reduced, their weights were too high for the boots to completely stop them.
Naturally Shankar could not let it be.
With the lesser speed he could now reach for the grappling hook and blindly shot at the top of the mountain.
Nothing happened for another second as the grappling hook went up and Omkar was almost praying that anti-gravity pocket did not spread... But Omkar was more worried about the fact that his boots were still struggling against the walls and his brother was pulling him down.
What really worried Omkar was that Shankar would not admit it, but the idiot was a hero enough to actually let go, so that Omkar would be safe.
That thought alone really freaked out Omkar.
*******
Shankar saw the asteroid ground come far too quickly when suddenly they were both pulled up.
Abruptly and suddenly.
The belt cut painfully into Shankar's middle as a gasp was torn from his mouth.
But Shankar was praying. Despite the pain, the human was actually praying in relief. A mumbled prayer in relief.
The grappling hook had apparently found some ledge in the mountain and embedded itself firmly.
And that was the other reason that the two brothers were not yet asteroid dust.
The two brothers were hanging on by the hook as Omkar's boots were able to find some more purchase on the asteroid mountain and Omkar was just sprawling in the mountain, trying to find some more purchase and get away from Shankar. Neither brother knew how long the grappling hook could support both their weights and it seemed a bad idea to waste any time thinking about it.
Shankar's hands were trembling slightly as he found a ledge to keep his foot on and he let Omkar's hands go slowly. Omkar nodded as he turned back to the mountain... Both noticed that there was a jagged offshoot from the mountain to his right. They both could sit on it.
Provided of course another anti-gravity pocket did not hit them.
Usually such anomalies did not occur immediately and that too within the same vicinity. But then with the luck of these two mad humans, nothing was really certain.
Omkar was panting badly as he was pushing himself on to the offshoot of the mountain.
He was sure he had burnt the anti-gravity mechanism of the boots. But that was hardly relevant. All that mattered was that right now both he and Shankar were alive and reasonably undead.
"If you ever try to die again, Shankar," Omkar said after he got his breath back, which happened only after five minutes. He was lying collapsed on the mountain offshoot after helping Shankar near him. "I will personally kill you!" Omkar said with as much feeling as he could muster.
"Maker!" Shankar fumed finally, after he got his breath back. "Only Space Pirates used to do that. Now, my dear brother and some freaking asteroid, both, are trying to kill me." Shankar said gasping for breath as he was still having the final say.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Escape



 "I hope you burn in hell, DCP!"

Deputy Commissioner of Police Reyansh Meran woke up with a start and an involuntary groan was torn from his lips as a killer headache assaulted him. The gag in his mouth was just making him nauseous and was interfering with his breathing. He could barely focus on the masked man in front of him as he realized that his forehead was worse than burning. A few seconds of blinking later Reyansh dug up the last memory of his day and he realized that he had seen a huge iron club swing at his head... then oblivion.

He struggled with his hands and realized the obvious. He was cuffed to the chair. From what best his blurred vision would let him see this place seemed like a huge warehouse.

The others....

Reyansh brutally crushed all thought process about the others. There was nothing he could do for them. He had to get himself out of this mess first.

He felt movement around him and by a reflex pushed himself back. But he was too late to do anything as a vicious slap caught him on his face. Reyansh was sure he had broken his teeth as he could feel something salty in his mouth.

"You nearly destroyed my plans, you bastard."

This time Reyansh was met with another slap on his other cheek. Reyansh fell back and nearly fell off the chair that he was cuffed to. But he felt himself being pushed back up. The guy who had slapped him pulled him up angrily by the collar. "I have been waiting to see you like this – alone and helpless. And with no backup."

This time the slap hurt him so bad that Reyansh nearly fell unconscious.

"Wait!"

Reyansh groggily heard another voice. He could not identify any of these voices. But that was hardly surprising. Both were wearing voice scramblers.

The other speaker pulled out something from a bag nearby.

"I told you to drop the case. You wouldn't listen. And now..." Reyansh stared with blurry eyes and saw the huge briefcase like thing.

As Reyansh saw the bag, if he could, he would have actually been terrified.

Just that he did not have the energy for it.

"This is one case which will be unsolved. You do not know who is behind the whole crime and you are going to die before you solve it."

All Reyansh saw was the blinking numbers from the box as the person kept it right before Reyansh.

Five minutes. He had five minutes to live. The RDX connected to the timer told Reyansh that the bomb could not only take him out but also the entire warehouse that he was in.

