Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Lion and the Demon: Confrontation

Disclaimer: The characters and incidents depicted in the following post are fictitious. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintended.

The trail that leads to this post: 'A Hero is born' ; 'For those who came in late'; 'The Lion and the Demon: Part 1'

Everything that had a beginning has an end. The map that had come in the possession of Dynamite had indicated some kind of underground location at this point of the DGMS campus. I need to look beneath the earth. His careful analysis of the map had allowed him to point out the subtle differences between the architecture of the DGMS and that of the School and all his intuition had lead him to this point. He removed the whip-blade from its case and began inspecting the ground for possible trap-doors. I need to see beyond vision. The blades slid along the imperceptible groove along the trapdoor and soon Dynamite heard a faint click. Ah! Success. The lid gave a roundabout flip to reveal the security access lock. Non lethal infiltration techniques are my specialty. Dynamite returned back to the courtyard entry where he had parked his bike. He unpacked his assortment of military equipments and held out one of the EMP grenades. An EMP attack would leave buildings standing and spare lives, but it could neutralize a sizable electronic security system through its short-duration burst of electromagnetic energy. He secured the grenade to the access lock and within moments a bright blue flash had done its trick. The blue torch of enlightenment.

Dynamite stepped through the trapdoor. I need to get to the bottom of this. This was the right place. He could feel it down to his bones. Fate, luck, karma whatever he wished to name it had lead him to this point and he wasn’t going to rest until he had solved the case. He descended down the stairs. As he faced the meeting room, he gave out a slight cry of exclamation for he had witnessed someone he had not expected at all. A man in the blue blazer. He faced Dynamite with a friendly smile. “Welcome to my inner sanctum. How may I help you? What a strange apparel you have!” Dynamite was perplexed. He wanted step outside. He couldn’t believe that this could be happening but wasn’t he facing the DG himself. He gasped: “Sir, I believe you are the DG. I have been exploring a case and I have been lead to this point. I think you can help me out.” The DG smiled: “I would prefer to be addressed as the General. Sit down. I will get back at you in a moment. As you can see this is a private space and the way you destroyed my privacy wasn’t really appreciable.” Dynamite was speechless. It just didn’t make sense. I liked the way the show started but this is not how it was supposed to end. He heard muffled voices through the door facing his right. “What’s behind the door?” The General exclaimed: “Oh! It is just my private study.” Dynamite got up from his chair and faced the metal door. Before the general could make a move, he heaved himself onto it. Inside, the vision was grotesque. Twelve elderly men in tatters. One of them shouted: “The General is evil. You need to stop him!”

The General pounced from behind. Then all hell broke loose. “You have seen enough! What are you? Some nosy superhero? Show me what you have got. Heat Vision? X-ray vision? Some magic ring of doom? Hah!” He had his firm clasp locked around Dynamite’s throat from behind and with the other hand he was twisting his arm. “I am no superhero and I have got this!” Dynamite loosened his body and let go to give a perfect back body drop on to the wooden table. The General quivered in pain. He lashed out the whip-blade and put it around the General’s throat. “Speak or I will rip it off.” The General gave out a mad grin and kicked at the dark crusader. “You have got me already? Have you?” The General got away and picked up a chair and targeted it to the hand of Dynamite holding the whip-blade. An accurate blind shot. The chair cracked and Dynamite yelled out with pain and the whip blade fell from his grasp. The General wasted no time in lunging himself and grabbing the blade. The room was too narrow and it was making Dynamite’s moves difficult. I must surprise my opponent. With a quick swing, the General lashed out the blade at Dynamite that gave him a gash in his cheek and ripped apart the red cape that had hid his face. The boyish face of Shaant stared wildly at the General. He laughed: “I am about to murder a child! You are just a boy and you came here thinking you are going to defeat me. You don’t know what you are dealing with here.”

