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.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I won't break....

Photo taken from https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-chains-chrome-close-up-220237/ under CC0 licence
 

It was a mistake.

"So how is the scaredy cat?" A guy behind, pushed me as I stumbled.

I wished they would understand. It was a mistake... I had panicked and reacted stupidly and the whole damned thing was caught on live TV.

I thought my classmates would understand. But they did not even care. They were even more cruel than the people making those comments online....

I should have got used to it by now, because this had been going on for sometime now. But no, their words always hurt me. And they just did not care that I made a mistake and wanted to make it right. Somehow.

I tried to push past the jerk. But he came forward sneering at me, knowing that there is nothing I would do.

"Back."

I could not believe it. Shiny was before me – short, braces-wearing and awkward..... But it was Shiny and she pushed the guy back.

The jerk snarled and then laughed as he pushed Shiny back. "What are you going to do, Shorty?"

"Do you know everyone would say when they know what happened last week." Shiny said in a cold voice. She spoke softly, but everyone heard her.

I had no idea what Shiny was talking about. Apparently neither did anyone else in the class. 

But the jerk paled. 

He looked around the others for help. But no one came to help him – they were just curious about what Shiny had said about him. He suddenly looked flustered and tried to look down at Shiny.

But Shiny did not back down. "Walk away." Though she said it softly, her words were so loud that everyone heard it.

I could not believe it. But the class dispersed slowly.

Shiny did not move. She stood before me not saying anything and she was glaring.

Then Shiny turned to look at me. "Ignore them." Shiny made me sit on the desk behind me. And I was still shaking. "Just learn to fight them. Bullies are terrified idiots. They are even more terrified that others would know about their fears. That is why they bully others. I have no idea what that jerk did last week, but then bullies always have something which terrifies them." She nodded. "Never let their words get to you and never show that you are afraid."

I did not know what to say when two classmates came inside. They saw me and one of the girls sneered at me.

I knew that look and suddenly it did not bother me. Shiny clutched my hands and nodded at me. 

"Hi!" I told the newcomer giving her a false bright smile. 

I was thrilled as the girl looked shocked at my smile. A simple 'hi' changed me. I had stood up. I was not scared anymore.

I finally had my video removed from the net. I still get scared when I think about it. But I am working on it. I will overcome it. I will.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Tap Repairer

Photo taken from https://www.pexels.com/photo/water-flows-from-the-tap-to-sink-6256/ under CC0 licence

Why did that damned water tap leak annoy me so much? It was just a leak and it had been there forever.... But right now....
I snarled angrily at it – as if that was going to help with the leaking tap. Realizing that it was not, I stared at it for the whole of five minutes and then angrily pulled out the wrench from the drawer. Today it was either going to me me or the tap leak....I promised myself.
It was when I opened the drawer I realized what I was seeing.
My tools – there was a time when I had been the ‘repairer’ of the home. I am an engineer so it is natural and because I was good at it, I always fixed everything at my home. Right from broken sockets to fuses – I was good and my dad and me used to repair it all. My dad taught me everything.
I removed my bangle as I pulled out the wrench and looked at the tap again. The spindle inside was probably caught in the wrong circle or probably the washer had broken – it had after all been a few years since I had changed the washer of the tap.
Not that it stopped me right now. I was industrially removing the cap of the tap which was when I heard sounds behind me.
My daughter came forward and after a long time she seemed almost surprised to see the wrench with me.
Mom, are you going to kill the tap?” There was real worry in her voice.
I said nothing because I was more or less used to my daughter’s cockiness. There were many people who always said that she got it from her mother – that is me…. But then who was paying attention to all that?
What is this called?” My daughter obviously never learnt how to not talk. Just because someone did not answer one question, it did not mean that the other questions could not be asked.
A wrench.” I said quietly as I screwed the tap open.
The tap is leaking.” My daughter said suddenly as if that was a fact she had just figured out. “And you are repairing it.”
That was when I saw genuine doubt in her face. “You can repair these things?”
I swear it was her question which caught me by surprise.
Of course, I can.” I said sounding a little peeved. But then I was thinking of far too many other things. Why the hell hadn’t I done any of this before? I have always had the wrench with me and I knew this tap was leaking...I just gave up because I could not get an answer to that one...No matter what.
I looked at the spindle of the tap and removed the washer. And that was when I saw that the washer had almost worn out. That was the reason, it was leaking.
Sighing, I walked towards my tools drawer again with my daughter following me and wondered whether I had this type of washer with me. There was a time when I used to buy these things and keep them in stock just for this very contingency.
After searching for some time and in between questions of my daughter as she picked up every single tool and asked me what it was and in between my answers and the fact that I hurriedly pulled away the forceps from my daughter’s hands as she was trying to pick that up, I found it.
The packet of washers were lying in my ‘magic drawer which had everything’ (my daughter’s description, in case you did not figure it out).
I was searching for it and that was when my daughter asked me another question which threw me in a loop.
Mom, why didn’t you tell me that you can repair stuff?” My daughter asked me.
I opened my mouth and words failed me. Because there was nothing I could say. I had never told my daughter about my ‘skills’ for the very simple reason that I had never repaired anything…. Not after her birth. No one told me, but over time I had just stopped doing these things – things that I was good at – just because I had some stupid assumption in my head that I was not supposed to do it…. Finally, my work just took over all the other things that I could do and I just never did these ‘simple’ things. It was weird. When I thought about it, it was really weird. But it was the truth.
But now after a really long time, the wrench felt like a familiar friend in my hands.
The shining eyes with which my daughter was looking at the wrench told me exactly what my daughter wanted now. And that made me grin.
You want to help me repair it?” I asked as I waved her over.
You will teach me?” She asked and her eyes were shining with excitement.
That was the first time I taught my daughter about how to hold a wrench… the right way – to give the correct grip. She was thrilled with the simple thing of just tightening the cover of the spindle and her nimble hands and her enthusiastic eyes, told me what I needed to know – she could really do this – she had a gift for it. Just like I did. Which was probably what my father saw in me and let me ‘help’ him around the house too.
After ten beautiful minutes I screwed the tap lid back up and looked at it. Both me and my daughter exchanged beautiful looks.
The tap was perfect.
Do you want to learn how to solder?” I asked my daughter excitedly as I still remembered the day my dad had taught me to solder. I remembered my excitement – pure joy. I felt it was time, I at least showed my daughter that.
Behind us, the door opened.
What are you doing here?” My husband just returned from office and the first thing he saw was his daughter with a wrench and his wife with very dirty hands, both of whom were staring happily at a tap… Yup, I could almost feel what he must have felt.

But it was my daughter’s reply which made me smile. “Me and mom are setting things right.” My daughter said loftily as she pulled the wrench proudly in her hands.