"In five minutes, you shall be dead with all the evidence and I shall be off your accursed city."

This dialogue was punctuated with a punch.

Reyansh was completely winded out as the punch opened up another scar in his stomach... a recent one.

"Let's move." The masked man on the right told his colleague. "We have work and the DCP needs to die."

Reyansh could do nothing as he saw the two people walk towards the door of the warehouse. The person on the right waved a gloved hand at him as the door closed in a thud.

Reyansh's hands were burning and his eyes were hurting him and he could barely focus on anything. But then he was not even thinking about anything else right now.

His belt...he had to reach the tiny screwdriver that he hid in the inner side of his belt. Living the kind of life that he lived there were some things that he was prepared for.

He glanced at the clock and saw that the minute digit was rapidly dwindling down as he saw that he had just four minutes left. He knew that the people had left the timer just for him to see... Really not nice people.

Slowly, as best as his trembling hands would allow he pulled out the screw driver and with his hands in his back he was searching for the screw of the cuff.

The minute digit kept dwindling down, but Reyansh ignored it. If he panicked, then he was dead. And Reyansh was not a man who panicked easily. Living the life he led, that was a necessity too.

Reyansh pinched his hands plenty of times with the screw driver and had to work at not wincing as he slowly found the right groove and started loosening it.

The timer read two minutes when Reyansh heard the click. His hand came off and Reyansh did not even have time to rejoice as he ran towards the bomb. It was crudely made and Reyansh remembered from another life time that he had learnt about bomb disposal. He just did not have the tools to do anything right now.

Abandoning the bomb, he ran towards the door.

Bastards. The door was shut. No windows.

And he had less than two minutes. To get as far away from this place as possible. Reyansh knew that the explosion itself was fatal. But being in the explosion radius was worse...

A quick inventory of all this things brought up a possible escape option - his credit card.

Reyansh pulled out the credit card from his wallet and slipped the card in the gap between the door and the frame, right at the place where the knob met the frame. He took a deep breath and giving it all, he brutally twisted the car left... away from the door knob.

The effort destroyed his card, but the click from the door which he heard was the most welcome sound that he had heard for a long time.

Gasping, he caught the door knob before it could close again.

He did not even have time to calm himself as he pushed himself out.

He was about fifty meters away, when the building behind him blew itself out of existence...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Story of the Stolen Queen - Part 2 of 2