There was no time for jokes now. Only my sorcery can win over this madman. He stared at the eyes of the General. I cannot dare to blink. He murmured the Ol Chiki spell of procrastination, the most deadly among all the spells that he had mastered, which could stop the activity of the muscles at the very least. The effect would be instantaneous and the General will be grovelling alongside the chairs within no time. It didn’t happen. The General stood there with a broad grin spread out on his face. He tried it again. I mustn’t be concentrating hard enough. Nothing happened. It was as if something had drained the art out of him. Why isn’t it working? The General exclaimed: “You are trying these indigenous incantations on me! You forget that I have lived here for more than twenty five years. I know this place far better than you can ever imagine. You might have memorized a few incantations but I have learned the art from the masters themselves. I explored the art to the level that I can defend myself from it. You on the other hand relied on memory like a typical student. “

Dynamite found himself frozen on the spot. This couldn’t be happening. He tried the spell again, twice, thrice and every time without effect. Should I escape? The General gloated at his misery. He continued: “These incantations feed on imbecility. They maximise weaknesses of mind. I don’t drink anymore, so the Alcoholic charm won’t work on me. I don’t keep my work undone so I am immune to the spell of procrastination. I have taken care to eradicate each and every mental weakness of mine and so I cannot be defeated! You memorized two or three spells and you thought you had the whole world under you. In fact, there are infinite spells possible and an Ol Chiki translation can maximise any of your weaknesses!”

Dynamite’s head was swimming. How can I fight this monster? And then the blow struck. Dynamite found his feet uprooted from the ground and his body crashed to the wall behind him. Then the pain started. He felt as if his lungs would burst for want of oxygen. What was happening? He was suffocating to death. It was as if his blood flow was failing to reach his body parts. His heart pounded in his chest. The General towered over him. The whip-blade glinted in his hands and his evil laughter reaching the ears of Dynamite seemed otherworldly. “I shall crown myself with the blood of fallen heroes!” The confounded group of spectators were slowly vanishing from his eyes. I am about to die. Then, the words of the General reached his ears: “You yourself are not immune to mental weaknesses. Your have been a smoker all your life. You smoked to erase frustration. Your lip’s curl gave away. This is the smoker’s spell! You are simply suffering from the long term effects of smoking magnified by a tenfold! You will die and not even you can save yourself now for it is not I but your weakness that is killing you!”

Dynamite wasn’t listening. He was too much overwhelmed with his pain. I can fight this. Infinite spells. Infinite possibilities. I need to stay alive to stop this madman. Can it be that the General is immune to every weakness? Dynamite thought hard. The pain was slowly fading the colour from his face. Innovation is the only solution. And then he had got it. Solutions are always simple. He chanted the spell without a second thought. It had to work. The General fell. His concentration broke and the spell casted over Dynamite lifted. A surge of fresh oxygen entered Dynamite’s arteries and the blood flow was restored. He struggled to get up. One of the elderly onlookers picked him up. He managed to throw a quick glance at the General. He was shivering as if his body was under some kind of fit. The General was covered from head to foot with sweat. He gasped and panted and his face was twitched with horror. He has seen a ghost. Dynamite called for the twelve spectators: “Quickly, reach to the toolbox in my bike and find the strongest nylon rope. We need to tie him up. I cannot hold the spell for long.”

Soon they managed to tie the General to a nearby pillar. He had his chance. He won’t get another. One of the aged gentlemen asked: “What did you do to him? He was immune to everything.” Dynamite managed a faint smile through the pain his body had suffered. “The General had mastered immunity to all kinds of imbecility except for one and I maximised it and the result is before you.” The gentleman shrugged and asked: “What was that?” Dynamite’s smile broadened: “Fear. Fear of failing. Fear that he won’t succeed in his mission. It is the greatest weakness in all humans. It is only when you lose this fear that you can truly call yourself enlightened. My spell just maximised this fear in him. Now, if you can just help me out of this place and onto my bike.”