Sthapan, Orion Hotel, 7.00 p.m.
In the end, it was embarrassing. Embarrassingly stupid.
The ease with which he found himself outside Room 354 with the waiter's cleaner trolley was so impossible that Aaditya was actually scared.
He never really liked it, when things went too easy.
He found himself out of Room 354 and his adrenaline was almost flooding him. This was why he did it – the rush, the thrill...
But then Aaditya's sudden rush was interrupted by something very, very normal – the doorknob.
Aaditya frowned for a few seconds as he looked at the knob. "Kriti, who exactly makes these locks?" The disdain in Aaditya's voice was almost visible as he sneered at the lock."I could pick this if I was drunk." Aaditya sneered angrily as he looked at the door knob again.
"Oh yeah?" Kritika was giggling on the other end and Aaditya had to make sure he did not join her. Aaditya was really bad with drinks.... On one memorable occasion, he had collapsed after two cups and another even more memorable occasion, he had collapsed after three cups and worse on the second occasion Aaditya was kidnapped too....
Besides those were details and very boring as Aaditya opened the door.
He grinned as he was inside the hotel room 354. He looked around and despite the fact that Kritika had told him that there was no one inside the room, Aaditya checked the room thoroughly – he even checked under the bed.
After a few seconds, he found the room completely empty and that was when Aaditya turned his attention to the safe. It was behind a beautiful painting of a vase as Aaditya carefully removed the painting.
It was a number combination safe.
"This is getting embarrassing." Aaditya muttered to himself as he pulled out his stethoscope. First he rotated the combination to ensure that all the wheels of the dial were disengaged, then he wore his stethoscope as he tilted each combination in the dial and heard for the sound.
Five minutes later, he had opened the safe. The number of the safe did surprise him, but he thought nothing about it.
Aaditya could not stop himself and he gasped when he peered inside the safe.
"What?" Kritika asked him as he smiled at the worry in her voice.
"Kriti, you are going to love this. The Queen is even more beautiful than I thought." Aaditya murmured.
"Aaditya!" Kritika's voice in the ear-piece sounded hurried. "Another waiter is coming to your floor. Stay inside the room and don't make a sound."
Aaditya took a deep breath and stayed put. As a rule, he usually worked with the light on – especially in hotel rooms. He had found out that it was only in the dark rooms people outside paid more attention and those were the cases when they paid more attention to any strange sounds. People as a rule did not even bother with well-lit rooms... Something that almost any thief should use – Aaditya was no exception.
Aaditya did absolutely nothing and a few seconds later he heard a waiter pass by the door and obviously the waiter had seen nothing wrong, because Aaditya could hear the footsteps of the waiter continuing after Room 354.
"Aaditya!" Kritika yelled again. "Get out of there now. There are cops in the reception of the hotel. I don't know why they are there. Out now."
"Yes ma'am." Aaditya needed no further encouragement as he pulled out the emerald and put it in his inner coat.
There was a slight problem as to whether his actions had dragged the cops here. But then Aaditya was too smart to believe that that could be the case. If the cops were after Aaditya, they would hardly be enquiring at the reception. They would be outside this room. The question did remain as to why the cops were here but now was not the time to ponder on it.
"The cops are asking the hotel people something and they are calling for the lift. I do not know which lift would come for them." Kritika told him in the ear-piece.
Aaditya hurriedly pushed the trolley out of the room and did not even turn back as he walked slowly towards the lift on the other side of the room. Haste was the one thing which caught people's attention. Doing things normally, hardly ever registered in people's heads. And Aaditya was right. One of the passengers of the hotel who was two doors away from Room 354 came out of her room and she was locking the door. With her slender legs and curvy figure, the lady was a beauty but Aaditya hardly paid any attention to her. He was just trying to make to the lift slowly. The woman for her part did not even acknowledge Aaditya with a look as she hurried towards the lift on the passenger side of the room.
"Aaditya, the cops are coming towards the lift that you are walking to. Be relaxed and keep your head down." Kritika instructed Aaditya.
Aaditya had wanted to check into one more room as a waiter to remove any suspicions from himself when the theft was discovered. But then Aaditya realized that he just did not have the time for it. He just called the lift and waited for it.
The lift door opened.
Aaditya's heart nearly crashed into his mouth as he saw the cops come out of the very lift.
Aaditya willed himself not to make any movements – suspicious or otherwise. Kritika's voice in his ears had died down.
And Aaditya was just trying to see whether the group had the Deputy Commissioner of Police of the city of Sthapan - Charan Meran in it.
Charan and Aaditya had a complicated history. In the world of cops and thieves, it could almost be said that Aaditya and Charan were friends.
The reason for Aaditya's check was obvious. Aaditya genuinely believed that if there was a cop who could make out that the waiter was Aaditya even behind all the makeup – that would be Charan. And Aaditya knew that no matter how much of good friends they really were, if Charan found Aaditya in this hotel with a stolen emerald on him.... Charan would arrest Aaditya. The DCP really would have no choice on that one.
But then Aaditya's fear was completely misplaced.
This bunch of cops – all male – seemed boring and they did not even pay any attention to Aaditya, as they just pushed past him and walked in the corridor.
"Aaditya, keep your head down!" Kritika's voice almost hissed into his ears. "And get in the lift."
"No Kriti," Aaditya muttered. "It would look weird if I don't pay attention. Any normal person would stare. Just look at which room number that the cops are going into."
Aaditya looked blankly at the cops as the shoes of the cops hit uniformly making a lot of noise, dragging even some other passengers from out of their rooms.
Another waiter – presumably the one who had crossed Aaditya came forward as he was looking at the cops. Right now, the other waiter just normally believed that Aaditya was a waiter here too. There was not even a hint of suspicion in the real waiter's voice.

"The cops are here because there has been a murder here!" The other waiter whispered to Aaditya. "Imagine a murder in this very hotel."