Outside, the sky showed the first shimmer of breaking dawn. The twelve elderly men had gathered around Dynamite’s bike. They had the Sanctum locked from the outside by placing a large boulder over the entry. Thereafter they narrated the entire plan of the General to Dynamite. He said: “The work isn’t over. You are men of power. Reach out to the police and have this place and the General taken into custody immediately and do not mention me. Tell them that the twelve of you overpowered him. The other twelve sanctums need to be found.” The men nodded. One of them inquired: “Won’t you help us with it. You are the superhero who saved the day.”

Dynamite started his bike. “I am no superhero. I realise it now. Sir, in fact I am a junior to all of you. I am just another ISMite trying to bring about good.” The men weren’t satisfied: “But when evil looms large again, won’t you be back to stop it.” Dynamite grinned: “Lions will always rise when demons dream of taking over the world.” He slowly drove his bike away from the group of men and out of the courtyard. Light had finally emerged from the darkness.

The End.

My sincerest thanks to the regular readers of Wit Within who appreciated the work which was a small experiment on my part to write a short story. My heartfelt thanks to two special ISM alumni (presently staying in Australia and the United States respectively) for reading and appreciating the posts.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Lion and the Demon: Part 1

Disclaimer: The characters and incidents depicted in the following post are fictitious. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintended. The locations described in the post are factual.

The trail that leads to this post: 'A Hero is born' ; 'For those who came in late'

The day of the chase. Six hours ago.

The illustrious singer stopped singing. His voice had already left the audience enchanted. The orchestra stopped playing with a final flourishing note. The singer took a bow and left the stage. Outside, Dhanbad slowly immersed itself into a calm and black night. The distinguished host made his way up to the podium to conclude the memorable evening. He was dressed in the blue blazer that he had preserved all these years. The blazer was his identity. It bore the insignia of that institution which defined what he was today. My alma mater embroidered in gold. “I thank one and all for joining me in this celebration. I will retire soon but these twenty five years at office culminating with this lovely evening will never be forgotten.” The host, now in his early sixties, still maintained a robust physique and a warm smile. He quickly made his way down the stage amongst the elite guests who had gratified him by being a part of the occasion. The guests included directors, CEOs and technical and managerial heads of most of the public sector oil, energy and power organisations that operated in the country. The controllers of the blood veins of the nation. The ceremony had concluded and they started to leave. Only the chosen ones shall remain. He moved in and out of the gathering, seeing his guests off and within the next hour, the courtyard was almost empty and his mind was at peace.

The night had settled in and the new moon shone clearly in the Dhanbad sky. The flood lights in the courtyard created ghostly shadows of the few people that remained. They all moved in a group towards the General, for that was the name he preferred to be used among his corporate compatriots. One of them, a short and balding man in a dinner jacket spoke: “we received your message and have been waiting to speak to you. What is it that you wanted from us?” The General replied after a moment of silence: “Follow me for I desire privacy in what I wish to impart.”

The General lead the group away from the courtyard and into the central arched corridor. The red stone walls of the central complex were very similar to the architecture of the School. The elite group formed a huddle and followed the General. They were visibly uncomfortable at this pretence of secrecy. However their respect for the man who was senior to most of them made them follow his request. The General lead them to the southeast corner of the central complex to a small open space. He bent down to the cemented piece of land and seemed to slide his fingers across a rectangular patch. There was a click and the entire rectangular patch gave a upside down spin to reveal an electronic access lock. Access to the crypt. The General punched in the access code and quite predictably, the cemented patch slid across revealing descending metallic stairs. Down the rabbit hole. One of the followers sniggered: “I never knew the General had a taste for theatrics.” The General laughed: “Presentation is something you can never underestimate.” They climbed down the stairway into the basement. It was more of a cellar partitioned into two large rooms. The cemented walls and open electric connections showed signs of recent renovation. The two rooms were connected by an electronically locked doorway. The General exclaimed: “Welcome to my little private space. I call it my Inner Sanctum. As you must have deduced by now, it has been constructed recently. Would everybody be kind enough to join me in my study and begin the conclave?” The General lead them to the room that faced them. The simple study had a large central table with thirteen chairs surrounding it. The Last Supper. The invited guests, twelve in number took their respective seats and waited with utmost curiosity for the General to speak.