The Story of the Stolen Queen - Part 1 of 2

In the City of Sthapan, Tuesday Evening, Orion Five Star Hotel, 6.45 p.m.
The kiss was long and deep and it left a lingering smile on Aaditya's lips.
He pushed himself back as he studied Kritika's gray eyes who were looking like they always did – with absolute mischievousness. Her curly hair was dancing like it had life of its own and her oval face took his breath away.
It took all of Aaditya's will power to break his gaze from her as he turned his attention away from her gray eyes.
"That is for luck, Mr. Raik. Are you sure you do not want me along with you on this 'trip'?" Kritika's husky voice was as usual teasing him as Aaditya was still struggling to focus around him. God, this was so not going to work out... Aaditya told himself. If Kritika was anywhere there in the vicinity, Aaditya was finding it impossible to focus on anything. And considering what Aaditya really did for a living... that was very dangerous. To put it mildly.
Aaditya adjusted the ear-piece properly in his ear as he shook his head at Kritika. "Sweetheart, the Queen is my steal. Just mine," Aaditya said as he was studying the building schematics of the hotel. "This one steal needs to be done only by me."
Aaditya looked at the picture of a beautiful green flawless diamond and smiled at it.
Both Aaditya and Kritika were sitting inside a car as Aaditya was hunched over the schematics and studying the building before them again.
Kritika was silent for a few seconds as Aaditya suddenly looked up. "Exactly, who owns the Queen, Kriti?"
Kritika sighed as she shook her head. "I cannot find the real owner, Aaditya." She sounded peeved. Understandably so.
In all the ten years that she and Aaditya had been thieves, Kritika was the one who got Aaditya his information about the various jewels. Agreed, Aaditya was the one who made the plans, but then Aaditya just could not do it without Kritika – her rock solid research into the jewels, the security, everything – that was what Aaditya relied on – heavily.
But this time, Kritika had hit a wall. She just could not find out who owned the Queen – the nearly flawless emerald which had earned its nickname. Kritika just knew that the Queen was right now in the high class Orion hotel, because the owner wanted to sell the jewels to the royals in the city of Sthapan.
Kritika just could not get any other information about the jewels.
But then Aaditya was contacted by his fence – an aging Shailendra Nath – a man who ran an antiques shop in the city, as a front.
It seems Shailendra had a customer who wanted the Queen.
Shailendra had naturally contacted Aaditya.
Aaditya had agreed to get it.
So right now, when Aaditya had found that the jewels were in the city he had decided that now was the time to strike.
The Orion's security was not something over the top and Aaditya wanted a go at it before the jewels went to the royals.
Aaditya knew that the museum of the royals of Sthapan was far too well guarded for a clean theft.
Besides Aaditya would hardly be the best in his business, if he let an opportunity like this miss.
Aaditya slowly nodded as he heard Kritika. That was the problem with this entire venture. It was too easy and with too little information. Aaditya's nerves were not exactly ok with that. Call it stupidity, but Aaditya genuinely believed that if anything was too easy, there was probably something far too wrong with it.
Aaditya sighed as he folded up the schematics and he handed it over to Kritika. "Guide me through the security."
He was dressed like a waiter of the hotel – that was not a problem. The only odd thing was the ear-piece. But then it was too tiny for it to be noticed.
Aaditya wore his thick glasses and studied himself and realized that absolutely no one was going to look at his heavily wrinkled face and weird make up and know that beneath all this, Aaditya was actually a twenty nine year old extremely athletic thief with laughing brown eyes and a broad forehead.
"The range of your ear-piece is around 500 meters." Kritika said slowly. "I have hacked into the cameras of the hotel. I can warn you in case of anything. The Queen is in the third floor. 354 Room. Keep your head down. At the beginning of every corridor at every floor there is a camera – on both sides. Room 354 is right at the centre of the corridor. Get those cleaner trolleys as soon as you get inside the hotel and just to shake off suspicion visit the other rooms and then come to Room 354. The jewels mostly should be kept in the safe there. Or in the luggage. It is not with the hotel guys." Kritika said taking a deep breath.
Aaditya nodded as Kritika continued. "The lift is huge and it should be completely easy for any person to walk inside the reception without suspicion as long as he looks like he belongs there. You, Mr. Raik," Kritika said quietly. "You will be entering through the kitchen entrance at the back and you will come to the main reception and get inside the lift. I just checked with the hotel guys and I know that the man in Room 354 just left about fifteen minutes back. The staff of the hotel change in another seven minutes and that is when you must get in. Because then the staff would not pay too much attention to you."
Aaditya nodded absently. "Did you know that Shailendra told me that Rik was also making a play for the Queen?"
Kritika stiffened as she heard Aaditya and for the first time a worried look shot through her face.
This was the reason, Aaditya had not told this information to Kritika until the last minute.
She would worry and that Aaditya just could not bear.
"Why...?" Kritika's words died in her throat and Aaditya knew that she was really worried. Her gray eyes went a darker shade of gray.
But it was natural.
Rik was a yesteryear thief and he and Aaditya had a complicated history. Aaditya had started his journey as a thief by being part of Rik's gang. But then Aaditya had found Rik too prone to violence and worse on their very first joint work, Rik had cheated Aaditya out of the share of the proceeds.
Aaditya had just broken away and moved on. And there was absolutely nothing Rik could do to Aaditya after that, because Aaditya was better and smarter and Aaditya's plans involved absolutely no violence. In fact, most of the times, no one even knew who was behind the theft, when Aaditya did it. Rik had already served a five year prison sentence when he was caught for armed robbery.
So in very simple terms, neither of the two thieves liked the other.
"Sweetheart!" Aaditya smiled as he kissed Kritika on her cheeks again. "Do not worry. Nothing is going to happen."
Strangely Kritika handed over a stethoscope to Aaditya as he put it inside his waiter's inner coat. Aaditya did not let Kritika say anything else as he walked out of the car and walked towards the hotel. "Check." Aaditya said as he tapped on the ear-piece to activate it.