The General remained standing.”Questions must be preserved till the end. My brethren, my fellow batch-mates and juniors, this is the utmost honour that I can address you with. The twelve of you are my peers who now control the driving forces of this nation through various public sector organizations. What is even more honourable is the fact that we share the same alma mater. We have toiled for years to make the nation self dependent but to what effect? I ask you, are we the real decision makers of the country. If we are the driving forces then are we the ones who guide the nation? You may accuse me of being over ambitious but know this: the past twenty five years that I have spent in my office, in reality, all my decisions and attempts have been scrutinized and criticized by false leaders of the nation and private western parties and so have yours. When we studied at the School, we had this insatiable zeal of changing the system. I ask you, now we have the power, why don’t we set ourselves to the task now. I propose the onset of a regime in which the public sector workers have the ultimate control and we shall be the forerunners of the movement with the help of our Chinese allies and finally when we take over the government, the power shall rest in the hands of the people who have been serving the nation selflessly since decades. ”

The General stopped. His palms were covered with sweat and they shivered with nervous excitement. He continued further: “This Inner Sanctum that you see is one of the thirteen such locations spread all over the country from where the movement shall be controlled. The other twelve lie at secret locations close to each of the headquarters that you control. Currently the locations are being used to store weapons supplied by our international allies. As you can see, it is a thirteen node failsafe strategy. If one sanctum is discovered, the remaining twelve expand their powers to fill its place. If you see what I see and dream what I dream, then I implore you to enter into a pact with me and you shall be given the control of your own Sanctum to lead the charge.”

The audience stared at horror at this devilish scheme while the General uttered these final words: “We have been dealing directly with the grassroots since decades. Join the charge and I shall give you the control of the greatest Militia ever formed. If the radiance of these thirteen suns were to burst at once into the Indian sky, that would be like the splendour of the mighty one.”

The world spun around the guests as if in slow motion. One of the guests, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He confirmed: “So, this next room is the weapons storage for this location?” The General smiled and nodded in agreement. A third member, who hadn’t spoken so far stated: “Your master scheme is flawed. Even if we follow you, what is the guarantee that our successors won’t drive the country into total chaos? The present democratic system is designed to prevent this. We cannot risk a civil war. I am sorry but I do not see the sense in this madness. ISMites have been men of power but the only reason that we have been successful is the fact that we have worked in the shadows, in the background. What you propose may tend to a totalitarian regime. We may initiate a socialist propaganda but our successors might always want to assume total control. “

The other members of the conclave nodded vigorously in agreement. However, none of them dared to look at the General in his face. The Genera started to speak: “My dear fellows, you fail to understand my motives- oh wait, what is that noise? Something is going on at the surface. One of my convoys is about to arrive. Maybe when you behold the arsenal you shall appreciate the work that I have done. Come with me.” The General lead the huddled group of ashen faced men to the next room. They followed him meekly and with visible apathy on their faces. The next room was the weapon storage facility. It was slightly larger than the meeting room and was equipped with a modern surface surveillance system. The remaining room was storage to the weapon convoys, waiting to be shipped to Sanctums across the nation. However, none of these interested the present group of onlookers as their gaze was transfixed onto the screen of the surveillance system.

The screen showed a moving object. A grotesque vision. One of the onlookers whispered “It is a man but he is clothed from head to foot. What is it?” The man had just got down from his bike and was slowly walking around the courtyard looking for something. The General’s cold voice shattered the silence across the room: “He looks suspicious. He must have followed the convoy. Gentlemen, you will not leave this place until we have come to a decision. You owe me blood for all that I have shared tonight and blood if not consent is what you will repay me with.”

The guests were visibly shaken at this night’s misadventures did not seem to come to an end. The murmured among themselves while the man on the screen clearly showed signs that he knew where to go for he was slowly walking towards the southeast corner of the campus. He will never get past through my security access. The man now stood over the entry to the Sanctum. His composure was somehow eating into the mind of the General. Who is this man?

To be continued.

On the next installment: The finale.