"All the best." Kritika's voice on the ear-piece sounded annoyed but Aaditya knew that she would not say anything. Not as he was walking towards his steal.

Men, Shopping Sprees and A Story

Photo taken from https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-shopping-bags-5956/ under CC0 licence

Shankar was suffering from an anxiety so advanced that he was worried that he was going to have a heart attack.
Well, that statement was not completely true. He was only slightly anxious.
He was more.... feeling very homicidal. Which was an understatement.
He was in half a mind to scream his heart out at all the men around him and lead them to some... sort of revolution... Rebelling against the very tenets of society... or some equally nice sounding crap. Because the situation demanded it. Absolutely demanded it.
"Do you think this peach T-Shirt is better or the beige one is better?" Shreya asked picking out what seemed like two T-Shirts which looked exactly the same to Shankar.
Shankar was really afraid to open his mouth. Really, really afraid.
Past experience had taught him that no matter which T-Shirt he chose, he was sunk. Like really, really sunk.
If he chose the one on the left, Shreya would pout at him because he did not say that the T-Shirt on the right was nice. If he chose the one on the right...
Shankar panicked. Give him any problem at the office. He could handle it.
But going out for shopping with Shreya.....
As he was staring at the two dresses in Shreya's hands, a part of Shankar was acknowledging the fact that Shreya was getting annoyed at his silence, but the working part of Shankar's brain for one incongruous second wondered what would happen if he said that both shirts were bad.
As usual he realised that he was thinking absolutely useless things and tried to focus. Not that it was any help. Shreya still remained in front of him with the T-Shirt and she was still looking very expectantly at him.
Shankar did not understand it. By this time, Shreya should have known or at least she could be kind enough to pretend to know that colours were not Shankar's forte. Far from it...
For a brief second, he even cursed the fact that he just had received a bonus.
Shankar honestly did not know what madness came over him. He suddenly found that he was again having more money than he knew what to do with, which was why in a spur of madness he had agreed to take Shreya out for shopping.
Looking at the shopping mall, Shankar was dispirited because all he could see was bored men who looked close to dislocating their jaws by the number of times they were yawning and they all looked like they were all dragged here by their women who looked like they were having the time of their lives.
And all this still did not solve Shankar's problem. Shreya was still looking at him like the world was going to end and he still had not found the guts to answer her question.
Shankar finally decided that no superhero was going to come and save him and this was completely his own problem – which was why bravely he pointed at the dress on her left hand and carefully looked at her expression waiting for something to go wrong... "I... think... that colour goes better with your handbag..." He said finally and he was working at not gagging. Because he really did not think that the shirt anyway matched Shreya's handbag at all. More importantly, Shankar honestly did not know whether it was even supposed to match...
Shankar was shocked.
Because for a huge second, Shreya looked at her own handbag and then at the dress on her left hand. She stared at the two things and then looked at Shankar with something close to wonder. Real wonder - there was no sarcasm on this one.
"Oh my God, you are so sweet." She said giving Shankar a dazzling smile as she looked at the handbag and the shirt again. "I didn't even think of that."
Even before Shankar could bask under the glory of getting something about colours and dresses right, Shreya walked away back into the trial room. More importantly Shankar was struggling to record this memory with mathematical precision. He had said something right today and saved himself from a great pouting session at home. And he had no idea how he did that. He just hoped he could remember this event and learn something about how to repeat this occasion.
Not that Shreya knew his problems.
Shankar saw a man on his right who was looking at Shankar with a really shocked expression. Shankar was more than sure that if the other man was not so bogged down with the dresses in his hands, the other man would have clapped his hands at Shankar.

Shankar did manage to look proudly and nod as both men understood the unspoken conversation and the compliment perfectly well.